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Amazing Animal Facts

Courtesy of the BBC's "Wildfacts A to Z"

Facts about animals

Are there animals that you have always been curious about? Amazed by the aardvark? Perplexed by the platypus? Now you have the opportunity to learn more about animals from A to Z. Just find the animal you're wild to know more about, and a click on the creature's name will lead you to a page on BBC's "Wildfacts" for more information. A wonderful way to discover more about our world and the creatures we share it with!

Click on the alphabetically listed headings below to view information for and links to each animals within that section.

A: Aardvark to Azure Damselfly

Aardvark, ant bear, earth pig

Aardvarks are the only living member of the order Tubulidentata. Due to their elusive lifestyle, they are also one of the least known of all mammals.


Despite being a member of the hyena family, aardwolves differ in many ways — one of them being their diet of termites.

Abert's squirrel, tassel-eared squirrel

A North American tree squirrel that rarely comes down from the canopy.

Adder, common viper

Adders are the most northerly distributed snake — they are the only species found inside the Arctic circle. They are also Britain's only venomous reptile.

Adelie penguin

Adelies use pebbles to line their nest sites and will often pinch stones from their neighbours.

African ass

This is the smallest member of the horse family and is critically endangered. The African ass is a grey-coated relative of our domestic donkey living in the rocky deserts of Africa.

African buffalo

A stocky member of the cow family from Africa. The females form protective herds whilst the males are mostly solitary. Members of the herd are thought to 'vote' on which direction the herd should move.

African golden cat, African tigercat

Little is known about these nocturnal cats, although they are thought to have only one kitten.

African penguin, jackass penguin, cape penguin, black-footed penguin

Their call resembles a donkey's bray, hence their alternative name of jackass penguins

African porcupine, North African crested porcupine

A large, ground-living nocturnal rodent covered in long spines or quills and living in family groups in complex burrow systems.

African pygmy squirrel

The smallest species of squirrel.

African wild dog, hunting dog, painted dog

Their markings are unique to each individual, like fingerprints, and help the pack identify each other.

Alpine marmot

A large, ground-living member of the squirrel family. Alpine marmots live in social groups in burrow systems on many European mountain ranges.

Amazon river dolphin, boto, bouto, pink river dolphin

The largest of the world's five freshwater dolphin species. It relies on echolocation to find prey in the muddy rivers that it inhabits.


Although Ambulocetus looked like a furry crocodile or a giant otter, it was actually an early whale.

American bighorn sheep

A stocky sheep with very large horns living in the mountains of North America. The males stage impressive fights each year, and have extra-thick skulls to prevent brain damage during clashes.

American bison

Once numbering 90 million, the American bison now only survives in refuges and parks. The symbol of the American Great Plains these 'buffalo' form single-sex herds of 20-60 animals.

American black bear

If running away from an American black bear, the last thing you want to do is climb a tree — they are expert climbers! Fortunately, they are less aggressive than some other bear species.

American marten

An agile tree-living member of the weasel family that hunts for small mammals and birds among the conifer forests of North America.

American mastodon

The elephant-like American mastodon was a distant relative of the woolly mammoth with which it shared its ice age home in North America.

American scimitar

The scimitar cat is the lesser known of the two 'sabre-toothed' cats of ice age North America. This extinct cat was a formidable hunter, and evidence suggests it was the major predator of mammoths during its time.

American water shrew

A large, solitary shrew which uses its hind feet to swim underwater in search of aquatic insect larvae.


Ancylotherium was one of the last surviving chalicotheres and was not a knuckle-walker.

Andrew's beaked whale, splaytooth beaked whale

Very little information is known about Andrew's beaked whales, and most has been gleaned from about 20 strandings.


Andrewsarchus was the largest carnivorous land mammal ever.

Antarctic fur seal

Fur seals are distinguished from true seals by the presence of external ears and the ability to bring their rear flippers underneath their bodies to enable them to stand on all four limbs. For this reason, fur seals are more closely related to sea lions than true seals and are more capable of moving on land.


Apidium, now extinct, was one of the earliest mammals known.

Arabian oryx

Once extinct in the wild, this species is a reintroduction programme's success story.

Arctic fox

Unlike some Arctic mammals, these foxes do not hibernate and can withstand temperatures as low as -50 degrees Celsius.

Arctic ground squirrel

The Arctic ground squirrel is unique in being the only known mammal capable of lowering its body temperature to below freezing, a strategy which helps it survive through the long, Arctic winter.

Arnoux's beaked whale, Southern four-toothed whale

It is possible that Arnoux's beaked whale is the same species as Baird's beaked whale, although the difference in their distribution and size is a strong counter-argument.

Asian elephant, Indian elephant

Asian elephants are more easily tamed than their larger African counterparts and have been used as beasts of burden for centuries.

Asian golden cat, Temminck's golden cat

Unusually, these cats often hunt in pairs, and the males are thought to play an active role in rearing the young.

Asian house shrew

A large and widespread species of shrew which often enters buildings and has a strange jangling call.

Asiatic ass

A reddish-brown Asian relative of our domestic donkey with several subspecies (such as the kiang and onager), which are endangered.

Asiatic black bear, Tibetan black bear, Himalayan black bear, moon bear

Their ability to balance proficiently on their hind feet mean that they are sometimes trained as cubs to dance for human amusement.

Assamese macaque, Assam macaque, Himalayan macaque, hill monkey

Like most macaques, this species is highly social.

Atlantic hump-backed dolphin

Like Indo-Pacific hump-backed dolphins, these dolphins have a fatty hump under their dorsal fin.

Atlantic spinner dolphin, short-snouted spinner dolphin

Spinner dolphins are renowned for their fantastic acrobatic displays.

Atlantic spotted dolphin, bridled dolphin

Atlantic spotted dolphins appear very similar to spotted dolphins but are recognised as a separate species.

Atlantic white-sided dolphin

This is a highly gregarious species, occasionally being sighted in groups of up to 1,000.

Aurochs, wild ox, wild cattle, giant ox

The aurochs was the ancestor of the European breeds of domestic cattle.

Australian sea lion

This non-migratory species spends a lot of time on the beach. It moves relatively easily on the land and may travel for a few kilometres on its flippers.


About 5-6 million years ago, there were tree-living apes that gave rise to two major groups of animals. One group remained in the forests and is represented today by living chimps an gorillas, and the other lived more on the edges of the forest and gave rise to the hominids, today represented only by humans.


Aye-ayes are the largest nocturnal primate in the world. They are also the only primate thought to use echolocation, which they use to find grubs up to 2cm deep in a tree.

Azure damselfly

Damselflies are smaller than dragonflies and hold their wings together behind the abdomen rather than out sideways.

B: Babirusa to Bushbuck


The babirusa is a bizarre-looking pig from Indonesia. The males have extraordinary tusks that develop from their canine teeth, growing up through the skull and growing in a curve until it pierces the skull again between the eyes.

Baird's beaked, Northern four-toothed whale, giant bottle-nosed whale

Baird's beaked whales are thought to be the largest of the beaked whales.

Bald uakari, red and white uakari

Their red faces are a symbol of good health, and those with malaria have paler faces than those who are immune. This enables the monkeys to choose the healthiest mate to breed with.

Bank vole

Bank voles are widespread across mainland Britain but are absent from some offshore islands.

Barbary ape, Barbary macaque

Barbary apes are the only non-human primate to live in Europe (Gibraltar). Despite their name, they are a monkey and not an ape.

Barbastelle bat

The use of insecticides, which affect their prey availability, may be a reason for the decline of barbastelle bats.

Barn owl

There are over 30 subspecies of barn owl, and with a few exceptions, they are distributed world-wide.

Barn swallow

Like swifts and martins, swallows are adapted for a life on the wing, where they catch insects through agile flight.


An early whale, Basilosaurus is a relative of (but not an ancestor to) modern ceteaceans.

Basking shark

The second largest fish in the world. Like their larger counterpart - the whale shark - they feed on plankton.

Bat-eared fox

The bat-eared fox is the only canid to have largely abandoned mammalian prey in favour of insects.

Bay cat, Bornean red cat, Bornean marbled cat

Bay cats are one of the rarest cats species in the world. Descriptions of these animals are based on museum specimens, and there is very little information on live animals.

Bear-dog, Amphicyonid

Bear-dogs were neither bears nor dogs, but a group of their own related to both.

Bearded saki

A monkey with dense black hair, slightly lighter on the back, and a black beard. They live in groups in the canopy of the Amazonian rainforest.

Bechstein's bat

In Britain, Bechstein's bats are restricted to southern England

Belding's ground squirrel

A small ground squirrel that spends half the year hibernating underground and the other half feeding on grasses and seeds.

Beluga, white whale

Belugas are very vocal, emitting chirps, squeaks and clicking noises, which explains their nickname of sea canaries.

Black flying fox, Gould's fruit bat, black fruit bat, blackish fruit bat

The black flying fox — in common with the other fruit bats — lacks the ability to echolocate.

Black lemur

Like all lemurs, this species is only found in Madagascar.

Black rat, ship rat, roof rat, house rat

As their alternative name suggests, they were commonly found on ships, resulting in their distribution throughout the world.

Black-backed jackal, silver-backed jackal

These nocturnal dogs tend to spend the day hidden in bush,emerging at dusk to hunt.

Black-footed cat, small-spotted cat

These small, African cats are highly unsociable. Like desert cats, they do not need to drink water and obtain sufficient moisture from their diet.

Black-handed spider monkey

Spider monkeys are so named because of their long, spidery limbs. Their prehensile tail acts like a fifth limb when swinging through the canopy.


Albino blackbirds are not uncommon, and most simply have white patches. Completely white individuals seldom survive, as they are more conspicuous to predators.


A stocky gazelle from India in which males are a distinctive black and white and have long twisted horns, while females are fawn coloured with no horns.

Blainville's beaked whale

Blainville's beaked whales are thought to have the widest distribution of all the beaked whales. They are also one of the commonest of the beaked whales, although they are still rarely sighted due to their preference for deep water.

Blanford's fox

Blanford's foxes are less suspicious than other foxes and are therefore easy to trap and kill. This has meant that they have been dramatically reduced from their range.

Blue monkey, Sykes monkey

A guenon monkey with several colour variations over its range. Females stay with their mothers, forming territorial female-dominated groups with only a single male.

Blue shark

Blue sharks are considered to be dangerous and are thought to be responsible for attacks on ship and air disaster victims.

