What is a zoologist? How many teeth do sharks have? Why do zebras have stripes? Azula answers all of your burning questions.
I know hippos secrete a red/pinkish liquid from their skin that acts as microbial, bug repellant and sunscreen. But all over the Internet, it says hippos have pink milk. I can’t figure out if it’s true
You’re right about hippos oozing an awesome red-pink liquid to keep away bugs and germs and avoid sunburn, Finley! But pink milk? Sounds too crazy to be true. But you’re also right that many websites claim hippo babies are drinking pink milk.
I’m sorry to say that I don’t know any hippos personally, so to answer your question I had to turn to the experts—specifically, Dr. Rebecca Lewison, an ecologist and hippo conservationist at San Diego State University. According to Dr. Lewison, the pink milk thing is totally false! She thinks people are confusing hippos’ pink secretion with their milk. I guess you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet—except when at ASPCA Kids, of course.
What kind of noises do giraffes make?
Great question, Ellie! Lots of people think giraffes can’t make any sound at all—but that’s completely false! Giraffes can hiss, grunt, moan, cough, snort, bellow and even moo…they just usually prefer not to, saving vocalizations for stuff like looking for their kids or finding a mate.
Baby giraffes (calves), on the other hand, can get a little chatty! Giraffe calves mew and bleat and sound kind of like a goat or sheep.
Where do wild dolphins sleep?
Just like you, Bethany, dolphins sleep where it’s comfy! But dolphins have an extra thing to consider besides comfort—making sure they can surface to breathe while they doze.
How do they do it? Dolphins might rest on the surface with their blowholes exposed, or they might sleep in shallow water and rise every so often to breathe, or they might swim very slowly and then occasionally surface for air.
But wait, you might be asking, how can dolphins swim around, or move up to the surface, if they’re asleep? Are they sleep-swimming!?
Nope, they’re doing something even cooler: Dolphins only let half of their brains sleep at one time! One half sleeps while the other handles the breathing, and each half gets about four hours of sleep a day.
You say that camels store fat in their humps, not water. But I heard camels can survive without drinking water for seven days. Is that true?
What a great question, Callie. Both facts are true! Camels are really, really good at holding on to water, but they don’t do it with their humps. When camels find water, they drink a LOT. Their bodies are really good at storing that water, and they can lose way more water than people can without getting sick.
Bonus weird fact that might gross you out (warning): Because these awesome animals are so good at conserving water, camel pee isn’t watery, it’s like syrup! Also, their poop is so dry, it can be used right away to start fires. Kinda gross, but kinda cool at the same time, right?
I see many cartoons where elephants jump when they see a mouse. Is it true that elephants are afraid of mice?
It turns out that outside of Dumbo and other cartoons, elephants are not especially afraid of mice. In fact, Rachel, elephants are known for not being afraid of hardly any animals at all! BUT elephants could be surprised if a mouse showed up somewhere unexpected, like near their feet. (Kind of like how you’d be jumpy if you saw a mouse run across your kitchen floor.)
Fun bonus fact: You know what African elephants seem to be afraid of? Bees! Scientists found that when they played the sound of swarming bees, elephants took off running within 10 seconds. Eek!
What is your favorite animal?
Thanks for asking, Tom! My favorite animal is the parrot, of course! But it’s rude to brag, so I’ll tell you about my second favorite—the pygmy slow loris. It’s a really cute little mammal found in Southeast Asia! It lives in the trees and wakes up at night to crawl very slowly, using its tiny but strong hands, and eats mostly fruit, vegetation and smaller animals like bugs and other mammals. Here are a few facts:
- Pymy slow lorises usually hang out alone, but they communicate with each other mostly by peeing on stuff.
- When a pygmy slow loris gives birth, at least 50% of the time, it’s twins.
- Pygmy slow lorises lick a secretion off their arms and mix it with their spit to create a poison. They use the poison to defend themselves, and sometimes cover their babies in it to protect them, too.
The pygmy slow loris is a threatened species, partly because some people steal them from nature and sell them as pets in other countries. This illegal practice is very cruel for many reasons, including that lorises are wild animals and hate being pets. Life would be better for lorises if more people adopted animals who like being pets, like my other favorite animals—dogs and cats—instead!
Which mammal lives the longest?
You might not believe this, Kelly, but we’re not 100% sure. Maybe you should become a scientist and help us find out!
Thanks to some recent research, scientists think it’s probably the bowhead whale. We used to believe these whales lived about 50 to 70 years, like some other whales, but now people think they make it to somewhere between 150 and 250 years old! In 2007, a scientist found a bowhead whale he determined was about 211 years old.
Other whales have nothing on those numbers. A Japanese scientist found a 110-year-old blue whale and a 114-year-old fin whale. But if those were the oldest whales ever, then you humans would win the title: a French woman who died in 1997 lived to 122!
Why are frogs slimy?
—Ms. B’s Grade 2 Class, Quebec, Canada
Great question, grade twos! (That’s how Canadians say “second graders.”) Like you and me, frogs have lungs for breathing, but they also breathe through their skin! To do that, they need to stay a little bit wet, even when they’re on land. Many frogs solve that problem by producing slimy stuff and oozing it all over their skin.
But that’s not all the slime does—it helps frogs absorb water better and protects them from predators. Slime makes frogs slippery, and sometimes it has poison in it. Some frog slime is even being studied by scientists for its potential to cure human diseases!
Who knew that something so icky could actually be so cool?
Do elephants’ nails need to be clipped if they are in a zoo? How are the toenails shortened if the elephants are wild?
Great question, Rochelle, and I think I’ve nailed down an answer for you! In the wild, elephants’ toenails get filed down naturally as they go about their usual business on rough terrain. But in zoos, where elephants don’t log as much activity, pedicures are sometimes in order. A responsible zookeeper will take care that the nails don’t grow too long or split by trimming and filing them.
Foot health is especially important for elephants because if their feet are neglected they can get really sick. It’s very hard to keep an elephant healthy if he stands around all day, so, believe it or not, in some zoos elephants actually go jogging to keep their tootsies in shape. There you have it—hope I nailed it!
What animal has the biggest ears?
Hear ye! Hear ye! We are ready to announce the winner of the Largest Ears Ever contest—the amazing African elephant! With ears that are four feet wide and six feet from top to bottom, he's the hands-down champion.
Why do alligators eat meat and not vegetables?
To tell you the tooth, alligators have a meat-based diet because of their teeth! You see, alligators can't chew their food—and chewing is necessary for digesting plants and vegetables.
Alligators are designed to eat other animals—and they swallow them whole. When it comes to finding food, alligators are not hunters. They aren't gatherers, either—they're lurkers! Yup, that's right. Alligators hide out in murky water and wait for something edible to walk or swim by and then—SNAP!—they grab it with their big, toothy jaws. And alligators eat just about everything, including fish, turtles, frogs, birds and mammals like buffalo, zebras and monkeys. Hope that answers your question, Puri. Later, gator!
Is there such an animal as a cabbit?
Hmmm, Ashleigh, could you be talking about the legendary half cat and half rabbit?! The key word is legendary, of course—the cabbit doesn’t really exist. But if you’ve ever seen a Manx cat, you can see why people think so! This breed of kitty looks like a regular cat from the front, but his teeny tiny tail makes his butt look like a bunny’s from behind!
P.S. If the cabbit were real, he’d break one basic law of the animal kingdom. Two different species of animals whose genes do not go together cannot have babies.
What is a zoologist?
Great question, Julien! Basically, a zoologist is a scientist who works with animals—but that's putting it really generally. Just like with doctors, there are many different fields a zoologist can work in. A zoologist might decide to work only with snakes, or to devote her entire career to the behavior of bears, the evolution of cockroaches or the language of dolphins.
There are lots of different places a zoology career can take you, too. For example, some zoologists study animal diseases and spend most of their time in medical laboratories—but Steve Irwin from The Crocodile Hunter was a zoologist, too, and he was famous for traveling all over the world and starring in television shows about wildlife. So you see, the opportunities for zoologists are limitless!
Zoologists usually get college degrees in biology or zoology, and lots of them get graduate degrees after college. So if you think you might want to be a zoologist when you grow up, it’s important to work hard in school. Well, it’s important to study hard anyway, but you know what I mean!
Activities you can do now to prepare you for a career in zoology include taking your dog to training and obedience classes, where you will learn a little something about animal behavior, and volunteering at places where you can work with or watch animals, like your local animal shelter or even a zoo or marine park.
Why do some frogs have teeth?
I’d be hoppy to answer your question, Tenille!
Actually, most frogs have teeth on their top jaws and the roofs of their mouths. A frog uses his teeth to get a good grip on his grub—which most likely consists of insects, spiders and centipedes. These teeth help a frog hold his prey still so he can swallow his dinner whole! Gulp!
Why do giraffes have those little pointy things on top of their heads?
Here’s one tall tale that’s true, Brittany! Those “little pointy things” are actually skin-covered horns, and all giraffes are born with at least two of them. Some of these gentle giants may even have four or five horns. When two male giraffes fight for mates or territory, they use their horns to hit each other.
I was wondering how dolphins drink water if they live in the ocean, which is salt water.
I dolphinitely know the answer to this one, Alicia!
Dolphins get their water from their food—fish and squid, which are a whopping 80 percent moisture! And, their kidneys are built to retain lots of water. Cool, huh?
Do lions talk to one another? If so, how?
—Mrs. Thomas’ First-Grade Class
You were wondering if lions talk to each other. Do they ever—you should see their phone bills!!
