The common or long-nosed kusimanse (Crossarchus obscurus) is a member of Herpestidae (the mongoose family) native to West Africa. Unlike most other Herpestids, kusimanses prefer forests with reliable water sources over arid grasslands. They feed on a wide variety of foods, but are mostly carnivorous, taking insects, crabs, reptiles, and rodents. They will also occasionally eat fruits and berries, however.
The kusimanse is highly social, living in nomadic foraging groups of 10 to 20 members, finding shelter in hollowed trees, or the abandoned dwellings of other animals. Only the dominant members of the group are permitted to breed, and any offspring born as a result of breaking this tenant are killed and eaten by the group leaders.
(Photo Credit: Milan Kořínek)
The jaguarundi (Puma yagouarundi) is a small cat native to Central and South America. Occasionally included in its own genus, Hepailurus, the jaguarundi is a close relative of the much larger mountain lion (Puma concolor). There are two color phases of jaguarundi— dark gray and red— which were once thought to to be separate species. It is sometimes thought of as the least cat-like of the true cats due to its long body and short legs which give it an almost weasel-like appearance, earning it names like “otter cat”.
The jaguarundi prefers to live in brushy lowland areas with a source of running water in the vicinity, which can include anything from marshland to thorny forests. They are solitary with widely varying territory sizes, known to range from 2.6 to 39 square miles depending on environment and availability of resources. It will prey on most animals smaller than itself, but has been known to take animals as large as opossums and small monkeys.
Sightings of a population in Florida have been reported since 1907 and have been considered generally credible by researchers while no specimens have been officially recorded by science. Such sightings have seen a downward trend, suggesting the population is declining. It is believed that these jaguarundis were introduced, though the time and means of this introduction are uncertain.
Hyaenidae is a family in the order Carnivora containing the hyenas. Despite their dog-like appearance, they are allied with cats within the suborder Feliformia and have reached their canine-esque from through convergent evolution. They betray their Feliform ancestry through their habits in grooming, scent marking, and defecation.
Though once highly diverse, Hyaenidae now only has four members making it the fourth smallest family within Carnivora. Those that survive, however, are not on the evolutionary brink. They fill unique and vital niches within the African and some Asian ecosystems. They are popularly thought of as scavengers, but the popular spotted hyena can kill up to 95% of their own prey.
Extant hyenas are placed in three genera, and aren’t very closely related to each other. The aardwolf in particular is a last remnant of an ancient, and once successful line of hyenas known as the “dog-like hyenas”, if you can imagine hyenas being anymore dog-like than they already are. The other three species belong to the “bone-crushing hyenas”.
The species of Hyaenidae are:
- Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta)
- Brown Hyena (Hyaena brunnea)
- Striped Hyena (Hyaena hyaena)
- Aardwolf (Proteles cristata)
The brown and striped hyenas are predominantly scavengers, but will take their own prey when the opportunity rises. The spotted hyena is a predator, but does scavenge if it thinks it can win a fight with another predator. Aardwolves, the most divergent, are insectivores and thereby have highly reduce carnassials, feeding mostly on harvester termites and occasionally other insects, though they will sometimes eat smaller vertebrates like birds.
labellum: Blanket Octopus (Tremoctopus sp.)
What’s funny about these creatures is their pronounced sexual dimorphism - females can grow to over 2 meters in length whereas the teeny males only reach around a few centimeters!
Blanket octopuses also have a few tricks up their sleeves. The creatures are immune to the venom of Portuguese Man o’ War and will actually rip off the jellyfish’s tentacles and carry them around for their own defense.
The most impressive defense mechanism though stems from the Blanket Octopuses lack of ink. Instead of using ink to scare off predators, the female (when threatened) will unfurl her large net-like membranes which billow gracefully in the water behind her. This “blanket” greatly increases her apparent size and I’m sure scares the bajeezes out of any potential predator.