Tetrapod Zoology

My week in pictures


Here are some neat things I saw this week. You get points for identifying stuff or saying interesting things about it. What you see in the adjacent pictures was visible from my back garden within the last few hours. Amazing stuff, though my rather limited photography meant that I couldn’t capture everything that happened. Remember: stuff like this is happening all around you, all the time, every day. You already know that of course, but 95% of the urbanised human population of the world don’t know it, and it’s difficult to know whether they care, or are interested.


Ooh – neat beasts! Finally, the anteater is doing something. Can you identify the other animals?


Here’s the penguin march at Marwell Zoo, which I finally photographed without there being a person in the way. On the subject of penguins, be sure to check out – if you haven’t already – the excellent Penguinology. The blogosphere has become so different within the past two years; at last it is actually interesting (not that I’m biased or anything). I must blog about this some time (irony intended).


WTF? Then there’s this… What is it? What does it all mean? How was he able to get away with it for so long?



  1. #1 Davre Godfrey
    September 27, 2008

    The crows? appear to be mobbing the ‘raptor. There’s a Gila Monster, and you appear to have found the lair of the lesser spotted Witton.

  2. #2 Traumador the Tyrannosaur
    September 27, 2008

    Bird of prey being harassed by another bird (don’t know British birds sadly) for some reason. I have a great photo like this of a Northern Royal Albatross being hounded by some Red Billed Sea Gulls (to try and knock food loose from the Alby’s beak when it dodge them, I learned). The sea gulls look like sparrows compared to the Albatross.

    As for the Allosaurus skull with Pigeons… I sure hope you’re not pulling an Allosaur bite strength experinment with the Pigeons as the test subjects (not because I like Pigeons… rather last thing you want is PETA on your case). You think I’m joking that someone might do this but at the Tyrrell Museum a decade(ish) ago, Dr. Paul Johnson did an experinment on Mosasaur bite force with a mechanical Mosasaur jaw on ACTUAL live Nautilus!

  3. #3 Tristram Brelstaff
    September 27, 2008

    Crows mobbing a pair of buzzards.

  4. #4 brooks
    September 27, 2008

    second image: beaded lizard (kinda-sorta sure), spectacled caiman (slightly less sure), yellow mongoose (surprised if i’m wrong).

  5. #5 Mokele
    September 27, 2008

    The crocodilian is Osteolaemus terraspis, the African dwarf crocodile.

  6. #6 Brett Booth
    September 27, 2008

    Hmmm… Looks like a golden eagle, but are those falcons with it? A gila monster or beaded lizard, Black caiman, Giant ant eater. Some sort of fox, but the ears look more weasel… An Allosaurs skull and a honking fat pigeon! And what appears to be the pterosaur room.

    I’ll second staying away from Peta but I would also include the Humane Society of the US, those people are crazy!



  7. #7 William Miller
    September 27, 2008

    Top picture: some sort of Buteo hawk attacked by … something British. I don’t know the birds there. The title says “Raptor and corvids”, so jackdaws maybe? The tail is wrong for Common Raven, and they’re too small.

    Second picture: Mexican beaded lizard (a fairly drab one, too) – Gila monsters are really colorful; really ugly crocodile monitor; anteater; fox.

    The Allosaurus skull looks cool. What experiment is that?

  8. #8 sluggo
    September 27, 2008

    You already know that of course, but 95% of the urbanised human population of the world don’t know it, and it’s difficult to know whether they care, or are interested.

    I`d like to think that the human race is interested..of course many folk are always too hurried to stop and smell the roses..but I`ll wager you`ll find the larger percentage of the population ,on their death bed would proclaim that woefully they wish they had spent a little more time out of doors exploring than a few more hours at the office.nature rules!!

  9. #9 sluggo
    September 27, 2008

    You already know that of course, but 95% of the urbanised human population of the world don’t know it, and it’s difficult to know whether they care, or are interested.

    I`d like to think that the human race is interested..of course many folk are always too hurried to stop and smell the roses..but I`ll wager you`ll find the larger percentage of the population ,on their death bed would proclaim that woefully they wish they had spent a little more time out of doors exploring than a few more hours at the office.nature rules!!