Seriously, that’s a great question, and the answer is yes, lions certainly do talk to each other. But they do most of their speaking with their bodies. Lions live in groups called prides, and when members of the same pride greet each other, they rub each other’s cheeks (and sometimes necks!). Lions also watch each other’s faces carefully. A lion’s face can show if he or she is about to attack, for example.
Lions also use their voices. They can grunt, snarl, hiss, moan, meow and, of course, ROAR! When lions rare, it is usually to let other members of the pride know where they are. If a male lion roars, he might be warning other male lions to stay away from his pride.
Are kangaroos mammals?
Yeppers, they sure are! Kangaroos are covered with hair and feed their babies milk from their bodies, just like most mammals do. But kangaroos are a special kind of mammal called a marsupial. Marsupial moms have pouches on their bodies that their babies crawl into when they are very young and continue to grow.
Thanks for your question about kangaroos, Haley. Hope you have a hoppy day!
How many teeth do sharks have?
Thanks for the question, Victoria—this gives me the chance to brush up on my knowledge of sharks! And be happy you’re not a shark’s dentist, because some of these fascinating fish have as many as 3,000 teeth. They're arranged in rows, with the largest teeth in the front row and the smallest teeth in the last row. When a tooth from the front row breaks or is worn down, it is replaced by a tooth in the second row. Think of a really, really, really big Pez dispenser!
I have a question about sea apples, otherwise known as sea cucumbers. How did they their name and what do they look like?
I had to strap on my scuba tank and goggles to go to the ocean floor to answer this one, Sara! What I found out is that sea apples are actually a type of sea cucumber. There are lots of varieties of sea cucumbers—some look like worms, and the apple kind is round and, well, apple-shaped. Of course, lots of them are shaped just like the salad cucumbers you see in the grocery store, which is how they got their name.
But names can be confusing sometimes! You might think that a sea cucumber is a vegetable, right? Wrong! They’re actually marine animals called echinoderms. Sea cucumbers can range in size from big—up to six feet!—to small, like a tiny pickle. They live all over the world and at all different depths. Some make their homes in warm, shallow waters and coral reefs, while others prefer the deepest bottoms of the sea.
Do fish fart?
Great question, Sophia! I did a lot of research to make sure my answer doesn’t stink!
Just kidding, of course, but fish farts are actually quite fascinating. Some fish are indeed known to let out gas after eating. But what’s even more interesting is that some fish use their farting abilities in order to survive!
Herring, for example, make farting sounds to let each other know where they are—and only other herrings can hear these sounds! And the sand tiger shark gulps air into his stomach at the surface of the water, then lets the air out as gas to help him sink deeper into the water. These specialized farts aren’t produced by gas after eating, like human ones are, but now you know that farts can have different purposes!
Why do frogs croak?
Because they can’t always hit the high notes?!
Seriously, Macaela, it’s actually only the male frogs who croak. What they are doing is trying to attract a female frog, and also warning the other male frogs to stay away from their territory.
Many kinds of frogs puff their throats up with air when they croak. This makes the sound coming from the frog’s vocal chords louder—and lets little frogs make very BIG noises!
Do rhinos have horns or tusks?
That’s an interesting and tricky question, A.B., because many people are not aware that tusks and horns are two very different things. But luckily, “Rhi-no” the answer!
Tusks are specially formed teeth that grow really large. An elephant’s tusks are a perfect example. Rhinos have horns, which are made up of tightly compressed fibers, the same kind that are found in your fingernails and hair!
Why do wolves have such bad attitudes?
Wolves may appear scary (at least Little Red Riding Hood thought so!), Giavanna, and sometimes they are. They are wild animals after all, but once you know why wolves do the things they do, they become easier to understand.
One thing that can be scary is their howling. When wolves howl, you humans may become afraid because you don’t know what they’re saying, but usually they are just letting the other members of their pack know where they are, or they are warning different packs of wolves to stay away from their territory.
Another scary thing that wolves do is fight to protect their territories if they have to. If a wolf from a different pack trespasses, another wolf will fight viciously to protect his space—but wolves do not fight unless it is absolutely necessary. They save their energy for hunting. They also do not go around attacking people. In fact, most wolves are afraid of people, and try to avoid them.
So wolves do not really have bad attitudes, Giavanna. Most of the time, they are just misunderstood!
I was thinking of catching a wild chipmunk. Do you have any opinions on this animal as a pet?
You may not like what I am going to say, Erica, but I’ve gotta say it. At ASPCA Animaland, we think it’s great to have companion animals as pets (animals who have been domesticated, or bred to live with humans), but we strongly believe that wild animals should not be kept as pets. Wild animals are happiest and healthiest in the wild, with their own families. It’s cruel to take an animal from his home and make him live in a cage, and there is no way humans can give him the quality of life he had in the wild. And in some states, it is actually against the law to keep certain species as pets!
