Animal Information and Facts

Animal Adaptations

Conditions that Require Adapting: 

  • Climate (temperature, wet/dry) 
  • Food/plants that are available 
  • Seasonal changes
  • Other animals (predators, competitors for resources) 

Types of Adaptations

  • an adaptation is a product of evolution 
  • adaptations occur on the species level and not the individual level
  • Physical (side or shape of the body or a body part) 
  • Behavioral (an animal’s actions) 

Birds

  • Different species have different types of wings, beaks, and feet due to their environment and lifestyles.

Wings

  • Long wings ending in a point. Gulls and other sea-dwelling birds have these they help with hovering, turning and diving into the water for food. 
  • Finger-like feathers at end of wings. Vultures and Osprey have these. The shape helps with small changes during gliding, allows birds to stay high in the air for long periods of time, soar with little to no flapping and helpds birds search for food while in the air. 
  • Pointed wings that appear to bend backwards.  Ducks, herons, other migratory birds have these wings. They make it hard to take off from the ground, many get a running start once in the air they must continue to flap their wings to stay up. These allows birds to fly long distances.
  • Short and wide wings you can find in pheasants. This allows birds to quickly take off from the ground quickly, do not allow for long distance flight and these birds spend most of their time on the ground.

Beaks

  • Are specialized for the type of food they may eat. 
  • Allows for an easier time finding food and less competition from other species.

Feet

  • Adapted for the environment that bird inhabits
  • Can be dependent on substrate. Many birds spend majority of their time perched on branches while others spend majority of time on ground. 

Reptiles

  •  Covered in scales
  •  Ectothermic- Body temperature is dependent on environmental temperature
  •  Most reptiles spend their time moving from sun to shade throughout the day

 Defense

  • Camouflage: Blend into environment
  •  Bright colors: Warn predators that they may be poisonous
  • Disposable tails:  Allows the predator to bite down on tail but the prey can release the tail and run away. Some species can regrow a full tail but many will only grow back a shorter version of what they used to have
  •  Find places to hide from predators

Mammals

Although more well-known than other groups of animals, mammals have less diversity than other groups like birds and insects

General characteristics

  • Four legs/appendages
  • Bodies are covered by hair

Cold Climates

  • Mammals tend to have a layer of blubber or fur to help stay warm
  •  Hibernation: Some mammals in the harshest of winter conditions will hibernate. Allows the animals to save energy when little to no food is available

Hot climates

  •  Rely on kidneys and sweat glands to stay cool
  •  Will find areas out of the sun or in the shade to cool off
  • In harshest climates: mammals will go into estivation which is similar to hibernation and allows them to conserve energy. 

Aquatic Mammals – Whales and Dolphins

  • Fins
  •  Dorsal fin is used for balance
  •  Side flippers are used for balance and steering
  •  Tail flukes are used in an up and down movement for propulsion through the water
  • Have a streamline shape
  • No ears sticking out
  • Little to no hair
  • Have a layer of blubber that helps with buoyancy
  •  Are camouflaged with a light underbelly that blends in with water and sky above and a dark top that blends in with the water below

Whales

Toothed Whales

  •  Dolphins, pilot whales, killer whales, river dolphins
  • Have one blow hole
  • Live in pods (groups)
  • Eat fish, squid, crabs, starfish, small mammals

Baleen whales

  • Blue whale, humpback whale, gray whale
  •  Baleen teeth: More fibrous structure than normal teeth
  • Prey: Mainly plankton, mall fish, krill, copepods, amphipods
  •  How they eat: Strain food through the baleen teeth. Some swim with mouths open while other gulp water into their mouths when closing their mouth, the water gets pushed back through the baleen and the food gets stuck in them once all water is gone, they swallow. 
  • Have two blow holes
  • Among the largest species of animals to have ever lived on earth
  • Are mostly solitary but can be seen in small groups on occasion

Semi-aquatic Mammals

  •  Pinnipeds = “fin-footed”
  • Seals and sea lions
  • Spend time on land and in the water
  •  Walking on land tends to be more difficult than swimming in water
  • Eat fish, squid, and other small prey
  •  Very agile swimmers this allows them to be good hunters and avoid being prey

Land mammals

  •  Cover a wide variety of climates and landscapes around the world
  •  Most species evolved from an aquatic species
  •  Some small mammals go through hibernation and some larger mammals go through torpor

 Types of hibernators

  • Obligate hibernators meaning they hibernate every winter no matter the weather or any other potential factors.
  •  Facultative hibernators meaning they enter hibernation due to external conditions. Conditions may allow for no hibernation, shorter hibernation or one that lasts the entire winter
  • Animals that live where resources are always scarce

           - Bacterian camel

          - Live where water and food are hard to come by

          - Need the ability to store large amounts of fat

          - Have humps for that use

          -  Fat can be converted into energy and water when needed

           - Do not sweat like other mammals so that they can retain water, only sweat when body temperature reaches 105 degrees                 Fahrenheit or higher

Hunters

  • Some species hunt alone while others are known to hunt in groups. This is due to sizes of prey that are available and also determined by behavioral adaptations such as some animals that live in groups versus living alone. 
  • Active foraging predator. This means it moves throughout habitat to find prey and is characterized by frequent wandering movements. 
  • Sit-and-wait predator. This predator stays in one place when hunting and disguise themselves. They wait for prey to wander close enough and he strike out to catch them. 
Infographic of wingspans of different birds

