Categories
Nature

Yapper on Safari

friendly jackal encounter
Black backed jackals on the Savannah. Photo by Montavigus from Pixabay.

The nimble footed scavenger often seen in the background of a kill. The jackal, one of natures resources allocated the job of cleaning up after the kill but not limited to scavenging. They are in fact omnivores are not fussy eaters surprisingly including plants, berries and even grass. On the carnivorous side they will eat birds, rodents, rabbits, other small mammals and insects.

They are agile hunters, stalking their prey and if its a bird, jumping high after the bird that’s taking off, often plucking it out of the air.

There are three varieties of jackal, the black backed jackal (found on the African Savannah), the golden jackal (endemic to South East Europe and South West Asia) and the side striped jackal (found in Central and East Africa, often in wooded areas).

In Russia, Sulimov dogs have been bred by cross breeding the golden jackal and are in service with Aeroflot airlines for scent detection.

Jackals sharp features
Jackals pointed face. Photo by Achim Rodekohr from Pixabay.

Jackals normally hunt alone or in pairs but sometimes in larger groups where they may take down a small antelope or scavenge a carcass. They are also known to follow predators and yapping as they go, annoying the predator such as a leopard which may be trying to find some prey.

They have large ears and excellent hearing, enabling them to hunt in grass, listening for the prey and then by the nature of those long legs, making a high jump to come down onto the prey in a pounce thereby landing on top of the luckless prey still hidden from view. A short scuffle and usually the jackal emerges with a rat or mouse in its mouth. Jackals are inclined to bite their prey behind the head or to shake it vigorously, stunning the creature before taking a better grip or administering the death bite with those long curved canines.

Jackal pouncing on small prey
Jackal pouncing. Photo by StockSnap from Pixabay.

In farming communities jackals are often regarded as a pest due to their habit of attacking livestock such as sheep and goats. they have a further negative side being significant vectors of rabies which seems to occur in 4 to 8 year cycles.

Jackals are monogamous, pairing for life. Following a gestation period of 2 months, the litter could be between 1 and 6 pups. They are initially suckled and have a milk only diet, thereafter they will be introduced to regurgitated food which can continue for up to 3 months. Pups are likely to fall victim to predation in the first 14 weeks and potential predators are hyenas and ratels. Adults are predated on by leopards and Wild dogs. Pups start hunting at around 6 months old and mature at 12 months but normally wont breed until the following year.

Jackal at rest
Jackal at rest. Photo by Nel Botha from Pixabay.

Categories
Nature

Little Armored Leper.

Armadillo Portrait
Armadillo Portrait. Photo by skeeze from Pixabay.

Armadillos are only found in the Americas and are characterized by their leathery armor and large digging claws. The average length of an armadillo is 30 inches(75 cm), they have short legs but can move quickly. the giant armadillo is twice this size.

The Spanish name means “little armored one” but the Aztecs name translated into “turtle rabbit” representing both the armor and the speed. The Armadillo loves to dig and in doing so finds prey such as worms and grubs but they don’t only find their prey by digging, being omnivores they also eat plant material but this is less than 10% of their diet.

Armadillo in burrow
Armadillo exiting burrow. Photo by Mylene2401 from Pixabay.

In the Southern USA the nine banded armadillo is found and likes to dig into soft sandbanks alongside rivers,streams or even arroyos which appear to be its preferred habitat. The bands refer to the bands in the middle of the armadillos body and the number of bands vary according to species.

There are also seven banded armadillos predominantly from South America and live in rain forests. The only armadillo that really relies on its armor for protection by rolling into a ball appears to be the three banded armadillo, also from South America.

The remaining species typically rely on their speed and will often hide in a thorn thicket to escape a predator which may be a coyote, bobcat, raccoon, hawk, owl or even a feral pig. The nine banded armadillo often jumps straight up into the air for about 3 to 4 foot (1 m), when surprised.

Armadillo in Southern USA
Nine banded armadillo. Photo by skeeze from Pixabay.