If you find an injured wild animal, the kind thing to do is contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, who can provide care until the animal is ready to be released into the wild. If the animal has a permanent injury that would not allow him to care for himself in the wild, the wildlife rehabilitator may be able to find a suitable permanent placement at a wildlife refuge or animal sanctuary.
Do ducks sneeze?
They sure do, Emma! But the real question is, do they use tissues?! Ahhh, I’m so funny I quack myself up!
Seriously, Emma, ducks can wheeze and they also sneeze—and they cough, too. Little ducklings are more prone to getting a cold if they are exposed to water and cool air for too long. They need to keep warm and dry when they’re not swimming. Isn’t that just ducky? Sorry, I couldn’t help it!
What do gorillas eat?
―Kerri H., 11
Let’s just say that if gorillas had to buy their food in the supermarket, they’d spend hours in the produce department!
Mostly vegetarians, the world’s largest primates feast on plant matter—and lots and lots of it. In the mountains and lowlands of Africa, gorillas munch on bark, shoots, leaves, thistles, berries and fruit. They especially like wild celery stalks, and sometimes eat bugs and worms.
Do porcupines shoot their quills?
―David S., 10
Ouch—I just bristle at the thought! Contrary to popular belief, porcupines don’t shoot their quills. But you can bet that these large rodents use the one- to three-inch barbed spines that cover their back, sides and tail for defense.
When a porcupine gets into a sticky situation, he hunches over with his backside facing his attacker. If the animal comes closer for a sniff, the porcupine lashes out with his tail. When this happens, a few loose quills may fall off—and that’s probably what started the myth that porcupines shoot their quills. If a quill gets stuck in the flesh near the attacker’s heart or lungs, it can work its way in and damage these organs.
Are koalas really bears?
Well, Jessica, we don't want to cause PANDAmonium, but here are the GRIZZLY details: Koalas are not bears at all, but upstanding members of the marsupial family. Like other marsupials, momma koalas carry their babies in roomy pouches in their tummies (think of it as a backwards fannypack!) until they are big and strong enough to care for themselves. P.S. A kangaroo's a marsupial, too.
Do tigers have stripes under their fur?
Awesome question, Jeremy. Fortunately, we didn't have to give any members of the world's largest cat species a haircut to find out the answer! But we did do a little checking with the folks at the Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge, and are pleased to report that a tiger's skin is indeed striped, just like his coat. And FUR your information, a leopard's spots and a jaguar's splotches also appear on their skin.
How big can rats grow?
What a great—and creepy—question, Tyler! Just kidding, of course—we love rats! The largest rat in the world is the African giant pouched rat (his scientific name is Cricetomys gambianus).
While the average pet rat lives two or three years, the giant pouched rat can live for seven years! These big guys and gals grow up to 28 inches and can weigh four pounds.
While lots of people do keep African rats as pets, it’s not the best idea—they have not been domesticated to live with people, and are happiest and healthiest in the wild, with their ratty families. We suggest sticking to normal, smaller pet rats. Sorry if that’s a bummer!
Do starfish have arms or legs?
Good question, Erica—I had to do a bit of "legwork" (get it?!) to answer this one. I consulted with the ASPCA's Science Advisor, Dr. Stephen L. Zawistowski, who told me that the limbs radiating from the center of a starfish are ARMS, not legs.
And it may not look like starfish have hands, but they most definitely have feet—and lots of them! On the undersides of a starfish's arms are numerous little tube-shaped feet, also known as podia. Each starfish has hundreds of podia to help him walk around on the bottom of the sea.
Do any animals other than bats sleep upside down?
I can't think of any other animals who catch their ZZZZZs upside down, but I do know of a few who hang out—literally!—that way. Baby opossums and apes hang head-first from their mothers' bodies, and super-slow sloths sometimes move through the trees while in an upside-down position. Then, of course, you have the upside down catfish. Can you guess how he swims? In the avian, or bird, kingdom, there's the show-off bird of paradise, who hangs upside down from branches when displaying his fancy tail feathers to the ladies. I'll be sure to let you know if I hear of any animals who do cartwheels and back handsprings!
Are white tigers rare?
You may have seen one of these blue-eyed cats with creamy white fur and milk chocolate stripes in photographs or at the zoo. Beautiful, huh? But white Bengal tigers are so rare in the wild that in the past 100 years, only a dozen have been spotted (or should I say striped?!) in India.
How long does a tiger live?
The lifespan of tigers in the wild is estimated to be 10 to 15 years. Tigers who live in zoos may live to be 20.
And P.S., Matthew, here’s a fun fact about these biggest of the big cats: Did you know that the average tiger has somewhere between 100 and 150 stripes?!
What animal has the biggest eyeballs?
Here's looking at you, Adam—what a great question! There are a couple of different ways to answer it. If we're talking about the animal with the biggest eyeballs in relation to his body, then the vampire squid is your man. He's only six inches long, but has eyeballs that are as large as a dog's. And when it comes to birds, the ostrich has the biggest eyeballs of 'em all—they're two inches in diameter.
