Archive for December, 2009

What are mollusks?

Mollusks

If you have ever collected shells at the seashore, probably most of the shells you found were once the homes of living animal called mollusks.

The most familiar mollusks are probably clams, oysters, octopuses, squids, snails and slugs.

Most mollusks are related, or alike, in certain ways.  Mollusks are soft-bodied animals without bones.

Most kinds of mollusks, including clams and oysters, have hard shells that protect their soft bodies.

Other kinds, such as cuttlefish and squids, have no shells that show.  A special shell grows inside their bodies.

Octopuses and some slugs have no shell at all.

Mollusks live in most parts of the world.  Some, such as snails and slugs, live on land.  Others are found in rivers, lakes and ponds.  But the greatest number of mollusks are ocean dwellers.

Mollusks furnish us with food.  Their shells are made into many products, including buttons and jewelry.  – Dick Rogers

 

What is an aurochs?

The aurochs (pronounced ow roks) is an extinct wild ox that once roamed the forests of Europe.

This enormous, black-colored animal from which our domestic cattle are descended often measured six feet high at the shoulders and had long, forward-curving horns.

Aurochs

Prehistoric men of Europe hunted and ate this giant ox,.

Cave paintings from thousands of years ago record the aurochs hunt.  Later, man learned to keep herds of cattle from meat and milk and herdsmen quickly became more important than hunters.

The last of the true aurochs died in 1627.  But the aurochs left behind such present-day breeds of cattle as the Holstein, Shorthorn and Aberdeen Angus.

Since the extinction of the true aurochs, the name “aurochs” has sometimes been wrongly applied to the only other wild ox of Europe, the European bison, or wisent (a cousin to the American bison), which survived.  Another name for the aurochs is “urus”.  – Dick Rogers

 

Peace At Christmas

Christmas Joy

 

May Peace, Good Will,

and Joy be yours

As Christmas comes anew,

And may they stay

through every day

Of all the New Year,

too.

 

Visual source:  kerstencards

Do cats always land on their feet?

Cat

There are many wrong ideas about cats.  One is that cat always lands on its feet.

Contrary to this popular idea, cants do sometimes fall to land safely on all four feet.  But generally, a can manages to twist in midair and land on its feet if it falls or is dropped.

The cat is actually a talented acrobat, its body is long and flexible, with powerful muscles.

Its muscular control, aided by a keen balancing sense, enables the can to make high, graceful leaps and land safely.

A cat can move so quickly that people like to think it has nine lives.  The quickness of the cat’s instincts and its lithe, agile body enable it to get out of dangerous situation better than most other animals.

The cat’s athletic skills ideally suit it as a hunter.  It can stand up on its prey silently on padded toes.  Then it crouches down.  Its tail swings back and forth.  Its muscles tense.  Then…it pounces in a flash!  – Dick Rogers

 

Why doesn’t a bird fall off its perch when it sleeps?

Perhaps you, too, have wondered how sparrows and other perching birds can sleep on a twig or branch without falling off.  The answer is that the sleeping bird cant fall because it feet are actually “locked” on the perch.

Bird

Each of the bird’s toes are connected with a cord inside the log.  When the bird sits on a branch, the bending of the leg tightens the cord and pulls the toes around the branch.

As a result, the toes are clamped to the branch and even in sleep the bird cannot lose its hold.  The toes are loosened only when the bird awakens and stands up.

By looking at a bird’s feet we can tell a good deal about its way of life.  The strong feet of hawks and owls are provided with sharp, curved talons with which to catch their prey.

Ducks and other swimming birds have webbed feet which they use to paddle through water.

Still other birds have feet adapted for climbing, scratching, wading, running, and so on. – Dick Rogers

 

Do bears hibernate?

The long winter nap is a famous bear habit.  Although most wild bears that live in cold northern lands sleep a great deal during the winter, they do not really hibernate.

Bears do not sleep soundly the whole time, as do the woodchuck and other true hibernators.

