The letter P offers us an incredibly varied mix of pulchritudinous pals! From peacocks to patas monkeys, our animal companions are all fascinating in their own ways. Many animals are aware of humans, whether directly or indirectly, so it is a thoroughly appropriate use of time to take a few minutes to learn about their habitats, their diets, and their behavior. Most importantly, we can learn whether these wonderfully resourceful friends are thriving or under threat and what, if any, legislation is in place to help reverse or prevent their diminishing status.
Scientific name: Saguinus bicolor
Including the tail, The pied tamarin’s body measures 33.5 – 42.0 cm. This two-tone tamarin has a warm-brown lower body and a fluffier white upper body. Their face is black and unlike the body, has no hair at all. For this reason, he has sometimes been nicknamed the Brazilian bare-faced tamarin The pied tamarin has the most impressive claws which have adapted to enable him to scale trees so that he may retrieve food or escape a chasing enemy. They are so useful that he can also utilize them to dig out sap by scraping it from tree bark.
Scientific name: Hystricidae
The amazing two-tone coloring of a porcupine’s quills is not just pretty to look at, they actually help to keep him safe as most of the predators are nocturnal and color-blind. You may already know that a porcupine will raise its quills to protect itself but he will also clatter his teeth to warn predators not to approach. The incisors vibrate against each other, the strike zone shifts back, and thus, the teeth begin to chatter! This action combined with body shivering to fully showcase the amazing quills is quite the one-man double act!
Scientific name: Phocoenidae
The female of this fully aquatic creature delivers a single calf after a gestation period which is generally about a year. The birthing process is called calving and happens entirely underwater. Cleverly, the calf will be born with the fetus positioned tail-first to limit the likelihood of drowning. The baby calves will be weaned at about 11 months of age. Males are not involved in the rearing of offspring however, the calf is completely dependent upon the mother for one to two years, and the calf will not be mature until it is seven to ten years, all varying between species. This method of reproducing does not produce many offspring, but it does increase the chances of survival.
Scientific name: Phasianidae
There are 3 species of the family Phasianidae. Male peafowl is referred to as peacocks, and female peafowl are referred to as peahens, although peafowl of either sex is known colloquially as “peacocks.” The famous peacock tail is made up of extremely elongated upper tail coverts. These feathers are marked with eyespots which are best observed when a peacock fans his tail to its full extent. Both sexes of all species have a crest atop the head. The Indian peahen has a combination of dull grey, brown, and green in her plumage. Like the male, the female also uses her plumage to dramatic effect but is more likely to be warding off female competition or signaling danger to her young.
Scientific name: Psittaciformes
Most parrots’ diets include seeds, nuts, fruit, buds, and other plants. Some species will occasionally eat small animals and carrion, while the lories and lorikeets are specially adapted for feeding on floral nectar and softer fruits. Parrots are incredibly intelligent birds. Unfortunately, this is a large component in their popularity as pets. Capturing wild parrots for the pet trade has destroyed wild populations, with parrots being the recipients of more exploitation than any other group of birds. With their extraordinary coloring ranging from red bodies and heads to greens, yellow, and blues.
Scientific name: Tetraodontidae
Most pufferfish species are not only toxic but some of the most poisonous vertebrates in the entire world. There are some species whose internal organs, namely the liver, are toxic but even the skin itself can contain a substance called tetrodotoxin which is very poisonous to most animals when eaten; despite this, the meat of some species is considered a highly sought after delicacy in Japan.
Scientific name: Phasianus colchicus
You can recognize a pheasant’s call because it sounds not unlike a rusty sink tap or valve being turned. The pheasant’s diet consists mainly of seeds, grains, roots, and berries but when summer comes, they expand their palate with insects, fresh green shoots, spiders, earthworms, and snails. The best-known is the common pheasant, which is common throughout the world, in introduced feral populations and on farms. Many other pheasant species are a popular sight to visitors in aviaries, particularly the golden pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus).
Scientific name: Sus domesticus
In many ways, pig behavior appears to settle somewhere between that of other artiodactyls and of carnivores. Pigs are sociable and seek out the company of other pigs. They are not inclined to form large herds and instead, they huddle with around 8-10 for bodily contact. Pigs have no sweat glands and so they have to use other methods to stay comfortable. Like ‘pigs wallowing in mud’ is really not the insult it is meant to be since it is a highly sophisticated method of maintaining their temperature not to mention an essential sunscreen and parasite repellent!
Scientific name: Serrasalminae
The much-feared Piranha is indigenous to the Amazon basin, in the Orinoco, in rivers of the Guianas, the Paraguay–Paraná, and the São Francisco River systems. But don’t think if you’ve seen one piranha you’ve seen them all! The piranha differs greatly from species to species. In a research study where 38–39 piranha species were identified, 25 were from the Amazon and 16 from Orinoco. Only 3 were discovered in Paraguay–Paraná and 2 in São Francisco. Most Piranha species have their movement curtailed by a single river but the red-bellied piranha appears in a myriad of river systems.