But the prize for the biggest eyes of all time goes to the ichthyosaur, an ancient diving marine reptile who lived between 250 million and 90 million years ago and had eyeballs that measured more than 8 1/2 inches across. Jeepers, creepers—talk about major peepers!
What is a baby koala called?
A young koala is known as a joey. (FYI, that's what baby kangaroos are called, too!) And did you know that these little sweeties are the size of jelly beans—that's less than one inch—when they're born?!
Why do frogs jump?
In order to flee from a predator or catch a big, juicy bug, a frog must move quickly. Those long, strong legs also help keep frogs in the swim of things. Did you know that frogs can crawl, too? And some, like the African walking frog, often travel on all fours.
What is a lynx?
If you have a cat, you have a relative of the lynx! These wild felines weigh about 22 pounds and live in Canada, Newfoundland and northern United States. They have long, beautiful fur, short tails and tufts on their ears. Their big, furry paws help them hunt snowshoe hares in the ice and snow. Lynxes also can be found in Europe and Asia.
Why do zebras have stripes?
There's no black-and-white answer, Mary. Scientists have several explanations for the distinctive pattern on a zebra's coat. The stripes may help zebras blend into the tall grass of the African savannah, making it hard for predators to find them. When a herd of zebras is together, all the stripes may confuse predators—they can't tell where one zebra begins and the other ends! This may give weak or elderly zebras a chance to escape.
Do sharks sleep?
Of course they do—on water beds! (Sorry, I couldn't resist!) Actually, this question has caused a big debate among scientists. It was commonly believed that all sharks need to constantly swim in order to breathe (Talk about sink or swim!) The movement allows a continuous flow of oxygen-rich water through their gills. It's true that many sharks need to be permanently on the go, but that doesn't mean they can't rest at the same time.
It's just that sharks don't sleep the way you or I do. Sharks can't exactly snooze the night away in a bed or nest, but they do slow their brain functions down and just chill. Scientists describe this fishy state as kind of like daydreaming. It's also been discovered that some species, like nurse sharks, have openings behind their eyes—these are called spiracles—that force water through their gills, allowing them to stay still and hang out in one place, such as a cave.
Where do giant squid live?
That’s a tough question, Verlea—I squid you not! Even though these enormous creatures can grow to more than 40 feet, we’re still having a super tough time figuring out where and how they live. While specimens have been found all over the world (in every ocean, in fact!), it’s not clear whether they have regular migration patterns.
However, there was recently some GIANT news about the GIANT squid. A team of Japanese experts captured one on film for the first time ever! They found her in the Pacific Ocean in September 2005, about 10 miles off the remote island of Chichijima, which is about 600 miles southeast of Tokyo.
Who knows where these lurkers of the deep sea will pop up next? Maybe the next person to find one will be…you!
Can you tell me something interesting about camels?
You asked for it, Liz, and you got it!
Cool camel fact #1: Many people think that a camel stores water in his hump, but it's really full of fat. When food's hard to find, he'll draw energy from this fat.
Cool camel fact #2: What's a camel to do if a sandstorm blows in? The thick hair in his ears filters out sand and dust, and two rows of long, thick eyelashes shield his peepers from the bright sun and stop sand from getting in his eyes. If even the teeniest, tiniest grain of sand gets past, his inner eyelid will pop out like a windshield wiper and whisk it away pronto.
What do camels eat?
Camels will eat just about anything they can get their 34 teeth on, Ashley! Camels aren’t choosy, and it’s a good thing—food can be scarce in the desert where they live. While they’d prefer some tasty fruit, grass, hay and grains, a camel traveling in the desert can make do munching on prickly bushes, bones…or whatever she finds!
In addition to being highly adaptable, camels are special because they can go a long time—up to two weeks!—without eating or drinking anything at all. The big humps on their backs are full of energy-producing fat that keeps the camel powered up and going strong when there’s no food available.
Do deer eat bugs?
Oh , deer. You really mustn’t bug me with your questions. I’m kidding, I’m kidding! I LOVE questions like yours, Alexandra! Makes my old bird brain tick.
You probably asked if deer eat bugs because you’re a smartie, and you know that deer are herbivores—meaning they don’t eat meat, just plants. Sometimes deer accidentally eat insects, since bugs hang out on plants. But if given the choice, a deer would say, “Plants only, thank you very much!”
Why do rattlesnakes rattle?
There's a lot of buzz among scientists as to exactly why a rattlesnake rattles her tail. But most agree that it's to let other critters, like horses, cattle and even people, know that they are too close. Can you think of a better way to say, 'Hey buddy, you almost stepped on me!'?
Some scientists also believe that younger, smaller species of rattlers may rattle to lure birds and other prey animals. All that buzzing and hissing sounds a lot like insects to birds, who'll fly over in hopes of finding a snack—and find a hungry snake instead.
