Tag archives for Madagascar
Did you know that there is a spider than spins a web large enough to span a river? Well, the female Darwin’s bark spider can and it spins the world’s biggest and strongest spider webs, as seen in the photo above.
This newly documented species isn’t especially large compared to its web–the spider’s body is about smaller than .8 inch long (2 centimeters), not including legs.
See more pictures on National Geographic News.
Watch a video of a jumping spider stalking lunch on National Geographic Kids.
Photograph courtesy Matjaz Kuntner
Have you ever been asked, or have you ever thought: Why might having some species that aren’t normally found in a place create a problem for nature? Can this be the case for both plants and animals?
Remember back in my first dispatch to you, when the problem of the hyacinths in Lake Ravelobe was introduced. (See Madagascar Research & Conservation post.)
We’ve been working with the local park service (called Madagascar National Parks) and other partners to come up with potential solutions. The first step is, of course, removing as many hyacinths as we can. As the easiest way to do this is by hand, we’ve coordinated with a local “Friends of the Lake” association and additional people living here to recruit and pay for pulling the hyacinths out of the water from the banks. The park service’s tractor will then take the loads and loads of the pulled plants away for disposal. This way, not only do we have conservation action to help the ecosystem here, the local economy gets a boost, too!
The dental team has finished their work in Madagascar now, and we were lucky enough to have them with us in Ambodimanga (the village where our camp is in Ankarafantsika National Park) for 2.5 days. They were in Madagascar for almost 3 weeks total at different sites. While they were staying with us, the dentists treated more than 125 local people and pulled 500+ teeth free of charge during that time!
Sponsored by The Ankizy Fund (an organization founded by paleontologist, friend, and National Geographic grantee Dr. David Krause), this team of dentists and dental students from North America comes to Madagascar and our site almost every year. While they were here, they converted our meeting area, called “the refectoire” into a makeshift clinic where they could treat up to 8 people at a time.
That animal you see here and in my first post is called a fosa (it has also been spelled fossa). It’s scientific name is Cryptoprocta ferox. It is the largest mammalian predator and top carnivore on Madagascar. We call these animals at the top of the food chain “keystone species” because they act to hold an ecosystem together, much like the keystone of a bridge. (Homework assignment for readers: find out why Pennsylvania is called “The Keystone State.” How does this relate to a “keystone species?”) Fosa help keep a higher level of diversity and (this is a good vocabulary term) species richness in the forests where they live. We only find fosa in healthy, little-disturbed forests and the fact we captured two in one day means great things for Ankarafantsika National Park.
I am one of the National Geographic Emerging Explorers and I am a conservation scientist. One of the winners of the Hands-On Explorer Challenge in 2009, Pete, recently sent me a question about my work. I hope other kids will send me questions about my conservation efforts in Madagascar, and any questions you have about exploration in general!
Please read the blog and send in your questions in the comments below!
Pete’s Questions: Are you in Madagascar yet? If so, what are you hoping to learn or explore in this expedition? How long are you going to be in Madagascar?
I’m in Madagascar now and we’re staying really busy in the forest (called Ankarafantsika National Park). We’re trapping for the fossa (also spelled fosa) here, while also doing census of all the other animals in the forest like lemurs, birds, snakes, lizards, and chameleons.
Most bats hang upside down when they’re resting. A bat called Myzopoda aurita that lives in Madagascar hangs right-side up. Scientists recently discovered that these bats don’t use suction to hang, even though part of the scientific name, Myzopoda, means “sucker foot.” As it turns out, the sucker-footed bat doesn’t have suction cups, but is able to “glue” itself upright by secreting a sticky sweat from its wrists and ankles.
Watch scientists test a sucker-footed bat’s grip on glass.
Learn more about the sucker-footed bat on National Geographic News.
Read about the bats of Bracken Cave on National Geographic Kids.