Facts about Animals: The animal world never fails to ignite curiosity in even the most serious of human beings. With so many varied species, around one million worldwide at the last count, there are plenty of facts ranging from the interesting and amazing, to the downright unbelievable.
No matter how much of an animal lover you are, there are bound to be a whole stack of facts you didn’t even know.
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Unbelievably, there are thought to be around 6000 species of reptiles in existence, with new ones being found all the time.
Cold blooded vertebrates, reptiles are believed to have been around in one form or another for 340 million years. As the years have passed, reptiles have evolved significantly, developing hardened shells and skins to protect themselves from ever-changing environments.
Reptiles have also developed complex scales over the years, which not only help them retain much-needed body moisture; it also reduces the amount of abrasion the reptile suffers.
The only reptile that hasn’t changed much over millions of years is the turtle.
With an average lifespan of 150 years, turtles are found in both temperate and tropical climates.
The reptile family known as crocodilians are the next oldest group and have been around for some 90 million years. This group includes crocodiles, caimans, gharials and alligators.
Unbelievably, crocodiles are actually a relative of the bird.
Reptiles are tetrapods; they belong to this group because they have four limbs. However, reptiles such as snakes have lost their legs over millions of years of evolution.
One of the biggest differences between reptiles and the other animal families, such as birds and mammals, is the fact they are cold-blooded animals.
Because reptiles cannot control their body heat by themselves, they rely heavily on their environment for warmth. This is why it is not unusual to see reptiles basking in the sun or sitting near a heat lamp when kept in captivity.
Reptiles, especially lizards, do have to be careful they do not overheat, meaning they often choose to sunbathe near appropriate shelter if it’s needed.
Temperature also plays a huge role in the reproduction process.
This is because the temperature that the embryos are exposed to during incubation, actually determines the sex of the reptile’s young.
The largest reptiles in existence today are the saltwater crocodile and the Komodo dragon.
Birds such as the kiwi or penguin lost the power of flight during years of evolution.
There are believed to be just fewer than ten thousand species of birds to date, with experts most commonly splitting them into 30 groups.
On top of the ten thousand species of birds currently studied, it is believed that another 65 species are in existence but a lack of information about them prevents formal identification.
Another 134 species have ceased to exist, or gone extinct, since the 1500s.
There are four species of birds that are considered extremely rare, so rare that they are kept for their own safety in captivity. These species are officially classed as being extinct outside captivity.
Evolutionary biologists have established a link between birds and reptiles, although they remain unsure which group of reptiles evolved into birds.
Many birds during the Jurassic period, had both bird and reptilian features, with many having wings, feathers and a reptilian nose or snout.
It is generally thought however that birds evolved from a family of dinosaurs called Theropods. This is because both had wishbones, a backwards pelvis, three-toed feet and hollow bones.
No other animal has feathers, which means anything that has feathers, no matter how strange, is most definitely a bird.
As well as looking attractive, feathers help protect the bird from diverse weather conditions, including rain and the harmful UV rays emitted by the sun.
A bird’s feathers also help aid flight, allowing the bird to turn, swoop and glide.
While feathers are only found on birds, there are animals from other groups who can fly. This includes a number of different insects and bats, which are mammals and not part of the bird family.
While there are officially 21 groups of mammals, scientists have been unable to agree on this being an exact figure.
Mammals are a wide and varied, with some of the more well known mammals including elephants, rodents, bats, and marsupials.
Currently the largest group of mammals is the rodents, which has over 1600 different species. The honor of being the smallest group of mammals goes to the aardvark, which has only one identified species.
Mammals, like reptiles, are tetrapods although certain species of mammal, such as the whale have lost their hind legs during the course of evolution.
One thing that makes a mammal stand out among other groups of animals is hair.
Mammals are the only animal-type to have real hair, which covers one or more areas of the body.
Some mammals have lost their hair during evolution, while others have thinner, courser hair in comparison to millions of years ago. The hair serves a variety of purposes depending on the animal, including insulation, protection from predators and camouflage. A lesser known fact is that hair does not always look like we would expect it too.
Anything which grows from a follicle is considered hair, which includes spines, whiskers and even horns.
The largest mammal in the world is also the largest animal in existence today and it is the blue whale. The smallest mammal is a protected species hailing from Burma and Thailand, the Bumblebee Bat is a mere one inch in size.
Unfortunately, its vulnerability makes it attractive to collectors and other people interested in making money off the back of this beautiful animal.
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