10 weird and wonderful creatures from Madagascar

10 weird and wonderful creatures from Madagascar

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Madagascar, a country on the east coast of Africa, is home to an incredible array of wildlife: a whopping 250,000 species of animals reside there, 70% of which are endemic (and many more endangered).

While some Malagasy creatures may have been immortalized by the Disney movie, the true range of animals in Madagascar is far more wonderful than any computer animation can produce.

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10. Camouflaged Gecko

Some of Madagascar's resident lizards are masters of camouflage. Each species in this family has its own way of mixing with its surroundings; some mimic decaying leaves, others look like bark. Their color and light reflect body modifications and make them almost invisible to other creatures during the day. There are more than 10 species of this “chameleon gecko”, all endemic to Madagascar and surrounding islands. The largest of them, the Uroplatus giganteus, uses its ability to change color and “wrinkle” the skin around its legs, body and neck to camouflage itself among tree branches.

9. Comet Moth

The colorful wings of the moth Mittrei Argema, called a comet moth, can reach 20 centimeters, while its tail can grow up to 15 centimeters. Once these insects reach adulthood, they cannot feed and live for only four to five days. However, they are able to reproduce from the first day they emerge from their cocoons, and females can lay up to 170 eggs. The caterpillars feed on fresh eucalyptus leaves and have a pupation period of two to six months; their cocoons have small holes to prevent drowning in the rainforest.

8. Tomato Frog

Tomato frogs are ambush predators found only in the wetter parts of northern Madagascar. They mainly attack insects, but can eat anything that fits in their mouths. Although frogs (with distinctive smooth skin and all that), they also have a number of frog characteristics, such as non-palm-footed (membrane-bound) feet and the ability to secrete an irritating poisonous latex, as most frogs do. Only females have the strong coloration that gives these frogs their name. The males are brown.

7. Aie-aie

These nocturnal primates are well adapted to tree life: their big toes and tails are longer than their bodies, allowing them to hang from branches. Most notably, aie-aies are the only primates that use echolocation to find their prey. Their long middle fingers touch the trees and “hear” insect larvae, then dig them up and eat them. Their sensitive ears and large eyes may be useful for finding food, but this bizarre appearance has made the inhabitants of Madagascar an omen of bad luck. Thus, like many other animals in the region, they are currently threatened with extinction.

6. Aquatic Tenrecids

Aquatic tenrecids are among the most elusive species in the world. They can only be found in 10 locations in Madagascar, and as they reach a maximum of 17 centimeters in length, they are difficult to detect. There are a number of species of tenrecids in the area, but aquatic species are unique for their adaptations: their hind muscles have large limbs and their feet are webbed for easy swimming. They swim through shallow bodies of water for insects and tadpoles, rubbing the sensitive vibrissae of their snouts against the bottom. Once they locate their prey, they drag them to the surface.

5. Panther Chameleon

Like other chameleons, panther chameleons change color according to your mood. They usually have vibrant colors, especially males. It is even possible to tell the location of a panther chameleon by its coloration; For example, males on the northwest coast are known as “pink panthers” because they are usually bright pink with a yellow-white stripe on their flank. But it's not just their colors that make these wonderful creatures. They also have the ability to rotate and focus their eyes independently of each other to simultaneously observe two objects. When they see their prey, panther chameleons turn their heads to fix both eyes on the target before striking it with their sticky tongues. Its tongue in turn creates a suction effect when it hits prey, which allies with its innate viscosity to prevent it from escaping.

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4. Common Pochard

Common Pochard is the rarest duck in the world. These scuba ducks feed on invertebrates, seeds and aquatic plants and can be submerged for up to two minutes. This phrase would have been written in the past tense until 2006, because the species was considered extinct before a small population of 22 individuals was found in Matsaborimena Lake. Due to an extensive program started in 2009, the population has quadrupled since then, with captive-bred ducklings released in the wild. The foals are still fighting for their existence, though. The lake is not an ideal habitat for them, and there are concerns that there is too little food for all ducklings to survive.

3. Pit

Is it a dog? It's a cat? No, it's a pit, one of the few native predators in Madagascar. Until recently, scientists thought the pits were felines, but they are actually members of the mongoose family. This is an easy mistake to make because of its strange appearance. They have canine muzzles and feline bodies and are Madagascar's largest mammal predators, reaching up to two meters in length. They are nocturnal, and more than half of their diet consists of lemurs. They also eat reptiles, birds and cattle. Pitts are incredibly agile, with their long tails giving them excellent stability when moving from branch to branch. Their claws are retractable, meaning they are sharp and not worn for nothing. Unfortunately, pits are becoming increasingly rare - not only do humans kill them for attacking cattle, but they have also destroyed 90% of their habitat.

2. Snake Leaf Nose

The vast majority of Madagascar snakes are unique to the island, but few are as strange as the leaf-nosed snake (Langaha madagascariensis). These reptiles, which like to hang from tree-topped branches, have bizarre nasal appendages. The species has extraordinary sexual dimorphism: females can be clearly identified because their nostrils are more elaborate and serrated, while males have longer, more pointed appendages. These protrusions are present from birth, so they are not used for sexual signaling. Instead, scientists think they are used for camouflage purposes, as snakes have a habit of ambushing prey. Their nasal appendages resemble leaves of some native Madagascar plants, meaning that the arboreal lizards they eat do not see them approach until it is too late.

1. Bulletproof Spider

Kevlar is a very tough material, right? Therefore it is used in bulletproof vests. Well, near the spider web Caerostris darwini, is more for toilet paper. The silk of this insect is 10 times stronger than Kevlar and twice as resistant as any silk previously discovered. This means it can reach gigantic sizes: it can cover three square meters and is often suspended over rivers or streams up to 25 meters in diameter. Some were found with over 30 trapped insects, mostly ephemeris. The strength and size of the webs means they can be placed where no other spider could live, reducing competition for food and space. Not bad for a species whose female is about two inches long, and the male a quarter of that size.