In this season where everyone seems to be dressing up and wearing masks, we figured it would be a good time to explore the animal kingdom offerings. The reasons animals grow facial markings that look like masks vary by species. Some reasons could be mimicry, like in the case of the Southern Pink Underwing Moth Caterpillars (try saying that five times fast haha). Other reasons could be that having the eye surrounded by a dark coat can help the eye's sight with regards to limiting stray lighting entering the eye. So let's jump into the list and see some interesting individuals.
A Coati in a tree by Terry Stone, used with permission
Commonly referred to as the "Coati," these little creatures are found in both North and South America. They are relatives of the raccoon, which can be seen in their morphology. Much like their more well-known cousin, the coati is an omnivore, meaning it will eat both plants and meat. They are more slender than raccoons and have a longer nose. They are also diurnal, meaning they are most active during daylight hours.
Photo by Henry Dinardo
Raccoons are found in North America, definitely one of the most famous species on this list. Originally from deciduous habitats, they have proven to be an extremely adaptable species, now found in mountainous regions, coastal marshes, and even urban areas. Due to their adaptability and a mix of escapes and some deliberate introductions, they are also found throughout much of Europe and even Japan. There are currently 22 subspecies which we will go through in a subsequent Field Notes entry!
The Southern Masked Weaver
Photo by Bisakha Datta
A common resident of Southern Africa, the African masked weaver bird builds nests out of woven grasses and reeds. Usually built between the months of September and January, a male weaver can build as many as 25 nests for the female to choose one to lay her eggs in. The female will then go about decorating the nest with soft grass and feathers to create softer bedding for the young. One interesting characteristic of this species is that they live in areas where cuckoos live too. Cuckoos will lay eggs in another species' nest in the hopes that the other species will raise the cuckoo species as their own. To avoid wasting their energy raising young that aren't theirs, Masked Weavers' eggs come in a variety of colours, and they will remove eggs from their nest that aren't the same as their own.
The white-crested Laughingthrush
Photo by Jason Thompson. Used with permission
This strikingly beautiful bird is native to Southeast Asia, where it lives in forested areas. It is highly vocal, hence the name, and has a beautiful call. The bird has a strikingly white head and crest that is broken up by a wide black band that covers the eyes. Although the majority of the bird is brown, their eggs are pure white to match their heads. They will breed several times a year, usually between the months of February and September.
Southern Pink Underwing Moth Caterpillars
Okay, I admit it. This one is a bit different to the rest of the list. Yes, it looks like it is wearing a mask, but no, the mask is not on its face. It actually takes up a large portion of the body and is a bit of mimicry to help scare off possible predators of this large morsel. Found in Australia, the Southern Pink Underwing Moth Caterpillar grows to an impressive size of about 12 cm (4.7 in) long.
The ocean takes up 70% of the earth's surface area. We would be remiss not to mention any of our finned neighbours. Pufferfish are a group of 193 species. They, like the masked Puffer, have four front teeth that are fused together, which is where they get their family name from Tetraodontidae. They grow to a length of about 30 cm (12 in) and, although generally solitary, they are known to gather in schools when mating.
Photo by Rickard Zerpe, used with permission
This brightly coloured mask-wearer is usually found in the tropical marine waters of the Indian and Western Pacific oceans. With a predominantly yellow body, the Masked Rabbitfish has a broad black stripe that starts on the chin and moves up diagonally, covering the eye. It is a little larger than the Masked Pufferfish, growing to a size of 38 cm (15 in).
What did you think of our list? Did we miss any that you feel should be on this list? Contact us on social media or by clicking the contact us page and let us know!