Tag Archive: Mammals

Feb 06

The Stench of the Skunk

You’re traipsing through an American forest and you come across a dancing skunk. What a delightful little creature, you might think; maybe it’s been trained. Oh look, it’s even doing a funny handstand for your amusement. A few minutes later, you smell so appallingly bad that it’s caused you to vomit, your nostrils are burning …

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Jan 31

Extinct Animal: Trials of the Thylacine

You’ve probably heard of the Tasmanian devil. It’s a vicious, noisy creature that is sometimes seen spinning around in cartoons. It also has the distinction of being the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial. A century ago, however, the Tasmanian devil didn’t hold that title. It was beaten in size by another Tasmanian resident, the thylacine. It …

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Jan 24

The Urban Myths of Urban Foxes

If one British mammal has caused more controversy than badgers over the past few years, it must surely be the red fox. There has been quite a lot of anti-fox hype recently. If the media is to be believed, the population of urban foxes is rising and so, too, are fox attacks on small children. …

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Jan 10

The Puzzling Problem of the Platypus

The year was 1799. George Shaw, eminent English zoologist of the British Museum, had just received a dried and most unusual animal specimen from Australia. This creature seemed to have so many strange qualities about it – the tail of a beaver, the bill of a duck, the body of an otter – that the …

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Nov 11

Animal Record Holder: Fastest Land Animal

On the grasslands of the world, there is a premium on speed. The lack of dense vegetation or large bodies of water allows animals to run across this landscape without being slowed down. Natural selection favours those predators that are fast enough to catch food, and those prey animals that are fast enough to escape. …

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Sep 21

Girls Will be Boys: Spotted Hyenas

According to Sigmund Freud, penis envy is when a girl, at some point during her psychosexual development, realises and reacts to the fact she does not have a penis. Supposedly, it’s a defining moment in a woman’s sexual identity. But one animal that certainly doesn’t have penis envy is the female spotted hyena – and …

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Sep 19

Bizarre Animal of the Week: Babirusa

If your teeth suddenly started growing out through your face, you would understandably become quite concerned. You’d probably very quickly see a specialist. For the male babirusa, however, this is a perfectly normal stage of growing up. Babirusa puberty, it seems, is a bit more extreme than our own. As you can see, the babirusa …

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Sep 08

Bizarre Animal of the Week: Naked Mole Rat

It doesn’t matter how weird you think the naked mole rat is; it always turns out to be much weirder. Many animals have one main bizarre feature that is easy to focus on. The naked mole rat, on the other hand, is nothing but bizarre features. Maybe we could start with the fact that acid …

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Aug 22

The African Unicorn: Mystery of the Okapi

Sir Harry Johnston was the very model of a late nineteenth-century African explorer. During the Scramble for Africa – the invasion, colonisation and annexation of African territory by European powers – Sir Harry became well-known as a linguist, botanist, mountain climber, animal collector and colonial administrator. During his time in Africa, Sir Harry came across …

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