What do manatees eat?
The answer to your question, Ariel, is A LOT! These gentle giants—we're talking up to 12 feet long and anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 pounds—can chow down 10 to 15 percent of their body weight in vegetation every day. (Yup, all you math whizzes, that works out to 100 to 150 pounds.)
Now, vegetation may not sound that exciting to you humans, but to these herbivorous, or plant-eating, marine mammals, a bed of sea grass is like an all-you-can-eat buffet. The ultimate manatee dinner would also include aquatic plants like shoal grass, widgeon grass, hydrilla, water hyacinth, eel grass and water lettuce. Yum!
Where do raccoons go in the winter?
When temperatures drop, raccoons flop...into their beds, that is! This masked mammal has been known to take really long naps during the cold winter months. Once tucked in his den and deep in a snooze, his heart rate and metabolism slow down. But because his body temperature doesn't dip, he's not considered a true hibernator, like ground squirrels, mice and woodchucks. In fact, should a loud noise or other animal disturb him, this sleepyhead will get out of bed and immediately check out the scene.
Do polar bears go to sleep for the winter?
Most bears do fall into a winter sleep, or hibernation, Evelyn, but not polar bears. These fuzzy carnivores are on a different schedule. In winter, when many bears are sleeping, PBs (that’s short for polar bears) decide it’s time for a major feast! All winter long, they hunt seals on the ice—and during the summertime, they live off their fat.
Female polar bears do hibernate, however, but only when they’re pregnant. They find a comfy den to rest in so they can save all their energy for giving birth. Mom PBs live inside the den for a few months with their newborn cubs while all the other polar bears are busy hunting.
At what age do polar bears leave their mothers?
Polar bear babies, called cubs, stay with their mothers for two to three years, Emma. At that point, they’ve learned all there is to know from their moms. Plus, since they’re almost fully grown, they’re large enough to take care of themselves. Cubs in the Low Arctic usually leave a little earlier—close to their second birthdays—while those who live in the High Arctic wait unitl they’re about three years old. That's because the harsher climate in the High Arctic makes it more difficult to survive as an inexperienced youngster.
Hey, did you know that polar bears are usually born in twos? Yup, they’re almost always twins! One cool thing about this is that after they are smart enough to live on their own and mom nudges them out the door, brother and sister cubs sometimes live together for a little while so they’re not lonely!
How big can a hermit crab get?
Depends on which kind of hermit crab you’re asking about, Whitney. The average hermit crab can grow to be about three inches long. But we know of some hermit crabs who live on the islands off the Indian and western Pacific oceans who are anything but average.
Meet the coconut crab, our crabby ten-legged buddy who measures in at more than 16 inches long and tips the scales at nine pounds. He’s also super-strong, and can lift objects weighing more than 60 pounds with his front claws.
His claws also really come in handy at dinnertime. After climbing a coconut tree, he’ll cut off a coconut, tear off the husk with his front claws, and use the smaller pincers on his back legs to pull out the flesh. (Yup, that’s how he got his name!)
When he’s not eating, at night the coconut crab hangs out in trees to escape from predators and to beat the heat. During the day, he hides in his burrow, which he digs in loose sand or soil.
But don’t even think of visiting him at home! To keep his burrow moist and humid, the coconut crab blocks off the entrance with one of his claws. So much for hospitality!
Why do sharks attack people?
Good question, Nikki. Sharks don’t go looking for people to attack, but once in awhile a shark does bite a human being. Scientists can think of a few different reasons why:
1.) Sometimes an attack is a shark’s way of getting a person to leave her territory—just like a dog might bark, growl and bite at an intruder to get him off her property.
2.) A shark may bite a human being by mistake, confusing the splashing swimmer with his favorite dinner—a sea turtle, seal or sea lion.
3.) Some scientists believe that bright colors attract sharks, who have really good eyesight. So they warn deep sea divers not to wear bright orange or yellow.
A shark attack on a person is pretty rare, though. More people are struck by lightning every year than are attacked by sharks!
Why do frogs have so many babies and elephants don’t?
—Sarah and Ben
Well, can you imagine all the trunks (get it?!) that mom elephants would have to pack every year for summer camp?!
Seriously, Sarah and Ben, you’ve asked a really great question. It’s true that certain frogs can lay thousands of eggs at one time, while an elephant mom gives birth to just one baby.
A big reason for this has to do with danger. Ponds where frogs live are full of fish, turtles and other hungry critters who like to eat unhatched eggs. Because many of the eggs will be eaten, frog moms have to lay lots of eggs, hoping that a few will hatch and survive to be adult frogs.
Elephants carry their babies inside their wombs, where they’re protected from danger. And once the baby elephant is born, he’s protected by his entire herd until he grows up.
How many teeth do elephants have? I know that they have two tusks and I think they have four molars inside their mouth. Please tell me if I’m right!
