About the Project

The ZooTrophy Animal-a-Day project began on October 15th, 2013 as illustrator Angela "LemurKat" Oliver began working her way, systematically but selectively, through the alphabet and presenting, via social media, an illustrated animal to the world. Daily.

All pieces are drawn as 2.5 x 3.5 inch collectible cards, using a combination of polychromos and prismacolor pencils, along with other art materials. Many are still available for purchase ($10) or trade, so drop her an email if anything captures your eye or if there is an animal you wish to request.

It is predicted this project will take her at least two years to complete - with approximately 36 animals being drawn for each letter. She has also used the images to create a collectible hardback encyclopedia series, playing cards and a desk calendar, as well as the ZooTrophy collectible trading card game.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Creature Feature #469: Mockingbird

The Mockingbird is one of nature's mimics. He can replicate the songs of other birds and even insects, often in rapid succession. These are used, along with flight displays, to attract a mate. Once paired, he retains a monogamous relationship, albeit a flimsy one, as the male may continue singing and the female may investigate newcomer males. This medium-sized passerine is also known for his intelligence; he is able to recognise individual humans, particularly those that have proved a threat to him. He follows an omnivorous diet of insects, seeds, arthropods and fruit.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Creature Feature #468: Minke Whale

The Minke Whales are the second smallest of the baleen whales, with females measuring an average of 7.4 m (males being slightly smaller). Two species occur, the Antarctic and the Common; they are capable of hybridising. At least one Antarctic Minke has been found in Arctic waters, meaning that it is very difficult to get a reliable estimate of population. Hunting of these whales was common until 1986, when a quota was set. They are now hunted by Iceland and Japan. Minke Whale are fairly long-lived - up to 60 years - and are thought to breed every two years.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Creature Feature #467: Martin

The Martins are members of the Swallow Family. There are numerous species; this fellow is a House Martin. Insectivorous in nature, he flits through the air, catching insects on the wing. They breed in colonies, constructing nests beneath overhangs and shelter, using mud. These start with a bowl-like structure, and eventually extend into a narrow opening. The pair mate inside the nest.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Creature Feature #466: Marbled Polecat

We interrupt the alphabet to bring you this charming mustelid!

The Marbled Polecat makes his home in the grasslands and drier regions from southeastern Europe to western China. During the day he retreats into an abandoned ground squirrel burrow, emerging at night to  prey on rodents and other small vertebrates. He may also dig a little himself, balancing on his hindlegs and chin, using his front paws to excavate a den. During the winter, he will line his dens with grass.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Creature Feature #465: Mink

There are two extant species of Mink, a semi-aquatic mustelid. The third, the Sea Mink, was the largest. He was hunted to extinction to fulfil the demand of the fur-trade, around 1870. Of the two living species, the European Mink is Critically Endangered, in part due to the establishment of the other species, the American Mink in Europe (due to escapees or releasees from fur farms). Minks are sleek, alert carnivores characterised by their thick, soft pelt and webbed toes.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Creature Feature #464: Milne-Edwards Sifaka

The Milne-Edwards Sifaka is a lemur from the eastern coastal rainforest of Madagascar. She is characterised by her piebald colouration and is closely related to the Diademed Sifaka. Like most lemur species, the Milne-Edwards Sifaka has claws specially adapted for grooming. including a special "toilet-claw" on the second toe of each foot. Her big toe is also enlarged and prehensile, allowing her to better grip tree branches. Her arboreal lifestyle requires great agility and coordination as she leaps from tree to tree, very rarely touching the ground.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Creature Feature #463: Millipede

The Millipede is a many-legged Myriapod, related to the Centipede. Unlike its lesser-legged cousin, the Millipede feeds on a diet of decaying vegetation and occasionally emergent seedlings. They are considered to be one of the earliest life forms to colonise the land. Numerous species currently exist, measuring from 2mm to almost 40cm in length. Unable to bite or sting, if threatened the millipede will curl up and secrete chemicals through holes along his body. These burn the exoskeletons of invertebrates and skin and eyes of vertebrates. However, many mammalian predators - such as coati and meerkats - will roll the Millipede on the ground to clean it of the toxins and black lemurs even bite the Madagascar Fire Millipede to activate this defense mechanism, before rubbing it across their fur to act as an insecticide.

