15 May 2019

Wild About Wild Dogs

By | May 15th, 2019|0 Comments

Despite their name, African wild dogs are more distantly related to domestic dogs than wolves are. Dogs and wolves, along with jackals, are all members of a group called Canis, but African wild dogs are part of a group called Lycaon. They’re set apart by their diets—African wild dogs eat a more meat-heavy diet than dogs and wolves—and by their feet. While wolves and most dogs have dew claws, small claws on their forelimbs (sort of their equivalent of a thumb), African wild dogs don’t.

Even though African wild dogs are more distant relatives of dogs than wolves are, it’s easy to see the family resemblance. African wild dogs are extremely social animals, living in packs of up to 27 individuals. They communicate with each other in many ways, including by sneezing—scientists think that the dogs “vote” on whether or not to go out hunting by sneezing to say, “Yes, let’s go!”

Photo by Bart Swanson

8 May 2019

African Wild Dogs at the Denver Zoo

By | May 8th, 2019|0 Comments

The Denver  Zoo is home to some of the most beautiful members of the dog family: African wild dogs. Their mottled, leopard-like fur has earned them the nickname “painted dogs.” They hunt in packs and are highly efficient hunters—they bring down prey 70-90% of the time. They’re also very fast—they can keep up a speed of 37 miles per hour for three miles.

African wild dogs are highly social and communicate with each other with wailing hoot-like sounds. Their tightly knit packs work together to raise young. An average litter has ten pups, but big litters can have up to twenty!

3 May 2019

Zebra Stripes

By | May 3rd, 2019|Tags: , , , , |Comments Off on Zebra Stripes

Zebras are beloved for their stunning black and white stripes, but scientists are still trying to figure out the reason behind these amazing coats. There are lots of different ideas, from camouflage to insect repellent!

Some scientists think that zebras’ stripes create an optical illusion making it harder for lions to see where the individuals in a herd are. Even the military has used this sort of optical illusion, called dazzle camouflage—they used to paint ships with black and white stripes to make it harder to see the vessels’ outlines. Another idea is that the stripes help keep the zebras cool—air might travel at different speeds over black fur and white fur, causing convection currents that act like a fan. Other scientists have found that biting flies are less likely to bite animals with stripes like a zebra—they found this out by putting zebra-striped coats on horses and keeping track of how many bugs tried to bite them!

Photo by Bernd Falkenberg

24 Apr 2019


By | April 24th, 2019|Comments Off on Pterodactyls

Quick, what do you call those flying reptile animals that lived during the time of the dinosaurs? If your answer was “pterodactyl,” you’re not alone. However, scientists call that group of animals pterosaurs. “Pterodactyl” is the name of just one kind of pterosaur (or, more officially, Pterodacylus. There are over a hundred different kinds of pterosaurs in total.

So why did “pterodactyl” win out as the more commonly known name? Because it was one of the first kinds of pterosaur discovered. Cosimo Alessandro Collini wrote about his discovery of it in 1784. It wasn’t until 1824 that a scientist wrote up a discovery of dinosaur fossils and described them as a new kind of animal. Earlier scientists found dinosaur bones too, but they thought they belonged to giant humans!


Photo by Steven U. Vidovic, David M. Martill, and Matthew Martyniuk

10 Apr 2019

Aye-aye, Captain!

By | April 10th, 2019|Comments Off on Aye-aye, Captain!

Humans are primates—we’re part of the same family as gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees. A little more distantly related are monkeys, and even further removed is one of our strangest cousins: the aye-aye. Aye-ayes are a kind of lemur. Like all lemurs, they’re found on Madagascar.

They might be strange-looking, but their features are specially adapted to their lifestyle. Their big eyes help them to see in the dark, since they’re nocturnal. Their strange teeth and hands are useful too. The aye-aye taps on trees to find grubs, and then it chews a hole in the bark with its rodent-like teeth. Then, it inserts its extra-long middle finger into the hole so that it can pull out its dinner!

Photo by James Joel

3 Apr 2019

Naked Mole Rats at the National Zoo

By | April 3rd, 2019|Comments Off on Naked Mole Rats at the National Zoo

For the month when we’re celebrating Animal Wonders, we couldn’t think of a better featured creature than the naked mole rats at the National Zoo! Naked mole rats are some of the strangest animals on Earth. They look kind of like a thumb with teeth, and they live in colonies of up to 80 individuals in underground burrows in Eastern Africa.

Scientists are especially interested in naked mole rats because they’re such unusual animals. They live in groups with a queen, like bees or ants, and their bodies work very differently from many other mammals. They can survive with far less oxygen than most other mammals, they don’t process pain the same way that most mammals do, they’re highly resistant to cancers.

If you’re intrigued by these critters, you can keep an eye on them through the National Zoo’s live webcam

27 Mar 2019

Pterosaur Crests

By | March 27th, 2019|Comments Off on Pterosaur Crests

Pterosaurs aren’t dinosaurs—they’re flying reptiles. However, they do have some traits in common with dinosaurs, including some incredible head gear. Just like dinosaurs like Cryolophosaurus (aka “Elvisaurus,” for its ducktail-shaped crest) and Triceratops, there are some pterosaurs with impressive structures on their skulls. One of the strangest examples is Nyctosaurus.

Nyctosaurus lived in what’s now the western United States about 85 million years ago, when the area was covered by a shallow sea. Some adult specimens had crests like the one in this drawing—the crests could be nearly two feet long! It’s not clear exactly what this showy crest was used for, but often when an animal has a weird feature, it’s either meant to frighten away rivals or attract mates.

Illustration by Dmitry Bogdanov and FunkMonk

22 Mar 2019

Zooworks Animal Wonders

By | March 22nd, 2019|Comments Off on Zooworks Animal Wonders

Our readers have made some wonderful drawings and poems about Animal Wonders!

13 Mar 2019

Animal Wonders

By | March 13th, 2019|Comments Off on Animal Wonders

Nature is beautiful, inspring, majestic– and, sometimes, super weird. In our latest issue of Zoobooks, Animal Wonders, you can learn all about the oddballs of the animal kingdom. There are all kinds of strange features and behaviors that enable animals to better survive. Ant lions are insects that catch their dinners by building funnels of sand that ants fall into. Mudskippers are fish that can breathe out of water and have flexible fins to help them climb trees. And they’re not the only sea creatures you can find in trees– coconut crabs can climb 50 feet up palm trees and cut off the coconuts with their giant pincers. Nature is full of surprises!


Photo by Sundar.



5 Mar 2019

Zoo Masks

By | March 5th, 2019|Comments Off on Zoo Masks

If you head down to New Orleans today, you’ll probably see some folks with colorful masks celebrating Mardi Gras. But wherever you are, you can make your own beautiful animal mask with help from the Franklin Park Zoo and Stone Zoo in New England! They have patterns on their website for masks that’ll transform you into everything from a leopard to a sloth, but our favorite might be this awesome blue peacock!


28 Feb 2019

How Did T. rex Stand?

By | February 28th, 2019|Comments Off on How Did T. rex Stand?

When Tyrannosaurus rex was first discovered more than a century ago, there was a lot about it that scientists didn’t know yet. In the years since, a lot of these mysteries have been solved– however, the public’s idea of these ferocious fossils sometimes lags behind.

In the early 1900s, scientists guessed that T. rex had a posture like a kangaroo– they stood on two legs and had tiny front limbs, so paleontologists thought that maybe T. rex dragged its long tail on the ground and used it like a tripod in order to stand tall. This picture of T. rex was immortalized in lots of scientific art, some of which is still hanging in museums today. But this idea is outdated– today, scientists are pretty sure that T. rex had a more crouched posture, with its tail held out straight behind it for balance. This posture makes more sense based on the information researchers have about how the dinosaur’s muscles would have attached and how it would have been able to move. So the next time you see a picture of a T. rex standing up super straight, remember that it’s not quite right!


Illustration by William D. Matthew, 1905.

22 Feb 2019

ZooWorks Polar Bears

By | February 22nd, 2019|Comments Off on ZooWorks Polar Bears

Check out our readers’ polar bear drawings and poems!

6 Feb 2019

Polar Bear Babies

By | February 6th, 2019|Comments Off on Polar Bear Babies

We normally associate springtime with baby animals, but some are born a little earlier in the year! Polar bears mate in the spring and give birth to their cubs in the winter, sometime between November and January. The newborn cubs are about one foot long and weigh about one pound. They stay in their den with their mother for the first few months of their life and emerge when it starts to get a little warmer out in March.

Once baby polar bears are out of their dens, they follow their mothers to the Arctic Sea, where they begin learning how to hunt and swim. They stay with their mothers until they’re about three years old and closer to their adult size– for some males, nearly a thousand pounds!


Photo by Scott Schliebe

30 Jan 2019

Poison Frogs

By | January 30th, 2019|Comments Off on Poison Frogs

In the US, it’s the dead of winter, but in the southern hemisphere, it’s summertime! South America is home to some of the world’s most colorful animals: the poison frogs.

Poison frogs (sometimes called poison arrow frogs) got their name because some groups of Indigenous people use the frogs’ poison on blowdarts. Only a handful of the 170 species of “poison frogs” have been used for this purpose, though. In fact, many species of poison frogs aren’t dangerous to humans at all.

The species that are dangerous, though, are very dangerous. Poison frogs’ skin is coated in toxins, which they produce from the foods they eat. The most toxic species, the golden poison frog, is dangerous even to touch, and each frog contains enough venom to kill up to twenty people. Their bright colors help to warn off potential predators, the same way that monarch butterflies do with their orange wings!

Photo by Wilfried Berns

23 Jan 2019

Dinosaur Nicknames

By | January 23rd, 2019|Comments Off on Dinosaur Nicknames

Tyrannosaurus rex might be the world’s most popular dinosaur. Its name, which means “tyrant king of the lizards,” is a little long. So we shorten it to T. rex! Here’s why.

T. rex is short for the dinosaur’s scientific name, Tyrannosaurus rex. Animals’ scientific names are written in a special format— the wider group, called a “genus” first, and then the species name that only describes that type of animal. All animals (and plants and fungi) have scientific names, but most of the animals alive today have common names that we use instead. For instance, a Grevy’s zebra is a specific kind of zebra, and its scientific name is Equus grevyi. Equus is like the animal’s last name—it applies to different members of the horse family, including zebras, donkeys, and domestic horses. Then the species name acts like the animal’s first name—“grevyi” (which means “Grevy’s”) is saying what kind of Equus, or horse, it is. The official rule for scientific names is that the genus name gets capitalized, the species name stays lowercase, and the whole name gets put in italics. To abbreviate an animal’s scientific name, you put a period after the genus and then put the species name—to shorten Equus grevyi, you would write E. grevyi.

Most dinosaurs don’t have common names like Grevy’s zebra—the only name they have is their scientific one. Lots of kinds of dinosaur groups are widely known by their genus names, like Stegosaurus and Triceratops. With Tyrannosaurus rex, we’re talking about this particular species within the Tyrannosaurus genus (scientists aren’t sure if there are any other species of