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Greater Grison (Galictis vittata) photo by Tony Hisgett

Last week, in a throwaway post about a bizarre weasel-related mishap at the world’s foremost scientific facility, I promised Ferrebeekeeper would feature more weird and magnificent mustelids.  Today we make good that promise.  This is the greater grison (Galictis vittata), a relative of weasels and badgers which lives in the great rainforests of Central America and South America (the northern part of the continent).  Adult greater grisons weigh in at 1.5 to 3.8 kilograms (3.3 to 8.5 lbs) and range from the Yucatan Peninsula down across the Amazon Basin to the Mato Grosso Plateau.  The southern reached of South America are home to a very similar but smaller grison—the lesser grison (Galictis cuja)—which only weighs 1.2 to 2.4 kg (2.6 to 5.3 lbs).


Lesser Grison (Galictis cuja) photo by Edward Tchementchekov

Grisons are solitary hunters which live on a wide variety of small prey, particularly small vertebrates such as fish, amphibians, birds, and rodents (but also invertebrates and maybe some larger prey when the opportunity presents itself).  Their diet is not perfectly understood, but it seems to also contain a fair amount of fruits, berries, and vegetables as well. Not only are they omnivores but they can change their schedule. Though they are largely diurnal—they can operate at night when it suits them. Likewise they are predominantly terrestrial but they can swim and climb trees with great facility.   They are clever generalists capable of living in grasslands, forests, scrublands, pastures, croplands, and mountains. Grisons live in hollowed out logs or the abandoned dens of other animals.


Grisons are sometimes tamed when young and they prove to be resourceful and adaptable domesticated animals capable of hunting chinchillas (back when there were sufficient chinchillas to hunt).  Perhaps it seems like we don’t know as much as we might about grisons in the wild…and it turns out that such is the case.  Grisons have wide necks which taper down to narrow heads—which means that behavioral zoologists have not had much luck putting radio collars on them.  Grisons are also clever and solitary, which means that their lives are not completely understood (an unusual feature in our media saturated world). Unfortunately they do have a terrible weakness:  almost all grisons that are seen, are spotted after they have been smashed by cars.  Like skunks, and armadillos, they are particularly susceptible to being killed by cruel and indifferent motorists who will never rest till every living thing not inside a protective steel box has been crushed dead.  However South America is a big place and roads don’t go everywhere yet, so grisons are still out there, biding their time.


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Taningia danae

This is Taningia danae, the Dana octopus squid.  CNN featured a video of one filmed by some sort of submersible off the coast of Hawaii and I thought I would look up the animal and write about it (since the short CNN video contained almost no information…and was bookended by obnoxious ads for IBM office services and dubious stomach medicine).   The squid is a member of the family Octopoteuthidae, a group of pelagic and benthic photoluminescent squid (although some taxonomists question whether the family is valid). Although Taningia danae is not as gigantic as the colossal squid or the giant squid, it is still a very large creature: specimens have been caught which weigh up to 161.4 kilograms (356 pounds) and with a length of 2.3 m (7.5 feet).  These highly intelligent and maneuverable squid sometimes hunt together like wolf packs.  They live on fish and smaller squids of the mid-ocean depths and are preyed on by large powerful marine mammls like sperm whales.


The squid makes use of intense photoluminescent arm tips for hunting, measuring distance, and communicating with others of its kind. It can emit a brilliant strobe-like flash to stun prey, but it also uses the flashes for mating displays. The squid in the video endearingly came up and hugged the glowing submersible…although maybe that is an unduly cheerful interpretation.  Being hugged by an 8-armed sea monster that weighs as much as a linebacker might be less endearing than advertised.


An actual photograph of the businees end of T. danae (Image: Tsunemi / Proc. Roy. Soc. B)


Ye Olde Ferrebeekeeper Archives

June 2023