Enjoy our wide range of fun animal facts for kids. Children will love reading the crazy, cool, strange, weird, odd and funny information as well as did you know facts and other interesting animal info that will help them learn a thing or two along the way. Learning about animals is great fun. Whether it’s endangered African animals, sea animals, wild animals or pets, there are so many amazing types of animals that each have their own characteristics and behaviors. Living in all parts of the world, these animals include cats, dogs, insects, birds, sharks, gorillas, frogs, cheetahs, giraffes, elephants, horses, sharks and many more.
In total there is said to be around 400 million dogs in the world. The domestic dog has been one of the most popular working and companion animals throughout human history. Dogs perform many useful tasks for humans including hunting, farm work and security as well as assisting those with disabilities such as the blind. Although experts often disagree, there is scientific evidence which shows that the domestication of dogs could have occurred more than 15,000 years ago. There are hundreds of different breeds of dogs. Examples of these breeds include: Bulldog, German Shepherd, Collie, Golden Retriever, St Bernard, Greyhound, Bloodhound, Chihuahua, Labrador, Great Dane, Rottweiler, Boxer and Cocker Spaniel. The most popular breed of dog in the world by registered ownership is the Labrador. With their gentle nature, obedience, intelligence and near limitless energy, Labradors make for excellent family pets and reliable workers. They often assist police and are a common choice as guide dogs. Dogs have formed such a strong bond as pets, workers and companions to humans that they have earned the nickname "man's best friend". Humans help train various dog breeds to enter in competitions such as breed shows, agility and obedience contests, racing and sled pulling. Dog have superior hearing than humans, capable of hearing sounds at four times the distance. Dogs have a remarkable sense of smell, they are capable of differentiating odors in concentrations nearly 100 million times lower than humans can. The average life span for a dog is around 10 to 14 years. Those involved in dog breeding refer to males as ‘dogs’, females as ‘bitches’, dogs younger than a year old as ‘puppies’ and a group of offspring as a ‘litter’. Domestic dogs are omnivores, they feed on a variety of foods including grains, vegetables and meats.
Cats are one of, if not the most, popular pet in the world. There are over 500 million domestic cats in the world. Cats and humans have been associated for nearly 10000 years. Cats conserve energy by sleeping for an average of 13 to14 hours a day. Cats have flexible bodies and teeth adapted for hunting small animals such as mice and rats. A group of cats is called a clowder, a male cat is called a tom, a female cat is called a molly or queen while young cats are called kittens. Domestic cats usually weigh around 4 kilograms (8 lb 13 oz) to 5 kilograms (11 lb 0 oz). The heaviest domestic cat on record is 21.297 kilograms (46 lb 15.2 oz). Cats can be lethal hunters and very sneaky, when they walk their back paws step almost exactly in the same place as the front paws did beforehand, this keeps noise to a minimum and limits visible tracks. Cats have powerful night vision, allowing them to see at light levels six times lower than what a human needs in order to see. Cats also have excellent hearing and a powerful sense of smell. Older cats can at times act aggressively towards kittens. Domestic cats love to play, this is especially true with kittens who love to chase toys and play fight. Play fighting among kittens may be a way for them to practice and learn skills for hunting and fighting. On average cats live for around 12 to 15 years. Cats spend a large amount of time licking their coats to keep them clean. Feral cats are often seen as pests and threats to native animals.
The tiger is the biggest species of the cat family. Tigers can reach a length of up to 3.3 metres (11 feet) and weigh as much as 300 kilograms (660 pounds). Subspecies of the tiger include the Sumatran Tiger, Siberian Tiger, Bengal Tiger, South China Tiger, Malayan Tiger and Indochinese Tiger. Many subspecies of the tiger are either endangered or already extinct. Humans are the primary cause of this through hunting and the destruction of habitats. Around half of tiger cubs don’t live beyond two years of age. Tiger cubs leave their mother when they are around 2 years of age. A group of tigers is known as an ‘ambush’ or ‘streak’. Tigers are good swimmers and can swim up to 6 kilometres. Rare white tigers carry a gene that is only present in around 1 in every 10000 tigers. Tigers usually hunt alone at night time. Tigers have been known to reach speeds up to 65 kph (40 mph). Less than 10% of hunts end successfully for tigers Tigers can easily jump over 5 metres in length. Various tiger subspecies are the national animals of Bangladesh, India, North Korea, South Korea and Malaysia. There are more tigers held privately as pets than there are in the wild. Tigers that breed with lions give birth to hybrids known as tigons and ligers.
Sharks do not have a single bone in their bodies. Instead they have a skeleton made up of cartilage; the same type of tough, flexible tissue that makes up human ears and noses. Some sharks remain on the move for their entire lives. This forces water over their gills, delivering oxygen to the blood stream. If the shark stops moving then it will suffocate and die. Sharks have outstanding hearing. They can hear a fish thrashing in the water from as far as 500 metres away! If a shark was put into a large swimming pool, it would be able to smell a single drop of blood in the water. Although most species of shark are less than one metre long, there are some species such as the whale shark, which can be 14 metres long. A pup (baby shark) is born ready to take care of itself. The mother shark leaves the pup to fend for itself and the pup usually makes a fast get away before the mother tries to eat it! Not all species of shark give birth to live pups. Some species lay the egg case on the ocean floor and the pup hatches later on its own. Great whites are the deadliest shark in the ocean. These powerful predators can race through the water at 30 km per hour. Unlike other species of shark, the great white is warm-blooded. Although the great white does not keep a constant body temperature, it needs to eat a lot of meat in order to be able to regulate its temperature. A shark always has a row of smaller teeth developing behind its front teeth. Eventually the smaller teeth move forward, like a conveyor belt, and the front teeth fall out.
Compared to other animals, dolphins are believed to be very intelligent. Dolphins are carnivores (meat eaters). The Killer Whale (also known as Orca) is actually a type of dolphin. Bottlenose dolphins are the most common and well known type of dolphin. Female dolphins are called cows, males are called bulls and young dolphins are called calves. Dolphins live in schools or pods of up to 12 individuals. Dolphins often display a playful attitude which makes them popular in human culture. They can be seen jumping out of the water, riding waves, play fighting and occasionally interacting with humans swimming in the water. Dolphins use a blowhole on top of their heads to breathe. Dolphins have excellent eyesight and hearing as well as the ability to use echolocation for finding the exact location of objects. Dolphins communicate with each other by clicking, whistling and other sounds. Some dolphin species face the threat of extinction, often directly as a result of human behavior. The Yangtze River Dolphin is an example of a dolphin species which may have recently become extinct. Some fishing methods, such as the use of nets, kill a large number of dolphins every year.
Lions are the second largest big cat species in the world (behind tigers). The average male lion weighs around 180 kg (400 lb) while the average female lion weighs around 130 kg (290 lb). The heaviest lion on record weighed an amazing 375 kg (826 lb). Lions can reach speeds of up to 81 kph (50 mph) but only in short bursts because of a lack of stamina. The roar of a lion can be heard from 8 kilometers (5.0 miles) away. Most lions found in the wild live in southern and eastern parts of Africa. Lions are very social compared to other cat species, often living in prides that feature females, offspring and a few adult males. Male lions are easy to recognize thanks to their distinctive manes. Males with darker manes are more likely to attract female lions (lionesses). Lions are the national animal of Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, England, Ethiopia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Singapore. Lions in the wild live for around 12 years. When lions breed with tigers the resulting hybrids are known as ligers and tigons. There are also lion and leopard hybrids known as leopons and lion and jaguar hybrids known as jaglions. Lionesses are better hunters than males and do most of the hunting for a pride. In the wild, lions rest for around 20 hours a day.
There are only about 700 mountain gorillas and they live high in the mountains in two protected parks in Africa. Lowland gorillas live in central Africa. You may have seen baby gorillas being carried on the back of their mothers, but for the first few months after birth the mother holds the baby gorilla to her chest. An adult male gorilla is called a silverback because of the distinctive silvery fur growing on their back and hips. Each gorilla family has a silverback as leader who scares away other animals by standing on their back legs and beating their chest! Young male gorillas usually leave their family group when they are about 11 years old and have their own family group by the age of 15 years old. Young female gorillas join a new group at about 8 years old. Gorillas are herbivores. They spend most of their day foraging for food and eating bamboo, leafy plants and sometimes small insects. Adult gorillas can eat up to 30 kilograms of food each day. An adult gorilla is about 1 meter tall to their shoulders when walking on all fours using their arms and their legs. A gorilla can live for 40 – 50 years. Gorillas are considered to be very intelligent animals. They are known for their use of tools and their varied communication. Some gorillas in captivity at a zoo have been taught to use sign language. Gorillas are endangered animals. Their habitat is destroyed when people use the land for farming and the trees for fuel. Gorillas are also killed by poachers and sometimes get caught in poacher’s snares meant for other animals.
A frog is an amphibian. They lay their eggs in water. The eggs hatch into a tadpole which lives in water until it metamorphoses into an adult frog. Tadpoles look more like fish than frogs, they have long finned tails and breathe through gills. An amphibian can live both on land and in water. Although frogs live on land their habitat must be near swamps, ponds or in a damp place. This is because they will die if their skin dries out. Instead of drinking water, frogs soak it into their body through their skin. Frogs breathe through their nostrils while also absorbing about half the air they need through their skin. Frogs use their sticky, muscular tongue to catch and swallow food. Unlike humans, their tongue is not attached to the back of its mouth. Instead it is attached to the front, enabling the frog to stick its tongue out much further. The common pond frog is ready to breed when it is only three years old. Frogs in the wild face many dangers and are lucky to survive several years. In captivity however, frogs can live for much longer. Frogs can see forwards, sideways and upwards all at the same time. They never close their eyes, even when they sleep. Remarkably, frogs actually use their eyes to help them swallow food. When the frog blinks, its eyeballs are pushed downwards creating a bulge in the roof of its mouth. This bulge squeezes the food inside the frog's mouth down the back of its throat.
The cheetah is the fastest land animal in the world. They can reach a top speed of around 113 km per hour. A cheetah can accelerate from 0 to 113 km in just a few seconds. Cheetahs are extremely fast however they tire quickly and can only keep up their top speed for a few minutes before they are too tired to continue. Cheetahs are smaller than other members of the big cat family, weighing only 45 – 60 kilograms. One way to always recognise a cheetah is by the long, black lines which run from the inside of each eye to the mouth. These are usually called “tear lines” and scientists believe they help protect the cheetah’s eyes from the harsh sun and help them to see long distances. Cheetahs are the only big cat that cannot roar. They can purr though and usually purr most loudly when they are grooming or sitting near other cheetahs. While lions and leopards usually do their hunting at night, cheetahs hunt for food during the day. A cheetah has amazing eyesight during the day and can spot prey from 5 km away. Cheetahs cannot climb trees and have poor night vision. With their light body weight and blunt claws, cheetahs are not well designed to protect themselves or their prey. When a larger or more aggressive animal approaches a cheetah in the wild, it will give up its catch to avoid a fight. Cheetahs only need to drink once every three to four days.
A male giraffe can weigh as much as a pick up truck! That’s about 1400 kilograms. Although a giraffe’s neck is 1.5 – 1.8 metres, it contains the same number of vertebrae at a human neck. A giraffe's habitat is usually found in African savannas, grasslands or open woodlands. The hair that makes up a giraffes tail is about 10 times thicker than the average strand of human hair. The distinctive spots that cover a giraffe’s fur act as a good camouflage to protect the giraffe from predators. When the giraffe stands in front of trees and bushes the light and dark colouring of its fur blends in with the shadows and sunlight. It is possible to identify the sex of the giraffe from the horns on its head. Both males and females have horns but the females are smaller and covered with hair at the top. Male giraffes may have up to 3 additional horns. Giraffes are ruminants. This means that they have more than one stomach. In fact, giraffes have four stomachs, the extra stomachs assisting with digesting food. Drinking is one of the most dangerous times for a giraffe. While it is getting a drink it cannot keep a look out for predators and is vulnerable to attack. Male giraffes sometimes fight with their necks over female giraffes. This is called “necking”. The two giraffes stand side by side and one giraffe swings his head and neck, hitting his head against the other giraffe. Sometimes one giraffe is hit to the ground during a combat. A female giraffe gives birth while standing up. The calf drops approximately 6 feet to the ground, but it is not hurt from the fall. Giraffes have bluish-purple tongues which are tough and covered in bristly hair to help them with eating the thorny Acacia trees.
