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April 2019

Aye-aye, Captain!

By | April 10th, 2019|

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

Naked Mole Rats at the National Zoo

By | April 3rd, 2019|

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

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March 2019

Pterosaur Crests

By | March 27th, 2019|

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

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Zooworks Animal Wonders

By | March 22nd, 2019|

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

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Animal Wonders

By | March 13th, 2019|

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.

 

 

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Zoo Masks

By | March 5th, 2019|

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!

 

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February 2019

How Did T. rex Stand?

By | February 28th, 2019|

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.

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ZooWorks Polar Bears

By | February 22nd, 2019|

Check out our readers’ polar bear drawings and poems!

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Polar Bear Babies

By | February 6th, 2019|

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

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January 2019

Poison Frogs

By | January 30th, 2019|

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

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Dinosaur Nicknames

By | January 23rd, 2019|

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

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Photo Contest: Call for Entries!

By | January 17th, 2019|

If your family has a budding nature photographer ages 13-17, encourage them to enter our contest!

The 2019 National Wildlife Photo Contest is now open. Enter today!

The National Wildlife® Photo Contest, which began more than four decades ago, celebrates the power of photography to advance conservation and connect both photographers and viewers with wildlife and the outdoors. The most compelling nature images can help protect wildlife in profound ways.

We are excited to announce the following eight categories for entry in our 2019 contest:

  • Birds: Portraits and behavior
  • Mammals: Portraits and behavior
  • Reptiles & Amphibians: Portraits and behavior
  • Insects & Other Invertebrates: Portraits and behavior
  • Underwater Wonders: Scenic views, portraits and behavior
  • Landscapes & Plants: Scenic views and native plants in wild settings
  • People in Nature: People enjoying the outdoors or connecting with nature and wildlife
  • New Youth category for nature photographers age 13-17

Entry Fee: Your fee helps support the National Wildlife Federation’s work to protect wildlife and wild places. No limit on the total number of images allowed.

  • Enter one photo for $15
  • Enter up to ten photos for $20
  • Enter up to 15 photos for $25 (BEST VALUE, includes free one-year digital subscription of National Wildlife)

Grand Prize: $5,000

First Place: $500 for the winner in each category

Second Place: $250 for the winner in each category

Honorable Mentions: Each will receive a National Wildlife Federation calendar

A selection of the winning photographs and honorable mentions from the 2019 contest will be published in the December-January 2020 issue of National Wildlife magazine. All winning images and honorable mentions will also be published on the National Wildlife Federation’s website, and some will be featured in an exhibit in downtown Washington, DC.

Consider donating: The National Wildlife Federation greatly appreciates when photographers choose to donate some of their images. These donations help support our mission to protect wildlife and habitats. Photographers will always retain ownership and rights to their images. We […]

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Koala Drawings

By | January 17th, 2019|

Check out these drawings of our readers’ favorite animals from Down Under!

And don’t forget, your last chance to submit drawings of Wild Dogs for our next contest is coming up on January 23!

https://www.zoobooks.com/contest-art-submission-info-celebrating-critter-creations-from-kids/

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Koala Babies

By | January 9th, 2019|

G’day, mates! The latest issue of Zoobooks is all about koalas (as well as other Australian animals). Even though koalas are sometimes referred to as “koala bears,” these Australian mammals aren’t bears at all—they’re marsupials! Koala mothers carry their babies in a pouch, just like kangaroos. Koalas’ pouches open towards the mom’s hind legs, instead of towards the mom’s head. Baby koalas spend the first 22 weeks of their lives inside their moms’ pouches, and afterward, they continue to nurse and sleep in their pouch. Baby koalas, called joeys, stay with their mothers until they’re about a year old.

Photo by Robyn Cox

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San Diego Zoo Koalas

By | January 1st, 2019|

Here’s a great craft for kids home on winter break! The San Diego Zoo has been home to koalas since 1925, and they have the largest koala colony outside of Australia. If your kids love these adorable marsupials, check out this craft on the zoo’s website. With some pom-poms, felt, googly eyes, and glue, your family can create a koala colony of your own!

 

 

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