Tag Archives: Animals

If the venomous snake bites itself would it die?

All snakes are not poisonous, but it is quite possible for those which accidentally infect themselves with their own venom that they would die. A rattlesnake kept in a zoological laboratory with several others made the mistake of piercing its own skin with its fangs. Although an attempt was made to save its life, death ensued within few hours.
The poisonous fluid is secreted in a gland under and behind the eyes of snake and forces its way through the fangs.

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Can any animal live for years without food?

There is a very small creature, a distant relative of the spider, that can live for years without food. It is often known as the water bear (photo, left). Its real name is tardigrada.
These creatures live naturally in a damp atmosphere, but if the atmosphere becomes dry they also dry up. All movements graduaily cease, the body shrinks until it looks like a wrinkled seed, and thus it will remain year alter year. To all it appears dead. If placed in water, however, in a few minutes it will swell out, the wrinkles will disappear, the legs will stretch out, and gradually it will move, in an hour or so the creature is as active as ever, and crawls away.
Some snails, too, can remain apparently dead for years without food, and then revive and live as though they had been eating just as usual all that long time.

Why can’t we see in the dark like cats and owls?

In order to see, the eye must receive light; and darkness is the absence of light. Most of the objects we see around us are visible by reflected light — reflected sunlight or reflected artificial light. Since darkness is the absence of light, there is no light in the darkness to be reflected from chairs, tables, or people to our eyes, and therefore we can not see these objects.
Cats and owls can see in the dark because they have special kinds of eyes. It is true that cats and owls can see better in partial darkness than we can, because the pupils of their eyes can open wider and receive more light than our eyes can. You have probably noticed that it is difficult to see objects inside a house when you have just come in from the bright sunlight. After you have been in the house a little while, your eyes adapt themselves to the dimmer light, and you can see perfectly well. It is true, too, that our eyes become somewhat accustomed to the dark after a while. If you go out of the lighted house on a dark night, you find that after ten or fifteen minutes you can see much better than when you first left the house.

Additional reading:
Eye (Wikipedia)

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Some camels have two humps on their back. What are they called?

There are two distinct species of domesticated camels. One is the one-humped Arabian camel, which roams the desert in northern and eastern Africa, Syria, Arabia and other parts of Asia Minor, and is also seen in northern India, Mongolia and south-central Asia (first photo). It is a long-limbed animal with large spreading feet. Calloused pads, or cushions, on its feet, chest and the joints of its legs protect these parts from being cut by the sharp grains of sand when the animal is walking, kneeling or lying down. Long eye-lashes protect the dark large eyes from glaring sun and whirling sand. Its nostrils, set slantwise above the split upper lip, can be closed also against drifting sand. That upper lip is very sensitive. Sight and smell are especially keen, and the animal can tell at a great distance away where water is to be found. Its teeth are strong, just right for chopping the sparse plants of the desert. Its coat is shaggy, with a fringe of hair along the top of its neck and under its chin. The coat is colored like the sand.

The two-humped species is the Bactrian camel (second photo). It is built more heavily than the Arabian camel, and has longer, finer hair, dark or fawn-colored. The Bactrian camel’s feet are harder, for this animal lives, not in sandy desert, but among the rocky wastes and mountain passes of northern and eastern Asia, in China, Siberia, Mongolia and India. It stands well the rigors of Arctic cold and of fierce heat.

Additional reading:
Camel (Wikipedia)
Bactrian camel (Wikipedia)

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Why do cat’s eyes shine in the darkness of night?

Not only cats’ but the eyes of some other nocturnal animals like leopard and tiger also show their distinctive glow at night, though the familiar example is that of a cat. During the day when there is dazzling bright light the cat spends most of the time dozing in some cozy corner. (Man sleeps for about 8 hour in a day on an average but the cat sleeps for about 16 hours – spending only 1/3 of its life awake.) Even if it is awake during day pupils of its eyes narrow to a slit to avoid dazzling bright light. They widen in dark to allow maximum light to enter.
A cat cannot see at all in complete darkness but it can make the best use of whatever little light that is available. Rays of dim light entering the eyes through pupils are gathered on retina which has two kinds of cells – rods and cones. Compared to humans, the cat has relatively more rods than cones in its retina. Rods provide sensitivity to low light, while resolving power and color are derived from cones. The functions differ, but together they add up to what we call vision. Besides rods and cones the cat has a glossy area behind the retina. Known as tapetum lucidum, it works like a mirror and provides the retina a second chance to gather the light rays which it missed earlier. Humans are not so fortunate, for any light that passes unabsorbed through the retina is lost for vision. In cats, such light is reflected back to the retina by the lustrous tapetum lucidum. This makes cat’s eyes glitter at night.

