Today on Planet Earth: Encounters with the Influencer americanas

It’s late afternoon; the sun has begun its descent to the horizon. Soon the sun will fall just behind the aesthetically pleasing mountains in the distance, and our subject will arrive. Our species of interest was only discovered five years ago, but favourable conditions have allowed its population to soar.

Our subject is the Influencer americanas.

The Influencer can be spotted throughout the planet, but certain geographies have a higher concentration. Patagonia, Chile; Dolomites, Italy; the Pacific Northwest all report frequent sighting of Influencers. Today we join the Influencer at Moraine Lake in Canada’s Banff National Park.

Since the species was first discovered, it has had an increasingly dominant presence at Moraine Lake. If its numbers continue to rise, it is likely the Influencer will push out other species. Its persistence is unmatched in the animal kingdom.

The Influencer americanas is will awake soon

This species is biphasic, sleeping twice per day. The first slumber takes place during the hours following midnight; the Influencer stays out until the stars arrive, and then sleeps for a few hours so they can be alert when Blue Hour returns in the early morning.

The second sleep is in the mid-afternoon, when the sun overhead creates lighting too harsh for our subject. You are unlikely to see the Influencer americanas at this time, and if you do it will probably look confused, shielding its face to prevent overexposure. Any moment our subject will arrive – the hour before sunset is the period the Influencer is the most active.

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From amidst the trees the Influencer emerges, drawn to the view of the mountains and the large rocks on which they can stand. Both males and females regularly stand on rocks, or really anything that will elevate them slightly above their surroundings. This behaviour – elevating themselves into clear sight – has mystified zoologists, as it is counterproductive for survival.

Peculiar behaviour is one of the many reasons the Influencer americanas has attracted the attention of scientists across a wide range of disciplines.

Watch as the Influencer prepares to conduct its signature ritual.

The male Influencer holds an object in his hands. Carrying this black, smooth object, he brings it to his face and then back down. He raises it again, before walking a few feet over to repeat the process. Scientists aren’t sure yet why the Influencer americanas does this behaviour, though they have observed that in a pair of Influencers is it usually the male who conducts this part of the ritual.

The female Influencer, on the other hand, is standing on the large rock. Observe how she moves in response to the male. There are a few positions most common among this species. The female before us is standing with her back to the male, her face raised as if looking at something in the distance. This is a common position for the female, though scientists disagree on the reason for the behaviour.

Some believe the behaviour is used to deceive other species into believing she is distracted and looking away. Others believe she is pretending not to notice the male behind her, as in some kind of flirtatious engagement. Regardless of the motives, you’ll see that she rarely looks directly at the male and the black object he is holding.

Further along the shoreline of Moraine Lake, we see another pair of Influencer americanas.

The first male is climbing upon another large rock and – splash – just like that he has swan dived into the freezing glacial water.

Swimming is a somewhat common activity for the Influencer americanas, but the behaviour just witnessed is distinct from swimming. The first male jumps in while the second male manipulates the smooth black object. The first quickly gets out of the water.

Meanwhile, the second looks at the smooth black object and shakes his head. In response the first jumps in again, repeating the process.

This is another example of behaviour scientists do not yet understand. The Influencer americanas is warm-blooded with very little body fat, meaning the glacial water is much to cold for them. Yet, despite this, these creatures will jump in and out momentarily.

Fascinating, fascinating creatures. You’ll see similar behaviour when it comes to building shelters. Often the Influencer americanas will construct a colourful shelter in a completely illogical location, only to immediate take it down and continue moving.

The Influencer hoards other objects, to be used in the ritual

High up in the mountains of Banff National Park, we witness perhaps the strangest behaviour of all. The Influencer americanas are conducting their signature ritual, but look in their hands. They are carrying more objects with them.

Scientists have observed the Influencer to conduct its ritual with virtually any object, however some are more common than others. Large colourful blankets, headphones and cellphones, various food items like yogurt and granola bars – these are all common objects to see the Influencer with. Occasionally, we see Influencers with protein powder, herbal supplements, skin care products – the possibilities are endless.

Conservation efforts needed to protect the Influencer americanas

Despite it’s exponential population growth over the last few years, the Influencer americanas is a species at risk. Loss of habitat, invasive species, algorithm updates and accurate ROI measurements are threatening the Influencer’s resources for survival. If we do not act now to conserve their habitat and resources, it is unlikely the Influencer will survive the next social media crave. Please consider a donation to conservation efforts.

The Influencer americanas is a wonder. Counter-intuitive behaviours which baffle scientists, unprecedented population growth, signature rituals with illogical objects – the Influencer americanas truly amazes.

Feature photo by Glenn Lee Robinson. You can read my interview with him here.

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