This is the Madagascar Fire Millipede. It is not uncommon in the pet trade.
Here is video of one in Perinet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3PPY3v3hdg

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Creature Feature #462: Mesite

The Mesite are a Family of relatively small, almost flightless birds found only in Madagascar. There are three species, all of which are considered Vulnerable to extinction. This is a Subdesert Mesite, found in the spiny thickets of the lowland west coast. Her main diet is seeds and insects, which she gleans from leaves or digs for with her sturdy bill. In breeding season, she lays her eggs on an exposed platform of twigs, constructed about 2m from the ground. Whilst the other two species - the Brown and the White-brested - form monogamous partnerships, the Subdesert favours a polygamous relationship.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Creature Feature #461: Merganser

Merganser are several species of carnivorous ducks characterised by their crested heads and slender bills. They are diving ducks, pursuing fish, crustaceans or other invertebrates, underwater. Their bills have a serrated edge to help grip their slippery prey. For this reason, they are sometimes known as "sawbills". There are four species of extant "typical" Mergansers, and two that are considered "aberrant", that is to say - closely related but not of the same Genus. This species, the Hooded Merganser, is one of the aberrant species. It occurs naturally in North America, although vagrants have been found in Europe.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Creature Feature #460: Meerkat

The charming Meerkat is a member of the Mongoose Family. She can be found in the deserts of southern Africa where she lives in a large group known as a clan, mob or gang.  The clan lives in a network of tunnels, with multiple entrances. During the day they forage for insects and small vertebrate prey. At all times, one or two of the Meerkat will stand on sentry duty, keeping a watchful eye out for predators. If one is sighted, she will alert her clan with a warning bark or whistle. Females will babysit, even nurse, youngsters that are not their own and non-breeding females may begin lactating to feed the more dominant pair's young.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Creature Feature #459: Mayfly

The Mayfly spends the majority of her life in her juvenile form, an aquatic larvae. For around a year she makes her home in streams, under sediment, rocks or decaying vegetation and feeding on algae. Some species are predatory. In spring or autumn, all of the Mayfly in the pool mature simultaneously, emerging from the water as immature winged adults. She will undergo one more moult before she attains her full adult form. Once a fully mature adult, the Mayfly are short-lived, with some species surviving only a few hours, others only a matter of days, long enough to breed. Like many species of moths, the full adult form is only for reproductive purposes and she cannot eat; her mouthparts are vestigal and her digestive system is filled with air.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Creature Feature #458: Marmot

The Marmot are a Genus of large squirrels, found in the mountainous regions across North America and Eurasia. This Yellow-Bellied Marmot occurs in Canada and the western United States. Social in nature, he lives in a burrow, which he shares with two or three mates. His colony forages during the day, dining on grass and other vegetation, as well as insects and bird eggs. As winter nears, he makes his way into a deeper hibernation burrow. Here he will remain until late spring.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Creature Feature #457: Marmoset

Marmosets are a Family of New World monkeys, occupying the upper canopy of the forest. This fellow is a Common Marmoset. He follows a largely vegetarian diet, supplemented with insects and other invertebrates. He lives in a family group, with one or two breeding females and their offspring, extended family members and unrelated individuals. Twins are often born, occasionally triplets. All the adults play an active role in carrying the youngsters, and display co-operative behaviour, such as sharing food.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Creature Feature #456: Markhor

The Markhor is a wild goat, well adapted to the mountainous terrain of central Asia. Here they live in flocks of around 9 individuals: females and their young. The adult males are largely solitary, fighting each other for access to the females during the winter mating season. During the summer, Markhor graze, but during the leaner winter months he browses on leaves, sometimes standing upright to reach higher branches. Markhor are highly prized as a trophy animal, both for his impressive appearance and the challenge. It is illegal to hunt them in most countries, but the Pakistani government have introduced a conservation strategy in which it is possible to - at considerable expense - purchase a licence to hunt an older animal, past his prime and no longer good for breeding purposes.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Creature Feature #455: Marbled Cat

The Marbled Cat can be found in the forests of South and Southeast Asia. Here she hunts in the canopy for prey: birds, rodents and reptiles. Secretive and solitary, little is known about her habits in the wild. Despite her small size - about that of a house cat - she does bear some characteristics normally found in the big cats with her enlarged canines and broad feet.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Creature Feature #454: Marakely

The Marakely is a primitive cichlid fish, and is considered a living fossil. He can be found in the crater lakes  and rivers of Madagascar. Here he forages on insects, crustaceans and smaller fish. During the wet season, pairs form and the two will dig a shallow scrape in the substrate. Here she will lay up to 1000 eggs. The male swims guard, whilst the female fans the eggs to keep them clean until they hatch - about 48 hours later. The adults then protect their fry from predation.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Creature Feature #453: Mara

The Mara are a Genus of long-legged rodents living in the grassland steppes of South America. Mara are social animals, living in warrens, but form monogamous partnerships. Youngsters are born into communual dens. These can contain litters from up to 22 pairs. The mothers visit the den regularly, feeding their own pups, but others may sneak in to steal milk. The fathers circle the den, watchful for danger.  Youngsters grow fast. They stay near the den for the first three weeks, playing and grooming one another.

