Damselfly_October_2007_Osaka_JapanYou can probably name lots of mammals. Dogs, cat, elephants, whales, humans—the list goes on and on. There are around 5,000 mammal species in the world—but that’s nothing compared to the million species of insects.
If you’re not a fan of insects, that fact might make your skin crawl, but don’t be so quick to judge—we need insects to help produce our food and keep the world beautiful. Insects like bees pollinate flowering plants, and without them, there would be no fruit and few flowers and vegetables. Insects are also an important part of the food chain. They eat the remains of dead plants and animals that would otherwise just stay on the ground, and they in turn are eaten by birds and many other animals. If they disappeared, all living creatures would be in trouble.
Insects aren’t just important, but also surprising and interesting. For instance, while many insects eat leaves and nectar from flowers, some giant water bugs use their powerful legs to catch fish twice their size! The next time you’re outside, see if you can find any insects. What surprises you about them?

 

Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

This month, our Zooworks winners took what they learned from reading Zoobooks Zebras and wrote their own poems! Each of these pieces shows lots of creativity and talent—which one is your favorite?

Nymphalidae_-_Danaus_plexippus_CaterpillarOne way that kids learn is through comparisons. When you read the latest issue of Zootles with them, see if you can spot any ways that humans are similar to—or different from—the butterflies featured in the book. The words and pictures in Zootles can be a good starting off point—compare the number of legs butterflies and humans have, the different kinds of eyes, the different ways we get around, you name it!
You might bring up the ways that butterflies’ families are different from human families, too. Instead of having just a few kids like humans do, butterflies lay up to 500 eggs. When the eggs hatch, the young caterpillars have to fend for themselves and find their own food. They first eat their own eggshells, and then move on to find leaves to munch. Another big difference between caterpillars and human kids? Newly hatched caterpillars become adult butterflies in a matter of weeks—we’re glad our kids don’t grow up quite so fast!

 

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Here’s a riddle—when is a zebra not really a zebra? When it’s Z.E.B.R.A. at the Dickerson Park Zoo! Z.E.B.R.A. (Zoo Education Broadens the Realization of Animals) is a program that lets kids get up close and personal with some of their favorite zoo animals. No matter what your child’s interests, there’s sure to be an activity that sounds exciting. They can meet zookeepers (and even help them out with their work), do crafts, and of course, meet some amazing animals! The program also offers different classes and activities for kids of different ages, from toddlers to tweens.
But even if you don’t get a chance to visit Dickerson Park Zoo (it’s in Missouri), there’s still lots of fun to be had on their website! For example, their Zoo Gallery has great photos of some of their amazing animals. You can see zebras as in the current issue of Zoobooks, alligators and frogs from Zoobies, and much more. Take a look—they might just feature your favorite animal!

 

Photo credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/ File:Zebra_are_seen_running_at_the_Serengeti_National_Park_in_Tanzania_Nov._14,_2013_131114-N- LE393-065.jpg

Zebras, like their horse relatives, are great runners—even hour-old baby zebras can run fast enough to keep up with their herd. When they gallop, zebras reach speeds of 35 miles an hour or more. Their long legs help them cover a lot of ground with each stride, and their bones are lightweight. But even though their legs are long and thin, they’re very strong. A zebra’s leg is strong enough to support the animal’s full body weight when galloping—up to 950 pounds.
We humans use our toes to help us grip when we walk and run, but zebras only have one toe per foot. Their early ancestors had three toes per foot, but modern zebras only have one, which is surrounded by a hard hoof. Their narrow feet and protective hooves allow zebras to run on rough terrain that would hurt most animals’ feet. It’s important for zebras to be good runners so that they can escape predators like leopards. But they’d get tired if they ran all the time—they spend many hours standing still every day, grazing!

 

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

This month’s Zooworks readers clearly paid a lot of attention to the latest issue of Zoobooks, because their drawings of zebras are spectacular! All of these drawings show a lot of talent and creativity—do you have a special favorite?

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Monarch_Butterfly_-_Danaus_plexippus_(5890526585).jpg

Summer’s a great time to see some of the amazing insects that make up so much of life on earth, and in our latest issue of Zootles, you can learn about some of the most beautiful insects: butterflies! If you’re out in your yard or a neighborhood park, you might see butterflies like the monarch in this picture. However, if you travel (or visit a zoo), you might be able to see different species, like the Queen Alexandra’s birdwing. This butterfly from Papua New Guinea is the largest in the world—it can reach up to 11 inches across!
Even though butterflies come in all shapes and sizes, they all have some things in common. They have four wings, and compound eyes that they use to see ultraviolet (UV) light—something that humans can’t do. They also have a long, thin mouth part called a proboscis (it looks a little like a nose, but it’s not) that they use for drinking water and flower nectar. The next time you see some butterflies, look for what they have in common, and what makes them unique!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

For your weekly fix of adorable animals, the Cincinnati Zoo’s got you covered! Their website features lots of great videos of their animals, including a baby zebra like the ones in the newest issue of Zoobooks! The baby is a Grevy’s zebra, which is different from the more common plains zebras. You can tell them apart because while Plains Zebras have thick stripes, Grevy’s zebras’ stripes are fine and look a little like the lines in your fingerprint. Grevy’s zebras are endangered, so it’s important that zoos help breed more.
The baby zebra in the video, a female, is only a week old, but she’s pretty big and is already running around. That’s because zebras, like lots of prey animals, have to be able to run away from predators like lions, hyenas, and leopards, even when they’re young. But because this baby zebra isn’t in any danger from predators, she’s just running for fun!

Plains_Zebra_Equus_quaggaIt’s hard to miss the resemblance between zebras and their relatives, the domestic horse. Ancient Romans called zebras “horse-tigers” because of their stripes, and while they have never been fully domesticated, wealthy people in 19th century Europe sometimes used zebras to pull their carriages. Empress Josephine, Empress of France and wife of Napoleon, even kept a zebra in her private zoo, which her children would ride.
Zebras might look like domestic horses, but they are different in many ways. For example, zebras don’t neigh like their relatives—instead, they bray and bark. They are also shorter than most horses and have smaller hooves. But even though zebras and domestic horses are different, both are fast, strong, and beautiful!

 

Photo credit: Muhammad Mahdi Karim, Wikimedia Commons.

200216039-001Zoobies Tigers is full of photographs that can help your kids have fun and learn. You can go through the photos together and teach your child some new words, like “tail,” “paws,” and “whiskers.” You can also talk about things that we have in common with tigers, like eyes and noses, along with our differences.

Playing and moving are great ways to learn, too.Your kids can copy the colorful photographs of tigers prowling, stretching, and running by acting out these motions themselves. Not only will they keep active, but they’ll be able to exercise their imaginations. What make-believe animal games do your kids like playing?

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