This weeks #FactFriday is focusing on the European sturgeon, Acipenser sturio.
This fish species is classed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species due to overfishing, poaching, water pollution and destruction of their habitat.
The sturgeon is a large fish with an elongated body and flattened snout with recognisable plates along it’s body. They can grow up to 6 metres and weigh a whopping 400kg, part of their reason for decline is due to their long juvenile phase, they don’t reach sexual maturity until 20 years and can live for over 100 years.
They are found along most European coastlines, and being anadromous, migrate to inland rivers to breed. However, despite this being their distribution, there is only 1 freshwater river left in which they are known to spawn – the Garonne river basin in France.
They feed on molluscs and crustaceans and locate them using barbells on the front of their mouths
Interesting fact: sturgeons are the only species that have diamond shaped pupils!
This week, for #FactFriday we are looking at the Eurasian curlew (Numenius arquata) !
This bird is Europe’s largest wader and is instantly recognizable by it’s mottled brown upperparts, long legs and a long, downcurved bill. It’s also known as the “whaup” in Scots.
The diet of the Eurasian curlew consists of worms, shellfish and other invertebrates. In the summer they can most commonly be found in upland moors, bogs and wet grassland.
They have high site fidelity, meaning curlew pairs will return to the same area to breed every year. At the end of their breeding season they then head towards the coast and large estuaries where they overwinter.
The UK population of this wader accounts for over one quarter of the global breeding population. However the UK has seen declines of 65% in our national population since the 1970’s and it is now classified as near threatened. Low productivity (chicks don’t hatch/ survive to fledge) is thought to be main cause of UK decline which has been attributed to predation and a reduction in quality of breeding habitat. For this reason the Eurasian curlew is now widely acknowledged to be the UK’s highest bird conservation priority.
They have THE best call of all the waders- definitely worth a listen on YouTube!
This #factfriday we are fueling your insect knowledge with facts about the comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album).
Once only found in the south of England, this butterfly has colonised huge areas of the UK over the past 50 years and now breeds right up to central Scotland.
Their wings are scalloped and are commonly referred to as anglewing butterflies. They have brownish-orange wings with black marks when unfolded. When folded, they resemble a dead leaf and have a white curve on the underside which looks like a comma, hence their name.
Comma caterpillars are camouflaged to resemble bird droppings and are designed to keep predators away.
They have a flexible life cycle and, depending on the weather, some spring and early summer caterpillars develop into butterflies that go straight into hibernation. Others become adults that breed straight away and give rise to a new generation in the autumn.
#FactFriday its the time of the week where we introduce a new (slightly winter themed!) animal; the moutain hare (Lepus timidus)
Unlike the brown hare and European rabbit, the mountain hare is native to the UK. They are found in moorland in the Highlands of Scotland, Southern uplands, Peak District and some Scottish Islands. They are classified as near threatened in the UK.
Like several other species in the Highlands, mountain hares have a brown/grey summer coat which turns white in winter dependent on the temperature.
In Ireland, there is a genetically distinct subspecies of mountain hare, Lepus timidus hibernicus.
Mountain hares look similar to brown hares. One way of telling them apart is their ears. Brown hares have long ears whereas mountain hares have shorter ones. Additionally a brown hares fur is… well… brown while a mountain hare has more grey fur (and white in winter).