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At first glance, the whales in the latest issue of Zootles seem very different from people. For starters, they live in the ocean while we live on land! However, whales are more closely related to humans than you might think. Even though they live underwater and have fins, whales are not fish— they’re mammals just like us. They also breathe air just like we do, though they do things a little differently. While we have nostrils to breathe through, whales have blowholes that they fill with fresh air to breathe when they come up to the water’s surface.
Like humans, whales are social animals that live in groups and work and play together. Some whales, like orcas, hunt in packs to catch their food. Other whales communicate with each other by singing songs. You can even buy recordings of humpback whale songs. Scientists are always discovering new and exciting things about whales, and as we learn more about these amazing animals, we might find that we have even more in common with them!
What’s the biggest rabbit you’ve ever seen? If you’re just thinking of the rabbits that you’ve seen in your backyard, they’re all probably pretty small. However, there are many different breeds of domesticated rabbits, just like there are different breeds of dogs. Just like a Chihuahua is a lot smaller than a Great Dane, domesticated rabbits come in all different shapes and sizes. The British Giant is one of the biggest rabbit breeds, weighing in at around twenty pounds. Other kinds of rabbits are very small, like the two pound Netherland Dwarf.
Size isn’t the only thing that makes different rabbit breeds look distinctive. Some have unusual coloring, like the New Zealand White, which is pure white with pink eyes. Others stand out because of their fur. Angora rabbits have long, fluffy coats that people use in making yarn for clothing, just like we use sheep wool. Siamese Lionhead rabbits have fluffy fur too, especially around their faces. This “mane” of fur is a little like a lion’s, giving this breed its name. To learn more about different kinds of rabbits, both wild and tame, check out this month’s issue of Zootles. Which kind of rabbit is your favorite?
Rabbits were domesticated by humans long ago and have since been breed to exhibit many unique qualities. While wild rabbits are still common, they are very different from pet rabbits. They always live outside, as they are scared of being handled by humans and know how to take care of themselves. Living in the wild also means wild rabbits usually have short brown fur to help them hide in their environment. Their ears stand straight up from their head so they can best use their amazing sense of hearing. If they hear any predators, they will loudly thump one of their back feet to alert other rabbits of the danger.
Unlike wild rabbits, pet rabbits enjoy human company and need people to take care of them. While all wild rabbits are all similar in size and color, pet rabbits are much more diverse. They can have long or short fur in many different colors like black, white, brown, and gray and may even have spots or stripes. Because pet rabbits don’t have to listen for predators, some of them have smaller ears, or long droopy ears that they can’t move on their own.
Tigers may be the biggest wild cats in the world, but that doesn’t mean they still don’t have some things in common with your typical pet cat. Just like a pet cat might climb a tree in your yard, a tiger likes to climb the many rain forest trees in its natural jungle habitat. When it comes to hunting, both tigers and cats are sneaky stalkers of their prey, waiting for just the right opportunity to make a quick surprise attack. Both animals also move their small young from place to place by gently carrying their cubs or kittens by the loose skin on the back of their necks.
Since most tigers and cats tend to be more active at night, both tend to spend a lot of the day sleeping. Tigers have even been known to sleep an average of 16 hours per day! However, while tigers love to swim and play in water, most pet cats would rather avoid getting wet.
A tiger is one of the most recognizable animals on Earth; its entire large and powerful body boasts a beautiful coat of orange and black striped fur. But tigers don’t have this unique fur pattern just for good looks! The black stripes mimic the shadows of leaves and branches caused by sunlight in a tiger’s rain forest home, allowing the tiger to hide easier while hunting. Big, padded paws also help them walk quietly through the underbrush and surprise their prey.
Tigers are patient hunters, and wait quietly for a chance to pounce on their food. When they do decide to spring out of hiding, a long tail helps them “steer” mid-leap. After a tiger has caught something to eat, it uses its two types of teeth. Its front large, pointed canine teeth make it easy to grab and hold meat, while its sharp rear teeth cut it into small, bite-sized pieces.
