ecomii healthy living

The Endangered Unknown – The Mountain Sweet Pitcher Plant

By Peter Kleinhenz
December 22, 2011
File under: Environmental Concerns, Environmental Protection, Healthy Habitat, Poaching, Wildlife

High on a mountaintop in northern South Carolina, a buzzing fly meets a sweet smell. Flying towards the scent, the fly soon finds that the source is on the edge of a strange-looking plant. The fly stops and finds itself in a cesspool of delicious nectar. While following the trail of this nectar, the fly slips on a waxy surface and falls down into the plant. The fly tries to fly out but super-slick surfaces directly underneath downward-pointing hairs prevent any movement.

For several minutes the fly struggles in the water before exhaustion sets in and it drowns. This tale seems like something out of a poorly-written monster movie but, in reality, it’s a common occurrence due to the incredible adaptations of one of the most interesting and threatened plants on Earth: the Mountain Sweet Pitcher Plant.

The Mountain-Sweet Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia rubra ssp. jonesii, lives mainly in habitats that are known as cataract bogs. These consist of exposed slabs of granite with cool mountain water trickling over parts of their surfaces, inundating accumulated detritus and moss with water. It is here that carnivorous plants such as pitcher plants grow. …read more of The Endangered Unknown – The Mountain Sweet Pitcher Plant here

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The Endangered Unknown – Chinese Desert Cat

By Peter Kleinhenz
December 14, 2011
File under: Animal Stories, Conservation, Species Profiles, Wildlife

This series routinely discusses species of animals and plants that are poorly known in the international community. Perhaps no species mentioned so far fits as well into the category of “endangered unknown” as the Chinese Desert Cat, Felis bieti. There are various reasons for its anonymity, including its secretive nature, lack of presence in captivity, and the areas it inhabits.

The species is very discernible from other small cat species, however, due to its large size (twice the size of a domestic cat) and physical appearance. This cat’s yellow-gray fur allows it to blend in perfectly with its surroundings while its broad skull and enlarged ears serve to enhance its prey detection. Finally, the cat has a y-shaped mark on its face and a black-tipped tail that distinguishes it from other cats that share its habitat, such as the Asian Wildcat and Eurasian Lynx.

Native to China and Mongolia, the Chinese Desert Cat lives in mountainous habitats ranging from semidesert and steppe to bamboo forest and alpine meadows. …read more of The Endangered Unknown – Chinese Desert Cat here

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The Endangered Unknown: Anegada Island Iguana

By Peter Kleinhenz
December 8, 2011
File under: Animal Protection, Species Profiles, Wildlife

When most people think of the British Virgin Islands, they probably think about white sand beaches, clear blue seas, and complete relaxation. With sprawling resorts, luxurious vacation homes, and yachts cruising around the shore, it’s hard to imagine anyone worrying about anything on the islands. However, for those who cherish the natural history of these islands there is plenty to be worried about.

The second-largest island in the British Virgin Island Archipelago, Anegada, is home to a fantastically-cool lizard species: the Anegada Island Iguana (Cyclura pinguis). This large lizard inhabits dry, rocky areas of Anegada Island where it lives out its days feeding on fruits and leaves. Both sexes have large home ranges, characterized by limestone crevices and burrow structures that allow these lizards to find shelter during the hottest parts of the day.

Males, distinguishable by the turquoise on various parts of their bodies, compete readily for females, …read more of The Endangered Unknown: Anegada Island Iguana here

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The Endangered Unknown: Spruce-Fir Moss Spider

By Peter Kleinhenz
December 2, 2011
File under: Animal Stories, Arachnid, Insects, Wildlife

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The tallest peaks of North Carolina and Tennessee seem like a very unlikely place to find a tarantula but, remarkably, one can be found there. The Spruce-Fir Moss Spider, Microhexura montivaga, is one of the smallest tarantulas on Earth and is only about the size of a BB gun pellet.

The spider’s common name provides a specific habitat description of the species, since it lives under moss that grows on north-facing rocks that are scattered throughout high-elevation Fraser Fir/Red Spruce forest. Here, it constructs a tube-shaped web that it uses to catch its prey, which scientists assume to be mainly springtails.

One would think that the highest forests in remote parts of North Carolina and Tennessee would safeguard this tarantula from most threats, but that is unfortunately not the case. …read more of The Endangered Unknown: Spruce-Fir Moss Spider here

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The Endangered Unknown: Vaquita

By Peter Kleinhenz
November 28, 2011
File under: Animal Protection, Endangered Species, Habitat Loss, Species Profiles, Wildlife

In 2006, one of the most remarkable creatures on the planet ceased to exist for the rest of eternity. The Yangtze River Dolphin holds the distinction of being the first cetacean (think whales and dolphins) species to be driven to extinction in recent years. Sadly, that distinction may soon be held by another species, the Vaquita.

