Zoology

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Entries - Entry Category: Zoology - Starting with B

Bachman’s Warbler

aka: Vermivora bachmanii
Bachman’s warbler (Vermivora bachmanii) was a small, yellow-and-black bird of the American wood-warbler family (Parulidae) that formerly nested in the southeastern United States, including Arkansas. In winter, Bachman’s warblers migrated south to spend the winter on the island of Cuba. Preferring swampy bottomland habitat, the species suffered severe population decline in the early twentieth century when that habitat began disappearing and is now believed by most ornithologists to be extinct. Bachman’s warbler was discovered in 1832 near Charleston, South Carolina, by the Reverend John Bachman, a skilled amateur naturalist. Bachman (pronounced BACKman) was a close friend to John James Audubon, the famed naturalist and artist. Audubon painted a pair of the birds based on skins (prepared specimens) and named the …

Baerg, William J.

William J. Baerg was a naturalist, entomologist, and teacher who served as head of the Department of Entomology at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) for thirty-one years. His research on black widow spiders, tarantulas, scorpions, and other arthropods led to descriptions of their behavior, biology, and natural history that had previously been largely ignored by biologists and entomologists. William Baerg was born in Hillsboro, Kansas, to Johann and Magaretha (Hildebrand) Baerg on September 24, 1885. His parents, who had left Russia in 1874, worked as field hands on a Kansas wheat farm. The family later acquired a small piece of land for their own. Baerg was the sixth of seven children. Baerg began school at age seven. At …

Banded Pygmy Sunfish

The banded pygmy sunfish (Elassoma zonatum) belongs to its own family (Elassomatidae) and the Order Perciformes. It is a diminutive sunfish that is about 25 to 40 mm (1.0 to 1.5 in.) in total length. This fish is endemic to the United States, where it ranges in the Mississippi River drainage from Indiana and Illinois south to Texas and east along the Atlantic Coast from North Carolina south to Florida. There are six additional species of Elassoma, including spring pygmy sunfish (E. alabamae), Carolina pygmy sunfish (E. boehlkei), Everglades pygmy sunfish (E. evergladei), Gulf Coast pygmy sunfish (E. gilberti), bluebarred pygmy sunfish (E. okatie), and Okefenokee pygmy sunfish (E. okefenokee). Interestingly, E. zonatum was described by the “Father of American …

Bats

Bats belong to the class Mammalia and the order Chiroptera. There are two suborders: the Yinpterochiroptera (formerly Megachiroptera), which includes the horseshoe and Old World fruit bats (megabats), and the Yangochiroptera (formerly Microchiroptera), the remainder of bats. Worldwide, there are eighteen families, 202 genera, and more than 1,100 species of bats with only about four percent (at least forty-five species) occurring in the United States. This mammalian order is second only in number of species behind the rodents (order Rodentia). Sixteen bat species occur in Arkansas. Much of the past research on bats in Arkansas was conducted by Michael J. (Mick) Harvey (1934–2015) of Tennessee Technical University in Cookeville. His research on several endangered bats in Arkansas was instrumental in …

Big Arkie

Big Arkie was a thirteen-foot-long alligator caught in 1952 near Hope (Hempstead County). He was the Little Rock Zoo’s main attraction for eighteen years. Weighing 500 pounds, Big Arkie was considered to be the largest alligator in captivity in the western hemisphere. Big Arkie was spied by a young boy in a flooded pasture by Yellow Creek, which is west of Hope. Ed Jackson, caretaker of a local hunting club, was alerted and, with some companions, wrapped Big Arkie in a fifty-foot-long cable attached to a tractor. The alligator spent one night in Hope’s public children’s pool, encased in chicken wire. On the following day, he was delivered to the Little Rock Zoo, doubled up in a crate. When the …

