Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wild Facts has moved to

Well everyone I think it is time we make the switch over to . Please update your bookmarks.  I have tried to make the new site very user friendly and simple.  There may be some changes throughout the coming days as I seem to always be tinkering with the website settings.  I am constantly trying to improve this website and this Wild Facts project.  Again, I always welcome any criticism/advice so please don't be shy. 

Please find Wild Fact #986 below.  As a special incentive to switching over to the new site, I have added the first post of a new series called Wild Stories. As I come across interesting, true animal stories I will pass them onto you.  The first entry of this series can only be found at .

Thanks for your cooperation and understanding as we switch sites and give Wild Facts a better and more flexible home.

Wild Fact #986 - Thirsty Camel

If you have ever been to the desert then you may be able to tell me about one of the most common modes of transportation for the dry, sandy conditions. It comes as no surprise that the camel has developed numerous adaptations to survive the harsh conditions of the desert.  For example they have long eyelashes to protect their eyes from the sand as well as a heavy coat to reflect sunlight. Today's fact will clear up a myth about a camel adaptation.

You can't talk about a camel and not discuss the humps on their back. A lot of people believe that the camel's hump (or two humps) is a storage tank for water.  As interesting as it would be to have their humps holding water, this is not the case.  The humps act as a holding container for fatty tissue.  By retaining all of this fatty tissue in the humps it allows the camel to minimize heat-trapping insulation in the rest of their body. So basically, instead of the fat going straight to their hips they are stored in the hump.  If the humps are not full of water then how are camels able to go for so long without water? I am going to try and explain this so you don't need a degree in animal physiology to understand.  More or less the camels red blood cells are oval shaped as opposed to most other mammals that have circular red blood cells (including humans). These oval shaped cells allow for the blood to flow easier when the camel is dehydrated.  As well these cells are more stable which allow the camel to consume very large quantities of water at one time.  For instance a camel may drink up to 150 L (40 Gallons) of water at one time.  To put that into perspective, a typical fuel tank on a full sized pick-up truck is around 120 L (30 Gallons).

Camel Fast Fact:  The camel is the only animal to have replaced the wheel where the wheel had already been invented.  This occurred mostly in North Africa and is obviously no longer the case.

Just a reminder to update your bookmarks so you can still read these interesting animal facts.  The new home of Wild Facts is

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Wild Fact #987 - Asleep at the Wheel - Laysan Albatross

Well, I have been working tirelessly on trying to get Wild Facts' new home page up and running.  The page is still in development but if you are bored and would like to check it out then please feel free to do so.  The new site is

I would greatly appreciate any feedback on the new site.  Thanks!

All right, lets get down to business! Today's fact is about the laysan albatross which is a true ocean bird with incredible flying capabilities. This magnificent bird never touches the ground outside of the breeding season (imagine the Aeroplan Miles these guys collect).  The laysan albatross spends little effort while flying so whether it is resting or in mid-flight, its heart rate is roughly the same. From time to time, these flying machines may land on the ocean to feed or catch some shut-eye.  Although, studies have shown that they don't even need to land to catch up on that all important sleep.  That's right, these large sea-birds are capable of sleeping while gliding around the night sky.  For all the pilots out there, please don't try mimicing the laysan albatross! I wouldn't be keeping up with the spirit of this blog if I didn't tell you why the laysan albatross sleeps while flying.  The reasoning is fairly simple, they have evolved to sleep while flying to prevent hungry whales and sharks from devouring them while they rest.

Laysan Albatross Fast Fact: They are able to fly for hours and even days without flapping their wings!

Did you find this post interesting? Did you know the laysan albatross was a sleepy flier? Do you have any follow up questions?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Wild Fact #988 - The Grateful Dead (Hognose Snake)

We have heard of the the expression "playing possum" in relation to the opossums' incredible behaviour of playing dead.  In my opinion this next animal takes it one step further.