There are two types of elephant, the Asian elephant and the African elephant (although sometimes the African Elephant is split into two species, the African Forest Elephant and the African Bush Elephant). Elephants are the largest land-living mammal in the world. Both female and male African elephants have tusks but only the male Asian elephants have tusks. They use their tusks for digging and finding food. Female elephants are called cows. They start to have calves when they are about 12 years old and they are pregnant for 22 months. An elephant can use its tusks to dig for ground water. An adult elephant needs to drink around 210 litres of water a day. Elephants have large, thin ears. Their ears are made up of a complex network of blood vessels which help regulate their temperature. Blood is circulated through their ears to cool them down in hot climates. Elephants have no natural predators. However, lions will sometimes prey on young or weak elephants in the wild. The main risk to elephants is from humans through poaching and changes to their habitat. The elephant’s trunk is able to sense the size, shape and temperature of an object. An elephant uses its trunk to lift food and suck up water then pour it into its mouth. An elephant’s trunk can grow to be about 2 metres long and can weigh up to 140 kg. Some scientists believe that an elephant’s trunk is made up of 100,000 muscles, but no bones. Female elephants spend their entire lives living in large groups called herds. Male elephant leave their herds at about 13 years old and live fairly solitary lives from this point. Elephants can swim – they use their trunk to breathe like a snorkel in deep water. Elephants are herbivores and can spend up to 16 hours days collecting leaves, twigs, bamboo and roots.
Leopards are part of the cat family, Felidae. The scientific name for a leopard is Panthera pardus. Leopards are well known for their cream and gold spotted fur, but some leopards have black fur with dark spots. These black leopards are often mistaken for panthers. Adult leopards are solitary animals. Each adult leopard has its own territory where it lives and, although they often share parts of it, they try to avoid one another. A leopard’s body is built for hunting. They have sleek, powerful bodies and can run at speeds of up to 57 kilometres per hour. They are also excellent swimmers and climbers and can leap and jump long distances. A leopard’s tail is just about as long as its entire body. This helps it with balance and enables it to make sharp turns quickly. Leopards are mostly nocturnal, hunting prey at night. Leopards protect their food from other animals by dragging it high up into the trees. A leopard will often leave their prey up in the tree for days and return only when they are hungry! Female leopards give birth to a little of two or three cubs at a time. By the time a cub is two years old it will leave the company of its mother and live on their own. When a female leopard is ready to mate she will give a scent and rub her body on the trees to leave her smell there. Male leopards either smell the females scent or hear her call to know that she is ready to mate. Some people believe that the bones and whiskers of leopards can heal sick people. Many leopards are killed each year for their fur and body parts and this is one reason why the leopard is an endangered animal. While they were previously found in the wild in a number of areas around the world, their habitat is largely restricted to sub-Saharan Africa with small numbers also found in India, Pakistan, Malaysia, China and Indochina.
Many whales are toothless. They use a plate of comb-like fibre called baleen to filter small crustaceans and other creatures from the water. There are 79 to 84 different species of whale. They came in many different shapes and sizes! A baby whale is called a calf. Whales form groups to look after calves and feed together. These groups are often made up of all female or all male whales. Whales that are found in both Northern and Southern hemisphere never meet or breed together. Their migration is timed so that they are never in breeding areas at the same time. The arched lower lip of a whale can often make it look like it is smiling! However, this isn’t a “real” smile as the blubber in the head of the whale prevents the muscles of the face from reaching the surface. You can tell the age of a whale by looking at the wax plug in its ear. This plug in the ear has a pattern of layers when cut lengthwise that scientists can count to estimate the age of the whale. Whales love to sing! They use this as a call to mates, a way to communicate and also just for fun! After a period of time they get bored of the same whale song and begin to sing a different tune. Sometimes whales make navigation mistakes during migrations. Although they may have made the mistake days before, they don’t realise it until they becoming stranded. Whales support many different types of life. Several creatures, such as barnacles and sea lice, attach themselves to the skin of whales and live there.
Wolves are excellent hunters and have been found to be living in more places in the world than any other mammal except humans. The wolf is the ancestor of all breeds of domestic dog. It is part of a group of animals called the wild dogs which also includes the dingo and the coyote. Most wolves weigh about 40 kilograms but the heaviest wolf ever recorded weighed over 80 kilograms! Adult wolves have large feet. A fully grown wolf would have a paw print nearly 13 centimetres long and 10 centimetres wide. Wolves live and hunt in groups called a pack. A pack can range from two wolves to as many as 20 wolves depending on such factors as habitat and food supply. Most packs have one breeding pair of wolves, called the alpha pair, who lead the hunt. Wolf pups are born deaf and blind while weighing around 0.5 kg (1 lb). It takes about 8 months before they are old enough to actively join in wolf pack hunts. Wolves in the Arctic have to travel much longer distances than wolves in the forest to find food and will sometimes go for several days without eating. When hunting alone, the wolf catches small animals such as squirrels, hares, chipmunks, raccoons or rabbits. However, a pack of wolves can hunt very large animals like moose, caribou and yaks. When the pack kills an animal, the alpha pair always eats first. As food supply is often irregular for wolves, they will eat up to 1/5th of their own body weight at a time to make up for days of missed food. Wolves have two layers of fur, an undercoat and a top coat, which allow them to survive in temperatures as low at minus 40 degrees Celsius! In warmer weather they flatten their fur to keep cool. A wolf can run at a speed of 65 kilometres per hour during a chase. Wolves have long legs and spend most of their time trotting at a speed of 12-16 kilometres per hour. They can keep up a reasonable pace for hours and have been known to cover distances of 90 kilometres in one night.
Alligators are reptiles. Alligators have been living on Earth for millions of years and are sometimes described as ‘living fossils’. There are two different species of alligator, the American alligator and the Chinese alligator. American alligators live in south-eastern areas of the United States such as Florida and Louisiana. Chinese alligators are found in the Yangtze River but they are critically endangered and only a few remain in the wild. Like other reptiles, alligators are cold-blooded. Alligators can weigh over 450 kg (1000 lb). Alligators have a powerful bite but the muscles that open the jaw are relatively weak. An adult human could hold the jaws of an alligator shut with their bare hands. Alligators eat a range of different animals such as fish, birds, turtles and even deer. Alligator eggs become male or female depending on the temperature, male in warmer temperatures and female in cooler temperatures. Like crocodiles, alligators are part of the order ‘Crocodylia’.
Ants are a social insect from the family Formicidae. They evolved from wasp-like ancestors around 110-130 million years ago after the rise of flowering plants. Of an estimated 22,000 ant species, over 12,500 species have been identified. Antarctica and a few remote islands are the only places with no indigenous ants. It estimated that the total number of ants alive in the world at any one time is between one and ten quadrillion (10,000,000,000,000,000). Ants are believed to contribute up to 25% of the total biomass weight of land based animals. That's about the same as the total biomass of the entire human race, or equivalent to approximately 1 million ants for every human. Ant species range in size from 0.75 mm to 52 mm (0.030 in - 2.0 in). Most ants are black or red in color but some species are green or metallic. Ants can carry 20 times their own weight. Ants can build small colonies of less than 100 ants through to very large colonies that occupy large areas and contain millions of individual ants. Colonies of ants often dividing up labour, but work collectively to solve problems and support the group in a similar way to how human societies work. "Queen" ants are the head of ant colonies, they lay thousands of eggs. Male ants called "drones" have one role which is to mate with the queen. Non-reproducing female ants form castes of "workers" or "soldiers" who find food, care for the queen and offspring, build the nest, and defend the colony or attack others. Foraging worker ants can travel up to 200 metres (700 ft) from their nest and find their way back to the colony by following scent trails left by others. Only female queen ants and male drones, have wings. Queen ants shed there wings after mating with a male, and seek a suitable place to begin a colony. Queen ants can live up to 30 years, the longest of any insect. Workers live for 1 to 3 years, while male drones usually only survive a few weeks. Ants can bite or sting, bullet ants, have the most painful sting of any insect, its not fatal to humans though like the sting of the Australian jack jumper ant.
There are 11 species of badger, grouped into 3 types, the Melinae (Eurasian badgers), Mellivorinae (Honey badger) and Taxideinae (American badger). Badgers are found in North America, Ireland, Great Britain and most of Europe. There are species in Japan, China, Indonesia and Malaysia. The honey badger is found in sub-Saharan Africa, the Arabian Desert, Turkmenistan, and India. Badgers are nocturnal mammals. Badgers have stocky bodies with short legs that are suitable for digging. They digs burrows underground called a sett. Their sett are often a maze of tunnels and chambers for sleeping around 6 badgers, setts are kept very clean. The badger has an elongated head with small ears and a distinctive black and white face, their body has greyish fur with black and white areas underneath. Badgers can grow to nearly a meter in length. The European badger is larger than the American badger and the Honey badger. Badgers on average weigh around 9 - 11 kg (20 - 24 lbs). The badger can run up to 30 km/h (19 mph) for a short period of time. A male badger is called a boar, the female is called a sow and the young are called cubs. A group of badgers is called a cete, although they are often called clans. There are usually 2 - 15 badgers in a cete. The honey badger is a carnivorous species that has the reputation of being the most fearless and vicious of all mammals. Badgers were eaten in Britain during World War II and were once part of the Native American and settlers diets in the US. Russia still eats badger meat today. Badgers have featured in lots of British literature over the years, such as Brian Jacques' Redwall series, "Tommy Brock" in Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Mr. Tod, "Bill Badger" in Mary Tourtel's Rupert Bear, "Mr. Badger" in Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows and "Trufflehunter" in C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia.
Bald Eagle Facts
Bald Eagles are found in North America. The Great Seal of the United States features a bald eagle. The bald eagle is the national bird of the United States. Although their name suggests otherwise, bald eagles are not bald. Female bald eagles are larger than male bald eagles. Bald eagles eat mostly fish, swooping down to the water and catching them with their powerful talons. Bald eagles live for around 20 years in the wild. Bald eagles build very large nests, sometimes weighing as much as a ton! The bald eagle was added to the list of endangered species in the United States in 1967 and its numbers have recovered well since.
Bats are flying mammals. While others can glide, bats are the only mammals capable of continued flight. There are over 1000 different bat species. Bats are nocturnal (active at night). Bats ‘see’ in the dark using a special skill called echolocation. Bats make noises and wait for the sound waves to bounce back off objects (an echo), if it doesn’t bounce back then they can safely fly forward. They can tell the distance of various objects by how quickly the sound waves bounce back to them. Most bats feed on insects, while others eat fruit, fish or even blood! There are 3 species of vampire bats which feed solely on blood. Vampire bats have small and extremely sharp teeth which are capable of piercing an animal’s skin (humans included) without them even noticing. Vampire bats can carry rabies, making their bites potentially dangerous. Some bats live by themselves while others live in caves with thousands of other bats. Bats can live for over 20 years. Pteropus bats (also known as flying foxes or fruit bats) are the largest in the world. For more information on eagles, check out our eagle facts page.
There are two species of beaver. The European or Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) and the North American beaver (Castor canadensis). Beavers are the second largest rodent in the world after the capybara. The beaver is mainly a nocturnal animal. The large front teeth of the beaver never stop growing. The beavers constant gnawing on wood helps to keep their teeth from growing too long. Together beaver colonies create dams of wood and mud to provide still, deep water in order to protect against predators such as wolves, coyotes, bears or eagles, and also so they can float food and building material to their homes. Once the dams are completed and ponds formed, beavers will work on building their homes called lodges in the middle. The dome shaped lodges, like the dams, are constructed with branches and mud. Lodges have underwater entrances, making entry tough for most other animals. There are usually two dens within the lodge, one is for drying off after entering from the water and another, drier one, is where the family of up to four adults and six to eight young live. There were once more than 60 million North American beaver. But due to hunting for its fur, its glands for medicine and because the beavers tree-felling and dams affect other land uses, the population has declined to around 12 million. The beaver has a good sense of hearing, smell, and touch. It has poor eyesight, but does have a set of transparent eyelids which allow them to see under water. Using their broad, scaly tail, beavers will forcefully slap the water as an alarm signal to other beavers in the area that a predator is approaching. Beavers are slow on land but using their webbed feet, they are very good swimmers. A beaver can stay under water for up to 15 minutes. Beavers are herbivores. They like to eat the wood of trees such as the aspen, cottonwood, willow, birch, maple, cherry and also eat pondweed and water lilies. Adult beavers are around 3 feet long and have been known to weigh over 25 kg (55 lb). Females are as large or larger than males of the same age. Beavers can live up to 24 years in the wild. The beaver is the national animal of Canada, and features on the Canadian five-cent piece. Beavers like to keep themselves busy, they are prolific builders during the night. Hence the saying "As busy as a beaver".
