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Entry Category: Zoology - Starting with R

Razorback Hogs

Arkansas was known for its razorback hogs long before the University of Arkansas mascot came into being. These wild boars were called razorbacks because of their high, hair-covered backbone and ill-mannered temper. The razorback hog was considered ruthless and dangerous when backed into a corner. The true wild boar, also called the European or Russian boar, is not native to the United States. Christopher Columbus introduced their domesticated ancestors to the New World in 1493. Wild boars are thought to have arrived with explorer Hernando de Soto, who brought the original thirteen grunting hogs to the new world in 1539, though this theory has lately been cast into doubt by Charles Hudson, who reconstructs de Soto’s path in his book, …

Red-cockaded Woodpeckers

aka: Picoides borealis
With the exception of the recently rediscovered ivory-billed woodpecker, red-cockaded woodpeckers (Picoides borealis) are the rarest of Arkansas’s nesting woodpeckers. A century ago, the bird was common in mature, open pine stands. Its natural range included millions of acres of pine habitat throughout the southeast United States. An estimated ninety-nine percent of suitable habitat was lost because of logging, wildfire suppression, conversion to agricultural lands, and urbanization. Best estimates range-wide indicate an original population numbering over four million. By the time the bird was declared endangered, it had declined to an estimated 10,000. The Arkansas population dwindled to under 400 birds. The red-cockaded woodpecker was designated as endangered on October 13, 1970. It received formal legal protection with the passage …


Arkansas’s reptilian biodiversity includes four groups—turtles, lizards, snakes, and the American alligator—each with a sharply different body morphology. By closely examining the morphology of these varied groups within the class Reptilia, today’s phylogenetic taxonomists (individuals who study the evolutionary relationships among species) have found that members of this class share several recently derived features (such as skull characteristics) with birds. Because of this modern understanding of the evolutionary relationships among reptilian ancestors and their descendents, which include dinosaurs and birds, some taxonomists have proposed a new class (Eureptilia) to include dinosaurs, birds, crocodylians, all of their close diapsid relatives (including lizards and snakes), and a number of extinct groups. However, the classical taxonomic designation for the class Reptilia includes turtles, …

Riddle’s Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary

Opened in 1990 by Scott and Heidi Riddle, Riddle’s Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary was located on 330 acres outside of Greenbrier (Faulkner County). The sanctuary provided a permanent home for African and Asian elephants in need of sanctuary for any reason, regardless of age, sex, species, health, or temperament. Elephants came from private owners, circuses, or zoos. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit sanctuary—which raised money through grants and donations—housed up to a dozen elephants at any given time, with several baby elephants born at the facility. Maximus, an African elephant born at the sanctuary in 2003, starred in Animal Planet’s television show Growing Up Elephant. Scott and Heidi Riddle met while both were working at the Los Angeles Zoo, and they married …


aka: Wheel Animals
The Phylum Rotifera (“wheel animals”) contains over 2,100 nominal taxa of microscopic and near microscopic species of unsegmented, bilaterally symmetrical pseudocoelomate invertebrates. They were originally named in 1696 by Anglican priest John Harris (1666–1719) and studied in 1703 by Antoine van Leeuwenhoek (1632–1723). Several surveys of Rotiferans have been done in Arkansas, although there is no summation of the species as of 2019. Because they are minute and mostly composed of soft bodies, rotifers are not commonly supported for fossilization. Their only hard parts, their jaws, are sometimes preserved in the fossil record, but their size makes detection challenging. However, fossils of Habrotrocha angusticollis have been found in Pleistocene (2.5 million to 11,700 years ago) peat deposits of Ontario, Canada. …