Icon Species

Meet the icon species of the university. Take a few minutes to learn about the badger, pine marten, golden owl, grass snake, brown corn bolt, crested newt, tuberous pea and other animal and plant species. Unique species with unique characteristics that each enrich a habitat in their own way.

Tuberous pea (lathyrus tuberosus)

Family: Legume (Fabaceae)
Size: 70-120 cm

The tuberous pea is a climbing plant that grows two to six pinkish-red flowers on each stem. They provide nutritious food to a number of animals, as they originate from edible tubers.

Tuberous peas usually grow in grasslands and forests, alongside hedges and banks. The plant loves loamy soil, which makes Utrecht Science Park a suitable habitat. This plant can fix nitrogen, which makes soil more fertile. This characteristic lets the tuberous pea increase the biodiversity in ecosystems.

Snails love tuberous peas. But their preference to this plant can be dangerous because they devour the plant on sight when they see it.

Wall brown (lasiommata megera)

Family: Nymphalidae 
Size: 2.5 cm
Food: nectar, primarily from composites

The wall brown is a medium-small butterfly and is a common butterfly in Europe, but has recently strongly declined in numbers. The cause of this decline is unknown.

Wall browns live near all kinds of varied grasslands with bare soil alongside ditch shores, roads, dikes, hedges and forest edges. This butterfly prefers damp to reasonably dry vegetations with a mosaic of bare soil, low vegetations and higher herb-rich brushwood. By growing various host and nectar plants for this species in Utrecht Science Park, this species can thrive better there.

Host plants are places where the butterflies lay their eggs on and caterpillars feed on. Once the caterpillar has become a wall brown, it lives for a maximum of one month.

European pine marten (martes martes)

Family: Mustelidae
Size (tail not included): 46-54 cm
Food: Small animals, insects, eggs and berries

The European pine marten is a small predator that comes from Northern Europe. European pine martens are most common in areas with many trees, as their semi-retractable claws enable them to climb trees and run on tree branches quickly.

European pine martens fulfil an important ecological role regarding the spreading of seeds, which they eat as part of their varied diet. By leaving the seeds behind, the pine marten spreads them across its entire habitat, enabling new trees and other plants to grow.

The fast pine marten can overtake a squirrel in a chase into tree tops at great heights. It is the only mammal known to be capable of this.

Scarce chaser (libellula fulva)

Family: Libellulidae
Size: 42-45 mm
Food: Small insects

The scarce chaser is a dragonfly species from Europe. They have a preference for flood plains and thickly-wooded marshes. Utrecht Science Park has both, which makes it a good habitat for the scarce chaser.

The scarce chaser is an important species for the improvement of biodiversity because it eats pest insects, which makes it a natural pesticide to Utrecht Science Park. The elimination of pest insects means more food for other species and peaceful growth for many plant species.

Mature scarce chasers have one foot in the grave. Their larval stage takes almost two years, while their mature stage lasts only three months.

Badger (meles meles)

Family: Mustelidae
Size (tail not included): 71 cm
Food: Primarily invertebrate animals

The badger prefers undisturbed surroundings with enough food, soil to dig in and hiding spots.

As badgers primarily hunt invertebrate animals, their presence can keep certain pest-insect populations in check. On top of that, they spread seeds as they also eat big quantities of fruit.

The badger is one of the biggest land predators in the Netherlands. Their total length, from head to tail, can reach up to 90 centimetres(!)

Partridge (perdix perdix)

Family: Phasianidae
Size: 15-30 cm
Food: Seeds, plants, insects

The partridge is a bird that occurs in many parts of Europe and North America. This bird prefers agricultural soil and meadows.

Partridges can reach up to thirty centimetres in size and primarily eat grass, weeds and grain. They occasionally eat a few insects. The partridge is an endangered species, which makes it even more important to invite them to Utrecht Science Park (USP) and its surroundings.

Partridges are notorious for their number of eggs. Partridges can lay up to fifteen eggs per nest. 