The Patagonian Mara is classified as "near threatened".

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Creature Feature #452: Manumea

The Manumea, or Tooth-billed Pigeon, is the National Bird of Samoa. Little is known about the species, found only in undisturbed forests and rarely seen. He leads a largely terrestrial existence, probably feeding on fallen fruits, which are crushed in his powerful bill. The wild population is thought to number between 70-380 individuals, with no captive population and no chicks have been observed in recent surveys. It appears that, unless drastic measures are taken, this heavy-set pigeon is likely to follow in the claw tracks of his cousin, the dodo.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Creature Feature #451: Mantidfly

This post is dedicated to Robert Silberbauer, who introduced me to this almost-chimerical critter last night.
(He's an entomologist)

The Mantidflies are a Family of small-to-medium-sized carnivorous insects that resemble a hybrid between wasp and mantis. The wasp resemblance is an example of Batesian mimicry: in which one animal resembles another, usually more dangerous one, to deter predation. These nocturnal insects hunt in the same manner as the diurnal mantids, lying in wait for the prey to come close, then snatching it up with their front forelimbs. In some species, the juveniles, in their larval stage, predate spiders and their egg sacs, even going so far as to parasitise the female spider and draining her hemolymph (arthropod blood).

Monday, January 12, 2015

Creature Feature #450: Mantis Shrimp

Mantis Shrimps are  powerful crustaceans and some species can measure over 30 cm in length. They come in a variety of colours, and are very important marine predators. They are characterised by their front claws which come in two varieties: spearers and smashers. When hunting, the Mantis Shrimp strikes his prey with rapid speed and astonishing force - so strong that they have been known to smash through the glass of aquariums. The speed of the strike is so great that not only is the prey struck with the appendage, it is also struck with a cavitation bubble caused by the force generated (which essentially creates a shock wave). The Mantis Shrimp also has elaborate eyes, the most complex in the animal kingdom.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Creature Feature #449: Mantella

Mantella are a Genus of frogs, endemic to Madagascar, and the Malagasy equivalent of Poison Dart Frogs. Measuring no more than 2-3 cms in length, they are irridescent in colour. This advertises the toxic nature of their skin to potential predators. This does little to deter predators, however, with snakes and other reptiles being observed eating the frogs with no apparent side effects. Many of the species are endangered, some critically, as they are threatened with habitat loss and over-collection for the pet trade. This fellow is known as a Blue-legged Mantella, for obvious reasons. Currently classified as endangered, demand and subsequent poaching may lead him back to critically endangered.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Creature Feature #448: Manta Ray

The Manta Ray are two species of large oceanic ray, with this Giant Oceanic Manta Ray reaching 7 m in width. She inhabits subtropical and tropical waters and is a filter feeder, swallowing large quantities of zooplankton. She circles her prey, herding it into a tight group before swimming through, swallowing great mouthfuls.  Her front cephalic fins - extensions of her pectoral fins - flare out to channel water, and therefore prey, towards her gaping mouth. She is always in motion, requiring the movement of water across her gills for respiration. Fertilisation is internal, and the egg hatches within the mother's oviduct and the pup receiving nutrition from a milky secretion. It is birthed some 12-13 months after mating.

Both species are classified as Vulnerable and are affected by fishing, pollution and climate change.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Creature Feature #447: Maned Wolf

The Maned Wolf is neither fox nor wolf. Her long legs enable her to see as she stalks the grasslands of South America. She is not social like other canids, sharing her territory only with her mate and even then meeting him rarely. The two use scent to communicate, marking hunting areas or cached food with urine. It has a distinct odour, not unlike hops or cannibas.  Her diet consists of small vertebrates and vegetable matter contributes a large proportion. She plays a role in seed dispersal and propogation.