Blue tit

A common species at bird-tables, these attractive little birds are found throughout Europe, Asia and northwest Africa.

Blue whale

The blue whale is the largest animal ever to have lived — bigger, even, than the dinosaurs. Yet they are elusive creatures and little is known about their lives.

Blue wildebeest, brindled gnu

A grazing antelope that lives in huge herds on the plains of Africa and undertakes spectacular migrations.

Bobcat, red lynx, bay lynx

This member of the lynx family owes its name to its characteristic stumpy tail.


A large forest-living antelope with a striking reddish coat and black-and-white markings. Both sexes have slightly spiral horns.

Bonnet macaque

As their name suggest, these macaques appear to be wearing a hat, due to the peculiar lay of their fur.

Bonobo, pygmy chimpanzee

Along with chimpanzees, bonobos are genetically our closest living relatives. They have strong social bonds that are strengthened by sexual behaviour.

Booted macaque

Due to their dog-like muzzles, macaques are sometimes known as dog-apes. This is a misnomer, as macaques are monkeys and not apes.

Bornean orangutan

Also known as the red ape, or the 'old man of the forest', orangutans are the largest tree-living mammals.

Bottlenose dolphin

These widespread dolphins are active and very acrobatic.

Bowhead, Greenland right whale

Female bowheads are perhaps the most flirtatious ocean mammal and constantly tease the males into a frenzy.

Brandt's bat

Brandt's bats are very closely related to whiskered bats and were only recognised as being of a separate species in 1970.

Brazilian tapir

A large Amazonian animal, related to rhinos, with a fleshy nose.

Brimstone butterfly, yellow-bird butterfly

These bright yellow butterflies are often the first butterflies to be seen in spring.

Brontothere, Embolotherium

Brontotheres were a group of animals common and widespread in the late Eocene, related to the chalicotheres, rhinos, tapirs and horses.

Brown antechinus

The brown antechinus is a rat-sized, nocturnal, forest-dwelling marsupial found only in Australia.

Brown bear, grizzly bear

Second only to polar bears, brown bears are the largest land carnivores. A subspecies called the Kodiak bear is particularly impressive and can reach similar sizes to its polar cousin.

Brown hare

Rabbits and hares are lagomorphs as opposed to rodents. Hares are much longer-limbed and swifter than rabbits.

Brown kiwi, common kiwi

The kiwi is the national bird of New Zealand.

Brown lemur

Before eating millipedes, brown lemurs salivate on them and roll them in their hands for a few minutes, possibly because some species are poisonous.

Brown long-eared bat

As their name suggests, long-eared bats have strikingly large ears, which are three-quarters the length of the head and body. When resting, the ears are folded and held backwards.

Brown rat, Norway rat, common rat

Brown rats have been bred for research and the pet trade. They spread across Britain via the shipping traffic from foreign countries in the 18th Century, largely replacing the black rat. Along with house mice, they are considered to be the most widespread terrestrial mammal.

Bryde's whale, tropical whale

Little is known about Bryde's whales, and they are often confused with sei whales.

Bull shark, Ganges, Nicaragua, river, shovelnose, slipway, grey, square-nose, Van Rooyens, Zambezi shark

It is possible that this species is actually responsible for many of the attacks attributed to great whites. They are unusual in that they spend a lot of time in fresh water.


Bullfinches are in serious trouble in Britain, with the population down by 62 per cent in 35 years.

Burmeister's porpoise, black porpoise

These are one of the commonest cetaceans around the coast of South America.

Bush dog, savannah dog

This is a small and stocky dog that looks like a terrier. They are one of the most social canids.


A member of the spiral-horned antelopes with a chocolaty coat. Lives in dense vegetation, often near water, and browses vegetation at night.

C: Cabbage White to Cuvier's Beaked Whale

Cabbage white butterfly, small white butterfly

These butterflies can be seen flying in gardens from July to September. Their small, green caterpillars are notorious for their preference of cabbages and their relatives.

California condor

The California condor is North America's largest birds of prey and also one of its rarest, with only a handful of birds living wild in California and Arizona.

California mouse

A small deer mouse from California that is unusual in forming long-term pair bonds, with males contributing to the raising of the young.

Campbell's monkey

A quiet and camouflaged guenon monkey, living in small groups in the West African forest.

Canada goose

Canada geese were first introduced to the UK in 1665 as an addition to the waterfowl collection of King Charles II at St. James' Park.

Canada lynx, American lynx

Due to its snowy habitat, the Canada lynx has adapted by growing a thick coat and snowshoes.

Cane toad, giant American toad, marine toad

While other frogs and toads are becoming endangered, the cane toad has been very successful. Its density is higher in Australia than in its native home.

Cape fox

These are one of the smallest of the African canids and little is known about them.

Cape fur seal

A large fur seal that is rather similar to many sealions and lives around South Africa and southeastern Australia and Tasmania.

Cape hyrax, Dassie

A small, African mammal, which looks like a rodent but is actually a member of the Afrotheria — related to elephants, sea cows, tenrecs, elephant shrews and the aardvark.

Cape pangolin

The Cape pangolin lives in a burrow, seeking ant and termite nests by scent at night.


Capybaras are huge grazing rodents, which live in herds and are semi-aquatic.

Caracal, African lynx, Asian caracal, desert lynx

As with cheetahs, caracals are easily tamed and have been used to assist humans on hunts in Iran and India.

Cave bear

Cave bears are known from tens of thousands of skeletons and the paintings that Ice Age people made on cave walls.

Celebes moor macaque

Due to their dog-like muzzles, macaques are sometimes known as dog-apes. This is a misnomer, as macaques are monkeys and not apes.

Central American agouti

These nimble rodents are important seed dispersers for many species of trees.

Chacma baboon

In 1986, a troop of chacma baboons was found living in the heart of the Namib desert — the most arid environment known to be inhabited by a non-human primate (the annual rainfall is only 27mm). In 1992, the troop went without water for 116 days, eating figs for moisture.


As with many birds, recent studies have shown that their songs vary according to the region, a bit like a human accent.


Chalicotheres were related to the horses and tapirs and evolved in the mid-Eocene from small, forest-living animals rather like the early horses.


Cheetahs are the fastest animals on land. Reaching speeds of over 60 mph, they can easily outrun any animal over short distances.


Chiffchaffs are summer visitors to the UK and are scarce in Scotland.

Chilean dolphin, black dolphin

Very little known is known about Chilean dolphins and most data has been obtained from strandings.


Probably the most intelligent non-human animal, chimpanzees are also very similar to us in appearance and in their social behaviour.

Chinese mountain cat, Chinese desert cat

Mountain cats were traditionally called desert cats. In 1992 experts recommended that their name be changed after it was found that they are rarely found in desert habitats.

Chinese river dolphin, baiji

One captive Chinese river dolphin, Qi-Qi (male), provided most of all known information about this species.

Chinstrap penguin

In 1620, Admiral Beaulieu considered penguins to be feathered fish due to their adaptations to life underwater.


A large, spotted deer living in small groups in the woodlands of India and Sri Lanka.

Clouded leopard

Relative to body size, clouded leopards have the biggest canines of all the cats — they measure 3.8-4.5cm. It uses them to kill its prey, often only needing to use a single bite.

Coal tit

Coal tits will repeatedly take nuts and seeds from bird tables and cache them for later consumption.

Coiban agouti

A mid-sized rodent which lives in pairs and runs on the forest floor looking for fallen fruit during the day.

Collared dove

Chances are, if you are reading this in the British Isles, you are within a mile or less of a collared dove. Yet, just 40 years ago, the closest individual would have been no nearer than France, Holland or Denmark. Until 1953, the species had never even been seen in Britain.

Columbian mammoth

The extinct Columbian mammoth was one of the largest elephants to have walked the Earth. It had impressive, spiralled tusks which measured up to 4.9m (16ft) long, making them world record holders amongst the elephant family.

Comma butterfly

The edges of this butterfly's wings are ragged in appearance. On the underside of the wing is a small white mark in the shape of a comma.

Commerson's dolphin, piebald dolphin

With their harlequin-shaped markings, Commerson's dolphins are striking, and variable in pattern.

Common buzzard, Eurasian buzzard

In recent years, the population of British buzzards has exploded with thriving populations now in peripheral areas where there were few, such as Cheshire, Northamptonshire and the Lothians.

Common centipede

Though the name "centipede" means "a hundred legs", most centipedes actually have much fewer. The common centipede has 15 pairs of legs and is an agile hunter.

Common dolphin

This species has many other names including saddleback dolphin, white-bellied porpoise, criss-cross dolphin, cape dolphin and hourglass dolphin.

Common dormouse, hazel dormouse

Common dormice may spend up to three-quarters of their life asleep. They hibernate when food is scarce to conserve energy.

Common earthworm

Earthworms help to fertilise the soil by bringing nutrients closer to the surface.

Common earwig

Despite its name and threatening appearance, the common earwig is a harmless and interesting creature.

Common frog, grass frog

The common frog can breathe through its skin. This enables it to hibernate for several months beneath piles of mud and decaying leaves underwater.

Common kingfisher

The kingfisher is one of Britain's most brightly coloured and interesting birds.

Common lizard, viviparous lizard

Common lizards have the ability to shed their tails in order to fool predators when threatened.

Common pipistrelle

Pipistrelles are the smallest and commonest bat in the UK.

Common raccoon

Adaptable nocturnal animals that often live in urban environments in North America. They have extremely dextrous hands, which help them catch fish and aquatic animals as well as harvest nuts and seeds.

Common seal, harbour seal

As their name suggests, these are the most widespread of pinnipeds.

Common shrew

When disturbed from the nest, young common shrews will sometimes follow their mother in a caravan fashion, using their mouths to hold on to the tail of the sibling in front. They are the second most common British mammal.

Common shrimp, European brown shrimp

'Crangon' is Greek for shrimp.

Common snail, garden snail

Because of their moist skin, common snails are most active in damp weather and at night.

Common starfish

Starfish have the ability to push their stomachs out of their mouths in order to digest prey too big to swallow.

Common swift

Swifts are accomplished fliers, spending most of their life in the air.

Common toad

Common toads secrete an irritant substance from their skin that prevents most predators from eating them. Unfortunately for the toads, a few predators, such as grass snakes and hedgehogs, do not seem to be deterred by this irritant.

Common tube-nosed bat

Common tube-nosed bats are a type of flying fox or fruit bat.

Common wombat

Like rodents, wombats' teeth grow continuously to compensate for the wear and tear caused by the silica in grasses.

