Back to Basics- Sleep

Back to Basics- Sleep

We all need our rest. Some of us are active during the day and some of us are active during the night. When an animal is active all depends on their lifestyle. Not all animals rest much and some rest many hours. We are going to learn some terms for all of these adaptations!


Nocturnal: being active at night. Animals that are nocturnal are primarily active during the evening and night and sleep during the day. Animals have many reasons to be nocturnal; it helps protect them from predators, their prey may be nocturnal too and it helps them avoid the heat of the day.

Aye-ayes are nocturnal animals. They forage for bugs in the trees at night.

aye aye


Diurnal: being active during the day. Many animals are active during the day, including many reptiles who bask in the sun for warmth and energy.

Meerkats spend their days looking for grubs and sleep in their burrows at night.




Crepuscular: an animal is active during twilight- dawn or dusk. Many animals are most active during the dawn and dusk, like lions. These times are great to avoid the heat of the day. Also it’s a good time for animals who often are prey to hide in the darker light.

Rabbits are most active at dawn and dusk.



Some fun sleep facts:

  • Elephants only sleep around 3-4 hours a night. And yes we sleep standing up and so do horses!
  • Brown bats sleep around 20 hours.
  • Giraffes sleep only around 2 hours a day.
  • Not all animals must rest in one large chunk. They can catch little naps here and there.
  • Bats do sleep upside down.
  • Dolphins and some whales are conscious breathers- they must think about breathing. When they rest/sleep they only rest half of their brain at one time so the other half can help them breath!
  • Birds who spend most of their life soaring in the air, take power naps in short intervals!
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Back to Basics- Symbiosis

Back to Basics- Symbiosis

Symbiosis is a big word! Edmond thought he would teach you how to pronounce it before we explained more about it.

Symbiosis: interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both.

    -Mutualism: symbiosis that is beneficial to both organisms involved. (Ex- anemones and clownfish)


     -Commensalism: a relationship between individuals of two species in which one species obtains food or other benefits from the other without either harming or benefiting the latter. (Ex- yellow tangs and sea turtle)


      -Parasitism: relationship in which one organism (the parasite) benefits and the other (the host) is generally harmed. Parasites derive nutrition from their host and may also gain other benefits such as shelter and a habitat in which to grow and reproduce. (Ex- barnacles)



Now you know all about symbiosis, including how to pronounce it!

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Back to Basics- Adaptations

Back to Basics- Adaptations

We’re talking about adaptations today! All animals have adaptations to survive in their environment.

Adaptations are mutations or genetic changes that help the organism survive.

Adaptations can be physical, like a giraffe’s neck has grown longer to reach the leaves no other animal can.


Adaptations can be behavioral. Simang’s mate for life and each pair have their own song they sing to find their mate while they are foraging for food in the trees.


Exaptations are adaptations that developed for one reason and then was used for another. It is believed that dinosaurs developed feathers to keep themselves warm. Those feathers were later used to help their ancestors fly.


Vestigial adaptations are adaptations that are still remain but are useless. Whales still have leg bones on their skeleton. Those won’t help now :)!


Coadaptation is when species adapt together. Certain plants have adapted to appeal to hummingbirds. Those hummingbirds have adapted long beaks to reach that pollen. These adaptations help both organisms, the hummingbird gets food and it helps pollinate those plants!

Adaptations can be simple or crazy! All of our adaptations make us great! What is your favorite animal adaptation?



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Back to Basics- Classifications

Back to Basics- Classifications

We are back! Sorry for the delay in posts- we had some issues with the Irma. The University is in Atlanta. And then we headed on a short vacation to see our friend TourGuide Ted- the touring bear!

Today we are talking about classification! How do we classify animals? Well we are going to tell you! Let’s start out from top to bottom with classification! Animal classification starts with the Kingdom- which includes all animals on earth! In order to explain classification we are going to break down how Edmond is classified!