The body armor consists of plates of dermal bone and covered in scutes made of horn. The shoulders and hips normally have rigid armor with the middle of the animals need for flexibility being catered for bu smaller bands.

An armadillos gestation period is between 2 to 5 months and the female will give birth to between 1 and 12 pups. The male is sometimes referred to as a ram and the female a doe. Nine-banded armadillos have 4 pups that are identical and of the same gender in each litter, and the seven-banded armadillo has eight to 15 identical pups. The 4 identical pups or quadruplets even share the same placenta.

In around 3 months the pups are weaned and at 12 months have matured enough to breed. Our pups can expect to live for anything between 4 and 30 years. The female can delay the implantation of the egg for long periods of time, most likely for months before the pregnancy starts.

Armadillos do not have very good eyesight and rely more on their sense of smell to find food. They are able to detect food 6 inches (15 cm) deep with their highly tuned sense of smell. Their teeth are pretty poor compared to other mammals and having a few peg-like molars except for the giant armadillo which can have up to 100 teeth!

Armadillo in texas
Nine banded armadillo. Photo by Mike Goad from Pixabay.

An armadillos body temperature is about 9°F (5°C) lower than the average mammal. To accommodate this they will only be out of their burrows in the late afternoon winter sun and in summer around dusk or evening.

Another interesting fact relating to armadillos is that they are particularly susceptible due to their unusually low body temperature to the leprosy bacterium Mycobacterium leprae. The leprosy bacterium is difficult to culture and armadillos have a body temperature is similar to human skin.

Humans can acquire a leprosy infection from armadillos by handling them or consuming armadillo meat although it is unlikely to get it from handling.

When crossing a stream or river the armadillo will simply walk along the bottom of the stream holding its breath. If its a greater expanse of water it gulps air to fill its intestines and thereby gain buoyancy, then it swims across much like a dog!

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Nature

Flying through Liquid…

A Ray flies through water. Photo by anncapictures from Pixabay.

I was fishing in an estuary with my father a long while back when I landed a small ray of about 18 inches (45 cm) across the wings.

He immediately jumped up warning me of the barb above the tail which he had already found out about the hard way. Being venomous, it had been an extremely painful experience and the treatment that the ranger had suggested was to submerge the injury in the hottest water he could bear in order to diffuse some of the venom out of the wound.

Much to my relief my catch was diagnosed as not being the stingray variety and I was advised casually, “Its probably one of the electric jobs. You had better get the hook out of it.”

As I started removing the hook I had this incredible jar of electricity right up my arm.

Such was my introduction to rays…..

Sting Ray underwater
Sting-ray swimming away. Photo by lorraineamy from Pixabay.

The sting-ray has its mouth situated underneath enabling it to find crustaceans and mollusks on the ocean floor. They typically stay on the ocean floor and rarely venture up. Their main defense is camouflage by hiding in the sand. This they do by flapping their wings until only their eyes and spiracles are showing. A spiracle being a respiratory opening, therefore allowing the fish to see and breath.

The sting-rays tail has a stinger which has barbs that are venomous. when threatened the stingray will position itself much like a scorpion with its tail ready to strike, the tail having between one and three barbs depending on the species. Stepping on one of these in the shallows at the beach can be a painful experience especially as the barb is inclined to break off in the wound and its difficult to extract. while its in there you are also dealing with the venom source potentially further infiltrating the wound.

Blue spotted stingray
Blue Spotted Stingray. Photo by Sven Bachström from Pixabay.

With the eyes positioned above and the mouth below, one has to wonder how the prey is found. The answer lies in small electro-receptors, similar to those found in shark (which are related to stingrays). these receptors detect the presence of prey below the sand while the eyes are still able to detect any predator threat which is likely to come from above or the side.

These receptors are called Ampullae of Lorenzini and are situated around the rays mouth. Prey like shrimp and small fish that are hidden in the sand emit tiny electrical currents in the region of 2 hertz and that the stingray is able to detect through the sand.