Communal spider, social spider, colonial spider

Most spiders are anti-social creatures, happiest when left alone to hunt, but these spiders live in communes of up to 1500 individuals, catching prey and sharing it like lions at a kill.

Coot, Eurasian coot,

Coots are related to moorhens, but they do not compete for food and are often found in the same habitat.

Corsac fox

Together with the Arctic fox, the corsac fox occupies a niche that is between the true dogs(Canis) and the foxes (Vulpes).

Coyote, prairie wolf, brush wolf

The coyote is the star of many North American Indian stories, who believe it is the chief of the pre-human animal age.

Crab spider

Crab spiders are very difficult to spot due to their colour-changing ability and are often only noticed when struggling with an insect.

Crab-eating fox, common zorro

South American foxes are often referred to by the local name of zorro.

Crested black macaque, Celebes macaque, Gorontalo macaque, Sulawesi macaque,

Like most macaques, this species is highly social.

Cuvier's beaked whale, goose-beaked whale

Their beak is shaped like that of a goose, hence their alternative name — goose-beaked whale. They are possibly the most abundant beaked whale.

D: Dall's Porpoise to Dwarf Sperm

Dall's porpoise, white-flanked porpoise

Dall's porpoises are the fastest porpoises, reaching speeds of 55km/h. They will regularly bow-ride, and send up a 'rooster-tail' of spray when they surface.

Daubenton's bat, water bat

Daubenton's bats leave their roosts to hunt at twilight, and they are fast, agile fliers.

De Brazza's monkey

They take their name from Brazza, a French Explorer who founded the city of Brazzaville and the French Congo.


Deinotheres are extinct but are in the same group as modern elephants.

Desert kangaroo rat

A small, hopping rodent which lives in the desert, coming out at night to search for seeds, which it carries in its cheek pouches.

Dhole, red dog, Asiatic wild dog, Indian wild dog

Although dholes are not fast runners, they have good stamina and will pursue prey for hours until they finally succumb to exhaustion.

Diana monkey

These monkeys are named after the goddess Diana because the white stripe across their forehead was thought to be the same shape as her bow.


They are thought to originate from Asian wolves, which arrived in Australia with Asian sailors 4,000 years ago. Today, because of interbreeding with domestic dogs, there are few pure dingoes left.

Dinofelis, sabre-tooth cat

Dinofelis is a sabre-tooth cat from a group often known as the 'false sabre tooths', as they had small sabres that were not as flattened and knife-like as those of other sabre-tooth groups and were more like those of the group to which modern cats belong, which have conical teeth.


Diprotodon was the largest marsupial that ever lived.

Diving beetle

Both the diving beetle and its larvae are voracious aquatic predators. The larvae can tackle large prey such as tadpoles and small fish.


Like Megatherium, Doedicurus was related to sloths and armadillos.


These extinct primitive whales were once thought to be baby Basilosaurus.

Douc langur, red-shanked douc langur

These langurs live in the forests of Asia but are at risk of becoming extinct.


Sadly, In Nigeria, hunters use dogs to pursue drills. They are considered good game as they stand their ground and several can be killed with shotguns before they will flee.

Dromedary camel, Arabian camel, one-humped camel

About 90 per cent of the world's 14 million camels are dromedaries.

Dugong, sea cow

It is believed mermaid legends may have originated when sailors from a distance glimpsed dugongs swimming in the water and mistook them for half-human/half-fish creatures.

Dung beetle

Ancient Egyptians revered the scarab (dung beetle). They credited it with keeping the earth revolving like a giant ball of dung. Much earlier than the Egyptians, 10,000 to 20,000 years ago, dung beetles were revered by Shamanic cultures, often as The Creator.

Dusky dolphin, Fitzroy's dolphin

Dusky dolphins are one of the most acrobatic dolphin species.

Dusky titi monkey, red titi monkey

Dusky titi monkeys live in pairs. The bond between the male and female is very strong, and when they have been separated in captivity, they both become highly stressed.

Dwarf sperm whale

These are the smallest of all the whales. They are very similar in appearance to lesser sperm whales, except for the difference in size.

E: Eastern Colobus to European Starling

Eastern black-and-white colobus, Abyssinian colobus

This species of colobus has been hunted for their pelts, which were sold to tourists as wall decorations.

Eastern gorilla

For years the world's largest primate has been portrayed as a fearsome and aggressive beast. But gorillas are actually gentle giants, who have strong family ties and live on a vegetarian diet.

Eastern grey kangaroo

Eastern grey kangaroos can leap up to nine metres in a single bound, but this great ability often gets them into trouble with Australian sheep farmers. Many are shot by farmers as they leap over fences and feed on grazing land, but luckily the kangaroo population is large enough to withstand this depletion in numbers.

Emperor penguin

Emperor penguins are the largest of the family and endure the worst breeding conditions of any bird.

Emperor tamarin

Emperor tamarins are thought to have been named after the Emperor of Germany, Emperor Wilhelm II, due to their long, white moustaches.


These extinct relatives of modern pigs were common in Mongolia.

Erect-crested penguin

Erect-crested penguins breed in large colonies on bare exposed rocks of the Bounty Islands and the tussock-clad beaches of the Antipode Islands.

Estuarine crocodile, saltwater crocodile

The estuarine crocodile is the world's largest living croc.

Ethiopian wolf, Simien jackal, Abyssinian wolf, Simien fox

There are fewer than 500 of these dogs left in the wild, and there are no records of them ever having bred in captivity.

Eurasian badger

With their striking facial markings, badgers are easily recognisable. Also known as brocks, they are one of the UK's favourite mammals.

Eurasian lynx

As Europe's biggest cat and the largest of the lynx family, the Eurasian lynx holds many records. It also has one of the widest distribution of all the cats.

Eurasian river otter, European otter, common otter, old world otter

Otters are one of the most playful animals, often appearing to take childlike enjoyment in sliding around on muddy banks or in snow.

European hedgehog

Hedgehogs are named after their pig-like habit of rooting through the undergrowth for food. They are quite noisy and can be heard snuffling and grunting during their activities.

European mole

Most of the 29 species of mole are adapted to an underground life, and the European mole is no exception.

European polecat

Domestic ferrets are closely related to polecats, and the two species sometimes interbreed.

European rabbit

The ancestor of all domestic rabbits, the European rabbit has become so successful that it is considered a pest in many areas. They were introduced to the UK by the Normans in the 12th century to provide meat and fur.

European robin

The robin is Britain's national bird, selected by public ballot nearly 40 years ago.

European starling, common starling

Starlings have always been thought of as a common bird in the UK, but their numbers in the UK have declined — possibly due to the use of pesticides and consequent lack of invertebrate prey.

F: Fallow Deer to Fringe-Lipped Bat

Fallow deer

Fallow deer were introduced to British parks and forests by the Normans in the eleventh century and have since become the most widespread species of deer in Britain.

False killer whale, pseudorca

False killer whales have unusual flippers — they have an 'elbow', like that of the long-finned pilot whale. They are also known to strand. On one tragic occasion, 800 stranded at once.

Fat dormouse, edible dormouse

Fat dormice were eaten by the Romans — hence their alternative name, edible dormice — who kept them in special jars to fatten them up for the table. They are the largest of the dormice.

Fat-tailed dwarf lemur

Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs hibernate during the cool, dry season, surviving on the fat stored in their tail.

Fennec fox

Fennec foxes are the smallest members of the dog family.

Feral pigeon

Pigeons are actually domesticated rock doves that have returned to wild or semi-wild conditions. Some rock doves were domesticated for food, others as homing pigeons, and some as 'fancy' pigeons, bred for their plumage.

Field vole, short-tailed vole

Field voles are present on mainland Britain but are absent from Ireland and some islands.

Fin whale, common rorqual

Fin whales are the second largest animal in the world — only blue whales are larger.

Finless porpoise, finless black porpoise

These are the only porpoises to have a bulbous melon on their heads. As their name suggests, they are also unusual because they lack fins.

Fiordland penguin

The name penguin probably derived from the Latin word 'pinguis' or the Spanish 'pinguigo', which refers to the large quantity of fat on the birds.

Fishing cat

These cats are good swimmers and will even dive underwater in search of fish.

Flat-headed cat

Perhaps this cat should have been named the fishing-cat, as it is an expert fisher. Its paws are also webbed — an adaptation to swimming.

Flatback turtle

A flat-shelled Australian turtle.

Florida manatee

A large, aquatic relative of the elephant that grazes underwater vegetation around the coasts of Florida, the Caribbean and South America.

Forest elephant

It was once thought that there were two subspecies of African elephant, but recent research has meant they have been reclassified as two separate species — forest elephants and savannah elephants.

Formosan rock macaque, Taiwan macaque

Formosan rock macaques are hunted for their meat and for the damage they do to crops.


Madagascar's largest carnivore, the fossa is an unusual member of the civet family. It hunts lemurs in trees at night and has a strange courtship and breeding system.

Fraser's dolphin, sarawak

These tropical dolphins live in large schools and are shy of boats. Although scientists had been aware of their existence for many years, they were not actively seen alive until the 1970s.

Freshwater mussel, river mussel

This freshwater species is common in canals.

Frilled lizard, frillneck lizard, King's lizard

The flashy frill and menacing hiss of the frilled lizard may look frightening, but it is all a big bluff.

Fringe-lipped bat

A bat that specialises in hunting frogs by listening to their mating calls and selecting the non-poisonous species.

G: Galapagos Fur Seal to Gulf Porpoise

Galapagos fur seal

These are the smallest of all fur seals but have the longest nursing period of all.

Galapagos penguin

When on land, Galapagos penguins hold their flippers out to maximise heat loss and to shade their feet from getting sunburnt.

Ganges river dolphin

The Ganges river dolphin is completely blind, but hunts for prey using echolocation. They frequently swim on their sides, returning to the upright position when surfacing for air.

Garden spider, cross spider

The garden spider is the best known orb-weaving spider in the UK.


This fearsome bird is thought to be one of the descendants of the dinosaurs.

Gelada baboon

Geladas are not actually true baboons and differ by having nostrils that are a further distance from the tip of the muzzle than other baboons.


An elegant horse-like antelope, found in Africa.

Gentoo penguin

Gentoos are the fastest underwater swimming bird, reaching speeds of 36 km/h (22.3 mph).


Genyornis and its relatives have been nick-named the 'demon ducks'.

Geoffroy's black-and-white colobus

Colobus monkeys have vestigial or absent thumbs and have complex stomachs to help them adapt to a vegetarian diet.

