Meet our featured animal: the koala!
Friday, September 30 is Save the Koala Day!
Here are five fun facts about koalas:
- Koalas are not bears, despite the common phrase, “koala bear”. Koalas are actually marsupials, like kangaroos and wombats. This means female koalas have pouches where their young stay until fully-developed.
- Koalas are well-adapted to sitting in trees. They have a curved backbone and two fewer pairs of ribs than most mammals (11 instead of 13) creating a curled skeletal structure that fits well into the forks of branches.
- Although there are 600 types of eucalyptus trees, koalas generally limit their diet to two or three favorite kinds.
- Koalas have a special kind of bacteria in their stomachs that break down the fiber and toxic oils in eucalyptus leaves. This bacteria is passed down from mother koala to joey via a substance the mother produces called pap.
- A koala’s pregnancy lasts 35 days. When the joey is born, it is only 2 cm (less than an inch) long. Although hairless and blind, the newborn uses its strong forelimbs to climb from the birth canal into the mother’s pouch.
Learn more about koalas at our koala facts article.
Meet our featured animal: the California condor!
Here are five fun facts about California condors:
- With a wingspan reaching 3 meters (10 ft.) long, the California condor is the largest flying bird in North America.
- California condors can soar as fast as 88 km/h (55mph) and as high as 4,600 m (15,000 ft.).
- They eat dead animals like cattle, deer, and sheep as well as smaller mammals like rodents and rabbits.
- They can eat over 1 kg (2-3 lbs.) of food at a time, and then go for days without eating anything.
- Because they have a robust immune system, condors do not get sick when feasting on carrion (dead animal flesh) despite consuming various strains of bacteria.
Learn more about condors at our California condor facts page.
Meet our featured animal: the Indian rhinoceros!
Here are five fun facts about Indian rhinos:
- The single horn on the Indian rhinoceros distinguishes it from its African counterparts, who all have two horns. Consequently, the Indian rhinoceros is also referred to as the Great One-Horned Rhinoceros
- Weighing up to 2200 kg (4800 lb.), Indian rhinos graze in flood plain areas in Northern India and Nepal.
- Indian rhinos have lips that are specially adapted to grasp the grass they eat (also known as prehensile lips).
- They are considered to be good swimmers and sometimes eat the aquatic plants they encounter.
- Rhinoceroses have poor eye sight. However, they make up for it with their exceptional hearing and sense of smell.
Learn more at our Indian rhino facts page.
Meet our featured animal, the giant panda!
Here are five fun facts about giant pandas:
- Giant pandas are endangered, with only about 1600 left living in the wild.
- Giant pandas can weigh between 100-115 kg (220-250 lb.).
- One of the interesting evolutionary traits of the panda is their protruding wrist bone that acts like a thumb. This helps the pandas hold bamboo while they munch on it with their strong molar teeth.
- Bamboo makes up nearly the entire diet of the panda. Due to the low nutritional value of bamboo, pandas need to eat 10-20 kg (20-40 lb.) a day.
- Female pandas are only able to become pregnant for 2-3 days each spring!
Learn more at our giant panda facts page.
Meet our featured animal: the cheetah!
Here are five fun facts about cheetahs:
- Accelerating from 0 to 96 km/h (60 mph) in three seconds, the cheetah is the world’s fastest land mammal.
- Cheetahs have several special adaptations that allow them to reach top speeds, such as wide nostrils, a powerful heart, strong arteries, and an aerodynamic body frame.
- With long legs, loose hip and shoulder joints, and a flexible spine, cheetahs can cover 7 m (20-25 ft.) in one stride.
- Although sometimes confused with leopards, cheetahs are distinguished by their “tear-stained” black marks that run from the corners of their eyes down the side of their nose to their mouth.
- Young cubs grow a thick yellow-gray coat on their backs called a mantle. The mantle protects the cub from the sun and rain and helps camouflage it in the shadows.
Learn more at our cheetah facts page.
Meet our featured animal: the giraffe!
Here are five fun facts about giraffes:
- At an average height of around 5 m (16-18 ft.), the giraffe is the tallest land animal in the world.
- Many people first believed the giraffe was a cross between a leopard and a camel, which is reflected in its scientific name, Giraffa camelopardalis.
- Giraffes have long tongues which help them pull leaves from trees.
- Both male and female giraffes have skin-covered knobs, called ossicones, on the top of their heads. Male ossicones are bald at the top, while female ossicones have tufts of fur.
- When giraffes walk, they move both legs on one side of their body and then both legs on the other side; this is unique to giraffes. However, they run in a similar style to other mammals, swinging their rear legs and front legs in unison.
Learn more at our giraffe facts page!
Meet our featured animal: the hippopotamus!
Here are five fun facts about hippopotamuses:
- The hippo is second heaviest land mammal in the world.
- The body of the hippopotamus is well suited for aquatic life. Their eyes, ears and nostrils are located at the top of their head, so they are able to see, hear, and breathe while mostly submerged.
- Due to their dense bodies, hippos do not swim. Instead, when in the water, they tap their feet along the ground to propel themselves.
- When out of the water, hippos secrete a red-colored substance to cool their hairless skin. The secretion is referred to as ‘blood-sweat’ but is actually neither of those fluids.
- As herbivores, they feed on short grass for six hours a night, consuming up to 68 kg (150 lb.) of food.
Learn more at our hippopotamus facts page!
Meet our featured animal: the meerkat!
Here are five fun facts about meerkats:
- Meerkats live in groups of 20-50 extended family members in large underground tunnels. These family groups are called gangs or mobs.
- One of the most important roles a meerkat plays is that of the sentry, or watch guard. The sentry will stand on its hind legs, propped up by its tail, and act as a lookout while the rest of the mob is outside the burrow.
- Meerkats are specially adapted to living in the harsh desert environment. Dark patches around their eyes help them be effective lookouts by reducing the glare of the sun, much like a baseball player who paints dark lines beneath his eyes.
- Meerkats also possess special adaptations to help them burrow. Their eyes have a clear protective membrane that shields them from dirt while digging. Their ears also close tightly to keep dirt out.
- A meerkat’s diet consists of mainly insects, supplemented by small rodents, fruit, birds, eggs, lizards, and even poisonous scorpions.
Learn more at our meerkat facts page!
Meet our featured animal: the koala!
Here are five fun facts about koalas:
- Koalas are marsupials, closer related to wombats and kangaroos.
- As marsupials, female koalas have pouches where their young stay until fully developed. Unlike kangaroo pouches, which open towards the top, koala pouches are located towards the bottom of their bodies and open outward.
- Extra thick fur on their bottoms and a cartilaginous pad at the base of their spines provide cushioning so koalas can sit comfortably on branches for hours.
- Koalas have bacteria in their stomachs that break down the fiber and toxic oils of eucalyptus leaves and allow them to absorb 25% of the nutrients.
- In order to survive on such a low calorie diet, they conserve energy by moving slowly and sleeping around 20 hours a day.
Learn more at our koala facts page!
Meet our featured animal: the grizzly bear!
Here are five fun facts about grizzlies:
- During the warmer months, grizzly bears eat a lot of food. They may intake 40 kg (90 lbs.) of food each day, gaining over 1 kg (2.2 lbs.) of body weight a day.
- Their long rounded claws are the size of human fingers.
- When grizzly bears hibernate in the winter, their heart rate slows down from 40 beats per minute to 8, and they do not go to the bathroom at all during these months of slumber.
- Grizzly bear cubs are born blind, hairless, and toothless.
- Detecting food from great distances away, grizzlies have an astute sense of smell, even better than that of a hound dog!
Learn more at our grizzly bear facts page.