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Posts Tagged ‘animals’

It’s Groundhog Day! How About Some Rodent Facts?

Rodents Research Topic

Rodents Research Topic page via ProQuest eLibrary

It is groundhog day again–it seems like the last one was only yesterday. A few years ago, a colleague did a great post on Groundhog Day itself, so I won’t repeat that here, but I started thinking about rodents (the groundhog is one). Here are a few rodent morsels on which to chew. (Ew, that didn’t sound right.):

Rodents are from the order Rodentia, and they account for around half of all mammal species. (Note about this link: This takes you to the subject browse area of eLibrary. Anything with a yellow star next to it includes a Research Topic page.)

-The word “rodent” comes from Latin word meaning “to gnaw.” This makes sense, considering that their large front teeth and gnawing habit are probably the things that most define them in our minds. They gnaw because those front teeth grow continuously and failure to wear them down would result in death from starvation or impalement of the skull.

-The smallest rodent is the pygmy jerboa, only about an inch long. The largest rodent in the world, currently, is the capybara, but its extinct cousin Josephoartigasia monesi was the largest ever, measuring in at eight feet. And just for the awwwww-factor, here is a picture of two cute baby capybaras with their mother.

-Among the common animals that are mistaken for rodents but are not, are the rabbit and the opossum, which is a marsupial. (Speaking of marsupials, here is a crazy one: the Tasmanian wolf. It became extinct in the 1930s, and scientists had hoped to bring it back through cloning. He sure doesn’t look like a kangaroo.)

-The porcupine IS a rodent, but the similarly spiky hedgehog, which also comes in a furry variety, IS NOT.

-Most rodent species are highly social. In an interesting experiment, a researcher showed that rats show empathy by working to free others from cages.

-While they were once killed in huge numbers for their pelts and to eliminate them as pests, beavers, the second-largest rodents, are becoming respected for the benefits they provide, including erosion prevention, improvement of fish and wildlife habitat and soil enrichment.

-On the other hand, some rodents can carry diseases deadly to humans, including plague and hantavirus.

Search around in eLibrary or browse our thousands of Research Topics pages for information on this topic and just about everything else.

An Anniversary for Zoos

Philadelphia Zoo

Philadelphia Zoo in the 1920s (Public Domain) via Flickr

This month celebrates the anniversary of the first zoo opening in the United States. On July 1, 1874, the Philadelphia Zoo, in Pennsylvania, opened its doors to the public. Over 3,000 people visited on opening day. Now, the Philadelphia Zoo gets over 1 million visitors each year.

Zoos were once just a place to see exotic animals from faraway lands. Now, zoos play an important role in housing endangered animals and breeding them in captivity. They also help bring awareness to issues affecting animals around the world, such as habitat loss.

Here are 5 fun facts about zoos:

  • There are over 400 licensed zoos in the United States, plus hundreds of nature centers.
  • There are more than 100 aquariums in the U.S.
  • There are 10,000 zoos worldwide, according to the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.
  • Schonbrunn Zoo in Vienna, Austria, which opened in 1752, is the oldest zoo in the world.
  • The word “zoo” is short for zoological garden or zoological park. The word “zoology” refers to the scientific study of animals.

Teachers, for more about zoos, direct your students to SIRS Discoverer. Here are some searches to get you started:

Zoos
Zoo animals
Aquariums
Websites about zoos

The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of the American Bison

Pile of Bison Skulls

Pile of bison skulls, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Recently, while watching a show about the West on PBS, I was stunned by a photograph from the 1870s of a man standing atop a 20-foot-high pile of bison skulls. There were so many bison carcasses blanketing the plains–left by hunters who were mostly interested in the skins–that industrious settlers began collecting and delivering them to railroad lines to be shipped east for processing. The ground bone was used for such purposes as the production of bone china and to clarify wine, but the biggest demand was from the fertilizer industry–the product was tilled into soil to add calcium and phosphorus. So, in a weird circle-of-life arrangement, settlers cleared land of the bison remnants so that they could farm and then bought back the ground up bones to return them to the land.

The photograph is a graphic reminder of the one of America’s darkest wildlife episodes. It is estimated that the bison population before 1800 was from 10 million to 70 million (estimates vary wildly), and the animals were seen by those who exploited them to be an unending resource. That idea was proven incorrect, as the number of bison fell to fewer than a thousand by the end of the 1800s.

Hunters poured into the plains to cash in on the growing demand for bison hides. They would kill the animals, skin them and leave the rest to rot. Hunters were also contracted to kill the animals for meat for railroad workers–“Buffalo Bill” Cody got his nickname by being a prolific hunter for a railroad, supposedly killing more than 4,000 bison in a year and a half. Another method of hunting was for a train to slow to the speed of a herd, allowing men to fire rifles from the windows and the top of the cars for an easy slaughter. The role of Native Americans in the collapse of the bison population is still being debated. While the popular narrative is that Native Americans only killed numbers necessary for sustenance and used all parts of the animal, some argue that their involvement in the fur trade and their adoption of the white man’s hunting techniques made them significant in the decline of the bison.

