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I've been a Canberran since moving here from Adelaide on the first day of 1980. I now live in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise Maher, ABC 666 radio and on-line journalist. Among my early memories is following Sleepy Lizards (Shinglebacks) around the paddocks north of Adelaide, guarded by the faithful bull terrier. I have always been passionate about the natural world, trying to understand how it works, how the nature of Australia came to be, and sharing those understandings. My especial passions are birds, orchids and mammals. For much of my life I have been a full-time naturalist, running bush tours, writing books etc, doing consultancies, presenting a regular radio slot on local ABC, chairing a government environment advisory committee and running adult education classes. Recently I have eased back somewhat, but am still writing, teaching, doing some radio work and running overseas tours - as part of my fascination with our Gondwanan origins I've been running tours to South America for the past decade. I was awarded the Australian Plants Society Award in 2001 and the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2006, both for services to education and conservation.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Colours in Nature: gingery shades 2 - mammals

In my last post I started a new thread in my irregular series on colours in nature, by featuring birds with 'rufous' or 'chestnut' in their names; I wonder if you were as surprised as I was how many there were? These rusty/gingery tones are widespread in animals, and are the result of reddish phaeomelanins combined with brown or black eumelanins. As I mentioned last time, we seem to have gone to more trouble with being precise about the colour with birds than we have with mammals, where we often just use 'Red' as a descriptor, though (or perhaps because?) very few mammals sport actual red tones. 
Red Kangaroos Macropus rufa, inland Western Australia.
This is a male and a youngster, which is probably male but not necessarily; females are usually bluish-grey,
but some 10-20% of each sex are the 'wrong' colour.
This is the common kangaroo of the arid inland and central deserts.
Red-necked Wallabies Macropus rufogriseus, Namadgi National Park, Australian Capital Territory.
A common medium-sized wallaby in near coastal eastern Australia.
Little Red Fruit-Bats (or Flying Foxes) Pteropus scapulatus, Cooktown, tropical Queensland.
They really are a gloriously rich colour, but still not really red....
These are part of a big colony which roosts in the mangroves just across the road from Cooktown's town centre.
Red Panda Ailurus fulgens, Adelaide Zoo. (Sorry, I try to keep my photos here 'wild' as far as possible.)
Another stunningly colourful mammal. Not at all closely related to the Giant Panda (which is a true bear)
but the only member of its own family, loosely allied to weasels and raccoons.
Red-tailed Squirrel Sciurus granatensis, Alanbi Lodge, north-western Ecuador.
Think too of Red Deer and Red Fox, not to mention 'red'-headed humans. However many other mammals share such hues, sometime overall, sometimes as highlights, without using 'red' (or any other colour word) in their name. Primates feature quite strongly, from both Old and New Worlds, though other major groups are also well-represented. I've left out Orangutans here because I included them in the Orange posting, but they're one of those many borderline cases.
Proboscis Monkey Nasalis larvatus, Sarawak (above and below).
This gorgeously pigmented monkey, the only one of its genus, is endemic to Borneo.


Patas Monkey Erythrocebus patas, Waza NP, northern Cameroon.
Another single-species genus, found across arid west Africa.
Coppery Titi Monkey Callicebus cupreus, Tambopata Reserve, Peruvian Amazon.
Just three members of this widespread neotropical genus were recognised until recently -
now there are 16.
Ecuadorian Squirrel Monkey Saimiri macrodon, Yasuní NP, Ecuadorian Amazon.
(I think that expression is concentration rather than a lack of enjoyment.)
Few bats are as strikingly rusty as the Little Red Fruit Bats above, but others have nice coppery highlights.
Short-nosed Fruit Bat Cynopterus brachyotis Nanga Sumpa Lodge Sarawak.
These tiny fruit bats are common in rural buildings and under eaves in northern Borneo.
Black Fruit Bats Pteropus alecto, Charters Towers, Queensland.
This is a big fruit bat, found across northern Australia and into New Guinea and Indonesia.
Grey-headed Fruit Bat Pteropus poliocephalus, Sydney Botanic Gardens.
Among non-kangaroo marsupials, the most beautifully rusty has to be the lovely Numbat Myrmecobius fasciatus, once found across Australia but reduced - mostly by fox and cat predation it would seem - to pockets in south-western Australia, where once-promising reintroduction efforts seem to be faltering for reasons uncertain.
Numbat, Perth Zoo. (I have old slides from Dryandra Forest, but they really are not worth showing here!)
Some antelope certainly meet our criteria for inclusion.
Bushbuck female Tragelaphus sylvaticus, Kruger NP, South Africa.
Impala Aepyceros melampus, Lake Mburo NP, Uganda.
Female and young African Buffaloes Syncerus caffer, can be quite rusty in colour (when not covered in mud)
unlike the very dark bulls.
(The Little Egret and African Skimmer are bonuses.)
And some carnivores are also handsomely rusty. But I still can't decide if tigers are just rusty or outright orange!
Sumatran Tiger Panthera tigris sumatrae, Adelaide Zoo.
Culpeo (or Andean Fox) Lycalopex culpaeus Torres del Paine NP, southern Chile.
You wouldn't know it from this photo, but the legs are notably reddish.
This relatively large fox is found along the Andes from Tierra del Fuego to southern Colombia.
South American Coati Nasua nasua, Umbrellabird Lodge, southern Ecuador.
This beauty is undeniably rusty, but other individuals can be quite grey.
 
Which is about all I've got for you today, but I'll be back soon with an offering of gingery-looking invertebrates and reptiles. There is also another posting on rusty birds to come, but by then I'll be back from Borneo, and we might have a change of topic before returning to them.

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