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The largest member of the deer family, the moose lives in forests, bogs and marshlands where, for the most part of the year, it feeds on...

Monday, May 30, 2016

Sea Horse

Photo Credit: Stevenj
The sea horse is a member of the pipe-fish family. Swimming upright, and looking a little like a chess piece, it is a graceful inhabitant of the warmer seas.

Sea horses avoid predators by mimicking the colors of underwater plants. There are 35 species living along the coasts of Australia, Africa, Europe, and North America. They range in size from the tiny pygmy variety to the giant eastern Pacific sea horse.

Sea horses are usually found in warm, shallow water among beds of sea grass. They situate themselves near deep, fast-moving channels that provide them with plankton, the microscopic marine life on which they feed.

Sea horses feed constantly on plankton and other small fish. A sea horse can use each eye independently from the other, which allows it to search for prey without moving its body. When prey comes near, the sea horse can snap it up from as close as as inch and a half away.

Did you know? 
  • Except for crabs, few predators eat sea horses, they are too bony. 
  • Male pregnancy lets the female produce more eggs quickly without nurturing the last batch.
  • Female sea horses compete with each other for male mating partners.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Blue Titmouse

Photo Credit: Baresi Franco
Known for their acrobatic skills, blue titmouse are tough, inquisitive, and highly successful inhabitants of the temperate woodlands.

The blue titmouse's characteristics plumage of bright blue and yellow, and its habit of visiting backyards to feed on juts and scraps, make it one of the most endearing and best-known birds in all of Europe.

Blue titmouse are found in most of the broad-leaved woodlands throughout a large area of Europe. They are far less common in coniferous forests.

During the summer, blue titmouse live mainly on insects picked from foliage. The abundant caterpillar population, which appears on oak trees in late spring and summer, is the usual diet for chicks. People who feed birds in winter should stop at this time so that the birds will search for natural supplies.

Did you know? 
  • In a single winter day, more than 200 blue titmouse may feed at a nut bag hung in a backyard.
  • Females and their young are in danger from weasels, which can squeeze through holes measuring only an inch across. 
  • In winter, blue titmouse will roost in street lights to keep warm.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

American Bullfrog

Photo Credit: Tigershrike
The bullfrog gets its name from its powerful call, which sounds more like the bellow of a bull than the croak of a frog. The bullfrog's strong hind legs enable it to jump long distances.

Originally found only east of the Rocky Mountains, this large frog has spread west and is used in California to supply the local demand for frog's legs. It has also been introduced as a source of protein in Jamaica and Cuba.

The bullfrog often stays submerged with just its nostrils and bulging eyes showing. This position allows the frog to spot danger easily. Movable lids protect the eyes from dust and grit, and a special gland keeps them moist.

The bullfrog has a strong sense of hearing. Its ears are located under the skin, but the eardrums can be seen as rings behind the eyes. A male's rings are twice the size of the female's.

The bullfrog has a blind spot in front of its nostrils so it must turn its head slightly to one side to see its prey.

Bullfrogs like to eat underwater. They often submerge themselves in the water before eating prey caught on a stream or pond ban,

The bullfrog's large size allows it to eat more types of prey than most smaller frogs. It eats small fish, insects, and even frogs of its own species. It also preys on small mammals, such as mice, snakes, and young alligators.

Did you know?
  • American bullfrogs can catch and eat bats. One American bullfrog found in a snake cage in the Pretoria Zoo ate 16 young cobras. 
  • Most frogs leave hatching eggs and tadpoles to fend for themselves, but the male bullfrog may defend its tadpoles from predators. 
  • Each frog species has a distinct call that only the female of the same species responds to. It two species live in the same area, the calls become even more distinct so that the frogs can not become confused.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Octopus

Photo Credit: Albert kok 
The well armed octopus has a secret weapon. Concealed in the folds of its body lies a sackful of ink, which the octopus secretes to ward off or confuse its enemies.

The strange-looking octopus has a bulbous body and eight arms. Its bag-shaped body, called a mantel, houses a remarkable well developed brain and nervous system, making the octopus surprisingly intelligent.

