Zootles

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November 2015

Frozen Frogs

By | November 4th, 2015|Tags: , |

Rana_sphenocephalaIt’s starting to get chilly outside, and while some animals have thick layers of fur to keep them warm, other animals, like the frogs featured in the latest issue of Zootles, need to find other ways to stay warm. So how do cold-blooded, thin-skinned frogs keep warm in the winter?
Like many other animals, frogs slow down their bodies and hibernate during the winter. Frogs that spend most of the time in the water nestle into the mud at the bottom of their pond.They don’t bury themselves completely, though– they still need to be able to access the oxygen-rich water. Meanwhile, land-dwelling frogs burrow into the ground beneath the frost line. Some of them even have an “anti-freeze” substance in their bodies that prevents their organs from being damaged. Come spring, their bodies thaw, and they return to their normal, active lives.

Photo contributed to Wikimedia Commons by Eugene van der Pijll.

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October 2015

Know Your Elephants

By | October 14th, 2015|Tags: , |

African-Asian-EarsThe latest issue of Zootles focuses on one of the most popular animals: elephants. But how well do you know the different kinds of elephants (African and Asian)? This quick list will help you be an expert for your next trip to the zoo!

Size
African elephants are a good deal bigger than their Asian counterparts. African elephants stand up to thirteen feet tall at the shoulder, while Asian elephants only reach about nine feet. African elephants weigh more, too—up to 15,400 pounds, compared to Asian elephants’ top weight of 13,200 pounds.
Tusks
Both male and female African elephants have tusks, but in Asian elephants, it’s rare for the females to have tusks.
Toenails
You know the crescent-shaped, toenail-like structures on elephants’ feet? It turns out that Asian elephants have more of them than African elephants. Asian elephants have five “toenails” on their front feet, and four on their back feet—African elephants have four or five toes in front, and only three in back.
Color
African elephants are gray, but Asian elephants have a brownish-pinkish hue.
Ears
African elephants have bigger ears than Asian ones, and their ears are differently shaped—Asian elephants’ ears are rounded, while African elephants’ ears are shaped almost like the continent of Africa.

 

Photo by Kjrajesh

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September 2015

Elephant Smarts

By | September 10th, 2015|Tags: , |

Elephant_show_in_Chiang_Mai_P1110469With the school year starting up, we’re all focused on learning. It turns out, the Zootles animals this month are pretty smart too– elephants! Elephants have the largest brains of any land animal, but that shouldn’t be too surprising– after all, male African elephants are the biggest land animals in the world. However, their brains aren’t just big– they’re packed with three times the number of neurons, the cells that move information through the brain via chemical and electrical signals, that humans do.

Elephants have keen problem-solving skills that they use to find food, including using sticks as tools. They have deep, emotional bonds with each other and comfort each other when their friends and family are sad, sick, or hurt. And that old saying that “elephants never forget”? Elephants really do have excellent memories, remembering friends and places that they haven’t seen in years. One elephant in a zoo even learned how to paint!

Photo by Deror Avi.

 

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August 2015

Majestic Macaws

By | August 12th, 2015|Tags: , |

Blue-and-yellow Macaws, Scarlet Macaws and Parrots at the clay lick Blue-and-yellow Macaws, Scarlet Macaws and Parrots at the clay lick

Some of the biggest and brightest birds that you’ll see in Zootles Parrots are macaws. They live in rainforests in Mexico and Central and South America, where they eat seeds, nuts, fruits, and plants. They also sometimes eat clay found on riverbanks—some scientists believe that the clay helps neutralize the toxins in some of the seeds they eat.
Most macaw species are endangered—they’ve been losing their homes due to humans cutting down the rainforests where they live, and many are illegally trapped for the pet trade. If you do want to get a pet macaw, do your homework. These highly intelligent birds regularly live up to fifty years, and sometimes longer—one blue and gold macaw was reported in 2011 to be 112 years old! And if you’re in the market for a macaw, make sure you get one from a reputable breeder or rescue service so that you’re not supporting the poachers who trap wild birds.

Photo by Wikimedia Commons contributor Brian Ralphs

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July 2015

Parrots in Wisconsin?

By | July 1st, 2015|Tags: , |

AudubonCarolinaParakeet2We normally think of parrots as tropical birds that can only be found in the U.S. when they’re somebody’s pet. However, until recently, a parrot species called the Carolina Parakeet lived all over the eastern half of the United States, as far north as Wisconsin. Overhunting led to these birds going extinct about a hundred years ago. Parrot species in the tropics are facing hard times, too. Loss of habitats and the pet trade have caused many species to become endangered.
Zootles gives young readers a closer look at these amazing animals—some of the smartest in the animal kingdom. In learning more about parrots (and other animals), we can become more invested in them and more engaged with trying to help endangered species.

 

Image credit: John James Audubon, via Wikimedia Commons

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June 2015

Orangutans and Peanut Butter

By | June 10th, 2015|Tags: , , |

640px-Man_of_the_woodsSometimes it’s hard to see how we can have an impact on the lives of wild animals half a world away. Even if we want to help endangered species, it can be difficult to see the connections between their lives and ours. Take orangutans. These Zootles Great Apes live on the island of Borneo in the Pacific Ocean, and they’re endangered. But even though they’re far away, the threats that they face are close to home—in fact, you can probably find one of those threats in your home: peanut butter.
How can peanut butter endanger orangutans? Are they allergic? No—the Bornean forests where they live are being destroyed so people can plant palm trees, which are used to create palm oil. Palm oil is used in many products that we use every day, including peanut butter. Avoiding products that contain palm oil is one (tiny) way to help orangutans (don’t worry, you don’t have to give up your PB&Js—just look for a brand that doesn’t use palm oil). For other ideas about how to help the animals that we all love, keep reading Zoobooks!

