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A Filefish in Lembeh

This week is World Ocean’s Week and I feel like I have somewhat dropped the ball this year (although the plight of the planetary oceans is the principal ongoing theme of my artwork).  At any rate, for tonight’s post, I am not going to write a comprehensive essay about the watery realms which make up the majority of our planet’s surface (although we will get back to that theme).  Instead of a complex analysis of how we could help the oceans, here is a cameo appearance by another amazing Tetraodontiforme fish.

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This is Aluterus scriptus, commonly known as the scrawled filefish, a master generalist of warm tropical oceans worldwide.  The scrawled filefish lives in the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Indian Ocean.  Its habitats are limited to warm seas, but within those seas it does not have a particular favorite niche: the scrawled filefish can be found swimming through coral reefs, seaweed forests, seamounts, rock fields, shipwrecks, sandy seabeds, or just out in the open water.  From close up the fish looks like crazy 1980s abstract art with a wild pattern of olive dabs, aqua crazy stripes  and black stipples.  Yet seen from a distance it blends into the water or the seafloor with shocking success.  The scrawled filefish makes use of some of the same impressionistic properties of light, color, and shape which are used in dazzle camouflage.  It is hard to find the edges of its oval (partly transparent) body because of the chaos of its patterns.  Also, like flounders and cephalopods, the filefish is capable of quickly altering its color patterns such that certain colors fade back or flare into prominence depending on the situation.

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The scrawled filefish is also omnivorous and eats all sorts of algae, small invertebrates, corals, mollusks, worms, jellyfish, tunicates, small fish, et cetera et cetera.   The fish is diurnal and makes prime use of its yellow eye to see the world, however it is also shy and solitary.  Although they are generally spotted alone, filefish are attentive parents.  A male will fertilize the eggs of 2 to 5 females who live in his territory.  The parents look after the eggs and then watch other the fry when they hatch.

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In addition to camouflage, filefish make use of the same trick as their near relatives the triggerfish: they have locking spines at the top and bottom of their body.  If attacked, they wedge themselves into tight crevices or holes and lock these spines in place.  this is also how they sleep secure at night in an ocean filled with hungry predators.

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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).

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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.

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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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photo by criadourooncapintada.org

 

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