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But she can't bear self-righteousness and does love meat. When people go on about veganism, she reaches for the steak tartare. The deep allure of Diski's writing is its combination of dry wit, rapier thinking, a disarmingly engaging conversational tone and moral clarity. Her book is a wonderful and necessary read, sparkling, funny and warm. It is also a hard-hitting moral argument which lets nobody off the hook, not even its author.

Topics Science and nature books. Reference and languages books Jenny Diski reviews. Order by newest oldest recommendations. Show 25 25 50 All.


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Threads collapsed expanded unthreaded. Loading comments… Trouble loading? While this behavior has been seen in animals like birds and seals, dung beetles are the first insects confirmed to do so. Well, that's sort of true. Rather, they're not unconscious when they sleep. Dolphins, orcas and other whales are conscious breathers, which mean they have to willingly take each breath and don't breathe automatically like humans do.

10 Amazing Things You Didn't Know about Animals

So if they were to fall fully asleep, they would suffocate. Instead, dolphins and their cousins practice unihemispheric sleep - which means they turn off one half of their brain at a time and stay semi-conscious. It's why you don't see sleepy dolphins floating at the surface of the ocean every night. While squirrels are quite scrappy, they'd rather avoid a fight.

And what better to chase off a predator than a full-grown rattler?

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So when ground squirrels find sloughed-off rattlesnake skin , they'll chew on it and then lick it all over their little bodies. That way they smell like big scary snakes instead of tasty little squirrels, and predators will be scared off.


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It's called self-anointing, and it's not uncommon in the animal kingdom. Hedgehogs will sometimes kill toads so they can bite open their venom glands and smear it on their spikes. When most animals reach the end of their life span, they start to break down and exhibit senescence, which we know as aging: Some animals, like crocodiles or tortoises, exhibit negligible senescence, or don't age - which means at 50 or they're as perfectly fit as ever. As long as they have enough food, they can just keep growing and growing.

Of course, this doesn't make them immortal, as they can still fall prey to accidents or disease.

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But they stay fairly biologically young - which is why we get spry year-old crocs and year-old tortoises. While screech owl parents usually kill food before bringing it back to their babies, when they find blind snakes - which look like scaley worms - they'll drop them into the nest live. If the blind snake can make it past the hungry baby owlet beaks, he buries himself under the nest where he sets up a little home of his own.

There, he earns his keep by feasting on bug larvae, helping to keep the owl chicks safe from infestation. And they don't like what they see, according to a report in the November Animal Behaviour. Light may suggest that a predator has broken into a tunnel, which could explain why subterranean diggers developed sight in the first place.


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  • Beavers become near shut-ins during winter, living off of previously stored food or the deposits of fat in their distinctive tails. A beaver conserves energy by avoiding the cold outdoors, opting instead to remain in dark lodgings inside their pile of wood and mud. As a result these rodents, which normally emerge at sunset and turn in at sunrise, have no light cues to entrain their sleep cycle.

    The beaver's biological sense of time shifts, and she develops a "free running circadian rhythm" of hour days. Such a shift in human circadian rhythm would mess with a human's ability to sleep and function. We humans have detailed maps, GPS navigation systems and even Siri to guide us wherever we'd like to go.

    Birds, smart as they are, haven't learned to use any of this technology. Yet pigeons can fly thousands of miles to find the same roosting spot with no navigational difficulties. Some species of birds, like the Arctic tern, make a 25, mile round-trip journey every year. Many species use built-in ferromagnets to detect their orientation with respect to the Earth's magnetic field.

    A November study published in Animal Behaviour suggests that pigeons also use familiar landmarks on the ground below to help find their way home. Still, much about bird navigation remains a mystery, according to this this perspective piece by University of Oxford researcher Tim Guilford. Nursing a newborn is no small feat for the whale, whose calf emerges, after 10 to 12 months in the womb, about a third the mother's length that's a foot baby for the Blue whale. The mother squirts milk into the newborn's mouth using muscles around the mammary gland while the baby holds tight to a nipple yes, whales have them.

    At nearly 50 percent fat, whale milk has around 10 times the fat content of human milk, which helps calves achieve some serious growth spurts — as much as pounds per day.

    15 Amazing Facts You Didn’t Know About Animals

    It should be no surprise that whale moms then quickly teach their young where to eat on their own. The stomach of a crocodile is a rocky place to be, for more than one reason. To begin with, a croc's digestive system encounters everything from turtles, fish and birds to giraffes, buffalo, lions and even when defending territory other crocodiles. In addition to that bellyful-o'-ecosystem, rocks show up too. The reptiles swallow large stones that stay permanently in their bellies.

    It's been suggested these are used for ballast in diving. Since you made it all the way, here are some bonus crocodile facts: