26 Sep 2018

Sea Monsters from Kansas

By | September 26th, 2018|Comments Off on Sea Monsters from Kansas

Kansas is a dry, landlocked prairie state, hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean. But 100 million years ago, a shallow sea stretched across the middle of what’s now North America. This sea was populated by sea creatures including the giant marine reptile Elasmosaurus. Elasmosaurus was a plesiosaur with a very long neck– its neck along was 23 feet long.

Plesiosaurs went extinct along with the dinosaurs 66 million years ago, but their fossilized remains show us what they were like. Elasmosaurus was first discovered in 1867 by an army surgeon stationed in Kansas during the construction of the Union Pacific Railway, but scientists are still discovering new forms of prehistoric life to this day.

Photo by MCDinosaurhunter

19 Sep 2018

Dazzling Deer

By | September 19th, 2018|Comments Off on Dazzling Deer

Our Zooworks winners made these amazing drawings of deer, elk, and moose! Be sure to join in our next contest—see our website for details!

12 Sep 2018

Oh, Deer!

By | September 12th, 2018|Comments Off on Oh, Deer!

What makes a deer a deer? Some animals that look like deer are actually only distantly related, while others that look nothing like deer are actually their cousins!

Deer are what biologists call “even-toed ungulates.” That means that they’re hoofed animals that bear weight equally between their third and fourth toes. Even-toed ungulates include deer, elk, and moose, as well as some more unusual creatures. Goats, cows, camels, giraffes, and pigs, are all even-toed ungulates too. Whales are also technically part of this group, since whales descended from hoofed creatures that lived on land.

Other hoofed animals are less closely related to deer. These animals are “odd-toed ungulates,” and they descend from animals that put their weight on their third toe. Horses, peccaries, and rhinoceroses are all examples of odd-toed ungulates. Who’d have thought that whales are more closely related to deer than horses are?

Photo by Bureau of Land Management

1 Sep 2018

Elk at the Navajo Zoo

By | September 1st, 2018|Comments Off on Elk at the Navajo Zoo

The Navajo Zoo in Window Rock, Arizona, is the country’s only Native American-owned-and-operated zoo. They’re home to over fifty species of animals native to the Navajo Nation, a reservation area covering over 17,500,000 acres in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. The largest deer species found at the Navajo Zoo is the elk. Elk can grow up to 700 pounds and are found within forested areas. On the Navajo Zoo’s website, you can learn more about elk and about the relationship between different animals and Navajo culture.



Photo by MONGO

29 Aug 2018

The World’s Rarest Great Ape

By | August 29th, 2018|Comments Off on The World’s Rarest Great Ape

In 2017, scientists discovered a new species of great ape: the Tapanuli orangutan. Previously believed to be a kind of Sumatran orangutan, genetic testing revealed DNA different enough to make the Tapanuli orangutan its own species. These apes are only found in the southern part of Sumatra, an island in Indonesia. They live in trees to avoid Sumatran tigers, and their diet includes caterpillars and pine cones.

Tapanuli orangutans aren’t just the newest species of great ape—they’re also the rarest. Hunting and destruction of their forest homes have left them critically endangered. There are only 800 left in the world.  One way we can help Tapanuli orangutans is avoiding products made with palm oil, since palm oil plantations are a major cause of deforestation in Indonesia. When you buy peanut butter, look for products without palm oil—it could help an orangutan!

Photo by Tim Laman

22 Aug 2018

Ceratopsians Big and Small

By | August 22nd, 2018|Comments Off on Ceratopsians Big and Small

Triceratops and Eotriceratops were some of the biggest ceratopsians, or horned dinosaurs. They could reach lengths close to 30 feet and weighed up to 20,000 pounds– more than two hippos. But while the ceratopsian family included big dinosaurs, some of their earlier relatives were tiny. Aquilops americanus was less than two feet long and weighed about three pounds. It probably walked on two legs like another early ceratopsian family, the Psittacosaurids. Some fossils of Psittacosaurids have been found with preserved bristles on their tails, a little like a porcupine.

While the word “ceratopsian” means “horned face,” not all of these dinosaurs had big horns like Triceratops. Many of the smaller earlier members of the family lacked horns, but just about all of them thick beaks that helped them snip plants to eat.

