Thursday, December 31, 2009

How Polar Bears Stay Warm

Polar bears live in one of the coldest environments in the world. To stay warm, they have a thick coat of insulated fur that covers a layer of fat. They even have fur on the bottom of their paws to help them grip on ice. While their coat is white to provide them camouflage against the surrounding snow, they actually have black skin to help them attract the sun's rays.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bonobos vs. Chimps

Bonobos look very similar to chimpanzees; however, even though they too are part of the great ape family, they have a lot of differences from chimps. Bonobos tend to be slimmer and have smaller heads. They are omnivores (like chimps), but they don't eat other mammals or monkeys. They stick with small fish, insects and various plants. When it comes to their territory, bonobos are less aggressive and don't seem to have established territories that they need to protect. Bonobos are unique to one country in Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and they don't live anywhere else.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mountain Goats Aren't Goats?

Mountain goats are not actual goats; they're known more as goat-antelopes actually. They have cloven hooves that are split into two toes to help with balance, and they have rough pads at the bottom of their toes to help them climb.

Bonus Fact: Mountain goats can jump 12 feet in a single leap.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Fennec Foxes Know How To Stay Warm and Cool

The Fennec Fox is the world's smallest fox; however, its ears reach 6 inches in length. They live in the Sahara desert and have unique features that help them adapt to their extreme environment. These nocturnal animals have long thick hair to keep them warm on cold desert nights; however, their big ears help to radiate heat during those hot days.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Snowy Delight

I'm hoping for a white Christmas this year, and I think my wish might come true! So, to get in the spirit, I decided to write about the Snowshoe Hare. The Snowshoe Hare lives in forests in northern regions. During the winter, its large feet help it hop atop the snow, and its snow-white coat helps it stay camouflaged. However, in the spring the Snowshoe Hare's coat turns a brownish color, as the snow begins to melt away.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Largest Otter

Giant River otters, also known as South American otters, are the largest otters in the world, sometimes reaching up to 6 feet long. They only live in the Amazon, Orinico and La Plata river systems. They have webbed feet and water resistant fur, and their nostrils and ears close whenever they dive under water. Female South American otters give birth on land in a den where the cubs stay out of harms way for a month or so.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

An Anteater's Powerful Tongue

Anteaters have no teeth; however, their up to two-foot long tongues allow them to swallow as many as 35,000 ants and termites each day. The anteater can even flick its tongue 160 times a minute. Because of the ants' defensive stings, anteaters only stay at each anthill for a minute or so. However, they never crush an anthill so that they can come back to it at a later feeding time.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Walking Sifakas

The local Malagasy people in Madagascar gave the Sifaka its name because of the unique sound it lets out that sounds like "shif-auk". Sifakas are lemurs. And while they too spend most of their time in trees; they actually remain upright while leaping through the jungle. They jump from tree to tree by using their hind legs like humans do. In fact, they can leap distances of 30 feet. But they can move quickly on the ground too, using a two-legged sideways hop.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Head-Butting Bull Sharks

Bull sharks are considered to be the most dangerous sharks in the world because they are aggressive, common and often live near heavily-populated areas like tropical shorelines. They often travel inland, swimming up rivers and tributaries. In fact, they've been found thousands of miles up the Amazon River, heading towards Lake Nicaragua. Along with great whites and tiger sharks, they are one of the three sharks most likely to attack humans. Their name comes from their short snout and their tendency to head-butt their victims.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pirate Skuas

Arctic skuas are known for their piracy in the sky. They actually steal most of their food from terns, puffins and other birds that carry food back their young. Skuas attack during flight and force their victims to drop their catch.

Bonus Fact: The word "skua" means "seagull" in the language of the Vikings, also known as Old Norse.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Octopus Constructs Shelter

Apparently, Australian scientists discovered that Indonesia's veined octopus collects shells for shelter. While octopuses do use shells for shelter, these ones actually carry two coconut halves up to 65 feet and put them together to build a shelter. It's the actual carrying and plotting that makes scientists believe this is the first sign of tool use in an invertebrate. Check out the YouTube video below to see this 8-legged squid at work.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fast Warthogs

Warthogs are from the same family as domestic pigs, although their heads are covered with warts that serve as protective pumps. They have very little hair, except for a thick mane on their back. Although warthogs look mean, they are actually just grazers, feeding on grasses and plants. However, when warthogs are threatened, they can run up to 30 miles per hour.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Difference Between Apes and Monkeys

There are over 300 species of primates in the world, but there are a couple of distinctive differences that separate apes from monkeys. Apes don't have tails and are generally a lot larger. They also depend more on their vision than their smell because their noses aren't snout-shaped like monkeys' noses are. Great Apes consist of gorillas, chimpanzees, oragutans and bonobos, while the Lesser Apes consist of gibbons and siamongs.

Bonus Fact: The amount of identical DNA in chimpanzees and humans range from 94.6% to 99.4%.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Standing Dugong

Dugongs are giant vegetarians that reside in the warmer coastal waters that range from East Africa to Australia. Their closest relative is the manatee; they are similar in appearance and behavior, even though the dugong's tail resembles that of a whale. Both dugongs and manatees are related to the elephant, even though neither have its same appearance or behavior. Dugongs can stay underwater for six minutes at a time, and sometimes "stand" up to breathe on their tail with their heads above water.

Bonus Fact: These animals are said to have inspired ancient stories of mermaids and sirens.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Reindeer Travel Far

To get in the holiday mood, I wanted to write about caribou, otherwise known as reindeer. They are the only deer where both males and females have antlers, although not all females actually have them. During the spring, caribou herds travel north sometimes more than 600 miles. Once they reach their destination, an adult caribou can eat up to 12 pounds of food every day in the rich northern tundra of North America, Europe, Asia and Greenland. After the first snow fall, these same caribou travel back south, sometimes up to 1,600 miles.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Clouded Leopards Climb Trees

Clouded leopards are great climbers. In fact, they can suspend themselves upside down from a branch with the grip of their large paws and sharp claws. They can even walk down the edge of a tree in a headfirst posture — similar to squirrels — because of their short legs with rotating rear ankles. Although they're great climbers, they do most of their hunting on ground. They excel at hunting because of they have the largest canine teeth (compared to their body size) of any wild cat.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Hidden Nutria

Nutria are large, web-footed rodents that work better in water than on land. Although their fur is shaggy and an ugly brownish yellow color, they have a very attractive fur undercoat, called nutria. In fact, nutria are often trapped for this fur. While they once only lived in South America, they have been domesticated as fur animals and bred all over the world.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Lion Tamarins Live Like Monkeys

The golden lion tamarin gets its name from its mane and thick rings of hair that it has in common with the lion. However, the tamarin has a lot more in common with its monkey relatives than any cat. This species forms social family groups, and the males even help raise their offspring. Unfortunately, the golden lion tamarin is endangered due to disappearing rain forests in South America.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Kangaroo Cherries

Gray kangaroos can hop up to 35 miles an hour, traveling for long distances of up to 15 miles. Females have a baby one at a time, which is the size of only a cherry when born. At birth, the infant climbs into the mother's pouch without leaving for two months.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ferocious Leopard Seal

The leopard seal resembles the big, feisty cat it gets it name from because of the grayish spots it has on its coat; however, the similarities don't stop there. It is also the most feared hunter of all the seals, and the only one that goes after warm-blooded prey.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Laughter-Like Call is Bushman's Clock

The laughing kookaburra is native to Australia. It sings its laughter-like call at dawn and dusk, which earned it the nickname "bushman's clock." It is the largest member of the Kingfisher family and is a well known symbol in Australia's birdlife.