Bee & Wasp Facts
There are 9 different families of bees and around 20,000 known species. Some common types of 'social' hive inhabiting bees include the Honey bee, The Africanized Honeybee, (or 'killer bee') and the Bumble bee. 'Solitary' bees that make their own single nest include the Carpenter Bee, Leafcutter bee, Mason bee, Digger Bee and Mining Bee. The every day bee that we associate with most is the honey bee (or honeybee). There are 7 species of honey bee and 44 subspecies. Honey bees live as large colonies in honeycomb structures built from beeswax called hives. There are 3 types of bees in a colony, drones, workers, and queens. Beeswax comes from abdomen glands of a worker bee, they use the wax to form the walls and caps of the comb. Honey is made from the nectar and sweet deposits that bees collect from plants and trees. Honey is stored in honeycomb as a food source for the colony. Bees have a long proboscis (type of tongue) that helps them to get the nectar out of flowers, they collect pollen in pollen baskets on their body. Worker bees are female, they collect pollen and nectar to feed the colony, they clean the hive, make the honey, take care of the offspring and groom / feed the queen. Worker bees live from 1 month in summer up to 9 months over winter. Drones are male, their one job is to mate with the queen, they live for 40 - 50 days. The queen bee's only job is to lay eggs, they lay up to 1,500 eggs a day. The queen can live for 2 - 5 years, and lay about 1 million eggs over her lifetime. Bees have two pairs of wings, the larger fore wings and the smaller hind wings. The smallest bee is a type of stingless worker bee that's about 2.1 mm long. The largest bee is a type of leafcutter bee whose females can reach 39 mm. There are over 250 known species of bumble bee. Only the queen bumblebee survives the winter, so there's no need for bumblebees to store large quantities of honey in the hive like honey bees do. There are over 100,000 species of wasp. Two common types of wasp are the yellowjacket wasp and the hornet. Most wasp species are 'parasitic' which means they use the venom from their stings to paralyze pray and lay their eggs within the host, so larvae will hatch. Wasps can build their nests in a variety of places but they usually pick sunny areas, in holes underground along riverbanks, or attached to the side of walls and trees, or underneath floors, wasp can be agitated and dangerous near nests. A bee's buzz is not produced by the beating of its wings but by vibrating muscles. Only female bees (queen and worker bees) can sting. A honey bee can only sting once, as barbs rip the stinger out of the bee and it will die. Bumblebee's and wasps stingers don't have barbs, so they can sting multiple times without injury.
Beetles are the common name for an order of insects called Coleoptera. The name coleoptera comes from the Greek words koleos, meaning "sheath" (cover) and pteron, meaning "wing", so "sheathed wing". Beetles have two pairs of wings, the front pair, called "elytra", are hard, thick sheath or shell-like and protect the more normal rear pair of wings which are used for flying. Around 40% of all known insect species are beetles, this equals about 400,000 species and some estimates suggest there could be as many as 3 - 8 million beetle species on Earth. The order Coleoptera is the largest order in the entire animal kingdom, making up nearly 30% of all animals. Beetles are incredibly versatile and are found nearly everywhere on Earth except for the very cold polar regions. To avoid being attacked by predators, beetle species have many strategies such as camouflage, toxic properties, and fighting defences. Some bigger species of beetle have even been known to eat small birds or mammals but the majority of beetles play a vital role in the ecosystems they live in because they feed mainly on debris from plants and animals. Ladybirds (ladybugs) are one type of beetle that help to control pest populations by feeding on aphids that would otherwise eat vegetable plants. Dung beetles are very important in many ecosystems because they feed on animal droppings, so are recycling waste material and speeding up the circulation of the nutrients back into the food chain. Other species of beetle are seen as pests. Those that enjoy burrowing into trees to feed on the dust from wood, kill millions of trees each year. While beetles that feed on vegetables, grains and fruit can cost farmers millions in pesticides. Humans eat more beetles than any other kind of insect. There are over 300 species known to be eaten, with most of these eaten at the larvae stage. The scarab variety of dung beetle was a popular sacred symbol in Ancient Egypt.
Birds have feathers, wings, lay eggs and are warm blooded. There are around 10000 different species of birds worldwide. The Ostrich is the largest bird in the world. It also lays the largest eggs and has the fastest maximum running speed (97 kph). Scientists believe that birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs. Birds have hollow bones which help them fly. Some bird species are intelligent enough to create and use tools. The chicken is the most common species of bird found in the world. Kiwis are endangered, flightless birds that live in New Zealand. They lay the largest eggs relative to their body size of any bird in the world. Hummingbirds can fly backwards. The Bee Hummingbird is the smallest living bird in the world, with a length of just 5 cm (2 in). Around 20% of bird species migrate long distances every year. Homing pigeons are bred to find their way home from long distances away and have been used for thousands of years to carry messages.
Butterflies are insects. A butterfly’s lifecycle is made up of four parts, egg, larva (caterpillars), pupa (chrysalis) and adult. Butterflies attach their eggs to leaves with a special glue. Most caterpillars are plant eaters (herbivores). Fully grown caterpillars attach themselves to a suitable twig or leaf before shedding their outside layer of skin to reveal a hard skin underneath known as a chrysalis. An adult butterfly will eventually emerge from the chrysalis where it will wait a few hours for its wings to fill with blood and dry, before flying for the first time. Butterflies can live in the adult stage from anywhere between a week and a year, depending on the species. Butterflies have four wings. Butterflies often have brightly coloured wings with unique patterns made up of tiny scales. Most butterflies feed on nectar from flowers. Butterflies have taste receptors on their feet. Scientists estimate that there are between 15000 and 20000 different species of butterfly. Birdwing butterflies have large, angular wings and fly in a similar way to birds. Monarch butterflies are known for their long migration. Every year monarch butterflies will travel a great distance (sometimes over 4000 km), females will lay eggs and a new generation of monarchs will travel back, completing the cycle.
There are two species of true camel. The dromedary, is a single humped camel that lives in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa area. The bactrian, is a two-humped camel that lives in areas of Central Asia. There are four camel-like mammals that live in South America, llama and alpaca are called "New World camels", while guanaco and vicuna are called "South American camels". Camels have been domesticated by humans for thousands of years. Used mostly for transport or to carry heavy loads, they also provide a source of milk, meat, and hair/wool. Camels live on average for 40 to 50 years. Camels are 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in) at shoulder level and 2.15 m (7 ft 1 in) at the hump. Camels are capable of running as fast as 65 km/h (40 mph) for a short period of time, and can maintain a speed of around 40 km/h (25 mph). Dromedary camels weigh 300 to 600 kg (660 to 1,320 lb) and bactrian camels weigh 300 to 1,000 kg (660 to 2,200 lb). Camels do not actually hold liquid water in their humps. The humps contain fatty tissue reserves, which can be converted to water or energy when required. They can survive up to six months without food or water by using up these fatty stores. Camels are well suited to the hot sandy deserts they roam in. Their thick coat insulates them from heat and also lightens during summer to help reflect heat. A camels long legs help its body to be high from the hot desert surface and a pad of thick tissue called a pedestal raises the body slightly when the camel sits so cool air can pass underneath. A large camel can drink around 30 gallons (113 liters) in just 13 minutes, making them able to rehydrate faster than any other mammal. Long eyelashes, ear hair, and closable nostrils keep sand from affecting the camel, while their wide feet help them move without sinking into sand. Camels have long been used in wartimes. Romans used camels for their ability to scare off horses who are afraid of their scent, and in recent times camels have been used to carry heavy gear and troops across hot sandy deserts. There are estimated to be over 14 million camels in the world. Camels introduced to desert areas of Australia are the worlds largest populations of feral camels.
Chameleons are a very unique branch of the lizard group of reptiles. There are around 160 species of chameleon. Chameleons live in warm varied habitats from rainforests through to deserts. Almost half of the world's chameleon species are native to Madagascar, they are also found in Africa, and southern Europe to as far as Sri Lanka in Asia and have been introduced to Hawaii, California and Florida. Special color pigment cells under the skin called chromatophores allow some chameleon species to change their skin color, creating combined patterns of pink, blue, red, orange, green, black, brown, yellow and purple. Chameleon change color for camouflage but this is not always the main reason. Some show darker colors when angry, or when trying to scare others. Males show light multi-colored patterns when vying for female attention. Desert varieties change to black when its cooler to absorb heat, then a light grey to reflect heat. Chameleons have amazing eyes. The bulging upper and lower eyelids are joined and the pupil peaks out from a pinhole sized gap. The chameleons' eyes can rotate and focus separately on 180-degree arcs, so they can see two different objects at the same time. This gives them a full 360-degree field of vision. Chameleons actual eyesight is great they can see small insects 5-10 meters away. They can also see in both visible and ultraviolet light. Chameleons feed by ballistically projecting their tongues often over twice the length of their body to catch prey, forming a suction cup as it hits its target. The chameleons tongue can reach its prey in just 0.07 split seconds, with the projectile acceleration reaching over 41 g's of force. Chameleons usually eat large insects such as locusts, grasshoppers, crickets, and stick insects, some bigger species also eat other lizards and young birds. Chameleons are not deaf but they do not actually have ear openings. Many species of chameleon have horn-like bumps or crests on their heads. Species of chameleon can be as small as 15 mm (0.59 in) or as large as 69 cm (27 in).
The clownfish is also known as the anemonefish. There are 28 - 30 recognized species of clownfish. Clownfish are found in warm waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans including the Red Sea and the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. Clownfish have a symbiotic (long-term mutual benefit) relationship with sea anemone which is a fish-eating plant-like animal that has poisonous tentacles. Sea anemones benefit from clownfish who clean them by eating its parasites and dead tentacles, help circulate the water around them, attract potential prey with their bright colors, and provide nutrients from their droppings. Clownfish in return benefit from sea anemone, who provide food scraps and who's venomous tentacles protect the clownfish from any attack by other fish. The clownfish builds up an immunity to sea anemones lethal sting over time and because of a layer of mucus on the clownfish's skin. Clownfish species include yellow, orange, reddish and blackish varieties with most covered in patches or bars of white color. The largest clownfish can reach 18 cm (7.1 in), and the smallest 10 cm (3.9 in). All clownfish are born as males. When the dominant female of a group dies the largest male will turn itself into a female, this change cannot be reversed back. Clownfish live up to 10 years in the wild but on average up to 6 - 8 years. Females lay around 1000 eggs, the male clownfish will guard the eggs. Clownfish make up over 40% of the global marine ornamental trade. The fish are either bred in captivity, or captured from the wild. The main character in the 2003 animated film Finding Nemo, was a clownfish.
Cattle are herbivores that eat vegetation such as grass. Cattle stomachs have four chambers which help break down what they eat There are well over 1 billion cattle in the world. Cattle are sacred in India. There are an estimated 300 million cattle in India. Young cattle are generally known as calves. Adult females are generally called cows. Adult males that are not castrated are generally called bulls. Cattle are red/green color blind. In the sometimes controversial sport of bull fighting, bulls are angered by the movement of the cape rather than its red color. Cattle are farmed for a number of agricultural products including meat and dairy products. Meat from adult cattle is known as beef. Meat from calves is known as veal. Cattle trained to be draft animals are known as oxen (ox).
Crabs are decapods from the crustacean family. Decapod means "ten-footed". Crabs have 10 legs, however, the first pair are its claws which are called chelae. Crabs have a thick external skeleton called an exoskeleton. It is a shell made of calcium carbonate and provides protection for the soft tissue underneath. Crabs live in all the world's oceans, in fresh water, and on land. There are over 4500 species of crabs. Other animals with similar names such as hermit crabs, king crabs, porcelain crabs, horseshoe crabs and crab lice, are not true crabs. Crabs usually have a distinct sideways walk. However, some crabs can walk forwards or backwards, and some are capable of swimming. The collective name for the group of crabs is a cast. Crabs communicate with each other by drumming or waving their pincers. Male crabs tend to often fight with each other over females or hiding holes. The Pea Crab is the smallest known species at just a few millimetres wide. The largest species is the Japanese Spider Crab, with a leg span of up to 4 m (13 ft). Crabs are omnivores (meaning they eat both meat and plants), they feed mainly on algae, but also bacteria, other crustaceans, molluscs, worms, and fungi. Some crab species can naturally autotomise (shed) limbs such as their claws, which then regenerate after about a year. Of all marine crustaceans caught be humans each year, crabs make up 20%. This adds up to a total of 1.5 million tonnes annually. The most consumed species of crab in the world is the Japanese Blue Crab.
