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Articles » Zoology

 

Aardvarks (Aard-Vark, Dutch for “earth-pig”), are one-of-a-kind animals, one of the strangest mammals you will ever encounter. They have a body like a large rat, a long snout like an ant eater, a pig nose, long ears like a rabbit, pink skin with coarse hair like a pig (but in contrast to pigs, aardvarks have very thick skin and lack a fat layer), short legs, feet like a pig and a long thin tail that resembles a kangaroo’s tail (Hutchins, 2004, p. 155). Their barrel-shaped body weighs between 100 and 180 pounds (50 to 83 kg). The greatly elongated head-snout is set on a short thick neck. The tail is thick at the base and gradually tapers. So strange was it that, when described to European naturalists, many doubted its reality (Catchpoole, 2014, p. 28). Read the rest of this entry »


Animals display many remarkable behaviours. To better appreciate their talents, how often have we wished that these creatures could communicate with us? We would love to know where they go during migrations, for example. In recent years however, animal ecologists have developed techniques to allow us to track some of these creatures. As a result, these animals communicate with us simply by doing what comes naturally, during the course of which our little espionage devices report where the animals have gone. Read the rest of this entry »


A tail is a distinct, flexible appendage attached to the torso of the rear section of an animal’s body. It is the body part that corresponds roughly to the coccyx in mammals, reptiles, and birds. Tails are primarily a feature of vertebrates, although some invertebrates, including scorpions and springtails, have tails. Even snails and slugs have tail-like appendages sometimes referred to as tails. Read the rest of this entry »


Animal Travel Plans

Animal Travel Plans

IntermediateIntroductory

Since the advent of global positioning satellites, or at least since their availability to civilians, scientists have found many uses for these devices. One of the more interesting applications is to track animals, as in the “fish with chips” program. This is a multimillion dollar Census of Marine Life project. In conjunction with this program, thousands of marine animals in the Pacific Ocean, including many fish, have been fitted with electronic surveillance tags. Read the rest of this entry »


Most people have a love-hate relationship with rodents. That is, people love to hate them. This is a pity since rodents exhibit various interesting talents. For a start, when we think of rodents, we think of rats. Rats certainly have a bad reputation because they thrive in so many environments where nobody wants them. Nevertheless rats are smart and individually very clean. Most rats live less than a year in the wild. Mama rats however are definitely overachievers. Read the rest of this entry »


Many people claim they are not interested in science, but this is not really true. Perhaps they never really studied nature, but there are few people who do not notice how interesting and beautiful the surrounding countryside is. Did you realize for example that magpies are common in the western half of North America, but not in central Canada? Some people say that these distinctive birds are so common in Edmonton that this is the “magpie capital of Western Canada” (a dubious distinction). Read the rest of this entry »


Armadillos (Spanish for little armoured one) are New World nocturnal mammals covered by a leathery armour shell overlaid by horn. Of all living animals, “few are as amazing … as the armadillos” (Storrs, 1982). Even Carolus Linnaeus, the father of taxonomy, was puzzled about how to classify this “strange-looking mammal” (Smith and Doughty, 1984, p. 2). They are shy, timid mammals that mammalogist David Lamp calls bizarre (1977, p. 36). They look nothing like any other living animal, appearing much more like a fierce miniature dinosaur. These nearly blind and deaf animals must use their keen sense of smell to locate food. Read the rest of this entry »


People who live in rural regions obviously have an enormous advantage in opportunities to observe and enjoy nature. For a start, they may be able to view the night sky much better than their friends in the city whose view of the stars is dimmed by city lights. Secondly of course there are the animals who make a point of visiting the property. There may be waterfowl in the spring, ducks and geese at least, who come to refresh themselves on your pond. And how about the frogs who deafen the night with their cheerful choruses. Read the rest of this entry »


Beauty Reconsidered

Beauty Reconsidered

Introductory

Sometimes scientific studies seem more frivolous than serious work. That does not happen too often, of course since scientific research is expensive. However there was one study published in 2005 that did seem “cute rather than deep” (in the words of psychologist Steven Pinker of Harvard University.) Actually the study was intended to demonstrate serious evolutionary implications. As such it was chosen as the cover story for the December 22/29 December 2005 issue of Nature. Thus the caption on the cover featured the expression: “Fascinating Rhythm: Dancing’s Role in Sexual Selection.”  However on November 27/13 Nature withdrew this article from its published collection. Read the rest of this entry »


Landmark Work: What’s Wrong with ‘Survival of the Fittest’

An exciting new book was published in the fall of 2017. The author, Nathaniel Jeanson, is a specialist in molecular biology and bioinformatics with a Ph.D. in cell and developmental biology from Harvard University. With such fancy credentials, one might expect his new book to be very difficult and full of technical mumbo-jumbo! Well, Dr. Jeanson does present some very interesting information, but he does undertake to make the discussion accessible to interested readers. Excellent illustrations (some in colour) really help. Nevertheless for reading this book a good background in high school biology at least would be a big help. Read the rest of this entry »

Order Online

Every family, whether into science of not, should obtain a copy of this book for the sake of their children (upper elementary through high school). This deluxe book, The World of Animals, is a wonderful reference book which describes anatomy and ecological significance of the main groups of animals. Read the rest of this entry »


Among living creatures, it does not take a specialist to realize that jellyfish are not dainty delights of the deep. Although they may be beautiful in appearance, jellyfish are successful predators. Read the rest of this entry »


Bucky Beaver Lives Here

Bucky Beaver Lives Here

Children

Despite the fine quality of their fur coats, they look a little dumpy. Their teeth also are a little too prominent to be pleasing – but their whiskers are cute. Certainly they are prominent Canadians. On formal occasions they go by the name Castor canadensis, but to their friends they are simply beavers. The plan of action for any beaver couple is to raise their young and to enjoy long healthy lives. This is not a surprising nor an unusual agenda. Nevertheless of all the wildlife creatures that make their home in most parts of North America, the beaver is fast becoming extremely unpopular. The fact is that beavers are the only animals in the world which can change the landscape to suit their own needs and desires. The trouble is that the beavers’ alterations often do not fit the plans of people living in the same area. Then again in other parts of the country, wildlife officials regard beavers as economical wetlands managers. Read the rest of this entry »


Celebrating Rhythm!

Celebrating Rhythm!

IntermediateIntroductory

The 2017 award of the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine to three Americans, Michael Rosbash, Jeffrey Hall and Michael Young, has served to stimulate our interest in a phenomenon that is actually well-known. We all know why people get hungry about the same time of day, or wake up about the same time, or suffer from jet-lag. It is because of biological clocks. So what was so special about the work of these three scientists? The story actually goes back to 1729! Read the rest of this entry »


Have you ever discovered something new, like a new recipe, a new and better way to carry out a task, or a new object in the sky? Whether you have invented a device which will make you rich, or whether you have identified a new phenomenon in nature, the joy of discovery is a reward in itself. When it comes to identifying new organisms, many people have turned their attention to the rain forest. New plants and new animals, often insects, are routinely described from that part of the world. Deep sea divers have also encountered some very strange creatures from the ocean depths. The sea between Denmark and Sweden, however has been fished for many centuries. We would not expect to find any new creatures in those cold waters, would we? Read the rest of this entry »