Science Top 5: Most amazing creatures on land

Science Top 5: Most amazing creatures on land

By Katie Wilson, KSL.com Contributor | Posted - Oct. 10, 2011 at 2:30 p.m.


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The world is teeming with biological diversity and scientists and researchers continue to find new and amazing creatures that have managed to elude human awareness. Many of these creatures are found in remote areas or treacherous domains not yet tamed by human civilizations.

Not only do commonly unknown creatures have strange abilities to survive in extreme settings, many well known animals also have amazing adaptations to sustain life in even the farthest reaches of the planet. Take for example, the giraffe. Common to grasslands and savannahs, these creatures have long reaching necks that allow them to compete successfully among a score of other grazers.

From cute to creepy, the following land creatures have incredible adaptations that allow them to survive in even the harshest environments. Making them some of the most, unique and strange creatures in the world.

Science Top 5: Most amazing creatures on land
Photo: Courtesy of www.floridiannature.com

The Star-Nosed MoleThe star-nosed mole is a very unique looking creature who can be found throughout the northeast of the United States and eastern Canada. Typically, these moles are found in low laying, marshy areas.

The distinctive feature of a star-nosed mole is their unusual pink nose, made up of 22 fleshy, moveable tentacles on the end of their snout.

Star-nosed moles reside in almost complete darkness, their eyes are poorly underdeveloped, leaving them virtually blind. They rely on their sensitive, quick and accurate nose to find sources of food. Their nose is thought to be more than 6 times as sensitive as the human hand. They can even smell food underwater.

Similar to other types of moles, star-nosed moles build shallow tunnels for foraging and protection from predators. Star nosed moles are well suited to their wetland environment and have become amazing swimmers. Many times, their tunnels will actually have an underwater exit.

Consuming small amounts of food in low lighting, requires that their nose be highly accurate and quick in sorting the edible from the non-edible. It is estimated that half of their brain is dedicated to processing the sensory information received by their nose. Their highly skilled nose allows them to quickly consume small bits of food that provide the necessary energy and nutrition to sustain them.

Mexican Mole Lizard

These strange creatures are considered a reptile and have a close relation to lizards and snakes. However,at first appearance they look like oversized earthworms with arms. These reptiles can be found throughout the Baja California peninsula.

Slow and clumsy, these reptiles typically grow to be 7 to 9 inches in length. They have two thick forelegs with five claws on each limb. They spend most of their lives burrowing in underground tunnels. Similar to earthworms, they generally only emerge on the surface after a heavy rain or under cover of darkness.

They prefer sandy soils and are often found burrowing under mesquite shrubs. They will burrow underneath piles of leaves, rocks or branches as well. During cooler temperatures, they burrow in tunnels nearer to the surface. In hot temperatures, they will move to tunnels much deeper in the soil to avoid the heat.

Like many lizards, Mexican mole lizards have the ability to “drop” their tail when threatened or to elude capture. Unlike a true lizard though, their tail will not regenerate itself. Their tail makes up about 1/10th of their length and is not easily distinguishable from the rest of their elongated body.

Their diets are made up of ants, termites, small insects, larvae, earthworms and other small reptiles they encounter. Females can lay from 1 to 4 eggs in July, with the eggs hatching during the area's rainy season when food sources are optimal.

Science Top 5: Most amazing creatures on land
Photo: Courtesy of LA Dawson

Flying Snakes Chrysopelea, which are also known as flying snakes, can be found in southeast Asia, southern China, India and Sri Lanka. Living in jungle environments, they spend most of their lives in the canopy of trees and are known for their incredible ability to glide from tree to tree.

Reaching up to four feet in length, they use the ridge like scales on their belly to vertically scale trees. They are adept climbers, who spend their lives in the canopy of the jungle. Their ability to glide from tree to tree facilitates hunting prey and eluding capture from larger predators.

The snake will glide from tree to tree by moving out onto a branch until it dangles from the branch by only its tail. After estimating direction and choosing a suitable landing place, the snake will then contort its body into a j-shaped bend. Releasing from the tree, it will propel itself by sucking in stomach muscles while flaring out its ribs. This creates a long, concave shaped tubular wing. While in flight, the snake makes serpentine motions parallel to the ground in order to control direction and ease landing.

Some estimate that these snakes are more aerodynamic and better suited to gliding through trees than flying squirrels, lizards and other species who utilizing a similar gliding technique.

Science Top 5: Most amazing creatures on land
Photo: Courtesy of Medhi Yokubol

Bumblebee BatsBumblebee bats are the worlds smallest known bats. Some would argue that they are even the worlds smallest mammal. Full grown, adults average from 1.1 to 1.3 inches in length. Their average wingspan reaches 6.7 inches and they weight in at only 0.07 ounces.

Bumblebee bats are also known as Kitti's hog nosed bats, named after zoologist Kitti Thonglongya who in 1974 discovered and introduced these bats to researchers worldwide. They reside in Thailand and southeast Burma in dwindling populations.

They are found in limestone caves along or near rivers. Their coats are reddish-brown or grey in color and they have a short, stubby snout similar to that of a pig. They have large ears and small dark eyes that are almost hidden within their fur. Typically, their belly is lighter in color with their wings being darker.

They feed on small insects during the dawn and evening hours in short bursts of activity. They soar through forests and crops, it is thought that most of their food is caught while in-flight though they have been observed hovering on or near plants.

These bats live deep in the recesses of limestone caves. Small colonies can encompass 15 to 20 bats while colonies of up to 500 bats have been noted. Females give birth to one offspring yearly. During periods of feeding, the young offspring remain in the cave roost or cling to their mothers during flight.

Giraffes

Giraffes are well known to most individuals, popular in zoos around the world. However, giraffes have unique adaptations that often are overlooked when we think about these incredible animals. Giraffes have long necks that allow them to successfully compete for food among scores of other foragers. Their long necks have obvious advantages for survival, but create some biological difficulties for these animals.

Tallest of all living land species, giraffes range from approximately 14 to 17 feet tall. The tallest recorded giraffe goes to a 20 foot tall male. They live on savannas, grasslands and other open woodlands.

The neck of a giraffe can be up to 7 feet in length - up to half of their height. Their hearts can weigh up to 22 pounds and and can be two feet long. In order to maintain blood flow for their elongated necks, their hearts need to provide double the blood pressure of a similar sized mammal.

In a giraffes upper-neck there is a complex regulation system known as the rete mirabile. This prevents excessive amounts of blood from flowing to the giraffes head when it bends to drink or lowers its neck below its heart. On a typical giraffe, their hooves and forelegs are six feet below their heart. They have tighter skin than most mammals to ensure that excessive amounts of blood do not pool in their hooves and lower extremities.

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Katie Wilson

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