Even if you have been living under a rock for the last 90, years you’ll still know all about the focus of our blog today, as this man will have probably discovered, and then made a programme about you too! We are of course talking about Sir David Attenborough, and to celebrate father’s day we are going to take a closer look at the life of the man who has dedicated his life to wildlife, and, has over time, become the father of nature.
Born on the 8th of May 1926, almost every one of Attenborough’s 90 years of life has been spent admiring the natural world. His place of birth was Isleworth, West London, but he spent his formative years growing up on the campus of University College in Leicester where his father was principal, and this is where his love of nature really began. He spent his childhood collecting fossils, stones, and other specimens with which he even created into his own “museum”! Due to growing up on a university campus, the young Attenborough had access to all of the facilities which were available and this included the zoology department which, at one stage of his early life, he even helped to provide with newts from the pond just across campus!
Attenborough’s University immersed upbringing stood him in good stead for later life, and he had no problems graduating from Wyggeston Grammar School for boys whilst winning a scholarship to Clare College at Cambridge University. There he studied geology and zoology and obtained a degree in natural sciences. David Attenborough’s foray into the world of plants and animals was halted by the military service which was compulsory at the time, and in 1947 he was called up for National Service in the Royal Navy. After being stationed in North Wales and the Firth of Forth for two years, he then joined the BBC and began to work his way up the ladder of the then new entertainment format of television to become the Attenborough we know and love today.
Attenborough’s Amazing Adventures
Over his almost 70 year career, David Attenborough has become the authority on all things nature so we wouldn't even attempt to pick out his favourite animals for him. Luckily for us however, back in 2012 he created his own list of ten animals that he would bring with him onto his own hypothetical ark. This list throws up some relatively unknown, yet incredible animals, and this gives us a great chance to take a closer look at some of the most weird, wonderful, and unique animals which Attenborough has seen on his travels all around the world. Let’s take a look at the list!
The Black Lion Tamarin
This primate is also known as the golden-rumped lion tamarin and they are in grave danger of becoming extinct in the wild. Endemic to the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo, their numbers are estimated to be around 1000 but many scientists think that this is an overestimation so they could be in more danger than first thought. The black lion tamarin survives on a diet of fruit, tree sap, and insects which varies depending on the habitats they move through.
The Sumatran Rhino
The smallest of all rhino species, the unfortunate truth is that the Sumatran rhino also has a very small chance of escaping extinction. With fewer than 100 left, their status is critically endangered and thanks to a combination of poaching and habitat encroachment this number is only going to continue to fall unless change happens. This rhino species once roamed all over Southern Asia, but nowadays they can only be found in small patches on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia.
(Picture Credit to Solenodon Joe - Wikipedia Creative Commons)
This slightly unorthodox looking animal has been around since before the time of the dinosaurs. They are venomous, nocturnal, and insectivorous mammals and most people are probably unaware of this shrew like creature. Unchanged for around 76 million years, the solenodon is often referred to as a living fossil and for this reason you can see why it would earn its place on the ark!
The Olm Salamander
(Picture Credit to Lander - Wikipedia Creative Commons)
The olm is the only exclusive cave dwelling salamander species found in Europe. It spends its entire life underwater in cave systems, and it has adapted to a life in complete darkness. It has done this through developing the senses needed to flourish in this environment, namely smell and hearing, whilst remaining blind as sight is not needed in the blackness of an underground cave. The olm is extremely sensitive to any changes that may occur in its underwater environment, and as a result even the slightest altercations in its underwater home, perhaps via pollution or temperature change, can alter the number of these incredible animals.
The Marvellous Spatuletail Hummingbird
With a name as impressive as this, you would expect the Marvellous Spatuletail hummingbird to have a few ark-worthy tricks in its locker and it certainly does. Endemic to Peru, these birds have a feature which makes them stand out from the crowd - their tails. The male has two long feathers which end in a couple of racquet shaped discs which is uses to attract a mate! These endangered birds are truly a unique animal and one which you will not forget.
(Picture Credit to LiquidGhoul - Wikipedia Creative Commons)
This frog lives in the streams of the Chilean and Argentinean jungles and was named after another incredibly influential naturalist, Charles Darwin, who discovered it on his voyage around the world on the HMS Beagle. The most notable feature of this tiny animal is the fact that its tadpoles develop in the vocal sac of the male which is very unusual in the animal world. Habitat loss is the major issue facing Darwin’s frog, and a study conducted from 2008-2012 found that they were only present in 36 of the 223 sites they were once found in.
Holder of one of the most unwanted titles in the world, the Pangolin is considered by some to be the most endangered animal in the world, and things are no different for the Sunda species in particular. These forest dwelling creatures have thick skin and powerful claws which help them dig into termite mounds to find nourishment, but due to their slow birth rate of one baby per year, their numbers are never given the chance to recover after being regularly decimated by poaching.
Priam’s Birding Butterfly
This particular species of butterfly was not chosen to go on Attenborough’s ark due to it being endangered or unique, and as an insect there are no doubt hundreds of thousands of these butterflies out there, but it earned its place purely down to the fact that it is beautiful. Attenborough said of the Priam’s Birding butterfly: “If I bring him on my ark, I won’t have him for long. But in the 10 days I have him (they only live for 10 days), he will bring me such joy.”
Another unique looking animal, the Northern quoll is a carnivorous marsupial which is native to Australia. They will eat almost anything they can get their hands on, and whilst this is a strategy which has served many animals well in their bid for survival, this is not the case for the quoll. Cane toads were brought in to Australia many years ago and have spread throughout the country ever since. They are poisonous, but this does not stop the quoll eating them when given the chance, and this is the reason why their population is suffering. In an attempt to prevent the quoll from eating the poisonous cane toad meat, scientists are lacing samples of it with a liquid which makes the quoll sick rather than killing it, and this seems to be working as the adult quoll are passing on their newfound aversion for the meat to their children!
Venus’ Flower Basket
A left field choice for the last slot on the ark, the Venus’ Flower Basket is a sponge which inhabits the deep ocean. In Asian cultures, this sponge was traditionally given as a wedding gift because it symbiotically houses two small shrimp, a male and a female, and they live out their entire lives in the sponge as partners. In return for providing the shrimps with a source of food and shelter, the shrimp then clean the sponge and the two live in harmony which shows why the sponge is associated with romance.
The Father of Nature
You can’t be much of a father if you don’t have any children, but after an incredibly long and impactful career David Attenborough has more than left his mark on the natural world. He has the distinction of having at least 15 newly discovered species and fossils named after him! After filming in Western Australia in an attempt to raise awareness about the ecological importance of the area, a fossilised armoured fish was discovered there and it was named Masterpiscis attenboroughi after the man in question. As for species which are still alive today, Attenborough has lent his name to an Ecuadorian flowing tree (Blakea attenboroughi), a millimetre long spider named the Attenborough’s Goblin, and a dragonfly named Attenborough’s Pintail amongst others.
For one man to have such an impact on the natural world is unheard of and it will never happen again. This one man has helped multiple generations to not only learn about fascinating and exotic species of animals from all around the world, but he has also helped to educate countless people about the importance of taking care of the environment as a whole. Without David Attenborough there would be a monumental gap in the lives of millions of people who have grown up listening to his words of wildlife wisdom, and it for that reason alone we would like to take this chance to celebrate the father of nature on father’s day and hope you will all join us.
Credit for the image of Sir David Attenborough goes to Cropbot - Wikipedia Creative Commons
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