Learning about insect facts and anatomy for kids

Nature explorers such as children can find the most amazing insects in their own backyards or other nature settings. But how can these nature explorers even identify insects?

Insects are part of the invertebrate domain. Invertebrates are animals without backbone. Although insects have no backbone, they are a diverse species. Experts believe that insects occupied the Earth a long time ago, even in the Dinosaur age. Entomologists are expert professionals that study the function and structure of insects.

As a matter of fact, entomologists and other experts believe there are about 2 million to 10 million different species of insects. Most insects have the ability to adapt to different environmental changes such as ice, water, heat and wind. While the variety of insects is enormous, some are considered as pests and others are not. For instance, in general, ladybugs are insects that can eat aphids or other harmful pests that can hurt a crop or plant. But fleas are insects that can be harmful to pets and humans by extracting their blood.

What are the physical characteristics of insects = insectos?

Insects have 3 main parts that characterizes them: a head = cabeza, a thorax = tórax, and an abdomen = abdomen. And many of the exterior parts of insects are protect by an exoskeleton or hard shell. They also have 6 legs. Many instances, some insects have more than one set of wings.

Function of the Head = Cabeza

The head comprises of the eyes, mouth and antennae. The eyes are generally compound. It allows them to see and detect various types of movements. The mouth is mostly composed of jaw-like mandibles, used to grab and chew food. The antennae are sensory appendages in insects. These allow them to feel, smell, and even hear what is around them. The thorax follows after the head.

Function of the Thorax = Tórax

The thorax is composed of 3 general areas: the prothorax (before), the mesothorax (middle), and the metathorax (after). The 3 pairs of legs are located within each of the 3 areas of the thorax. Besides providing movement, legs can also function as sensory elements such as smell, taste and detection of vibration. Wings are located in the mesothorax and are used for flying. The abdomen follows after the metathorax.

Function of the Abdomen = Abdomen

The abdomen is comprised of 10 to 12 segments. The digestive system, the reproductive system and additional sensory elements are found within these segments. In some insects, the sting-needle carrying the poison is also located within these segments.

Whether children observe ants, bees, ladybugs or butterflies in nature, they can also learn that specific body parts characterize insects. And each body part plays a particular function in their survival. However, when observing insects in nature, please be aware of your surroundings and allergies.

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Facts about penguins for kids

Some birds fly to warmer climates in winter to stay warm. Other birds just stay in their natural habitat. For penguins, it is a matter of using pre-existent physical features that helps them survive the harsh winter.

During the winter season, penguins need to survive the hard conditions of short days and little or no food. But their bodies have adapted to withstand the freezing temperatures that surround them. But how do penguins stay warm? Very simply, they use their body fat. That’s right!

The body fat in penguins serves as insulation to keep them warm from the inside out. Insulation uses special non-conductive materials to maintain the drastic changes in temperature or prevent the release of heat. Fat generates heat in the form of special molecules. These special components in fat, when broken down, hold the heat inside a body. This layer of fat in the epidermal skin layer acts as a sealant from the outside world to the inner layer of the penguin.

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In this way, penguins are able to withhold the freezing temperatures or blustering winds. Not only does fat serves as energy, but also it is the main supply for penguins to survive when food sources are low or scarce. Just like in hibernation, the fat is converted to energy to keep penguins warm and alive.

But unlike polar bears, penguins stay awake during the winter season. This is very crucial for the survival of penguins, especially for the male penguin. The male penguin is the partner that cares and maintains the egg while the female penguin hunts for food. It keeps the fertilized egg tucked inside its warm pouch incubating it until it’s ready to hatch.

The male penguin doesn’t have much chance to hunt or find food during this period. And it loses about 50% of their body weight during this nesting season. While predators are at large during the winter season, male penguins have to worry about keeping their precious possessions – their eggs, alive. In this family of penguins, everyone has a part to play. And to help them survive it all, they have fat as the insulation barrier.

Why do birds migrate in winter?

Well, at least for some birds, migration is a method of survival. Migration in birds is the movement of birds from colder to warmer temperatures. They often migrate in groups or flocks and colonize in certain regions.

Because of lack of shelter and food, birds need to migrate to warmer climate when the temperatures fall below normal. During the colder weather in winter, some birds migrate from the Artic to the southern areas of the globe. Some of these places include North America, South America, and Africa.

In particular, birds that live in the northern part of the United States tend to migrate to the southern states, where the warmer temperatures are more consistent. These birds such as geese, ducks, and other types of birds tend to fly in a particular manner. Experts have shown that some flocks of birds unite to fly in what’s called a flyway pathway.

This type of path allows some birds to follow a specific route during migration. It is still unknown how some birds really know what path they need to follow during migration. Some experts believe it is a learned trait or genetically inherited. It is possible that these birds that migrate also can detect the magnetic field of the earth.

These birds usually fly in unison in a V-shape format, which allows conservation of energy. These birds try to avoid large bodies of water with little foliage to protect them. They tend to fly near mountain ranges and river coastlines. For some birds, it seems thet have a built-in map or compass that lets them know where and when to fly south for the winter.

Although it is not quite clear when and why they need to migrate, it is evident that the lack of resources is the big motivator in migration. It is also an opportunity to wait for the birth of their offsprings. If they survive the trip back home and adapt to the new conditions, these new birds will ensure the legacy of the genetic pool.

And it continues with their genetic heritage that their parents passed on to them. To observe these creatures migrate, you might need lots of patience and a good pair of binoculars. But it is all worth it when you see these awesome birds in their V-shape form fly away to their destination.