Archive for August, 2012

How does a flying fish fly?

Flying Fish

The fins of a flying fish act like glider wings when it leaps out of the water and sails through the air.

The fins of all fish help them to swim, but the fins of the flying fish also help it to fly.  The “wings” of the flying fish are its large, wing-like front fins.

It doesn’t fly through the air by flapping its “wings” like a bird does.  It just glides through the air, sometimes for several hundred feet.

The flying fish gets into the air by swimming rapidly through the water.  Then it flips itself out of the water with its strong tail.

Once in the air, it spreads out the large fns at its sides and sails through the air much like a glider.

Sharp blows of its tail on the water’s surface give added power to its takeoff.

The flying fish can “fly” high enough to land on the decks of ships.  Schools of them will suddenly burst from the water, looking very much like they are playing.  But it is more likely they were frightened by a passing boat, or trying to escape larger fish.

Flying fish can be found in all warm seas.  They are deep blue on their backs and sides and silvery underneath.  Flying fishes may grow to be 18 inches long.   – Dick Rogers

How do a clam eat?

A clam gets its food from the water.  Food enters by way of the clam’s siphon or “neck.”

A clam is an animal whose soft body is protected by two hard shells that close over it like the covers of a book.  There are many kinds of clams, in many parts of the world.  Some clams lives on the bottoms of oceans, others live on the muddy bottoms of lakes and streams.

Clams called soft-shell clams live buried in the sand along seashores.  They are sometimes called “longneck” clams since they have a long siphon which people call a “neck.”

Clam

When the tide covers the sand the soft-shell clam opens up its shell and pushes its long siphon up through the sand to the water above.  It sucks water into its body and digests the tiny plants and other food particles it finds in the water.

When the tidies out, the clam pulls in its siphon.  This causes a little spurt of water which shows someone who is hunting clams where the clam is hidden.

The American Indians taught the Pilgrims how to dig clams along the beach.  Today a favorite picnic in many towns along the seashore is the clambake. – Dick Rogers

Where did wild mustangs come from?

Wild mustangs descended from the Spanish horses brought to Mexico by the early Spanish explorers.

A mustang is a small, hardy wild horse that once roamed the American southwest in large herds.  It got its name from the Spanish word “mestenos,” meaning “ownerless horses.”

Mustang

Many people think that there were wild horses in America when Columbus fist landed.  They are wrong.

The Indians had never seen horses until the early Spanish explorers brought them to Mexico.  Some escaped and ran wild.

They lived in large herds – usually several dozen mares with their young colts.  The herd was headed by an old station, or male mustang.

The young male mustangs were driven out by the old stallion.  But sometimes one came back after he had grown up, defeated the old stallion and took the leader’s place.

The Indians were the first to capture and tame the wild mustangs.

The swift mustangs also made excellent saddle horses for cowboys, cavalrymen and pony express riders.  Cowboys often called mustangs “broncos,” which is another Spanish word, meaning “wild.” – Dick Rogers

How do frogs stay under water so long?

When under water, a frog takes in oxygen through its skin.  When a frog dives under water, he does not come to the  surface as quickly as you have to when you dive.  Why not?

Frog swimming underwater

The frog, of course, cannot breathe under water, as it did when it was a tadpole.  When a frog is on the bank or pond, it breathes with its lungs, which are somewhat like your lungs.

There is always some air mixed with water in the pond.  When the frog is under water, it can take a little of the air it needs through its skin.

This explains why the frog can stay under water all winter.

If you live where the winters are cold, you’ve probably noticed that the frogs seem to disappear when cold weather comes.

Many frogs dive into ponds and bury themselves in the muddy bottom, and quickly fall asleep.  Sleeping all winter is called “hibernation.”

While the frog is sleeping, its body keeps so still that it can get along without any fresh air until it wakes in the spring.  During its winter sleep, the frog lives on the food stored in its fat body.  – Dick Rogers

What is a measuring worm?

Measuring Worm

A measuring worm is the caterpillar of a cankerworm moth.  It is called a measuring worm because it seems to be measuring the distance it moves by looping its body with each step it takes.

The measuring worm is a green or brown insect that crawls by looping its whole body every time it takes a step.

It is called a measuring worm because it seems to be measuring the distance it moves with each step.

Of course, the measuring worm isn’t really a worm.  It is the caterpillar or a delicate, butterfly-like moth.  It grows to be less than an inch long.

The measuring worm has two pairs of feet less than the caterpillars of other moths.

As a result, it creeps along by stretching its body forward as far as it can.  Then it brings its back feet go to touch its front feet, making a loop, and then stretches out again.

