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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