Crocodiles are reptiles. The physical characteristics of crocodiles make them good predators. Crocodiles are fast over short distances. Crocodiles have sharp teeth. Crocodiles have the strongest bite of any animal in the world. The muscles that open crocodiles jaws however are not so powerful, reasonably strong people could hold a crocodiles jaw closed with their bare hands. Like other reptiles, crocodiles are cold-blooded. Crocodiles can survive for a long time without food. Most crocodiles live in fresh water rivers and lakes but some live in salt water. Crocodiles eat a variety of fish, birds and other animals. Crocodiles release heat through their mouths rather than through sweat glands. The saltwater crocodile is the largest species of crocodile. Some crocodile species can weigh over 1200 kg (2600 lb). Like alligators, crocodiles are part of the order ‘Crocodylia’. Check out some interesting crocodile and alligator differences.
Deer are part of the Cervidae family that include moose, reindeer, elk and other species. Male deer grow new antlers each year. Animals such as antelope resemble deer in a number of ways but have horns instead of antlers, the difference being that horns are not grown and replaced like antlers are. During the mating season male deer will often use their antlers to fight for the attention of female deer. Many species of deer have been hunted over the years for their antlers. A male deer is usually called a ‘buck’. A large male deer is often called ‘stag’. A female deer is usually called a ‘doe’. A young deer is usually called a ‘fawn’. A group of deer is known as a ‘herd’. Deer have long legs typically suited to the environments they live in. They can jump high and swim well. Most deer are born with white spots but lose them within a year. Deer take their first steps within half an hour of their birth. Young deer will usually stay with their mother for around a year.
The duck is a number of species in the Anatidae family of birds. They are related to swans and geese. Ducks are mostly aquatic birds living in both fresh water and sea water and found on every continent except for Antarctica. A male duck is called a drake, a female duck a hen, and a baby duck a duckling. Ducks are omnivores. They feed on aquatic plants, small fish, insects, worms, grubs and more. People often feed domesticated ducks bread. Diving ducks and sea ducks search for food fairly deep underwater. To be able to stay underwater more easily, diving ducks are quite heavy. Dabbling ducks feed on the surface of water, on land, or by ducking their head underwater. Along the edge of their beak is a comb-like structure called a pecten, that enables them to hold slippery food and filter nutrients out of the water. A common urban legend is that a ducks quack does not echo. This has however, been proven to be false. Ducks are curious and friendly creatures they have been domesticated as pets and farm animals for more than 500 years. All domestic ducks are descended from either the Mallard or the Muscovy duck. The most common and recognised species of duck is the Mallard or Wild duck. It is a dabbling duck that lives in the Americas, Europe, Asia, North Africa, and has been introduced to New Zealand and Australia. The male Mallard has a glossy green head, grey wings and belly, while the female has a brown-speckled plumage. Mallard ducks have a moulting season, they are vulnerable during this time as the moulting stops them flying. Mallard ducks live 5 to 10 years in the wild and 8+ years in captivity. Paradise Shelducks of New Zealand often have one mating partner for life. All ducks have highly waterproof feathers due to the feathers interlocking nature and waxy coating. Ducks have many economic uses. Their feathers, particularly their underlying 'down' feathers, are used in many products, while the white Pekin duck is the most common variety raised for eggs and meat. Ducks have featured as popular cartoon characters over the years, such as Walt Disney's Donald Duck and Warner Brothers, Daffy Duck. The duck is a number of species in the Anatidae family of birds. They are related to swans and geese. Ducks are mostly aquatic birds living in both fresh water and sea water and found on every continent except for Antarctica. A male duck is called a drake, a female duck a hen, and a baby duck a duckling. Ducks are omnivores. They feed on aquatic plants, small fish, insects, worms, grubs and more. People often feed domesticated ducks bread. Diving ducks and sea ducks search for food fairly deep underwater. To be able to stay underwater more easily, diving ducks are quite heavy. Dabbling ducks feed on the surface of water, on land, or by ducking their head underwater. Along the edge of their beak is a comb-like structure called a pecten, that enables them to hold slippery food and filter nutrients out of the water. A common urban legend is that a ducks quack does not echo. This has however, been proven to be false. Ducks are curious and friendly creatures they have been domesticated as pets and farm animals for more than 500 years. All domestic ducks are descended from either the Mallard or the Muscovy duck. The most common and recognised species of duck is the Mallard or Wild duck. It is a dabbling duck that lives in the Americas, Europe, Asia, North Africa, and has been introduced to New Zealand and Australia. The male Mallard has a glossy green head, grey wings and belly, while the female has a brown-speckled plumage. Mallard ducks have a moulting season, they are vulnerable during this time as the moulting stops them flying. Mallard ducks live 5 to 10 years in the wild and 8+ years in captivity. Paradise Shelducks of New Zealand often have one mating partner for life. All ducks have highly waterproof feathers due to the feathers interlocking nature and waxy coating. Ducks have many economic uses. Their feathers, particularly their underlying 'down' feathers, are used in many products, while the white Pekin duck is the most common variety raised for eggs and meat. Ducks have featured as popular cartoon characters over the years, such as Walt Disney's Donald Duck and Warner Brothers, Daffy Duck.
Eagles are large, powerful birds of prey. Eagles have large, hooked beaks. Eagles have excellent eyesight. Eagles have powerful talons which help them catch prey. Eagles build their nests on high cliffs or in tall trees. There are over 60 different species of eagle. Eagles feature prominently on the coat of arms of a large number of countries, such as Germany, Mexico, Egypt, Poland and Austria. Golden eagles have been known to hunt foxes, wild cats and even young deer and goats. Female golden eagles usually lay between one and four eggs each breeding season. Bald eagles aren’t actually bald. More bald eagle facts.
Fish are vertebrate animals that live in the water. Vertebrate means they have a spinal cord surrounded by bone or cartilage. Fish have gills that extract oxygen from the water around them. There are over 30000 known species of fish. Some flatfish use camouflage to hide themselves on the ocean floor. Tuna can swim at speeds of up to 70 kph (43 mph). Relative to their body size, fish have small brains compared to most other animals. Fish are covered in scales which are often covered in a layer of slime to help their movement through water. Cleaner fish help out other fish by removing parasites and dead skin from their scales. Although jellyfish and crayfish have the word ‘fish’ in their name, they aren’t actually fish. Over 1000 fish species are threatened by extinction. Mermaids are mythological creatures with the tail of a fish and the upper half of a woman.
Flamingos are a type of wading bird that live in areas of large shallow lakes, lagoons, mangrove swamps, tidal flats, and sandy islands. The word "flamingo" comes from the Spanish word "flamenco" which came from the earlier Latin word "flamma" meaning flame or fire. There are six species of flamingo in the world. Two are found in the Old World and four species live in the New World - Americas. The most widespread flamingo is the Greater flamingo found in areas of Africa, Southern Europe and South, Southwest Asia. The Lesser flamingo is the most numerous and lives in the Great Rift Valley of Africa through to Northwest India. The four species in the New World include the Chilean flamingo, found in temperate South American areas, the Andean Flamingo and James's flamingo found in the high Andes mountains in Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina and the American flamingo of the Caribbean islands, Belize and Galapagos islands. The Greater flamingo is the largest species, at up to 1.5 m (5 ft) tall and weighing up to 3.5 kg (8 lbs). The Lesser flamingo is just 90 cm (3 ft) tall, weighing 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs). In the wild flamingos live 20 - 30 years and sometimes over 50 years in captivity. Flamingo legs can be longer than their entire body. The backward bending "knee" of a flamingo's leg is actually its ankle, the knee is out of sight further up the leg. Quite often flamingos will stand on one leg, with the other tucked under the body. Its not fully understood why they do this but it is believed to conserve body heat. The flamingo is a filter-feeder, holding its curved beak upside down in the water it sucks in the muddy water and pushes the mud and silt out the side while tiny hair-like filters along the beak called lamellae sieve food from the water. The pink to reddish color of a flamingo's feathers comes from carotenoids (the pigment that also makes carrots orange) in their diet of plankton, brine shrimp and blue-green algae. Flamingos are social birds, they live in colonies of sometimes thousands, this helps in avoiding predators, maximizing food intake, and is better for nesting. Flamingo colonies split into breeding groups of up to 50 birds, who then perform a synchronized ritual 'dance' whereby they stand together stretching their necks upwards, uttering calls while waving their heads and then flapping their wings. The flamingo is the national bird of the Bahamas.
Giant Panda Facts
The giant panda is native to China. It has a black and white coat that features large black patches around its eyes. Pandas are an endangered species. Population estimates vary but there may be around 2000 left living in the wild. A giant panda cub weighs only around 150 grams (5 oz) at birth. Adult males can weigh up to 150 kg (330 lb). Giant panda have a lifespan of around 20 years in the wild. Female pandas raise cubs on their own (the male leaves after mating). The diet of a panda is made up almost entirely of bamboo. Giant pandas eat as much as 10 kg (22 lb) of bamboo a day. Giant pandas are good climbers. The scientific name for the giant panda is ‘ailuropoda melanoleuca’. An animated movie from 2008 named ‘Kung Fu Panda’ features a giant panda called ‘Po’.
Grasshoppers are an insect from the suborder Caelifera and the order Orthoptera. Locusts are actually species of short-horned grasshoppers, they often gather in large swarms and can destroy entire fields of crops, because a single grasshopper can eat half its body weight in plants per day. In just the U.S. they cause about $1.5 billion in damage to grazing lands each year. There are around 11,000 known species of grasshopper found around the world, often inhabiting grassy fields, meadow and forest areas. Grasshoppers have two antennae, 6 legs, two pairs of wings and small little pinchers to tear off food such as grasses, leaves and cereal crops. Some species of grasshopper species make noises by either rubbing their back legs against the forewings or body, or by snapping their wings when flying. Grasshoppers grow to around 2 inches (5 cm), with some growing as big as 5 inches (12.7cm). Female are usually larger than males. Grasshoppers are often colored in a way that camouflages them in their local habitat, green ones in grassy fields, sandy colored in dirt and desert areas. Grasshoppers can jump about 25cm high and around 1 meter long. If humans could jump as far as grasshoppers do, relative to size, then we could leap more than the length of a football field. The grasshopper can jump as far as it does because its hind legs act like miniature catapults. It bends its legs at the knee, mechanism within the knee works like a spring, storing up energy. When the grasshopper is ready to jump, it relaxes the leg muscles, allowing the spring to release flinging it into the air. Grasshoppers are commonly eaten in African, Central and South American countries, the insect is a very good source of protein.
The guinea pig or 'cavy' is a species of rodent in the family Caviidae and the genus Cavia. Despite being called 'guinea pigs' they are not in the pig family or from Guinea. Guinea pigs originated in the Andes mountains of South America. They do not exist naturally in the wild, instead are domesticated descendants of a closely related species the Cavia aperea. The guinea pig is an important creature for many indigenous South American people, especially as a food source. But also for customary medicine or religious ceremonies. The guinea pig has been a popular household pet in Western societies since they were first bought back by European traders as long ago as the 16th century. They are still very popular as pets today due to their quiet nature, their openness to humans through handling and feeding, and the relative ease of caring for them. Guinea pigs purr when they are happy, often, like a cat it is when they are being held or petted. They make a whistle noise when they are excited, usually on seeing their owner or when its feeding time. Grass is the guinea pig's main diet of food, they also need to eat fresh fruit and vegetables. Guinea pigs on average weigh 0.70 to 1.2 kg (1.5 - 2.5 lbs), and are 20 to 25 cm (8 - 10 inches) long. Guinea pigs live on average for 4 - 5 years but sometimes as long as 8 years. In the early 20th century the guinea pig was used in scientific experimentation, they have now mainly been replaced in laboratories by mice and rats. Although the term 'guinea pig' is still commonly used in English as a metaphor for something being experimented on. The guinea pig is a popular traditional food dish in many South American countries most notably Peru and Bolivia and areas of Ecuador and Colombia.