The mouth, dependent on the species is either soft or where they consume things like mollusks, have two hard plates used for crushing the shells. These plates, along with the cartilage are the hardest part of the stingrays body as they do not have bones. This cartilage fact is another shark-type similarity.

Stingrays do not lay eggs but are live bearers having between 3 and 13 at a time. Research suspects that the same mouth receptors that detect prey may be used in finding a mate with female stingrays giving off specific signals when ready for mating.

There is no placenta in the womb but the embryos absorb nutrients from a yolk sac after which the mother provides a kind of uterine milk until birth. Once born the babies swim away from the mother and follow their instincts for survival. These babies can expect a lifespan of between 20 and 25 years, supposing they do not get predated on by sharks, seals or other large fish.

a swimming ray
Spotted Blue ray showing mouth and eyes. Photo by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay.

And finally, for the collective noun – group of stingrays is referred to as a ‘fever’.

Categories
Nature

Elegance and Beauty

Asian Peacock
Peacock. Photo by Bishnu Sarangi from Pixabay.

The stunning peacock and National bird of India.

Lets start with getting the grammar right…

The male is the ‘peacock’, the female is a ‘peahen’, a group of these birds are referred to as either an ‘ostentation’, a ‘muster’ or a ‘party’. A group of females are called a ‘bevy’ and the babies are ‘pea-chicks’.

I had the good fortune to have a large piece of land and decided to buy some peafowl, one male and two females. I kept them in an aviary for a few days for them to get used to the place and realize that this was where the free food was…

After letting them out to range freely I noticed the male had disappeared. After about three days he returned, with two more females. To this day I don’t know where they came from or who owned them. Then he disappeared again and brought another female home. with breeding that summer, I soon had 14 birds. They really loved the tall trees on my property and I only seemed to gain birds.

A very good Turkish friend of mine explained to me what was happening – The male was creating a harem!

Another interesting fact that I learned was that one should not underestimate these birds ability to fly. I had the opportunity to see this skill in practice when watching a transfer of a new bird from a transport cage into an aviary when the peacock broke free and took to the air. It went high and far, very far – straight for some large trees close to the horizon and it didn’t stop on the way!

The birds I had to deal with were all of the Asian variety but there is also an African variety from the jungles of the Congo. First discovered in 1936 after an extensive search initiated after a feather was found.

African peafowl
Congo Peafowl. Photo by Wikipedia.

For this exercise we will focus on the more popular Asian varieties, being blue (from India and Sri Lanka) and green varieties (found from Myanmar (Burma) to Java). The male’s tail is referred to as a train and is regrown each year. As a defense against predators peafowl normally alight into the nearest tree. They are also very noisy birds, especially in mating season.

They nest on the ground, normally under a bush or thicket and lay up to 6 eggs but can be more. They hatch after about 28 to 30 days and the young are pretty independent in terms of feeding,being ground feeders.

Peahen with chicks
Peahen and peachicks. Photo by Mahnoor Qadri from Pixabay.

They will scratch around eating what they find, which will typically be plants, insects and anything else that opportunity presents such as amphibians or even scorpions.

I was always amazed at how the youngsters managed to get up into trees to roost with the parents at night, often encouraged by the mother with a clicking sound. Sometimes they didn’t quite make it to the top branch and one would find them arrayed on various branches below the mother.

It will take the pea-chick males another 3 years before they have a train like their father and they can expect to live for around 25 years. The albino variety of these birds are pure white and there are also some with a mix depending on their genetics.

White peacock
White peacock. Photo by Paul Brennan from Pixabay

The male is truly magnificent when attracting the female with his train erect and the ‘eyes’ of the feathers catching the sunlight especially when he shakes or rattles the tail giving a shimmering effect. This train is up to 60% of the bird but he loses all the tail feathers for winter and regrows them in the breeding season.

Peacock display
Peacock display to attract a mate. Photo by shajinnambiar2000 from Pixabay.

