Archive for May, 2009

How far a flea jump?

Flea

Most of us think of fleas as small, annoying creatures that live on cats and dogs and cause pets to be constantly scratching.

A flea is a small insect that gets its food by sucking the blood of other animals.  Fleas have no wings, but their long, strong, hind legs make them wonderful jumpers.

In fact the common flea is the best jumper of all creatures in relation to its size.  Some can long jump as far as 13 inches and high jump over a tall building, or across a wide street.

Fleas are troublesome pests.  They puncture the skin with their sharp beaks to get blood.  The bite of a flea can cause some discomfort.  Fleas can carry serious diseases, too.

Fleas have hitchhikers, too.  Tiny insects called mites are known to live on fleas and suck their blood! – Dick Rogers

What is a Jaguar?

Jaguar

The jaguar is a large, fierce cat related to lions and tigers.

With its yellow coat marked with many dark spots, the jaguar looks very much like the leopard of Asia and Africa, but the jaguar is heavier.

Jaguars live in the jungles of Central America and South America.  The jaguar can also be found in Mexico, where it is known as “el tigre” (the tiger).

A male jaguar may grow to be nearly 8 feet long including its 2 ½ foot tall and may weigh up to 300 pounds.

It is powerful and fast enough to capture such animals as wild pigs, cattle and alligators.  It is capable of attacking a man—if it is hungry enough.

The jaguar is a good trees climber and likes to lie on tree branches and leap upon its prey. It is also an expert at catching turtles and fish, which it scoops out of the water with its paw. The jaguar’s loud, deep roar is like that of the lion and the tiger. – Dick Rogers

What is a barracuda?

Barracuda

One of the fiercest of fishes is the barracuda.

These slim, alert fishes with jutting jaws and razorlike teeth can be found living in the warmer parts of the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean.

There are several kinds of barracudas.  The largest of them is the great barracuda.  This bit fish may grow to be a 6 feet long.

It has strong jaws and a mouthful of razor-sharp teeth that may be nearly an inch long.

It is sometimes called the “tiger of the sea”.  It fears nothing, and will attack anything that moves in the water, including man.

Sharks are often blamed for wounds really made  this fearsome fish.  In fact, many people think barracudas are more to be feared than most sharks.

When it finds a school of fish, the barracuda slowly stalks them.  Then it dives into their midst, biting and slashing with its sharp teeth.  – Dick Rogers

What is an elephant bird?

Elephant Bird

Imagine, if you can, a gigantic, ostrichlike bird that stood nearly 10 feet high, weighed 1,000 pounds and laid eggs more than a foot long, each of which held two gallons!  Such a giant bird lived until about two centuries ago on the island of Madagascar, near the eastern coast of Africa.

Today, these big, flightless birds are known only from their eggs and bony remains, which dwarf the bones of all living birds.  (A big ostrich, the largest bird now alive, stands about 8 feet tall and weighs 300 pounds.)

Elephant birds’ eggs are still occasionally washed out of the soil where they were laid long ago.

To wondering natives looking at the largest eggs ever laid, the elephant bird must have truly been a monster of heroic proportions.

It was doubtless these birds that gave rise to legends about the roc, a mythical bird of enormous size,  known from the stories in the “Arabian Nights.”  – Dick Rogers

How did the bald eagle get its name?

Bald Eagle

The American bald eagle is a large, majestic bird, often pictured on coins, flags, and other devices.  It is the national emblem of the United States.  Despite its name, the bald eagle is not bald.

The adult bird’s head, neck and tail are covered with white feathers.  Its body feathers are dark brown.

One popular idea of how the bald eagle got its name is that the eagle’s snowy white head makes it look bald when seen at a distance.

Perhaps the correct explanation is that the bald eagle was named at a time when the word “bald”  meant “white”.  When the American colonists saw this bird for the first time, they called it “baldheaded.”  By this they meant that it had a white head.

