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DISPLAYING POSTS TAGGED: mammals (11)

Wild record-breakers

Author
by Wayne
Publish date
1 July 2012
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 Your Question: Animals break records too?  Really?

"I love the exhibition Wild: Amazing Animals in a changing World and wanted to know more about birds and mammals, and the amazing things they can do."

It is true, animals break records too, but not in the same way Olympians do, or those fighting for recognition in the Guinness Book of Records. Below are some interesting facts about birds and mammals, some of which you can see in the exhibition.

What mammals or birds have the…

Fastest heartbeat – Hummingbirds.  Hummingbirds are native to North and South America and are the little birds that hover mid air.  They are also the only bird that can fly backwards.

Detail of hummingbird case Detail of a hummingbird on display in the Wild exhibition.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Fastest runner – the Cheetah. Unlike other big cats, the Cheetah has blunt claws that cannot be retracted. 

Fastest swimmers – Penguins. Penguins spend their life half on the land and in the water.

Fastest flyers – Pigeons are the fastest straight line flyers, but falcons are the fastest flyers overall, so falcons can hunt pigeons!

Slowest heartbeat – the Blue Whale.  Blue Whales can be up to 27 metres long.  You can see the articulated skeleton of a Blue Whale outside the entrance to the Science and Life Gallery.

Slowest mover – Sloths. There are both Two-toed and Three-toed Sloths found in tropical South America.

Maned Three-toed Sloth Maned Three-toed Sloth, a mounted mammal specimen in the Wild exhibition.
Image: Heath Warwick
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Tallest – the Giraffe. There are nine subspecies of giraffe, and Africa is the only place where they can be found naturally. 

Shortest – a shrew. Shrews are small mouse-like carnivorous mammals with (proportionally) long pointed noses.

Longest gestation – the African Elephant. A female African Elephant is a cow and her young a calf.

Shortest gestation – the Opossum. The gestation period of the opossum is between 12 and 14 days. 

Didelphis virginiana, Virginia Opossum mounted mammal specimen A mounted Virginia Opossum specimen from the Wild exhibition.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Found in the most places across the world – humans! 

Most endangered – This one is difficult to answer. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources produces the Red list of Threatened Species. It is a globally-recognised comprehensive tool that records the conservation status of plants and animals and Museum Victoria used the Red List when recording the status of animals in the exhibition.

Got a question? Ask us!

Links:

WILD: Amazing Animals in a changing World

IUCN Red List

Collecting mammal specimens

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
27 March 2012
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In their previous video, Dr Karen Rowe and Dr Karen Roberts reported the results of their mammal surveys of Wilsons Prom. They joined other MV scientists and Parks Victoria staff for the the rapid biodiversity survey, Prom Bioscan, of October 2011.

In this video, Karen and Karen talk about their work with the Mammology Collection at Museum Victoria and why the museum collects mammal specimens.

 

Watch this video with a transcript

Links:

View all Prom Bioscan blog posts

MV Animal Ethics Procedures

Mammalogy Collection

Small mammals at Wilsons Prom

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
16 January 2012
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In October 2011, 50 scientists and volunteers performed a rapid biodiversity survey of Wilsons Promontory in partnership with Parks Victoria. In this video, Dr Karen Rowe and Dr Karen Roberts talk about the mammals of Wilsons Prom, particularly the small mammals: native rats and antechinus.

 

Watch this video with a transcript

Links:

Prom Bioscan

Paradise Valley

Historian at the Prom

Hunting for herpetiles

Crayfish climbing trees

The mammals of Sulawesi

Author
by Kevin Rowe
Publish date
6 January 2012
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Comments (3)

Kevin is the Senior Curator of Mammals at Museum Victoria. He reports on his recent expedition to the mountains of Sulawesi, Indonesia in this series of blog posts.

I recently returned from an expedition into the heart of Sulawesi's central mountain forests. Shrouded in the cool moisture of clouds, these forests appear to be made of moss erupting from the ground. Halfway between Asia and Australia, the native species on this island are neither Australian nor Asian but a unique mix of lineages from the two great continents.

Cloud forest of Sulawei The mountain rainforest of Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Image: Kevin Rowe
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Together with Anang S. Achmadi, Curator of Mammals from the Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense (the national museum of Indonesia) and a team of local guides, I hiked two days from the rice fields of Mamasa to a field camp at 2600 m in the mountains above.

the Sulawesi expedition team The Sulawesi expedition team.
Image: Kevin Rowe
Source: Museum Victoria
 

campsite in Sulawesi Base camp for the Sulawesi expedition.
Image: Kevin Rowe
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Led by our local guides, including 84 year-old village-elder, Pak Daud, we encountered a pristine, primordial forest rich in biodiversity. Streams dissect the plateau spreading the daily afternoon showers across the landscape and to the fertile rice fields in the valleys below. The endangered mountain anoa (a pygmy water buffalo found only in the mountains of Sulawesi) run in large numbers, bear cuscus (relatives of Australia's brushtail possums) climb through the tree tops, dozens of orchid and pitcher plant species cling to the moss that covers everything, and a diverse assemblage of rodents survive in large numbers. We came in search of these rodents found nowhere else on earth, but which may help us understand the relationship between Australia's native rodents and Asia's.

