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Animals and Birds

Increase your knowledge about the animal and bird kingdoms. Read on for answers to some basic questions.

Which animal lives upside down?

Sloths are animals found in South America, who mainly spend their lives upside down. They usually remain this way most of the time, even whilst sleeping! One unusual physical trait shared by all Sloths is that their heads can turn all the way around! They have hooked claws on their toes and fingers to attach themselves to the branches of trees, which enable them to stay upside down. They have blunt noses and their teeth are very well developed Sloths are of two types: the ai, which is three-toed, and the unau, which is two-toed on the front feet.

Which animals and birds are extinct today?

The Oryx and the Sea-cow are two animals which are extinct today, and the Dodo and Moa are amongst the extinct birds. The Oryx is an antelope-like animal, which was first found in the Arabian deserts. It was hunted down by the Arab warriors. The Sea-cow was found by shipwrecked explorers from Russia off the coast of the Berring Sea. Again, the reason for their extinction is indiscriminate hunting. Moa, a large bird, almost the size of an ostrich, is also now extinct. It used to be found in New Zealand while the Dodo lived on the island of Mauritius. The Dodo was considered to be a 'stupid' bird, because it could not fly. Dodos were hunted down by the Dutch when they landed in Mauritius in the seventeenth century, as their meat was considered to be very tasty. 

Why is the shark the most fascinating of all fishes?

The Shark is the most dangerous, as well as one of the fastest fish in the ocean. Sharks can be of different sizes, ranging from one foot to almost fifty feet! The fifty-foot shark is called the whale shark. The Great White shark has rows of jagged razor-sharp teeth. Sharks can gobble up their prey whole, and can feed on just about anything. They eat other fish, animals, and even humans. Sharks have a sharp sense of smell, and if they have sniffed food, they move extremely swiftly towards it. Humans also hunt sharks for its meat, which is considered a delicacy. Shoes and bags are often made of sharkskin.This ferocious, enormous and fascinating fish inspired Peter Benchley to author the famous book, Jaws, which became an even more popular movie.

How does a fish breathe?

Since the fish spends most of its time in water, it is quite natural to ask how it breathes. Fish breathe through their gills; they do not have lungs, save for the Lungfish. The fish takes water in through its mouth, and the water flows over the gills. These gills possess certain special cells that absorb the oxygen present in the water, which then mixes with the blood. The water then flows out by way of an opening in the gills. Carbondioxide present in the body is brought out by the blood to the gills, where it mixes with the water and passes out through the gill opening.

Do fish have ears?

Yes, fish do have ears. They are, however, mere apertures found on either side of the head. Fish do not have an external protrusion like humans do. A line of tiny pores runs on either side of the body of the fish. This line, known as the lateral line, is sensitive to vibrations in the water. These vibrations are then relayed to the brain, which registers the sound, and the message is then relayed to the ears.

Are scorpion stings fatal?

The scorpion is an insect-like creature, rather small and is considered ferocious. It belongs to the class of Arachnids. There are over 500 different species of scorpions. Scorpions have a pair of pincers or claws in the front of their body, and the famous "sting" at the tip of their tails. Poison flows out of the base of this tail, from two openings. The sting is normally black in colour. Scorpions are generally active at night and feed on other insects. They conceal themselves in dark regions waiting for prey, and strike with their claws and tail. In homes, they hide themselves in nondescript areas such as closets or shoes. The scorpion sting does cause pain, yet not all stings prove fatal. The scorpion can sting again and again if provoked. He does not give up easily! Very much like those born under the zodiac sign of Scorpio, whose symbol is the Scorpion!

What is a zebra?

A zebra is a wild animal, and a member of the horse family. Zebras are conspicuous because of their black and white striped bodies. Different species of zebras have different patterns of stripes. Sometimes the stripes are brown instead of black in colour. Zebras are found in Africa. They are normally found in groups, either in mountainous terrain or in the open grassland. 

Which birds do not fly?

The Ostrich, the Kiwi and the Penguin are amongst the well-known birds which don't fly. This is because either their way of life, or their environment, did not require them to fly. Thus, over a period of time, according to the theory of disuse, their wings stopped functioning. The largest bird in this group is the Ostrich, found in the African savanna. His long legs enable him to move at a great speed. The length of one stride of the Ostrich is 4.5 metres, and its running speed is over 40 miles an hour. The Kiwi is the second largest, and is found in New Zealand. The Penguin is found in the colder regions of the world, particularly the South Pole. Penguins decided to adapt to their surroundings by swimming in the waters and thus they have well-developed flippers instead of wings. 

Which is the biggest seabird?

The Albatross, nearly 1.5 metres in length, is the largest seabird. It has very long wings - couple with a long life! The wing of the albatross spans over 10 feet in length, and is rather narrow in width. For flying, the Albatross needs to run along the ground or water for a while before taking off. Generally, the Albatross lives at sea and comes only to the shore to breed. The baby Albatross takes time to grow. It takes nearly a year for its wings to develop, and takes another 5-10 years to become independent at sea. The Albatross is perhaps wellknown because of its association with the famous old poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. A sailor at sea had shot an Albatross with his crossbow, and thereafter he suffered a series of calamities at sea. It was only when he truly repented for the act, that all went well with him again.

Which insect swims upside down?

Back-swimmers or boat-bugs swim upside down in the water with the help of their hind legs. These boat bugs are tiny in size and mostly live in the water. They can stay beneath it for nearly six hours because they inhale air from the space between their body and wings. These insects have over 200 species, can be found anywhere in the world, and are considered dangerous to both man and beast.

Which animal is called 'the ship of the desert' and why?

The Camel can go for days without food or water - as it stores food and water in the big hump on its back. This enables the camel to travel across the vast expanse of the desert without a problem. Thus, a camel is the animal used for travel in the desert regions and is the most common mode of transport here. It is thus know as the ship of the desert. Camels are found mainly in Africa and Asia. After a long stretch of travelling, the hump gets loose, because its contents get used up. This is when the camel too needs a rest. Once it takes in its nourishment, it becomes ready to move on.

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