Northern crested newt (triturus cristatus)

Family: Salamandridae
Size: 13-16 cm
Food: Small invertebrate animals

The northern crested newt is an amphibian that spends most of its time on land. When it is time to mate, the newt enters the water.

Utrecht Science Park has (the potential for more) marshy, wet and green areas. This makes it a good habitat for the newt.

This newt species is important because of the services the species provides to the ecosystem. For instance, it recycles nutrients from the water for land and vice versa. By providing this service, northern crested newts contribute to making the soil more nutritious.

The northern crested newt has over forty scientific names, all synonyms.

Grass snake (natrix natrix)

Family: Colubrids (Colubridae)
Size: 90-150 cm
Food: Amphibians

The grass snake is bound to wet habitats. It prefers sunny dikes close to water, not too much open field and much organic matter such as old grass and bush heaps with heating to lay its eggs in.

As the grass snake is an endangered species in the Netherlands, it is hoped that the presence of the species in Utrecht Science Park will increase the total numbers. In 2019, Utrecht University has made multiple hotbeds for grass snakes.

The grass snake is not a biter and not poisonous. They play dead if they feel threatened.

Little owl (athene noctua)

Family: True owls (Strigidae)
Size: 22 cm
Food: Insects, small reptiles, small mammals

The little owl is barely bigger than a blackbird, and can primarily be recognised by its bright yellow eyes and light-coloured “eyebrows”.

They live in small landscapes with wooded banks, hedges, little meadows and knotty trees, and primarily eat mice, but also other small animals, amphibians and insects. The little owl is an endangered species. The preservation of the species in Utrecht Science Park is very valuable and can benefit the population of the species.

Baby little owls already leave the nest after a month, but the parents do not fully let go of them completely. They still take care of them for five weeks after that.

Brown hairstreak (thecla betulae)

Family: Gossamer-winged butterflies (Lycaenidae)
Size: 1-2 cm
Food: honeydew, nectar

The brown hairstreak loves bush-rich areas, such as those alongside forest edges, verges and agricultural fields. The brown hairstreak owes its Dutch name "sleedoornpage" to its love for the "sleedoorn" (blackthorn), a small bush from the Rosaceae family. The brown hairstreak is an endangered species, and is on the red list in the Netherlands and Belgium. 

The Utrechtse Heuvelrug is an important area for the species, as the species still occurs there.

Home sweet home. Brown hairstreaks are stay-at-home animals and prefer to spend their entire lives in very small areas.

Roe deer (capreolus capreolus)

Family: Deer (Cervidae)
Size: 95-140 cm (head to rump)
Food: Berries, twigs, herbs, mushrooms, agricultural crops

The roe deer loves to be in forest-like areas with sufficient open fields, but also thrives in meadow, reed, dune and agricultural areas. Roe deer adapt to the environment and can feed on a wide variety of food, from agricultural crops such as tulips, to berries and sprouts.

The roe deer loves to be alone and generally has a solitary existence. Most deer live in herds, so the roe deer is kind of an outsider in its own family.

Common nightingale (luscinia megarhynchos)

Family: Old world flycatchers (Muscicapidae)
Size: 16.5 cm
Food: insects, spiders, earthworms, berries

The nightingale is a migratory bird and stays in the Netherlands from April to October. In the winter, this bird stays in Africa. Nightingales look for food while walking on the ground, often near and in thickets (bushy landscapes). They love to hide in there, they lay eggs in it and sing from the bushes while hidden. 

This bird eats all kinds of animals such as earwigs, spiders, daddy longlegs and earthworms. This diet is supplemented with all kinds of berries. The nightingale is on the red list of Dutch breeding birds.

The nightingale is a romantic bird and has already been a symbol of love for centuries.

Russula pseudointegra

Family: Russulacae
Size: cap: 4-10 cm / height: 3–9 cm
Food: via symbiosis, lives on roots of deciduous trees such as the common oak

This cap thrives best in damp lanes, wooded verges and girths, and food-rich deciduous forests. This russula lives together (in symbiosis) with deciduous trees such as the beech and the common oak. This means that the mushroom provides valuable nutrients to the tree and vice versa.