  10. #10 Dartian
    September 27, 2008

    Top picture, inside the square: common buzzard (Buteo buteo) being mobbed by a corvid, probably a jackdaw (size difference seems to be rather too big for it being a crow or a rook). The other dark birds are probably also jackdaws, and the light bird in the bottom of the picture may or may not be a buzzard.

    Interesting fact related to first picture: corvids are excellent at identifying different species of raptors and they take much greater liberties when harassing relatively harmless species (e.g., buzzards, sparrowhawks) than dangerous ones (e.g., goshawks). Thus, human birdwatchers can use corvid behaviour to help them identify similar-looking raptors (for example, telling apart a female sparrowhawk from a male goshawk).

    The following pictures: beaded lizard (Heloderma horridum), dwarf crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis), yellow mongoose (Cynictis penicillata) and anteater (obviously).

    Interesting(?) facts about the above mentioned species:

    -the beaded lizard is endemic to Mexico (Steel, 1996).
    -the dwarf crocodile may sometimes forage on land (IIRC).
    -the yellow mongoose raises its tail in an S-shape as an alarm signal (Estes, 1992).
    -the anteater’s name in German and Swedish means ‘ant-bear’.

    The Allosaurus(?) skull… erm, I don’t know what to say except that it’s obviously a replica.

    Comment about the pigeon: it looks like a miniature dodo.

    How many points was that worth?


    Estes, R.D. 1992. The Behavior Guide to African Mammals. (II ed.) The University of California Press, Berkeley/Los Angeles/London.

    Steel, R. 1996. Living Dragons: A Natural History of the World’s Monitor Lizards. Blandford, London.

  11. #11 Dartian
    September 27, 2008

    Correction to my previous message: the anteater’s name means ‘ant-bear’ in German, but not in Swedish. (Memo to self: Don’t post comments on a Saturday evening…)

  12. #12 Mo Hassan
    September 27, 2008

    In the first picture, it looks like two buzzards (Buteo buteo) and a bunch of hooded crows (Corvus corone cornix]), or failing that, carrion crows (C. c. corone). The next four are, as others have said, Mexican beaded lizard, dwarf crocodile, [giant anteater] and yellow mongoose. I could list all the penguins left to right, but can’t be bothered. Dunno what’s going on with the theropod skull, and could the pigeons be a good pic because there are both melanistic and leucistic (albino even?) individuals in the same shot?

  13. #13 Jerzy
    September 27, 2008

    BTW, do you know why anteater is called ant-bear in German? Because, in times before Darwin, it was thought that Old World and America were separated very recently. After the Flood, right? So every American animal had to be close relative of something Eurasian. Coyote is slightly modified wolf, puma is slightly modified lion… and anteater is slightly modified bear. Obvious, right?

    BTW – excellent old book of Herbert Wendt, “Am die Noah Spueren” has fascinating history of discovery of world fauna. Besides anteater and famous Barnacle Goose story, there is e.g. discovery of Olm and lots of others.

  14. #14 Jerzy
    September 27, 2008

    I will be cruel to cladistics now.

    First photo is a bunch of deinonychosaurids. Parrots or ostriches or hummingbirds or eagles or buzzards. Why bother, they are all more similar to each other than Velociraptor to Troodon!

  15. #15 Alec T
    September 27, 2008

    Penguins go, from left to right to the best of my knowledge because the Sphenicus‘ are tough:
    1. Little Blue Penguin, Eudyptula minor
    2. Yellow-eyed Penguin, Megadyptes antipodes
    3. Galapagos Penguin, Spheniscus mendiculus
    4. Magellanic Penguin, Spheniscus magellanicus
    5. Humboldt Penguin, Spheniscus humboldti
    6. African Penguin, Spheniscus demersus
    7. Fiordland Penguin, Eudyptes pachyrynchus
    8. Snares Penguin, Eudyptes robustus
    9. Erect-crested Penguin, Eudyptes sclateri
    10. Southern Rockhopper Penguin, Eudyptes chrysocome
    11. Royal Penguin, Eudyptes schlegeli
    12. Macaroni Penguin, Eudyptes chrysolophus
    13. Adelie Penguin, Pygoscelis adeliae
    14. Chinstrap Penguin, Pygoscelis antarctica
    15. Gentoo Penguin, Pygoscelis papua
    16. King Penguin, Aptenodytes patagonicus
    17. Emperor Penguin, Aptenodytes forsteri

    I think the Yellow Mongoose is my new favorite mammal. Look at those ears!