hiking in Sulawesi Hiking through mountain terrain in Sulawesi.
Image: Kevin Rowe
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Over three weeks of surveys in these remote forests, we detected 34 species of small mammals (< 1 kg), a healthy number for any forest. Consider that there are about the same number of small mammals across the entire State of Victoria. The rodents in these mossy mountain forests are characterised by a range of morphological oddities, such as giant woolly rats, Eropeplus, small arboreal mice, Haeromys, spiny rats, Maxomys, tiny arboreal squirrels, Prosciurillus, large terrestrial squirrels, Hyosciurus, and a collection of shrew rats that, like shrews, specialise on eating invertebrates. These shrew rats include two species of the soft-furred Tateomys and one species of the short-legged Melasmothrix.

Rodents of Sulawesi. Rodents of Sulawesi. Left: small arboreal mouse Haeromys montanus. | Right: giant woolly rat Eropeplus canus
Image: Kevin Rowe
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Two species of shrew rats from Sulawesi Two species of shrew rats from Sulawesi. Left: Tateomys rhinogradoides | Right: Tateomys macocercus
Image: Kevin Rowe
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We also detected two shrew rat genera that have not been seen since the 1970s including three individuals each of the puppy-faced Crunomys and the rare, worm-eating, gangly-legged Sommeromys, previously known from a single specimen.

Two genera of shrew rats from Sulawesi. Two general of shrew rats that were found for the first time since the 1970s. Above: Crunomys sp. | Below: Sommeromys sp.
Image: Kevin Rowe
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Desert rains trigger rat plagues

Author
by Karen Rowe
Publish date
3 August 2011
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Karen Rowe is a Research Associate at MV where she studies evolutionary ecology and behaviour in birds and mammals.

Record levels of rainfall in the Northern Territory have brought forth one of Australia’s rare and unique native mammals, the Long-haired, or Plague Rat (Rattus villosissimus). These herbivorous rats feed largely on stems and leaves and, with consistently high rainfall, large areas of the desert landscape have become lush with food. Coupled with an unusually high reproductive rate, where a single female can produce more than 200 young in one year, these rats are capable of large-scale population explosions leading to rapid dispersal over huge distances. They have even been documented moving as much as 3 km in a single night.

In the past, these rodents have spread across the arid regions of Australia, including eastern Western Australia, the Northern Territory, eastern Queensland and parts of South Australia. Historic plagues have been documented as far back as 1847, with others occurring in 1916-18, 1930-32, 1940-42, 1948, 1950-52, 1956, and 1966-69.

Once the plague recedes, they vanish almost as quickly as they arrived and during non-plague years, they become rare and hard to find, persisting in only a few locations.

Taking advantage of this unique opportunity to document the latest plague, I joined MV mammal curator, Kevin Rowe, and collections manager, Wayne Longmore, to try to find these rats in the Northern Territory, along the Finke River.

Kevin Rowe and Wayne Longmore MV curator, Kevin Rowe (left), and collections manager, Wayne Longmore (right), trapping rats in the desert rain.
Image: Karen Rowe
Source: Karen Rowe
 

We found them in abundance – nearly all of our live traps contained a long-haired rat, and one had two!

Rattus villosissimus caught along the Finke River Rattus villosissimus caught along the Finke River.
Image: Karen Rowe
Source: Karen Rowe
 

We even found part of the skeleton of one in a bird pellet – the undigested material regurgitated by a bird, particularly in birds of prey.

Bird pellet before dissection Bird pellet before dissection.
Image: Karen Rowe
Source: Karen Rowe
 

Bird pellet after dissection After dissection – most of the skull and jaw were intact (on left).
Image: Karen Rowe
Source: Karen Rowe
 

Long-haired rats build burrows in the sand, consisting of meters of tunnels with multiple entrances and exits. They use these burrows extensively, spending nearly 80% of their time underground.

Rattus villosissimus burrow entrance Rattus villosissimus burrow entrance.
Image: Karen Rowe
Source: Karen Rowe
 

At the Finke River site, the sandy soil made it easy to see footprints into and out of these burrows.

Rattus villosissimus footprints Rattus villosissimus footprints.
Image: Karen Rowe
Source: Karen Rowe
 

Kevin and Wayne are still on the hunt for the plague rat, hoping to find more populations in the Barkly Tablelands and central NT. By studying these rats from throughout the state and recording natural history data such as behaviour and habitat, as well as traits of the rats themselves, including age and reproductive state, we can better understand the ecology and biology of this unique, native, and (most of the time!) rare mammal.

Links:

MV Blog: On rats

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