If you smell from the russula pseudointegra, you can detect a slight scent of peppermint. However, the mushroom is not edible!

Lapwing (vanellus vanellus)

Family: Plover (Charadriidae)
Size: 28-31 cm
Food: Earthworms, insects, snails

The lapwing thrives best in a landscape that is as open as possible, and lives almost exclusively in grasslands and agricultural areas. Lapwings prefer to hatch their eggs on damp grasslands with short grass. The lapwing is also a migratory bird. It prefers to spend the winter in Northern Africa, but France, England and even the Netherlands are also suitable during soft winters.

Young lapwings are nidicolous birds. That means that almost immediately after being hatched, they are partially independent. So young lapwings occasionally scavenge their own meals as well.

Weatherfish (misgurnis fossilis)

Family: True loaches (Cobitidae)
Size: no more than 30 cm
Food: all kinds of small animals, rotting parts of plants

The weatherfish loves shallow bodies of water with thick layers of mud and many water plants. During the winter, the weatherfish digs itself into thick layers of mud. They prefer to live in shallow ditches, anabranches and marshes where the water and mud are of good quality. For the mud, this means that the bottom is a relatively firm mud layer consisting of organic matter. Squelchy mud bottoms like those often found in ditches near agricultural fields are less suitable, but the weatherfish can live in those as well. 

Whereas most fish avoid water that is nutrient-rich and low in oxygen, the weatherfish is used to also survive in suboptimal water. Weatherfish primarily eat water macrofauna such as water bugs, snails and pond slaters.

The species is called weatherfish because they become very active during changes in air pressure. That is why they were used as weather predictors in aquariums in the past. 

Shining pondweed (potamogeton Lucens)

Family: Pondweed family (Potamogetonaceae)
Size: 60-200 cm

This submerged water plant prefers to grow in (moderately) nutrient-rich water and, besides big bodies of water, can also be found in small ditches. Pond weed has a purifying effect, and serves as food and shelter for all kinds of animals.

Because the water plant can become so long, the propellers of boats often get entangled in the plant.

Common pipistrelle (pipistrellus pipistrellus)

Family: Vesper bats (Vespertilionidae)
Size: 18-24 cm (wingspan)
Food: insects

Common pipistrelles do not live in just one spot. They have so-called networks of residences. For instance, one residence is the nursery and another is the summer or winter residence. These bats can live in cavity walls, under roof tiles, in wall cracks and alcoves, and behind wooden sections of outer walls.

The pipistrelle prefers to hunt in closed to half-open landscapes. They are fast and agile, and fly erratically with many turns and loops.

A pipistrelle can catch up to three hundred insects per night(!)

Ragged-robin (lynchnis flos cuculi)

Family: Pink family (Caryophyllaceae)
Size: 90 cm

This flower can thrive on damp to wet, moderately nutrient rich and medium fertilised soils that can consist of sand, loam, light clay, sandy clay and peat. It is usually pink, but the species can sometimes be seen as a white flower.

The ragged-robin is an indicator species for various flower covenants, such as the marigold covenant, which is a nutrient-rich (herbal) grassland. This means that if the ragged-robin is present, certain other flower species are often present too.

The ragged-robin is a host plant for at least three moth species. Host plants are plants where, among other things, butterfly eggs are laid in.

Andrena labialis

Family: Andrenidae
Size: -
Food: red and white clover

The Andrena labialis is a wild bee that lives in extensively managed and flower-rich grasslands. It prefers to feed on red and white clover. 

The Andrena labialis looks quite like the honeybee and is often confused with it.

Sedge warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)

Familiy: Acrocephalidae
Size: 12,5cm
Food: insects, slugs, worms

The Sedge warbler lives around water along trenches and in swamps with reed growth. Sedge warblers make their nests in reeds, close to the ground. The Utrecht Science Park has a number of nature-friendly banks which will be extended over the years. These banks would be suitable habitats for the sedge warblers. This bird winters in mid- and south Africa.

Males are buys bees and can be responsible for two nests per breeding season. The two nests are always close together, so the male can keep a close watch on both.