Kingdom – includes all animals! Edmond is an animal!

Phylum- includes more than one class of animals. Chordata is the phylum for animals with a back bone or vertebrate. Edmond definitely has a backbone. 

Class- includes all the animals that go together- such as mammals, birds, insects, etc… Edmond is a mammal.

Order-  included more than one class of animals. Edmond belongs to the perissodactyla order- which means odd toed ungulate. Other odd toed ungulates include tapirs and rhinos. These animals have one large middle toe or just symmetrical toe- like Edmond’s hoof!

Family– is often named after one of its common members. Edmond belongs to the horse family, which includes zebras and donkeys.

Genus– ranks below family, but includes one or more species. Edmond’s genus is Equus. There are seven species in this genus.

Species– a group of animals that have common characteristics and can usually mate with each other. Edmond is a domestic horse (quarter horse). The other species in the Equus genus include; three species of asses, and three species of zebra.


Classification of animals can get very complicated. It is most often based on the animal’s anatomy. There are some animals that even have their classification changed as scientists learn more about them. Take the giant panda- they were once classified with raccoons and the red panda, but scientists realized that giant pandas are carnivores and belong to the bear family. Pretty crazy right?

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Back to Basics- Producers/Consumers

Back to Basics- Producers/Consumers

We learned all the vocabulary for what animals are called by what they eat! Today we are talking a bit more about the food web with producers and consumers!


Plants/Producers: Plants produce their own food. They convert energy from the sun, carbon dioxide and water from the soil to make glucose/sugar. This is called photosynthesis.

Animals/Consumers: Animals get their energy/food from other sources since they can not produce it themselves. They consumer either plants, other animals or both to live.

Consumers are broken down in to three categories:

Primary: animals that are herbivores.

Secondary: animals that are omnivores and carnivores.

Tertiary: animals are often called apex predators. They are at the top of the of the food chain. They are either carnivores or omnivores.

Fungus/Bacteria/Decomposers: Decomposers break down decaying organic (plant/animal) material and return it to the soil! Some insects do this also.


As you can begin to imagine, the food web is a delicate balance! If you remove one animal/plant from a the ecosystem then you can put the whole system out of whack and endanger certain animals. If a apex predator disappears, then a primary consumer can overpopulate and their resources can reach capacity!

sea otter

At one time the southern sea otter was hunted to very low numbers. These carnivores eat urchins and keep their populations in check. The urchins eat kelp. When there are no sea otters to eat the urchins, the urchins begin to eat the kelp forest at alarming rates. Without the kelp forest, many other fish and invertebrates would lose their habitat. As the otters populations have grown after being protected, the balance of the kelp forest has been restored!



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Back to Basics- Babies!

Back to Basics- Babies!

As we continue our back to basics month, we are talking about reproduction today! All animals have offspring, but how they have babies is very different! We are going to learn those different ways!

Viviparous: when an animal gives live birth. Animals that give live birth include, mammals, some fish and insects (ex- scorpions), some reptiles and amphibians. There are two mammals who lay eggs- the platypus & the echidna. Marsupials also are viviparous, they give live birth to underdeveloped babies who grow in the mother’s pouch.






Oviparous: when an animal lays an egg that the offspring hatches from. Animals that lay eggs include birds, fish, our two mammal friends, reptiles, insects and most amphibians. Eggs are laid externally . Some sharks and ray lay eggs called mermaids purses.

shark egg

Ovoviparous: when an animal’s offspring develop inside an egg, that is incubated inside the mother’s body. It then gives live birth. Animals that give birth this way include fish (some sharks- like the great white), some fish, some insects and some snakes. The most famous ovoviparous animal is actually not a female, it’s the male seahorse. Male seahorses incubate the eggs and then give birth to live young! Some ovoviparous animals, can store sperm and incubate their eggs months later.