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Where did New Zealand’s birds and animal like kiwi, kea, kakapo, possums, sheep, etc come from?

Kea

One of the strangest things about New Zealand is that originally it had no land mammals, no snakes, no fruit trees, and no cereal grains or grasses of the kinds that animals eat. There was one poisonous insect, a little spider that lives on some of the beaches. When the Maoris came to the islands, they brought some dogs and a kind of black rat with them in their canoes, but there are none of these dogs left now, and the rats are very rare. When the white settlers come here, they had to bring into the country all of the cattle, sheep, and other domesticated animals. They also had to import clover and other pasture grasses for the animals to eat, and then they had to import bees to pollinate the clover.

Yet today New Zealand is one of the greatest sheep and cattle countries in the world, and has many fruit trees. Deer, pheasants, rainbow trout, rabbits, stoats and ferrets are among the kinds of animals and freshwater fish that have been brought to New Zealand and have flourished. Unfortunately, the results of bringing in these strangers have not always been good. The rabbits became such pests, destroying the farmers’ crops that the government had to take measures to destroy as many as possible. The ferrets and stoats, and cats which had become wild, also became plague to the farmers in outlaying districts, and killed so many of the wonderful wingless birds, like the kiwi, and destroyed so many of the other birds, that refuges had to be created to protect the bird life.

Kiwi

There are many lovely songbirds in New Zealand, such as the tui, or parson-bird, and the makomako. The kea (photo, above), a hawk like green parrot, has learned how to be a nuisance, for it has become skilful at killing sheep, piercing their backs with its sharp beak to get at the fat which surrounds the kidneys.

There are many sea birds, among them the graceful albatross, and in the outlaying islands in the far south there are penguins. The kiwi (second photo), a wingless bird, still lives in New Zealand. (The kiwi, also called apteryx, is a relative of the ostriches). Sadly, the great wingless bird called moa has become extinct now.

More reading:
Kea (Wikipedia)
Kiwi (Wikipedia)
New Zealand (Wikipedia)
List of extinct animals of New Zealand (Wikipedia)

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Why does a cat dropped from a height always land on its feet?

Cat righting reflex
This wonderful feat is made possible by the way the muscles of the cat are arranged and the quickness of the cat’s instinct for bringing them into action. No matter how a cat is dropped, it is usually able to turn over in the air and so twist itself that its feet come in connect with the ground first. The ability of the cat to alight feet first is aided by the healthy condition of its balancing sense.

This sense is governed by the semicircular canals – six little fluid-bearing canals, three in each ear – that enable cats (and humans) to keep in balance. However, if they played any special part in the wonderful feat of the cat we should expect to find these balancing canals very highly developed in cats; but they are not. Scientists say that man also would be able to alight on their feet when falling if they could think quickly enough. Some men dive head-foremost from a trapeze, turn somersaults in the air and land safely. Others vault over the backs of horses, whirling round in midair as they go, yet drop safely on their feet. All these skills are perfected by much practice so that they become almost instinctive.

More reading:
Cat righting reflex (Wikipedia)

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Which are the longest sleeping animals, after sloth?

There is no shortage of creatures that can compete with the sloth in sleep patterns. For example, two creatures named the armadillo (the first picture) and the opossum (the second picture) sleep for 18 hours per day just like a sloth. The brown bat takes the cake for longest sleep during the day by sleeping for a whacking 19.9 hours daily.

This habit has been bestowed upon them by nature since they cannot fight against predators in the forest. When it is not possible to save oneself through fight the best way is to lie quietly in one place so that the attention of hunters is not attracted.

