Bad Birthday Boy
Somebody's not sharing his cake! One-year-old Tikal the jaguar keeps his twin sister Maderas away from their birthday party treat at the San Diego Zoo on April 26, 2013. Zookeepers made the young jaguars a "cake" made of ice and frozen blood, and Tikal was not inclined toward generosity. Mama knows best though: The cubs' mother Nindiri wasn't having any of her son's selfishness, and she joined in to enjoy the frozen treat, too.
Welcome to the Neighborhood
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration executive director Joe Pica meets the locals during a dive off the Dominican Republic. Pica was retrieving an acoustic buoy when this humpback whale stopped by to say hi. Humpbacks are found all over the world's oceans — they migrate as many as 16,000 miles (25,000 kilometers) a year.
What's going on out there? At just a few hours old, this baby gentoo penguin peaks out from beneath its parent. The as-yet-nameless chick is the first gentoo born at Edinburgh Zoo this year. According to the zoo, a sibling joined this curious chick several hours later, and a third in the clutch was working its way out of the egg. [Happy Feet: A Gallery of Pudgy Penguins]
Ahanu the otter slips through the water at the Denver Zoo. The two-year-old male is a new zoo resident, brought from the Oakland Zoo in California to keep Denver's previous male otter, Otto, company. Otto's earlier companion Ariel died of old age last year, and given otters' highly social nature, Otto needed a new friend. For more otter adorableness, check out these pups getting a checkup
Can you guess the location of this gorgeous sunset scene?
This is Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, approximately 110,000 acres of bird-friendly wetlands in eastern North Carolina. Ducks, raptors and black bears call the refuge home, as does the reintroduced endangered red wolf. Streaking across the sunset sky in this image are hundreds of tundra swans. These white birds migrate from their breeding grounds along the Arctic Ocean down the U.S. Atlantic coast in the winter, sometimes reaching as far south as Florida.
A meadowlark dragonfly shows off its delicate wings at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Maine. Dragonflies are apparently experiencing a moment in the sun: According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, dragonfly festivals and dragonfly field guides are becoming increasingly popular. No surprise — with their jewel-like colors and gossamer wings, dragonflies give butterflies a run for their money in the beauty department. [See more surprisingly beautiful insects]
Aww! Baby Okapi Takes a Stroll
A 17-day-old female okapi tests out her land legs at the San Diego Zoo on Tuesday (June 4, 2013). This is the public debut for this little girl, who was born May 19 to mother Safarani. Okapis are giraffe relatives native to Central Africa; their shy tendencies kept early European explorers in the dark about their true existence for decades. It wasn't until 1901 that the species was formally classified and scientifically named.
Tadpole Eat ... Tadpole?
Most tadpoles survive on a diet of algae. But not Lepidobatrachus laevis, the tadpole of Budgett's frog. Not only are Budgett's frog tadpoles carnivorous, they're cannibals — as this image of a Budgett's frog tadpole slowly digesting in the gut of another Budgett's frog tadpole reveals.
North Carolina State developmental biologist Nanette Nascone-Yoder and her colleagues are using these carnivorous tadpoles to study how the digestive organs evolved and develop. In a study published in May 2013 in the journal Evolution and Development, Nascone-Yoder and her colleagues genetically engineered algae-eating tadpole guts to look more like that of the Budgett's tadpoles and vice versa.
"Understanding how and why the gut develops different shapes and lengths to adapt to different diets and environments during evolution gives us insight into what types of processes can be altered in the context of human birth defects, another scenario in which the gut also changes its shape and function," Nascone-Yoder said in a statement.
Humpback Whale Kenai Fjords
For an animal that can weigh more than two-dozen tons, humpback whales sure can catch some air.
As the above image shows, humpback whales often take flight in Alaska's Kenai Fjords National Park, at the edge of the North Pacific Ocean. The whales' enormous size makes for spectacular splashdowns. Male humpbacks grow to an average length of 46 feet (14 meters) and an average weight of 25 tons. Females are even bigger, at an average of 49 feet (14.9 m) long and 35 tons in weight.
Humpbacks are identified by their distinctive body shape and unusually long flippers, which are almost one-third of the whale's total body length. Humpback whales' dorsal fins are often a small triangular nubbin with a hump that is noticeable when a whale arches its back to dive. Humpback whales are often white or partially white. A white marking on the underside of the tail is like a marine mammal name tag in that each white marking is unique to each whale.
Humpback whales are an endangered species. Their worldwide population was estimated in 2007 at 30,000 to 40,000 whales. The North Pacific population found in Alaska is thought to be around 6,000 whales.
- Brett Israel, OurAmazingPlanet Contributor
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World's Cutest Baby Wild Animals
Giant panda Tai Shan is a celebrity in his own right. When he was born at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C., in July 2005he prompted a 50-percent increase in zoo attendance and a rash of fan Web sites. He earned the nickname Butterstick after a zoo worker described him shortly after birth as about the size of a stick of butter. Because Tai Shan's parents are on lease from China, even though the cub was born in the United States, he still belongs to China by law.In February 2010 Tai Shan boarded a special FedEx cargo jet to his permanent home at the Bifengxia Panda Base in Sichuan, China. In this image Tai Shan is 11 weeks old.