The hognose snake has two different techniques for defending against potential predators.  The first will be an aggressive attack similar to that of the cobra.  It will flatten its neck and raise its head off the ground while hissing and making bluff attacks.  If this doesn't work for the hognose snake then they implement "Plan B" (and nothing sounds better than a Plan B).  As I alluded too in my opening line, the hognose snake will play possum, but to the extreme.  If the predator isn't phased by the aggressiveness of the hognose snake then it decides to switch gears by rolling onto its back and playing dead.  Since the hognose snake takes pride in its acting, it will often release a strong musk (that smells similar to a decaying corpse) as well as hang its tongue out of their mouth, which will often have drops of blood on it.  Once the predator is looking away, the snake will resurrect and make its escape.  I would think this would leave the predator pretty confused when it looks back at the supposedly dead snake.

Next time, instead of using the old, boring saying "playing possum", try mixing it up a little and saying "playing hognose".

Did you find this fact interesting?  Did you already know this about hognose snakes? Have any questions that you would like answered? Let me know!

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Wild Fact #989 - A Woman's Dream

Happy Labour Day everyone!  I hope you are all enjoying your long weekend.  Before we get into Wild Fact #899, I wanted to let you know that I am in the process of finding a new home for our Wild Facts blog. The new website will allow for greater advancements and increased flexibility in the future. I will keep you posted on any further developments.

Onto the fact of the day! It will be a quick one today since I am sure you are all tired from the weekend festivities. Seahorses may not be as popular as regular horses, probably because they don't make for very entertaining races, however, they do make for an entertaining Wild Fact. Do you know what is so odd about the mating behaviour of the seahorse? Well, let me tell you! It all starts with an unique courting period which may include changing colours, swimming beside each other holding tails (awww, how sweet!), and dancing.  For the record, anyone who has been lucky enough to see me dance knows that it does not work well for courting! Once the two seahorses decide to mate the female will deposit her mature eggs into the brood pouch on the male seahorse, which is located on the front of his body.  No, that is not a typo, I really meant to say the male seahorse! Once the eggs are deposited, the male seahorse will internally fertilize the eggs and continue to carry them until they emerge as fully developed, miniature seahorses. At this point, I bet all of the women reading this post are envious of the seahorse, while the guys are thanking their lucky stars!

Seahorse Fast Fact:  Seahorses mate for life (that's right, til death do them part).

I hope you enjoyed Labour Day's fact and as usual please don't hesitate to leave a comment.  You can comment on anything you feel like talking about.

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Disney Nature - Earth

I just finished watching the brand new release of "Earth" by Disney.  It was an excellent video and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys seeing animals and their surroundings. The commentary was excellent and the underlying message of climate change was expressed in a subtle but important way.  This is a great video to watch with the family.  It gives a good description of life in the wild.  As well it discusses some animals that have already been touched on in Wild Facts including the elephant and caribou.  It is a great watch!!

The following is taken from the Amazon website and gives a brief description of the video. 
The film almost exclusively emphasizes the behavior of the animal populations that inhabit the Earth, yet carefully omits shots that depict the more gory predatory behavior of species, rendering it family-friendly. It also employs a chronological approach -- beginning in January in the Arctic wilderness, and moving progressively through the four seasons and 12 months comprising a single year, until it hits late December -- contrasting various geographic regions of the Earth as shot in various seasons. Above all else, a cautionary message underscores this footage; as in An Inconvenient Truth, the filmmakers continually remind their audience that despite the grandiloquence present onscreen, all may be lost if humankind is not careful.
 If you are interested in purchasing this timeless tale of our earth then please follow the link below:

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Wild Fact #990 - The Sweet Smell of Pheromones in the Winter!

The kids are back in school, summer is behind us now and the only thing we have to look forward to are the cold, snow and ice (in some parts of the world anyway such as the Yukon Territory).  This is the time we rush out to by our winter boots and coats to prepare for the extreme cold just around the corner; however, we are not the only ones getting ready for the dreary days ahead.  Ladybird beetles (lady bugs) need to find a place to bunker down and hibernate for the winter. Around this time of the year lady bugs all over will start taking flight and heading long distances to find their winter home (kind of like retirees going to Florida). The lady bug will hibernate over winter under sticks and rocks but also prefers the sunny-side of buildings. They will crawl into the cracks, door frames and window panes but sometimes they accidentally find themselves inside the house. If this happens the best thing you can do is ignore them or transport them to a nice cool shelter such as the cracks of the window or door frame.