 

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons contributor Dave59

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May 2015

Great Apes Are the Greatest!

By | May 14th, 2015|Tags: , , , |

A_Bonobo_at_the_San_Diego_Zoo_-fishing-_for_termitesIt’s not every day that you get to see your close relatives in Zootles! Our latest issue, Great Apes, is all about the group that contains gorillas, chimps, and orangutans. Great apes are primates, just like monkeys, but they don’t have tails, and they don’t exclusively live in trees.
Great apes are extremely intelligent animals. Koko the gorilla (Remember her? At 43, she’s old for a gorilla, but she’s hanging in there!) gained fame for learning an adapted form of sign language; it’s reported that she can sign 1,000 words and understands 2,000 words of spoken English. Chimpanzees make tools out of sticks to fish termites out of their nests (yum!). And the smallest great apes, bonobos, can recognize themselves in a mirror, something few animals (including some other apes) are able to do. Makes you feel proud to be related to apes, doesn’t it?

 

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons contributor Mike R.

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April 2015

Dolphins: Now Available in Pink!

By | April 8th, 2015|Tags: , , |

2977317822_cb9b3f8d57_o (1)You know dolphins. They’re gray, and the live in the ocean. Right? Not always! If you’ve read the latest issue of Zootles, you’ve probably learned quite a few fun new facts about dolphins. And one of the greatest things about reading is that once you get curious about a subject, you can’t help but want to learn more. For example, did you know that freshwater Amazon river dolphins are pink? It’s true!
And once you’re done reading (or rereading) Zootles, there are plenty of other places you can look for more information about dolphins. Take a trip to your local library (if it’s nice out, you can even walk there!) and check out some books on your favorite animals—the librarians there can help you find both stories and nonfiction books about them. Your favorite zoo or aquarium can be a great resource too. Even if you’re not able to make it out there in person, most zoos have websites with photos and fun facts about their animals—some even have videos, games, and crafts for you to try!

 

Photo credit: Flickr user rruiz3960

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March 2015

Dolphin Differences

By | March 11th, 2015|Tags: , |

Atlantic_spotted_dolphin_(Stenella_frontalis)_NOAADolphins are both very similar to humans and very different. We have long regarded dolphins as some of the most intelligent animals, and they’re highly social. They live in family groups, like humans do, and they even communicate with each other through a series of clicks and squeals that make up their own “language.” Some scientists even specialize in trying to learn what dolphins are “saying” to each other.
Even though we have a lot in common with dolphins, there are some big differences. For instance, while dolphins are mammals like us, their aquatic lifestyle means that they do a lot of things differently, including breathing and sleeping. When they sleep, dolphins float on one side and keep one eye open. And to breathe, dolphins take in air through their blowholes when they surface, and then seal up their blowholes when they’re swimming—like how we hold our noses when we go underwater! What other similarities and differences can you and your family find between humans and dolphins?

 

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

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February 2015

Dressed for the Occasion

By | February 11th, 2015|Tags: , |

Schwimmender-Pinguin

Penguins always look dapper, with their tuxedo-patterned coats. Even though they might look like they have fur, penguins, like all other birds, have feathers. Their feathers are very thick and are coated with oil to help keep them warm and let them sleekly swim through icy water. Even the colors of their feathers help them to survive by making them harder for predators to see while they’re swimming. Their black back feathers help them blend in with the deep, dark water when viewed from above, and their white tummies blend in with the bright sunlight that streams through the ocean, making them harder to see from below. Can you think of any other animals whose fur or feathers are specially adapted to live in certain climates?

 

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

 

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January 2015

Staying Warm with Zootles Penguins

By | January 8th, 2015|Tags: , , |

King_Penguin_on_Saunders_Island_(5586832804)With the cold weather we’ve been having, you might find yourself daydreaming about warm places. Like beaches with soft sand, bright sun, and…penguins? While we normally think of penguins as creatures of the icy Antarctic, they’re actually found in coastal areas throughout the Southern Hemisphere, including places like South Africa. But you won’t find them up in the North Pole—the furthest north you’ll find penguins is the Galapagos Islands near the Equator.
But even the penguins that live in cold places have ways of keeping nice and warm. Their thick layer of blubber keeps them warm in icy water, and their double-layer of feathers helps to insulate them too. And penguins rely on each other to keep warm by huddling up in large groups. What do you to keep warm? What do you do that’s similar to what penguins do, and what’s different?

 

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

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September 2010

Zoobooks teams up with the Oakland Zoo

By | September 30th, 2010|Tags: , |

Our current Zootles issue on Ants is the perfect complement to the Oakland Zoo’s exhibit featuring a tiny world run by leaf-cutter ants. Visitors can follow one ant as it works, or take in the activity of the whole colony. And a colony is a busy place! Not only is there a queen’s chamber, where ants feed and care for the queen as she lays her eggs, but there is a nursery for the larvae, food storage areas, and even a garbage dump. Ants stop off in side tunnels to rest, too–something you might not guess. And always, the work of creating and repairing tunnels goes on at a relentless pace.

If you don’t live near enough to Oakland to see the colony for yourself, we encourage you to visit the Oakland Zoo’s website and click on the “slideshow” to see ants in action. The ant education can continue if the children in your house decide to maintain a traditional toy ant farm, or conduct ant experiments in the backyard. What foods do ants swarm or avoid? How long does it take for them to devour something they find tasty? Children can even emulate ant scientist Deborah Gordon, whose work is discussed in Zootles, by seeing how ants deal with sudden obstacles in their path. Just make sure that when children are exploring, they are careful not to get so close that the ants explore them.

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