A bottom-dwelling animal, the octopus makes its home in a hole or rock crevice in shallow water. Sometimes it digs a gravel nest or forms a protective area with a pile of rocks.

By day, the octopus spends most of its time hidden in its lair. When it hunts, it propels itself up by swimming or crawling along on its tentacles. It large, lidded eyes are adapted to focus in dim underwater light.

The octopus does most of its hunting at night. It emerges from its rocky lair to seek crabs, crayfish, and mollusks, which are its favorite foods.

Did you know?
  • The first writing ink was made from pigment found in the octopus's ink sac. 
  • The octopus is messy. It is easy to identify its lair by the pile of discarded shells outside the entrance. 
  • If an octopus damages one of its vital arms, it can grow a new one.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Arctic Wolf

Photo Credit: DocTaxon~commonswiki
The majestic arctic wolf lives in the silent vastness of the barren polar region, where darkness cloaks the land for up to five months of the year. Here, it hunts almost every other living animal.

Able to tolerate years of sub-zero temperatures, months of darkness, and weeks without food, the arctic wolf lives in one of a few places on earth where it is safe from the greatest threat of all, man.

Arctic wolves inhabit some of the most inhospitable terrain in the world. In April, the air temperature rarely rises above -22 degrees F, and the ground is frozen year-round. The arctic wolf is one of the few mammals that can tolerate these conditions.

The wolf preys on lemmings and arctic hare, but its most substantial source of food is the musk ox and caribou. Because of the scarcity of grazing plants, animals must roam a large area in order to find food to survive.

Full-grown caribou and musk oxen are far too powerful for a single wolf to attack alone, so wolves must always work together as a pack when hunting large prey.

Did you know?
  • Wolves will often go days without food, but can then eat up to 10 pounds of meat at one time. 
  • Food is so scarce in the Arctic that no part of a wolf's prey is wasted; a wolf will eat every part of an arctic hare, including the skin, fur, and bones. 
  • Several of the younger pack members will "babysit" the cubs while the mother wolf is hunting.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Arizona Bark Scorpion

Photo Credit: Musides (talk)
The Arizona bark scorpion occurs from southern California through southern Arizona into western New Mexico; and in adjacent Mexico (Baja California, Sonora, and Chihuahua).

They can be found in many places due to its ability to climb. It can be found not only under rocks or in rock crevices, but also in trees or high on rock walls. They also can be found inside of peoples dwellings trapped in sinks or bathtubs, climbing walls, or in a dark closet.

They are predators. They consume all types of insects, spiders, centipedes, and even other scorpions.

Arizona bark scorpions prefer cool and moist areas and can be found in crevices, under pieces of bark, under rocks, under bricks and in houses. They live at least 2-6 years although many live much longer, especially in the wild.

The Arizona bark scorpions body has two parts, a cephalothorax and abdomen. The tail is actually a part of the abdomen. It has five segments each longer than the last; at the tip is the stinger (not considered a segment). They have 8 jointed legs and a pair of pedipalps that are use for grasping prey and sensing.

Did you know? 
  • Scorpions have "hairs" on their legs and other body parts that are sensitive to vibrations in the air. 
  • Bark scorpions will glow a green color (fluoresce) under ultraviolet light. 
  • Scorpions give birth to live young during the summer months. The babies will crawl up their mother's pincers and legs to get on her back. They will ride around on her back until they molt in 7-21 days.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Piranha

Photo Credit: Greg5030
The relatively small piranha is one of the most feared of all river fish. It will attack prey many times larger than itself, but its reputation as a man-eater is questionable.

Unspectacular in appearance except for its over-sized moth and prominent teeth, the piranha varies in color from species to species. Most have olive-green or blue-black backs with dark to silvery-gray sides and bellies.

Piranhas live in enormous packs, or shoals. They spend most of their time hunting for food. Rivers are their primary habitat, although as a result of massive flooding they may occasionally find their way into lakes. But is is thought that they are unable to breed outside of rivers.

