A mountain lion for your Monday
Spotted: Eastern cottontails browsing in a pumpkin patch
Mimicry is common in nature, allowing an animal or insect to sneak in closer to prey or to dupe and deflect predators by taking on a more dangerous species’ characteristics. A fascinating example of the latter can be seen in the robber fly Wyliea mydas, which mimics lethal spider wasps, Pepsis formosa and Pepsis thisbe, known as tarantula hawks.
Here’s Tuesday’s peek into the archives: a detail of the Serengeti plain diorama in the Akeley Hall of African Mammals.
In the distance you can spot herds of wildebeests, giraffes, and zebras migrating across the plains.
Odd as it may seem, a four-footed land mammal named Pakicetus,living some 50 million years ago in what we know as Pakistan today, bears the title of “first whale.”
Straddling the two worlds of land and sea, the wolf-sized animal was a meat eater that sometimes ate fish, according to chemical evidence. Pakicetus also exhibited characteristics of its anatomy that link it to modern cetaceans, a group made up of whales, porpoises, and dolphins.
See a resin cast of Pakicetus, based on fossils found in Pakistan, in Whales Giants of the Deep.
Artist’s impression of Pakicetus attocki
© Carl Buell, 2006
In the 1970s and early 1980s, Museum herpetologist Charles W. Myers made several expeditions a year to the Colombian rain forest, not far from the Pacific coast. Myers was there studying a particularly charismatic group of amphibians: exuberantly colored small frogs from the family Dendrobatidae, which could be spotted dotting the bromeliads and rocky streams of the jungle.
Although dendrobatids may be beautiful, these tropical Central and South American frogs are also very, very poisonous.
© AMNH/T. Grant
How do invertebrates survive the heat?
While they generally flourish in the warmth of summer, they can suffer or even perish during heat waves, especially when coupled with dry spells or drought. When soil moisture declines, ponds dry out, and stream water levels drop, some invertebrates aestivate (become dormant), burrowing deeper into the soil or pond mud to wait for rain. Others, like many butterflies, become active earlier in the morning, avoiding the heat of the day.
Monarch butterfly (c) Kenneth Dwain Harrelson
When most people think of penguins, they think of Antarctica, where these flightless seabirds waddle over the ice and dive for fish and krill. But some penguins live on the coast of South America, thanks to a cold, north-flowing ocean current, and one tiny penguin lives in the tropics. Instead of huddling for warmth, it must battle the blazing heat of the sunbaked Galápagos Islands.
The Galápagos penguin is not only one of the smallest penguins and the only one found near the equator, but it is probably the only penguin that has to hold its wings outstretched over its webbed feet to prevent sunburn.
© AMNH Library/5917
For more on penguins, check out the film on view now in the LeFrak IMAX Theater.
Coming to the LeFrak IMAX Theater on Monday, July 8:
Penguins, written and narrated by naturalist and noted filmmaker Sir David Attenborough, follows a King Penguin on the perilous journey from youth to fatherhood, on the island of South Georgia, near Antarctica.
See more photos from the film here.
© 2013 Paul Williams for nWave Pictures Distribution