You Will be Intrigued by Opossums

Pets, Wildlife
black brown and white animal

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Isn’t this little guy pictured above absolutely adorable? I think so. Some might not.

Opossums aren’t the most loved critters on planet earth, and some people see them as vermin. Take a minute to travel beyond all the stereotypes about opossums and let’s look a little deeper into their short lives.

Check out these ten intriguing facts about the opossum:

1 – Opossums don’t live very long. 

Unfortunately, most opossums only live around 1-2 years at the most. That means when you pass opossums on the side of the road, stop to hang out for a minute. Their little lives are short, and they could use all the friends and fun offered to them. Take a rest break from driving to observe this odd critter.

2 – When it comes to food, opossums aren’t picky at all.

These cat-sized creatures can eat anything from trash to another opossum that has perished. Plants, tiny mammals, human waste – all on the opossum’s menu. Finding food isn’t typically a problem for these little guys.

3 – You could probably outrun a opossum. 

This creature does not have speed on its side. This lack of quickness is one reason why opossums often resort to “playing dead” when they feel threatened. If you think you’re a slow runner, race a opossum. It might lift your spirits.

people doing marathon

Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

4 – They might be slow, but opossums are actually awesome swimmers.

Opossums can compensate for their slow running skills with “playing dead” and…swimming. Pretty cool, huh?

person swimming on body of water

Photo by ajay bhargav GUDURU on Pexels.com

5 – Not only are they good swimmers, but opossums can also climb.

The slow running isn’t sounding like much of a hindrance now, is it? Opossums survive in other ways than out-running their predators. Climbing isn’t their first option of evading danger, but if necessary, they do possess the skills to climb and escape.

6 – Opossums move their homes often.

Using dens already created by other animals – and other safe, dark places – opossums get cozy, stay awhile, and then move on to another den. This helps them deter nearby danger and predators.

7 – In the beginning of the 20th century, opossums were common pets.

Though some people do keep opossums as pets these days, it’s not very common. It’s odd to imagine that opossums were once in high demand as furry companions.

8 – Opossums are not rodents, they are marsupials. 

Though opossums might have a rat-like appearance and rodent-like behavior, they’re not rodents at all. They are marsupials.

Marsupials are mammals that grow and strengthen their babies in an external  (yet, air tight when necessary) pouch (instead of the placenta, like humans and most other mammals.)

It’s easier to picture when hearing this is the same group that kangaroos belong to – external pouches to house their young.

9 – Opossums might growl and hiss when they feel threatened. 

More often than not, these critters are silent and use other methods of defense. But don’t be surprised if you startle a opossum and see it bare its little teeth while hissing at you.

10 – Opossums are…germaphobes.

Okay, maybe not exactly. However, like cats, opossums groom themselves constantly throughout their waking hours. In fact, they’re amazing at taking care of ticks as well. So last time you went for a walk in the woods and didn’t feel a tick piercing your skin, you might want to thank a opossum.

Next time you see a little opossum, say, “Thanks for keeping that tick away from me.” Seriously – show some gratitude.


Thank you so much for reading this post about an amazing, misunderstood critter. Hopefully opossums will now hold a special place in your heart.

What humans can learn from the opossum: Make up for weak areas by focusing on your strengths.

Have a great day!

Carly Twelve

References: 

Kirchner, J. (2017, June 13). Opossums: Unsung Heroes in the Fight against Ticks and Lyme disease. Retrieved from http://blog.nwf.org/2017/06/opossums-unsung-heroes-in-the-fight-against-ticks-and-lyme-disease/

Living with Wildlife: Opossums. Retrieved from https://wdfw.wa.gov/living/opossums.html

Virginia Opossum (Didelphis Virginian). https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/oposum/

 

Ten Wondrous Facts about Armadillos

Wildlife

In southern states of the U.S. and all the way down into South America, armadillos of different shapes and sizes roam the lands. Here are ten awesome facts about these peculiar creatures:

File:Nine-banded Armadillo.jpg

1. Armadillos live and love to dig.

In fact, their digging is what keeps them alive. Whether it’s digging burrows or scouring the ground out for insect meals, this is what they’re known for.