The bald eagle isn’t the only eagle found in the limited states.  There is also the golden eagle, so called because the feathers on its head and neck are golden brown.  – Dick Rogers

What is a horned toad?

Horned Toad

The horned toad is mis-named.  It is not a toad but a lizard.   The name “toad” comes from the toad like shape of its squat body.

The horns of the horned toad are sharp spines that stick out from its head.  Smaller spines cover its scaly body.  These spines give the creature its bristly appearance.

The spines protect the horned toad from being swallowed by hungry animals.  The horned toad dwells throughout the dry plains and deserts of North America.  A fully grown horned toad may be only a few inches long.

The color of the horned toads skin matches the sandy color of the desert and makes it hard to see.

When threatened, the horned toad quickly buries itself in the sand.  If it falls to do so in time it may squirt a thin yet of blood out of its eyelids to drive away its attack.

In some places, the horned toad is protected-because it eats harmful insects. – Dick Rogers

 

 

 

What is a roadrunner?

Road Runner

The roadrunner is a curious bird that lives in the deserts of the southwestern United States and Mexico.

It is a slender, brown bird nearly two feet long, about half of which is tail, and has long legs.

As its name tells, the roadrunner prefers to travel by running along the ground and by fast, gliding jumps at speed clocked at 15 miles per hour.

It enjoys racing down a road in front of travelers and presents a comical sight as it sprints along with wings outspread, neck stretched forward and its long tail jerking up and down.  People on foot cannot hope to get ahead of it.

When it tires, the bird abruptly turns aside and disappears in a clump of bushes.

Nicknamed the “snake-killer,” it is more than a match for a rattlesnake.  Its diet includes lizards, mice and insects.  – Dick Rogers

 

What is a timber wolf?

Timber Wolf

Most people have a good idea of what a wolf looks like, even if they have never seen one outside a zoo.  The most common wolf in North America is the big timber wolf.

This wild relative of the dog looks very much like a large German shepherd dog and lives in the remote mountains and forests where few people live.

A timber wolf may be nearly 5 feet long and weigh well over 100 pounds.  It is also called a gray wolf because its long shaggy fur is usually gray, but it can be most brown, black or almost white.

Timber wolves often work together in packs to hunt for their food.

People  who make a study of wolves think that the howls of wolves in the nighttime are calls to other wolves to help keep the group together even long distances.

Fearsome stones are often told of wolves attacking people but few reports of a wolf attack have been proved in North America. – Dick Rogers

What is a chamois?

Chamois

The chamois [pronounced SHAM ee] is a small, shy goat like antelope that lives in the high mountain of Europe and Western Asia.  It is about the size of a domestic goat.

The long, pointed hooves of this sure-footed creature are hollowed, or cupped, allowing it to make death-defying leaps from rock to rock and cling to the steep slopes of its ragged mountain home.

Chamois live in small herds  when feeding they post a sentinel which warns of the approach of danger by stamping and making a whistling sound that will send the whole world herd dashing off.

Chamois escape by leaping across wide ravines and racing at top speed up or down seemingly sheer cliffs, where few other animals can go.

A soft leather known as “shammy” or “chamois cloth” was once  made from chamois skin.  But because the chamois is rare, most shammies are now made from sheep skin instead. – Dick Rogers

How do the black widow spider get its name?

Black-widow-spider

The black widow spider gets its name because the larger female sometimes kills and eats the male if he does not escape immediately after mating; but she is quite as likely to live on friendly terms with her mate.

The female black widow is one of the few spiders in the United States dangerous to humans.  It’s painful bite contains a poison that can make a person very ill, but a black widow bite seldom kills anyone if the bite is properly treated by a doctor.

Fortunately, the black widow is easy to recognize and can easily be avoided.  It has a shiny black body about the size of a large pea, and usually has a scarlet patch shaped like an hourglass on its stomach.

The black widow weaves hopeless webs under logs and in dark nooks in the corners of barns and sheds.  The female spider places her eggs in round silken cocoons.  Each cocoon may contain as many as 700 eggs. – Dick Rogers