Geoffroy's cat

Although most Geoffroy's cats are spotted, some individuals are completely black.

Geoffroy's tufted-eared marmoset, white-fronted marmoset

Like many species of monkey, Geoffroy's tufted-eared marmosets are gregarious.


A gazelle with very long legs and a long neck, which stands on its hind legs to feed from trees on the African savannah.

Gervais' beaked whale

The first recorded Gervais' beaked whale was found floating in the English Channel in the 1840s.

Giant ant

As their name suggests, these ants were huge. Working as a team, they devoured everything in their path.

Giant anteater

The largest anteater, and one of the strangest-looking animals on Earth, the giant anteater is an ant and termite specialist with an amazingly long tongue and powerful claws.

Giant cuttlefish

The Australian giant cuttlefish is the largest of the world's 100 or so species of cuttlefish.

Giant ground sloth

The most spectacular of the four North American ground sloths. This huge animal weighed as much as a mammoth, could rear up as high as a giraffe and had claws the size of a man's forearm

Giant ichneumon fly/wasp, sabre wasp

This parasitic species is the largest ichneumon fly in Britain and one of the largest in Europe.

Giant panda

Despite being one of the most popular of all animals, the giant panda is rare and elusive. Famous for their love of bamboo, little else is known about their behaviour in the wild and their breeding success in captivity is poor.

Giant pangolin

A strange-looking creature likened to a living pinecone, with a long prehensile tail.

Giant short-faced bear

The giant short-faced bear was the biggest bear ever to have lived. Standing a 1.5 metres at the shoulder and equipped with powerful jaws, this bear would have been an intimidating sight.

Gilbert's potoroo

The only known area where Gilbert's potoroos live today is on the South Coast of Western Australia.

Ginkgo-toothed beaked whale

The teeth of this whale are shaped like the leaf of a ginkgo tree and are around 10cm wide.


A tall-tree specialist with very long legs and a long neck. The coat is tan with brown patches, and the males use their bony horns and necks for fighting.


The glyptodonts were quite unlike any other animal to roam the planet. Growing to the size of a small car and weighing over 1000kg they were covered in an impenetrable armour up to 5cm thick.


This extinct species is one of the earliest known primates.

Golden eagle

The golden eagle is one of the most magnificent birds of prey in the UK.

Golden jackal, common jackal

Jackals will often follow lions and other big cats to scavenge their kills.

Golden langur, golden leaf monkey

Langurs are also known as leaf monkeys due to their vegetarian diet. They also have large and complex stomachs to help them digest cellulose.


The collective noun for this species is 'a charm of goldfinches'.

Goose barnacle

This odd-looking crustacean is normally found in quite deep water, but occasionally they can be found on debris that has become dislodged from the sea bed and has washed up on the shore.


Goshawks are present in increasing numbers in Britain — probably over 300 pairs — and the majority are probably related to birds released by falconers. They were originally called 'goose hawks', probably due to their size and finely-barred plumage.

Grant's gazelle

A large and heavily built gazelle living in arid areas of east Africa.

Grant's golden mole

A member of the ancient, native group of African mammals and not related to European moles, the golden moles are solitary, blind burrowers with shiny pale brown fur. Grant's golden mole particularly specialises in eating termites.

Grass snake, ringed snake

Grass snakes are one of the few animals that play dead as a defence against predators.

Gray's beaked whale, southern beaked whale

As with most beaked whales, little is know about this species, and it is rarely seen.

Grayling butterfly

The grayling is a common heathland butterfly.

Great crested newt, Northern crested newt, warty newt

Great crested newts are Britain's largest newt species. Although now afforded some legal protection in the UK, populations have declined over recent years as a result of the destruction and fragmentation of their habitat.

Great hammerhead shark

The bizarre shape of the head is thought to make the shark more sensitive to electrical signals, which they use to detect hidden prey.

Great pond snail

The shell of a great pond snail can grow up to 60mm high.

Great sperm whale

The star of Moby Dick, great sperm whales hold many records, including deepest diving mammal, largest toothed whale and biggest brain.

Great spotted woodpecker

Great spotted woodpeckers are the most widespread and numerous woodpecker in the UK.

Great tit

Great tits are distinguished from blue tits by their larger size and black cap.

Great white shark, death shark, man-eater, tommy, uptail, white death, white pointer

Despite being top of the list of man-eaters, great whites are actually far more at danger from us than the other way around.

Greater bamboo lemur, broad-nosed gentle lemur

Like pandas, most of their diet consists of bamboo.

Greater bilby, dalgyte, rabbit-eared bandicoot, ninu, walpajirri.

Greater bilbies are small marsupials that inhabit arid areas of West and Central Australia.

Greater horseshoe bat

Horseshoe bats have a horseshoe-shaped fleshy structure called a nose-leaf surrounding the nose, which amplifies the ultrasonic calls that the bat emits when searching for food.

Greater kudu

One of the largest antelopes, the greater kudu is a rich brown colour with white stripes. Males have spiral horns over a metre long and a beard under the chin.

Green turtle

Green turtles are one of the most widespread species of marine turtle, found in tropical and subtropical waters throughout the globe.


Although native to Eurasia, greenfinches have been introduced to parts of South America and Australasia.

Grey fox, tree fox

These foxes are unusual in that they live in pairs rather than in a pack.

Grey heron

These large and striking birds can be spotted standing motionless at the water's edge, waiting patiently for prey.

Grey long-eared bat

As their name suggests, long-eared bats have strikingly large ears, which are three quarters the length of the head and body. When resting, the ears are folded and held backwards.

Grey mouse lemur

Grey mouse lemurs store fat in their tails, and although they become less active in the winter, they do not hibernate.

Grey seal

Half of the world's population of grey seals are found on and around British coasts, and numbers here have doubled since 1960.

Grey squirrel

Grey squirrels are an alien species and were introduced to the UK from the USA in the late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century. Their success has been to the detriment of our native red squirrels.

Grey whale

The grey whale is the only member of its family. It is perhaps an intermediate between the rorquals and the right whales.

Grey wolf

Grey wolves had the largest natural distribution of any mammal except human beings. Sadly, they can no longer claim this record as they have been lost from much of their former range.

Guatemalan howler monkey

Howler monkeys are the largest New World monkeys. They howl extremely loudly to advertise their presence in their territory.

Guinea baboon

This is the smallest of all the baboons.

Gulf porpoise, vaquita, cochito

As well as having one of the smallest distributions of all marine cetaceans, they are also one of the smallest in size.

H: Haast's Eagle to Hyaenodon

Haast's eagle, New Zealand giant eagle

Haast's eagle was the largest eagle ever to have lived and is the only eagle in the world ever to have been top predator of its ecosystem.

Hamadryas baboon, sacred baboon

The ancient Egyptians considered hamadryas baboons to be the sacred attendants of Thoth, the scribe to the gods.

Hanuman langur, common langur, grey langur, entellus langur, true langur

These langurs are named after the Hindu monkey-god Hanuman and are the sacred monkey of India.

Harbour porpoise, common porpoise

Due to the noise they make when they spout, harbour porpoises are also known as 'puffing pigs'.

Harp seal

These seals are named after the harp-shaped markings on their back.

Harvest mouse

Harvest mice are the smallest British rodent. They are the only Old World mammals to have truly prehensile tails.

Hawksbill turtle

A small, tropical marine turtle with a very attractive shiny shell, often used ornamentally as 'tortoiseshell'.

Heaviside's dolphin, Benguela

These rare dolphins feed on bottom-dwelling fish and squid.

Hector's beaked whale, skew-beaked whale

Hector's beaked whales are one of the smallest of the beaked whale family.

Hector's dolphin, little pied dolphin, Maui's dolphin

Hector's dolphins are the world's smallest and rarest dolphins.

Hen harrier, northern harrier

A harrier's face feathers are arranged into a disk. This helps the raptor to listen out for prey as the feathers form a groove, which direct sound waves to the ear opening.


These large African mammals spend most of their life in water — including when giving birth, suckling young and mating.

Hoary fox, hoary zorro

Little is known about these South American foxes.


These birds of prey are intermediate in size and strength between peregrine falcons and merlins.

Holly blue butterfly

The caterpillars of this small blue butterfly feed on holly and ivy.

Honey bee

Honey bees have been introduced to nearly all parts of the world by humans. It is thought that the species originated in India. Mellifera means 'honey bearing'.

Honey buzzard

Unlike most UK birds of prey, honey buzzards have adapted to a diet of insects and their larvae.

Honey possum

A tiny marsupial, the only survivor of an ancient group, which lives only on nectar and pollen and hold a number of extraordinary records amongst mammals: the smallest newborns, the largest testes in proportion to body size, and the largest sperm.

Hooded seal

An arctic seal in which males have a bizarre inflatable 'hood' on their heads and can also inflate their nasal cavity out through their nostrils like a red balloon.

Hourglass, Wilson's dolphin

Named after their unusual markings, hourglass dolphins are rarely seen.

House martin

House martins are a familiar sight in villages and towns, building their cup-shaped nests on the side of buildings.

House mouse

House mice originated in Asia but have since spread throughout the world. Along with brown rats, they are considered to be the most widespread terrestrial mammal other than humans.

House sparrow

House sparrows are decreasing alarmingly in Britain, with 64 per cent lost in the last 25 years.

House spider

This species of spider is found in houses all over the world.

Hubb's beaked whale, arch-beaked whale

As with most beaked whales, little is known about this species and it is rarely seen.

Humboldt penguin

The population of Humboldt penguins is thought to be declining. One of the reasons is due to El Niqo increasing water temperatures and reducing food supply.

Hummingbird hawk-moth

The moth is named after its resemblance to a hummingbird, with its rapid hovering motion as it feeds on the nectar of flowers.

Humpback whale

Humpbacks are renowned for their extraordinary and complex songs. These songs can last for hours and are specific to different populations.


This is the largest member of a group of very successful and intimidating predators.

I: Impala to Irrawaddy


A grazing antelope from Africa which lives in single-sex herds. The males have impressive lyre-shaped horns.

Indian fox, Bengal fox

Despite living in pairs, Indian foxes tend to hunt alone.

Indo-Pacific beaked whale, Longman's beaked whale

Most of the information on these whales has been determined from only two skulls.

Indo-Pacific hump-backed dolphin

Populations of these dolphins found in the west have a hump that the dorsal fin sits on. Those in the east lack a hump and can sometimes get confused with bottlenose dolphins. Their unusual coloration makes them easy to spot.