Image result for armadillo burrow

2. The digging habit of armadillos is closely related to their location on the map.

In southern areas, the soil is soft enough for these creatures to dig as much as their little claws desire. The harder the soil, the more difficult it is to do their work. This is why an armadillo won’t be spotted in the northern states where the soil is cold and callous.

Armadillo Close-up

Aside from needing soft soil, armadillos just aren’t built for cold weather. With little stores of fat in their anatomy, they’re often forced to cuddle up in burrows when cold weather hits their habitats.

3. There are 20 different varieties of the armadillo and only one, the nine banded armadillo, can be found in the U.S.


Image result for armadillo

So if you want to see the diverse sizes and colors of the armadillo species, you’ll have to venture down to the warm climates of South America.

4. The nine banded armadillo is the state mammal of Texas.


Image result for texas

The scientific name for this specific variety of the armadillo is Dasypus novemcinctus. Though Texas has claimed this animal as Her official state mammal, nine banded armadillos can also be found in the U.S states of Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Kansas.

5. Armadillos found in South America can be much larger than those known in the U.S. They can even grow up to five feet long and 120 pounds. 

Image result for giant armadillo

On the other end of the spectrum, they can be as small as five inches and weigh 3 ounces.

6. The word “armadillo” comes from the Spanish language and means, “Little armored one.”

The term “nine banded” is in reference to the number of bands on the shell of the armadillos found in the southern U.S.

The scientific name for armored mammals is xenarthra cingulata.Image result for ant eater clip art

Image result for armor clipart

Mammal + Armor = Armadillo (Xenarthra cingulata)

7. The rough and tough looking shells on the backs of armadillos are there for protection.

Everything serves a purpose, right? Though the shells may look odd to humans, these creatures depend on their firm coating to guard against predators. They are the only mammals to sport these shells of armor.

Image result for armadillo shell

Unfortunately, their soft bellies are prone to attack from predators, but the armadillos will sometimes sink down into the dirt when they are under attack to protect the soft side and let their enemies face the rigid shells.

8. A diet of an armadillo primarily includes insects, but they also eat plants and small vertebrates (this could include anything from a tiny fish or lizard up to a little mouse).

Image result for insects

9. Armadillos have terrible eyesight, but make up for this with their amazing sense of smell.

When digging down in the dirt, they use their long snouts to sniff out their dinner.

Image result for armadillo snout

With such poor eyesight, it’s pretty easy to sneak up on an armadillo, especially one who is hard at work digging out a new burrow. A close encounter with one of these creatures can be common, but one should always respect the territory and be careful not to spook the armadillo.

10. Armadillos are descendants of a prehistoric creature called the “glyptodon.”

Apparently, these big guys were around the size of a small car.

Image result for glyptodon

Life advice from the armadillo: When facing stressful times, focus on your strengths.

Though they look a little odd and might destroy your yard from time to time, armadillos are awesome creatures that deserve to live on this planet just as much as any other unique species of earth.

Thank you very much for reading this post. My armadillo buddies and I are eternally grateful. ^_^

Carly Twelve

Image result for three armadillos

References

“Nine-Banded Armadillo (Dasypus Novemcinctus).” Texas Parks and Wildlife, https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/dillo/.

“Armadillos.” National Geographic, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/group/armadillos/

“Armadillo (Xenarthra cingulata).” San Diego Zoo Animals and Plants, http://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/armadillo

You Will Love the Okapi

Wildlife

Perhaps in a zoo or public library you’ve stumbled upon an image of this peculiar creature. The okapi is not vastly well known, even to modern biology, because of the secretive behavior of the animal. Though we may not know everything about this beautiful mammal, here are ten interesting facts that science has discovered:

1 – Okapis are related to giraffes. In fact, they’re the only living relative to the giraffe species.

white and brown giraffe

Photo by Gabriella Herlaar on Pexels.com

Upon further observation of the head of the okapi and the giraffe, similarities between the two species can be noted in the shape of the head and face, the horns on the males, and the ears.

