Monday, November 28, 2005

Animal of the Week November 28, 2005 -- Baby Luv

Ahhh, Paris, Miss Hilton, isn't she lovely? The shiny, fragrant, and spookily expressionless Paris Hilton has worked tirelessly over the past few years to raise awareness of off-the-wall animal companions. From Tinkerbell the chihauha that seems to have more eyes than it has room for them, to Cinderella the ferret adopted after filming an advert with it, to that weird pig thing, Nicole Ritchie. Paris' latest pet, Baby Luv, has inspired this week's animal of the week Potos flavus (kinkajou).

Baby Luv made headlines recently as he set about Paris' face during a shopping trip to Agent Provocateur; fortunately for the hospitality millionairess, no major harm was done and Miss Hilton went on to spend $4000 on underwear and a bull whip. In many reports Baby Luv has been described as a monkey, but that's because celebrity columnists don't give a fig about zoological accuracy. Kinkajous are actually procyonids, the family that contains racoons (OK), coatis (yeah?), cacomistles (really!), olingoes (they do exist), and (in some classifications) pandas, not monkeys at all. Maybe their prehensile tails, a similarity shared with new-world primates, has led to this confusion, but the tail is convergent evolution not a trait shared due to common ancestry. Primarily frugivorous (fruit eating), kinkajous also like honey and for this and their light golden pelage they are known as honey bears.

Paris Hilton is not the first person to own a kinkajou, they are quite popular exotic pets, but if you are thinking about getting one of your own you will need a large cage (the size of a bathroom) be prepared to spend quality time with them, clean their housing once a day, feed them loads of fruit and occasional yogurts, and put up with their nocturnal lifestyle. To help you converse about kinkajous with people all over the world, below is a list of other nationalities' words for kinkajou.

As these animals are Central and South American in origin, it's no surprise that there are six Mexican words for kinkajou, what I do find odd is that there are four Norwegian words for kinkajou—any suggestions as to why this might be would be gratefully received.

Mandarin Chinese: mi xiong
Polish: Kinkażu, wikławiec, chwytacz
Czech: kynkażu
Hungarian: kinkaju
Dutch: Rolstaartbeer, Kinkajoe
German: Wickelbär
Danish: snøhalebjørn, honnigbjørn
Norwegian: viklebjørn, honningbjørn, gripehalebjørn, snohalebjørn
Swedish: veckelbjörn, kinkaju, gripsvansbjörn
Finnish: kierteishäntäkarhu
Portugeuse: kinkajú, jupará, macaco-de-noite
Esperanto: kinkajuo, rul-vosta urso
Italian: cercoletto giallo
Spanish: mico leon, mico de noche, martucha
Mexico: marta, martucha, tancho, oso mielero, godoy, mico de noche
Honduras: micoleón, guatuza
Belize: nightwalker, martilla
Nicaragua: mico de noche, cuyusa, cuyu[s] (Matagalpa region)
Costa Rica: martilla
Panama: cusumbi, mico de noche, gato del noche, guiso
French Guiana: singe de nuit
Suriname: meti-keskesi
Venezuela: cuchicuchi, pui-pui, mono de noche
Colombia: perro de monte, oso mielero, micoleón, leoncillo, leoncito, cuchicuchi
Ecuador: martica, tutamono, chuche, cuchicuchi, cusumbo
Bolivia: mono michi
Peru: chosna, martucha, chuchumli
Brazil: jupará, macaco-de-noite
Chile: kinkqeos
Miskito: uyuk
Warao: simo anahorotu, simo anajorotu
Maya: akabmaax

Monday, November 21, 2005

Animal of the Week November 21, 2005 -- Harry Potter's Eagle owls of Yorkshire

Another Harry Potter film, another flurry of news about owls. The exciting news for British peoples this time is that the world's largets owl is breeding in the UK! Bubo bubo (Eurasian eagle owl) is thought to have bred in the UK until about 200 years ago, when persecution by gamekeepers and farmers drove it to extinction. However, a pair have been breeding on the North York Moors for the past 8 years and there is also a breeding pair in Northumberland.

