Creature Feature: Acorn Woodpecker

“It takes a village to raise a child”, goes the old proverb. The acorn woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) seemingly takes this advice to heart.  This California native species fits well into the state’s ecological, and political, landscape.  These birds lead secret lives of free love and communal values, à la hippie communes of the 1960s and…

Creature Feature: Peacock Spider

Everyone knows the classic example of a flashy male peacock showing off its flamboyant feathers to attract a female counterpart. These traits are considered the epitome of the products of sexual selection1. However, few are aware of an equally impressive example, the Australian peacock spider. There are 48 described species of peacock spiders of the…

Creature Feature: Florida Apple Snail

Have you ever noticed mysterious clusters of smooth pea-shaped spheroids—often white- or pink-colored—stuck to the stems of aquatic plants or debris? More than likely, these are the eggs of an aquatic snail. If you ever find yourself paddling through the Florida everglades, the egg clumps you see may be laid by the beautiful Florida apple…

Creature Feature: Axolotl

Imagine a creature with translucent skin, a headdress made of feathery membranes that it uses to breathe underwater, elusive in its natural habitat of subterranean or cavern pools.  Sounds like science fiction, but fact is often stranger than fantasy. The axolotl, Ambystoma mexicanum, is a species of salamander originating in the cenotes of southern Mexico…

Creature Feature: Tailless whip scorpion

These elusive critters look like something straight out of a horror movie. They are members of the order Amblypygi and within the arachnid family, which includes spiders1. In contrast to the whip scorpions or vinegarroons (Uropygi)—another order of arachnids—these creatures lack the tails that lend them the partial title of “scorpion”. Though they have the…

Creature Feature: Great white shark

It all begins with an innocent evening dip. A woman runs down the beach, stripping off her outer garments and diving into the cold, dark water of the Atlantic Ocean. Her identity is barely relevant, because just days later, remnants of her corpse are washed ashore – she is just another victim of the leviathan…

Creature Feature: Pangolins

The pangolin is an incredibly fascinating animal that you might not have ever heard of. Classified in the order Pholidota and most closely related to the Carnivora, these mammals are found in Asia and Africa, although they are extremely threatened across their range. Pangolins hold a depressing world record: they account for 20% of sales…

Creature Feature: Army Ants

A roving hoard marches across the forest floor, millions strong, crushing their prey between powerful, pincer-like mandibles. It’s a raid, and with millions of bodies to feed this swarm moves with startling efficiency. Thousands of the raid’s victims will likely be dead by day’s end. These are the army ants, one of Earth’s most aggressive…

Creature Feature: California Golden Trout

California has long been known as the ‘golden state’. This could be attributed to its golden sunshine, the golden hills that the summer brings, or the gold flakes that line its streams. Thus it is only fitting that the official state fish is the California Golden Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss aguabonita). It is one of three…

Creature Feature: Diademed sifaka

The diademed sifaka (Propithecus diadema) is potentially the world’s most colorful lemur species. You’d think that would make them easy to find in the green rainforests of eastern Madagascar, especially since they are the second largest living lemur, but they can camouflage surprisingly well in the shadows. You may wonder why sifaka (pronounced she-FAK) are…

Creature Feature: Titi monkeys

If you ever visit the dense jungles of South and Central America, you may be lucky enough to encounter an elusive titi monkey (Callicebus spp.). Titi monkeys are small-bodied, monogamous New World primates that mate for life1. There are over thirty species of titi monkeys, but all share some unique characteristics. For instance, they have…

Creature Feature: Loggerhead shrike

Imagine a little songbird, with black feathers encircling its eyes, a sleek gray body, whistling a high-pitched tweet toot-toot. The kind of bird that on first glance, you might mistake for a miniature mockingbird. “Aww,” you might think, “what a darling tweety bird!” Well, you’d be mistaken. Much like the “killer rabbit” of Monty Python fame,…