Awesome Animal Fact:
Did you know great white sharks are the only sharks that regularly raise their heads out of the water to look around? This behavior is called spy-hopping, and it is common in marine mammals like whales, orcas, and dolphins, but not in sharks, other than the great white.
Spy-hopping is often done while hunting, particularly if the sharks are hunting seals, one of their favorite prey animals. Some scientists have suggested it may also help the sharks smell their prey, as scents travel through the air much faster than through the water.
But great white sharks are also considered curious animals, and they may sometime spy-hop simply to see what's going on around them.
Great white sharks are also unusual in that they display breaching behavior. This is when they attack by charging prey—particularly seals—at such a high speed that it carries the shark completely or partially out of the water. I'm pretty sure the seagull is photoshopped into this image, but it still illustrates the concept.
- Great white shark attacking seagull - DepositPhotos
Did you know giant anteaters slurp up 35,000 ants every day? Well, they don't actually count them and stop when they reach exactly 35,000. But they do eat a LOT of ants. In fact, these bizarre mammals pretty much eat only ants (and termites). They don't even have teeth because you don't need teeth for eating ants. What you do need, though, is a really long, sticky tongue. How long? Two feet (61 cm) long. And it helps if you can flick that long tongue out 150 times per minute to gather up as many ants as you can before they escape. Oh, and big strong claws are helpful for tearing into ant mounds.
This basically explains how a mammal weighing up to 110 pounds (50 kg) can exist eating only ants and termites. They're really good at it!
Sure, giant anteaters have physical characteristics making them almost perfect for eating ants, but they also have behaviors that help them out. Anteaters rip into ant mounds with their long claws, but they don't completely destroy the mounds. If they did, they would be destroying their own food source and would die out. They only feed on each ant mound for about one minute before moving on to another mound. In this way, they can continue feeding in the same area indefinitely. They are responsibly managing the resource in a sustainable way.
Giant anteaters live in South and Central America, usually in savannas, dry forests, and grasslands, where there are plenty of ants.
- Giant anteater - DepositPhotos
Did you know there is a frog that is much larger as a tadpole than after it turns into a frog? The tadpole of a paradoxical frog (awesome name, right?) can be 11 inches (27 cm) long, making it the longest tadpole in the world. However, the adult frog's body is only about three inches (7.6 cm) long.
So, why do these massive tadpoles shrink as they become frogs? Basically, it's a result of storing lots of food needed for the energy-intensive process of metamorphosis. The herbivorous tadpole stuffs itself with algae, storing nutrients in its huge tail. Then most of this stored food is used up as the tadpole transforms into an adult frog, reducing the animal's size dramatically. As with most frogs and toads, the tadpoles are herbivores, but the adults are fierce predators.
By the way, there happens to also be a critically-acclaimed jazz band by the name of Paradoxical Frog. Just thought I'd include that totally unrelated and inconsequential tidbit.
Did you know there's a spider that lives underwater by making an air bubble? The diving bell spider is the only known species that does this. They live completely submerged in freshwater streams and ponds of Asia and Europe.
Here's how they do it: the spider weaves a fine net-like web under water, attached to several plants. Then it goes to the surface to get air. It traps air bubbles between the fine hairs on its body, swims down to its underwater web, and releases the bubbles under the web. The air bubbles rise and get trapped in the web. The spider continues to do this until the web contains an air bubble large enough to live in. Whenever it needs more air, the spider returns to the surface to get more.
Other than catching prey, which the spider does outside the bubble but still underwater, it spends its time in the bubble, where it eats its food, molts its exoskeleton, mates, lays its eggs, and raises its young.
Below is a diving bell spider depicted on a stamp from the country of Azerbaijan, which is on the Caspian Sea.
- Diving bell spider stamp - Post of Azerbaijan/Azermarka, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Did you know there is a real predator that feeds just like the terrifying sarlacc from the Star Wars movie The Return of the Jedi? The fictional sarlacc burrows in the sand, creating a cone-shaped pit, then it waits, buried, at the bottom of the pit for prey animals to fall in and slide down the slope. Then it grabs the prey and pulls it under the sand.
Well, this perfectly describes the feeding habits of an antlion larva. If you live in the midwest or eastern United States, you have probably seen the little cone-shaped pits antlions make.
These antlion traps are very effective for trapping ants. If an ant walks over the side, it will slide down to the bottom. The antlion, buried beneath the sand at the bottom, will flick loose sand up onto the sides of the cone, thus making it even harder for the ant to climb out. Then the antlion grabs the ant with its huge jaws. These jaws are hollow, and they suck the fluids out of the ant. Below is a miniature sarlacc... oops, I mean an antlion larva.
Did you know that, without bats, there would be no tequila? The lesser long-nosed bat feeds on cactus nectar. These bats fly up to 700 miles (1,126 km) per year as they follow the blooming of cactuses northward from Mexico to the US. At night, the bats fly up to cactus flowers and stick their long tongues in to lap up the yummy nectar. In the process, the bats get pollen stuck to their faces, and then they unwittingly transfer some of that pollen to other flowers. These bats feed on up to a hundred cactus flowers per night.
