Category archives for Animals
Some tiny snails in Japan can survive a trip through a bird’s digestive tract. When graduate student Shinchiro Wada and his colleagues at Tohoku University fed the Tornatellides boeningi snails to captive white-eye birds and brown-eared bulbuls birds, they noticed that about 15% of the snails passed through the birds and were pooped out alive! How do the snails survive? Wada isn’t sure. The snails are very small, which may help keep their shells from cracking. Wada says that the snails have the ability to seal off their shells with a mucus film, which may help keep the birds’ digestive fluids out.
Photograph courtesy Shinichiro Wada
We recently told you about Andrew Evans and his travels. He loves dogs and always bonds with one dog everywhere he goes. He asked kids to name the local dog that he befriended on his trip to Canada, and several kids came up with some names: Puffy, Cotton, Chatham, Fluffy, and Snowbird.
Then please vote in the poll and choose the name that would best fit this dog!
When you speed up video of emperor penguins huddling together in Antarctica, you see them do the wave! The penguins snuggle up together to keep warm and as new penguins join the group they take small steps, creating the wave effect. Researchers say that this helps the penguins get equal chance at time in the middle of the huddle.
Watch a video of penguins doing the wave!
The great snipe is able to complete a flight from Sweden to sub-Saharan Africa in as little as two days (without any rest breaks)! Why? Scientists think it might be because these shorebirds are chubby. “They almost double their body weight before the flight,” said study leader Raymond Klaasen, a biologist at Lund University in Sweden. “And all this fat will be burned during the flight, and they will arrive lean and exhausted in Africa.” Other birds fly faster than the great snipe, but for shorter distances.
Although the snipe holds the current record for the fastest transcontinental migration, it may not hold the record for very long. There are probably faster birds out there. “Generally we know rather little about the performances of different species, as many have not yet been tracked,” said Klaasen.
Photograph by Klaus Nigge, National Geographic
Tarantulas shoot silk from spigots in their feet like Spider-Man and are able to keep their balance and stick to whatever they are walking on. Scientist Claire Rind of the University of Newcastle examined tarantula feet under a powerful microscope and found silk-producing spigots mixed in with the tarantula’s regular hairs. She also saw silk coming out of the spigots. Rind studied three kinds of tarantulas: the Chilean rose, the Indian ornamental, and the Mexican flame-kneed tarantula.
If you could squirt sticky silk out of your feet, what would you climb?
Photograph courtesy Claire Rind
Is that a snake? Not quite! It’s a newly-discovered species of legless lizard. This is the first legless lizard to be discovered in Southeast Asia, but there are about 200 species of legless lizards found around the world. Although they look like snakes, these animals have external ears like other lizards. Scientists think that snakes evolved from legless lizards.
This lizard is also blind and probably doesn’t need to see since they live underground. Legs and eyes “are simply a waste of energy when you’re working your way through underground tunnels,” says biologist Jenny Daltry of Fauna & Flora International.
Photograph courtesy Thy Neang et al, Zootaxa/Flora & Fauna International
A huge number of whales can be found near New York City, scientists say. To get an idea of what was happening under the surface, scientists placed underwater sound recorders off the coast of Long Island and in New York Harbor, and they picked up a surprising number of whale sounds! The recorders picked up the songs of six different kinds of whales: the fin whale, blue whale, humpback whale, minke whale, sei whale, and the North Atlantic right whale. The whales came as close as 10 miles of New York City.
Some of the whales were migrating to breeding grounds, but others stay around the coast all year round. Scientists are unable to tell exactly how many whales appear on the recordings because of the limitations of the technology.
Think you know your blue whale facts? Quiz Your Noodle and find out!
Photograph by Flip Nicklin, National Geographic
Studies suggest that sea urchins don’t have specialized eyes, the way people do. Instead, a sea urchin uses its entire body to see. A new study leads its research team to believe that sea urchins use their tube feet as retinas (the part of the eye that absorbs light), while pigmented cells in the rest of the animal’s body help block out extra light. Earlier studies had found that where and how many spines were on a sea urchin’s body affected how well it could see.
Photograph by Paul Nicklen, National Geographic
This morning, National Geographic Society employees spotted new arrivals in the courtyard–mallard ducklings!
Ken Geiger, senior editor for technology at National Geographic magazine, snapped this picture. Two ducklings were in the courtyard’s decorative pool at the time, and after taking the photo, Geiger and another staffer fashioned a duckling ramp to help them climb out.
