Monthly Archive: April 2014

Apr 30

Animal Record Holder: Longest Sperm

The male fruit fly has giant testes. They account for 11% of his body mass. And for good reason. In most animal species, the female produces relatively few eggs and the male produces vast quantities of sperm, but the fruit fly does it a little differently. The male fruit only makes a few sperm cells …

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Apr 26

Big Question: Why and How do Birds Migrate?

The swallow. A quintessential summer bird if ever there was one. It typically arrives in the UK around now (late April), spends the summer raising its young, and then leaves our shores again in September. The swallows travel back to sub-Saharan Africa and other warm regions to spend the winter. This periodic movement of animals …

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Apr 23

The Mighty Morphin’ Water Flea

There are many elaborate ways of defending yourself in nature. The skunk uses a horrific chemical weapon; one type of lizard can squirt blood from its own eyes; and some sea birds literally vomit on their foes. But for the tiny so-called water flea called Daphnia – actually a freshwater crustacean, not a flea – …

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Apr 20

Which Bird Lays the Largest Egg? (and other Easter-related mini questions)

For the third Mini Questions entry (see here and here for the two previous ones), Extraordinary Animals will once again be probing into a few animal mysteries – but this time with an added Easter theme. That means eggs, chicks and, of course, Easter bunnies… How do chicks break out of their eggs? All young …

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Apr 16

Extinct Animal: Dead as the Dodo

Literary critic and humourist Willy Cuppy once said, ‘The dodo never had a chance. He seems to have been invented for the sole purpose of becoming extinct and that was all he was good for.’ And, indeed, many people view the dodo as being an unfortunate evolutionary mistake. It was fat, flightless and painfully stupid. …

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Apr 12

Bizarre Animal of the Week: Green Spoon Worm

‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’. It’s a well-known saying that highlights just how different men and women really are. And it’s the same throughout the natural world: males often look and behave very differently to females because of the separate roles they play. It’s a topic we’ve covered before on this blog …

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Apr 10

To Cull or Not to Cull?

At this moment in time, there surely cannot be a more controversial animal in the United Kingdom than the badger. Accused of transmitting bovine tuberculosis (bTB) to cattle, which has cost £500 million in the past ten years to control, the badger has divided opinions across the country. Some people, especially farmers whose livelihood depends …

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Apr 07

Four More Common Animal Misconceptions

One of the first articles I did for this blog was on animal misconceptions – that is, commonly believed facts about animals that are actually complete nonsense. I also wrote an article about the topic for the website TopTenz, which you can read here. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about the natural world, …

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Apr 04

The Stink Bird: Hoatzin

Meet the bird that not only thinks it’s a cow, it also smells like one too. Hailing from the swamps of South America, the hoatzin (pronounced wat-seen) is an eclectic, handsome, albeit highly quirky, bird that divides its time between eating vast quantities of vegetable matter and just lounging around afterwards. Nothing is ever done in …

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