Category Archives: Mammals

Mum (and dad) in firm control

The Cotton Top Tamarin (Saguinus oedipus) live in small social groups of between two and thirteen individuals.

In this group there is a single dominant monogamous breeding pair. The dominant female uses pheromones to inhibit the reproductive cycle of the other females in the group.

Although all the offspring belongs to a single pair, care for the young seems to be a responsibility shared by the whole group.

Cotton Top Tamarin (Saguinus oedipus)

(#68 of 100)

Longest and Smallest

The Malayan Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus) is the smallest of the world’s eight surviving bear species but it has the longest tongue.

It is an opportunistic omnivore (of the bears only the polar bear is a true carnivore) that uses its long tongue to get to ants, termites, bugs, honey and other delicacies.


A bear’s age can be determined from its teeth because bear teeth has year rings much like the year rings in trees.

Malayan Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus)

(#60 of 100)

How deep does this Rabbit hole go?

Rabbits have been domesticated many years ago. Hares on the other hand have not.

Unlike rabbits that burrow for protection hares rely on speed and agility. Hares do not burrow (that’s a rabbit hole) but spend their lives above ground.

While rabbits give birth to blind and naked young in burrows, hares give birth in shallow depressions to young with eyes open and a pelt.

Scrub Hare – (Lepus saxatilis).

(59 of 100)

Thank you Farmers!

The Bontebok (Damaliscus pygargus pygargus) was endemic to the fynbos and renosterveld habitats in the Western Cape. In the early 19th century the Bontebok was hunted to near extinction. In fact at the turning point there were only 17 of them left.

In 1837 a local farmer, Alexander van der Bijl, realising that these animals can’t even jump over a three foot sheep fence, fenced of a section of his property and persuaded his neighbours to do the same. The Bontebok was in all likelihood saved from extinction by the temporary reserve created by Alexander van der Bijl, his father P van der Bijl and the Van Breda and Albertyn families.

The first official Bontebok National Park was proclaimed in 1931. Today there are an estimated 3,000 Bontebok globally.


Bontebok (Damaliscus pygargus pygarus)

(#56 of 100)

I breath with my muscles.

The blood carries oxygen effectively through a protein called hemoglobin which is present in red blood cells.

All vertebrates also have a protein called myoglobin that does not occur in the blood stream, but rather in the muscles. It is this protein that gives flesh its red colour.

Diving mammals have very large quantities of  a myoglobin so much so that their flesh appears almost black. These large concentrations of myoglobin and resulting stores of muscular oxygen is one of the factors that allow these mammals to hold their breath for extended periods.

Dusky dolphin at Kaikaura.

(#55 of 100)


Tusks are modified incisors in the upper jaw.

The largest tusk on record is 3.11 meters long and weighs 94 kilograms (they don’t make them like that anymore).

The record breaking tusks are from a bull elephant killed near Mount Kilimanjaro in 1898. They are on display in the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, UK.

African Elephant.

(#48 of 100)

Born with Horns

Both sexes of the giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis)  have prominent horn-like structures called ossicones, which are formed from ossified cartilage.

Unlike most other horned animals, where the horns only start to grow some time after birth, the giraffe’s occicones are already well formed at birth. They lie flat against the head during birth and become erect during the first week after birth.

Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis)

(#46 of 100)

Waterproof fur, I want some, I’ll take some.

New Zealand fur seals (Arctocephalus forsteri), of the eared seal family, have visible ears and no blubber layer to keep them warm. Instead they have dual layer fur, with a stiffer outer layer of silvery brown hair (when dry) and an inner layer of soft water proof reddish brown hair.

This fur was highly sought after in the early 19th century for clothing and seals were slaughtered by their thousands. In the early 19th century more than 45,000 skins were taken every year.

Fur seals are currently fully protected and numbers are increasing steadily.

New Zealand fur seals (Arctocephalus forsteri).

(#43 of 100)