Photograph by Ken Geiger, National Geographic
The common wasp is an invasive species in New Zealand. These wasps compete for food with an ant species called Prolasius advenus, which is a native species. Scientists performing an experiment with the insects noticed the wasps doing something unique: picking up ants crawling on food, flying a short distance away, and then dropping the ants. The scientists noticed that while the two species competed for a food source, the ants could be aggressive towards the much larger wasps, trying to bite them or spraying them with formic acid. The researchers think that the wasps might drop the ants, rather than killing them, to touch as little of the formic acid as possible.
Photograph by Julien Grangier, Victoria University of Wellington
This picture may look like an ant with antlers, but it’s actually an ant that’s infected with a fungus! This fungus, called Ophiocordyceps camponoti-balzani, is one of four fungi species that infects ants, takes over their brains, and then kills the host ant when it reaches an ideal location for the fungus to grow. The different species of fungi infect ants in different ways. “It is tempting to speculate that each species of fungus has its own ant species that it is best adapted to attack,” said study leader David Hughes, who is an entomologist (or insect scientist) at Penn State University.
Photograph courtesy David Hughes
You probably already know that bears hibernate through the winter. They find a cozy den to curl up in, and sleep the cold months away–all without waking up to eat (or even go to the bathroom). Scientists always thought that when the bears slowed their metabolisms so they could sleep for so long without eating, their body temperatures would drop dramatically. A new study says that this isn’t the case.
Alaskan black bears do lower their body temperatures while hibernating, but only by about 9 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit (5 or 6 degrees Celsius). Other body processes slow down as well. The bears’ heart rates dropped from about 55 beats per minute to about 9 beats per minute! How well would humans do with heart rates like slumbering bears? “If we had that kind of longer interval within our heartbeats, we would probably faint,” said study co-author Øivind Tøien, a zoophysiologist at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
Photograph from All Canada Photos/Alamy
A five-year-old Scottish deerhound named GCH Foxcliffe Hickory Wind (or just Hickory for short) won Best in Show at the 2011 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City on Tuesday. This is the first time that a Scottish deerhound has won the top prize.
Hickory will now officially retire from dog shows and will spend her time at her owner’s farm in Virginia.
Read about last year’s Best in Show winner on News Bites.
How much do you know about different dog breeds? Quiz Your Noodle and find out!
Photograph by Mary Altaffer, AP
Panda cubs traditionally receive their names 100 days after they are born, and today Zoo Atlanta officials and DreamWorks Animation announced the name! The cub was named Po after the character voiced by Jack Black in the movies Kung Fu Panda and Kung Fu Panda 2 (in theaters May 26th). The cub received his new name with a traditional Chinese naming ceremony, including a dragon dance! Jack Black even came to the ceremony to meet his character’s namesake.
Po is the only giant panda to be born in the United States in 2010.
Get the facts on giant pandas on National Geographic Kids.
Photograph by Pouya Dianat
At England’s Cocester Zoo, the mandrills have been seen covering their eyes. Why? Scientists aren’t exactly sure, but one idea is that covering the eyes means that a mandrill wants to be left alone. A new study says that this behavior has been observed in the Colcester Zoo mandrills for at least ten years, and probably started with one mandrill. All of the other mandrills copied the behavior, and now all of the zoo’s mandrills cover their eyes.
This is especially interesting to scientists because humans didn’t teach this behavior to the mandrills. Study authors say that the mandrills’ behavior could be considered cultural, because of natural way the gesture developed.
Read more about the study on National Geographic News Watch.
Play Monkey Bars Gymnastics on National Geographic Kids.
Photograph courtesy Mark Laidre, University of California, Berkeley
Four common species of bumblebees have been disappearing over the past 20 years. A new study estimates that these populations have declined as much as 96%. The disappearance of the bees is still a mystery, but some scientists think that the bees may have been infected by a fungus called Nosema bombi, which is an invasive fungus from Europe.
Bumblebees pollinate important crops, such as blueberries and tomatoes. They are more efficient pollinators than honeybees.
Read more about this study on National Geographic News.
Read about the honeybee mystery on National Geographic Kids.
Get the facts on honeybees in the Creature Feature.
Photograph by Bill Beatty, Visuals Unlimited
Zookeepers at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park welcomed a new male elephant calf into the herd last week! The calf’s mother also has an older calf, who is almost four years old. The new baby hasn’t been named yet, but he has been busy exploring with his mother. The park’s elephant herd gave birth to four male calves in 2010.
See pictures of the baby elephant on the ZooBorns website.
Visit the San Diego Zoo Safari Park website to see a video of the baby.
