Thursday, September 27, 2012

Why You Should Indulge in Chocolate

"Theobroma, the genus name, is from the Greek and translates to “food of the gods,” a designation that chocolate-lovers would agree is befitting."  Exhibit Curator @ Cornell's Mann Library, Ashley Miller

Book of the Week
Book of the Week: Cacao and Chocolate
Many of us already know that alongside corn, chocolate was a top food staple for the ancient Olmec, Mayan and Aztec cultures long before it was ever introduced to the western world. However, did you know that the first place that chocolate was sold in America was in Boston, MA? Or that the Spanish monarchy closely guarded the secret Aztec recipe for hundreds of years in order to maintain a European monopoly on the substance? Or that many religious leaders in Europe wished to ban chocolate because women found it more heavenly than priestly sermons at Sunday mass?  We will continue our celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month this week by highlighting a book all about Theobroma cacao -- better known to most of us as chocolate. This week’s book of the week, Cocoa and Chocolate, outlines the natural history of the Cocoa tree, the evolution of production methods and health benefits of chocolate. Yes, we said health benefits. It’s hard to believe that something that is so sinfully delicious could actually also be extremely beneficial to your overall health. If you want to feel justified in your addiction to chocolate we suggest reading chapter four which, explains why chocolate is the "perfect food." Linnaeus even thought so, for he is the one to have christened the species "Theobroma cacao."

Catesby depiction of Theobroma cacao on Flickr
Theobroma Cacao, Click for the Taxon page @ EOL

How did chocolate finally make its way into my mouth?
It was Conquistador Hernán Cortés who brought chocolate back to the Spanish court in the early 1500’s however, Central American natives were enjoying chocolate long before European contact. There is evidence of cacao bean cultivation that dates back to 1400 BC. The Cacao tree is a native of the Amazon basin but moved-up to Mesoamerica thousands of years ago. This region that stretches from central Mexico through most of Central America is the traditional home of chocolate. The bean from this plant has historically been so engrained in the culture of this region that the Aztecs used the cacao tree as a representation of the universe and as recently as 150 years ago, villagers in outlying areas of “Nicaragua still traded the cacao bean, the fatty seed that grows in a pod from the trunk of the cacao tree, as currency.” (Johnson) In ancient times, chocolate was not sweet but, rather eaten as a spicy energy treat, in bar or beverage form. According to popular legend, Montezuma enjoyed 50 cups of chocolate per day. While we think drinking 2 cups of chocolate per hour seems somewhat excessive, the Swiss fall closely behind Montezuma ranking number one in chocolate consumption by ingesting 22 pounds of chocolate per year; Americans for once seem to exhibit a bit of moderation eating a modest 11½ pounds of chocolate per year. Globally, humans consume 3 billion pounds of chocolate each year. 
Aztecs making Chocolate
Chocolate was once a food exclusively for the very rich however, it has made its way to the masses through improved production techniques. The founding of the first American chocolatier, Walter Baker & Co. predates the founding of America by twelve years, having established itself in in Dorchester, Mass in 1765.  It seems that early American settlers were more interested in eating chocolate than having a country to call their own. At least we know that they had their priorities straight! To keep-up with the American appetite for chocolate, Walter Baker & Co. revolutionized the production methods of the cacao bean, and were thus able to produce vast quantities so that all could enjoy:

Modern Production Methods e.g. Willy Wonka
Ancient Production Methods


How is chocolate good for your overall health?
In researching chocolate, we found all sorts of studies and vetted factoids that confirm that indeed, chocolate is both heavenly and healthful. Here is a point-by-point summary of what we found:
  • Vitamins & Nutrients: Chocolate contains essential trace elements and nutrients such as iron, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and the vitamins A, B1, C, D, and E. Additionally, it is the highest natural food source of magnesium.
  • Heart Health: The flavonoids in chocolate and cocoa encourage vascular wall improvement and the function of blood vessels. The Mayo Clinic report suggests that moderate amounts of dark chocolate may be used to reduce the risk of blood clots and platelet formation in the arteries that can lead to stroke - similar to a low-dose aspirin. 
  • Mood enhancer: Chocolate contains small amounts of a chemical called phenylethylamine (PEA) that is a mild mood elevator.This chemical produces happy feelings in our brain of joy and love.
  • Antioxidants: Part of the polyphenol group, antioxidants present in chocolate neutralize or delay the processes that age to the body's cells and tissues by attacking free radicals in our bloodstream. (Note: milk binds to antioxidants, inhibiting their absorption. Thus, milk chocolate is not a source of antioxidants)
  • Mild stimulant: Chocolate contains a number of natural stimulants, such as caffeine and theobromine; these coupled with sugar can certainly provide an energy boost.