Hamsters are rodents from the subfamily Cricetinae. There are 25 species of hamster. Hamsters have thick silky fur, short tails, small ears, short legs, wide feet and large eyes. Hamsters usually live in burrows underground during the day, they are crepuscular which means they come out at twilight to feed. Wild hamsters feed mainly on seeds, fruits, vegetables and sometimes insects. Hamsters are very good diggers, they will create burrows in the soil that can be over half a meter deep, containing various rooms for different purposes. Hamsters have large cheek in which they carry food back to their burrows. Full pouches can make their heads double or triple in size. Hamsters do not have good eyesight, they are nearsighted and also colour-blind. The hamster relies on scent to find their way. They have scent glands which they rub on objects along a path. Depending on the species hamsters can be black, grey, honey, white, brown, yellow, red, or a combination of these colors. Hamsters are great as pets because they are easy to breed in captivity, easy to care for and interact well with people. They are also used as laboratory animals. The Syrian hamster is the most popular and well known breed kept as pets. All Syrian hamsters as pets are believed to have descended from one pair in 1930. Syrian hamsters live 2 - 3 years in captivity, and less in the wild. Other popular pet types such as Russian dwarf hamsters live about 2- 4 years in captivity. Hamsters range in size from the largest breed, the European hamster at 13.4 in (34 cm) long, to the smallest, the dwarf hamster at 2 - 4 in (5.5 - 10.5 cm) long.
Hares are similar to rabbits but there are a number of key differences. Hares are usually larger than rabbits and have longer ears. Rabbits give birth to their young in burrows while hares give birth in more open areas. Hares are born with fur and their eyes open. Hares are not kept as house pets. Hares usually live by themselves or in pairs. Young hares are called leverets. Like rabbits, hares are herbivores (plant eaters). A group of hares is known as a ‘drove’. Hares can run at speeds up to 72 kph (45 mph).
There are 17 species of hedgehog. They are found in parts of Europe, Asia, Africa and were introduced in New Zealand by settlers. Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals, often sleep during the day in a nest or under bushes and shrubs before coming out to feed at night. Hedgehogs are not related to other spine covered creatures such as the porcupine or echidna. The spines of a hedgehogs, are stiff hollow hairs, they are not poisonous or barbed and cannot be easily removed, they fall out naturally when a hedgehog sheds its baby spines and grows adult spines a process called "quilling". Hedgehogs have about 5,000 to 6,500 spines at any one time. Most hedgehog species will roll into a tight ball if threatened, making it hard for its attacker to get past the spiky defences. A baby hedgehog is called a hoglet. Hedgehogs communicate through a combination of snuffles, grunts and squeals. Hedgehogs have weak eyesight but a strong sense of hearing and smell. They can swim, climb and run surprising quickly over short distances. For their size hedgehogs have a relatively long lifespan. They live on average for 4 - 7 years in the wild and longer in captivity. Hedgehogs in colder climates such as the UK will hibernate through winter. If hedgehogs come in contact with humans they can sometimes pass on infections and diseases. The hedgehogs is a pest in countries such as New Zealand where it has been introduced, as it does not have many natural predators and eats native species of insects, snails, lizards and baby ground-nesting birds.
Hippopotamuses are found in Africa. The name hippopotamus means ‘river horse’ and is often shortened to hippo. The hippopotamus is generally considered the third largest land mammal (after the White rhinoceros and elephant). Hippopotamuses spend a large amount of time in water such as rivers, lakes and swamps. Resting in water helps keep hippopotamuses temperature down. Hippopotamuses give birth in water. Hippopotamuses have short legs, a huge mouth and a body shaped like a barrel. The closest relations of the hippopotamus are surprisingly cetaceans such as whales and dolphins. Scientists believe this family of animals diverged in evolution around 55 million years ago. Although hippos might look a little chubby, they can easily outrun a human. Hippos can be extremely aggressive, especially if they feel threatened. They are regarded as one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. Hippos are threatened by habitat loss and poachers who hunt them for their meat and teeth. A male hippopotamus is called a ‘bull’. A female hippopotamus is called a ‘cow’. A baby hippo is called a ‘calf’. A group of hippos in known as a ‘herd’, ‘pod’, ‘dale’ or ‘bloat’. Hippos typically live for around 45 years. Hippos eat mostly grass.
Horses can sleep both lying down and standing up. Horses can run shortly after birth. Domestic horses have a lifespan of around 25 years. A 19th century horse named ‘Old Billy’ is said to have lived 62 years. Horses have around 205 bones in their skeleton. Horses have been domesticated for over 5000 years. Horses are herbivores (plant eaters). Horses have bigger eyes than any other mammal that lives on land. Because horse’s eyes are on the side of their head they are capable of seeing nearly 360 degrees at one time. Horses gallop at around 44 kph (27 mph). The fastest recorded sprinting speed of a horse was 88 kph (55 mph). Estimates suggest that there are around 60 million horses in the world. Scientists believe that horses have evolved over the past 50 million years from much smaller creatures. A male horse is called a stallion. A female horse is called a mare. A young male horse is called a colt. A young female horse is called a filly. Ponies are small horses. More pony facts.
Hummingbirds are New World birds found only in the Americas, mainly South America. There are more than 340 species of hummingbirds. Hummingbirds are one of the smallest kinds of bird in the world. With most species 7.5 - 13 cm (3 - 5 in) in length. The Bee hummingbird is the smallest at just 5 cm (2 in). The largest is the Giant Hummingbird reaching over 20 cm (8 in). They are called hummingbirds due to the sound created by their rapidly beating wings. Depending on the species a hummingbird's wings can flap on average around 50 times per second, and can reach as high as 200 times per second. This allows them to fly faster than 15 m/s (54 km/h or 34 mph). The hummingbird can hover, fly forwards, backwards and even upside down. Hummingbirds drink the nectar of flowers which gives them a good source of glucose energy, they will catch insects every now and again for a protein boost. A hummingbird's bill varies dramatically depending on the species. Most have a fairly long, thin bill that allows them to reach down to the nectar of a flower. With the bill slightly open they use their tongue to quickly lap up the nectar inside. Apart from insects, hummingbirds have the highest metabolism of all animals due to the need to keep their wings rapidly beating. Because of this the hummingbird visits hundreds of flowers each day and consuming more than their own weight in nectar each day. Because they need to conserve energy hummingbirds do not spend all day flying, they spend the majority of their time perched digesting their food. To conserve energy overnight a hummingbird enters a hibernation-like sleep state called torpor. Depending on the species hummingbirds live on average 3 to 5 years. But have been known to live as long as 12 years. Most hummingbirds of the United States and Canada migrate over 3000km south in fall to spend winter in Mexico or Central America. Some South American species also move north to these areas during the southern winter. Before migrating, the hummingbird will store up a layer of fat equal to half its body weight in order to slowly use up this energy source while flying.
The number of insect species is believed to be between six and ten million. Insect bodies have three parts, the thorax, abdomen and head. Insects have two antennae. Insects have three pairs of legs. Some insects, such as gerridae (water striders), are able to walk on the surface of water. Bees, termites and ants live in well organized social colonies. Only male crickets chirp. Insects are cold blooded. Silkworms are used as the primary producer of silk. Most insects hatch from eggs. Some cicadas can make sounds nearly 120 decibels loud. The life cycle of a mosquito features four stages, egg, larva, pupa and adult. Female mosquitoes drink blood in order to obtain nutrients needed to produce eggs. Spiders are not insects. Bees are found on every continent except Antarctica. Ants leave trails and communicate with each other using pheromones as chemical signals.
The jaguar is a big cat in the Panthera genus, the jaguar's scientific name is Panthera onca. The jaguar is the 3rd largest of the big cats after the tiger and the lion and it is the largest of all the big cats in the Americas. Jaguar's are only found in the Americas. Their range extends from Arizona in South-west United States, Mexico, through Central America, into most Amazon River Basin countries in South America and as far south as northern Argentina. The jaguar's preferred habitat is dense rainforest, but they are also found across other forested areas and open plains. With its spotted coat the jaguar most closely resembles the leopard which is found in Asia and Africa, however, the jaguar is larger and has a stockier build than the leopard, it also has less but bigger rosettes (spots) with small dots in the middle. While the jaguars behavioural habits more resemble that of a tiger. Like the tiger, jaguars enjoy water and are good at swimming. Jaguars roam, hunt and live alone, only coming together to mate. They leave a scent to mark their territory. Female territories may overlap and range in size from 25 - 40 km2. While males territories are double that size, a male will aggressively protect his area (and the resident females within it) from other males. The jaguar stalks and ambushes its prey, often leaping into water or from a tree. Jaguars are carnivores, they prey on over 80 species of animal of all sizes, such as deer, pigs, capybara, foxes, fish, frogs and even large anaconda snakes. The jaguar has a very powerful jaw, its bite exerts more force than that of a lion. Male jaguars are about 10-20% larger than females. On average jaguars weigh between 124 - 211 lbs (56–96 kg) and are 4 ft to 6.5 ft (1.2 to 1.95 m) in length. Jaguars live in the wild for 11-15 years, in captivity they can live over 20 years. Many ancient American cultures such as the Maya and Aztec, featured the jaguar in their mythologies, it was often regarded as a symbol of strength. Argentina's national rugby team badge includes a jaguar. However, a historical error resulted in the team being nicknamed to this day, Los Pumas (the pumas).
Jellyfish live in the sea and are found in all oceans. Some jellyfish live in fresh water. Jellyfish look a little like umbrellas. Jellyfish can be large and brightly colored. They can often be transparent (see-through) or translucent (semi-translucent). Some can be very hard to see, nearly invisible to the human eye. Although the word is mentioned in their name, jellyfish are not fish. A group of jellyfish is called a ‘bloom’, ‘swarm’ or ‘smack’. Large blooms can feature over 100000 jellyfish. Jellyfish don’t have brains. Jellyfish use their tentacles to sting. Most are harmless to humans but stings from some species, such as the box jellyfish, can be very painful and sometimes kill. Box jellyfish are almost transparent (see-through). Jellyfish eat plankton. Some sea turtles eat jellyfish.
Kangaroos are marsupial animals that are found in Australia as well as New Guinea. There are four different kangaroo species, the red kangaroo, eastern grey kangaroo, western grey kangaroo and antilopine kangaroo. Kangaroos can hop around quickly on two legs or walk around slowly on all four. Kangaroos can’t walk backwards. Kangaroos have very powerful legs and can be dangerous at times. Kangaroos can jump very high, sometimes three times their own height. Kangaroos can swim. Most kangaroos eat grass. Baby kangaroos are known as ‘joeys’. A group of kangaroos is called a ‘mob’, ‘troop’ or ‘court’. The red kangaroo is the largest marsupial in the world. Kangaroos usually live to around six years old in the wild. Australian airline Qantas uses a kangaroo as their symbol.
Koalas are native to Australia. Koalas are not bears. Koala fossils found in Australia have been dated as long ago as 20 million years. Koalas eat eucalypt leaves and almost nothing else. The brain size of modern koalas has reduced substantially from their ancestors, possibly as an adaptation to the low energy they get from their diets. The closest living relative of the koala is the wombat. Koalas have sharp claws which help them climb trees. Koalas have similar fingerprints to humans. Koalas have large noses that are coloured pink or black. Outside of breeding seasons, koalas are quiet animals. A baby koala is called a ‘joey’. Joeys live in their mother’s pouch for around six months and remain with them for another six months or so afterwards. Koalas cannot be kept legally as pets.
Lizards are reptiles. Some lizards can detach their tails if caught by predators. The upper and lower eyelids of chameleons are joined, leaving just a small hole for them to see through. They can move their eyes independently however, allowing them to look in two different directions at the same time. Chameleons have long tongues which they rapidly extend from their mouth, too fast for human eyes to see properly. Chameleons generally eat insects. Some chameleons have the ability to change color. This helps them communicate with each other and can also be used for camouflage. Geckos have no eyelids. Geckos have unique toes which allow them to be good climbers. Iguanas have a row of spines which run down their back and tail. Green iguanas are popular pets. The Komodo dragon is the largest type of lizard, growing up to 3 metres (10 feet) in length. They are found on a number of different Indonesian Islands. Komodo dragons are carnivores (meat eaters) and can be very aggressive.
