Monday, August 31, 2009

The Coelacanth Lives On

The coelacanth was discovered in 1938, after many scientists believed it went extinct with the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Because of its prehistoric features, scientists believe that it represents an earlier step in evolution before fish turned into four-legged creatures or amphibians. Its unique features, such as its paired lobe fins that extend from its body like legs and its hinged joint in the skull that widens the coelacanth’s mouth, both make it a rare “living fossil”. Although there are only about 1,000 of them in the world, these fish can live up to 60 years and often grow to be about six feet long. 

Bonus Fact: The coelacanth’s brain fills only 1.5 percent of its cranial cavity. The rest is filled with fat.

Friday, August 28, 2009

License to Handle Warty Newts

The warty newt or the great-crested newt is the largest newt (reaching up to 7 inches) that lives in Europe. Its first name comes from the small bumps that cover it’s back. Their purpose is to secrete a milky, foul-smelling substance that deters predators from preying on it. Its other name comes from the rock-like crest that develop on males during mating season. These newts can live up to 16 years, and like all newts, they can regenerate body parts.

Bonus Fact: In Europe, you need a required license to handle the warty newt.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sing A Song of Spring

Spring peeper frogs have the ability to keep most of their bodies frozen during winter hibernation and still survive. As soon as winter is over though, they make it clear that they’re alive by singing a spring song. In fact, their singing is often taken as a sign that winter is over, just like the song of a robin. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Common Loon Dives Deep

The common loon is a bird named after the way it awkwardly walks when on land. It’s a migratory bird that often lives in North America’s Pacific and Atlantic coasts, as well as in Europe and Iceland. They are strong divers that can actually dive more than 200 feet below the water’s surface in search of food.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Don't Fall for the Mars Hoax

I don’t know if any of you have seen the e-mail about Mars this month, but I’m here to set the record straight... and save you some sleep. Ever since 2003, there’s been a circulation of hoax e-mails that come out every August, claiming that Mars will be the closest to Earth on Aug. 27 — and that it will be as big as the moon! Unfortunately, this is not true. 

In Aug. 2003, Mars was the closest to Earth that it could be in its 22-month orbit around the sun, and it actually was the closest it had been in more than 50,000 years. However, it looked like a red star, definitely not as big as the moon. It will never be able to look as big as the moon because it orbits the sun 1 1/2 times farther out than the Earth’s orbit. It only gets close to Earth every 26 months, when the two planets near opposition. The next time this will occur is in Jan. 2010, but it will be almost twice as far away as in Aug. 2003. So, if you want to get your telescopes out then, go for it. But this week, just get some extra shut eye on Thursday.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Platypuses Start Out Small

The platypus is one of two mammals that lays eggs. The female platypus usually lays one or two eggs, and they hatch within ten days. Newborn platypuses are the size of a lima bean, and the mothers feed and nurture them for about four months until they’re ready to live on their own. 

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Two Humps Are Better Than One

Bactrian camels are the only wild camels left in Africa. They have two humps, opposed to Arabian camels that have only one. Both humps give the Bactrian camel the ability to go long periods without water. However, when they need to refill, they can drink up to 30 gallons of water in just 13 minutes!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Get Webkinz at The Jungle Store

The Jungle Store just added Webkinz to their line of products! Each toy comes with a secret code that allows you to logon to the Webkinz world where these virtual stuffed animals come to life online, allowing you to keep them healthy and even build them a home. This toy has become quite popular, even for children as young as preschoolers, so make sure to pick one up for the little tike in your life! 

The Jungle Store is selling them for as cheap as $7.99, including the lion pictured above. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Web-Footed Geckos Survive in Desert

GEICO commercials have completely thrown off my whole image of geckos. (They’re not all green, and they don’t all talk.) These web-footed geckos are a light salmon color, but almost translucent.  Their webbed feet help them survive in the Namib desert. They allow for them to stay atop the sand and to also bury underneath it when they sleep during the daytime. These nocturnal animals communicate through various sounds, including squeaks, clicks and even croaks.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Giant Stingray Can Grow As Large As School Bus

One of the world’s largest freshwater fish is the giant stingray. This ancient fish has not changed much over millions of years. It grows up to 16.5 feet long and can weigh up to 1,320 pounds — a size relative to a school bus. Although this fish has been around for centuries, it was first introduced to science less than 20 years ago and is still fairly unknown.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Nurse Sharks Sleep Together

The nurse shark is either named after the sucking noise it makes when hunting for prey that sounds like a nursing baby.Or it may derive from either the word, nusse, which means ‘cat shark’ or the Old-English word hurse, which means sea-floor shark. Either way this shark is less threatening then many of its relatives; however, it is extremely large, growing up to 14 feet in length. Nurse sharks are nocturnal and sleep during the day on the sea floor, in groups of 40 or so. Sometimes they’re even piled on top of each other. 

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New Discoveries in the Himalayas

The Gumprecht’s green pit viper can grow up to 4.3 feet, not something you want to run across hiking through the Himalayas. However, it was recently discovered there this past month. The snake was originally discovered in Thailand in 2002, but it’s now known to live in the Eastern Himalaya region also. This region has provided 300 new species since 1998. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Watch the Perseid Meteor Shower Tonight

For those late nighters or early risers, the annual Perseid meteor shower will shine the most tonight (or tomorrow morning) between midnight and 5 a.m. Although the moon may outshine some of the fainter meteors, it’ll still be worth watching the more than 80 meteors an hour. For the best view, find a spot outside the city. Look away from the moon and all other lights to get adapted to the dark. Look into the northeastern sky, near the constellation Perseus, and you’ll start to see sparks of light. Then, sit back and enjoy. And maybe even wish upon a couple of shooting stars.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Living Under Water

The Mexican axolotl is a salamander that lives almost all of its life in water. It keeps its tadpole-like fin and its feathery gills, while other salamanders lose them as they get older. In fact, if the Mexican axolotl does lose one of these parts, it has the ability to regenerate them throughout its adult life. This rare ability also makes it one of the world’s most frequently studied salamanders.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Dingoes Rule Australia

The dingo is known for being Australia’s wild dog, although it is said to be descended from Asian dingoes that were introduced 3,000 to 4,000 years ago. Australians consider them to be pests because there are so many of them. In fact, there are most likely more dingoes today than Europeans when they first settled the land. While there are many, studies say that one-third of southeastern Australian dingoes are interbred with domestic dogs.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Protecting With Horns

Both black and white rhinoceroses are actually. gray. Their differences come from their lip shape as a result of their diet. White rhinos have square lips and graze on grasses, while black rhinos have a pointed upper lip to pick leaves and fruits from trees. White rhinos have two horns, one of which is significantly longer than the other. Their horns grow as much as three inches a year and sometimes even grow up to five feet long. Female rhinos  use their horn to protect their young, while males use theirs to fight off predators

Monday, August 3, 2009

Learn About Sharks This Week

For all those shark fans out there, this week is Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. I was so enthralled with it last night that I knew I had to tell me readers. I watched scientists prove for the first time that Great Whites hunt at both dusk and when it's completely dark outside. Then, I saw a reenactment of the events that the movie Jaws was based on, which actually happened in 1916 instead of during the '70s. Check out the schedule to see what's on tonight and for the rest of this week's tribute to this dangerous, but ever-so-interesting underwater creature.