Bird Feet and Wings 

Feet

  • Are adopted for the environment that a bird lives in
  • Are dependent on the substrate a bird spends the majority of its time on

Toe orientations

  • Anisdactyl- this type is most common arrangement in birds. That includes: Robins, Jays, Chickadees. 
  • Zygodactyl- includes: Birds of Prey, Woodpeckers, Parrots.
  • Heterodactyl- includes: Trogons (a Costa Rican bird).
  • Syndactyk- includes: Kingfishers, Hornbills.
  • Pamprodactyl- includes: Swifts. 
  • Eagles and other birds of prey can move one of their toes from Zygodactly to Anisodactyl orientations. 
  • Didactyl- this type means “Two-toed”, is only found in ostriches and the shape is similar to a horse’s hoof. 
  • Tridactyl-  this type means “Three-toed” and is found in: Emus, bustards, quails, Northern three-toed woodpecker. 

Webbing

  • Palmate- Toes are completely webbed this allows for greater propulsion in the water. Only the front three toes are connected, the fourth back toe is not. Ducks, geese, swans, gulls, turns and other aquatic birds have palmate webbing. 
  • Totipalmate- All our toes are connected by webbing. Pelicans, cormorants, boobies, frigate birds, gannets have totipalmate webbing. 
  • Semipalmate- Similar webbing as palmate but there is less webbing in between toes. Sandpipers, plovers, gerons, grouse have semipalmate webbing. 
  • Lobate- Each toe has a “lobe” of webbing around it instead of connecting it to other toes. Coots, grebes, phalaropes have lobate webbing. 

Wings

  • Long Wings that End in a Point- Gulls and other sea-dwelling birds have these type of wings. They help with hovering, turning, and diving into water to catch food. 
  • Finger-like Feathers at End of Wings- These occur in Vultures and Osprey. This allows the birds to soar with little to no flapping, saving energy. The shape helps with small changes during gliding, allows birds to stay at high altitudes for long periods of time. While in the air the birds are able to look for food and not have to use a lot of energy to do it. 
  • Pointed Wings that Appear to Bend Backwards- Ducks, Herons and other migratory birds have these wings. These wings make it hard for birds to take off from the ground and many require a running start. Once in the air the birds have to continue to flap their wings to stay in the air. They do allow the birds to fly long distances
  • Short and Wide Wings- Pheasants have these wings. This type allows birds to take off from the ground quickly but they do not allow birds to fly for long distances. Birds with this style of wings tend to spend the majority of their time on the ground

Feathers

  • Feathers cover wings and assist in flying. 
  • Feathers are maintained by birds themselves, many birds take baths to stay cool but also to help with feather maintenance

Types of feathers

  • Contour- Contour feathers are long and found on wings and tails. They also assist in balance and steering. 
  • Down- help insulate birds and protect the skin from the sun. 
  • Primary Feathers- Are located on the outer half of wings. 
  • Secondary Feathers- Are located on the inner half of wings. 
Infographic of bird feet

Infographic on Palmate, totipalmate, semipalmate and lobate. 

Infographic on palmate
Infographic on anisodactyl

Infographic that demonstrates Anisodactyl, Zygodactyl, Heterodactyl, Syndactyl and Pamprodactyl.

Earth Day Activity

As we discuss bird feet and wings we also would like to celebrate Earth Day! We are a day late but believe our wonderful planet should be celebrated every day! In order to do that we wanted our craft/ activity to be focused on the Earth and not birds! 

  • If you love Spring time, click here for a fun spring-themed coloring page. 
  • If you love flowers click here. This activity will take you out in search of spring flowers! Take this sheet with you on a walk and see if you can spot any of the flowers! 
  • Have you seen critters hopping around? This activity is for you! Click here to download a sheet that will help you spot tadpoles and frogs! 

If you’ve completed your activity don’t forget to share it with us on our Facebook page! 

Antlers

Horns and Antlers

Horns

  • Horns occur in the Bovine family. Bovine includes: bison, antelopes, sheep, goats and domestic cattle. 
  • Horns are made out of keratin which is the outer portion, and bone is the inner core. 
  • They continue to grow throughout the life of the animal. 
  • Horns grow from the base. 
  • They are found on both male and female animals. 
  • Horns are used as defense from predators and against others within their species. They can also be used to get more mates. 
  • There is an exception to growing horns throughout life. Pronghorn actually sheds and regrows outer part of the horns. 

Antlers

  • Antlers occur in the Cervidae family. This includes elk, caribou, moose and deer. Some females do not have antlers with the exception of caribou.
  • They are made of bone and can grow up to 1 inch a day. The size of antlers does not have anything to do with age but instead with health. Antlers require a lot of resources to be able to carry large antlers around. They can be up to 4 feet long and 20 pounds each.
  • Antlers are shed annually usually during the spring time.
  • They have a "velvet phase" where growing antlers will be covered in velvet for protection and constant blood supply during growth. 
  • Males will use their antlers to defend themselves against predators and assert dominance. They will also use antlers to compete for females. Females tend to gravitate toward males with larger antlers. On occasion 5-30 females can be attracted by the antlers, this group is called a harem. 
  • Animals wait for 2-3 weeks to heal from shedding before new growth will begin. 
  • Antlers have "growth memory" and will grow in similar patterns each year and are based on individuals. 
  • Injury to an animal or an antler during the velvet phase can effect the patterns of the antlers. 

Horn and Antler Craft

Show us your best horns or antlers! We don’t have a specific set of instructions or materials but want to see what you can create at how and how creative you can be!