Some fun reproduction facts:

  • Elephants have the longest gestation period of any animal- 22 months.
  • Many insects die not long after giving birth or mating.
  • Female giant pacific octopus protect their eggs over the 6-7 months they are incubating. During this time the octopus doesn’t eat or leave her eggs. She dies soon after her babies are hatched.
  • Female alligators and crocodiles are one of the few reptiles that protect their nests and offspring after they hatch.
  • Male anglerfish attach to the much larger female and absorb in to her.
  • Suriname toads incubate their eggs on their backs. Tiny little frogs explode out of the skin on her back.

The animal world is full of some crazy mating stories and even more crazy birth stories! It just makes each animal that much more awesome!

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Back to Basics- Reptiles & Amphibians

Back to Basics- Reptiles & Amphibians

We are on our last day of learning the basics on the groups! We have much more to learn! Today Professor Carl the Chameleon is catching everyone up on reptiles and amphibians.



Let’s learn some reptile basics first and then more about our amphibian friends.

There are around 7,984 reptile species on earth. Reptiles first appeared on earth around 340 million years ago. The largest group of reptiles is lizards. You can find us on most continents except Antarctica. You can even find some of us in the worlds’ oceans.

What makes a reptile a reptile?

  • We are covered in scales.
  • We lay eggs.
  • We are ectothermic.
  • We have lungs for breathing.
  • We are vertebrates.


Our scales cover our epidermis and they are made of keratin. When we grow we shed our scales. Some of us do this in pieces and some of us, like snakes- shed their whole layer at once.

Turtles, tortoises, crocodiles and most lizards have movable eyelids. Snakes have a fixed clear eye covering that they shed when they grow too.

Most reptiles have poor hearing and none of us can taste.

Snakes and some lizards have a forked tongue that they “smell” with. They pick up scent molecules with their tongue and use an organ in their brain called the Jacobson’s organ to analyze those molecules.

sea turtle

Most reptiles lay their eggs and leave them. They provide no parental care for their young.  There are some reptiles that incubate their eggs inside their body and give birth to live young.  The crocodilian family and a few lizards to protect their eggs and young.





Now let’s talk some about our amphibian friends.

There are around 5,000 species of amphibians. They have been around for 370 million years.  There are three groups of amphibians; newts/salamander, frogs/toads and caecilians.

The word amphibian means dual life. They live a life in the water (usually as young) and then on land (usually as adults).

What makes an amphibian an amphibian?

  • We are ectothermic.
  • We are vertebrates.
  • We breathe through our skin.
  • We go through metamorphosis. We do not look the same as young as we do as adults.

Amphibian young use gills to breathe. Young frogs and toads are called tadpoles and they have tails and no legs.

We have no scales and no hair. Our skin can absorb water and we need water to keep it moist, this helps us breathe. We all have poison glands in our skin!

Adult amphibians have lungs, but we do not have rib cages. We can also absorb oxygen through our skin and through the lining of our mouth.

Most amphibians deposit eggs in water. We can lay anywhere from 2 to 50,000 eggs.



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Back to Basics- Mammals

Back to Basics- Mammals

We are excited to talk the group of animals we belong to- mammals! Our professor of mammals- Bertie Bear will give us the low down.


Number of mammal species- 4475. They occupy every kind of habitat on earth including oceans and the icy poles.

Mammal traits:

  • They have fur and/or hair. Even cetaceans have hair, generally a few chin hairs when they are born that fall out. Mammal fur/hair is made of the protein keratin, including whiskers, spines and rhino horns.
  • Mammals give birth to live young- except the platypus and echidna, who lay eggs.
  • They give milk to their young through mammary glands.
  • They are endothermic (warm blooded). They have sweat glands for regulating temperature. They must eat often to keep their body temperature regulated.
  • Mammals are vertebrates.  


Mammals have two layers of skin. The top layer is the epidermis that is made up of dead skin cell. The inner layer is the dermis, which contains glands. Some mammals use these glands to communicate with each other, by marking territory or giving off scents to attract mates, etc…

Mammals have three types of teeth and a jaw that is attached to the skull. The three types of teeth include molars, incisors and canines. Baleen whales have teeth that are made of keratin and are like brooms.


