November 2018

Plesiosaurs and Pliosaurs

By | November 29th, 2018|

Plesiosaurs are marine reptiles that lived during the time of the dinosaurs. They often had longer necks than some of their fellow sea creatures like mosasaurs and ichthyosaurs, but even among plesiosaurs, there’s a lot of diversity.

Plesiosaurs can be split into two groups– plesiosauromorphs, which had long, thin necks and slender jaws, and pliosauromorphs, which had shorter necks and bigger heads. Even though the plesiosauromorphs look sleek and streamlined, they probably didn’t move very quickly and hunted small prey, in part because their long necks were likely quite rigid. On the other hand, the pliosauromorphs, like this Kronosaurus, were top predators that hunted big animals.

Photo by Tim Sackton

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Zooworks Turtles

By | November 21st, 2018|

Slow and steady wins the race! Check out these awesome turtles that our readers have drawn, plus one terrific poem!

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Sea Turtles

By | November 14th, 2018|

Sea turtles are ancient creatures—they’ve been around since the time of the dinosaurs. There are seven species of sea turtles in the world, and they’re all at risk due to pollution and environmental change. One of the most endangered species is the hawksbill. Hawksbills get their name from their sharp, curved beaks, and they were hunted for their beautiful shells—another reason why they’re in trouble. But there’s a lot more to hawksbills than their looks.

Hawksbill turtles are omnivores that eat plants and animals; most of their diet is made up of sponges (which look like plants, but are actually animals). They also hunt jellyfish and Portugese men’o’war; the turtles shut their eyes when eating them to avoid getting stung!

Photo by Caroline S. Rogers, available through NOAA, US Fish and Wildlife Service

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Alligator Snapping Turtles at the St. Louis Zoo

By | November 8th, 2018|

Turtles are cute, slow, and gentle– sometimes. While some kinds of turtles, like stinkpots and painted turtles, are small and are generally easy-going, some of their cousins are less than friendly. If you swim in a lake, you’ll want to keep an eye out for alligator snapping turtles. These incredible reptiles are the largest freshwater turtles in North America, weighing in at over 200 pounds. They’re also, as their name suggests, fierce hunters with strong jaws. They lure fish to them by opening their mouths and wiggling their tongues, which have an attachment that looks like a worm. When a fish hoping for a tasty worm comes close, SNAP!

Even if you wouldn’t want to meet one of these animals while you’re swimming, it’s fun to see them at zoos like the St. Louis Zoo!

Photo by Chuck Dresner

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Know Your Parrots

By | November 1st, 2018|

Parrots are some of the world’s most popular birds– their intelligence and bright colors make them attractive pets. (Or course, you should do your research before buying a pet bird– in addition to being on the lookout for endangered species and unhealthy breeding practices, potential parrot owners should keep in mind that these birds might need more time, space, and attention than you’d expect, and some can live longer than humans!) But whether you appreciate parrots as pets or in their natural wild habitats, there’s a lot to learn about these birds.

The most recognizable parrots are probably the macaws– they’re big, flashy-colored, long-tailed birds. But there are hundreds of kinds of parrots, from the mossy-green flightless kakapos of New Zealand to the almost neon-bright rainbow lorikeets. They vary in size, too– hyacinth macaws are among the biggest, reaching a length of over three feet from head to tail, while the smallest pygmy parrots are barely three inches long!

Photo by Derek Ramsey, via Wikimedia Commons

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October 2018

Mary Anning: Discoverer of Plesiosaurs

By | October 24th, 2018|

If you’re a fan of the plesiosaurs in the most recent issue of Zoodinos, you have paleontologist Mary Anning to thank. Anning lived two hundred years ago, and she made some of the earliest discoveries of these ocean-dwelling reptiles from the time of the dinosaurs.

Mary Anning was born in 1799 on the southern coast of England, an area rich in fossils. When Anning was about twelve years old, she and her brother found the fossil of another marine reptile called an ichthyosaur. By the time she was in her early twenties, she’d found the first known fossils of long-necked plesiosaurs. The discoveries she made shaped the field of paleontology to this day.

You might have heard of Mary Anning before without realizing it—the tongue-twister “She sells seashells by the seashore” is actually about Anning and the fossils and shells that she found!

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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Awesome Owls

By | October 10th, 2018|

Check out our readers’ amazing owl drawings, and be sure to submit your own artwork for our next contest!


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Eagle Owls at the Cincinnati Zoo

By | October 3rd, 2018|

Eurasian eagle owls are some of the biggest owls in the world. They have bright orange eyes, striking black and gold feathers, and fierce talons. But they’re not always so majestic– when they’re baby owlets, they’re downright goofy-looking. Watch this video to learn how the staff at the Cincinnati Zoo care for their baby eagle owls.

Photo by P. D. Johnson

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September 2018

Sea Monsters from Kansas

By | September 26th, 2018|

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

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Dazzling Deer

By | September 19th, 2018|

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!

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Oh, Deer!

By | September 12th, 2018|

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

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Elk at the Navajo Zoo

By | September 1st, 2018|

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

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August 2018

The World’s Rarest Great Ape

By | August 29th, 2018|

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

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Ceratopsians Big and Small

By | August 22nd, 2018|

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

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Seal Poems

By | August 15th, 2018|

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

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