Is this a game of tooth or dare, Sammie?! You’re very close—elephants have two tusks and a set of 24 molars, but they don’t use the same teeth throughout their life.
Unlike you humans, who use one set of adult teeth after your baby teeth fall out, elephants go through six different sets of molars during their lifetime! Each set starts at the back of the elephant’s mouth and pushes forward. When one set is worn down from use, the dull teeth fall out and newer teeth behind them come up to be used—and the new teeth are always larger than the ones that came before.
And P.S., you’re right that elephant tusks are teeth. Do you know how they curl? That’s because an elephant’s tusks grow for his entire lifetime. And have you ever noticed that usually one tusk is shorter than the other? That’s because elephants almost always use one tusk a lot more. They can be right- or left-tusked the way humans are right or left-handed!
Do monkeys really have 99.9% of the same DNA that people do?
The answer to your question isn’t yes or no―but almost! To be scientifically specific (or if you prefer, specifically scientific!), about 98% of your DNA is identical to that of a chimpanzee’s. This makes chimps possibly your closest living animal relative! You have a lot in common with chimps, including many of the same emotions―anger, joy, sadness over losing a loved one. Chimps even laugh!
But that 2 percent of DNA that you don’t share makes all the difference in the world. Human beings can do things that chimpanzees cannot do. You humans can write, speak languages and build complicated things like elevators and airplanes. These are the things that make you human, and not a chimpanzee.
Thanks for your question, Paige. We bet other people were wondering how chimps and humans can be so similar and so different at the same time!
Why do some squirrels fly?
To get to the other tree?!
No joke, Maria, there are 43 kinds of nocturnal rodents known as flying squirrels. They don’t actually fly, but they do glide their way through the treetops in pursuit of their favorite munchies, which include nuts, berries, seeds and the occasional baby mouse.
To complete this feat, a flying squirrel takes a big leap and spreads out all four legs. Then his patagium (the furry flap of skin that stretches from his wrist to his ankles) fans out like a sail, enabling him to soar 20 to 60 feet. He uses his tail for steering and speed control. These quick moves, combined with some sure-footed scurrying when he’s landed, also help him squirrel away from predators!
Why do animals poop so much?
You were wondering why animals poop so much. What can I say? It’s only natural! Everyone does it, from huge elephants to tiny bugs. There’s even a book about this very topic, and it’s called—you guessed it! —“Everyone Poops” by Taro Gomi. When animals eat, they poop—and the more often they poop, the healthier they are!
Plus, did you know that you actually benefit when animals poop? For example, farmers use cow and horse poop to fertilize their fields and to help their crops grow, and many people put rabbit poop to good use in their backyard gardens—it keeps their plants happy and healthy. If you didn’t love animals before, you have to now….they don’t just poop for themselves, they actually do it for you, too!
Wow, I’m pooped after answering this question—gonna go take a nap!
Can raccoons fart? Someone told me they can’t!
It’s time to settle the farting issue once and for all! Stephanie, you’ll be happy to know that almost all animals do indeed fart! Some experts think that the only animals who probably do not fart are watery creatures with very different and unique body structures, like jellyfish, corals, sea anemones, certain sea worms and sponges. So yes, raccoons fart, and they probably do it quite a bit. (Maybe that’s why they wear masks--to avoid being identified as the one who farted!)
Where do starfish go in the winter?
Well, we hear they love to go snowboarding…
Yeah, I know I’m just being silly! But that is a very interesting question, Stormy. It’s true that when it’s warm, starfish (also called sea stars) spend their time on rocky beaches, but as soon as it gets cold, they move into deeper waters for the winter.
Are koala bears endangered?
That’s a beary good question, Erica! But before I answer it, I wanted to share a little-known fact with you. While koalas sure are cute and cuddly-looking, they aren’t really bears. In fact, they aren't even related to bears. Their closest cousins are actually kangaroos!
Now on to your question, Erica. There is some debate over whether the koala is officially considered “endangered,” but one thing is for certain. They are most certainly threatened! Koalas eat eucalyptus leaves, and many eucalyptus trees are being cut down to make room for houses and roads. And until recently, koalas were hunted and killed for their fur! How sad is that? Today, it is estimated that only 40,000 to 80,000 koalas remain in Australia.
How many babies do hippos have at one time?
I hippopotaMUST answer this question, Trinee! It’s the first one I’ve ever gotten about my favorite 4-toed African mammal.
Mama hippos generally give birth to one calf. On very, very rare occasions, twins are born. Baby hippos weigh anywhere between 50 and 90 bounds, and Mummy’s milk is so yummy that a young hippo gains about 1.5 pounds every day for the first three months of his life.
You could say that baby hippos are a real bright spot in their mothers’ lives. After all, they’re bright pink when they’re born!
What are the top animal issues in the world?
Wow, there’s no slacking off for me this week, huh?!