  16. #16 Alec T
    September 27, 2008

    I meant the Eudyptes‘ were tough

  17. #17 Jerzy
    September 27, 2008

    For non-cladistics: 😉

    This is Common Buzzard Buteo buteo buteo mobbed by Carrion Crows, with one Jackdaw on top right corner.

    Why Buzzard? First, because 90% of big raptors in NW Europe are buzzards, esp. in England. More detailed, its typical telltale buzzard, with white flash on base of primary feathers and black patch at carpal giving it away at huuuuge distance.

    How it should be identified. Note:
    – Its medium sized raptor, 1,5 wingspan of a crow, with fingered wingtips and generally dull brown with pale areas. (so no falcon, no osprey, no golden eagle, no red kite, no goshawk or sparrowhawk which are whitish below).
    – smallish head (eagle would have longer neck and bill).
    – Tail is sligtly shorter than wing broadth (which rules out harriers, honey buzzard and accipiters).
    – primaries and secondaries are strikingly pale at the base with broad black end (actually, buzzard has narrow stripes, but they appear pale white-greyish from away. Flight feathers are least variable part of raptor. Confusion species are different: Marsh harrier has all-dark flight feathers, honey buzzard has clear bars, golden eagle has pale patch, but much more black).
    – Black patch at carpals (this is good character of buzzards Buteo when occurs, but pale buzzards will not show it).
    – Tail is pale with black end, not dissimilar to flight feathers (rules out other raptors, including rough-legged buzzard which as white tail base. Very pale Buzzards can hace some white on tail).

  18. #18 Warren B.
    September 27, 2008

    I can go one better than ‘visible from my garden’. This kind of thing was ‘visible in my garden’ a couple of weeks ago! At least in the tall conifers at one end.
    I assume it was a buzzard. A couple hung around at a spot a few miles away recently; right colours; and big. Bigger than most else round this way – Southern Ulster. And that makes me think the squared corvid with the grey scapulares is a hooded crow. Plenty around here to become familiar with it.

    ‘Course, on first glance at that pigeon, I thought ‘chicken’, so I’ll wait for confirmation…

  19. #19 Neil
    September 27, 2008

    The first picture is a (couple? is that another in the bottom left?) common buzzard(s) being mobbed by crows or jackdaws. Or is it one of the mini plague of migrating honey buzzards from the east has wandered a bit west.

    The lizard is one of the gila monster type poisonous lizards i think, the crocodilian is an alligator or caiman species, the small mammal I have no idea and with the ant eater would you be showing its restinfg its weight on its claws at the front?

    The photos below shows Dave Martill doing funny voices while Mark does the mouth movements – I mean hes got nothing beeter to do now he’s handed in his thesis….lol
    The one next to it I guess is one of the fat pigeons in Victoria Park Aviary. I ahve no idea why!?

    And the last photo is showing how marks art has been plaster acroos virtually the whole of the wall space in the phd room at Portsmouth, something I pointed out at xmas but seems to have got worse! lol

  20. #20 Graham King
    September 27, 2008

    That’s a good bird aerial shot, Darren: was this going on for quite a while or did you just happen to look up at the right moment? (Was it noisy, and was that what attracted your gaze?)

    I got all excited looking at the pterosaurs cos about 2o’clock and 2/3 out from centre, orange-crested, is what I took to be a new droop-snooted species, (with upper and lower mandibles seriously sinuously s-shaped (er, sigmoid), -facing left); then realised (disappointedly) that was its neck (pale but shaded darker dorsally and ventrally, and with a much more ‘normal’ head, -facing right).

    Never mind, I’m sure pterosaurs have plenty more surprises for us which you will feature here as they come to notice.

    And the other pics are neat too!

  21. #21 Arachnophile
    September 27, 2008

    AHHH! A raptor question and it’s British! Life is so unfair. I would have rocked this one if it was taken in N.A. 😉 I would guess a Buteo from the wing shape but I may be off on the size. I know that the naming is alo differnt in the UK. What you all call a buzzard would be a hawk where I live. *sigh* *no fair* ;-p

  22. #22 Arachnophile
    September 27, 2008

    Oh, and that last office must be our friend Mark’s office? Who else would have all his artwork on the walls? Unless he’s got a mega-fan out there.