2 – The Ituri Forest is the natural home of the Okapi species. This is a tropical rain forest in central Africa.

This forest also houses the Okapi Wildlife Preserve, dedicated to restoring the  population of the endangered okapis. (https://www.okapiconservation.org/the-okapi/)

3 – The scientific name for Okapis is Okapia Johnstoni. Translated, this means: “forest giraffe.”

giraffe

Photo by Frans Van Heerden on Pexels.com

Take a giraffe from the Savannah and throw it into a lush, green rainforest, paint it brown and remove a few feet of height – and the result will be a brand new okapi.

To break it down a little more:

/Order: Artiodactyla/
/Family: Giraffidae/
/Genus and Species: Okapia johnstoni/

4 – Okapis like to live and travel alone.

Quiet and solitary, okapis do not travel in pairs or herds unless a mother is nursing an okapi calf. Other than this one circumstance, these creatures like to be isolated, even from other okapis. They mark their territory and let others know to stay away.

5 – The white and brown stripes have a purpose – camouflage in the rain forest.

The stripes on their lower half and the dark brown coat above help to keep the okapi hidden in the dense forests they are native to.

6 – Okapis can live up to 20-30 years. 

And every single one of those years an okapi spends on this earth is precious. Humans are lucky to be able to study and learn about these amazing animals.

7 – These animals are difficult to locate. 

Because of their sensitive hearing abilities and their camouflaged coats in the rainforest, okapis are not easy creatures to track down. They are very good at hiding and evading human detection.

close up of a sign against white background

Photo by Tayeb MEZAHDIA on Pexels.com

This might not be great for researchers, but it’s a huge help in keeping the okapis protected as they keep themselves off the radar.

8 – Okapis’ coats are oily. 

With an oily coat, water slides off instead of being absorbed. This is helpful in a wet, humid environment where the okapi species lives.

macro shot photography of water drops

Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com

9 – Leopards are the primary predator of the okapi. 

animal big big cat blur

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The camouflage brown and striped coats and powerful hearing not only protect okapis against humans, but also defend against natural predators as well. The Ituri Rainforest may be beautiful, but it’s not lacking in the area of dangerous predators.

10 – Okapis are Herbivores. 

cascade creek environment fern

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This diet includes leaves, twigs, and other vegetation. No meat.


The okapi still leaves us with unanswered questions, but the species is no longer a complete mystery. This beautiful creature has opened many eyes to the wondrous diversity this earth provides.

What humans learn from the Okapi – be who you are, with stripes, big ears, and all else unique to you. Don’t feel you have to fit in with the rest of the world.

When an opportunity arises, check out the nearest zoo to get a glimpse of an okapi. You will not be disappointed.

 

Thank you for reading this post.

Hope the rest of your day is great!

Carly Twelve

 

References:

Christiansen, P. (2006). The Encyclopedia of Animals. (pp. 91). London, United Kingdom. International Masters Publishers AB.

Bradford, A. (2016, September 23) Okapi: Facts About the Forest Giraffe. Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/56233-okapi-facts.html

Okapi. Retrieved from https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/okapi

The Okapi: A Most Curious Animal, A Cultural Symbol, a Species on the Brink. https://www.okapiconservation.org/the-okapi/

 

This Will Make You Want a Pet

Pets, Wildlife

Lifetime pet owners often preach about the happiness and comfort their pets bring them. Whether the pets are causing laughter with their odd, silly behavior or cuddling beside the owner when he/she is not feeling well, many pet owners truly believe their pets have positive effects on their health. However, for those who have never owned a cat, dog, hamster, bird, or any other type of animal, these statements can sound irrational and heavily biased.

Pet Silhouette Icons

Image Source

There is good news for those who love their animal companions – research shows that pets can, in fact, help to improve the overall health of their human caretakers.

Image Source Image Source Image Source

Physical Health

Heart Disease is the number one killer of U.S. adults, for both men and women of all different ethnicities.

