Is there a limit to how big animals can grow?

Is there a limit to how big animals can grow?

Joshua A. Krish poses this question in his article in Live Science (March 2023) and he says that there is a limit – animals can’t grow indefinitely.

The largest land animal is the African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) which is a mammal that reaches 250 centimetres (8 feet 4 inches) tall and 750 centimetres (25 feet) long, weighing about 6 metric tons (7 tons). It is not a meat-eating carnivore. It is an herbivore and eats grass, trees, bushes, fruit, and bark.

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What is stomach acid?

What is stomach acid?

Doctors at Healthline say that human stomach acid is a watery, colourless fluid (liquid) produced by the lining of the stomach. It is also called gastric acid. 

Stomach acid helps to break down food so that it can be digested. Food that is easier to digest makes it easier for the body to absorb nutrients from the food. 

Human stomach acid has to be strong so that it can break down meat and plant-based food, such as vegetables. Scientists classify humans as omnivores because humans mainly eat both meat and vegetables.

Animals also have stomach acid to help them digest food. Animals that eat only meat have higher levels of stomach acid than animals that eat only plants and vegetation. 

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RESEARCH: Cheetahs are the fastest land mammal but cheetah cub survival rates are low

Cheetahs are the fastest land mammal but cheetah cub survival rates are low. Why is this?   

Previous studies of cheetah cub survival rates on the Serengeti Plains of Kenya and Tanzania in Africa in 1994, 2000, and 2004, found that it was exceptionally low because of the lion population attacking them. The survival rate was only 4.8% of cubs – that is 5 cubs out of every 100 cubs born survived beyond 14 months of age.

Researchers from the Zoology Department of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom conducted a similar study on cheetah cub survival rates in 2013 and published the results in the Journal of Zoology. They compared the cheetah cub survival rate in the Kgalagadi (Kalahari) Transfrontier Park on the border of Botswana and South Africa with the Serengeti study.

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CREATURE FEATURE: South American Cougar

The South American Cougar (Puma concolor puma) is a large wild cat in the Felidae family. It is a felid. It is a sub-species of the Cougar (Puma concolor). It is also known as the Puma.

The South American Cougar is one colour (concolor means one colour), which is usually tawny brown or reddish-brown. It has lighter patches on its underbelly, chin, and throat.has a rounded head, and a long, slender body with powerful forequarters, larger front feet, and large paws. It has four retractile claws on each hind (back) paw and five retractile claws on its forepaws (front paws), but one is a dewclaw (digit). Retractile claws can extend and retract, protecting them with a sheath of skin when they are not being used. 

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Animal Feeding in the Zoo

Animals in zoos need a diverse range of food. 

A zoo needs to cater for:

  • herbivores (grass eaters such as rhinoceroses and tapirs);
  • folivores (foliage eaters such as giraffes); 
  • frugivores (fruit eaters such as lemurs); 
  • carnivores (meat eaters such as lions and lynxes); 
  • piscivores (fish eaters such as penguins); 
  • omnivores (all types of food eaters such as baboons); 
  • granivores (grain eaters such as weaver birds); 
  • insectivores (insect eaters such as anteaters); 
  • nectarivores (nectar eaters such as fruit bats); and so on.
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Tanzanian Blue Ringleg Centipede

The Tanzanian Blue Ringleg Centipede (Scolopendra morsitans) is a chilopod in the Scolopendridae family of banded centipedes. It is also known as the Red-Headed Centipede. 

The Tanzanian Blue Ringleg Centipede has a wide, flattened yellow-gold to dark-slate body with black bands. It has a pair of antennae on its head and a pair of spikes on its tail. It has a segmented body, with 15 to 177 segments. 

It has one pair of legs for each body segment (in total it has 30-354 legs). No centipede has exactly 100 legs even though centipede means a hundred legs. Each pair of legs is slightly longer than the pair immediately in front of it. 

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Plantigrade Locomotion

What is plantigrade locomotion?

Plantigrade locomotion is the way some animals walk with their toes and metatarsals (heels) flat on the ground.

Terrestrial (land) mammals have three ways of walking:

(1) digitigrade (walking on their toes with their heels permanently raised),

(2) unguligrade (walking on the nail of their toes – the hoof – with the heel permanently raised), and 

(3) plantigrade (walking with their toes and heels on the ground).

The leg of a plantigrade mammal includes the bones of the upper leg, called the femur and humerus, and the bones of the lower leg, called the metatarsals and metacarpals. 

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The Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is a semi-aquatic monotreme (egg-laying) marsupial (pouched) mammal. It is also known as the Duck-Billed Platypus.