 ~Facts mostly from Burdick's Chocolatier, Harvard Square, Mass.

Lastly, in no particular order, chocolate has multiple other benefits such as reducing high-cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, joint problems and pre-menstrual symptoms. Did we mention that chocolate also tastes amazing?

Ask yourself this: Are you eating enough chocolate? Please feel free to use any of the above excuses to get out there and enjoy a food fit for the gods.

~Jacqueline Ford, Biodiversity Heritage Librarian

Chocolatey Links
Chocolate: The Exhibition, California Academy of Sciences
Choice Recipes, Chocolate and Cocoa Recipes, Duke University

Monday, September 24, 2012

BHL and EOL at the Ecological Society of America

In early August, I had the privilege of representing the Encyclopedia of Life and the Biodiversity Heritage Library at an exhibitor’s booth at the Ecological Society of America annual meeting in Portland, Oregon. The theme for the 2012 annual meeting was: Life on Earth: Preserving, Utilizing and Sustaining our Ecosystems. This theme certainly fits the broader goals of EOL and BHL.

The Joint BHL/EOL booth at the 2012 Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting

It was challenging to be the only representative at the booth because there were many visitors since ESA provided a great match of people for BHL and EOL. Faculty members, contractors, postdoctoral associates, and  undergraduate and graduate students working in the fields of bioloy, conservation and ecology stopped by to hear about the work done by EOL and BHL. Many were interested in how they could contribute. It was very rewarding to show this crowd what literature is available on the BHL portal, how it links in with EOL, how they could make requests and follow our progress using social media. It was exciting to get into deep discussions with the many interested parties about how they might be able to contribute to EOL as curators/users/teachers. And best of all, I frequently was asked the question “How much do you charge to access BHL/EOL?” The amazed looks on everyone’s face when I said access is free–I wish I had taken some pictures. I was sure to note that there are “Donate” buttons available but that these are optional.

I handed out BHL buttons, BHL pens, EOL magnifying glasses, EOL bags and BHL cards. Pens, bags and magnifying glasses went very quickly. Many more people who stopped by were more familiar with EOL than with BHL, but many who recognized EOL did not know much about it. One person with some in-depth knowledge of EOL was 2012 Rubenstein fellow Kelly O’Donnell. She noted that until the fellow training she wasn’t aware of BHL and was thrilled that she was able to test-drive it and now incorporates it into her work.

Another positive experience was that the BHL/EOL booth was sited in between booths for ARKive and the Center for Conservation Biology Conservation Canines. ARKive is an organization that is “creating the ultimate multimedia guide to the world’s endangered animals, plants and fungi” which fits nicely with the goals of EOL and BHL. Conservation Canines is an organization that trains dogs to locate wildlife scat (including from marine mammals) so the scat can be used to provide genetic and physiological information as well as identify local species and estimate population abundance. It was fun to visit with their dogs–and they brought a lot of traffic to our exhibit area!

Canines at the Center for Conservation Biology Conservation Canines Booth

- Constance Rinaldo
Librarian, Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University |
BHL Executive Committee Vice-Chair

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Biologia Centrali-Americana & Hispanic Heritage Month

Book of the Week: Biologia Centrali Americana

Biologia author Frederick Godman
In 1876, two men by the names of Frederick Godman and Osbert Salvin began work on perhaps the most comprehensive account of the flora and fauna of Mexico and Central America ever undertaken. Entitled Biologia Centrali Americana, this 63 volume work, published over the course of 36 years, relates nearly all information known at the time on the mammals, birds, fish, mollusks, insects, arachnids, and botany in the region. Accompanied by over 1,600 lithographic plates, 900 of which are colored, Biologia Centrali Americana is arguably the single most authoritative work on Mexico and Central America's turn-of-the-century biodiversity and constitutes a perfect candidate to help us celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month!

Great Things have Small Beginnings

The Geniuses Behind the Pages

Biologia author Osbert Salvin
Godman and Salvin became fast friends while attending Cambridge, where their mutual enthusiasm for natural history solidified their lifelong friendship. Early interest in ornithology prompted them, along with 18 other friends and young ornithologists, to establish a new, and ultimately extremely influential, journal dedicated to ornithology, the Ibis (learn more about the Ibis in our previous book of the week post).