Having high blood pressure (hypertension) is one of the major factors that can lead a person straight to chronic heart disease. Some studies have shown that owning a pet can cause a decrease in blood pressure and reduce the chances of heart related mortality.

Image Source

Interactions with pets can also lower cholesterol and reduce the risk cardiovascular disease overall.

So in addition to having a furry buddy around to keep you company, you could potentially be lowering your blood pressure and reducing your risk for heart disease while simply hanging out with your pet.

Mental Health

Depression and Anxiety are two mental disparities that affect millions of people in the United States alone. Whether we are burdened by bad biology, constant daily stressors, or major life tragedies, these issues are extremely debilitating and can lead to added physical and mental health issues. Stress itself leads to high blood pressure, heart disease, and an overall reduction in quality of life.

Image result for mental health

Image Source

A pet can potentially be a source of happiness and joy, and act as a stress reducer in a person’s life. There have been studies that show that pet owners are generally more happy and feel safer than non-pet owners. They can also be a nice and fun distraction from everyday routine life. Most people live day to day in a work-eat-sleep (no fun) pattern. Having a pet around can bring gratification, connection, and put a huge smile on a person’s face.

Taking the focus off of ourselves to focus on the care and interests of a pet is also a great way to escape the madness inside our own minds and pay attention to external activities.

Hamster Pet Animal Small Cute Fur Eyes Ham

Image Source

Loneliness, a colossal component that can worsen the effects of anxiety and depression, can be alleviated by having a pet around. The companionship with and attachment to the pet can be almost as strong as the bond of a human relationship.

Friends Cat Dog Together Pet Cute Feline L

Image Source

Improvements in Behavior

A sedentary lifestyle can lead to several health issues including obesity, diabetes, heart problems, high cholesterol, and many other complications. Owning a pet can be a major motivator to get out and exercise. Whether it’s direct – for example, walking a dog on a leash every morning, or indirect – wanting to improve one’s own physical condition in order to be able to better care for the animal, a little furry friend might be just what a person needs to get out of the house and start living a more active lifestyle.

Dog Walking

Image Source

Secondhand smoke can not only harm other people, but also animals that are often around the toxins. Owning an animal can provide the necessary motivation to put down the cigarettes for good and to ban them from the home altogether.

burning, cigarette, coin

Image Source

Pets come with responsibility, but the rewards can far outweigh the tasks of taking good care of a furry friend. If you want to lower your chances of heart disease, lighten your mood, and adopt healthy behaviors, a new pet might be exactly what you need.

Victory Cat by MidnightFrog

Image Source

 

Thanks for reading. My pets and I love you. ^_^

Carly Twelve

 

References

Hodgson, K., Barton, L., Darling, M., Antao, V., Kim, F.A., and Monavvari, A. (2015). Pets’ Impact on Your Patients’ Health: Leveraging Benefits and Mitigating Risk. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 28 (4), 526-534. Retrieved from http://jabfm.org/content/28/4/526.full.pdf+html?sid=ed70df62-a624-40af-98fb-0ef7537c4289

Jacobs Bao, K. and Schreer, G. (2016) Pets and Happiness: Examining the Association  Between Pet Ownership and Wellbeing, Anthrzoös, 29:2, 283-296, DOI: 10.1080/08927936.2016.1152721 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08927936.2016.1152721>  

 

Ten Enlightening Facts about the Atlantic Horseshoe Crab

Wildlife

The ocean provides the world with alluring and interesting creatures of all shapes, sizes, and classifications. The Atlantic Horseshoe Crab is one of these odd and fascinating species found in and near coastal waters. Here are 10 facts about this unique arthropod of the sea:

Image Source

1 – The scientific name is Limulus Polyphemus and is part of the arthropod classification. The horseshoe crab is not considered a crustacean and actually has more in common with scorpions and spiders (arachnids) than other “crab” species.

Image result for horseshoe crab

Image Source

2 – The term, “horseshoe” comes from the way the unique shells resemble a horseshoe. Here is a side by side comparison – what do you think? What would you have named this creature if you had stumbled upon it while walking along the shoreline?