The Vaquita, Phocoena sinus, is a porpoise native only to a small area in the northern part of the Gulf of California. This species typically lives close to shore in water that is less than 120 feet deep where it hunts fish, squid, and crabs. The Vaquita is the smallest cetacean in the world, reaching a maximum size of about five feet long.

Vaquitas don’t have beaks like many porpoises and dolphins and can be distinguished by the black rings around their eyes and black-lipped mouth. Little is known about the daily lives of this species given their secretive nature, but researchers believe …read more of The Endangered Unknown: Vaquita here

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The Endangered Unknown: Green Salamander

By Peter Kleinhenz
October 7, 2011
File under: Amphibians, Conservation, Habitat Loss, Species Profiles, Wildlife

In isolated rock outcrops, scattered across a wide area of the eastern and southeastern United States, lives one of the most beautiful amphibians in the world. Dark-coloured with splotches of green speckled all over it, the Green Salamander (Aneides aeneus) blends in perfectly with its lichen-covered, rocky habitat.

This species has a very narrow, elongated body and a flattened head that helps it fit into deep crevices in rock faces, where it spends much of its time. Long toes help the Green Salamander cling to vertical, and often-wet, surfaces which it must climb on when it hunts for food. Green Salamanders are nocturnal, hunting for cave crickets, springtails, and beetles out on the rock faces they call home. …read more of The Endangered Unknown: Green Salamander here

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The Endangered Unknown: The Orange-bellied Parrot

By Peter Kleinhenz
September 26, 2011
File under: Birds, Endangered Species, Species Profiles

Some animals, it seems, got the wrong end of the deal when it comes to having a simple life. Twice every year, a bird that isn’t a great deal larger than your hand flies all the way from southwest Tasmania to the southern coast of Victoria.

The brilliantly-plumaged Orange-bellied Parrot, Neophema chryogaster, is just one example from a group of animals that is known for its awe-inspiring global trips. Most birds, however, are not in the perilous state that Orange-bellied Parrots are in.

One hundred years ago, Orange-bellied Parrots were far more common than they are today. …read more of The Endangered Unknown: The Orange-bellied Parrot here

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The Endangered Unknown – Asiatic Cheetah

By Peter Kleinhenz
September 14, 2011
File under: Animal Stories, Conservation, Endangered Species

Painting by George Stubbs

The fastest land animal is also fast in another category: going extinct. The Asiatic Cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus venaticus, once prowled the deserts and dry grasslands of the Caucasus region of central Asia to the Indian subcontinent, but now survives only in Iran, where it still hunts gazelle in the Kavir desert.

Reports from Pakistan have trickled in over the years, claiming that a few cheetahs are still eking out an existence there, but this has yet to be confirmed by the scientific community. Either way, researchers agree that there seem to be less than 100 Asiatic Cheetahs remaining on the planet. …read more of The Endangered Unknown – Asiatic Cheetah here

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The Endangered Unknown – The Babirusa

By Peter Kleinhenz
August 22, 2011
File under: Species Profiles, Wildlife
Many animals inhabiting this world are noted for their beauty, intelligence, or some other redeeming quality that sets them apart from hundreds of other similar species. On the contrary, some animals are noted for their grotesque appearances. Of these, the North Sulawesi Babirusa, Babyrousa celebensis, probably deserves the title of the ugliest mammal on the planet.

The North Sulawesi Babirusa is a primitive species of pig that lives only on the island of Sulawesi, a part of Indonesia. The species is notable due to the large, curved tusks that protrude abruptly from the faces of males. These tusks are modified canines and their purpose is still largely unknown.

Many other aspects of Babirusa life are also unknown. In fact, until recently, all Babirusas were lumped under one species. Now, scientists know that …read more of The Endangered Unknown – The Babirusa here

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The Endangered Unknown – The Kirtland’s snake

By Peter Kleinhenz
August 3, 2011
File under: Animal Stories, Species Profiles, Wildlife


Snakes occupy a very special place in my heart. For as long as I can remember, they’ve been my favorite group of animals.

My first experience with a snake was at the age of six when I mistook a garter snake for a rattlesnake, ran away crying, then returned thirty minutes later only to cry again due to my inability to find it a second time.

From that point forward, I have searched for many different kinds of snakes in many different places. No snake find, however, elicits quite the response from me that a Kirtland’s snake, Clonophis kirtlandii, does. …read more of The Endangered Unknown – The Kirtland’s snake here

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