Madagascans know the Indri as the babakoto, which means man of the forest or little father. They produce a loud territorial call in the morning, which can travel for over 1km. They are the largest of the lemurs and are easily identifiable by their stumpy tail.


These extinct relatives of the rhino were the largest land mammals ever.

Indus river dolphin

As with most river dolphins, this species is highly endangered.

Iriomote cat

Only recently discovered, these cats have one of the most restricted distribution of all cats, and there are possibly only sixty left.

Irrawaddy, snubfin dolphin

In Vietnam, these dolphins are seen as sacred, and fisherman will release trapped individuals from their nets. They have also been known to drive fish into nets, although this is possibly accidental.

J: Jaguar to Jungle Cat


The largest cat of the Americas, the jaguar is a formidable beast. The Yanomami Indians call it the 'Eater of Souls', due to the belief that it consumes the spirits of the dead.

Jaguarundi, otter cat, eyra cat

With its long, slender body and short legs, the jaguarundi looks more like a weasel or otter than a member of the cat family.

Japanese macaque

As well as being the most northerly-living non-human primate, Japanese macaques are also famous for washing their food. They are often the subject of Buddhist myths and are thought to be the inspiration behind the saying "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil."

Jungle cat, swamp cat, reed cat

Possibly the only cat that barks, male jungle cats will also defend their kittens.

K: Kestral to Kodkod


Despite the fact that kestrels have declined in Britain in the last few years, they are still the commonest bird of prey in Europe. Their habit of hovering, particularly near motorways, mean that they are also one of the easiest to spot.

King penguin

While one king penguin parent is guarding the chick, the other parent makes a trip of up to 400km (250 miles) in search of food.

Kirk's dik dik

Kirk's dik diks are shy elusive creatures, who pair for life and maintain family territories. Their distinctive zig-zag path of escape and 'dik-dik' call of alarm have earnt them their name.

Kirk's red colobus

Kirk's red colobus is sometimes considered to be a subspecies of Pennant's red colobus, which would make its scientific name Procolobus pennantii kirkii.

Kit fox

These are the smallest of the American foxes and are not much larger than a domestic cat.


Koalas are Australia's national emblem. They are not bears but belong to a genus all of their own.

Kodkod, Chilean cat

Kodkods are particularly at risk of habitat loss as they have a restricted distribution.

L: L'Hoest's Monkey to Long-Tailed Pangolin

L'Hoest's monkey

A guenon monkey living in small female-dominated groups with only a single male.

La Plata dolphin, Franciscana

Little is known about these river dolphins, although they are frequently caught up and killed in fishing nets.

Ladybird spider

Mature males of this species have similar markings to a ladybird.

Leatherback turtle

The largest turtle with no hard shell, which can survive in cool waters and dive deep in search of jellyfish and other food.

Leisler's bat, lesser noctule

Leisler's bats were formerly known as hairy-armed bats, due to the long hair around the back and shoulders.


Leopards are one of the prize sightings on a safari. Stealthy and elusive, they are also surprisingly well camouflaged. The twitch of a tail may be the only give-away to a leopard resting in the branches of a tree.

Leopard cat

Although considerably smaller than their namesakes, leopard cats are equally secretive and elusive.

Leopard seal

Leopard seals are named after their spotty coat, but they live up to their name and are fearsome hunters. Filling the niche that polar bears hold in the Arctic, they are the top predators of Antarctic waters.


This extinct species of mammal lived alongside the dinosaurs but died out when the tropical forests opened up.

Lesser bamboo lemur, grey gentle lemur

The small, tawny-coloured bandro lives exclusively in the reed and papyrus beds on Lake Alaotra, Madagascar.

Lesser Egyptian jerboa, desert jerboa

A small, jumping mouse-like rodent with very large hind legs and a long tail. It spends the day in a burrow in the desert and comes out at night in search of seeds and plants.

Lesser horseshoe bat

Horseshoe bats have a horseshoe-shaped fleshy structure called a nose-leaf surrounding the nose, which amplifies the ultrasonic calls that the bat emits when searching for food.

Lesser kudu

A shy reddish-brown antelope with distinctive white stripes and large ears. The males have impressive spiral horns.

Lesser sperm whale, pygmy sperm whale

Smaller than its giant relative, lesser sperm whales are thought to have developed an unusual method of escaping predators. They are believed to produce a thick red/brown fluid when startled, which allows them to escape as the predator tries to see its way through the dense liquid. Squid use ink in the same way.


Lions are unique in that they are the only cats to live in groups (prides). The male lion is also the only cat to have a mane, giving it a regal appearance that has earned it the title of 'king of the beasts'.

Lion-tailed macaque, wanderoo

As well as having a tail like a lion's, this species also has a mane. They are also known as wanderoos.

Little brown bat

Little brown bats are just as their name suggests. These long-lived bats are abundant across most of North America, their numbers having grown with the increased availability of suitable roosting sites, such as attics and mines, provided by the ever-growing human population.

Little owl

Little owls are the smallest British owl and are closely related to the American burrowing owl. They are an introduced species to the UK but have been established for more than 100 years.

Little penguin, fairy penguin, little blue penguin

These Australasian penguins are the smallest of the family.

Little spotted cat, oncilla, little tiger cat

As little is known about this cat, it is difficult to know what threats they face, but their numbers have suffered at the hands of the fur trade.

Long-beaked echidna, long-nosed echidna, long-nosed spiny anteater, New Guinea long-nosed echidna

Along with platypuses, echidnas are the only egg-laying mammals.

Long-eared owl

The large ear tufts are not actually ears, they are simply feathers and have no connection with hearing.

Long-finned pilot whale

Due to their strong family ties, long-finned pilot whales often strand themselves in large numbers. When one animal strands the rest of the pod follows.

Long-jawed orb weaver

Long-jawed orb-weavers are able to walk across the surface of water. In fact, they are much faster on water than they are on land.

Long-tailed macaque, crab-eating monkey, Java monkey, cynomolgus monkey

Long-tailed macaques are among the most commonly used laboratory animal, second only to the rhesus monkey. They were used extensively in studies leading to the development of the polio vaccine.

Long-tailed pangolin

The long-tailed pangolin is completely arboreal, spending the day in hollow trees and seeking ant nests by scent at night.

M: Macaroni Penguin to Mute Swan

Macaroni penguin

Macaronis can be confused with royal penguins, as both have black-and-yellow crests on their head. One way to spot the difference is that macaronis have black chins and royals have white chins.


Although this animal looked like it should be a member of the camel family, it was actually related to a group of animals that no longer exists.

Magellanic penguin

In 1620, Admiral Beaulieu considered penguins to be feathered fish, due to their adaptations to life underwater.

Malayan colugo

A little-known forest-living animal that has a huge gliding membrane and makes spectacular leaps from tree to tree in the Asian rainforests.


Mallards are the most familiar of all ducks and are the ancestor of the domestic duck.


Mandrills are the most colourful mammals in the world. The skin colours brighten as the animal gets more excited.

Maned wolf

With their unusually long legs, this species has been described as looking like a red fox on stilts.

Manx shearwater

These seabirds glide along the troughs of waves and nest in burrows.


A rodent that looks a bit like a small deer with long ears and lives on the plains and scrubland of Argentina. Males and females form long-term pair bonds, but the young form creches.

Marbled cat

Little is known about these nocturnal cats, although they are thought to be territorial.

Margay, tree ocelot

Margays are excellent climbers and spend more time in the trees than on the ground.

Marsh harrier

Harriers are slow fliers and have the ability to remain airborne at speeds of less than 32 km/h (20 mph). Flying at such slow speeds makes it easier for them to detect prey.

Matschie's tree kangaroo

Matschie's tree kangaroos are found exclusively in the Huon Peninsula of Papua New Guinea and the nearby island of Umboi, where they were probably introduced by humans.

Meadow brown butterfly

Meadow browns are common almost everywhere in the UK and are found in fields, roadsides and woodland margins.

Mediterranean monk seal

There are three species of monk seal. The Hawaiian species is endangered, the Mediterranean species is critically endangered, but sadly it is too late for the Caribbean species, which has become extinct.

Meerkat, suricate

These social mongooses spend a lot of their time on guard, looking out for predators.

Megalania, giant ripper lizard

When the first people reached Australia, they encountered the largest lizard that had ever lived.

Megaloceros, Irish elk, Giant deer

Megaloceros is often confusingly called the Irish Elk, although it was found all across Europe, not just Ireland, and is technically a deer rather than an elk.


Weighing almost a much as an elephant, Megatherium must have been one of the most impressive animals to walk the Earth.

Melon-headed whale

These bizarre-looking dolphins tend to remain in deep water and rarely swim close to the land.

Merlin, pigeon hawk

Merlins are the smallest European raptors.

Mexican free-tailed bat, Brazilian free-tailed bat

A bat species that forms vast colonies, migrating from Mexico to Texas to breed. The large numbers of bats consume an enormous number of insects, many of them pest species, above agricultural land.

Middle Island tusked weta

Wetas are living fossils, showing little or no change in body shape for millions of years.

Minke whale, lesser rorqual

The smallest of the rorqual family, minke whales are currently the only whales still openly being commercially hunted.


Dinornis giganteus was one of the largest of the moa — flightless birds related to the ostriches and emus. It became extinct when people discovered and colonised New Zealand in the 13th century.

Modern humans, Cro Magnon

Modern humans were first discovered in Europe 40,000 years ago.


Although a member of the elephant family, this species adopted a lifestyle closer to that of hippos.

Mona monkey

There is an introduced population of mona monkeys on the island of Grenada in the Caribbean.

Montagu's harrier

Montagu's harriers are scarce summer visitors to southern Britain.

Moose, elk

The largest deer living a solitary life browsing in northern forests. A fast runner and good swimmer. The males have very large palmate antlers.

Mothercare spider

Mothercare spiders are one of the few spiders that look after their young after they hatch.

Mountain cat, Andean cat

Mountain cats have possibly specialised to hunt chinchillas, which have been hunted by humans to low numbers.

Mountain hare

This species is also known as the blue hare due to one of its summer colour forms.

Mountain pygmy possum

An unusual marsupial that was first described as a fossil species, then discovered to be still alive and living at the top of mountains in Australia.

Mountain ringlet butterfly

This species is rare in the UK and is restricted to mountainous areas.


Muskoxen are truly Arctic animals, well adapted to their extreme environment with a superbly insulated, long, thick coat of dark brown hair and woolly undercoat.