Birds

The birdlife of Arkansas (its avifauna) comprises just over 400 species, although that number includes more than forty species that have been extirpated (that is, they no longer occur) in the state, are completely extinct, or are rarities that have strayed into Arkansas fewer than a half dozen times. Around 350 species, then, can be found in Arkansas with some regularity. About 145 species nest within the state. Others nest north of Arkansas and spend the winter here or pass through the state in spring and fall as they migrate to and from nesting grounds to the north and wintering areas to the south. Arkansas’s location in the south-central United States means that its avifauna is generally typical of North …

Birdwatching

aka: Birding
Birdwatching, also commonly called birding, is the hobby of observing wild birds. Involvement in the pursuit ranges from enjoying birds on backyard feeders to traveling thousands of miles, nationally or internationally, to see new and different species. Birdwatching is usually considered to be distinct from ornithology, which is the scientific study of birds, although there is considerable overlap between the two. Birdwatchers often keep records of when and where they saw different species. Many people keep records simply for the personal satisfaction of remembering interesting and unusual sightings. Records kept by amateur birdwatchers, however, have made significant contributions to ornithology by helping with the knowledge of bird distribution and abundance. Most birdwatchers keep a life list—a record of all the …

Black Bears

aka: Ursus americanus
Black bears have a rich and varied history in Arkansas. Once giving to the state its unofficial nickname (the “Bear State”), bruins long shaped society and culture in Arkansas and continue to do so. Used for meat, fur, and fat, bears were a valuable commodity in the colonial period. By the early nineteenth century, although bears were still prized for their original uses, the bear-human relationship began to shift toward overt exploitation and bear hunting as a quest for masculine identity. By the first decades of the twentieth century, Arkansas black bears were at the brink of extirpation, but the population has since been revived. Native Americans were the first to hunt black bears in the region. Documented evidence of …

Bowfin

aka: Grinnell
Bowfin (Amia calva) belong to the primitive North American fish family Amiidae and Order Amiiformes. The family is monotypic and contains a single genus and species (A. calva). Bowfin are basal bony fishes related to gars in the infraclass Holostei. They are native to North America and are commonly found throughout much of the eastern United States, the St. Lawrence River, and Lake Champlain drainages of southern Ontario, and Quebec, Canada. Their range extends farther westward around the Great Lakes into Minnesota and south to the Colorado River in Texas. In Arkansas, A. calva is found in all major river drainages of the Gulf Coastal Plain lowlands and westward through the Arkansas River Valley; they are rarely found in the …

Branchiobdellidans

aka: Crayfish Worms
Branchiobdellidans, or crayfish worms, are leech-like, clitellate annelids belonging to the Phylum Annelida and Order Brachiobdellida (single family Brachiobdellidae) that form an obligate, ectosymbiotic association primarily with astacoidean crayfishes. They have long been known as “branchiobdellid worms” because they were considered a separate family of the oligochaetes; however, more recent treatment of these worms as a separate taxonomic order technically renders their epithet more correctly as “branchiobdellidan worms” or simply “branchiobdellidans.” Branchiobdellidans are a monophyletic clade of more than 150 ectosymbiont species within twenty-one genera found throughout North and Central America, Europe, and eastern Asia, of which about fifteen genera and 107 species have been reported from North America, including in Arkansas. However, branchiobdellid fauna in Arkansas need further study. …

Butterflies and Moths

Arkansas has long been an ideal place to see butterflies and moths, but an increase in public awareness has occurred since the mid-1990s with the publication of scientific papers and checklists, as well as the emergence of special events in state parks. Butterflies and moths are classified in the insect order Lepidoptera, meaning “scale-wing.” Of approximately 350,000 species of butterflies and moths on earth, approximately 15,000 species are butterflies. Butterflies are distinguished from moths by the thousands of microscopic scales that create the color patterns on both sides of the wings. During a typical year, 134 butterfly species may be sighted in Arkansas, including year-round residents, summer residents, and migrants; 94 of these species live on Mount Magazine. An estimated …