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) 


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


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

Toe orientations

  •  Anisodactyl - First digit faces backwards, other three face forwards
    • Most common arrangement in birds 
    • Robins, Jays, Chickadees Zoo toes info 1
  • Zygodactyl - First and fourth digits faces backwards, second and third digits faces forwards
    • Birds of Prey, Woodpeckers, Parrots
  • Heterodactyl - First and second digits faces backwards, third and fourth digits faces forwards
    • Only found in Trogons (a Costa Rican bird)Zoo toes info 2
  • Syndactyl - Third and fourth digits are fused together for most of the length and have a broad sole, first digit faces backwards, and fourth digit faces forward
    • Kingfishers and Hornbills
  • Pamprodactyl- All four digits face forwards, first and fourth digits may rotate backwards
    • Swifts 
  • Didactyl -this type means “Two-toed," shape is similar to a horse’s hoof            
    • Ostrich 
  • Tridactyl -this type means “Three-toed” 
    • Emus, Bustards, Quails, Northern Three-toed Woodpecker

Eagles and other birds of prey can move one of their toes to change their orientation from Zygodactyl to Anisodactyl.


  • 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, Terns and other aquatic birds 
  • WebbingTotipalmate - All our toes are connected by webbing
    • Pelicans, Cormorants, Boobies, Frigate Birds, Gannets 
  • Semipalmate - Similar webbing as palmate but there is less webbing in between toes
    • Sandpipers, Plovers, Herons, Grouse 
  • Lobate - Each toe has a “lobe” of webbing around it instead of connecting it to other toes
    • Coots, Grebes, Phalaropes


  • Long Wings that End in a Point- They help with hovering, turning, and diving into water to catch food
    • Gulls and other sea-dwelling birds 
  • Finger-like Feathers at End of Wings- 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. 
    • Vultures and Osprey
  • Pointed Wings that Appear to Bend Backwards- 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
    • Ducks, Herons, and other migratory birds
  • Short and Wide 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
    • Pheasants, Turkey, and Peacock
  • Infographic of wingspans of different birds


  • 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. 


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


General Characteristics: 

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

Defense from Predators

  • Camouflage: Blend into environment
  • Bright colors: Warns predators they may be poisonous
  • Disposable tails: Should predator bite down on tail, the prey can release the tail and run away. Some species can regrow a full tail, but most will grow back a shorter version.
  • Find hiding places


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

In 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. This allows the animals to save energy when little to no food is available.

In 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


  • 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


Toothed Whales

  • Dolphins, Pilot Whales, Killer Whales (Orca), 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
  • Eat 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

Horns vs. Antlers


Horns are used as defense from predators and against others within their species. They can also be used to get more mates. 

  • Occur in the Bovine family
    • Bison, antelope, sheep, goats, domestic cattle
  • Made out of keratin and bone
    • Keratin is the outer portion
    • Bone is the inner core
  • Continues to grow throughout the animal's life
    • Exception: The pronghorn antelope, which sheds and regrows its outer portion
  • Grows from the base
  • Found on both male and female animals


Males will Antlersuse 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.

  • Antlers occur in the Cervid family
    • Elk, caribou, moose and deer
  • They are made of bone and can grow up to 1 inch a day.
  • Size depends on health not age 
    • 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 
  • Animals wait for 2-3 weeks to heal from shedding before new growth will begin 
  • Have "growth memory" and will grow in similar patterns each year 
    • Based on individuals 
  • Injury to an animal or an antler during the velvet phase can affect the patterns of the antlers 
  • Most females do not have antlers 
    • Exception: Caribou

Horn and Antler Craft

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