Standing about 70 cm tall, with a wingspan of nearly 2 m, and weighing up to 4.5 kg, these birds are large (unlike the previous owl Animal of the Week -- flammulated owls which are small). Not only the largest owl, Eurasian eagle owls are the world's most widespread owls: found from Japan to portugal and from Finland to the Sahara. They prey on pretty much anything they bloody well choose up to the size of small deers, and since the UK ban of hunting with dogs, several hunts have tried to use these birds to hunt foxes.

Where the birds now breeding in the UK came from is something of a mystery, some people suggest they've been released by people who had been keeping them as pets. Others think they might have crossed the channel of their own accord, tempted by generous benefits and employment opportunities. The latin name, Bubo, is not, as far as I can tell, related to bubo, the plague symptom (from middle Latin for swelling from Greek for groin), rather it is just the Latin name for horned owl.

Many thanks to everyone who let me know what cute animal they are. More of you were ducks or monkeys than any other animals.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Animal of the Week November 14, 2005 -- Pouchy fluffy wuffkins

Dis week's animal is a wittle fluffy wuffkins from Australia Petaurus breviceps (sugar glider) and it's just about the cutestest ickle fing in the whole wide world.

Like most mammals from Australia it's a marsupial, which means it raises it's babies in a pouch (marsupium) after they are born in a very undeveloped state. One of the commonest marsupials, there are seven subspecies found from Papua New Guinea, all the way down the east coast of the mainland, and in Tasmania (where they were probably introduced a hundred or so years ago). They dine on a diet of insects, birds, eggs, fruit, nectar, pollen, and sap; big fans of sweet foods, they gnaw into eucalyptus trees to release a stream of lovely sweet sap.

As well as liking sugar, sugar gliders, glide. A fold of skin, the patagium, extends between forelimb and hind limb. Luckily for sugar gliders they have a patagium (like Mis-Teeq's classic 2001 album was Lickin') on both sides. Another thing that male sugar gliders, like most marsupials, have two of is winkies—it's actually just one organ that is bifurcated, but it serves as two. I will say no more on this, there may be children reading.

The mentalist who designed this online quiz missed a trick not including sugar gliders as a cute animal, but why not find out what cute animal you are (they don't really go into species details or anything so it's not really that informative, and he/she thinks that frogs are cute, so not that accurate; but, as they used to say in French colonial Vietnam, a mindless diversion is as good as a wink to a three legged washstand).

My result

You Are A: Frog! [Keeper: Thanks!]
Independent yet still part of a large community, frogs are unique creatures known for their distinctive sound and ability to hop. As a frog, you spend your days sitting on lily pads or climbing trees, searching for delicious insects to eat. While there are some frogs that aren't exactly cute, you are certainly not one of those!

[Keeper: actually, most of it's quite accurate, except the insects thing]

Monday, November 07, 2005

Animal of the Week November 07, 2005 -- Flightless midges from the freezer

Greetings Animal Fans
Sorry for the lateness, but I was on holiday yesterday you see, I had the good fortune to catch a little daytime tv and watch Mary Queen of Scots with Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson, what a film!

This week's animal of the week is Belgica antarctica (Antarctic wingless midge). As the weather refuses to turn properly cold in the UK and athletes ran the New York marathon wearing sunglasses and sunscreen and in danger of overheating, I thought I'd invoke some chilly thoughts by doing one of the world's hardiest animals. This midge is, improbably, Antarctica's largest land animal (penguins and seals spend more time in water than on ice or land -- Belgica is confined to the land).

Other permanent animal residents of the southernmost continent include mites, lice, springtails, and tardigrades but this behemidge dwarfs them all at 12 mm in length. They are able to survive 70% dehydration and temperatures below –50 centigrade for months on end. They spend 2 years as larvae building up reserves for their 10 day adulthood in which they enjoy the pleasures of the chitin and ensure the continued existence of their species.

Like their extended larval stage and dark colouration, winglessness is an adaptation to their environment in which animals foolish enough to take off are likely to be blown out to sea by violent winds. Few people are ever going to see such a creature; but, unpreposessing as they are, chufties to Antarctic wingless midges, the most sotherly living of all the true insects. In this week's picture the ickle-wickle larvae are huddling together, not for warmth, but to prevent moisture loss.... aaaaahhhhhhhhhhh.