A loud noise can easily awaken a sleeping bear. The bear may even wake up and come out of its den on mild winter days.

Big Animal

A bear prepares for its winter sleep by eating so much food that it gets fat.  The fat helps nourish the bear’s body while it sleeps.

With the arrival of cold weather the bear stops eating and looks for a cave, a brush pile or a hollow in the base of a tree to use as a den.  The den protects the bear from the weather.

When spring comes, the bear is awakened by the change in temperature and by hunger.

Animals that sleep through the winter do so to reduce their need for food during the cold lean winter months. – Dick Rogers

 

How did the moose get its name?

Moose

The moose is the largest deer in the world.  Its name comes from an American Indian word which literally means “eats off,” from the animal’s habit of stripping bark and branches off trees.

A moose is a creature of the forested parts of northern North America and Europe.  If feeds chiefly on the leaves, twigs and bark of trees.  Travelers in the northern forests occasionally see a moose standing by the roadside.

Moose are easy to identify by  their long, knobby legs and high shoulders that look like a hump.  A hairy fold of skin hangs under the throat of the bull (male).  The largest moose live in Alaska.

A fully grown Alaskan bull moose may stand 7 feet at the shoulders, weigh 1,500 pounds or more and carry a six-foot span of antlers (horns), but he can move through the dense forest silently.

Outside of America, these animals are called elk.  But the American elk is different.  Its correct name if “wapiti”. – Dick Rogers

 

Do chimney swifts really live in chimneys?

If you live in the eastern part of the United States, perhaps you have watched the sooty-black colored chimney swifts darting over the housetops or disappearing in large numbers into some unused chimney at dusk.

Chimney swifts roost inside unused chimneys by clinging to the inside walls with their sharp toenails and using their short, spiny tail to prop them up.

Chimney Swift

They rarely perch on branches because their feet and legs are small and weak, and cannot support them well.

The chimney swifts build its nest by gluing small twigs to the chimney wall with a glue-like saliva from its beak.  Some nests are almost entirely made up of saliva, and look like half-saucers made of milky glass.

In some countries, men sometimes collect nests and make a soup from them.

During the day, swifts are almost always in the air, flying with a bat like flight.  They like to fly in large groups, capturing insect food while flying.  They almost always return at dust to the chimney where they live in large numbers. – Dick Rogers

 

What is a polecat?

A polecat is a weasel-like animal that is closely related to the North American skunk.  Polecats make their home in most parts of Europe and Asia.

The common polecat may grow to be almost two feet long.  Its dark fur is long and loose.

The polecat lives in a burrow and hunts for its food at night.  It eats rats, snakes, rabbits, and any other small animal it can catch—especially poultry.

In fact, the “pole” in the polecat’s name probably comes from the French word “poule,” meaning “a hen” because of its fondness for chickens and other poultry.

Polecat

The polecat is usually bloodthirsty and will often kill much more than it can eat in one meal.

Like the skunk, it is equipped with special scent glands under the tail which emit a foul-smelling fluid when the polecat is alarmed.

In the United States, the skunk is sometimes wrongly called a polecat.  – Dick Rogers

 

What is a sloth?

Sloth

A sloth is a curious, slow-moving animal that lives in the wet forests of South America.

The sloth has a small, roundish head and long, shaggy fur.  It spends most of its life hanging upside down, holding on to the branches of tree with its hooklike claws.

It does everything upside down.  As it hangs suspended from a limb, the sloth eats nearby leaves and buds.  It even sleep upside down.

Tiny green plants called algae often grow in the sloth’s long hair, making it hard to see in the trees.

The sloth is famous for the slowness with which it moves—its highest “speed” is only several feet per minute along a branch.

This slow-motion animal almost never comes down from its tree home,.  It can only creep along the ground with difficulty.

People sometimes use the word “slothful” describe a lazy person.  It is not hard to see why. – Dick Rogers