News: Hyena laughs and giggles decoded

From the BBC Wildlife Website:

The giggling sounds of a hyena contain important information about the animal’s status, say scientists.

In the first study to decipher the hyena’s so-called “laugh”, they have shown that the pitch of the giggle reveals a hyena’s age.

What is more, variations in the frequency of notes used when a hyena makes a noise convey information about the animal’s social rank.

Read more here.

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Savanna Elephant

Today’s photo fact is about the Savanna Elephant, also known as the African Bush Elephant, which is one of three species of Elephant, the others being the Asian and African Forest Elephants. The Savanna Elephant is the largest Elephant and therefore the largest land animal on earth.

The elephant is the only mammal to have helical bands of muscle. These are all in their trunk, which enables them to move it strongly in pretty much any way imaginable. Elephants have a long gestation period of 22 months before the calf is born. Despite this they are still pretty incompetent on arrival and also blind. They will learn all their survival skills from the elder elephants in the herd. A number of females from the herd without a calf will help out looking after the calf, acting as babysitters.

For more ungulates and facts, visit our Ungulates gallery on Flickr.

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Where can I see… Penguins

Penguins, very cool customers! These guys are birds, but they don’t fly. Well, not in the air anyway. Their wings have evolved to help them fly through water instead. You will only see these chaps in the southern hemisphere, i.e. to the south of the equator, unless of course you visit a zoo! All of the 17 species of penguin populations live near or on the coast, with most living on the Antarctic or the Subantarctic islands. The most northern penguin is the Galapagos Penguin (who does occasionally sneak north of the equator).

So, where are some great places to spot them? Here we list the major breeding locations for each species.
Continue reading

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Southern Cassowary

Today’s photo fact is about the Cassowary, the Australasian member of the Ratite group, which include other notable flightless fowls such as the Ostrich, Emu and the Kiwi.

With a distinct blue head and a bizarre cask on their head, they are usually shy and rarely spotted in the wild. This young one obviously hadn’t yet realised it was supposed to be shy and was found ambling across the road!

They are quite aggressive, and have been known to attack people with their powerful legs and sharp claws, so best stay out of their way and take pictures from a distance…

For more birds and facts, visit our Birds gallery on Flickr.

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Sally Lightfoot Crab

Today’s photo fact is about the Sally Lightfoot Crab which famously trots around the coasts of the Galapagos Islands, and are also ever present along the Pacific coast of Central and Southern America.

Sally Lightfoots are very common, and you can get fairly close before they scuttle in to a crevice in the rocks. These creepy chappies run around on the tips of their toes, scuttling along the volcanic rocks of the Galapagos, providing a stunning contrast to the black background. Their main diet is algae, but they will also eat plants and scavenge on dead animals, including other Sally Lightfoot crabs!

For more arthropods and facts, visit our Arthropods gallery on Flickr.

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Tower Of Giraffe

Today’s photo fact is about the Giraffe which is endemic to Africa. There are quite a few different subspecies and possibly species with obviously distinct patterns, but the exact number of these is hotly debated.

While many probably know of a Pride of Lions and a Herd of Elephants, there are some more obscure collective nouns describing groups of animals.
A Tower of Giraffe is one, others include: Murder of Crows, Blaze of Dragons, Shiver of Sharks, Kaleidoscope of Butterflies, Gang of Weasels and a Crash of Rhinos…

Remember those to impress your mates!

For more ungulates and facts, visit our Ungulates gallery on Flickr.

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African Wild Dog

Today’s photo fact is about the African Wild Dog which, as its name suggests, only occurs in Africa. It is an endangered species, with under 6000 left.

Wild dogs can’t kill animals in the same way as the big cats. Their front legs aren’t as strong and their claws are blunt as they don’t retract like on a cat. Therefore they can’t grab an animal to deliver a killer bite in the neck. Instead dogs tend to chase their victim to exhaustion when they can kill them more easily. With smaller prey they will grab it and vigorously shake it side to side, usually breaking the animal’s neck or back.

For more carnivores and facts, visit our Carnivores gallery on Flickr.

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