Questionable Evolution

Category Archives: Africa

Cuckoos: Outsourcing Childcare, Hogging the Bed

Common Name: Parasitic Cuckoos A.K.A.: Subfamily Cuculinae (Family Cuculidae) Vital Stats: Range in length from 15-63cm (6-25”) and weigh between 17g (0.6oz.) and 630g (1.4lbs.) The majority of cuckoos are not parasites, but around 60sp. are (about 56 in the Old World, and 3 in the New World) Babies of brood parasites are initially coloured …

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The Old Girls’ Club

Common Name: African Elephants, Asian Elephants A.K.A.: Loxodonta africana, Elephas maximus Vital Stats: Comprise the entirety of Family Elephantidae and Order Proboscidea African elephants are thought by some to be two species; the African Forest Elephant, and the African Bush Elephant Can live for up to 70 years in the wild The largest living terrestrial …

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The Life and Times of the Last Earthpig

Common Name: The Aardvark A.K.A.: Orycteropus afer, Family Orycteropodidae Vital Stats: Also referred to as the “antbear” or “earthpig” Common name derives from Afrikaans words meaning ‘earth’ and ‘pig’ Habitats include savannas, grasslands, and woodlands Weighs 40-65kg (88-140lbs.) and can grow up to 2.2m (7’3”) long Can live up to 24 years in captivity Nocturnal, …

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Living in Filth and Looking Up at the Stars

Common Name: Dung Beetles A.K.A.: Subfamily Scarabaeinae Vital Stats: Many subsist entirely on faeces, while others also consume fungi and decaying plant matter Found in extremely diverse habitats, on all inhabited continents Grow up to 6cm (2.4”) long, and can live for up to three years Found: Across the temperate and tropical regions of the …

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Necessity is the Mother of Invention, or, How to Eat Like a Shrike

Common Name: The Shrike A.K.A.: Family Laniidae Vital Stats: Family consists of three genera and around 30 species Shrikes range in size from 17cm (6.5”) up to 50cm (20”) long Feathers may be black and white, cream, grey, or brown Found: Various species found in North America, Southern Africa, and Eurasia It Does What?! Sometimes …

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Nights of the Living Dead… Further Horrors of the Insect World

Common Name: The Tarantula Hawk A.K.A.: Genera Pepsis and Hemipepsis Vital Stats: The two genera make up Tribe Pepsini in Family Pompilidae Grow up to 5cm (2”) long Stingers are up to 7mm (1/3”) long Quite long lived for wasps, with lifespans of more than a year Adults feed primarily on milkweed nectar Found: Across …

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The Plant That Time Forgot (Welwitschia mirabilis)

Common Name: Welwitschia mirabilis A.K.A.: Welwitschia Vital Stats: Welwitschia is a gymnosperm, like pines or firs, and thus reproduces via male and female cones Considered a “living fossil” Named after one of its discoverers, Austrian botanist Friedrich Welwitsch In mature specimens, the woody stem can grow up to one metre (3.3’) across Found: In the …

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Ergot: Bringing the Crazy Since 800 A.D.

Common Name: Ergot, Ergot of Rye A.K.A.: Claviceps purpurea (and other Claviceps species) Vital Stats: Around 30-40 species in genus Claviceps, all parasites of various types of grasses Parasitizes rye, barley, and wheat crops in temperate regions Problematic in Africa due to its parasitism of sorghum and millet Found: Throughout temperate and tropical regions, though …

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The Zombie Apocalypse: Already Underway

Common Name: The Zombie-Ant Fungus A.K.A.: Ophiocordyceps unilateralis Vital Stats: Whole “graveyards” of 20-30 ants may be found within a single square metre Telltale bitemarks on fossil plants suggest this fungus, or a related species, may have been in operation for the last 48 million years Host species is the carpenter ant Camponotus leonardi Found: …

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Death from Below! (The Purse-Web Spider)

Common Name: Purse-Web Spiders A.K.A.: Family Atypidae Vital Stats: The family contains three genera; Atypus, Calommata, and Sphodros Females reach up to 30mm (1.2”) in length Fangs can measure up to half the spider’s body length Prey includes crickets, beetles, millipedes, ants, wasps, and other spiders Web tubes measure up to half a metre (20”) …

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