A bird named poorwill is renowned for its long sleep. Every winter the poorwill hibernates for about 88 long days. During this long sleep its heartbeats lessen considerably and the temperature of its body also reduces. When winter is over and there is warmth in the atmosphere the poorwill wakes up automatically – as if an alarm bell has rung.

More reading:
Armadillo (Wikipedia)
Opossum (Wikipedia)
Little brown bat (Wikipedia)

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Why do the snakes living in deserts move sideways?

A snake does not have lags so it derives momentum by pressing its underside on the ground. It curls its long body and then pressing the ground with its tail stretches its head and lungs forward. It goes on repeating this process to cover distance. Moving forward in this manner, an African snake called Mamba can achieve speed of 18 to 20 kilometers per hour. Of course the ground should be somewhat rough because snake’s belly is smooth. If the ground also happens to be smooth than it might slip for want of grip and will not be able to cover any distance. It is due to this reason that a snake becomes almost immobile on the smooth surface of glass.

Snakes of sandy desert would have found themselves in a sad plight for another reason. Minute grains of desert sand constantly slip underneath so it is not possible for the snake to move forward by pressing its tail in sand. On the contrary, when lunging forward it will only succeed in making a furrow in the sand. It will only get bogged down in the sand instead of moving forward rapidly. Another important factor: Unlike mammals or birds, snakes are cold-blooded reptiles whose body temperature does not remain at a constant level (E.g. body temperature of human beings remains steady at 96.6º Fahrenheit). Snake’s blood becomes cool or warm according to the temperature of the atmosphere. If a snake remains on the burning hot desert sand even for a short time its body temperature will rise to such a degree that it might die. So it shelters under a shade during hot daytime. If it has to move on the hot sand it has to keep as much of its body raised above the sand as possible and for as long as possible. It can avoid the heat of sand only if it is able to cut off the body contact with sand frequently.

To overcome both these problems desert snakes moves sideways. (See picture above.) Having selected the direction of its journey it positions itself at an angle of 60 degrees from it. Thereafter it propels sideways by pushing against the sand. As the snake is fully stretched its weight and consequently the force of its lunge is distributed all along its length so the sand under its body does not slip. Snake starts moving forward by a series of sideways leaps solving both the problems simultaneously. A snake is able to travel left or right in this sideways manner and not only that but thanks to its leaping gait its body does not have to remain constantly on the burning hot sand. The most famous snake known for its peculiar sideways curving or winding gait is sidewinder – and it is also the name given to a well-known guided missile of the USA.                        

More reading:
Snake (Wikipedia)
List of snakes (Wikipedia)

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Why deer have antlers? What are they made of?

The elaborate headgear that moose, caribou and other members of the deer family carry isn’t just for show. Antlers are very functional tools, serving their bearers not only as weapons in the mating season but as snow shovels in winter and as air conditioners in summer. Antlers, which are made of bone, are unique to deer. Unlike the horns of animals such as goats and bison, antlers are not permanent. Each year they grow, are shed and are then re-grown. In fact, antlers are the fastest growing tissue known. They achieve the length of seven feet and a weight of more than 20 kilograms in just tree to four months.

The cycle of antler growth coincides with the rutting season. They begin to grow in early spring, sprouting from swollen pads on the skull. While growing, they are covered with a soft, hairy skin called ‘velvet’. Under the velvet is the blood supply, which carries nourishment to the growing bone.

Because the blood vessels are so close to the surface during the velvet stage, the antlers act as a cooling system, letting off access body heat. But this also makes them delicate – susceptible to bruising and bleeding. By late fall the antlers reach the full size and hardness. Their blood supply cuts off, and the dead and dry velvet peels away. The deer is then ready to challenge other bucks head-on for a mate.

When mating is over, the antlers drop off, leaving a pair of bony bases from which next year’s set will grow. Among more than 50 kinds of deer in the world, males usually get the antlers. But in two cases – the female caribou and reindeer – nature has opted for equality. The females use the shovel-shaped branches of their antlers to dig away snow cover and find food beneath it. After being shed, the antlers are eaten by small forest animals for the rich supply of calcium, salt and other useful minerals.

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