Welcome to the New World

In Fall, 1857, the pair's first interaction with Central America transpired, when Salvin visited the area to study palm nuts and their potential application in candle making. Finding the inquiry disappointing, Salvin spent the remainder of his time studying the birds and insects of the region, which ultimately led to a publication detailing the 381 known bird species of Central America in the first volume of the new Ibis journal.

Though Salvin returned to England in 1858, he was forever mesmerized by the biodiversity he encountered in Central America. He quickly returned to the area in 1859 and continued collecting bird and insect specimens, which he initially detailed in an article written for the Ibis.

Members of the Morpho genus in Biologia
In August, 1861, Godman joined Salvin on his third expedition to Central America. It was in Yzabal, where the expedition originated, that Godman had his first magical encounter with the region's biodiversity:

This place will, however, always be associated in my mind with my first sight of a living example of one of the most striking and gorgeous of all butterflies, Morpho peleides. I was sitting on the trunk of a fallen tree in the forest, when it came floating past me, but I was so overcome with astonishment and delight at this wonderful vision that, although I had a butterfly net in my hand, I was utterly unable to rise in pursuit until it was too late to capture it.

Godman and Salvin spent nearly two years trekking through Central America, exploring, to name a few, Quirigua, Zacapa, Guatemala City, Duenas, Escuintla, San Germonimo, Coban, Cubilguitz, and Choctum, and collecting a wide range of specimens, including birds, butterflies, and fish. Salvin describes the pragmatic method by which he obtained fish specimens in the Rio Grande:

...I employed Indians to poison some nine miles of the water in order to make a collection of fish...The method adopted for this purpose was to beat the plant (Tephrosia toxicaria) on the rocks until a froth not unlike soap-suds was formed, this when mixed with the water caused the fish to sicken and some to the surface...Vast numbers were obtained, and from them I made a selection and preserved a good many specimens in spirit (aguardiente), but was somewhat disappointed to find there were but few species represented.

Fish of the genus Ailurichthys in Biologia

Though this first joint expedition ended in 1863, Godman and Salvin traveled back to the New World many times to study and accumulate more specimens (including trips to Mexico in the late 1880s), often bringing along additional subject specialist. Salvin's wife, Caroline Maitland, accompanied Salvin on his final voyage to Central America, during which time she painted the illustrations of the flora found in the botanical volumes of Biologia.  The pair also employed various collection experts to gather specimens in specific region for their growing body of preserved Central American wildlife.

A Monumental Undertaking

The Manatee in Biologia
In 1876, the suggestion to publish a comprehensive work describing the biodiversity collected in Central America sparked the origins of Biologia. Originally intended to be published in six quarto parts a year, each supplemented with six colored plates, resulting in a total of 60 parts over 10 years, the continuous supply of fresh specimens, and abundance of material to be published, necessitated a total of 215 parts in zoology, 5 volumes in botany, and 17 parts in archaeology, spanning 36 years of publication.

Godman and Salvin worked diligently on the title until June 1, 1898, when Salvin unexpectedly died. At the point of his death, only 141 of the 215 parts of Zoology and 8 of the 17 parts of Archaeology had been completed (all botany volumes were completed at the time of Salvin's death). With help from additional authors, Godman persevered "with a heavy heart," and in 1915, the final part was issued, bringing this monumental undertaking to a close.

New World Feathers

As Godman and Salvin were both avid ornithologists, and as their publishing enterprises together began with an ornithological journal, we thought it fitting to feature the Aves Atlas from Biologia Centrali Americana in our post. The Atlas contains 79 plates illustrating the species found in the three previous bird volumes.

Godman relayed particular frustrations, and ultimate triumphs, with describing the birds of Mexico. As he outlines:

In working out the Mexican Birds we found ourselves hampered for want of an authentically named collection of North American species for comparison, which did not exist in Europe at that time. In order to remedy this, I acquired the Henshaw collection, numbering 13,326 specimens, and this was rendered still more valuable through the courtesy of the authorities at the United States National Museum, who allowed Mr. Ridgway, the highest authority in America, to go through and verify all the names on the labels attached.

As the Smithsonian (National Museum of Natural History) paid a key role in deciphering the ornithological specimens contained in this work, it is no wonder that they, in collaboration with many of our other BHL partners, would build a virtual exhibition dedicated to Biologia.

We've presented a few of our favorite illustrations from the Aves Atlas below. Be sure to check out all of the images on Flickr and the entire set of Atlases in BHL. Delve even further into these illustrations with our Book of the Week Pinterest board.

Created with flickr slideshow.