At this point you are probably thinking that this isn't a very interesting fact. A bug hibernating for the winter is not a new concept so where am I going with this?  The fascinating fact about lady bird beetles can be summed up in one word, "pheromones". This is just a fancy word for a special chemical that can send signals to other individuals  There has been speculation that pheromones are what causes "love at first sight" in humans, but I digress. If a lady bug finds a great spot to overwinter then they will most likely return to that spot over and over again.  They are able to do this by leaving pheromones at the hibernating spot and year after year they can follow their nose right back to that nice, comfy, cool shelter.  This pheromone may also attract dozens of other lady bugs to the same spot so you may end up with a very large number of cute little lady bugs in your home over the winter.

Lady Bug Quick Fact:  Lady bugs born in the summer are orange in colour, however, after they have overwintered once they become the typical red.

Did you find this post interesting? Do you have a lady bug infestation during the winter? Comments?

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Wild Fact #991 - When Nature Calls

Chick-a-dee-dee-dee has to be one of the most famous bird calls in North America (well, at least for me growing up in Northern Ontario). Of course it is the chickadee that makes that distinguished call (the person who named the bird was not very creative). The amazing thing about this simple call is actually the complexity of this call. Yes, I know you are probably thinking that I dipped into a few too many Yukon brewed beers. Nathan, how can a simple call be complex? Well it is simple because it is just a "chick" with a few "dees" thrown in for good measure; however, it is thought to be one of the most sophisticated calls in the animal world.

The normal call of the chickadee has two to three "dees" at the end of the call (such as the one in my opening line). Now if a predator such as a hawk is perched nearby then the call will consist of four or five "dees" at the end. Even more astonishing is the fact that they can tell their predators apart. For example, if a pygmy owl or an American kestrel, which are superior at catching chickadees, is nearby then their call may consist of up to 23 "dees". This informs all of the chickadees in the area of a major threat. So, the next time you are walking through the forest, be sure to count the number of "dees" at the end of the famous chickadee call. If you get good enough at distinguishing the chickadee calls then you may qualify as being bilingual and that will look impressive on a resume.

Just as a note, there are much more complexities within the chickadee call, however, I just wanted to touch on one of the more interesting facts.

Did you find this post interesting? Did you already know this about chickadees? Do you have any stories about chickadees? Feel free to comment as I would love to read what you have to say.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wild Fact #992 - A Death in the Family

They say that an elephant never forgets.  Does this mean that elephants are more intelligent than I am since I forget things all the time? I would hope that this is not the case since I don't know many elephants that have their own blog; however, elephants may be one of the smartest animals aside from humans.  We know chimpanzees and dolphins are intelligent and I would think it is safe to put elephants in that same class.  Elephants have a very large brain and much like humans actually have to learn how to survive unlike most animals which are born with those instincts.

Over the years, elephants have exhibited behaviours closely related with what we have described as grief, compassion, sense of humour, and altruism to name a few.  I would like to focus on the grief aspect since elephants are the only other animal besides humans to have a death ritual.  No, they don't spend $10 000 on a funeral but their ritual is just as impressive.  It has been documented that after an elephant dies, the rest of the family group will gather around the body for two days, only leaving to get food and water.  The young elephants have been known to weep but generally they will stand quietly around the body.  Often the family will try to bury the body with sticks, sand, leaves, etc. On a side note, elephants have been known to bury dead or sleeping humans as well so be sure that you are well rested when in elephant country. I can't say for sure that elephants are exhibiting the same type of feelings that humans have around death but it definitely appears that elephants have the capacity for a variety of emotions.

If you are interested in more on elephants then make sure you pick up this great story on DVD:

Did you find this Wild Fact interesting?  Did you already know about this?  Do you have an idea for future Wild Facts? Let me know in the comment form!

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Monday, August 31, 2009

Wild Fact #993 - Coyotes End Up Badgering Their Prey

Good news folks, today is 2 for 1 Tuesday! That's right, Wild Fact #993 isn't about just one animal but about a partnership between two animals.