Get the facts on African elephants in the Creature Feature.
Photograph by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park
All babies love to play and young chimpanzees are no exception. Researchers in Kibale National Park in Uganda have noticed something: young female chimps will play with sticks like they are dolls! “The stick serves no immediate function, they just carry it–sometimes for a few minutes, other times for hours,” says an e-mail by study leader Richard Wrangham, a biological anthropologist at Harvard University. “Carriers regularly take sticks into the nests they rest in during the day, something that isn’t done with other objects. Individuals are [also] known to play with their sticks while in their nests.”
Similar behavior has noticed with animals in zoos, too. Captive female monkeys have been noticed to prefer doll toys, while the males play with trucks.
Read more about baby chimps and their toys on National Geographic News
Get the facts on chimps in the Creature Feature.
Photograph by Michael Poliza, National Geographic/Getty Images
Seven lion cubs were born at the National Zoo this summer. Lioness Shera had four cubs, while lioness Nababiep had three. Now all seven cubs have been named!
Shera’s cubs are named John, Fahari, Zuri, and Lelie. Lelie, meaning “lily,” is the winning female name from the Name a Cub contest. The name was submitted by a first-grade classroom at Marshall Elementary School in Manassas, Virginia. Nababiep’s cubs are named Aslan, Lusaka, and Baruti. Baruti is the winning male name from the contest. It means “teacher” and was submitted by a daycare class from the Bright Horizons Child Care & Education at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Virginia.
Visit the National Zoo’s website to learn how the other names were chosen.
Want to help save lions? Visit Letters to Lions to find out how to send a letter to African leaders.
Photograph by Mehgan Murphy, Smithsonian National Zoo
Baby animals are always adorable, but this fluffy young cub at Denmark’s Aalborg Zoo also has an adventurous side. The zoo has released pictures of the three-month-old Siberian tiger cub exploring her new surroundings.
Siberian tigers are the biggest cats in the world. They are an endangered species, with only 400-500 animals living out of captivity.
You can see more pictures of the baby tiger and other baby animals on the Zooborns website.
Get the facts on tigers in the Creature Feature.
(AD) Zooborns also published a book of the new animals born at the world’s zoos. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums gets 10% of each book sale!
Photograph courtesy of Tambako
Florida’s Zoo Miami welcomed a new arrival last week–a new pygmy hippo calf! The calf’s mom, Kelsey, has lived at Zoo Miami since 1993. Pygmy hippos are extremely rare. There are only a few thousand living in the wild in West Africa.
See pictures of the hippo calf on the ZooBorns website.
Want to visit the pygmy hippos? Visit the Zoo Miami website to plan your trip.
Get the facts on hippos in the Creature Feature.
In August, seven cubs were born at the National Zoo! The Zoo is giving the public a chance to name two of the cubs, one male and one female. If you want to submit a name, create a 90-second video containing the name you think would be best for one of the cubs and explain why you chose that name.
U.S. residents over the age of 13 should submit their videos by midnight on Sunday, December 5. If you are younger than 13 but you still want to participate, make it a family project and have your parent or guardian submit the video.
Learn more about the cub-naming contest on the National Zoo’s website.
Help save lions! Find out how by visiting Letters to Lions.
Lun Lun, the giant panda located at Zoo Atlanta, gave birth to her third cub on November 3, 2010. This is the only giant panda to be born in the U.S. in 2010, which is great news for the endangered species.
Zoo Atlanta says the cub is “roughly the size of a cell phone” and is being well-cared for by its mother. Zoo officials will be able to examine the cub next week and determine its gender. Visitors will be able to meet the new cub in spring 2011.
The 10-year Census of Marine Life wrapped up on Monday. The project launched more than 500 expeditions over the past decade and uncovered 6.000 new species, like the fathead sculpin fish pictured above, nicknamed “Mr. Blobby.”
See pictures of more newly discovered species on National Geographic News.
Learn more about the census on the Census of Marine Life website.
Explore a shipwreck and raft a raging river when you play Waterlogged!
Photograph courtesy Kerryn Parkingson, NORFANZ
The votes have been counted, and the name for the National Geographic Museum’s gecko has been chosen–Gripper! Thanks to everyone who voted in the poll.
Get gecko facts in the Creature Feature on National Geographic Kids.
Want to visit the gecko? Visit the National Geographic Museum’s Geckos: Tails to Toepads gecko exhibit, which will be open from September 24, 2010 to January 5, 2011.
Print out a gecko mask and coloring pages on National Geographic Little Kids.
Photo courtesy Eugene Green