Our readers have giant talent! Check out their giraffe drawings.
Giraffes are strange animals—their scientific name, Cameleopardis, comes from the way they look a little like camels with leopard spots. But they’re not camels at all (or leopards for that matter). They don’t have many close relatives, but their nearest cousins are shy, forest-dwelling creatures with deer-like heads and zebra-like legs: okapis.
While at first glance, okapis and giraffes look very different, they have some key features in common. Both animals have skin-covered bony horns, called ossicones, lobed canine teeth, and long, purple tongues!
Reaching up to 18 feet, giraffes are the tallest animals on land, and they look pretty lanky and ungainly. But, as you can learn on the Oregon Zoo’s website, there’s more to them than meets the eye. While they normally move slowly as they nibble on leaves, they can gallop at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour. Plus, these usually gentle giants defend themselves when threatened—they’ve been known to kill lions with a kick from their hind legs.
Maintaining such big, strong bodies takes a lot of work. Giraffes eat up to 75 pounds of leaves every day, and their hearts pump 2-3 times harder than a human’s in order to get blood all the way up their necks to their heads. Giraffes don’t even get much of a break when they sleep—since lying down and getting back up again is tricky for such big, lanky animals, they sleep standing up!
For thousands of years, humans have been wondering if fearsome, long-necked, flesh-eating monsters lurked in deep, dark water. But while all the stories of Nessie, Champ the Lake Champlain Monster, and sea serpents have gone unproved, in the time of the dinosaurs, animals that looked like Nessie were very real. These creatures were called plesiosaurs.
Plesiosaurs weren’t dinosaurs. Instead, they were swimming reptiles. The smallest ones were around the size of a person, while the biggest ones were the size of a bus. Elasmosaurus was 40 feet long and had a long, skinny neck, while Kronosaurus had a short neck and big, crushing jaws it used to eat its prey– including other plesiosaurs!
If you loved the wild horses in the latest issue of Zoobooks, it’s worth seeing if a zoo near you has any to see in real life! If you live in Missouri, you’re in luck– the St. Louis Zoo, one of the nation’s best, has a number of Somali wild asses. These wild horses, which are found in Africa, are endangered due to the destruction of their habitat. However, zoo breeding programs like the one in St. Louis are helping to preserve the species. In recent years, several foals have been born at the zoo. Some of them even have Swahili names to reflect their African heritage!
You can also learn all about these animals on the zoo’s website. For instance, wild asses look a little like the burros that live in the Southwestern United States. That’s because the Spanish brought domesticated wild asses to North America centuries ago– today’s burros are their distant relatives!
Dozens of species go extinct every day. Our efforts to stop these extinctions can sometimes feel hopeless, but there are success stories that prove why we should keep trying. Take Przewalski’s wild horse (it’s pronounced “She-vall-skee’s”). These wild horses live in central Asia, and habitat loss and poaching led to them going extinct throughout much of their natural habitat. However, small numbers of these horses lived in zoos around the world. Scientists worked to establish a breeding program so that new, healthy horses could be born. Some of the horses born in zoos were then reintroduced into the wild. Today, Przewalski’s horses are still endangered, but they’re making a comeback, thanks to the hard work of scientists, zookeepers, and people who care about animals!
Image by Claudia Feh
Giraffes are some of the world’s most recognizable and beloved animals– with their long necks and flashy spots, it’d be hard to mistake them for anything else! However, their scientific name reflects the confusion their strange appearance caused.
All plants and animals known to science have an official scientific name, in Latin– we’re Homo sapiens, dogs are Canis familiaris, cats are Felis catus. These names help scientists keep track of different living things and tell how they’re related to each other. However, these names sometimes show how science has progressed– the old scientific names reveal mistakes made by scientists. Giraffes are a good example of this. The ancient Greeks and Romans, when they first saw giraffes, thought they might be a combination of camels and leopards. So, they gave them the name cameleopardalis. Even though giraffes aren’t closely related to leopards at all, and only distantly related to camels, the name stuck and is still there in giraffes’ official scientific name: Giraffa camelopardalis.