Like most animal babies, baby zebras are very small at birth. But unlike most baby animals, zebra foals are born with legs that are already almost as long as their mother’s. While you might think this makes it hard for young zebras to move around, it doesn’t seem to faze them much. These little foals are able to stand up on their own within just fifteen minutes of being born! By the time they are an hour old, they can even run around with ease.
As foals get older, they often play with the other young zebras in their herd, zigging and zagging across the plains of Africa that are their home. When a foal has grown up into an adult zebra, it usually moves away to join a new family. Young males are known to form groups with others around their age. They often practice fighting and running, just like when they were younger.
Just because they live in big herds with the rest of their family doesn’t mean that plains zebras feel lost in a crowd. Although they all have black and white stripes, no two zebras look exactly alike. Each one has its own unique pattern that allows zebras to recognize each other and their babies, called foals, even if it’s hard to see. However, zebras do use their similar stripes to confuse their predators. When they stand in a large group, it can be hard for a lion to tell how many zebras there are, or even where one animal ends the next one begins!
Zebra families are very protective. They usually guard their foals from danger by placing them in the middle of the herd and will even walk slower so that young, sick, or old zebras won’t get left behind when the herd travels. Male zebras, called stallions, will also walk at the back of the group in order to help protect others from danger. Using his powerful kicks is a zebra’s best defensive attack. If anyone sees a hungry lion or hyena, the zebra gives a loud bark to warn its family to run away.
From the truly weird and to the truly wonderful, both the world and this month’s issue of Zootles Frogs are full of thousands of kinds of frogs. Because they come from many different environments and habitats around the planet, each kind of frog has its own unique appearance. For example, some frogs come in bright colors like red, yellow, blue, and green in order to warn other animals about their poisonous skin. Other frogs have dull colors that match their surroundings and allow them to blend in and hide from predators in their habitat.
Scientists like Dr. Tyrone Hayes have also discovered something about the color of frogs that can even help humans. He saw that many of the frogs around him that were usually green had turned red and spotted instead. This observation lead Dr. Hayes to investigate and find out that the frogs were living in dirty water that made them sick. He then figured out that frogs whose skin changes color in dirty water can help people tell whether or not certain water is safe to drink, even if it looks cleaner than it actually is.
The new hoppin’ topic of this month’s Zootles issue is the fabulous frog. Frogs are known for making loud croaking noises using the balloon-like vocal sac under their chin, or leaping around on their powerful hind legs. Meanwhile, their webbed feet and sticky toes and fingers make frogs star swimmers and climbers. Frogs are also famous for their long, sticky tongues that make catching flies and other insects for dinner so easy and quick.
Another big part of being a frog is growing up from an egg to a grown up frog in a remarkable change called metamorphosis. After spending some time growing inside its egg, a tadpole with a head, body, and tail breaks out and swims away, eating plants and using its gills to breathe underwater. Eventually, the tadpole’s tail will disappear and it will grow four legs. Finally, its gills will be replaced with lungs that allow it to breathe air above the surface of the water. It is after this step in metamorphosis that a tadpole has at last become a frog and will leave the water to live on land. Frogs still need water however, so they live near ponds and streams.
This month’s issue of Zootles Elephants shows readers just how well scientist Cynthia Moss knows hundreds of elephants—and she can even tell them apart! As you know, all elephants have gray skin, big ears, and long trunks. So how does she keep them straight?
When Cynthia began watching elephants thirty years ago, she noticed their ears had different patterns of holes and tears along the edges. Their tusks looked different too—some elephants had broken tusks; others had tusks that crossed in front. Every time she met a new elephant, Cynthia took a photo. Then she put her photos into albums. By keeping track of the unique things about each, elephant, she learned to tell them apart. Even today, Cynthia and other scientists use her photo albums to identify hundreds of elephants in the wild.
You can be a scientist, too! Cynthia Moss tells elephants apart by looking at their ears and tusks. People tell one another apart by looking at eye color, hair color, height, nose shape, and lots of other features. And just like Cynthia Moss, we keep photo albums! Look closely at your family and friends. How do they look alike? How do they look different? What features do you use to tell them apart?