Like other deciduous larches, the subalpine larch, Larix lyallii, sheds its needles each year. The trees make a grand show up there near the treeline, with their yellow needles and often twisted form. Further down the mountains, they tend to be taller and grow straighter. Fresh new twigs have single needles, whereas older twigs have clusters of needles growing from a little raised knot along the twig. Cones are spherical with long bracts extending out past each scale, giving the cones a shaggy appearance. These trees grow along with their very close and very similar relative, Larix occidentalis, in the upper Rocky Mountains and Cascade range in the northwestern United States and nearby regions of Canada.
This spikey little amphibian lives in Japan. At one time it also could be found in Taiwan, but has become extinct there due to habitat loss and capture for the pet trade.
Crocodile Newts grow to only about 6 to 7 inches long including their tail, and their ribs actually end in protruding spikes that serve as protection against predators.
The Crucifix Toad, also called the Holy Cross Frog, Notaden bennettii, lives in the dry outback of eastern Australia. When it gets too dry, this little guy burrows deep underground and goes into a semi-hibernating state, like many of his neighbors. However, it is the substance secreted by this little amphibian that makes it special. When disturbed by insects or other threats, the Crucifix Toad secretes a sticky substance known to be one of the strongest natural adhesives in the world. It will even stick metal to metal! Even more valuable, it is being used inside human bodies for medical purposes, far exceeding the usefulness of limited protein-based and synthetic bonding agents currently being used. Check out the links below for more interesting tidbits!
There are two species of Desman — aquatic insectivores that use their sensitive, flexible long snout to hunt for prey in the riverbed. The Russian Desman, Desmana moschata, lives in a small area of northwestern Asia and was once hunted for its thick, water-resistant pelt, even though the whole animal is only about 8 inches long! Besides insects, this desman eats crayfish and amphibians. Desmans are related to moles.
The Russian Desman
This unique Superfamily of insects, the Cercopoidea, has nymphs that encase themselves in what looks like spit (= spittlebugs) in order to protect them from heat and cold as well as from predators and parasites. The young insects use plant juices to make their own acrid concoctions. As adults, these insects can hop many times their length, thus gaining them the alternative name, Froghoppers. Click the links below the pic for more pics and info on these resourceful bugs!
The Eurasian harvest mouse, Micromys minutus, is not only Europe’s smallest rodent, but it is also the continent’s only animal with a prehensile (grasping) tail. The nest this tiny one weaves also takes the prize for the most complex of any European mammal. The little harvest mouse splits and bends stalks of grass, eventually forming a spherical structure about 4 or 5 inches wide. These tiny rodents live only about 6 months, and even in captivity 18 months is the record.
Europe’s Smallest Rodent
The Eastern Barred Bandicoot, Perameles gunnii, is a small endangered species in Australia. It has one of the shortest gestation periods (pregnancy) of all mammals — it gives birth after only 12 to 13 days! This fun video from an Australian zoo will tell you more, as will the links below it (more pics, too!).
Eastern Barred Bandicoot
Step inside a working ant production line when BBC films an entire colony of leaf-cutter ants from South America brought indoors in this remarkable project! This 89-minute documentary film is available for FREE on YouTube.
What I like best about this tiny bird is its name: Have you ever heard of a gnatwren?! It is not a wren, yet it has the cocked tail and general appearance of one. It IS a type of gnatcatcher, but it doesn’t quite LOOK like one. This unique species is the only one in its genus, yet it has over a dozen subspecies. It lives in Central and South America, with an isolated population along the east coast of Brazil. Read more about this little feathered friend using the links below the pic.