Around 2000 years ago the Romans raised peafowl both for the table and ornamental use but the Mesopotamian cultures had them 2000 years before that and the prior to that the Chinese kept them after importing them from India!

Categories
Nature

Osprey Travels

Osprey launches attack
Osprey launches its attack. Photo by skeeze from Pixabay.

One of 6 birds with a worldwide distribution, these hawks are found on every continent except Antarctica. Ospreys are second only to the peregrine falcon in terms of distribution. Ospreys migrate in winter with migration routes being from the US to South/Central America, while those in the UK typically migrate to West Africa.

This hawk is the only raptor with an almost insatiable appetite for fish which constitute 99 percent of its diet. It has on average, a success rate of about 70 percent of strikes retrieving a fish. This raptor is such a specialist that it has physical characteristics that support its role. It has nostrils that can be closed during the dive as well as an outer toe that angles back to better grip the fish.

Ospreys live for 20 to 25 years and during that time can cover a respectable distance. A bird breeding in the US but wintering in the Amazon basin would cover about 5,000 miles (8,000 km) each way, assuming the bird lives the minimum 20 years. A simple calculation indicates 200,000 miles (321,000 km) migrating during its life!

Osprey with fish.
Osprey with fish. Photo by Public DomainImages from Pixabay.

Breeding pairs do not migrate together but will rejoin for breeding purposes when they return to the North. Birds can be found in Sub Sahara Africa but they do not breed there. Birds return to the Northern Hemisphere to breed.

The birds build a nest of sticks on a high outcrop or in a tree and this nest is called an eyrie. If a pair are unsuccessful in breeding in a particular year they will often build a new nest referred to in Scotland as a frustration eyrie.

Osprey eyrie
Osprey nest. Photo by skeeze from Pixabay.

This nest is normally used the following year and a new nest takes about 2 to 3 weeks to complete by both birds.

They normally lay three eggs at between 1 and 3 day intervals. Incubation takes 37 days. The female does most of the nurturing and protecting the young with the male doing the fishing. When the chicks are older the female helps with the fishing.

The young fledge at about 53 days and the parents continue feeding them while they stay close to the nest, for about 2 more months. Juvenile birds will reach maturity at 3 years but many die before that.

Hawk lands on nest
Osprey landing on nest. Photo by matlevesque from Pixabay.

Ospreys have binocular vision which is great for judging distances, they fish on the water surface often fishing in the sea even when the nest is near a fresh water source.

Raptor vision is sometimes claimed to be 3.5 to 8 times better than ours but there is no definitive proof in this regard. What we do know is, an ospreys pupil is the same size as a humans pupil but their eyes have far more photo receptors packed into their retinas. Their eyes are more tube shaped meaning that they have a greater depth of field than we do. The downside is they don’t have the ability to almost instantly scan a wide area as we can but they are far better at zooming in on their prey.

Osprey catches fish
Osprey with trout. Photo by Iain Poole from Pixabay.

Our osprey locks its talons into the fish to catch it and has pointed scales on its feet to help get a grip on the fish!

Categories
Nature

Cockroach…

American cockroach

We all see them and depending where you live may react differently to them. Some communities eat them and some communities despise them. Bear in mind there are different species, like about 4600 but only about 30 of these are found in our homes and 5 of these species are known as pests.

Cockroaches are omnivores and eat pretty much anything they come across such as conventional human foods, glue, skin flakes, hair, dead insect and soiled clothing. Many species harbor bacteria in their gut that allows them to break down cellulose which enables them to eat paper, cotton, wood and other plant materials.

A ghoulish fact about cockroaches is that they can live without their heads! This being due to it having an open circulatory system and breathing from its body but it will eventually die as it has no way to eat or drink without its head.

In spite of their bad repertoire cockroaches play an important part in the ecosystem by cleaning up waste and even helping nitrogen get back into the soil from decaying plant materials. The roach eats the plant matter and digests it, releasing the nitrogen in its feces which gets absorbed into the ground and it then processed by the plants roots again.

