On Thursday, March 29, Jen from Zoo New England came to the library to share animals and facts about animal habitats and adaptations as part of the spring science nights, Spring into Science!
The program started with a discussion about what every creature needs to survive. The attendees were definitely wildlife enthusiasts, because they named most of them really quickly: Food, water, shelter, and oxygen.
The last necessity was a bit trickier: Space. Every animal needs a habitat that is the right size for them. The example Jen used was an ant. If we had an ant in the Program Room and we put its food in one corner and its shelter in the opposite corner, the space was probably much too big. If the Program Room was full of water and housed a blue whale, then the room would be much too small!
We then learned about several different habitats - mountains, rainforest, desert, and woods - and discussed how adaptations help an animal survive in their habitat. Examples of adaptations included the Snow Leopard's fur being really thick to help them keep warm in the Himalayas and spotted to help camouflage them among the mountain rocks.
The first animal we met looked a bit creepy - it was a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach named Thor! If he lived in the wild, he could be found in the rainforest. Madagascar hissing cockroaches play an important part in that ecosystem as decomposers - meaning they help turn rotting vegetation into rich soil. They have a couple of unique adaptations - the most obvious being that they hiss! This adaptation allows the relatively small animal to scare potential predators away. Male Hissing Cockroaches also have horns that allow them to defend their territory!
The second animal Jen brought out was her representative from the desert - a 13 year old Leopard Gecko named Geiko! She explained that leopard geckos have several adaptations that make it possible to live in the desert. One of the most obvious adaptations is their color - leopard geckos blend in very well with sand and rocks. Less obvious are their tails. Leopard geckos store fat in their tails, which allows them to go longer periods of time without water! As an added last resort defense mechanism, a leopard gecko's tail can fall off if they are ever caught by a predator allowing them to escape. Their tail will grow back, but it will not be as nice as their original tail.
The third animal we met was 19 year old Walter, a corn snake. Corn snakes are constrictor snakes, meaning they squeeze their pray instead of injecting venom. Corn snakes live in the woods, and get their name from the pattern of the scales on their belly. Corn snakes have a forked tongue that helps them figure out which direction a scent is coming from!
We also had a chance to touch a snake skin from an African Rock Python. Snakes shed their skin as they grow, and those skins come off inside out because snakes shed their skins the same way we might take off a t-shirt!
Our last animal visitor was very cute and extremely soft - a chinchilla named Clyde! Chinchillas have a lot of super-soft fur that helps them stay warm in the Andes Mountains of Chile. They like small places, like tunnels and rock crevices, and they use their very long whiskers like hands to see if they will fit into a space. Chinchillas also have very good hearing. Their ears are cone shaped so that they can catch more sounds, and they have no fur. Like an elephant, a chinchilla's ears help them cool down should they get too warm.