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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, July 25, 2016

Nine-banded Armadillo

Photo Credit: Hans Stieglitz
The solitary and nocturnal armadillo has an armored skin composed of hard, bony plates. Its head, legs, and tail are similarly protected with bony scales.

The nine-banded armadillo is the most widespread of all armadillo species. It inhabits the open grasslands and tropical forests of North and South America. Still, it is unable to survive in arid regions, such as deserts, or in areas that are very cold.

Armadillos generally spend the day sleeping in the safety of their burrows. They may have as many as 12 burrows located throughout their ranges, which they dig with their strong front claws, kicking away the excavated dirt with their hind legs.

Nine-banded armadillos will share their burrows only with members of the same sex. Each animal has its own territory, but those of males will often overlap. Territories are marked with scent.

At night, the armadillo emerges from its burrow to look for food: insects small animals, birds' eggs, fungi, roots, fruit, and carrion (rotting animal flesh). It uses its strong sense of smell to detect food. The armadillo's long snout has particularly sensitive nostrils.

Did you know?
  • The nine-banded armadillo is the only armadillo species that can swim. It does this by inflating its stomach and intestines with air to keep it buoyant. It can cross a small river or stream by walking on the bottom while holding its breath.
  • Using its long, sticky tongue, the armadillo can eat more than 40,000 ants in one feeding.
  • When digging for prey, the armadillo avoids getting dust up its nose by holding its breath for up to six minutes.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Jumping Spider

Photo Credit: Karthik Easvur
The jumping spider is found throughout the northern hemisphere. It has acute vision and can look 360 degrees around its body without moving its head.

The jumping spider gets its name from the way it leaps toward its prey with great speed, rather than trapping it in a web. Some of the most colorful spiders are contained in this group. It has distinctive white bands across its black abdomen.

The jumping spider is active during the day, mainly in warm, sunny weather. It lives in houses and gardens, but mountain climbers report sightings as high as 23,000 feet above sea level in the Himalayas. This spider finds a safe hiding place and spins itself into a silk cell for the nigh, emerging when temperatures rise the next day. During cold weather, the spider stays in its silk cell until conditions improve.

The carnivorous (meat-eating) jumping spider eats flies, tiny moths, ants, and beetles. Most other spiders wait for prey to become entangled in their webs, but the jumping spider uses its keen eyesight to stalk its prey.

Did you know?
  • Male jumping spiders will perform their mating displays to their own mirror reflections.
  • The jumping spider cleans dirt from its eyes by rubbing them carefully with its palps.
  • The majority of the 4,000 members of the jumping spider family around the world live in the tropics, but a few live in temperate cold climates including the arctic.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Common Sturgeon

Photo Credit: Cacophony
The common sturgeon has changed very little since the age of the dinosaurs. At that time, its ancestors were among the most abundant fish in the sea.

The common sturgeon is one of the biggest fish to use rivers and lakes for breeding grounds. Some sturgeons grow to several yards in length and may outlive humans.

The common sturgeon is a bottom-dwelling fish, spending much of its time inshore, where the seabed is 50 to 150 feet deep. It is the only European sturgeon that can live in full salt water as well as in the brackish (mixed salt and fresh) water of estuaries. After spawning in fresh water, some adult sturgeon remain near rivers, while others travel more than 600 miles throughout the sea of their range.

The sturgeon forages for food on the seabed, using its long, shovel-shaped snout to root around in the mud and sand. For sensitive barbels (feelers) under its snout feel for edible morsels.

For its size, the common sturgeon feeds on a fairly small prey, mainly invertebrates, such as mollusks, worms, and shrimp. A larger adult will also eat small fish, such as gobies and sand eels. During its spawning trips up rivers, the sturgeon does not eat at all.

The fry (young fish) developing in the rivers feed on freshwater prey, such as insects larvae and aquatic worms.

Did you know?
  • Sturgeons were once so plentiful in North America that dishes of caviar were provided free in bars.
  • In the Black and Caspian seas, the beluga have been known to reach 16 feet in length.
  • More than 12,000 tons of sturgeon are caught every year in the Black and Caspian seas.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Blue-footed Booby

Photo Credit: Benjamint444
The blue-footed booby is a goose-sized tropical seabird that breeds on islands off the Pacific coast. It catches fish in spectacular plunging dives beneath the surface of the waves.

The blue-footed booby is one of the world's most comical-looking seabirds. It has dazzling blue webbed feet, a cigar-shaped body, and long pointed wings and tail. Its tapering, pointed bill, with serrated edges is ideal for grasping the slippery fish that are its prey.

The blue-footed booby has brown and white plumage that greatly contrasts with its bright blue feet and greenish-gray bill. Its head is pale brown and streaked with whitish feathers.