One of the long-nosed bat's favorite flowers is that of agave, which is used to make tequila. In fact, bats are the primary pollinators of agave. Without bats, agave wouldn't exist. Without agave, tequila wouldn't exist. And wouldn't that be a sorry state of affairs.
Below are long-nosed bats at a feeder.
- Long-nosed bats at feeder - DepositPhotos
Did you know some frogs and toads inflate with air to protect themselves? The champion of this strategy is the blunt-headed burrowing frog, which is often called the balloon frog. Why would this frog blow itself up into a balloon like this? Three reasons, really, and they all have to do with avoiding being eaten. First, by appearing larger when threatened, the frog has a better chance of scaring off predators (You know how they say to make yourself look bigger if you are ever confronted by a bear or mountain lion? Same concept for the frog). Second, because these frogs spend a lot of time in burrows, they can inflate to wedge themselves in tightly, making it difficult for a predator to pull them out. And third, becoming a big balloon makes it difficult or impossible for a predator, especially a snake, to swallow them.
Unfortunately, the blunt-headed burrowing frog is prized by humans as a tasty meal in its home range of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. People catch and eat so many of them that the frog species is now threatened. A popular Thai dish, these frogs are usually eaten barbecued. Yum.
Did you know Bigfoot is a protected species in Skamania County, Washington? Yep, I'm talking about Sasquatch, the elusive human-like creature that supposedly roams the remote wilderness of the northwest US. Sorry, believers, but the creature is overwhelmingly considered a myth. On April 1, 1969, Skamania County officials passed Ordinance number 6901, protecting the Bigfoot creature. Although this happened to be on April Fool's Day, it was not a joke.
So, why would a county (actually, there are two counties that have done this) protect a fictional creature? The answer lies within the text of the ordinance:
"WHEREAS, there is evidence to indicate the possible existence in Skamania County of a nocturnal primate mammal variously described as an apelike creature or a subspecies of Homo Sapian [sic]; ...and WHEREAS, publicity attendant upon such real or imagined sightings has resulted in an influx of scientific investigators as well as casual hunters, many armed with lethal weapons, and WHEREAS, the absence of specific laws covering the taking of specimens encourages laxity in the use of firearms and other deadly devices and poses a clear and present threat to the safety and wellbeing of persons living or traveling within the boundaries of Skamania County as well as to the creatures themselves, THEREFORE BE IT RESOVLED that any premeditated, willful and wanton slaying of any such creature shall be deemed a felony punishable by..."
So, perhaps part of the reason for the ordinance is, if the creature does exist it must surely be an endangered species. However, the main reason is to protect people. Which is a legitimate concern. After all, you don't want hunters out there trying to shoot a human-like creature in an area where numerous humans are wandering around looking for bigfoot.
- Bigfoot in a dark forest - DepositPhotos
Did you know polar bears have black skin, and their fur isn't really white? Yes, they appear white when you look at them, but the real story is somewhat complex, so let's take a closer look.
First, it's important to understand how we perceive color. A red stop sign appears red because the red paint absorbs all colors (wavelengths) except for red, which is reflected back to your eyes. The paint on a black car absorbs all colors, so no colors are reflected to your eyes. White paint, on the other hand, reflects all colors, and therefore looks white. This, of course, is why you stay cooler wearing white on a summer day, compared to wearing black.
Well, beneath a polar bear's thick fur is black skin. This helps the bear absorb sunlight, converting it into body heat.
Wait! Doesn't the bear's fur reflect all the sunlight, preventing the black skin from absorbing the light? Here's where things get interesting. A polar bear's fur isn't white at all! Each hair is hollow, and it basically has no pigment, like a miniature version of a transparent plastic straw. When sunlight hits the fur, the light goes through a complex scattering pattern and it hits the bear's black skin, warming the bear. Only a small amount of the light is reflected, and because sunlight is all colors—in other words, white—that's why we perceive polar bears to be white. If it wasn't for this complex scattering phenomenon, the bear's fur would appear transparent, and we would see the black skin when we look at a polar bear.
- Polar bear - DepositPhotos
Did you know far more pigs are raised in China than any other country? As of April 2022, China farmers have 450 million pigs. In second place, the entire European Union has 140 million pigs. In third place, the United States has 74 million pigs. In 2022 China is projected to produce 51,000 metric tons of pork.
Why does China raise so many pigs? Well, pigs have played a significant role in the culture (and farming) of China for thousands of years. Initially, wild pigs would forage near human villages, and over a period of 8,000 years, as the human population grew, Chinese people gradually domesticated these pigs. They started putting them into pens near their dwellings, not just for the meat, but also to use them as garbage disposals and fertilizer producers. The people gradually bred them to grow faster and produce larger litters.
Europeans found that Chinese pigs were much better than their own pigs, and they bred the two types together, eventually creating most of the modern, high-production breeds that are raised all over the world today.
In China, pork is much preferred over beef, as the people consider the pork fat and the color of the meat to be superior. They consider the taste and smell to be sweeter and cleaner. Also, in China, pork has traditionally been served to celebrate culturally-significant events.
Chinese farmers are now building multi-level pig-raising facilities, some of which are twelve stories tall.
- Pig farm - DepositPhotos
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