Seriously, Julie, we LOVE kids like you who care about animals and want to know more about them. It would probably take hours to answer your question properly. So let’s just start with a few issues:
1. Extinction is one of the world’s top animal issues. Scientists estimate that 100 species go extinct—that means to disappear from the earth—every day! That's about one species every 15 minutes. When a plant or animal is at risk of becoming extinct, we say that species is endangered.
Luckily, the Endangered Species Act was created in 1973 to protect animals in danger of extinction. To learn more about this issue and what you can do to help, check out our Endangered Species section.
2. Pollution stinks! Think of all the garbage in the world. Did you know that a lot of that garbage ends up in the world’s oceans? And the critters who live in the oceans can get sick from it. Some animals get caught in plastic bags or the plastic rings that hold six packs of soda together. That’s why it’s important to recycle plastic and to cut those six-pack rings!
3. We know it’s hard to hear about these big problems because you probably want to do something to help right away. But there is one problem you can help with if your family decides to get a pet. The problem is not enough homes for animals in shelters all across the U.S.A. If your family wants a pet, adopt a dog or cat from a shelter instead of going to a pet store. These dogs and cats can be extra-loving because they are waiting for a home—and you will be making a space in the shelter for another animal to be saved!
Ever wonder where shelters get all their animals? Read our Pet Overpopulation section to find out.
How do sand dollars swim or move?
Great question about sand dollars, Colleen. Let me add my two cents (get it?!) before I answer.
In case not everyone knows, sand dollars are flat, round animals who live in the ocean. They’re related to sea urchins and sea stars. They got the name “sand dollar” because they are round and flat like coins are.
A sand dollar has lots of small tubular feet on his underside that allow him move along sand drifts. He’ll also use his many feet to burrow into the sand to avoid getting swept away by water currents and to hide from predators.
Good thing he doesn’t have to wear shoes — but he’d probably prefer SAND-als anyway!
What happens when you touch a butterfly’s wing?
What a beautiful question, Ruth—my heart is all a-flutter!
Butterfly wings are very fragile. They can tear easily and can’t be fixed, so it’s best not to touch them.
And did you know that a butterfly’s wings have tiny scales on them that help her to fly? Even if you were to touch a butterfly’s wing very gently, the scales would fall off and look like fine dust on your fingertips.
And butterflies need their scales, trust me! Not only to keep them flyin’, but to keep them stylin’! The scales also function to form the amazing, interesting patterns on their wings, after all!
Why do animals have tails?
Whoa, Tien, I’m in a tailspin—your question has almost as many answers as there are animals. I promise I’ll try not to go into too much deTAIL or we’ll both be here all day!
The tail is a marvelously useful part of animal’s body. Here are just a few examples: - Some animals, like foxes and snow leopards, wrap their tails around their bodies to keep warm.
- Cats and kangaroos use their tails to help them keep their balance when walking on narrow surfaces and jumping.
- Horses and cows use their tails to swat away insects.
- Cats and dogs show how they are feeling with their tails.
- A male peacock will spread his blue-green tail feathers out wide to show off and dazzle the lady peacocks.
See how multitailented animals are?! Thanks for asking!
I find small, round droppings near the bushes by my house. What animal do you think made them?
Well, MeFrac, this sounds like a job for the Poop Patrol—and we need you to be our fearless leader on this mission!
Have you checked for footprints? Sometimes examining a trail of paw prints can help you tell you who left that “gift” behind! How small were the droppings? If you saw clumps of small, round, brown pellets, you might have a rabbit visiting your bushes. If they were a little bit bigger, maybe a squirrel left them. They may even have been left by a small dog.
The way I see it, there are two things you can do. Find out which animals live in your neighborhood and research what kind of droppings they leave behind on a search engine like Google. Or, you can hide very quietly near the bushes and watch to see what critters come and go. You might be in for a long wait, though!
Do frogs sneeze?
Thanks for writing, Joshua! Snot every day I get asked about amphibians!
When you humans sneeze, your diaphragm and abdominal muscles contact, which causes your lungs to expand and allows air to rush in. Then, just as quickly, your muscles contract, forcing the air back out—and that’s what makes a sneeze.
Frogs, on the other hand, don't have diaphragms, so they’re physically unable to sneeze. Wonder if they’re hoppy about that?!
Are jackalopes actually real?
Will you ever see a jackalope? Sorry to say, but—nope!
But guess what, Kaylee—you are not the only one to ask this question! There are lots of crazy stories about the jackalope, usually described as a jackrabbit with antelope horns or deer antlers and sometimes even a pheasant’s tail.
The legend of the jackalope started in Douglas, Wyoming, back in the 1930s, when two brothers dreamed up the idea of an animal who was a combination of a rabbit and a deer. The folks in Douglas must have liked the idea, because in 1965 the town was named “Home of the Jackalope!”
Can you think of any other legendary animals?