Scientific name: Ornithorhynchus anatinus
It is easy to see why the platypus is a unique subject in the study of evolution, not to mention an iconic representative of Australia. In fact, so hailed is it that he makes an appearance on the reverse side of the Australian twenty-cent coin. This fascinating creature is also the animal emblem of the state of New South Wales. Humans hunted the platypus for its fur until the early 20th century but it now has protected status. Captive-breeding programs have not been particularly successful, and the effects of pollution have negatively affected its number; it is not currently considered to be in imminent danger.
Scientific name: Falco peregrinus
The breeding range of the peregrine stretches from the Arctic tundra to the tropics. There is hardly a square inch of earth where this noble falcon isn’t found except in extreme polar regions, very high mountains, and most tropical rainforests. This explorer spirit makes it the world’s most widespread raptor, and one of the most widely found bird species. The peregrine is also a brilliant example of successful urban wildlife in much of its range, as it will utilize tall buildings as nest sites and feed on whatever is handy, even pigeons and ducks.
Scientific name: Maratus volans
Maratus is known as Peacock Spider, because of the peacock-like display of the dorsal (upper) surface of the abdomen (opisthosoma) of the males, who possess a “fan” of vividly colored and extremely iridescent scales and hairs. These are designed to create patterns in which the foreground colors are in stark contrast with the translucent background. There may also be dense fringes of hairs at the sides of the abdomen, sometimes strikingly dramatic. In both sexes, the stomach is attached to the cephalothorax with an extremely flexible pedicel.
Scientific name: Erythrocebus patas
The alarm call vocabulary of the common patas monkey is vast with each separate tone indicating the presence of different groups of predators. Various alarm calls are also given by group members (i.e. adult females, adult males, juveniles, etc.) Breaking tradition with other primates, patas monkeys seldom take refuge from predators in trees. This is not due to their climbing ability or lack of, but the relatively sparse tree cover in patas monkey habitats. Instead, patas monkeys will run on the ground away from predators, although individual patas monkeys have been seen confronting predators such as jackals and wildcats rather than running.
Scientific name: Pholidota
You can identify a pangolin by its huge, tough, overlapping, plate-like scales. These are much more malleable on newborn pangolins, and harden up as they venture out into the world. They are made of keratin, the very same substance from which human fingernails and tetrapod claws are made. The structure of the pangolin’s scaly body has been compared to a pine cone. They work in an almost mechanical way: when it curls into a ball, the overlapping scales become a suit of armor. The scales are also sharp adding an extra element of protection while its face is kept safely buried in its tail.
Scientific name: Thylogale
You can find the Pademelon in the coastal regions of Queensland and New South Wales, as well as south-central New Guinea. Sadly, some of their habitats have been diminished. You will have to visit Tasmania to spot the red-bellied Pademelon, although it was once found throughout the southeastern parts of mainland Australia. The natural environment of the pademelon is in dense scrubland or very thick forested undergrowth. They are very adept at making tunnels through long grasses and bushes in the swampy country.
Scientific name: Polyodontidae
The paddlefish could be described as having a long story, and we don’t just mean its elongated rostrum (nose). Paddlefish have been called primitive fish because the family they belong to called Acipenseriformes, are some of the earliest lineages of ray-finned fish, having diversified from the other living genus more than 300 million years ago. It is unfortunate that paddlefish numbers have drastically reduced during their historic range, this is due to overfishing, pollution, and general encroachment of human development and industrialization.
Pink Fairy Armadillo
Scientific name: Chlamyphorus truncates
Yes, this really is their name! The Pink fairy armadillo can be found amongst the warm and sandy plains of Argentina. These precious pastels prefer to burrow in very dry soil. In fact, they actually leave their burrows if the rain has the audacity to moisten their homes. They cleverly build these homes near anthills which is a bit like renting an apartment at your favorite grocery store! They are unbelievably industrious diggers despite being the smallest member of the armadillo family, measuring a mere five to six inches in length.
Scientific name: Martes martes
The semi-retractable claws of this mustelid enable his extremely arboreal lifestyle. He not only climbs and runs along tree branches, but can run fairly quickly on the ground. Mostly nocturnal, it’s just as well that they have round, highly sensitive ears and sharp teeth, perfectly adapted for eating small mammals, birds, insects, frogs, and carrion. If none of these is available, they will not refuse berries, birds’ eggs, nuts, and honey.
Scientific name: Cebuella
There are three main calling signals for the pygmy marmoset and which one he chooses depends on how far the call needs to travel. They don’t stop at the sound when it comes to signaling, they use visual displays when threatened or to show dominance. A third communication method involves secretions from glands on the chest and genital area. The pygmy marmoset is classified as somewhat different from other more typical marmosets, most of which are classified in the genera Callithrix and Mico. Because of this difference, it has been awarded its own genus, Cebuella, within the family Callitrichidae.
Scientific name: Pelecanus
This famous bird is found on all continents except Antarctica. They enjoy warmer weather but will breed in latitudes running up to 45° South (Australian pelicans in Tasmania and 60° North. Pelicans are wonderfully gregarious creatures and nest colonially. A couple of pelicans will be monogamous for a single season, but it may be a case of out-of-sight out of mind as this romantic bonding extends only to the nesting area; mates are independent away from the nest. The (white) species nest on the ground and have a complicated communal courtship. This involves a group of males pursuing a lone female in the air, on land, or in the water.
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