Cockroaches spread diseases such as dysentery, salmonella and diarrhea. They do this by moving through dirty areas and then onto our food working areas or over the food itself.

Cockroach up close
Cockroach close up photo by Erik Karits from Pixabay.

Another question that crops up with cockroaches is did they walk with dinosaurs? Yes, but contrary to general opinion which is probably fueled by movies, they weren’t that big, in fact some of today’s large cockroaches found in tropical climates are bigger than the fossils found from the dinosaurs time zone.

When cockroach infestations occur and food is scarce they do not hesitate to eat each other but normally they are gregarious by nature. They are also able to stay underwater for up to 30 minutes at a time – no easy task to kill these guys. On that score we have heard that they are really hardy and would survive a nuclear explosion but that is not true – they are about ten times more resistant to radiation than we are but there are easier ways to eradicate them!

cockroach infestation
Cockroach Infestation. Photo by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay.

The natural predators of cockroaches are hedgehogs, birds, frogs, lizards and other small mammals.

A female cockroach can lay about 300 to 400 eggs in her life which is approximately one year. She only needs to be impregnated once to achieve this.

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Nature

Aliens on the Beach

Crab on beach
Crab on Beach. Photo by Ulrike Bohr from Pixabay.

The only guys with spare legs numbering 10 in total, two adapted with claws that differ in size according to the species. They use these claws for feeding and fighting. and some crabs fold the back two under their bodies when they walk. Some crabs fold their last pair of legs under their bodies when walking, so whats the deal with those legs? They are used for transferring sperm or tending eggs. Some reference has also been drawn to these legs being used for swimming.

Crabs have teeth as do lobsters !

They are not in the mouth but in the stomach and look like molar teeth surfaces. this arrangement is termed a ‘gastric mill’. These ‘teeth’ are used to grind the food in the stomach rather than in the mouth. Another interesting piece of information on these teeth is that ghost crabs actually use them to make a growling or grinding noise in an attempt to intimidate other crabs.

ghost crab
Ghost crab. Photo by djhixson from Pixabay.

What about breathing? Crabs have gills, right? but how come they can spend so much time out of water?

Crabs have articulating plates that close the gills off to reduce evaporation. As long as they keep the gills moist they can breathe, as the air is replenished in the layer of moisture. Crabs also store moisture in their bladders, blood and in specialized pockets scattered in their bodies. It is thought that the flow of air over the gills cause crabs to ‘blow bubbles’ from their mouths.

Crab blood is copper based (hemocyanin) rather than iron based (hemoglobin) which humans have. This is sufficient for the crab and the blood color is blue/green due to the copper. Iron on the other hand is much more efficient at carrying oxygen and humans have a bigger need for oxygen by the nature of our bodies.

Without getting too technical on this subject, our crab does not have a closed circulatory system with a heart as humans do. Instead, they have an open circulatory system where the blood is pushed through to the organs by the vessels and then it is filtered back to be pushed through again.

And food, crabs are omnivores eating both plant and meat. They play an important part in keeping our beaches clean. They are opportunistic feeders and will take on prey that they can manage using their powerful claws but predominantly eat algae, fungi, plankton, worms and carrion.

Crab eyes are positioned on stalks which are great for a view of the upper areas where most of their danger and opportunities exist. They have thousands of light sensitive facets on each stalk which enables them to see extremely well being able to detect ultra violet light as well. this is especially helpful in deep water where visibility is limited.

crab eyes
close up of crabs eyes. Photo by Nico Franz from Pixabay.

The female crab is able to store the males sperm for future use and will lay between 1000 and 2000 eggs in about 3 to 4 weeks after fertilization. the eggs are stored under her abominable flap. Once they hatch, the babies are called zoea larva and are transparent, have jointed limbs, a crusty tail for swimming and they drift away from their mothers. They are now part of the plankton community and are a food source for many ocean dwellers.