Illustration by Nobu Tamaru

15 Aug 2018

Seal Poems

By | August 15th, 2018|Comments Off on Seal Poems

This month’s readers have written some wonderful poems about seals! To join in on our next contest, check out our website:

8 Aug 2018

Bringing Up Baby Harp Seals

By | August 8th, 2018|Comments Off on Bringing Up Baby Harp Seals

Baby harp seals get a lot of attention– with their big eyes and fluffy white coats, we humans find them pretty adorable. But they don’t get all that much attention from their parents. Newborn harp seals weigh about 24 pounds, and in the twelve days after their birth, they drink their mothers’ milk, reaching a weight of 80 pounds in just a couple weeks. But after two weeks of nursing, mother harp seals leave their babies to fend for themselves, and the mothers move on to have more young. Their white fur provides camouflage against the ice, and the blubber the baby seals developed drinking their mothers’ milk keep them warm and provides them with nutrients until they’re old enough to hunt for themselves, when they’re about a month old. It’s a tough childhood, but the seals that make it go on to live thirty years or more!


Photo by Lysogeny

25 Jul 2018

Chimps and Bonobos

By | July 25th, 2018|Comments Off on Chimps and Bonobos

Humans’ closest cousins are chimpanzees and bonobos. These smaller members of the Great Apes are intelligent, social animals. They’ve been spotted using tools to hunt, and they are emotionally complex. Chimpanzees and bonobos have been observed to mourn their dead, play make-believe, and take care of other animals—for instance, sometimes they feed turtles. All these activities are signs of great emotional intelligence.

There are some key differences between chimpanzees and bonobos, though. Chimps are more aggressive and live in male-run societies, whereas in bonobo groups, the females are in charge, and there’s generally less in-fighting.

Photo by Psych USD

18 Jul 2018

Seal of Approval

By | July 18th, 2018|Comments Off on Seal of Approval

We love our readers’ drawings of seals and sea lions! You can join in our next Zooworks contest here!

11 Jul 2018

Lions of the Sea

By | July 11th, 2018|Comments Off on Lions of the Sea

Sea lions might share part of their name with a big cat, but they’re actually more closely related to dogs! Sea lions are part of the big group of meat-eating animals called Carnivora– the carnivores. Carnivores are split into two sub-groups: the ones that are more closely related to cats, called feliforms, and the ones that are more closely related to dogs, called caniforms. Sea lions, along with seals and walruses, are caniforms. Like dogs, wolves, and bears, they tend to have long snouts and claws that don’t retract.

Sea lions do have some things in common with lions, though. They’re good hunters, and they’re very social animals that live in large groups. When they’re in a group together on land, they’re called a colony, and in the water, they’re called a raft. Breeding groups of sea lions are called rookeries.

Photo by Reywas92

3 Jul 2018

Whisker Who’s Who

By | July 3rd, 2018|Comments Off on Whisker Who’s Who

Scientists need to be able to tell the individual animals they’re studying apart, and the zookeepers at the Seneca Park Zoo have a new idea about how to do that. Scientists often tell animals apart by tagging them, but that can be stressful for animals. So, zookeepers are finding new ways. They’ve been analyzing the whisker patterns of sea lions to see if they can tell the animals apart by looking at their whiskers instead of by tagging them. You can read more about their efforts here!

Photo by Kelli O’Brien


27 Jun 2018

Giant Dolphins

By | June 27th, 2018|Comments Off on Giant Dolphins

When we think of dolphins, we often picture sleek gray animals that are about ten feet long. However, the biggest dolphins in the world are more than twice that size– and they might look different that you’d expect. The world’s largest dolphins are actually orcas, also known as killer whales.

Orcas reach lengths of up to 26 feet and can weigh up to six thousand pounds– more than a rhinoceros. Orcas are apex predators, meaning that they are hunters that live at the top of the food chain. They eat fish, seals, and even other dolphins!

Photo by Christopher Michel

20 Jun 2018

The World’s Biggest Dinosaur

By | June 20th, 2018|Comments Off on The World’s Biggest Dinosaur

The biggest dinosaurs in the world belong to the sauropod group– the giant, four-legged, long-necked plant-eaters. It’s hard to tell exactly which species was the biggest, since it’s rare to find complete dinosaur skeletons. Scientists have to use the pieces they do find and use them to estimate what the entire body size would be.

A recently-discovered dinosaur just might be the biggest known to science– a titanosaur called Patagotitan mayorum. This dinosaur reached lengths of over 120 feet long and likely weighed 76 tons, making it quite possibly the largest animal ever to walk on land. However, there are even bigger animals in the ocean– the blue whales alive today weigh 300,000 pounds!

Illustration by Levi Bernardo

13 Jun 2018

Superb Snakes

By | June 13th, 2018|Comments Off on Superb Snakes

Our readers have written some amazing poems and stories about snakes—do you have a favorite?