Image Source   Image Source

3 – The horseshoe crab is a 200 million year old (at least) species and is considered a living fossil. Each individual can live up to 20 years.

Fossil_horseshoe_crab_dead_in_its_tracks

Image Source

4 – Horseshoe crabs mature and are ready to reproduce around age 10. They lay and bury their eggs in the sand near the shoreline. The fertilization period of the eggs varies with climate and location.

pair, mating, horseshoe, crabs, limus polyphemus

Image Source

5 – Variations of the Atlantic, or American, Horseshoe Crab can be found all along the East Coast of the United States stretching from Maine down to the Gulf of Mexico. Despite the differences among the shell colors, sizes, etc. all of them retain the Limulus Polyphemus classification.

US_map-East_Coast

Image Source

6 – The exoskeletons of the horseshoe crabs are shed over and over again. As the creature reaches the end of its sexual peak, the shells decrease in size over time. An older horseshoe crab will be smaller and produce less slime than those that are younger.Image result for horseshoe crab exoskeleton

Image Source

7 – Natural predators of the horseshoe crab and its eggs include sea turtles and shorebirds. Sea turtles are currently endangered, enhancing the importance of the horseshoe crab as a food source.

Image Source Image Source

8 – Because of the unique properties of its blue blood, the blood of the horseshoe crab is used in biomedical science, including the FDA, to test medicines and vaccinations.

Image result for blue blood
Image Source 

9 – Unfortunately, due to the overharvesting of horseshoe crabs for use as bait and testing in the biomedical field, the population has decreased through the years. This has also lead to a negative impact on the species’ that use this creature as a food source.

Horseshoe Crab, Ocean, Sea, Crab, Beach, Animal

Image Source

10 – Other issues causing a decline in this population are climate change, erosion of the ocean floor, human development along coastal regions, and air pollution.

Horseshoe crabs on beach - splash

Image Source

Conservation teams are working to convince companies to cut back on mass harvesting. Synthetic alternatives to the unique properties of horseshoe crab blood are being tested in order to preserve this species, and to prevent any further decline. With time, hopefully we will be able to see the population turnaround and begin growing.

tagged horseshoe crab

Image Source

Life advice from the Atlantic Horseshoe crab: If you take the time to get to know someone, you just might discover that deep down, the two of you are more alike than you would originally have thought.

This is an admirable creature of the sea sure to turn a head or two when it crosses paths with humans. It has been around a long time and hopefully will continue to grace the ecosystem with its presence for the rest of the Earth’s existence.

Thanks for reading this post. ^_^

Carly Twelve

Crab, Horseshoe, Male, Macro, Sand, Beach, Wildlife

Image Source

References

Bakker, A.K., Dutton, J., Sclafani, M., Santangelo, N. (2016, April 27) Environmental exposure of Atlantic horseshoe crab (Limulus Polyphemus) early life stages to essential trace elements. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Aaron_Bakker/publication/310213356_Environmental_exposure_of_Atlantic_horseshoe_crab_Limulus_polyphemus_early_life_stages_to_essential_trace_elements/links/59f25410aca272cdc7d018be/Environmental-exposure-of-Atlantic-horseshoe-crab-Limulus-polyphemus-early-life-stages-to-essential-trace-elements.pdf

Carter, S.C., Carmichael, R.H., Estes, M.G. Jr., and McBarnes, M. (2016, February) American Horseshoe Crab (Limulus Polyphemus): Population Ecology Within the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Retrieved from http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2016AGUOSME14D0645C

Krisfalusi-Gannon, J., Ali, W., Dellinger, K., Robertson, L., Brady, T.E., Goddard, M.K.M., Tinker-Kulberg, R., Kepley, C.L., and Dellinger, A.L. (2018, June 05) The Role of Horseshoe Crabs in the Biomedical Industry and Recent Trends Impacting Species Sustainability. Retrieved from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmars.2018.00185/full?&utm_source=Email_to_authors_&utm_medium=Email&utm_content=T1_11.5e1_author&utm_campaign=Email_publication&field=&journalName=Frontiers_in_Marine_Science&id=328233