The meerkat, also called a suricate, is a mammal in the mongoose family and is the only member of the mongoose family that doesn't have a bushy tail. Meerkats live in areas of clumpy grassland and deserts in the southern area of the African continent, including the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, the Namib Desert in Namibia and southwestern Angola, and in South Africa. A family group of meerkats can be called a 'mob', 'gang' or 'clan'. These groups usually contain around 20 meerkats but sometimes have as many as 50. Meerkats live on average 7 - 10 years in the wild, and 12 - 14 years in captivity. Adult meerkats are about 25 - 35 cm (9.8 - 13.8 in) tall when standing upright. The meerkat uses its tail to balance when standing upright. They often stand up in the morning to absorb heat on their bellies after a long cold desert night. Meerkats are very good at digging, they have long, strong, curved claws that they use for digging burrows. Within their territory the clan usually have up to 5 different burrows that they sleep in at night. The burrows have multiple entrances and can be 5 m deep. Meerkats mainly eat insects but also lizards, snakes, scorpions, spiders, plants, eggs, small mammals, centipedes and fungi. They are immune to certain types of snake and scorpion venom. Meerkats have excellent eyesight, they can spot predators in the air from more than 300 m away. They have great peripheral vision and the dark patches around their eyes cut glare from the hot desert surface. A clan of meerkats will always have one "sentry" on guard to watch out for predators while the others forage for food. If the meerkat on guard spots danger, it barks loudly or whistles in one of six different ways. For example if the threat is of low, medium or high urgency and if the predator is in the air or on the ground. For a high-urgency land predator alarm call, meerkats will scatter down their nearest burrow entrance. For a high-urgency aerial predator alarm call, they will crouch down and may look skyward.
There are currently 264 known monkey species. Monkeys can be divided into two groups, Old World monkeys that live in Africa and Asia, and New World monkeys that live in South America. A baboon is an example of an Old World monkey, while a marmoset is an example of a New World monkey. Apes are not monkeys. Some monkeys live on the ground, while others live in trees. Different monkey species eat a variety of foods, such as fruit, insects, flowers, leaves and reptiles. Most monkeys have tails. Groups of monkeys are known as a ‘tribe’, ‘troop’ or ‘mission’. The Pygmy Marmoset is the smallest type of monkey, with adults weighing between 120 and 140 grams. The Mandrill is the largest type of monkey, with adult males weighing up to 35 kg. Capuchin monkeys are believed to be one of the smartest New World monkey species. They have the ability to use tools, learn new skills and show various signs of self-awareness. Spider monkeys get their name because of their long arms, legs and tail. The monkey is the 9th animal that appears on the Chinese zodiac, appearing as the zodiac sign in 2016.
Mosquitoes from the Culicidae family, they are a midge-like fly. The word "mosquito" is the Spanish and Portuguese word for "little fly". There are over 3,500 known species of mosquitoes worldwide. Most species of mosquito are considered to be a major nuisance and pest because they consume the blood of humans and animals. Mosquitoes cause more deaths than any other animal in the world. They are carriers of diseases, including malaria, dengue fever, and yellow fever which can be transmitted to humans and animals when the mosquito feeds on blood. Only the female mosquito feeds on blood and when they are not trying to produce eggs, females are happy to stick to eating nectar from plants like the male does. When a female feeds on blood their abdomen expands and can hold up to 3 times its own body weight in blood. Mosquitoes prefer O-type blood, people with high body heat, pregnant women and heavy breathers. Many of these reasons are because mosquitoes can sense carbon dioxide (CO2) from up to 100 feet away. Which is a reason why they circulate around our heads where we exhale CO2. Females live for two weeks to a month while males usually live for just a week. Like other flies, mosquitoes go through four lifecycles stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Female mosquitoes tend to lay their eggs in stagnant water, even very shallow puddles are suitable. Some mosquito can fly for up to four hours continuously at 1 - 2 km/h (0.6 - 1 mph), they are however one of the slowest flying insects. Mosquitoes can beat their wings between 450 and 600 times per second! Fish, dragonfly and other aquatic insects are predators of mosquitoes.
A mouse or plural mice is a small mammal from the rodent order of animals. Mice have a pointed snout, small rounded ears, and a long almost hairless tail. There are more than 30 known species of mice. The house mouse is the best known type of mouse and is a popular pet variety. Other mouse species seen in and around the house are the field mouse, the American white-footed mouse and the deer mouse. Mice are usually nocturnal animals. They have poor eyesight but make up for this with their very good hearing and smell. Mice have a number of predators including cats, wild dogs, foxes, birds of prey, and snakes. In the wild, mice are herbivores that eat all kinds of fruit and grains from plants. Mice tails can grow as long as their bodies. Mice use their whiskers to sense changes in temperature and to help feel the surface they are walking along. Mice build very complex burrows with long entrances and many escape routes. They are very clean and tidy rodents with their burrows often having separate areas for storing food, sleeping and going to the toilet. A mouse eats 15 - 20 times a day. Therefore they usually build their homes close to food sources, tending to only travel up to 8 m from their burrows to find food. Mice and rats are the most commonly used animals in laboratories for scientific experiments. The mouse is a delicacy in eastern Zambia and northern Malawi, where they are eaten as a source of protein. Because they have so many predators mice usually only live for about six months in the wild. In a lab or as a pet they can live for up to two years. In 1928, Walt Disney's Micky Mouse was the first mouse character to be used in children cartoons and animation. Mouse characters have remained popular since with other such as Speedy Gonzales, Jerry from Tom and Jerry, and Stuart Little.
There are around 300 species of octopus, usually located in tropical and temperate ocean waters. They are divided into finned deep-sea varieties that live on the ocean floor and finless, shallow water varieties found around coral reefs. Octopuses have two eyes in a globe-shaped head (mantle) off which protrude eight long limbs called tentacles that have two rows of sucker senses. Octopuses can squeeze into tight spaces as they are invertebrates which means they have no skeleton, (some species have a protective casing in their mantles). An octopus has a hard beak, like a parrot beak, which they use to break into and eat their pray such as crabs and shellfish. Octopuses have three hearts. The largest octopus is believed to be the giant Pacific octopus, Enteroctopus dofleini which weigh about 15 kg (33 lb), and has an arm span up to 4.3 m (14 ft). Octopuses are believed to be highly intelligent compared to other invertebrates. An octopus's main defence against predators such as sharks is to hide and camouflage itself by using certain skin cells to change its color. This can also be used to talk with or warn other octopuses. Another defence is to make a fast escape. Octopuses can eject a thick, blackish ink in a large cloud to distract the predator while the octopus uses a siphon jet propulsion system to quickly swim away headfirst, with arms trailing behind. A last ditch defence is for the octopus to shed a tentacle similar to how a gecko or lizard can discard a tale. An octopus is able to regenerate a lost tentacle. Octopuses have very good eyesight and an excellent sense of touch. A female octopus can lay on average about 200,000 eggs, however, fending for themselves only a handful of the hatchlings will survive to adulthood. Octopuses usually live for 6 - 18 months. Males only live a few months after mating, and females die of starvation shortly after their protected eggs hatch. Humans eat octopus in many cultures and it is also a popular fish bait.
The otter is a carnivorous mammal in a branch of the weasel family called Lutrinae. There are 13 species of otter found all around the world. Some otter species spend all their time in the water while others are land and water based animals. An otter's den is called a 'holt' or a 'couch'. A group of otters are called a 'bevy', 'family', 'lodge', or 'romp', or, when in water the group is called a 'raft'. Otters live up to 16 years in the wild. Otters are very active hunters, spending many hours a day chasing prey through water or scouring the rivers and the sea bed. They mainly eat fish but also frogs, crayfish and crabs, some species carry a rock to help smash open shellfish. Otter species range in size from the smallest Oriental small-clawed otter at 0.6 m (2 ft) and 1 kg (2.2 lb). Through to the large Giant otter and Sea otters who can reach 1.8 m (5.9 ft) and 45 kg (99.2 lb). Four of the main otter species include the European otter, the North American river otter, the Sea otter, and the Giant otter. The European otter or Eurasian otter, are found in Europe, Asia, parts of North Africa and the British Isles. The North American river otter was one of the most hunted animals for its fur after Europeans arrived. Sea otters have also been hunted in large numbers for their fur. Unlike most marine mammals, otters do not have a layer of insulating blubber. Instead air is trapped in their fur which keeps them warm. The Giant otter is found in South America around the Amazon river basin. The otter is a very playful animal and are believe to take part in some activities just for the enjoyment. Some make waterslides to slide down into the water! Otters are a popular animal in Japanese folklore where they are called "kawauso". In these tales the smart kawauso often fool humans, kind of like a fox.
There are around 200 different owl species. Owls are active at night (nocturnal). A group of owls is called a parliament. Most owls hunt insects, small mammals and other birds. Some owl species hunt fish. Owls have powerful talons (claws) which help them catch and kill prey. Owls have large eyes and a flat face. Owls can turn their heads as much as 270 degrees. Owls are farsighted, meaning they can’t see things close to their eyes clearly. Owls are very quiet in flight compared to other birds of prey. The color of owl’s feathers helps them blend into their environment (camouflage). Barn owls can be recognized by their heart shaped face.
The animal known as a "panther" actually refers to 3 different types of big cats, leopards (Panthera pardus) or jaguars (Panthera onca) that have a black or white color mutation and a subspecies of the cougar (Puma concolor). The "black panther" is a black jaguar of the Americas or a black leopard of Asia and Africa. In fact, the black panther actually has normal rosettes (spots), they are often just too hard to see because the animal's fur is so dark. Melanism is the name of the dark color pigmentation mutation in a jaguar or leopard that cause the fur to be blackish, it occurs in about 6% of the population. The opposite of melanism is albinism which is an even rarer mutation that can occur in most animal species. The extremely rare "white panther" are albino leopards, jaguars or cougars. Because the melanism gene is a dominant gene in jaguars, a black jaguar may produce either black or spotted cubs, while a pair of spotted jaguars can only have spotted cubs. Apart from color the black panther is believed to be less fertile than normal-colored big cats and also much more unpredictable and aggressive. Black panthers are great swimmers and are one of the strongest tree climbing big cats, often pouncing on prey from a tree, they are capable of leaping up to 20 feet to catch their prey which includes medium sized animals like deer and monkeys and smaller rabbits and birds. Black panthers have good hearing, extremely good eyesight, and a strong jaw. The black panther is often called 'the ghost of the forest'. It is a smart, stealth-like attacker, its dark coat helps it hide and stalk prey very easily, especially at night. The light tan colored Florida panther is one of over 30 subspecies of cougar (Puma concolor) found in North America. The Florida panther has adapted to the subtropical forests and swamp environments of Florida, however they are very rare animals, as of 2013 it is believed only 160 Florida panthers remain in the wild.
There are around 372 different parrot species. Most parrots live in tropical areas. Parrots have curved bills (beaks), strong legs and clawed feet. Parrots are often brightly coloured. Parrots are believed to be one of the most intelligent bird species. Some species are known for imitating human voices. Most parrot species rely on seeds as food. Others may eat fruit, nectar, flowers or small insects. Parrots such as the budgerigar (budgie) and cockatiel are popular as pets. Some parrot species can live for over 80 years. There are 21 different species of cockatoo. Cockatoos usually have black, grey or white plumage (feathers). New Zealand is home to some very unique parrots including the kea, kaka and kakapo. Keas are large, intelligent parrots that live in alpine areas of New Zealand’s South Island. They are the world’s only alpine parrot and are known for their curious and sometimes cheeky behaviour near ski fields where they like to investigate bags, steal small items and damage cars. Kakapos are critically endangered flightless parrots, as of 2010 only around 130 are known to exist. They are active at night (nocturnal) and feed on a range of seeds, fruit, plants and pollen. Kakapos are also the world’s heaviest parrot. The flag of Dominica features the sisserou parrot.
