Animals You've Never Heard Of - G Edition
DISCLAIMER: You may have heard of some of these animals.
Looking like something between a roadrunner and a hawk, the Guira cuckoo is a gregarious, raucous bird native to southern South America, where it has flourished in areas where forests have been cut down. Guiras live in flocks of around 20 individuals, which regularly forage together on the ground in search of insects, amphibians, and even the chicks of other birds.
Many species of cuckoo birds practice a behavior called brood parasitism, but despite the Guira's fearsome appearance, these birds take care of their own young like responsible adults. In fact, they take care of other birds' young, too! These cuckoos will lay their eggs in communal nests with multiple females of the same flock, and will all share the work of brood care together. A single nest can have over 10 eggs in it!
Guira cuckoos have a reputedly foul odor associated with them, due to their large anal glands which are unique to their subfamily Crotophaginae. It is unknown for sure why crotophagines possess such a smell, as most birds cannot ascertain scent like we can in the first place.
Just taking one look at a gerenuk isn't enough. Sometimes even a second look begs the question, "is this real?" The strangely elongated limbs and neck seem disproportionate to the size of the animal's head, and in some cases the neck seems more like a snake than a neck at all! For a simple African antelope, the gerenuk has a strangely alien appearance.
Like the giraffe and okapi, the gerenuk has very long limbs which aid it in its quest for food, allowing it to browse on branches up to 8 feet above the ground. By raising itself up on its hind legs and stretching its neck up high, the gerenuk can reach plants that other animals could not even hope to get to. They fill a specific grazing niche, somewhere below giraffes and somewhere above most other herbivores.
Gerenuks are used to absorbing moisture through the hundreds of tender acacia leaves they consume, and therefore have little use for trips to the water pool. They are rarely, if ever, seen drinking, and can survive in some crazy dry conditions. For the most part, gerenuks travel in pairs or in small groups of 5 or 8. They are not a herd animal, and when a threat is nearby, they are more likely to freeze than to run. To them, it's smarter to wait it out than to bug out!
By the way, the word gerenuk means giraffe neck in Somali. But even though they may be tall and skinny, the gerenuk is not related to the giraffe. They are actually more closely related to cows!
Giant Ghana Snail
Achatina achatina, sometimes called the giant tiger land snail, is known in the United States as being a humungous gastropod from a far-away land, a significant agricultural pest, and a forbidden exotic pet. In its native home of Africa, it is known as "the other white meat."
They are collected all over in Africa and sold either live, cooked, boiled, or fried, to be eaten at home. But they are not considered a delicacy like in France. They are just a convenient source of protein.
In the Western world they are revered for their beautiful shells, unimposing captive requirements, and adorable snail-like behaviors. So cute!
In the wild, they live just as anyone would expect a snail to live. Eating vegetation and detritus, sliming around on the forest floors, and trying their best to hide from predators (which includes practically everything in Africa).
The gharial, or gavial, is a critically endangered Indian crocodile known for its peculiar jaw structure. The long, skinny muzzle is typical of aquatic fish-eating predators (just like dolphins and alligator gars). Though the elongated snout and conical teeth are not unique to the gharial, these crocodiles possess the most distinctive example of them.
The Hindi word ghara means water pitcher, and it is the name given to the bulbous tip found on the male gharial's snout. Gharials may use their ghara as a resonating chamber for their rumbles and hisses, which may aid them in finding mates and warding off competitors. Since only the males possess the bulbed noses, gharials are the only crocodilians in the world to display visible sexual dimorphism.
Unlike other crocodilians, gharials are unable to lift their bodies up off the ground and stand on their feet. If they're caught out of the water, they just slide around on their bellies.
Gooty Sapphire Ornamental
Regarded as the most beautiful and sought after tarantula in the pet trade, Poecilotheria metallica is alluring even to spider haters. The striking colors of royal blue and contrasting yellow are almost unreal, but I assure you, this is not the work of Photoshop!
In the wild the Gooty is listed as Critically Endangered, and only exists in a single forest reserve in India. They live a strictly arboreal life, and make their homes in the holes of old trees. Pressures from the timber industry have resulted in habitat loss, and subsequently a severe drop in the numbers of these magnificent spiders.
As it is with most spiders, the males of this species are smaller and more drab in appearance. The females are the only ones that exhibit the revered metallic colors, and can be sold at prices of over $300 to enthusiasts.