Mute swan

Mute swans are one of Britain's largest and heaviest birds.

N: Naked Mole-Rat to Nuthatch

Naked mole-rat

A rodent which lives in colonies underground, digging with its enlarged front teeth. Only one female in a colony breed, and her offspring become workers or soldiers, helping dig the burrows in search of tubers underground.


The narwhal's washed up horn found on beaches were thought to have given rise to the myth of unicorns.

Nathusius's pipistrelle

Nathusius's pipistrelles are similar in appearance to common pipistrelles, but they are slightly larger with longer fur.

Natterer's bat

Natterer's bats have pinkish limbs, giving rise to its old name of 'red-armed bat'.

Natterjack toad

Natterjacks are claimed to be Europe's noisiest amphibian, the call of the male being audible over several kilometres.


Debate still rages over the relationship between Neanderthals and modern day humans.

New Guinea singing dog

They are named after their unique howls, which have been described as sounding like bird calls or whale songs. They emit a number of other vocalisations, including yelps, barks, screams and whines.

New Zealand sea lion

An endangered species of sea lion, which lives around the coasts of New Zealand and its surrounding islands.

New Zealand short-tailed bat

One of the two native mammals of New Zealand (both bats), this bat has evolved to be able to forage for invertebrates on the ground, as well as in the air.

Night parrot, spinifex parrot, porcupine parrot

The night parrot is one of Australia's most intriguing birds and possibly its least known.

Nine-banded armadillo, common long-nosed armadillo

One of the more common armadillos which digs for ants and other invertebrates with its strong limbs and claws. It always gives birth to identical quadruplets.

Noctule bat

Along with serotine bats, noctules are one of the largest British species and are one of the first to emerge in the evening.

North American beaver, Canadian beaver

A large, herbivorous rodent adapted for swimming with webbed feet and a scaly, paddle-like tail. It lives in family groups and alters the flow of water in its range by digging canals and building dams.

North American pika

A small member of the rabbit family with short legs and soft, silky fur. North American pikas have individual territories on the rocky mountains of North America and spend much of the summer gathering hay for the winter.

Northern bottlenose whale, bottlehead

One of the most curious of beaked whales, this species will often approach boats, making them easy to study, and in the past, easy to hunt.

Northern elephant seal

Male northern elephant seals are the second largest of all the pinnipeds (after the southern elephant seal). They were once at risk of becoming extinct, but happily their numbers are now much healthier.

Northern fur seal

Seals, sea lions, fur seals and walruses are all classed as pinnipeds. The name is derived from the Latin for flap-footed, and these marine mammals are thought to have derived from bear-like ancestors that entered the sea millions of years ago.

Northern right whale

Right whales are named as such because whalers considered them the right whales to hunt.

Northern right whale dolphin

These dolphins have been spotted in pods as large as 3,000. Like their namesake, the right whale, they lack a dorsal fin.


The only marsupial ant- or termite-eater, and the only marsupial to be active fully during the day. Numbats are very distinctive because of their black-and-white rump stripes and facial markings.

Nursery web spider

In June and July, female nursery web spiders can be seen carrying their egg sacs in their jaws.


This is the only species of nuthatch in the UK. Unlike woodpeckers and treecreepers, they descend tree trunks headfirst.

O: Oceanic Whitetip Shark to Oystercatcher

Oceanic whitetip shark

Oceanic whitetips are easily distinguished by their large, rounded fins, which are mottled on the edges with white.


The ocelot's attractive coat once made it a prime target of the fur trade.


A solitary, forest-living member of the giraffe family with a dark velvety coat, white stripes on its rump and legs, and large ears.

Olive baboon

Olive baboons live in a matriarchal society.

Olive colobus

A brindled colobus monkey, in which the females have the unusual habit of carrying their young in their mouth.

Olive ridley turtle, Pacific ridley turtle

Once, huge flotillas of this species would arrive at sandy beaches to nest, but human influence on their habitat has changed that.

Orca, killer whale

Orcas are one of the fastest animals in the sea. The record holder is a male timed at 55.5 km/h (34.5 mph). They are also one of the most widespread mammals on Earth.

Osprey, fish hawk

Unlike most UK birds of prey, ospreys have adapted to a diet of fish.


Ostriches do not need to drink — they can make their own water internally and get the rest from vegetation.


A black-and-white wading bird with a long, bright-red bill, which it uses to break into shellfish, each individual inheriting a particular technique from its parents.

P: Pacific White-Sided Dolphin to Pyrenean Desman

Pacific white-sided dolphin

This species is common in the North Pacific ocean.

Pale fox

These small African foxes are poorly known.

Pale-throated three-toed sloth

A slow-moving animal that hangs upside-down from tree branches in the forests of South America, eating leaves.

Pallas cat, manul

These Asian cats have adapted to a life at high altitudes, with thick fur and low-set ears to protect against the cold.

Palmate newt

It is said that the name 'palmate' newt is derived from of the appearance of the newt's feet, the skin between its toes looking like the palm of a hand.

Pampas Cat, Chilean pampas cat, grass cat

Little is known about these small South American cats, and the subspecies vary considerably from each other.

Patas monkey

Patas monkeys are quadrupedal and are considered to be the fastest primate, running at speeds of 55km/hr.

Peacock butterfly

These butterflies get their name from the large and colourful eyespots on their wings, which resemble those on the tail of the peacock.

Peale's dolphin, blackchin dolphin

This little-known species inhabits the waters around the southern tip of South America.

Peregrine falcon

Peregrines are the fastest animals in the world. They are believed to achieve speeds approaching 200km/h (124mph) when plunging from the sky after prey. One has been logged by radar at 183km/h (114mph) after a dive of 305m (1,000ft).

Perentie, gigantic lace lizard, giant monitor

The perentie is the largest Australian monitor lizard, growing to 2.5 metres in length.

Philippine colugo

A little known forest-living animal which has a huge gliding membrane and makes spectacular leaps from tree to tree in the Philippine rainforests.


This species belonged to a group called the terror birds.

Pig-tailed macaque

Semi-tamed pig-tailed macaques have been trained by locals to climb trees and throw down coconuts. This species is currently in demand for HIV research.

Pine marten, baum marten, sweet marten

Pine martens were once considered to be vermin and were persecuted throughout the 17th century. They were trapped for their fur and because of attacks on game birds and chickens. By the early 1900s, the pine marten was extinct throughout much of Britain.

Plains zebra

The most familiar of the striped members of the horse family, living in harems on the grasslands of Africa.


When the first platypus was shipped to Britain from Australia, people thought it was a joke, due to the animal's bizarre appearance — they thought someone had sewn a duck's bill to a mammal's body. Even when it was accepted to be real, people thought it was a bird or a reptile due its to egg-laying abilities.

Polar bear

The polar bear is the largest land carnivore and has a reputation as the only animal that actively hunts humans.

Polynesian rat, Pacific rat, Maori rat, kiore

The Polynesian rat is known as the Kiore in New Zealand, where it is an important cultural animal to the Maori people.

Pond skater, common water-strider

Pond skaters float on the surface of water, sensing vibrations and ripples with the sensitive hairs on their legs and bodies.

Proboscis monkey, long-nosed monkey

Proboscis monkeys have the longest noses of all primates. In elderly animals, it can reach 17.5cm (a quarter of the body length) Although its function is not known for sure, it is likely to be a visual signal used in mate choice. The male vocalises through the nose with a kee honk sound.


The only surviving species of a North American family resembling African gazelles, the pronghorn is a very fast runner with huge amounts of stamina and a curiosity that almost led to its extinction.


Propalaeotherium was one of the earliest horses and certainly one of the best known.

Puma, cougar, mountain lion, Florida panther, red tiger

They are the most widespread of the American cats and have the largest distribution of any western hemisphere mammal. They also hold the record as the mammal with the most names.

Purple emperor butterfly

This large, brown butterfly has iridescent wings that shine blue or purple in the light.

Pygmy killer whale, slender blackfish

These are possibly the most aggressive of cetaceans. Pygmy killer whales caught and housed in dolphinariums have been known to attack humans and other dolphins.

Pygmy marmoset

Pygmy marmosets are the smallest marmosets and one of the smallest of all primates.

Pygmy mouse lemur, western rufous lemur

Pygmy mouse lemurs are the world's smallest primate.

Pygmy right whale

Right whales are named as such because whalers considered them the right whales to hunt.

Pygmy shrew, lesser shrew

British shrews are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and it is an offence to kill them without a special licence.

Pyrenean desman

The Pyrenean desman is a relative of the mole and is a strong swimmer, catching insect larvae and shrimps by using its extremely sensitive nose.

R: Raccoon Dog to Rusty-Spotted Cat

Raccoon dog

Despite being hunted in their thousands, a small island in Japan has been designated a protected area for raccoon dogs.

Rainbow lorikeet

In Australia, these common and brightly-coloured parrots can cause damage in orchards and vineyards.

Red admiral butterfly

A very attractive red and black butterfly that is a common visitor to garden flowers.

Red deer, wapiti, elk

Red deer are the largest land mammals in Britain.

Red fox

Red foxes have become the most widespread dogs in the wild, having overtaken grey wolves to the top spot. They are often included in folklore, with a reputation for being sly and cunning.

Red howler

A monkey renowned for its loud call, which the males make to tell other groups where the troop is currently feeding. This helps them save energy by avoiding having to patrol a territory and conflicting with neighbours.

Red kangaroo

The largest marsupial, the red kangaroo is probably one of the best known of Australia's native animals, living in small groups in the dry central areas.

Red kite

In Medieval Britain, red kites were common scavengers of the streets of London. Sadly, they were all but eradicated after being labelled as vermin.

Red panda, lesser panda

Red pandas look more like raccoons than their closest relative — the giant panda. They are secretive and gentle creatures, spending most of the day sleeping curled up with their tail wrapped around their head.

Red squirrel

Until the arrival of the grey squirrel into the UK, this species was the only European species. Sadly, it has been out-competed by the grey and has been lost from much of its former range in the UK.

Red wolf

The red wolf has a much smaller distribution that its grey counterpart. There may be only 100 left in the wild, and they are critically endangered.

Red-backed squirrel monkey, black crowned Central American squirrel monkey,

There are two species of squirrel monkey (the other being the common squirrel monkey), and they are the commonest primates in the forests of Central America.

Red-bellied tamarin, white-lipped tamarin

As with most marmosets and tamarins, the male helps the female to rear the young. This is probably because both parents are needed to carry the young.

