Tag Archive for trivia

National Geographic Kids—Everything Predators

So while working on my Everything Predators book, I’ve come across some bizarre creatures that I wanted to share.

Goblin Sharks—these beasts live in the dark, depths of the ocean, so are rarely seen. They have jaws full of needle-like teeth that shoot forward (reminding me of the monsters in the Alien movies) to snatch prey.

Amazonian Giant Centipede—okay, anything with more than four legs can be kind of creepy. But when it has almost 100 legs and can be the size of your forearm, that is scary-creepy. And these centipedes can catch bats!

Mantis Shrimp—these little guys (most are only a few inches long) pack a punch powerful enough punch to crack the shells of snails and crabs.

Archerfish—an apt name, as they shoot water at bugs, hoping to knock them into the water, where they become fish food.

And those are just a few of the cool predators that I’m including in this book.

National Geographic Kids—Everything Predators

One of my big projects this month is book about predators. It’ll be my 6th book in National Geographic Kids Everything series, and I continue to be excited to write for them, especially since I was so enthralled with National Geographic Magazine growing up.

And while I’ve done a lot of book research about animals over my years, and written many books about different critters, it’s always fun when a project helps you learn new things, or at least look at the world differently.

That is very true of this project. It has stretched my understanding of what predators are. Mostly we think of animals like sharks and lions and wolves as predators. But when looking at what truly defines them: animals that get energy from eating other animals, the definition of a predator expands to goldfish, songbirds, hornets, toads, whales, moles, etc . . . There are thousands of animals, that eat other animals, that we don’t normally think of as predators because of our fascination with the apex predators.

What makes a predator?

  1. Predators kill and eat the animals they hunt.
  2. Typically, predators are larger than their prey, with exceptions for animals that hunt in groups, like a pack of wolves or an army of ants.
  3. Predators have heighten senses, like a hawk’s keen sight, or special features, like a chameleon’s long and sticky tongue, to help them catch prey.

TRIVIA: Blue whales are the world’s largest predator, eating tons of krill a day.

Dinosaur Trivia

Like most young kids, I was BIG into dinosaurs. They were carnivorous beasts—fierce and voracious. They were lumbering giants—docile and majestic. They inspired my imagination. They made me wonder what life would be like with dinosaurs roaming about my backyard—I lived on a farm, so thankfully had a BIG yard.

I had my coloring books (I used up the gray crayon on them) and various books which I gleaned knowledge from. But since I was a tyke, I haven’t paid much attention to these behemoths from the Mesozoic Era, the Age of Dinosaurs. My interests revolved more and more around aliens and robots and dragons as I began to read J.R.R. Tolkein and Isaac Asimov. And of course, write fantasy and science fiction stories.

But as a writer, you are never sure what your next project will be, and I recently found myself needing to bone up on dinosaurs (excuse the pun!). Here are a few ways in which dinosaurs of today are different than the dinosaurs I grew up with.

Triceratops horns most likely were not used for defense, but to show their maturity—different aged Triceratops had differently shaped and sized horns. Certain, forward curving horns showed that a Triceratops was an adult and ready to mate.

Giganotosaurus and many other Theropods, such as Velociraptor and Allosaurus, hunted in packs like wolves. This allowed them not only to bring down bigger prey, such as the monstrous Argentinosaurus (possibly the largest dinosaur), but to teach their young how to hunt.

There is no such thing as a Brontosaurus. It was a case of mistaken identity. Othniel Charles Marsh discovered Apatosaurus, a large planting-eater dinosaur, in the late 1800s. A few years later when he received the bones of a larger planting eating dinosaur he thought they were of another species, which he named Brontosaurus. But really, the first Aptosaurus bones he dug up were probably from a juvenile while that later bones were from an adult.

Birds are basically flying dinosaurs, as in direct descendents of the bird-like Archaeopteryx and Dromaeosaurus. Birds lay hard-shelled eggs—dinosaurs lay hard-shelled eggs. Birds have scales (just check their feet)—dinosaurs have scales. Birds are warm blooded—dinosaurs were most likely warm blooded. And there are many, many other similarities

Tyrannosaurus rex probably had feathers, at least its young did, which is true of most Theropods, the dinosaurs that bird descended from.

Dinosaurs most likely weren’t dull and drab like people once thought, but had camouflaging feathers or colorful scales for mating displays (another similarity to birds). So there is no need to color than gray crayon down to a stub anymore!

Bird Trivia

Recently, I’ve been working on a research project about birds. It’s fun learning about the animals that wake me up every morning with their song. I’m also lucky to have an uncle who’s an ornithologist. He studies birds for the American Museum of Natural History in New York. So he expects me to know a few things about our feathery friends.

I’d like to share some of the interesting tidbits that I’ve picked up during my research.

—Birds are the fastest animals alive. A peregrine falcon can swoop down at more than 200 miles per hour as it snatches up prey.

—Emperor penguins can dive more than 600 feet underwater to feed (possibly up to 1,000 feet).

—Birds that fly have four toes per foot. Birds that don’t fly usually have three, and ostriches are the only birds with just two toes.

—Birds don’t have teeth! Yeah, I know you’re probably wondering about those vicious geese that hiss and snap at your during your strolls down by the lake. I grew up on a farm and had a few painful run-ins with geese. But those sharp ridges on their beaks are called tomia. They don’t have enamel, which makes teeth hard. So if you think geese bites are painful now, just think what it would be like if they really had teeth.

This summer, I hope to set up some bird feeders to attract colorful songbirds like goldfinches, or even humming birds. At the moment, I have cardinals, sparrows, and chickadees fluttering about my backyard. I often hear doves cooing in the morning. And then there’s the loud caws of common crackles.