Life is a case of plankton eat plankton with the bigger ones consuming the smaller ones. As the survivors grow, they molt, each time a little bigger and the odds of survival possibly a little better. after 4 or 5 molts our baby crab has transformed itself into a megalopa larva.

This stage resemble their parents with small legs and claws but still use the little tail to move around. Within 5 to 6 days our megalopa larva will settle to the bottom and become a juvenile crab. Our baby now becomes a scavenger eating plant material and any bits and pieces it can find. also at this stage its coloring has changed and it is more suited to crawling on the rocks.

From this point our juvenile crab will struggle to survive and if successful will molt repeatedly until becoming an adult. they can expect to live for between 3 and 4 years.

gull with crab
Crab predator in action. Photo by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto from Pixabay.

Crabs have a host of predators such as birds, fish and humans, not to mention other crabs. Its truly a crab eats crab world out there !

Categories
Nature

Heavy Weight Killer

hippo incisors being up to 1 ft 4 inches (40 cm) and the canines a whopping 1 ft 8 inches (50 cm)
Hippos fighting. Note the size of the teeth and jaws. Photo by hbieser from Pixabay

On average, hippos are responsible for around 500 deaths a year (some sources claim closer to 3000) which makes it one of Africa’s worst killers. Male hippos are especially territorial and will defend their stretch of river. Females on the other hand will attack anything that gets between her and her calf. Add to this the fact that hippos like to come out of the rivers at night to graze on the grass along the shore. Get between them and the water is a recipe for disaster.

Outrun them?

They are huge, weighing in at 3 300 lb (1 500 kg) but they can run at around 20 mph (32 km/h). couple this with its body weight, strength, size of its mouth that opens 150 degrees, and size of its teeth one can only imagine what happens if it catches up to some luckless soul…

What could one expect when getting caught?

On land one is likely to be trampled and probably bitten – ones best means of escape is up a tree or over a wall of sorts.

In the water….

The size of the incisors being up to 1 ft 4 inches (40 cm) and the canines up to a whopping 1 ft 8 inches (50 cm). One bite could be fatal, but they are inclined to throw their opponent in the air, catching them time and again, each time those teeth penetrating ones body. Then it shakes you like a dog would do with a rat, except perhaps, with more ease.

One could read up on Paul Templer’s experience in Zimbabwe where he lost his arm and very nearly his life. He gives a full description of an attack in the water.

Hippo running into river
Hippo running into water. Photo by Irenekooiker from Pixabay.

The best thing is to have some knowledge about the animal before getting into a situation. Yawning for instance is not what it seems but apparently a warning sign. Move away making space.

On the rivers steer well clear of groups of animals, males regularly ram boats and you don’t want to be in the water with him. They move with incredible speed through the water – if in doubt just have a look at some of the you-tube videos on hippo attacks.

When on safari and moving around at night, even in campsites (some campsites are not fenced and they come up at night to eat the grass) – think defensively. Check where trees are and walls or other obstacles that could save your life, so if something happens suddenly, you know where to run to and what to do. Its the seconds that count in these situations…

hippo Defensive posture
Hippos in river. Photo by yasmin00 from Pixabay

Females only calve once every two years and the calves can drink underwater by sealing the teat between its tongue and the roof of its mouth. In addition, closing its nostrils and ears keeps the water out.

At night hippos can travel up to 10 km to graze on grass – they need about 150 lb (68 kg) of it each night.

Mother hippo and calf
Protective mother with calf. Photo by Amandad from Pixabay.

Hippos don’t have true sweat glands but secrete a red substance that helps protect them from sunburn and also has antibacterial properties. With hippos being such consistent fighters they need this red antibacterial substance as it stops or reduces the chances of infections.

Categories
Nature

Sun Gluttons…

Fisherman on no fishing sign
Cormorant on no fishing sign. Photo by karisleah from Pixabay.

Cormorants are pretty widespread across the globe and are found in most tropical and temperate regions. They are easily recognizable by their habit of sitting in the sun with wings outspread. this is because Cormorant wings are not water resistant which gives them better performance under water. However, the cost of trying to fly with wet wings is high so getting them dry as soon as possible has obvious advantages.