Maloney, T., Phelan, R., and Simmons, N. (2018, May 10) Saving the horseshoe crab: A synthetic alternative to horseshoe crab blood for endotoxin detection. Retrieved from https://peerj.com/preprints/26922.pdf

Smith, D.R., Brockmann, H., Beekey, M.A. et al. Rev Fish Biol Fisheries (2017) 27: 135. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11160-016-9461-y

How it Helps Humans to Learn about Animals

Wildlife

Each animal in nature is a textbook of information all in itself. There’s much to be learned from these creatures if we take the time to slow down and observe. Most of us see small birds and bugs several times throughout the day and never have a passing thought about them. We go to the zoo and watch dozens of unique species and yet fail to learn anything for ourselves.

I’m pretty sure I sound absolutely ridiculous to most people right now. And I personally love animals, so of course I’m biased. But there are valuable lessons to be learned from the species other than humans, and taking the time to learn can help us in other ways than knowledge alone.

animals birds dawn giraffe

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Here I’m going to list the reasons why learning about amazing animals will help you in return for your time and attention.

1 – Learning about different animals will force you to slow down for a moment. 

Everything in this world is on a time table. We’re forced to slave over the clock and attempt to jam as much work and errands into one day as possible. Though the world works this way, it’s not very healthy for the human mind. We’re stressed and overworked, always worried about money, and rarely take breaks for ourselves.

photo of person holding alarm clock

Photo by Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush on Pexels.com

Commit yourself to spending 5-10 minutes learning a little bit about the animals of the earth each week. This time spend learning will distract you and force you to sit down for a breather. We could all use a little break, and why not spend that break reading something interesting?

2 – As you read about species all over the planet, you will start to see the bigger picture.

With work, school, kids, etc., it’s easy to drift into a routine of the daily modern life. When we do this, we forget that a universe outside of our internal daily world even exists. Learning about unique creatures all over the planet will help you leave the stressful small world inside your home or office and see that the earth is a huge place full of diversity.

sky earth galaxy universe

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

See the world for all it is instead of constantly centering in on your own life. This will make simple stressors seem less significant.

3 – You will grow connected with the animals as you learn about them. 

As humans, we crave connection. We are social beings by nature and need to bond with others to feel fulfilled deep down. This connection doesn’t always have to be with other humans. In fact, you can create bonds with any living soul whether it’s a little frog in your backyard or a massive lion in a conservation center. Take the time to learn, observe, and grow a connection with an animal of any kind and you will feel warmth in your heart.

animal beautiful blonde daylight

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

4 – By observation and research, we can actually learn from the animals.

The introduction of this post mentions this, but I’d like to expand on my perspective more. My goal is to do separate posts along this journey for each species and what humans can learn from each of them, so I will keep this part general and less specific.

Animals are instinctively wise creatures in many areas where humans are not. They raise their young, survive in harsh conditions, and can live independently from human society by nature. They are born with more of this innate knowledge unlike humans who need to be taught most everything in life.

The habits of animals have the potential to teach us more about our own lives – whether literally or  metaphorically. But we must first pay attention and take the time to learn and see these creatures in a different light.

Animals are not lesser beings than humans, they are only different beings. And we can all learn from those different than ourselves.

blue and green peacock

Photo by NAUSHIL ANSARI on Pexels.com

5 – Learning new things will open your mind.

Having a routine life isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, humans crave the act of having a set routine to follow each day. However, this can have negative consequences when we begin to only see the aspects of our daily habits.

Learning the diversity that the world holds will force you out of your daily comfort zone and allow you to see more of the planet around you. You will be able to expand your knowledge discover new things about the world you may not have otherwise known without reading a little bit about a unique critter.

eye iris anatomy biology

Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

I truly believe there’s much to be learned from the Animal Kingdom on this earth, and cracking the book open on creatures is good for human wellness as well.

animal grazing on ground

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

Thank you for reading this post. I hope you join me in my madness of learning about every species on earth. Have a good day!

Carly Twelve

adult and cub tiger on snowfield near bare trees

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com