**Cue the Entrance Music for Teammate #1 **

Weighing in anywhere between 15 and 46 pounds, known for its speed, agility and persistance . This cunning animal often uses clever products from ACME in order to try and catch the roadrunner. Mother Nature gives you The Coyote!

The Coyotes' partner this evening weighing in between 15 and 20 pounds, known for its fierce demeanour and mad digging skills, please welcome The Badger.

If you combine a quick and agile coyote with a strong digger such as the badger then ground squirrels everywhere had better be on Red Alert. This is exactly what has happened in nature. Coyotes and badgers have been known to form short term partnerships (i.e. less then a few hours) to hunt pesky little ground squirrels (apparently, the one in the famous vacation photo that just went virile managed to escape the grasp of both animals - Click Here For Story). This doesn't give the ground squirrel many options. Now if it runs the coyote will manage to capture it and if it tunnels underground then the badger will step up to the plate. It is usually only a single coyote that will team up with a single badger and this doesn't necessarily always happen. These two may very well go their own way and hunt alone or in some cases may even attack each other. When the badger and coyote hunt together it marks a partnership that can be very effective with benefits to both parties. Not since "Macho Man" Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan has there been a better tag team combination.

If you want to see a short clip on the coyote hunting without the help of the badger then check out this YouTube video:

YouTube Video

Did you find this post interesting? Already know about this Wild Fact? Do you have a suggestion for a future Wild Fact? Comment and let me know!


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Wild Fact #994 - Good Vibrations

The Red-eyed Tree Frog resides in the rain forests of Central America. I believe Telus has made these frogs popular, but what animals haven't Telus made popular (I personally like the jumping goats). These frogs rely heavily on camouflage in order to survive their predators. During the day they will practice their yoga by tucking in their bright orange feet under their belly. As well, they will cover their blue sides with their legs and obviously close their bright red eyes. By remaining motionless they are able to elude any potential predators. But the question I ask is how do their newly laid eggs survive? See the red-eyed tree frog simply lays their eggs from the trees for six days before they hatch. This is almost as easy as stealing candy from a baby for the hungry snakes and wasps that feed on the eggs. As you might have guessed, these babies have a trick up their sleeve. If the eggs are attacked the embryos are able to hatch immediately (up to two days premature) and drop safely into the water below. Granted, this is a pretty impressive feat but how do the young know they are being attacked? Maybe it is a heavy wind or some light rain that is bouncing off the trees. Well, like the Beach Boys said "I'm picking up Good Vibrations" and that is exactly what these frogs do. They are able to feel the vibrations in the egg jelly. By distinguishing how often the vibrations occur and how long they last they are able to tell if it is a legitimate attack. They even react differently to different predators. For example, when a snake attacks they will all try to squirm free; however, if it is an individual wasp then only the neighbouring embryos will hatch and escape. This is a behaviour that has obviously developed over time and appears to be successful since these tiny little frogs are still getting high paying jobs doing ads for major companies.

I don't endorse Telus (or any other company) but if you want to see these tree frogs at work then check out the following YouTube video.

Was this post interesting? Did you already know this? Have a request for future Wild Facts? Let me know!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Wild Fact #995

And You Think Your Job Stinks!

At the request of one of my readers I am going to complete a post on an important insect. As well, this post will make up for the one I missed earlier this week. This may not be the nicest and most politically correct post, actually this might just be my crappiest fact yet. I was asked to dedicate Wild Fact #995 to the Dung Beetle! I am sure everyone knows that dung beetles are capable of rolling manure into large balls and using this for food. But did you know that there are three main categories of dung beetles? Yes, we are aware of the more famous "Rollers" which roll the dung into their brood chambers as a food source for their young; however, there are also the "Tunnellers" which simply bury the dung wherever they find it. Finally, there are the "Dwellers" which don't roll or tunnel, but just enjoy living life to the fullest in animal manure. Eventually, there may be a fourth group of dung beetles but the research is still preliminary. In January 2009, a paper was published which has identified a dung beetle that has given up the smelly day job of feeding off of manure. Instead this type of dung beetle has actually become predatory and now feeds off of millipedes. I am sure there will still be some discussion has to the accuracy of this paper and if you are interested you can find out more here:

Although, this predatory dung beetle is interesting I wanted to give you a bit more information on the "Rollers". This type of dung beetle uses its legs and mouth parts to create their giant ball of manure. The dung beetle can create a ball that is up to 50 times its weight (that is equivalent to a 200 lb person rolling a 10 000 lb ball). The male and female dung beetle will roll the ball in a straight line despite any obstacles that may be in their way (so make sure you get out of the way or else you may end up covered in manure). Along their journey they have to be aware of pirates as other dung beetles in the area may try to steal their ball of dung. If they manage to get by the "dung muggers" then they will find a soft spot in the ground and bury their prized possession. Once the dung ball is secure in the brooding chamber the two beetles will celebrate their victory by mating. Although, the fun doesn't last for long as the two beetles now have to prepare their brooding ball so the female can lay her eggs. This will provide a valuable source of nutrients to the larvae of the dung beetle. The larvae will grow up feeding off of this dung ball until they become adults and start the process on their own. Some adult dung beetles will stay with their brooding ball to protect their young as they grow, while others move on.

I know this beetle has been the butt of many jokes over the years but their service to humankind is valuable. Without these dung beetles the earth would be overflowing with manure so next time you are on a farm, make sure you thank these little recyclers for helping us out.

If you are interested in watching some interesting crap then check out this YouTube video on the dung beetle:

Did you find this post interesting? Any requests for future Wild Facts? Let me know.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Wild Fact #996 - The Prey Always Gets Stuck with the Bill

Since University, I have always been intrigued by the Platypus. The unique appearance and being one of the few venomous mammals is interesting enough to make my 1000 Wild Facts list, however, this post will be about how the platypus detects their prey.

The platypus is a semi-aquatic mammal that lives in Eastern Australia. It is the only mammal that lays eggs instead of giving birth to live young and it is an important part of much research on evolution (due to the unique characteristics). The platypus feeds by swimming in streams and rivers and digging in the stream bed with it's bill looking for insects, crayfish, tadpoles, worms, small fish, etc. Although it is thought that the platypus has excellent eye-sight and can hear very well it does not use these senses to feed. In fact, the platypus will close its eyes, ears and nose as it dives in the rivers. So how do they locate their prey? Great question! The platypus will use it's duck-like bill to detect electric fields generated by contacting muscles of moving prey. This electrolocation method is unique and allows the platypus to detect the distance and direction of their prey. The platypus is the only mammal capable of using electrolocation. Other animals that have electro-receptors include sharks, catfish, sturgeon and lamprey.

For more information on the platypus, I suggest picking up the following book:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wild Fact #997 - These Hooves are Made for Walking

Well, I just got back in from three days of field work (which is why I missed Wednesday's interesting fact.... I will make it up, I promise). While I was ATVing through the mountains of the Yukon I had the opportunity to come across a Caribou. This got me thinking that I should post a fact about Caribou, so Wild Fact #997 will be for the Caribou on the mountain top! As a side note and to clear up any confusion, Caribou and Reindeer are the same species (Rangifer tarandus), however, there are several different subspecies, which cause them to look and behave differently. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Santa's Reindeer are of the subspecies "saintnicolas magicalus". I have had this argument with co-workers in the past that Reindeer and Caribou are two separate species so I figured I would clear this up for anyone else.

Onto Wild Fact #997! Did you know that Caribou (Reindeer) hooves will adapt to the season? That's right, in the summer the footpads on their hooves will be soft and spongy to provide some additional traction on the moist, soft tundra landscape. Once winter rolls around, the pads on their hooves will shrink causing the actual hard rim of the hoof to be exposed. This portion of the hoof is ideal for cutting through the ice preventing them from slipping. As well, Caribou will use this exposed rim to dig through the snow in order to reach their favourite food, Reindeer Lichen.

Again, this is just another example of how animals adapt to their environment in order to survive.

