Thursday, 12 February 2009

Happy Darwin Day!

Happy 200th birthday, Charles Darwin, and happy Darwin Day to all my readers!

Darwin's zorro
Lycalopex fulvipes Martin, 1837
Canidae; Carnivora; Mammalia; Chordata

The illustrations were created in MS Paint in 2004 by "painting" over the original photograph (from the Web) with a simplified range of colours, for a pop-art style. The second one (black background) was a fortuitous mistake, so I saved it!

Darwin's zorro is a South American canid (member of the dog family) often called "Darwin's fox", although it is more closely related, and shares more of a resemblance, to wolves. It bears the birthday boy's name due to him describing the animal's remarkable tameness on his visit to Chile on the Voyage of the Beagle; he was able to strike it dead with a geological hammer as it approached him. For most of the last two centuries, the species was treated as a subspecies of the more widespread grey zorro, or South American grey fox (L. griseus), but in the light of its clear morphological and molecular differences, the Darwin's zorro was named as a species in its own right. Incidentally, the genus name Lycalopex is often referred to as Pseudalopex (although the former is the more senior name, thus it gets priority), and even Dusicyon, which is usually reserved for the now extinct Falkland zorro (D. australis), also known as the warrah or Falkland Island wolf. Darwin's zorro is critically endangered, and threatened by habitat loss and competition from dogs. Little more than 300 of this beautiful animal remain, and none are held in captivity (as far as I know).

Darwin's rhea (or lesser rhea) skull
Pterocnemia pennata (or Rhea pennata) d'Orbigny, 1834
Rheidae; Rheiformes; Aves; Chordata
Cambridge Zoology Museum
June 2008

Another of Darwin's namesakes, the lesser rhea is, obviously, smaller than the more common greater rhea (Rhea americana). The two can be seen side-by-side at the Darwin: Big Idea exhibition now open at the Natural History Museum, London. It was Chuckie D. who first noticed that two similar, yet clearly different, rhea species both inhabit the pampas and plains of southern South America. A junior synonym of Rhea pennata, R. darwinii Gould, 1837, seems more fitting to this bird, but R. pennata (meaning 'feathered' - all birds are feathered) takes precedence.


Glendon Mellow said...

Stunning Mo!

Merry Darwin Day!

Raptor Lewis said...

Nice pictures and....Happy Darwin Day to you too.

Peter Bond said...

Nice one Mo, (how's the snow now?)
Anyway, Merry Darwin Day!

Mo Hassan said...

Thanks all!

Peter, the snow has all melted; there was a brief flurry on Darwin Day though in the late afternoon, which didn't settle.