The piranha hunts with speed and by surprise. The typical way in which piranhas attack is by swimming directly into a shoal of prey fish. The attacked shoal scatters in all directions and the piranhas quickly overpower individual fish. Small fish are swallowed whole. Larger prey have chunks ripped out to them which the piranha swallows instantly so it can immediately take another bite.

Did you know?
  • The teeth of the piranha are so sharp they can slice through bone. 
  • Piranhas can consume animals the size of pigs within minutes. 
  • It is believed that piranhas tend to attack fish that are more than four times as long as they are wide.

Friday, May 13, 2016

African Fish Eagle

Photo Credit: Arturo de Frias Marques
Sharply eyeing the water from its overhead perch, the predatory African fish eagle will swoop down to the surface to catch a fish that may weigh as much as the eagle itself.

Its distinctive black, brown, and white plumage and loud, ringing call make the fish eagle one of Africa's most recognizable birds. Experts think that the birds pair for life and maintain their close bond by calling to each other constantly in a variety of high and low notes.

African fish eagles are always found near lakes, reservoirs, or rivers. They also hunt along the coast, particularly in river mouths and lagoons where the water surface is sheltered.

Where food is abundant and there are plenty of large trees suitable for nesting, fish eagles may be found every few hundred yards along the shoreline.

Fish are the eagle's main prey, and it hunts from a perch overlooking the water. It make make short foraging flights, but it rarely travels more than 50 yards form the shore.

Fish eagles will eat waterfowl, terrapins, and baby crocodiles. They will also eat carrion, and will force other fish eating birds, such as herons, to give up their food.

Did you know?
  • Where breeding territories are crowded, adult fish eagles may spend so much time defending their patch that they often have no time for breeding. 
  • One fish eagle nest is known to have been used regularly for 21 years. 
  • Once they have found a good hunting area, fish eagles often do not have to hunt for any more than 15 minutes a day.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Green Iguana

Photo Credit: Jamaican college grad
The green iguana is a lizard common to tropical forests in Central and South America. Often it perches on a branch overhanging a river, plunging into the water for safety if danger threatens.

The green iguana is one of the biggest and most impressive of the lizards, with its long, whip-like tail and large head. Its prominent throat flap and the tail, comb-like crest of spines that runs along its neck and back give this tree dweller a menacing appearance.

The green iguana is common over many parts of its range. It inhabits swamps, beaches, and savannahs, but it lives mainly in tropical forests.

Supremely able to climb trees and leap between branches, it forages from the forest floor to the canopy, up to 100 feet from the ground. It is often seen near water, and it regularly penetrates deep into the forest, where it basks in shafts of sunlight on exposed branches.

The green iguana's diet varies with age. The adult is a plant eater, but in some areas it catches and eats small mammals and nestling birds. It feeds mainly on leaves, berries, and fruit. It also scavenges, but rarely, on the ground. The juvenile, however, often scurries about the forest floor searching form invertebrates, including insects, grubs,worms, and snails.

Did you know? 

  • The tail of a the green iguana is up to three times its body length. 
  • The adult green iguana has few natural enemies apart for large cats, crocodiles, and boa constrictors. A small juvenile may fall prey to a hawk or even another lizard. 
  • If a nesting female unearths another iguana's buried eggs while she is digging, she will immediately kick them up to the surface.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Robber Crab

Photo Credit: commons.wikimedia.org
The huge robber crab is the best known of all land crabs. Its name come from the habit of stealing anything it can carry away in its large pincers.

The robber crab is also called the "coconut" crab because it sometimes feeds on coconuts. It is also known as the "terrestrial hermit" crab because of its habit of living in shells when it is young. Still, it does not belong to the same family as the true hermit crab.

Although the robber crab hatches in the water, it spends most of its life on land, where it lives in rocky crevices or shallow burrows.

The robber crab climbs trees to escape predators or to find shade when it is very hot. The crab has no special adaptions that enable it to climb. It simple grasps the trunk with the sharp, pointed claws located on each leg and hauls itself up. The crab climbs backward down tress, and it can walk backward on land as well.