Photo by Sarah Ferguson
The ceratopsian dinosaurs include some of the best-known dinos, like sturdy, rhino-like Triceratops. But not all ceratopsians were built like tanks—some were downright tiny! In recent years, scientists have discovered early ceratopsian dinosaurs in what’s now China, and while these dinosaurs do have a hint of the beaks and frills that make Triceratops so recognizable, they’re missing other features, like big horns. While Triceratops lived near the end of the age of dinosaurs, 68 million years ago, its relatives Yinlong downsi and Liaoceratops (pictured below) lived far earlier—Liaoceratops lived 130 million years ago, and Yinlong lived around 160 years ago. That means that there’s less time separating Triceratops and us than there is separating Triceratops from some of its early relatives.
Yinlong was small, maybe four feet long and 33 pounds, but Liaoceratops was tiny—it probably weighed only seven pounds, about the size of a Yorkshire terrier!
Illustration by Nobu Tamura
There are some names for baby animals that get used a whole lot. A calf can be a baby manatee, cow, moose, aardvark, camel, and many other animals. A cub could be a baby bear, wolf, lion, bobcat, raccoon, walrus, or woodcuck—the list goes on and on. There are some animal baby names that are a little more unusual, though. Can you guess which animal on the left matches with which name on the right?
|2. Hawk||B. Leptocephalus|
|3. Platypus||C. Kit|
|4. Porcupine||D. Squab|
|5. Fox||E. Shoat|
|6. Eel||F. Stot|
|7. Goat||G. Kid|
|8. Hog||H. Porcupette|
|9. Pigeon||I. Eyas|
Answers: 1-F, 2-I, 3-A, 4-H, 5-C, 6-B, 7-G, 8-E, 9-D
If your kids are getting stir-crazy this summer, check out the fun crafts on the San Diego Zoo’s website! A lot of them tie in nicely with the animal facts in our magazines and books. For example, if your kids are fans of this summer’s Animal Babies issue of Zoobooks, you’ve got to try the “Mommy and Me Maze” craft. In this craft, kids can make a maze leading a mother animal to her babies. Give it a try, and be sure to send us pictures of your kids’ creations!
Giraffes look a little ungainly. Their long legs and even longer necks make them some of the lankiest creatures on earth, and they probably look most graceful when they’re standing still. However, these animals need to be able to escape from predators, so when giraffes need to, they can sprint at speeds of up to 37 miles per hour! They can’t keep up that speed for long, though.
With your child, take a look at the animals you see at the zoo and in your neighborhood. What different kinds of ways of getting around do you see? Can you try running like a giraffe, a penguin, or a squirrel the next time you play make-believe?
Photo by Matt P. Barry
Lots of baby animals look like smaller, chubbier versions of their parents—baby beavers look like beavers. Puppies look like dogs. Kittens look like cats. In some animal species, though, babies look completely different from their parents—why?
In some cases, offspring look different from their parents in order to better blend in with their surroundings to hide from predators. Fuzzy, gray baby swans aren’t as dignified-looking as their sleek, white parents, but their drab coloring keeps them safe. (Plus, in the Ugly Duckling’s defense, baby swans are actually pretty adorable.) White-tailed deer fawns have a spotty pattern on their backs that goes away when they grow up—that dappled coat works as camouflage in a sun-dappled forest.
Other animals’ life cycles mean that they undergo a lot of changes from birth to adulthood. Tadpoles grow legs and lose their gills when they become frogs, caterpillars develop butterfly wings, and while kangaroo joeys look like fuzzy mini-adults once they’re a few months old, newborn kangaroos are the size of a bumblebee, hairless, and helpless. Their different methods of development mean that they don’t share much of a family resemblance with their parents for a while!
Sauropod dinosaurs get a lot of attention for their long necks, and for good reason– they’re the longest-necked animals ever discovered. Some sauropods’ necks stretched fifty feet– six times the length of a giraffe’s. But their necks aren’t their only outstanding feature. Diplodocus is one of the longest dinosaurs ever discovered, and a lot of that length is in their slender, whip-like tail. This tail could reach lengths of up to forty-five feet.
Why did Diplodocus have such a long tail? Scientists aren’t sure. It might have been used to thrash out at predators, or maybe even to make a loud sound like a cracking whip. Paleontologists are still working to discover more!
Illustration by Dmitry Bogdanov