Finally, check back on our blog, Twitter, Facebook and Flickr for more posts celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month!

We hope you enjoyed this post. Interested in guest-blogging for BHL? We'd love that! Natural history, biodiversity and conservation topics are especially welcomed. Email us your ideas at 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Biology Catalog and Joel Hallan

BHL and Our Users: Joel Hallan

For BHL and Our Users this week, we're doing things a little differently. Instead of a questionnaire-style post, Program Manager Grace Costantino interviewed this week's guest, computer programmer and spider enthusiast Joel Hallan of Texas A&M University, over the phone. Each question is presented below as a separate video.

We're trying to be more interactive with our interviews in the future, and we hope this will serve as a first good step in that direction!

What is your name, title, and institutional affiliation?


Can you expand on your special area of interest?


 Where did your interest in spiders come from? 


Where did your interest in computer science come from?


 Can you tell us about your online catalog, Biology Catalog?


What compelled you to create Biology Catalog?


What would your perfect vision of Biology Catalog look like? 


When did you first discover BHL? 


How often and in what ways do you use BHL?


What is your opinion of BHL and how has it supported your work on Biology Catalog?


If you could change one thing about BHL, what would it be?


Thanks for tuning in this week! Check back for more great interviews with our creative, dedicated and enthusiastic users to get more ideas about new ways you can put BHL to use. Be sure to check out Joel's catalog, Biology Catalog, an ambitious project which will hopefully one day serve as a catalog of all species.

If you're interested in being interviewed on our blog, leave a comment on this post, send us feedback, or email us as

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fact or Fiction? Cat Myths Debunked

"A clever writer has stated that  'the human race may be divided into people who love cats and people who hate them; the neutrals being few in numbers.' " -Frances Simpson


 Book of the Week: The Book of Cat by Frances Simpson

Frances Simpson & Cat
If you are part of the majority of people who are "dog people" this post may not be for you. Please redirect to our dog book of the week post here. Neutral folks, you can stick around. Now that we have weeded out all of those pesky dog lovers, let's get on to a book that is the cat's meow! Frances Simpson, author of several books on cats at the turn of the century was a serious feline aficionado. Author of The Book of the Cat (1902), Simpson put together one of the most comprehensive resources on cats around. Who knew you could write 32 chapters on cats? Besides the 362 pictures mostly of cats, our favorite parts of the book were the chapters on:

Chapter 1, Cats of the Past. Very interesting to see how cats have interacted with humans over the past 10,000 years. It has been a tumultuous relationship indeed, vacillating between extreme love and extreme hate.

Chapter 29, Cat Photography for Amateurs. Have you seen all of the pictures of cats on the internet? This chapter is really relevant to the contemporary needs of internet users.

Chapter 32, The Cat's Place in Nature. The grand prize goes to this chapter. A must read for taxonomists and natural history buffs who are interested in cat classification and physiology. Have a look at the anatomy of the cat's eye:

The third eye-lid is called the plica semilunaris or nictitating mebrane. This is found in mostly nocturnal creatures and regulates the admission of light whilst protecting from injury.

Book of the Week's Pictures of Cats!
Because we all need a daily cat pic fix:

Created with flickr slideshow.

See more cat pics on Flickr and also don't forget to re-pin from our Book of the Week Pinterest Board!