Mammals give birth to live young, except for the monotremes- the platypus and the echinda lay eggs. Most mammals develop in a mother’s uterus, but the marsupials give birth to underdeveloped young that grow in a pouch- like kangaroos.

Mammals have several types of locomotion, including walking on all four feet- quadrupeds, walking on two feet- bipeds, flight- only bats and swimming with fins.

Many mammals are social and intelligent. In mammals, like the great apes,they even share culture with each other. Some mammals are known to be tool makers and tool users.


Mammals make up the largest animals on the planet- the elephant is the largest land animal and the blue whale is the largest animal on earth! Mammals include you humans too!


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Back to Basics- Insects

Back to Basics- Insects

We are day number 3 of our back to basics month. Today we are learning about insects with our professor of insects Gracie Grasshopper!


Number of species- nearly 1 million, that’s right we insects account for about 97% of all known species on earth. We arthropods outnumber all other animals on earth.

Insect traits:

  • Insects have a segmented body. It’s divided into 3 sections; the head, the thorax and the abdomen.
  • Insects are invertebrates. We do not have endoskeletons, like the mammals, birds, fish and reptiles. We have an exoskeleton! Our bodies are covered in hard coverings made of chitin.
  • We have two antennae and 6 legs. Each leg has five parts.
  • We hatch from eggs.

Insects are generally divided into two groups, insects with wings and insects without wings. I myself have wings.


We either have compound eyes or simple eyes and there are some of us with both types.

We do not have true ears, but we have organs that help us listen to vibrations in our environment.

We do not have lungs or gills to breathe. Instead we have a series of tubes to “breathe” oxygen and expel carbon dioxide.

Yes, we insects have brains. They are tiny and we don’t quiet use them the way other animals do.


There you have the basics of being an insect!

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Back to Basics- Fish

Back to Basics- Fish

Time to brush up on your fish knowledge with professor Sylvia the Seahorse!



Number of fish species- 24,000 and growing! Scientists discover new species all the time! We fish were the first vertebrate animals on the earth! We occupy the world’s oceans and fresh water bodies of water; including lakes, rivers and ponds.

Fish traits:

  • Fish have gills that we use to extract oxygen from water and expel carbon dioxide. They serve the same function as a mammal’s lungs.
  • Fish have scales. Our scales are different, some are smooth and some are rough. Sharks’ scales are called dermal denticles. Some fish like hagfish have no scales.
  • Fish have fins for swimming. Fins are shaped for the type of swimming a fish does- some are built for speed and some are small (like mine).
  • We fish are vertebrates, we all have back bones.
  • Most fish are exothermic, cold blooded.

Fish are classified in three groups; jawless fish (hagfish and lamprey- they also have no scales), cartilaginous (sharks and rays) and bony.


Some fish lay eggs, some incubate their eggs in a womb and some incubate their young in wombs similar to mammals.

We fish can detect chemicals and vibrations. We often have keen eyesight and a great sense of smell.

Fish do have ears! Not big goofy ones like some mammals, but internal ones.


We also have an extra “organ” to help us “hear” and detect vibrations. This is called the lateral-line. This line of cells runs the length of our bodies and helps us detect motion. Schooling fish who swim in synchronized groups use their lateral line to swim in these formations.

Sharks and rays have yet another “organ” that helps them detect electrical fields. It’s called the ampullae of Lorenzini, gel filled cells that help our cartilaginous cousins detect even the faintest of electrical fields. This is something no other animal can do!

We also have a swim bladder that keeps us buoyant in the water. Fresh water fish have a bigger swim bladder than salt water fish. Bony fish swim bladders are filled with a gas that is less dense than water. In cartilaginous fish, their swim bladder is a large oil rich liver that is less dense than water! 


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