Robber crabs feed on carrion (dead animal matter), as well as various types of fruit. They located food primarily by smell, sometimes from several yards away. They even consume the remains of other robber crabs. Sometimes they chase other crabs to their burrows, where they pull off and eat the claws that the crabs use to defend themselves.

Did you know?
  • The robber crab has become so adapted to living on land that it will drown if it is submerged in water for more than a few minutes. 
  • The robber crab grows much larger than the hermit crab, possibly because it does not need to find a shell to accommodate its growing body as it matures. 
  • The world's largest crab has a leg span of over six feed. It lives deep in the ocean and never comes to surface.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Gorilla

Photo Credit: Poleta33
Largest and powerful of all primates, the gorilla is a peaceable and sociable animal. Small family groups live in the highlands and forests of Africa.

Gorillas live in the wild only in the Zaire River basin. The two species, mountain and lowland, are separated by about 600 miles. Both are now recognized as endangered.

Each family group lives withing a fairly small area. However, groups that occupy the same area coexist peacefully.

One way in which gorillas establish and reinforce bonds is by social grooming. One gorilla will groom the other by combing through its fur with its fingers and teeth. In addition to the cleanliness it promotes, social grooming allows for contact and touch between the animals.

The gorilla is herbivorous, or plant-eating, as opposed to carnivorous, or meat-eating. It eats the fruit, leaves, and stems of a wide variety of plants that form the undergrowth of the forest floor. Bamboo shoots are a favorite.

Did you know? 
  • When a gorilla drinks, which is rarely, it soaks the back of its hand and sucks the water from its fur. 
  • As he matures, a males gorilla's skull develops a body ridge, which makes his head dome-shaped. 
  • Social grooming can relax a gorilla to the point that it will go into a trance.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Praying Mantis

Photo Credit: Adamantios
The praying mantis ambushes its prey and captures it with its spiny forelegs. A mantis feeds on all types on insects, including other mantises.

The cannibalistic habits of praying mantises ensure that they remain solitary creatures. Because they feed on one another, mantises are widely spaced withing their various habitats.

Mantises are found in a variety of habitats, including deserts, meadows, and Savannahs,, all through the warmer parts of the world, especially in the humid tropical rainforests, where the majority of mantis species occur.

Praying mantises do not actively hunt down their prey. Instead, they wait unmoving and virtually invisible on a leaf or stem, ready to seize any passing insects. When potential prey comes within range, the mantis thrusts its pincer-like forelegs forward to grasp the insect.

Did you know? 
  • Large mantises will tackle and eat tree frogs and nestling birds. 
  • Flower mantises, from Africa and the Far East, so closely resemble flowers that insects will often land on them to get nectar. 
  • Whatever their size, mantises lay eggs of virtually the same size.

Monday, May 2, 2016

European Flounder

Photo Credit: WikedKentaur
The European flounder's flattened body and ability to change color to blend in with its surroundings make it well adapted for a predatory existence in coastal waters.

The European flounder is hatched in the surface waters of the sea, but may spend much of its life in fresh water. Barely able to swim, the fish travels upstream on the tide to feed on small aquatic animals that live near the shore.

The European flounder is one of the most adaptable and widespread of all flatfish. Although native to European coastal waters, it can tolerate a wide range of temperatures: it has been caught as far north at the Arctic coast of Norway and as far south Africa.

The flounder also has the unusual ability to survive in both salt and fresh water. The founder is especially common in brackish river mouths. It often moves upriver at high tide to feed in the tidal river waters. When the tide ebbs, the founder lies stationary on the bottom of the river and waits for the returning tide, which then carries it still further inland.

The flounder has powerful crushing teeth in its throat that crack open the hard-shelled mollusks that make up much of its diet. It mainly eats cockles, shrimp, and marine worms.

Did you know?
  • Sometimes a flounder's right eye shifts to its left side. This fish lies on its right side. 
  • Adult flounders often migrate long distances to the spawning grounds and my lose up to one-tenth of their body weight in the process. 
  • The flounder can blend in with almost any background. When it is placed on a chessboard,, for example, it adopts a roughly checkered pattern.
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