For more information on Santa's Reindeer - Check out the Alaska Department of Fish and Game at

Monday, August 24, 2009

Wild Fact #998 - Deep Sea Attraction

Okay, so I was going to write about the interesting adaptation of Angler Fish using fluorescent light (caused by bacteria) to attract it's prey; however, I figure everyone has seen "Finding Nemo" and knows about the anglerfishes feeding habits. What you may not know is how these fish mate. The anglerfish that get all the starring roles in kid's films are females, as only they have the luminescent bait that attracts their prey. Males have no need for this type of fishing gear since they are much smaller than the ladies. The males are a parasitic fish that depends solely on the females to survive. Once the male matures he will seek out a companion and will bite her with his small hooked teeth (no, not in a kinky way). Once he bites her an enzyme is released that breaks down his mouth and her skin causing the two fish to fuse together (and you thought a wedding ring was permanent). Eventually, the blood vessels of the two fish join and the majority of the males organs disappear, with the exception of the testes. Basically, the only purpose the male anglerfish serves is to provide sperm to the female as she matures. At any one time, the female anglerfish may have up to six male fish attached to her. My guess as to the reasoning for this bizarre mating behaviour has a lot to do with the environment that anglerfish reside in. The dark, cold, deep and vast depths of the ocean are not a hospitable place and finding suitable mates may be difficult. By employing this mating method the females are almost guaranteed to have a suitable mate on hand when it comes time to reproduce thus keeping the population healthy.

I bet this post has given you a whole new opinion of the term "Free-loader"!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Wild Fact #999 - How do Giraffes Communicate?

For centuries it was thought that giraffes were mostly silent except with the odd hiss or grunt, however, recent science has shown that giraffes are able to communicate over very long distances using "infrasound". This is a very low frequency that can not be heard by the human ear, however, it is able to travel up to hundreds of miles away from the source. Giraffes are considered to be social animals with a very loose structured herd. This implies that other members of the herd are scattered over the vast landscape (i.e. African Savanna). In order to be able to communicate with other members of the herd, giraffes make a very low drum beat sound which can be heard miles away. This communication is necessary for mating (how else can they use cheesy pick up lines?) as well as a defense mechanism. Giraffes, however, are not the only animals that drum to their own infrasound beat. Other animals that use this type of sound include whales, elephants, hippo's, rhino's and even alligators.

If you are looking for more information on Giraffes then please check out:

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Beginning of Wild Facts

Hi Everyone!

Well, this will officially be my first blog and the launching of a project of mine. My goal is to research 1000 different and interesting wildlife facts. I will be presenting one every week-day. Even though it is a weekend, I figure I will present my very first interesting factoid today, but first lets give all of you a little bit of information about me. My name is Nathan and I have a Bachelor of Science degree with a specialization in Wildlife and Habitat Ecology. I currently work as a Senior Habitat Biologist for the Canadian Government. I wanted to start this blog since I have always been intrigued by the different behaviours of various species of wildlife. I figure this project will allow me the opportunity to explore this passion of mine and perhaps educate some people along the way. I hope everyone is able to appreciate the evolutionary advances of a variety of animal species that not only help them survive but flourish. All right, enough of the formal introduction, lets get onto the interesting stuff.

Wild Fact # 1000

Ants - Formic Acid
Throughout my studies I have always enjoyed learning about the some of the smaller animals in the world that people may find disgusting. Of course, I am talking about none other than insects. So I shall start the blog with an interesting fact about Ants! Numerous species of ants are able to produce a chemical called formic acid (often used as a preservative) for a variety of purposes. Research has shown that they will mostly use this chemical to defend against predators by spraying it from specialized glands. Ants have also been known to utilize this specialized secretion in capturing their prey. All they need to do is make a small cut on its food and spray the formic acid rendering its prey defenseless. Ants may also use this secretion to help mimic the fabled Hansel and Gretel. Ever wonder how an ant can travel so far from home and find it's way back?? Well, part of that answer lies within this special secretion. Much like leaving breadcrumbs they follow the trail of formic acid back to their ant hill and they don't need to worry about birds eating their "breadcrumbs". If you are interested in reading another interesting paper on the ant's use of formic acid then check out this link:

Well, there is Wild Fact #1000 and I am sure they will only get more bizarre and intriguing as I conduct more research.

I hope you enjoyed the first post and make sure to check back for Monday's Wild Fact.