There are in the region of 40 different species with one being flightless, the Flightless Cormorant of the Galapalos Islands.

flightless cormorant
Flightless Cormorant of the Galapalos Islands.

Cormorants consume mainly fish and are able to stay underwater for over a minute. smaller fish are swallowed underwater and larger ones are brought to the surface to be turned head first and swallowed. When the Cormorant swims ion the surface, only its neck and head protrudes.

Cormorants pirate a fish
Cormorant are not above piracy. Photo by Orna Wachman from Pixabay.

Cormorants breed in colonies where building materials are often stolen from undefended nests. Nests can be on the ground or in trees. 1 to 4 eggs are laid but the number could be as high as 7. Both parents incubate the eggs which hatch at 25 to 28 days. Chicks leave the nest at 3 to 4 weeks. they can fly from about 6 weeks and are diving from 7. Chicks are completely independent at 10 weeks old.

cormorant eggs

Our chicks will be mature enough to breed at 2 years and can live for up to 25 years.

Cormorant eggs and chicks are predated on by eagles, gulls, crows and when the nests are on the ground they also have foxes and raccoons to contend with.

Cormorant Fishing crew in china
Cormorant fishing crew in China. Photo by Jing from Pixabay.

Ancient civilizations used cormorants fishing ability to their advantages. Today, although no longer popular, this system can still be found in China.

Birds wear a collar and are able to swallow smaller fish but larger ones are removed from their throat when returning to the boat.

Cormorant fisherman
Cormorant fisherman. Photo by BrettMillward from Pixabay

Cormorants have an unusual habit which is similar to the owls in that it creates pellets of scales and bones which are coughed up!

Categories
Nature

Pikemen, Step Forward!

three men in a tub
The Butcher, the Baker and the Candlestick maker….. Photo by Bernell MacDonald from Pixabay.

The Northern Pike is found over most of the Northern Hemisphere and is regarded as a good fighting fish. There is reference to this fish as an eating fish far back as Roman times. The flesh is described as a mild- tasting white flesh. It inhabits pretty much any freshwater rivers and pools, from deep and large to relatively shallow. The current recognized record for a Northern Pike is in Germany and is a 55 lb (25 kg) fish caught by Lothar Louis.

In Finland, a pike weighing at least 22 lb (10 kg) is regarded as the qualifying factor as a master fisherman. These fish are found across Russia, Europe, North America and are ambush predators, able to sit motionless for long periods of time until some luckless prey passes.

pike encountered on night dive
A pike encountered during a night dive. Photo by Marcel Einig from Pixabay.

Pike have a duck bill shaped mouth with a formidable arsenal of teeth being long, sharp and backward facing, numbering anything from 300 to 700. The general rule is if you somehow end up with your finger in its mouth – don’t try to pull it out without first opening the mouth and extracting it in a controlled manner.

The pike is not related to the barracuda but shares the same aggressive nature and ambush abilities. Our fish can swim at from 8 to 10 mph (13 to 16 kph) and is a ferocious eater of other fish, small mammals, frogs, birds and even other pike.

free swimming pike
Pike. Photo by astro_ice from Pixabay.

Spawning occurs as males and females swim in close proximity to one another. Males nudge the females abdomens with their tails which encourages the female to release her eggs.

Males release milt which is a seminal fluid and so fetrilization occurs externally. Pike can lay between 25 000 and 225 000 eggs which attach themselves to vegetation where they remain until hatching in about 3 weeks odd, depending on water temperature.

Young pike eat their egg sacks and then young plants or small animals and growth can be rapid depending on temperature and food availability. Our young pike can look forward to a life span of 7 to 10 years but there are exceptions with claims of up to 25 years.

Decent size pike
Quick with the pic – lest I smile. A decent size pike. Photo by Scottslm from Pixabay.

The females, after spawning have an appetite second to none and eat anything that will fit into their mouths, including the males!