  23. #23 Mike Habib
    September 28, 2008

    Enjoyable as always! Interestingly enough, while corvids are usually pretty accurate with their identifications, I have seen them screw up – a group of corvids once took too many liberties with a sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus) while mobbing it above my place of residence – the effect being that one of the crows was nearly gutted (lost quite a few feathers and was rather upset).

    Moral of the story – be careful with Accipiters

    The local crows do know better than to mess with our resident pair of falcons, though. The crows clear house when the peregrines cruise in…

  24. #24 Dartian
    September 28, 2008

    Indeed Mike, even if the crows get the species identification right, sometimes they just push their luck a little too far. I remember seeing, many years ago, an amateur video clip of hooded crows mobbing a goshawk high up in the air. One of the crows got too close and suddenly, with an incredible speed, the goshawk turned upside down, lunged out with one of its feet, and cought the crow in mid-air!

    Incidentally, someone talked of ‘a bunch of crows’. Isn’t there also the delightful expression ‘a murder of crows’?

  25. #25 Felicia Gilljam
    September 28, 2008

    I’d say it’s crows mobbing the buzzard. The flash of grey under the wing of one of them just doesn’t seem jackdaw-ish. Also I feel jackdaws should be smaller.

    Where I live in the swedish countryside we frequently see buzzards, sometimes three or four of them circling and screeching at each other, but I’ve never seen them mobbed by anything. There’s simply not enough humans out here for crows and jackdaws. We have some magpies and a few ravens.

  26. #26 tj
    September 29, 2008

    Is the anteater resting its weight on its claws or on its knuckles?

  27. #27 pough
    September 29, 2008

    Now I wish I had had my camera with me to take a photo of one rabbit pissing on another. (Not that there’s anything wrong with it.) The area around my fiance’s work is being overrun by rabbits and they’re only a little bit afraid of humans, so while I wait for her in the parking lot I’m often surrounded by them.

    One time I crouched down and pretended to have some food in my hand to see if I could entice two of them a little closer. As they started to approach, one of them did a strange little hop and twist and some drops of fluid flew through the air and onto the other. It looked like it did it on purpose!

    And here are some photos I took of a crow dive bombing a bald eagle who was just sitting on a totem pole. They’re kinda grainy because I don’t have much of a zoom lens and that pole is damn tall. It’s a common sight, especially if you bother to look at birds.

    Here and here.

  28. #28 Darren Naish
    September 29, 2008

    Rabbits do indeed piss on one another: apparently, this is how males express their intentions to females. I mentioned this in The most freaky of all mammals.

  29. #29 kmurray
    September 30, 2008

    What’s the main difference between a bearded lizard and a gila monster?

    I’ve seen gila monsters in shades ranging from pink to a very dull orange – roughly matching the photo above (yes, some of them in my backyard).

  30. #30 john Jackson
    October 2, 2008

    Interesting – as usual, including the comments.

    I’m convinced giant anteaters imitate crocodylians. The anteaters are found in swampy areas they say, and the black band with white edges looks like the gap between a croc’s open jaws when the anteater is standing side on. If the anteater is pointing its head at you, its foreshortened snout looks like the bump at the end of a croc’s upper jaw.

    If you’re not using a Panasonic TZ3 or TZ5, they’re handy for carrying around conveniently and for use on shots like that.

  31. #31 David Marjanovi?
    October 2, 2008

    The anteaters are found in swampy areas[,] they say

    Er… no, in dry grasslands, wandering from termite hill to termite hill.

  32. #32 John Jackson
    October 4, 2008

    >>The anteaters are found in swampy areas[,] they say

    >Er… no, in dry grasslands, wandering from termite hill to termite hill.

    Yes – a brief net search says nothing about swamps. Can’t remember where I heard that but I remembered it because it seemed so odd. They do say its habitat includes tropical rain forests, so I suppose there’s a chance of “imitating a croc” being useful.

    (Also, when I said:

    > If you’re not using a Panasonic TZ3 or TZ5, they’re
    > handy for carrying around conveniently and for use
    > on shots like that.

    …I was referring to the buzzard pic, of course.)

New comments have been disabled.