"Peacock" is commonly used as the name for a peafowl of the pheasant family. But in fact "peacock" is the name for the colorfully plumaged male peafowl only. The females are called peahens, they are smaller and grey or brown in color. The name of a baby peafowl is a peachick. Peacocks are best known for their amazing eye-spotted tail feathers or plumage. During a display ceremony the peacock will stand its tail feathers up to form a fan that stretches out nearly 2 m in length. This colourful display is believed to be a way to attract females for mating purposes, and secondly to make the peacock look bigger and intimidating if he feels threatened by predators. There are 3 varieties of peafowl, the Indian, the Green and the Congo. The most common type of peafowl found in many zoos and parks around the world is the Indian peafowl. The head and neck of which is covered in shining, blue feathers arranged like scales. It is native to South Asia areas of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India (where it is the national bird). The Congo peafowl is native to central Africa. It doesn't have a large plumage like other varieties. It is the national bird of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Green peafowl is native to Southeast Asia, it has chrome green and bronze feathers. It lives in areas such as Myanmar (its national symbol) and Java. It is regarded as an endangered species due to hunting and a reduction in its habitat. White varieties of peacocks are not albinos, they have a genetic mutation that causes the lack of pigments in the plumage. Peacock feathers accounts for 60 percent of the bird's total body length and with a wingspan measuring 5 feet, it is one of the largest flying birds in the world. A peafowl can live to over the age of 20 years, the peacocks plumage looks its best when the male reaches the age of 5 or 6. Peacocks have spurs on their feet that are primarily used to fight with other males. Peafowl are omnivorous, they eat many types of plants, flower petals, seeds, insects and small reptiles such as lizards. In Hindu culture, Lord Karthikeya, the god of war, is said to ride a peacock.
Penguins are flightless birds. While other birds have wings for flying, penguins have adapted flippers to help them swim in the water. Most penguins live in the Southern Hemisphere. The Galapagos Penguin is the only penguin specie that ventures north of the equator in the wild. Large penguin populations can be found in countries such as New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Argentina and South Africa. No penguins live at the North Pole. Penguins eat a range of fish and other sealife that they catch underwater. Penguins can drink sea water. Penguins spend around half their time in water and the other half on land. The Emperor Penguin is the tallest of all penguin species, reaching as tall as 120 cm (47 in) in height. Emperor Penguins can stay underwater for around 20 minutes at a time. Emperor Penguins often huddle together to keep warm in the cold temperatures of Antarctica. King Penguins are the second largest penguin specie. They have four layers of feathers to help keep them warm on the cold subantarctic islands where they breed. Chinstrap Penguins get their name from the thin black band under their head. At times it looks like they’re wearing a black helmet, which might be useful as they’re considered the most aggressive type of penguin. Crested penguins have yellow crests, as well as red bills and eyes. Yellow eyed penguins (or Hoiho) are endangered penguins native to New Zealand. Their population is believed to be around 4000. Little Blue Penguins are the smallest type of penguin, averaging around 33 cm (13 in) in height. Penguin’s black and white plumage serves as camouflage while swimming. The black plumage on their back is hard to see from above, while the white plumage on their front looks like the sun reflecting off the surface of the water when seen from below. Penguins in Antarctica have no land based predators.
Pigs are intelligent animals. Like humans, pigs are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and other animals. A pig’s snout is an important tool for finding food in the ground and sensing the world around them. Pigs have an excellent sense of smell. There are around 2 billion pigs in the world. Humans farm pigs for meat such as pork, bacon and ham. Some people like to keep pigs as pets. Wild pigs (boar) are often hunted in the wild. In some areas of the world, wild boars are the main source of food for tigers. Feral pigs that have been introduced into new areas can be a threat to the local ecosystem. Pigs can pass on a variety of diseases to humans. Relative to their body size, pigs have small lungs.
The platypus is a semi-aquatic mammal that has a very unusual appearance, it is duck-billed, has a beaver-like tail, lays eggs, has otter-like fur and webbed feet. The platypus is only found in eastern Australia in small rivers and streams within the states of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. When descriptions, drawings and even live specimens of platypus were first taken back to Europe for study by British scientists many believed the animal was a hoax, a beaver's body sewn together with a duck's bill as some sort of joke. Platypuses and echidnas are the only two mammals in the world classed as monotremes which means that they lay eggs instead of giving birth. Females platypus lay 2 - 4 eggs, incubating them for two weeks. The back foot ankle spur of a male platypus contains a venom that is powerful enough to kill small animals such as dogs. The venom is not lethal to humans, but it can cause severe pain, that sometimes lasts for weeks. The average length of a male platypus is 50 cm (20 in), the smaller females average 43 cm (17 in) in length. Platypus weigh 1 to 2.4 kg. Platypuses can live more than 12 years in the wild. Their natural predators include snakes, water rats, hawks, owls, eagles and sometimes crocodiles. The platypus is an excellent swimmer, diving under water on average for around 30 seconds to forage for food before coming up for air. Platypus close their eyes and ears when under water, so in order to feed on worms, insects, and freshwater shrimp, they use their sense of electroreception and dig up muddy river beds with their bill to detect the electric fields of prey. The platypus uses pouches in its cheeks to carry prey back to the surface where it is eaten. The platypus eats about 20% of its own weight in food each day. The platypus is usually nocturnal, coming out at night or twilight to feed, sometimes they are also active on overcast days. The platypus sleeps on average up to 14 hours per day. The platypus was hunted for its fur until the early 20th century. It is now an Australian protected species. The platypus is the state animal of New South Wales (NSW). The platypus has been used as a mascot for national events in Australia and is featured on the Australian 20 cent coin.
Polar Bear Facts
Polar bears live in the Arctic. Polar bears have black skin and although their fur appears white, it is actually transparent. It is the largest carnivore (meat eater) that lives on land. Polar bears use sea ice as a platform to hunt seals. Seals make up most of a polar bears diet. Male polar bears can weigh up to 680 kg (1500 lb). Female polar bears usually only weigh about half as much as males. Polar bears spend most of their time at sea. Scientists estimate that there are around 20000 polar bears. Polar bears have 42 teeth. The scientific name for the polar bear is ‘ursus maritimus’. Polar bears keep warm thanks to nearly 10 cm of blubber under the skin. Polar bears have an excellent sense of smell, with the ability to detect seals nearly a mile away (1.6 km). Polar bears can reach speeds up to 40 kph (25 mph) on land and 10 kph (6 mph) in water. The polar bear was the mascot for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada.
Ponies are small horses. Ponies have thicker manes and tails than horses. They also have proportionally shorter legs, thicker necks and shorter heads. Well trained ponies are good for children while they are learning to ride. As well as for riding, ponies are used in driving and working roles. Young ponies are called foals. Shetland ponies are small but very strong. Pound for pound, ponies are stronger than horses. Miniature horses are even smaller than ponies. Hackney ponies were first bred to pull carriages. Ponies are easy to look after, requiring half the food that a horse would if it was the same weight.
A female rabbit is called a doe. A male rabbit is called a buck. A young rabbit is called a kit (or kitten). Rabbits live in groups. The European rabbit lives underground, in burrows. A group of burrows is known as a warren. More than half of the world’s rabbits live in North America. Rabbits have long ears which can be as long as 10 cm (4 in). Rabbits have a lifespan of around 10 years. Rabbits are herbivores (plant eaters). Pet rabbits that live inside are often referred to as ‘house rabbits’. Rabbits reproduce very quickly. This can be a major headache for people living in agricultural areas where rabbits are seen as pests. Rabbits are born with their eyes closed and without fur.
Nearly all reptiles lay shelled eggs. Reptiles breathe air. Reptiles are covered in scales or have a bony external plate such as a shell. Nearly all reptiles are cold blooded. The first reptiles are believed to have evolved around 320 million years ago. The size of reptile’s brains relative to their body is much smaller than that of mammals. Reptiles use a variety of methods to defend themselves from dangerous situations, such as avoidance, camouflage, hissing and biting. Crocodiles and alligators are reptiles. Turtles and tortoises are reptiles. Lizards and snakes are reptiles. Lizard and snake species make up the largest number of different reptiles. Tuataras found in New Zealand are reptiles.
The name rhinoceros means ‘nose horn’ and is often shortened to rhino. There are five different species of rhinoceros, three native to southern Asia and two native to Africa. They are the Black Rhinoceros, White Rhinoceros, Indian Rhinoceros, Javan Rhinoceros and Sumatran Rhinoceros. All five species of rhinoceros can grow to weigh over 1000 kg (2200 lb). White rhino can weigh over 3500 kg (7700 lb). White rhinoceros are generally considered the second largest land mammal (after the elephant). Three of the five rhinoceros species are listed as being critically endangered. Rhinoceros have thick, protective skin. Relative to their large body size, rhinoceros have small brains. Rhinoceros horns are made from a protein called keratin, the same substance that fingernails and hair are made of. Rhinoceros are often hunted by humans for their horns. Rhinoceros are herbivores (plant eaters). A group of rhinoceros is called a ‘herd’ or a ‘crash’. Despite their name, White Rhinoceros are actually gray.
Scorpions are predatory animals of the class Arachnida, making them cousins to spiders, mites and ticks. Scorpions have eight legs, a pair of pincers (pedipalps) and a narrow segmented tail that often curves over their back, on the end of which is a venomous stinger. The scorpion uses their pincers to quickly grab prey and then whip their poisonous tail stinger over to kill or paralyze the prey. The tail is also used as a useful defence against predators. Scorpion species range in size from 0.09 cm to 20 cm. Scorpions can be found on all continents except for Antarctica. There are over 1750 known species of scorpion. While humans generally fear the scorpion and its poisonous sting only about 25 of the species have venom capable of killing a human. Under UV light such as a black light scorpions are known to glow due to the presence of fluorescent chemicals in their exoskeleton. The scorpion is nocturnal, often hiding during the day under rocks and in holes in the ground before emerging at night to feed. Scorpions can eat a massive amount of food in one meal. Their large food storage organs, together with a low metabolism rate and an inactive lifestyle means that if necessary they can survive 6-12 months without eating again. Areas of China have a traditional dish of fried scorpion, and scorpion wine features in Chinese medicine. The scorpion is one of the 12 signs of the Zodiac, with the Scorpio constellation identified in the stars. Scorpions moult, they shed their exoskeleton up to 7 times as they grow to full size. They become vulnerable to predators each time until their new protective exoskeleton hardens.
Seals are semiaquatic marine mammals. They have four flippers, so are in a category of animals known as pinnipedia which means 'fin-footed'. The pinnipeds group contains 3 families: phocidae, the earless or true seal (eg. common seal), otaridae, eared seals (eg. fur seals and sea lions) and odobenidae (walrus). Seals are believed to have evolved from land based, bear or otter-like ancestors. There are around 33 species of seals. Seals are found in most waters of the world, mainly in the Arctic and Antarctic but also in some areas of the tropics. Seals have a layer of fat under skin called blubber, which keeps them warm in cold water. Their slick fur coat is streamlined for gliding through water. A seal's whiskers help it to detect prey in dark murky waters. Seals live on average for 25 - 30 years, females usually live longer than males. Seals range in size from about 1 m (3 ft 3 in) and 45 kg (100 lb) such as the earless Baikal seal and eared Galapagos fur seal, up to the 5 m (16 ft) and 3,200 kg (7,100 lb) southern elephant seal. The seal is a carnivorous mammal that usually feeds on fish, squid, shellfish, crustaceans or sea birds. Some, like the leopard seal, eat other species of seals. Seals mainly live in the water, they only come ashore to mate, give birth, moult or escape from predators such as orca whales and sharks. Because they can spend months at sea, seals can sleep underwater. Some seal species can hold their breath for nearly two hours underwater by slowing their heart beat and conserving oxygen. About once a year a female seal, called a cow, gives birth to one pup on land. Humans have traditionally hunted seals for their meat, blubber and fur coats, however seals are now protected by international law. They are still commonly kept in captivity though and sometimes trained to perform tricks and tasks.
There are over 1 billion sheep in the world. China has the largest number of sheep in the world. Adult female sheep are known as ewes. Adult male sheep are known as rams. Castrated adult male sheep are known as wethers. A group of sheep is known as a herd, flock or mob. Young sheep are called lambs. Sheep have a field of vision of around 300 degrees, allowing them to see behind themselves without having to turn their head. Sheep are herbivores that eat vegetation such as grass. The digestive system of sheep features four chambers which help break down what they eat. Sheep like to stay close to others in a herd which makes them easier to move together to new pastures. In 1996, a sheep named Dolly was the first mammal to be cloned from a somatic cell. Domesticated sheep are raised for a number of agricultural products including fleece and meat.