Red-tailed black cockatoo

The red-tailed black cockatoo can be found in flocks of over 1000.

Red-tailed guenon, coppertail monkey

There are about 20 species of guenons, and they are all found in Africa.

Reeves' Muntjac deer, Chinese muntjac, barking deer

Muntjac deer were introduced to Woburn Park, Bedfordshire, in the early 20th Century. Since then many escapees have reproduced and expanded their populations outwards. Muntjacs were also introduced to parks in Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire.


A large deer adapted for arctic conditions that lives in huge herds. Now greatly reduced in numbers, and most herds are domesticated. Both males and females have antlers.

Rhesus monkey

They have given their name to the rhesus antigens found in their blood in 1940, which has enabled doctors to determine different blood groups in humans. Rhesus monkeys were also the first primates to be rocketed into space.

Ring-tailed coati

An omnivorous member of the raccoon family with a long mobile snout, reddish fur and ringed tail. Females live in highly social groups whilst males are solitary.

Ring-tailed lemur

Ring-tailed lemurs are the most easily recognisable species of lemur as they are the only species to have a ringed tail and are commonly found in zoos.

Ringed seal

Ringed seals are small seals living in the northern hemisphere. They are especially adapted to live and breed in the arctic ice, building ice caves above their breathing holes to protect the pups from predators such as polar bears.

Risso's dolphin

Risso's dolphins are easily identifiable by their scarred skin. This is caused by other Risso's dolphins who use their front teeth when playing and fighting.

Rockhopper penguin

Rockhoppers use species specific mating calls called 'ecstatic vocalisation' to attract their mate from previous years.

Roe deer

Roe deer became extinct in most of England during the 18th century, but they were reintroduced in the 19th century. Before 1960 they were treated as vermin due to the damage they cause to the forestry industry.

Rough-toothed dolphin, slopehead

Rough-toothed dolphins can be mistaken for bottlenoses, although they do not have such prominent beaks. They are sometimes seen with bottlenose dolphins, spinner dolphins, spotted dolphins and pilot whales.

Royal penguin

Royal penguins can be confused with macaroni penguins, as both have black-and-yellow crests on their head. One way to spot the difference is that macaronis have black chins and royals have white chins.

Ruffed lemur

These striking lemurs inhabit the rainforests of Madagascar.

Rufous elephant shrew, East African long-eared elephant shrew

A small, mouse-like animal (although unrelated to rodents) with an extremely mobile nose and the habit of clearing paths through its territory in order to escape from predators at high speed.

Rusty-spotted cat

Weighing a maximum of only 1.6kg, the rusty-spotted cat is the smallest member of the cat family.

S: Sabre-Tooth Cat to Swallowtail Butterfly

Sabre-tooth cat

One of the best known of all the extinct ice age animals, the powerfully built sabre-tooth cat was equipped with lethal knife-like canine teeth. The sabre-tooth used these to inflict fatal wounds on mammalian prey such as bison and sheep.

Saddle-back tamarin

A tamarin monkey with very variable colour over its range, living in family groups where only one female breeds and the rest of the group helps rear the twins.


The saiga is a weird-looking antelope, equipped with a large proboscis-like nose, that inhabits open semi-deserts in parts of Asia.

Sand cat, sand dune cat

Like some other desert animals, sand cats are capable of surviving without drinking — they obtain all the water they need through their food.

Sand fox, Rueppell's fox,

These small foxes emit a loud "wow" call, ending in two yaps. They have been hunted indiscriminantly as vermin over the last 100 years.

Sand lizard

Male sand lizards fight vigorously for females. They grab the neck of their opponent with their jaws and then roll over and over each other, until one, usually the smaller lizard, retreats.

Sand tiger, grey nurse shark, ragged-tooth shark

Their fearsome-looking teeth are an adaptation to gripping fish and other slippery prey.

Savannah elephant

African elephants are the largest living land mammals. As well as being physically striking, they have remarkably complex and interesting social lives.

Scimitar-horned oryx, Sahara oryx

Once numerous around the Sahara desert, this pale horse-like antelope with a reddish chest and curved horns was nearly hunted to extinction.

Sea otter

The sea otter is one of the largest otter species and rarely comes ashore, living its life in the kelp forests off the west coast of America, Alaska and Russia. It lies on its back and uses stones as a tool for dislodging and cracking molluscs.

Sei whale

The sei whale's streamlined shape makes it a very fast swimmer, reaching speeds of 50 km/h (26 mph).

Senegal bush baby

A nocturnal primate with thick, soft fur and long hind legs and tail that help it jump from branch to branch in search of insects, fruit and gum.

Serotine bat

Serotine bats are one of the largest British species and are one of the first to emerge in the evening.


These long-legged cats are capable of making very impressive leaps into the air when hunting birds.

Seven-spot ladybird

The ladybird's bright colours are a warning to predators of its foul taste. When disturbed the ladybird will secrete small amounts of its oily foul-smelling yellow blood from its legs as a further warning to predators, such as ants or birds.

Shasta ground sloth

The extinct Shasta ground sloth was a bizarre looking, cow-sized herbivore, which inhabited the south-western parts of ice age North America.

Shepherd's beaked whale, Tasman whale

Unlike most beaked whales, Shepherd's beaked whales feed on fish and not squid.

Short-beaked echidna, common echidna, spiny anteater

Along with platypuses, echidnas are the only egg-laying mammals.

Short-eared owl

Male short-eared owls use an aerial display that includes wing clapping to alert his presence to females. They may offer food as a bribe to the female.

Short-finned pilot whale

Pilot whales belong to a group of cetaceans known as the 'blackfish', which are actually dolphins. This group includes orcas and melon-headed whales.

Shortfin mako

Shortfin makos are the world's fastest sharks and can leap spectacularly out of the water when in pursuit of prey.


Siamangs are the largest of the gibbons. Unlike other gibbons, they have a membrane that joins the second and third toe on each foot.

Sichuan golden snub-nosed monkey

This species lives in groups of one male to numerous females, but these groups sometimes gather with other groups to form bands of up to 200 individuals.

Side-striped jackal

Jackals will often follow lions and other big cats to scavenge their kills.

Sika deer

Sika deer were introduced to parks in the UK in 1860, but escapees have established themseleves in our countryside.

Silvered langur

Langurs are also known as leaf monkeys due to their vegetarian diet. They also have large and complex stomachs to help them digest cellulose.

Slender loris

This nocturnal primate spends the day curled up in a tight ball. It approaches prey slowly and stealthily, before reaching out and grabbing it with both hands.

Sloth bear

These shaggy-haired bears were originally classed as sloths. When feeding, they can be heard sucking up termites from many miles away.

Slow loris

Slow lorises may not be swift, but they are accomplished climbers and are able to hang from branches by their feet alone.

Slow worm

Slow worms look superficially like snakes, but are actually legless lizards. One way to identify them is that unlike snakes, lizards (and therefore slow worms) have eyelids.

Small skipper butterfly

A small, furry, orange-coloured butterfly with short wings, which are held partially closed when the butterfly is at rest.

Small tortoiseshell butterfly

A small and attractive butterfly often seen in gardens, especially feeding on buddleia.

Small-eared dog, small-eared zorro

The male small-eared fox, though smaller than the female, is dominant. Both the male and the female move with a catlike agility.

Small-scaled tree pangolin

The tree pangolin spends the day in hollow trees or excavated termite nests, seeking ant and termite nests by scent at night.

Smilodon, sabre-tooth cat

The sabre-tooth group is extinct but is closely related to modern cats.

Smooth newt, common newt

A characteristic popping sound often accompanies a smooth newt rising for air.

Smooth snake

Smooth snakes are constrictors — they wrap their coils tightly around their prey and then swallow them live and whole. They are non-venomous and harmless to humans.

Snare's penguin, Snare's crested penguin, Snare's Islands penguin

Snare's penguins generally form lifelong bonds with their mates.

Snow leopard, ounce

One of the most beautiful of the cats, snow leopards are also exceptional athletes capable of making huge leaps over ravines. They can also bring down prey almost three times their own size.

Song thrush

Song thrushes are famous for smashing open the shells of snails on a stone anvil to get to the flesh inside.

Sooty mangabey, white mangabey

A long-tailed relative of the baboons, mangabeys live in mixed groups on the forest floor.

Soprano pipistrelle

Scientists have recently recognised the soprano pipistrelle as a separate species. It can only be reliably told apart from the common pipistrelle by its echolocation call, which is on 55 kHz rather than 45 kHz.

South American fur seal, Southern fur seal

This species is extremely territorial during the breeding season. Males take up territories in November, which they defend rigorously, and are joined two weeks later by females.

South American sea lion, Southern sea lion

Also known as maned seals, males are approximately three times the size of females.

Southern bottlenose whale

Southern bottlenose whales have a wider distribution than their northern relatives.

Southern cassowary, double-wattled cassowary,

Cassowaries are large, flightless birds that are closely related to emus. They share many characteristics with rheas and ostriches too.

Southern flying squirrel

A small, gliding squirrel from North America.

Southern hawker

Dragonflies can be seen on warm still days flying around at high speed catching insects in mid air.

Southern killer whale, southern orca

Orcas are one of the fastest animals in the sea. The record holder is a male timed at 55.5 km/h (34.5 mph). They are also one of the most widespread mammals on Earth.

Southern lesser bush baby, South African galago

Bush babies have a call which sounds like a human child crying, hence their name.

Southern plains woodrat

Southern plains woodrats are little, grey masters of building. They can construct houses over a metre high and thorny enough to deter any would-be predators.

Southern right whale

Right whales are named as such because whalers considered them the right whales to hunt.

Southern right whale dolphin

These common dolphins are sleek and streamlined. They are named after right whales because they both lack dorsal fins.

Southern tamandua

A tree-climbing anteater with golden fur and a long prehensile tail.

Sowerby's beaked whale

This was the first of the beaked whales to be discovered, after an individual was found stranded in Scotland in 1800. English artist John Sowerby described it four years later, hence its name.

Spanish lynx, Iberian lynx, pardel lynx

The Spanish lynx is considered to be the most endangered feline in the world. Hopes are that it will not become the first extinction of a wild cat species for at least 2,000 years.


Sparrowhawks are so-named because of their preference for avian prey, as birds make up about 98 per cent of the sparrowhawk's diet.

Speckled wood butterfly

This brown woodland butterfly does not feed from flowers but can instead be seen feeding on the honeydew secreted by aphids.