Time to Play Fact or Fiction
  • The ancient Egyptians worshiped cats and used them as hunting "retrievers" 
Fact: According to Horopollo, the cat was worshiped in the temple of Heliopolis, because the size of the pupil of the animal's eye is regulated by the rising and waning of the sun. Additionally, long before dogs ever retrieved the kill on human hunts, cats did:
  • Cats have nine lives
Fiction: Ms. Simpson explains that “Cats probably owe this reputation to their extraordinary powers of endurance, and certain it is that they have a greater tenacity to life than any other animal. At the Battersea Home a dog and a cat have been placed in the lethal chamber, and it was observed that the dog died in five minutes, whereas the cat breathed for forty minutes longer.” Do the math, 45min/5min = 9X the will to live. Cats are survivors.
  • The black cat is a bad omen 
"I'm not a demon!"
Fiction: If you haven’t heard this superstition before, it finds its origins in the Middle Ages, a time when demons inhabited bodies and witches were burned at the stake, it was also believed that the devil borrowed the coat of a black cat when he wished to torment his victims. A strange departure from worshipping cats, as the Egyptians had done. 
  • Women are generally cat lovers while, men tend to like dogs: 
Fiction: Not necessarily true. Winston Churchill's cat Jock was one of his favorite pets. Bill Clinton brought his adopted stray cat Socks with him when he moved to the White House. Victor Hugo had a favorite cat name "Chanome," whom he slept with. Among the most powerful men the world has ever seen, Cardinal Richelieu and Napoleon counted themselves as cat lovers.
  • Domestic cats are almost identical to their wild counterparts, with few biological or genetic variations
Fact: Yes, a very strange fact indeed. Cats have been domesticated by humans for over 10,000 years yet, the human interference in breeding unlike with cows, has not resulted in significant genetic changes for the species. Top cat expert, Carlos Driscoll, explains that "cats can survive with or without us" and that they don't rely on humans the way that other domesticated animals do -- rather they coexist with humans.
  • Social media aka Web 2.0 was invented so that we could share pictures of cats. 
Arguable: Well, according to Ethan Zuckerman, Internet Activist and Harvard Berkman Fellow: "Web 1.0 was invented to allow physicists to share research papers. Web 2.0 was created to allow people to share pictures of cute cats." (Cute Cat Theory) Yes, we know the Internet is used for so much MORE these days but, sharing picture of cats on internet forums truly is a weekly phenomenon. Every Saturday dubbed "Caturday" is a day in which global cat lovers post pictures of cats, en masseLOLcat has its own Wikipedia entry. If you didn’t know it was a thing, it’s definitely a thing. The internet chose cats, what can we say?

Who are we as Librarians and traditional lovers of feline companionship, to argue with popular demand? People want their pictures of cats and they want them every Saturday. We are service oriented here at the BHL and providing you with a fresh supply of cat pictures could be a considered a loose interpretation of our mission. Enjoy!

And no matter the day, let's love cats and dogs, and all members of the animal kingdom in equal measure. Every living organism is part of the amazing tree of life.

We hope you enjoyed this post. Interested in guest-blogging for the BHL? We’d love that! Natural history, biodiversity and conservation topics are especially welcomed. Email us your ideas at

-Jacqueline Ford, Biodiversity Heritage Librarian

Kitty Links, meow!

Why does the web love cats?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Book of the Week: Wild Animals of North America

Here in the Washington, D.C. area, where the BHL Secretariat is housed, North American wildlife is a hot topic with the grand opening of the new National Zoo American Trail exhibit. The exhibit features some of the most iconic American species, including the Bald Eagle, Gray Wolf, North American Beaver, and the Otter. We've been celebrating the exhibit all week on Twitter and Facebook, and we thought it only natural to further commemorate American fauna with our book of the week. To do so, we've selected Wild Animals of North America (1918), contributed by the American Museum of Natural History.

Wild Animals of North America

Edward W. Nelson, American naturalist and ethnologist, penned Wild Animals of North America for the National Geographic Society over the course of two magazine issues: The November 1916 issue, which focused on Larger Mammals of North America, and the May 1918 issue, devoted to North America's smaller mammals. These issues were enhanced by famed painter Louis Agassiz Fuertes, who also illustrated the spectacular Album of Abyssinian Birds and Mammals from Paintings (which we featured as a book of the week in 2011). Agassiz, who had done previous work for the Society on The Book of Birds, crafted over five dozen stunning portraits of the animals described within the text for this title.

North American Buffalo
National Geographic clearly understood the importance of this work, expending $100,000 for the production of the two original magazine articles which sired this book. The success of the issues prompted the Society to combine them into the comprehensive Wild Animals of North America.

Wild Animals presents 119 "animal biographies," which present not just pictures and scientific facts about the species, but also entertaining anecdotes about Americans' interaction with these creatures.

Take, for instance, the account of the American Buffalo. Nelson writes that,

A number of men now living were privileged to see some of the great herds of the West before they were finally destroyed. Dr. George Bird Grinnell writes:

'In 1870, I happened to be on a train that was stopped for three hours to let a herd of buffalo pass. We supposed they would soon pass by, but they kept coming. On a number of occasions in earlier days, the engineers thought that they could run through the herds, and that, seeing the locomotive, the buffalo would stop or turn aside : but after a few locomotives had been ditched by the animals the engineers got in the way of respecting the buffaloes' idiosyncrasies.'

And one of our favorite excerpts from the book is a photograph and caption depicting the introduction of black and brown bear cubs:

Black and Brown Bear Cubs Being Introduced

Species Highlights

For this post, we've selected a few of the our favorite of the 119 species Nelson describes, accompanied by Fuertes' enticing paintings. We've provided additional links and images for those species below which are also found in the new American Trail exhibit. See a full list of species you'll encounter in the exhibit by visiting the zoo's website.