Sloths are a medium-sized mammal. There are two types of sloth the two-toed sloth and the three-toed sloth, they are classified into six different species. All sloths actually have three toes, but the two-toed sloth has only two fingers. Sloths are part of the order Pilosa so they are related to anteaters and armadillos. Sloths are tree-dwelling animals, they are found in the jungles of Central and South America. A sloth's body is usually 50 to 60 cm long. Skeletons of now extinct species of sloth suggest some varieties used to be as large as elephants. Sloths mainly eat the tree buds, new shoots, fruit and leaves, of the Cecropia tree. Some two-toed sloths also eat insects, small reptiles, and birds. Sloths have a four-part stomach that very slowly digests the tough leaves they eat, it can sometimes take up to a month for them to digest a meal. Digesting this diet means a sloth has very little energy left to move around making it one of the slowest moving animals in the world. Sloths can move along the ground at just 2 m (6.5 ft) per minute! In the trees they are slightly quicker at 3 m (10 ft) per minute. The slow-movement and unique thick fur of the sloth make it a great habitat for other creatures such as moths, beetles, cockroaches, fungi, and algae. In fact, this green colored algae provides a camouflage so sloths can avoid predators. Sloths can extend their tongues 10 to 12 inches out of their mouths. The sloth has very long, sharp, and strong claws that they use to hold on to tree branches. The claws are also their only natural defense against predators. Sloths usually only leave the tree they live in to go to the toilet once a week on the ground. This is when they are most vulnerable to being attacked by their main predators such as jaguars, the harpy eagle and snakes. Two-toed sloths are nocturnal, being most active at night. While three-toed sloths are diurnal which means they are most active during the day. It used to be thought sloths slept for 15 to 20 hours a day. However, its now believed they only sleep around 10 hours a day. In the wild, sloths live on average 10 - 16 years and in captivity over 30 years.
Snail is a common name for gastropod molluscs that can be split into three groups, land snails, sea snails and freshwater snails. Snails can have lungs or gills depending on the species and their habitat. Some marine snails actually can have lungs and some land based snails can have gills. Snail-like animals that do not have a shell are usually called slugs. Most snail species have a ribbon-like tongue called a radula that contains thousands of microscopic teeth. The radula works like a file, ripping food up into tiny pieces. The majority of snails are herbivores eating vegetation such as leaves, stems and flowers, some larger species and marine based species can be predatory omnivores or even carnivores. The giant African land snail grows to about 38 cm (15 in) and weigh 1 kg (2lb). The largest living sea snail species is the Syrinx aruanus who's shell can reach 90 cm (35 in) in length and the snail can weigh up to 18 kg (40lbs)! Common garden snails have a top speed of 45 m (50 yards) per hour. Making the snail one of the slowest creatures on Earth. As they move along snails leave behind a trail of mucus which acts as a lubricant to reduce surface friction. This also allows the snail to move along upside down. Depending on the species snails can live 5 - 25 years. The common garden snail is regarded as an agricultural and garden pest as it eats the leaves and stems of crops. The snail is a delicacy in French cuisine called escargot. The snail is also eaten in many other countries of the world, often as a fried meal. In English, the expression "a snail's pace" is a term used to describe a slow, inefficient process and "snail mail" is now commonly used when referring to sending regular mail rather than that sent by email.
Snakes are carnivores (meat eaters). Snakes don’t have eyelids. Snakes can’t bite food so have to swallow it whole. Snakes have flexible jaws which allow them to eat prey bigger than their head! Snakes are found on every continent of the world except Antarctica. Snakes have internal ears but not external ones. Snakes used in snake charming performances respond to movement, not sound. There are around 3000 different species of snake. Snakes have a unique anatomy which allows them to swallow and digest large prey. Snakes are covered in scales. Snakeskin is smooth and dry. Snakes shed their skin a number of times a year in a process that usually lasts a few days. Some species of snake, such as cobras and black mambas, use venom to hunt and kill their prey. Read more venomous snake facts. Snakes smell with their tongue. Pythons kill their prey by tightly wrapping around it and suffocating it in a process called constriction. Some sea snakes can breathe partially through their skin, allowing for longer dives underwater. Anacondas are large, non-venomous snakes found in South America that can reach over 5 m (16 ft) in length. Python reticulates can grow over 8.7 m (28 ft) in length and are considered the longest snakes in the world.
Spiders are arachnids, not insects. Other members of the arachnid family include scorpions, mites, ticks and harvestmen. Spiders have 8 legs while insects have 6. Spiders don’t have antennae while insects do. Spiders are found on every continent of the world except Antarctica. There are around 40000 different species of spider. Most spiders make silk which they use to create spider webs and capture prey. Abandoned spider webs are called cobwebs. Most spiders are harmless to humans but a few spider species, such as the black widow, can bite humans and inject venom. Deaths from spider bites are rare however. An abnormal fear of spiders is called ‘arachnophobia’. Tarantulas are large and often hairy spiders, the biggest species have been known to kill mice, lizards and birds. Most tarantula species pose no threat to humans. The largest specie of tarantula is the Goliath Birdeater. Giant Huntsman spiders have leg-spans of around 30cm (12 in).
Squirrels are rodents. There are around 280 different species of squirrel. Most squirrels are small and have big eyes and bushy tails. Their large eyes help them skilfully climb trees and avoid predators. Squirrels eat mostly nuts, fruits and seeds. Squirrels are born blind. Flying squirrels can’t fly like birds but they can glide between trees. Flying squirrels have been known to glide for distances of up to 90 metres (295 ft). Chipmunks are small squirrels with stripes. Chipmunks have cheek pouches which help them carry food. Many chipmunk species hoard food such as nuts, berries, egg and grains for the winter.
Like their cousin the shark, stingrays do not have bones, their skeletons are instead made of cartilage. Stingrays are a group of rays, consisting of eight families including the sixgill stingray, deep water stingray, stingarees, round rays, whiptail stingrays, river stingrays, butterfly rays and eagle rays. There are around 70 species of stingrays in the world. Stingrays are commonly found in tropical and subtropical coastal ocean waters, a few species live in freshwater rivers. Most varieties of stingrays have one or more barbed venomous stingers on their tail which are only used in self-defence. Stingrays flat bodies allow them to dig in and hide from predators on the sandy ocean bottom. The main predators of stingrays are sharks, other large fish, seals, and sea lions. Stingrays eyes are on top of their bodies, yet their mouth, gills, and nostrils are on the underside. Because of this stingrays cannot see their prey, instead they use smell and electroreceptor's to find food. Stingrays mainly feed on molluscs, crustaceans such as crabs, clams, oysters, sea snails and small fish. To swim, some stingray species flap their fins like a bird and fly through the water, others move their entire bodies in a wavy motion propelling them forward. Shuffling your feet along a sandy shallow sea floor is the best way to avoid stepping on a stingray and potentially getting stung. In the wild, a stingray can live on average to be 15 to 25 years old. Some species of stingray found in the deep ocean can grow as long as 14 ft including the tail. Stingrays are eaten in many cuisines around the world. In Singapore and Malaysia, stingray is grilled over charcoal, and served with spicy sauces. The leathery skin of the ray is often used to make exotic shoes, boots, belts, wallets, jackets, and cellphone cases. In Japan, the skin is sometimes used as an under layer on Japanese swords due to its hard, rough, texture that keeps the layer on top from sliding on the handle during use.
Toads and frogs are both in the order Anura. While toads and frogs are biologically the same there are some key differences between them. Toads are associated with a drier, wart-covered, leathery skin, and shorter legs than frogs. They also can live further away from water. Toads are found on all continents except Antarctica and are also not present on isolated islands like New Zealand, New Guinea, and Madagascar. A group of toads is often called a knot. The common toad (or European toad), is a large-sized species of toad that is found throughout Europe, extending from Siberia into North Africa. The cane toad that is native to South and Central America was introduced in Australia to combat the pest beetles of sugarcane plantations. However, the cane toad itself is now seen as a widespread pest in the country. Like frogs, toads also start out life in water as fish-like tadpoles. Toads have a pair of parotoid glands on the back of their heads. These glands and the skin in general, contain a poison which the toad excretes if feeling stressed or threatened. The poison has different effects on different animals, some find it irritating to eyes and mouth, while it may be fatal to others. Some species such as the cane toad are more toxic than other species. Contrary to popular believe you will not get warts by touching the bumpy wart-like skin or glands of a toad. The poison does not usually affect humans, however you should always wash your hands after touching a toad. Toads may also play dead, or puff themselves up to appear bigger if they feel threatened by predators. Toads do not have teeth, so they do not chew their food, instead swallowing it whole. Toads are usually nocturnal. They burrow beneath the earth in the day and come out at night to feed on insects. Toads will hibernate throughout the winter months. In the wild, most toads species live on average 3 to 5 years. They have been recorded living as old as 39 years in captivity.
The family Ramphastidae includes toucans, toucanets and the smaller toucan called aracaris. There are about 40 different species. Toucans live in tropical and sub-tropical jungle regions, they are native to southern Mexico in Central America, the northern areas of South America, and the Caribbean region. Toucans are renown for their large colorful bills. At 8 inches (20 cm) they have the longest bill of any bird in the world in relation to their body size 25 in (63.5 cm). Despite its size, the toucan's bill is very light as it is made of keratin (like human hair) in a honeycomb-like structure. It is believed to be this large in order to keep the bird cool in the hot climates it lives in. This does mean the toucan's bill is not very strong, so it can't be used for digging or fighting like other bird beaks. Toucan's have long narrow tongues up to 15 cm (6 in) long. The relatively small wings of the toucan means they are not very good at flying and cannot stay airborne for long. This is fine by them though, they often don't move far, and usually hop between branches using curved toes and sharp claws. Toucans mainly eat fruit, but sometimes prey on insects and small lizards. Toucans live together in small-sized flocks, they make nests in tree hollows or holes that have often be created by their distant cousin the woodpecker. The Toco toucan is the most widely recognized species of toucan, it has a large black-tipped orangey-yellow bill and a black bodied plumage with a white throat. Toucans are one of the nosier jungle birds. They live for up to 20 years, and their predators include Jaguars and other big cats. Since the 1960's, Toucan Sam, a cartoon mascot, has been used as the face of Kellogg's breakfast cereal Fruit Loops.
Turtles are reptiles. Turtles have a hard shell that protects them like a shield, this upper shell is called a ‘carapace’. Turtles also have a lower shell called a ‘plastron’. Many turtle species (not all) can hide their heads inside their shells when attacked by predators. Turtles have existed for around 215 million years. Like other reptiles, turtles are cold blooded. The largest turtle is the leatherback sea turtle, it can weigh over 900 kg! (2000 lb) Turtles lay eggs. In some species of turtle the temperature determines if the egg will develop into a male or female, lower temperatures lead to a male while higher temperatures lead to a female. Some turtles lay eggs in the sand and leave them to hatch on their own. The young turtles make their way to the top of the sand and scramble to the water while trying to avoid predators. Sea turtles have special glands which help remove salt from the water they drink. Many turtle species are endangered.
Venomous Snake Facts
Venomous snakes have special glands and teeth designed to inject venom into their prey. There are around 700 different species of venomous snakes. Around 250 of these are capable of killing a human with one bite. As well as for attacking prey, snakes also use venom in self defence. The most common way to effectively treat venomous snake bites is with anti-venom. Snake venom can contain neurotoxins that attack the nervous system. Taipans are large Australian snakes that have high levels of venom. Australian brown snakes are highly dangerous and easily alarmed. Sea snakes are some of the most venomous in the world. Coral snakes are highly venomous but not usually aggressive, only biting as a last resort. Vipers have long, hollow fangs used to inject venom. When cobras are threatened they rear up and flatten their necks to appear larger. The King Cobra is the longest snake in the world with the ability to inject venom. They can grow up to 5.6 m (18.5 ft) in length. Rattlesnakes get their name from the rattle at the end of their tails. The snake shakes the rattle to warn or scare away predators. The most common snake bites in North America are from rattlesnakes. Black mambas get their name because of the black color inside their mouth. Black mambas are the fastest snake in the world.
Zebra are part of the equidae family along with horse and donkeys. Every zebra has a unique pattern of black and white stripes. There are a number of different theories which attempt to explain zebra’s unique stripes with most relating to camouflage. Wild zebras live in Africa. Common plain zebras have tails around half a metre in length (18 inches). Zebra crossings (pedestrian crossings) are named after the black and white stripes of zebras. Zebras run from side to side to being chased by a predator. Zebras have excellent eyesight and hearing. Zebras stand up while sleeping. Zebras eat mostly grass. The ears of a zebra show its mood. A zebra named Marty starred in the 2005 animated film Madagascar.
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