Spectacled bear, Andean bear, ucumari

These are the last remaining representatives of the short-faced bears.

Spectacled porpoise

These are one of the largest of the porpoises. They are fast, active swimmers, and they normally avoid boats.

Spectral tarsier, Celebesian tarsier, eastern tarsier, Sulawesi tarsier

Tarsiers are intermediate between lemurs and monkeys. They have the ability to turn their head through 180 degrees.

Spinner dolphin, long-snouted dolphin

Spinner dolphins are renowned for their fantastic acrobatic displays.

Spitting spider

Spitting spiders were possibly introduced from the tropics. They immobilise prey by spitting at it.

Spotted dolphin, bridled dolphin

These tropical dolphins are very active and leap frequently.

Spotted hyena

Hyenas have a bad reputation as cowardly scavengers, but they are actually highly interesting and intelligent animals.

Star-nosed mole

A mole with a bizarre set of tentacles on its nose which are extremely sensitive to touch and electrical impulses, allowing it to find its prey without sight.

Stejneger's beaked whale

As with most beaked whales, little is know about this species and they are rarely seen.

Steller's sea lion, Northern sea lion

These are the largest of the sea lions and will sometimes kill other pinnipeds.

Steppe bison

The steppe bison is portrayed in Ice Age cave paintings.

Stoat, ermine, short-tailed weasel

In winter, the stoat's fur turns completely white, except for the black tip to its tail. During this time, they are called 'ermine'.

Strap-toothed whale, Layard's beaked whale

Male strap-toothed whales have two huge teeth growing out of their bottom jaw. These curl upwards and backwards, sometimes so much so that the whale can't open its beak properly.

Striped dolphin, euphrosyne dolphin

Striped dolphins are active and very acrobatic.

Striped possum

A nocturnal marsupial that uses its elongated fourth finger and large incisors to extract grubs from under tree bark. Like a skunk, it also emits a distinctive odour.

Stump-tailed macaque

This species is also known as the bear macaque.

Sulphur-crested cockatoo

This parrot is popular as a pet, and the capture of adults and chicks is posing a threat to some populations.

Sumatran orangutan

Also known as the red ape, or the 'old man of the forest', orangutans are the largest tree-living mammals. Sumatran orangutans are even more endangered than their Bornean counterparts.

Sun bear, Malay bear, honey bear, dog bear

Despite being the smallest of all the bears, the sun bear is probably the most aggressive and will attack without provocation. Relatively, they also have the largest canines of all the bears, although their diet is less carnivorous than some of their cousins.

Sun-tailed guenon

This species wasn't described until 1988.

Swallowtail butterfly

The swallowtail is Britain's largest butterfly and also one of its most beautiful.

T: Tassel-Eared Marmoset to Two-Spot Ladybird

Tassel-eared marmoset, white-shouldered marmoset

Tassel-eared marmosets emit a cricket-like call. When they feel threatened they raise their eyebrows as a display.

Tawny owl

Tawny owls are the most common and widespread owl in Europe. They are also the owl that emits the characteristic 'twit-twoo' call, although it is actually a duet between the male and the female.

Thick-tailed greater bush baby, greater galago

Thick-tailed greater bush-babies are the largest of the bush babies. Like other bush babies, they makes a call that sounds like a human child crying.

Thomson's gazelle

A common gazelle in Kenya and Tanzania, Thomson's gazelles live in large herds on the grassy plains.

Tibetan sand fox

These foxes are commonly trapped, and their skins are used by Tibetans for hats in some areas.

Tibetan stump-tailed macaque, Tibetan macaque, Pire David's macaque, short-tailed Tibetan macaque

Dominant male Tibetan stump-tailed macaques are reported to have a favourite infant, which they groom. Subordinate males recognise this and carry the favourite infant to the dominant males in order to appease them.


The tiger is the largest of all the cats. Sadly, this magnificent animal has been hunted by humans and has lost much of its habitat. Three of the eight subspecies have already become extinct, and other populations are also at high risk.

Tiger shark

These sharks have been nicknamed the dustbins of the sea, due to their voracious appetite and reputation for eating anything in their path.

Tokay gecko

Tokay geckos are commonly offered as pets — but their fierce bite makes them a potentially painful companion. Most captive tokays have been wild caught.

Tonkean macaque, tonkean black macaque

Tonkean macaques have a reputation for raiding crops.


A grazing antelope with a mahogany-and-black coat that lives in herds on African grasslands. Males form 'leks' where they compete and display to females.

Toque macaque

Like bonnet macaques, this species have a cap-like whorl of hair on their heads.

Tropical dolphin

The tropical dolphin is perhaps the most little-known of all cetaceans.

True's beaked whale

These whales are also known as 'wonderful beaked whales'. They have never positively been identified at sea.


Often referred to as 'living fossils' because they are the only surviving members of the rhynchocephalid reptiles, tuataras are in fact very advanced.

Tube web spider

If you see a tube web you can entice the spider to reveal itself by gently touching the radiating trip-lines with a small stick or piece of grass. This will only work in the evening or at night as the spider is nocturnal.

Tucuxi, estuarine dolphin

These timid, little dolphins are unusual in that they are found in both salt water and fresh water.

Two-spot ladybird

The two-spot ladybird is very common and has very similar habits to the seven-spot ladybird.

V: Verreaux's Sifaka to Virginia Opposum

Verreaux's sifaka

The name sifaka comes from the noisy barking call they make during territorial confrontations.

Virginia opossum

A marsupial that lives in North America and is often seen in urban environments. It 'plays dead' when threatened by predators.

W: Walrus to Wren


Walruses are famous for their tusks and are the only pinnipeds (true seals, sea lions and fur seals) that have them. These can grow up to 1m in length, and males tend to have larger tusks than females.


These yellow and black wasps are social insects and live in underground nests of up to around 10,000 workers.

Wasp spider

It is thought that this species was introduced to this country from continental Europe. Its population was previously confined to the south coast, but it seems to be spreading northwards. It has been recorded in this country since 1922, but it may have been here longer.

Water boatman, common backswimmer

This insect swims upside-down, propelled by two long legs, which paddle like oars, making it look like a rowing boat.

Water chevrotain

A deer-like animal the size of a rabbit and intermediate in their physiology between pigs and deer. Water chevrotains live in dense African rainforest near water and are nocturnal and solitary.

Water shrew

Studies on water shrew have suggested that they may have venomous saliva, which serves to immobilise the prey. Bites to humans produces a burning pain that may last for a few days.

Water spider

This spider builds a silken retreat under water among plants which it fills with air. It is a good swimmer and will catch its aquatic prey and subdue it with its venomous jaws.

Water vole, water rat

Water voles are the largest British vole and are often mistaken for a rat. In fact, Ratty from Kenneth Grahame's 'The Wind in the Willows' was actually a water vole.

Weasel, least weasel

Although they look similar, one way to tell the difference between a stoat and a weasel is that unlike stoats, weasels do not have a black tip to the tail.

Western camel

The western camel was hunted by the ancestors of the Native Americans.

Western gorilla

For years the world's largest primate has been portrayed as a fearsome and aggressive beast. But gorillas are actually gentle giants, who have strong family ties and feed on nothing more sinister than vegetation.

Western horse, western quagga

The western horse inhabited North America during the Ice Age.

Wetapunga, giant weta, Little Barrier Island weta, demon grasshopper

The wetapungas are the world's heaviest insects.

Whale shark

Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world. Fortunately, they are filter feeders and are harmless to humans.

Whiskered bat

Bats' wings are adapted hands, with skin stretching between elongated fingers.

White-beaked dolphin

Like many cetaceans, white-beaked dolphins are threatened by hunting, prey depletion, pollution and entanglement in nets.

White-faced capuchin, white-throated capuchin

A cream and black capuchin monkey living in groups in the forests of Central and South America.

White-handed gibbon, lar gibbon, common gibbon

This species lives in family groups, with one reproducing male and female and their offspring.

White-tailed sea eagle, grey sea eagle

White-tailed sea eagles are the fourth largest eagles in the world.

Wild boar

The wild boar, the ancestor to our domestic pigs, is a large pig species covered in dark bristly hairs. It is a widespread species, common in broadleaf forests across much of Europe, Asia and North Africa.


The wildcat is the UK's only native feline species and is also one of the ancestors of our pet cats.

Wolf spider

Wolf spiders are often seen in large numbers, and it was once thought that they hunted in packs — which is why they are named after the predatory wolf.

Wood mouse, long-tailed field mouse

Wood mice are one of the most common European small mammals.

Wood pigeon, ring dove

Wood pigeon chicks are fed on crop milk, specially produced by the parents.

Woodlouse spider

This is one of the few species in the UK that can bite humans. Although their venom is not dangerous to us, their bite can be painful due to the strength of their jaws, and some people may have an allergic reaction to the venom. However, they are unlikely to bite.

Woolly mammoth

Mammoths were closely related to modern day elephants.

Woolly opossum

There are three species of woolly opossum. These strange-looking little animals with pointed noses and forward-facing bulging eyes, spend their days climbing through treetops in search of fruit and hanging from their long prehensile tails.

Woolly rhino

The woolly rhino was a member of an ancient group dating back 40 million years, which also includes today's critically endangered Sumatran rhino that also has reddish hair.


Their scientific name 'Troglodytes' means cave-dweller, after their preference for cave-like places. These little birds are nicknamed Jenny Wrens.

Y: Yapok to Yellow-Necked Mouse

Yapok, water opossum

An aquatic marsupial — a member of the opossum family — with black and grey waterproof fur, webbed hind feet and a backward-pointing pouch in both sexes.

Yellow baboon

The resistance of baboons to HIV has led to several experiments in the search for a cure.

Yellow-eyed penguin

Yellow-eyed penguins normally dive to about 35m but sometimes as deep as 100m.

Yellow-footed rock wallaby

The yellow-footed rock wallaby, as its name suggests, is one of the most colourful members of the kangaroo family. Living in rocky terrain, it has developed a way of using its short forelimbs rather like a tight rope performer's pole to balance its acrobat jumps.

Yellow-necked mouse

Although not endangered worldwide, the status of yellow-necked mice in the UK is unclear.

Z: Zebra Spider

Zebra spider

Zebra spiders belong to the family Salticidae (also known as jumping spiders) who are believed to have the best eyesight of any arthropod. If you take a close look at one of these spiders, it will often turn its head to look straight back at you.

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Indigo to the Sea Caftan
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