See all of the images from our book of the week on Flickr, and check out select illustrations on Pinterest.

Alaskan Brown Bear

"The great brown bear of the Alaskan peninsula, Ursus [arctos], and his cousin, Ursus middendorffi, of Kodiac Island, are the largest of all bears, as well as the largest carnivorous animals in the world. [The Polar Bear, of roughly the same size, is documented as the largest bear alongside the Kodiak]. While sometimes attaining a weight of 1500 pounds, they are, as a rule, inoffensive giants, taking flight at the first sight of man. But when wounded, or surprised at close quarters, they give battle, and their enormous size, strength and activity render them terrific antagonists.

"The world did not know of the existence of these bears until 1898.

"During the spring the Alaska brown bear lives upon the salmon which come up the rivers and creeks to spawn, while in the summer and fall they eat the sedge of the lowland flats, grazing like cattle, and varying their diet with small mammals and berries which they find in the hills."

The Alaskan Brown Bear

The Grizzly Bear

 North American Beaver

"Beavers belong to the rodent family - a group of animals notable for their weak mental powers. The beaver is the striking exception to the rule, and its extraordinary intelligence, industry, and skill have long excited admiration....

"[Beavers] are very proficient in building narrow dams of sticks, mud, and small stones across small streams for the purpose of backing up water and making 'beaver ponds.' In the border of these ponds a conical lodge is usually constructed of sticks and mud...The mud used by beavers in building dams and houses is scooped up and carried against the breast, the front feet being used like hands."

North American Beaver

Three North American beavers are featured as part of the new American Trail exhibit. One, by the name of Willow, "is easily identifiable by a notch in her tail."

North American Beaver from the American Trails exhibit


"The moose is a large, grotesquely formed animal, with the most impressive individuality of any of our large game. Its great head, with oddly formed nose, huge palmated antlers, pendulous bell under the neck, short body, and disproportionately long legs unite to lend the impression that it may be a strange survivor from some remote geologic period.

"Although taller than an ordinary horse, weighing more than half a ton, and adorned with wide-spreading antlers, the bull moose stalks with ghostly silence through thickset forests."


"In summer it loves low-lying, swampy forests interspersed with shallow lakes and sluggish streams. In such places it often wades up to its neck in a lake to feed on succulent water plants, and when reaching to the bottom becomes entirely submerged."

Moose submerged in water, foraging for food.

Steller Sea Lion

"Sea-lions are near relatives of the fur seals and have a nearly similar distribution, both in far southern and northern seas...The Steller Sea Lion is the largest member of the group, the old bulls weighing from 1,200-1,500 pounds.

"They are preeminently animals of the most rugged of shorelines and the stormiest of seas, being superbly powerful beasts with extraordinary vitality. The ease with which they pass through a smother of pounding seas to mount their rugged resting places is an admirable exhibition of skill and strength. The males have a bellowing roar, on the rocks in savage unison with the booming of the sea against the base of their refuge...

"It is reported that an umbrella opened and closed suddenly in the faces of the old sea-lions appears to terrify them more than any other weapon and is used successfully in drives.

"At sea they have only a single known enemy to fear - the fierce killer whale."

Steller Sea Lion

The American Trail exhibit features four of the Steller Sea Lion's smaller cousin - the California Sea Lion. Two of them, Calli and Sophie, were rescued from the wild after being orphaned. A third, named Sophie, is Calli's first pup.

Sea Lion from the American Trail exhibit

Threatened Species Day 

Today is threatened species day - a day set aside to raise awareness about the predicament facing thousands of species throughout the world today. It was originally established to commemorate the death of the last Tasmanian Tiger at the Hobart zoo in 1936.

While many North American species can be found on the Threatened and Endangered Species List, some of our most iconic, including the Gray Wolf and Bald Eagle - which were once doomed to possible extinction - have miraculously recovered and are no longer among those listed as threatened. Human conservation efforts had much to do with these status reversals, proving that when we come together to conserve, we can make a major impact. Let's hope similar efforts can help restore the future for the species that still remain threatened.

Explore images of IUCN Endangered and Critically Endangered species on our Flickr page. Below are images of some of the most endangered species on the list.

Created with flickr slideshow.

Learn how you can help conservation efforts with some ideas from the World Wildlife Foundation's "Campaign for Change."

- Grace Costantino
Program Manager | Biodiversity Heritage Library