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.
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!
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 But this idea is outdated– today, scientists are pretty sure that T. rex had a more crouched posture, with its tail held out straight behind it for balance.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.
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
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
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
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 […]
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!
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
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!
You probably don’t see too many spiders outside in the winter– where do they all go? They don’t go inside– most house spiders spend their entire lives indoors. Instead, many outdoor spiders that live in cold climates have adaptations that allow them to survive the winter. Their blood contains a chemical that keeps them from freezing, sort of like anti-freeze for a car. Many spiders also become less active in the winter, which is part of why you might not see them.
The arctic wolf spider is a good example of an arachnid that can survive freezing temperatures. They live in the far north in places like Greenland. Arctic wolf spiders are hunters and can grow as big as 1.6 inches long– which might seem small until you see one making its way towards you!
Photo by D. Sikes>
Most spiders are small and eat tiny bugs like mosquitos, flies, and clothes moths. Not the Goliath bird-eating tarantula. Bird-eaters are the world’s largest spiders, with a leg span of up to 11 inches– the size of a dinner plate. Despite their huge size and threatening name, they’re not dangerous to humans. They actually don’t even eat birds all that often– their diet mostly consists of insects like cockroaches, along with mice, frogs, and small lizards. Their venom isn’t strong enough to seriously hurt a human; in the event that a bird-eater feels threatened and bites a human, the venom is only as strong as a wasp sting.
While bird-eaters’ appearance might make them an arachnophobe’s worst nightmare, they’re fascinating animals. And though in the wild they live deep in South America’s jungles, you can see them on display at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo!
Photo by Brian Gratwicke