In addition to excessive hunting, it is believed that grazing competition and diseases from European cattle also played a part in the downfall of the American bison.

Biston RT

From the Bison Research Topic page, via ProQuest eLibrary

By the mid-1880s, there were a few hundred wild bison left on the continent, marking the near complete destruction of a species. Along the way, there had been some laws to protect bison from wanton killing, but they were largely ignored or not enforced. In 1884, Congress called upon the Army to protect the 25 or so animals living in Yellowstone National Park, and later the American Bison Society was formed to increase the bison population. In addition, there had been ranchers who had been attempting to build private herds and zoos had kept some animals. These efforts and the establishment of the National Bison Range gradually allowed bison numbers to increase. Today, more than half a million American bison exist–about 30,000 in conservation herds and the rest kept as livestock, and most of the bison living today are hybrids resulting from managed interbreeding with domesticated cattle.

The decimation of the bison is considered to the be inspiration for the modern conservation movement, and the species’ restoration has been hailed as a great conservation success. Currently, there are calls to expand the range of bison in the grasslands and allow them to come closer to their original role as a keystone species in the ecological scheme of the Great Plains, much to the concern of cattle ranchers who worry about the spread of disease to their stocks. The story of the bison’s comeback may not be over yet, so stay tuned.

What Are Baby Animals Called?

Kids love learning about animals. It’s a fascinating topic for children of all ages. One question I get from my kids is “What are baby animals called?” Some answers are easier than others. For example, cats are called kittens, dogs are called puppies, and so on. But some are not so easy to guess and might take a little research to find.

To celebrate our SIRS Discoverer Animal Facts feature, here are 10 examples of what some baby animals are called.

Swan

Animal Facts via SIRS Discoverer

Swans are called cygnets.

Alligators are called hatchlings.

Eagles are called fledglings or eaglets.

Goats are called kids.

Otters are called whelps.

Platypuses are called puggles.

Rats are called pinkies.

Spiders are called spiderlings.

Turkeys are called poults.

Gooses are called goslings.

When doing assignments on animals, direct your students to Animal Facts for all the information they need for an elementary-level research project. You’ll find Animal Facts on the front page under Explore Features on the updated interface of SIRS Discoverer.

10 Wacky Animals Perfect for Student Research!

Animals are so much fun to learn about! My kids love to hear fun facts about animals. It’s so fun they don’t even realize they are learning.

To celebrate Animal Facts, a popular feature in SIRS Discoverer, here are facts about 10 wacky animals that you probably don’t know exist and that are perfect for research!

Animal Facts via SIRS Discoverer

1. Kinkajous are mammals that live in Central America and South America. They have long prehensile tails to help them grip tree branches.

2. Narwhals are a type of whale. They are marine mammals and have long spiral tusks that can reach up to 9 feet long.

3. Cicadas are insects that can live underground as nymphs for up to 17 years.

4. Mole crabs are types of invertebrates. They have hard outer exoskeletons and live in the swash zone on many beaches.

5. Frilled lizards are reptiles. They are named for the large frill around their necks. They raise their frills to scare away other animals.

6. Molas, also called sunfish, are very large and unusual looking creatures. They are the largest bony fish living in the ocean.

7. Kiwis are small birds that can only be found in New Zealand. They have long, pointy bills and they cannot fly.

8. Fossas are mammals that live only in the forests of Madagascar. They look like cats but are actually related to mongooses.

9. Tarsiers are mammals that have very large eyes which help them see better in the dark.

10. Kakapos are birds. They are the largest parrots in the world. They are nocturnal and cannot fly.

When doing assignments on animals, direct your students to Animal Facts for all the information they need for an elementary-level research project. You’ll find Animal Facts on the front page under Explore Features on the updated interface of SIRS Discoverer.

Which Animal Are You?

To celebrate our newest feature Animal Facts in SIRS Discoverer, take this PlayBuzz quiz to find out which animal you most resemble. The quiz answers have information taken directly from Animal Facts.

 

New in ProQuest SIRS Discoverer!

Just in time for back-to-school, these following features are now available in ProQuest SIRS Discoverer!

 

 NEW Pro/Con Leading Issues Feature

LI

Pro/Con Leading Issues in ProQuest SIRS Discoverer

 

Editorially created and compiled in support of upper elementary and middle school research and ELA writing requirements:

  • Hand-selected Leading Issues and age-appropriate sources with SIRS Discoverer users in mind
  • Each Leading Issue includes: Topic Overview, Essential Question and Pro/Con Articles, Viewpoints, Visual Literacy, Critical Thinking Questions, iThink Skills Tutor, Related Links
  • 50 Pro/Con Leading Issues in first release including Animal Rights, Bullying and Junk Food

 

NEW Animal Facts Feature

animal

Animal Facts in ProQuest SIRS Discoverer

 

Created to provide content and context for this popular research topic in elementary school:

  • Each fact page includes: scientific name, key facts, photos, and links to more information
  • Scaffolded learning with easy-to-understand language to engage younger students and links for older students to dig deeper
  • 50+ animal fact pages in first release

 

See more about these new features in the SIRS Discoverer 2014 Back to School update. And to fully get up to speed, sign up for free online training classes!