The Platypus has a duck-like beak, webbed feet with sharp claws like an otter, an elongated mole-like body, and a broad, flat, beaver-like tail. Its waterproof fur is brown with a whitish underbelly. The male has a venomous spur on it hind (back) feet. The female has a spur, but it is not venomous. It has small brown eyes and small nostrils. 

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European Badger

The European Badger (Meles meles) is a mammal in the Mustelidae family. It is also known as the Eurasian Badger. 

The European Badger has a small tapered head, a stocky body, small black eyes, and a short tail. It has short plantigrade feet with five toes on each foot, which means that all parts of its feet make contact with the ground. It has long, sharp claws for digging. Its claws are not retractable. Their long snouts are also used for digging. 

It has black, grey, brown, and white fur. Before winter, its fur is mainly black, with a lighter belly. It has two black bands along its head, and there is a wide, white band from its nose to its crown. Its summer fur is much coarser, shorter and sparser, and is deeper in color, with the black tones becoming brownish.

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Haitian Sea Anemone

The Haitian Sea Anemone (Condylactis gigantean) is a tropical marine ball-type animal. It is also called the Giant Caribbean Sea Anemone. The Haitian Sea Anemone is found as individuals or small, loose groups, but never in colonies like coral. It is related to coral and jellyfish.

The Haitian Sea Anemone is a large columnar sessile (non-moving) animal of many colours: white, pink, orange, pale-red, or light-brown. Its body has an adhesive pedal (foot) disc, a cylindrical body, and a central mouth surrounded by 100 or more tentacles. The tentacles often have a coloured tip (such as purple or pink).

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Pearl Wrasse

The Pearl Wrasse (Anampses cuvier) is a small tropical saltwater (marine) ray-finned fish. It is in the Labridae family.

The male Pearl Wrasse is blue with red eyes and white spots. The female Pearl Wrasse is reddish-brown with white spots and red eyes. It has red fins. It has a black spot on its tail and often black spots on the fin near the tail (anal fin). Its red dorsal fin (back fin) has 8-21 spines and 6-21 soft rays along most of its back. It has a thick lip, with folds inside the lip.

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Carnivore Teeth and Herbivore Teeth

What’s the difference between the teeth of carnivores and the teeth of herbivores?


Carnivores – or carnivorous animals – eat the flesh (meat) of other animals.

Carnivores have specialized teeth for killing an animal and tearing its raw flesh. These long, sharp teeth are called canine teeth or carnassial teeth. Some carnassial teeth are so strong that they can cut through bone.

Carnivores also have powerful jaws, a short nose, a strong neck, and powerful legs. This is because carnivores need to actively hunt and catch their prey, so they must be fast and strong.

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Australian Black-Necked Stork

The Black-Necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus) is a tall, long-necked wetland bird from Asia (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus asiaticus) and Australia (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus australis). In Australia, it is also called a Jabiru. It is related to the Saddle-Billed Stork from Africa.

The Australian Black-Necked Stork is white with glossy iridescent black feathers, a black neck, and a large black beak. It has a copper-brown crown and a white belly. It has bright red legs. Females have yellow eyes and males have brown eyes.

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Sumatran Tiger

The Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica) is native to Sumatra, an island of Indonesia.

The Sumatran Tiger has rich, shiny orange-brown fur with broad, dark, irregular, vertical stripes. It has a white ruff around its neck and long, white whiskers. Its paws are broad and sharply clawed.

It is unlike most other tigers, because it likes to swim. It has webbing between its toes to enable it to swim. On land, it can run quite fast, and pounce.

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The Serval (Leptailurus serval) is a slender, medium-sized wild cat found in southern Africa, similar to a cheetah but much smaller. The Serval can grow to 54–62 centimetres (21–24 inches) tall.

The Serval has golden-yellow fur that has black spots and black stripes. It has a small head, large ears, elongated toes, and a short 30 centimetre (12 inch) long black-tipped tail. It has brown or green eyes, white whiskers, white chin, and white under-belly. Three to four black stripes run from the back of the head onto the shoulders, which become rows of spots.

The Serval has the longest legs of any cat, in comparison with its body size. This may be to allow the Serval cat to walk above muddy ground. Like a domestic cat, it is very flexible and can change direction in mid-air as it leaps.

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The Red Piranha (Pygocentrus nattereri) is an omnivorous freshwater fish in the Serrasalmidae family of serrated fish. It is a serrasalmid. It is also known as the Red-Bellied Piranha.

The adult Red Piranha has a reddish tinge on it belly. The rest of its body is silver grey. It has a small mouth with a single row of sharp, serrated, triangular, interlocking teeth. Its bite power is very strong. Its strong jaws and saw-like teeth are excellent for tearing the flesh off animals. It is oval-shaped with a flattened face and large forehead.

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