The blue-footed booby spends much of its time gliding purposefully over the water, bill angled downward, watching the surface for signs of fish. It can dive from heights of up to 80 feet. Streaking downward at great speed, with wings angled close to its body, it hits water with barely a splash and resurfaces several yards away with its catch. Sometimes it will catch flying fish in midair.

Did you know?
  • The name "booby" comes from the Spanish word bobo which means "stupid fellow." The blue-footed booby is so called because its lack of fear and its clumsiness on land have made it easy prey for man.
  • The pupils in the female's eyes appear larger than the male's. This is an illusion, the female has rings of dark pigment around her pupils that make them look bigger.
  • The blue-footed booby likes plenty of space around its nest, but its relative, the gannet may pack as many as seven nests in a square yard at its breeding colony.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Nile Crocodile

Photo Credit: Leigh Bedford
The Nile crocodile survives wherever there is water, rivers, waterholes, lakes, reservoirs, even ditches. It lives in many parts of Africa, including the island of Madagascar. In periods of drought, it may travel up to 15 miles in search of water, it will die without it.

The crocodile also inhabits estuaries and can survive for a short period of time in saltwater, some regularly swim the channel between the mainland of Madagascar. During the wet seasons, young crocodiles often live in rain puddles, moving to larger pools as they grow.

Unlike mammals and birds, most reptiles can't regulated their body temperature internally. The crocodile must take other steps to warm up or cool down. It spends the morning basking in the sun to warm itself. As the day progresses and the temperature rises, the crocodile holds it mouth open to stop itself from overheating. It also looks for shade or climbs into he water. In colder periods, the crocodile moves to deep water, where the temperature stays constant. Here, it remains inactive and can survive up to a year without eating.

Did you know?
  • The Nile crocodile is the largest reptile in Africa, growing up to 20 feet from snout to tail and weighing over 1,980 pounds.
  • The Nile crocodile is able to remain submerged for more than an hour as it waits to ambush prey.
  • The Nile crocodile is massively powerful, it can drag a fully grown zebra under water in just a few seconds. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

European Starfish

Photo Credit:
The European starfish is a brownish-orange color and have five tapering limbs that give it its star shape. It is a common seashore sight along the coastline of western Europe.

The European starfish, which is all legs and has no real head, seems a strange creature. It uses it suction feet to crawl along the seabed and to grasp its prey. With these suction feet, it can even pry open mussel and clam shells.

The bodies of starfish are very different from those of most other animals. The European starfish has five identical arms radiating from a flat central area, and other starfish have as many as 50 arms. The central area contains a mouth (on the bottom), and the anus (on top), and a main stomach organs in between.

Bony plates in the starfish's body give it support. All over the surface there are tiny pincers that snap shut to defend against creatures that try to settle on the starfish.

Some starfish filter nutritious particles from the water, but most, including the European starfish, are predators. They eat sponges, corals, worms, mollusks, crustaceans, other starfish, and small fish. They use their tube feet to detect prey from chemical signals in the water and to ensnare their victims.

Did you know?
  • Adult starfish consume three times their weight in food every day. Young starfish may eat 10 times their body weight. 
  • Although they are named "starfish", they are not related to fish at all. Starfish belong to the group of marine invertebrates which also include sea cucumber, sea urchin and sand dollar.
  • Typical predators of the starfish are sea otters, rays, sharks, seagulls and different types of fish.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Bactrian Camel

Photo Credit: J. Patrick Fischer
The Bactrian camel is the only truly wild, two-humped camel in the world. In the Gobi desert, and, like the one-humped camel, it can go for long periods without water.

The Bactrian camel is named after the part of the region it inhabits, Bactrian, on the border of Afghanistan and Uzbekistan (former Soviet Union).

Once found over a vast range of Asia, Bactrian camels now inhabit only Mongolia's remote Gobi desert. They are specially adapted to cope with the extreme climate found in this region. They form small groups of six to twenty animals that are led by a mature male. You males spend most of their time wondering alone.

Like most domestic cows, camels are ruminants, meaning they feed and then regurgitate the food and chew it again. This is also called chewing the cud. Able to survive on extremely sparse vegetation, they eat the tough grass, herbs, thin branches, and foliage of the shrubs that grow in their arid environment. They search for food in the morning and evening and chew cud in the afternoon.

Did you know?
  • A Bactrian camel can drink quantities equaling up to 30 percent of its body weight at one time.
  • In the desert without water, a camel can survive up to 10 times as long as a human and four times as long as a donkey. 
  • Males, female, and young camels are known respectively as stallions, mares, and calves.
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