Other popular names for the measuring worm are inchworm, spanworm and looper.

The measuring worm is a menace because it damages many trees by eating their spring leaves.  Many birds eat measuring worms and thus help destroy this pest.

Which is the largest shark?

The largest known living shark is the whale shark which is often more than 50 feet long and weights several tons.  It is also the biggest of all fishes.

(The whale, which is larger and resembles a fish, is not a fish but a mammal.)

Shark

Whale sharks can easily be recognized by the lines of pale spots on a grayish body, as well as by their huge size.

Curiously enough, this biggest shark of all is completely harmless to man.  Though it has jaws wide enough to swallow a man, the whale shark lives peacefully in the warm sea, eating seaweed and small fish.

Sharks have the reputation for being among the most dangerous of sea creatures.

There are many kinds of sharks, and while some are quite fierce, the surprising thing is that most kinds of sharks are quite harmless.

The great white shark is sometimes called the most dangerous of sharks.  It may grow to be 35 feet long and will have no hesitation about making a meal of a swimmer. – Dick Rogers

How did the barn swallow get its name?

The barn swallow gets its name because it often makes its nest on a rafter in a barn or shed, building it up of dabs of mud and lining it with soft feathers.

Before man built houses and barns, the barn swallows nested on cliff ledges or on sheltered tree branches.

The small, graceful swallow is one of our best-known birds.  It has long, powerful wings and spends much of its time in flight looking for small flying insects, which it scoops up in its big mouth.

Barn Swallow

Its small feet are suited more for perching than for walking.  Its long tail, which is often forked, is especially helpful in making sudden turns, as it pursues the insects.

Swallows usually return year after year to the same nesting sites, often to the same nests.  Few signs of spring are more certain than the appearance of swallows.

But the popular idea that swallows may return to a certain place on the same day each spring is just an old folk tale.

The day of their spring arrival depends on the abundance of insects in the air, which in turn depends on warm weather. – Dick Rogers

What is a capybara?

We usually think of rodents only as small, gnawing creatures, such as squirrels, rats and mice.

But can you imagine a rodent as big as a large goat?  The capybara is.  In fact, it is the largest rodent living today.

When fully grown, a capybara may be as long as four feet and weigh over 100 pounds.

Capybara

It resembles an overgrown guinea pig.  Its thick body is covered with coarse, reddish-brown hair.  It has webbed toes and almost no tail.

This big, water-loving rodent lives along the banks and rivers and lakes in South America, where it feeds mainly on water plants and other vegetation.

At the slightest sign of danger, the shy capybara plunges into the water, often remaining below the surface for several minutes.

When resting on land it sits on its haunches like a dog.  The capybara’s voice is a low clicking sound.  It also makes sharp whistles and sometimes grunts like a pig. – Dick Rogers

 

How does a chameleon change its color?

Chameleon

The little, slow-moving chameleon is famous for changing colors.  Its color can change to yellow, green, brown, red or even black.

The chameleon’s ability to change its colors is not cuased by the color of its surroundings.

The chameleon has special cells under its skin which contain the coloring matter.

When it becomes frightened or angry, its reaction causes these coloring cells to become bigger or smaller, allowing the brighter or darker colors to show, and we see a color change.

Sometimes this quick change of color saves the chameleon’s life.  Snakes and birds like to eat chameleons, but they cant always see them.  Sunlight will also cause the chameleon to change color.

If it gets too warm or too cold it may change to a color that doesn’t hide it at all!  The usual color of the chameleon while it is resting is green or brown.

Some other lizards change colors, too, and many fishes can change their colors much more quickly than any lizard can change color. – Dick Rogers

 

How do birds chew their food?

Birds don’t have teeth to chew with.  They grind their food up in their gizzards.  If you own a pet canary or live near a chicken farm then you may already know that birds have a very strange way of chewing their food.

Birds must swallow their food whole because they have no teeth to chew with.

Bird

Instead, the work of “chewing” is done by the gizzard, a special part of the bird’s stomach that grinds the food up.

Some birds that eat seeds and other hard food swallow small stones and gravel.  These pass into the gizzard with the food.  The strong muscles of the gizzard grind the gravel and food together.

The stones and gravel crush the hard seeds and help the bird digest the food.

It is sometimes easy to tell the kind of food a bird eats by the shape of its bill.  They chisel bill of the woodpecker is used to dig insects out of wood.  The long, spear-like bill of the heron is ideal for jabbing fish and frogs.

Finches an cardinals have short, strong bills for cracking hard shells of seeds.  And a hawk has a sharp hooked bill that is good for tearing apart the animals it catches for food. – Dick Rogers