Exploring Our World

Earth's Amazing Creatures - Part 5

1. Ankole-Watusi

The Ankole‑Watusi is medium in size and elegant in appearance.  Cows weigh 900–1,200 pounds and bulls 1,000–1,600 pounds.  The most noticeable feature of the breed is its horns, which have a large base and great length.

Ankole longhorns and their massive horns have survived in Africa for thousands of years.  Their horns are used in defense and cooling and can weigh up to 100 pounds each and reach 8 feet from tip to tip.

The Ankole cattle are named after the Watusi tribe of Africa and are a domesticated species.

2. Bearded Vulture

These beautiful birds inhabit Everest, the Himalayas and other mountainous regions in Europe and Asia. Eighty percent of the bird's diet consists of bone and bone marrow. A bearded vulture, as the name suggests, has bristles under the chin.

These birds have relatively small heads, but they have 'strong and thick' necks and 'large and powerful' feet. They have red rings around the eyes. They have a poorly developed sense of smell, but they have an excellent eyesight.

The lammergeier is a scavenger; after finding a picked-over carcass, the bird will drop it from a tremendous height to shatter it into swallow-able pieces. Bearded vultures even have favorite breaking spots that are ominously called ossuaries. Besides bones, they also eat small lizards and turtles.

Wild lammergeiers rub soil into their feathers to look more intimidating. Bearded vultures come in various shades, from pure white to orange-red. Soils stained with iron oxide give the birds their fiery appearance. Lammergeiers apply the dirt with their claws and then preen for about an hour to ensure a bright orange glow.

These giant birds can grow up to 4 feet tall. They have a wingspan between 7 and 9 feet and usually weigh around 10 to 15 pounds.

In captivity, lammergeiers can live to the ripe old age of 45. The average lifespan of a wild vulture is only 21.4 years, but that factors in the untimely deaths that come with the dangers of the wild.

3. Blue Parrotfish

This bright blue fish can be found in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, and spends 80% of its time searching for food. The name “parrotfish” refers to the “beak-like” jaws and fused teeth of the species in the genus.

Measuring more than four feet in length and weighing in at 100 pounds, bumphead parrotfish from the Indo-Pacific are the family's largest member.

When bedding down for the night, a few species enshroud their bodies in mucus bubbles blown from their mouths (as in the photo here). The translucent nightgowns protect the slumbering fish from bloodsucking parasites and predators.

The Parrot Fish plays a very important role when it comes to the issues of bioerosion due to their feeding habits. They use the sharp beak to be able to remove algae from rocks. This helps with the production and maintenance of the coral sand for the reef biome as well. They grind up small rocks while eating and when they excrete it, they create sand. Individual parrot fishes can produce as much as 200 lbs. of sand a year.

Spawning occurs in the shallow waters. Thousands of eggs can be released into the water by the females and the males will fertilize them with sperm. The eggs will attach to the plankton where they will remain until they hatch. Then they will swim around the coral.

The colors of the Parrot Fish will change several times over the course of their lifespan. The offspring are almost always females to begin with. However, some of them will change into males as time goes on. Experts don’t really know what causes some to change and others not to, but it is a fascinating way for the species to be able to keep a balance of gender in the population.

4. Chevrotain - The Mouse Deer

Chevrotain: Also known as mouse-deer, chevrotains live in parts of Asia and Africa. There are several different species, but the smallest ones weigh as little as 4.4 pounds and are the tiniest known ungulates.

With a round, bunny-like body placed atop piglet-like feet, and a face akin to a mouse, the chevrotain looks like a hodgepodge of modern-day species.

They also have fangs. While they lack the horns or antlers of so many other ungulate species, they do sport long tusk-like incisors. These are especially long in males, which use them in fighting.

Their small size makes them a target for predators, and a few species—such as the water chevrotain—have developed impressive aquatic skills to stay out of harm's way. When danger is near, the tiny animal leaps in the water and can stay submerged for up to four minutes while walking along the bottom of the stream or river to escape.

5. Goblin Shark

The Goblin Shark is sometimes called the Vampire Shark, as if it wasn’t scary looking enough to begin with. The reason it is called a vampire is because it avoids the light by living deep in the sea. Goblin Sharks have been found at depths from 270 m to as deep as 1300 m (890 ft to 4300 ft).

The Goblin Shark mostly feeds on fish, mollusks and crab, and it poses no real danger to humans. The odd-looking jaw of the Goblin Shark can expand forward to sweep up prey that passes by.

The Goblin Shark has a snout that is elongated and looks like a giant blade, called a rostrum. It protrudes far ahead of its jaw. It seems like an odd body part, but it functions as a prey detector, because it is filled with electroreceptors, called ampullae of Lorenzini. These receptors pick up tiny electrical fields of prey. The Goblin Shark sweeps its long snout back and forth over the seabed, as if the snout were a metal detector, to find its food.

6. Sea Cucumber

These echinoderms can grow to 6.5 feet by feeding on tiny aquatic animals, algae, and even waste material. Sea cucumbers recycle food particles into fodder for bacteria much like worms do in soil.

7. Glass Frog

Glass frogs are a group of South and Central American frogs with translucent skin. Their internal viscera, including the heart, liver, and gastrointestinal tract are all completely visible.

Incredibly unique one-of-a-kind creatures!