She is classified as "near threatened" due to hunting, habitat loss and disease.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Creature Feature #446: Mandrill

The Mandrill is a large Old World monkey, related to baboons, macaque and drill. He can be found in forests, often those bordering savannah. The male is most dramatically coloured, with his vivid facial mask and equally colourful rear end. Mandrill groups are known as "hordes" and contain hundreds of females and their offspring. Males are solitary, only entering the horde during the female's 3-month oestrus cycle.  Only the brightly-coloured, dominant males are fertile, but subordinate males can rise through the ranks and develop the vivid colouration that advertises his virility.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Creature Feature #445: Manatee

The Manatee are large, fully aquatic mammals belong to the Order Sirenia. Her vegetarian diet gives her the alternative name of "sea cow". There are several species, including this Amazonian Manatee. Unlike the other species, she leads an almost entirely freshwater lifestyle, occupying the rivers, lakes and lagoons of the Amazon river basin. She is solitary in nature, although will sometimes gather with others to graze on water plants. Her digestive system is similar to that of the horse and she eats 8% of her body weight per day. She sleeps submerged, surfacing every 20 mins or so to breathe.

She is classified as Vulnerable due to hunting, pollution (such as oil spoils), and climate change. Captive Manatees live around 13 years, whereas in the wild she can live to be 30.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Creature Feature #444: Major Mitchell

The Major Mitchell is a delicately-coloured Cockatoo. He can be found in the arid and semi-arid interior of Australia. Here he forages on seeds, nuts and other plant matter, occasionally invertebrates.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Creature Feature #443: Magpie

The Magpies are various members of the Corvidae Family, spread across three Genera. The most commonly recognised are the Pica Genus, which contains the piebald birds such as this Eurasian Magpie. The Magpie is an intelligent bird, capable of recognising that it is himself in the mirror. He has also been observed engaging in social rituals such as grieving, as well as problem solving and tool use. He forms a monogamous partnership, and will only seek another if his mate is lost. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Creature Feature #442: Macaw

The Macaw are large brightly coloured parrots from South America. Many species, like this Scarlet Macaw, inhabit the rainforests, but other species (like the Spix Macaw) favour dry forest. They are characterised by their long tails and bare faces. The facial feather pattern is as unique as a fingerprint. His diet is vegetarian, including nuts and seeds. These he cracks open with his powerful bill. He also frequently visits clay licks, breaking off chunks of clay. This is thought to add sodium to his diet. Many species are kept as pets, and wild populations are threatened by poaching and deforestation.

I intend to do more on the Spix Macaw, one of my favourites (Blu!) at a later date.

The Scarlet Macaw is classified as "Least Concern".

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Creature Feature #441: Macaque

The Macaques are a Genus of Old World monkeys, naturally occuring in North Africa and across the Middle East to Asia, with one species also found in southern Europe. They are characterised by their omnivorous diets, semi-terrestrial lifestyle and vestigal tail. This is a Japanese Macaque. They is the most northern-living non-human primate species and live in a very cold climate. To keep warm, they often gather around hot springs, immersing themselves in the water. They have been known to engage in snowball fights for fun. One individual was observed washing the sand from her food - a behaviour that the rest of her troop followed and has now been passed on through the generations.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Creature Feature #440: Macaroni Penguin

The Macaroni Penguin makes his home in the frigid south: from the Subantarctic (including southern South America to the Antarctic Peninsula. He greedily devours crustaceans, particularly krill, cephalopods and small fish. He is the most widespread and populous of the penguin species, but is suffering from substantial decline. During summer, vast colonies form as the birds gather to nest. There is much beak-jousting and other aggression as hierarchies and territories are established. After breeding, the birds disperse into the oceans for 6 months.

Although populations are currently rather large (about 18 million individuals), the sharp decline has this species classified as "Vulnerable".

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Creature Feature #439: Leaf Insect

Just when you thought... New Year, New Letter, LemurKat pulls a final L creature out of her menagerie! This one was inspired by an episode of QI and *may* have been what I was really thinking of when I did "Leaf Beetle", which is also a creature (or large collection of creatures) but not as interesting a Thing as this Thing.

The Leaf Insects are a Family of insects closely related to the Stick Insects. She is named for her appearance and superb mimicry, resembling a leaf so convincingly that some individuals may even have nibbled edges as they are tasted by other (presumerably rather suprised) vegetarian insects. Her wings are vestigal, aiding to her appearance whereas the males are capable of flight. The males of some species are rarely - or never - seen and females reproduce pathogenically. She will lay up to 40 eggs upon reaching maturity. These hatch into little red nymphs which will gradually turn green as they eat leaves and grow.