How do rodents use their teeth for survival?

When it comes to seeing the display of so many animals in the wild, can you guess which ones have the biggest and toughest teeth? Did you ever wonder what type of teeth makes the best tools for grabbing food, carrying their young, or making their home? Beavers and squirrels use their teeth to grip, to dig, and to eat.

Beavers are called Castor canadensis. And they are one of the largest rodents on Earth. They are expert swimmers and builders. They use their front teeth and their lower body to stand tall to cut trees. At this position, beavers chop up the wood and use it as materials to build dams and their homes.

The use of their teeth allows them to cut down all types of trees like willows or cottonwoods to name a few. Experts believe that beavers have a bite of about 176 pounds per square inch. That’s twice as much as a human’s biting force.

Squirrel

Beavers use their teeth to gather materials to build homes or food storages that may lie underneath lakes or rivers. But the dead wood that is left behind is not wasted. Many animals survive by utilizing the decaying trees and branches as homes and shelters. More amazing is the teeth in beavers grow continuously, replacing the enamel from the hard work of chewing and cutting.

Sciuridae or better known as squirrels also have special teeth that help them survive. Squirrels gather their food and use their teeth as a tool to break nuts and hard shell seeds. Similar to beavers, squirrels also use their front teeth to gather food supplies.

But unlike beavers, they don’t generally use their teeth to cut down trees. Squirrels use their teeth mostly to break open nutshells. Humans throughout the years have domesticated many ground squirrels. The diet of squirrels consists mostly of wild seeds and nuts. However, when food disposal is not properly stored, such as parks or backyards, squirrels tend to eat these instead of natural food.

This could have caused many of these squirrels to eat unhealthy foods. Nowadays, most of these rodents are used to litter garbage cans or other human disposal areas to find other types of foods. This has created a tremendous problem in some suburban areas where squirrels live. Other nuances to neighborhoods are raccoons, sewer rats, and mice.

Common rodents that have similar characteristics to beavers and squirrels are marmots, prairie dogs, chipmunks, and flying squirrels.

As a general rule, people should never feed wildlife, no matter how tempting it may be or how cute the creature could be.

Hibernation: How animals prepare for winter

Many animals are getting ready for the long, cold months of winter. They’ve probably have spent most of the fall season gathering all the food they could possibly collect to prepare for hibernation. But what are the preparations for the winter?

According to Webster dictionary, hibernation is

“to be or become inactive or dormant”

or a better way to look at this is animals take a very long winter vacation. During hibernation, animals that perform this condition have lower body temperature, conserve energy by decreasing physical mobility, and decrease metabolic rate. These types of animals conserve energy by reducing their metabolism, a chemical process that converts stored fat into energy.

Studies have shown that animals, which hibernate, have a decrease in heart rate, causing a slow down of their metabolism. And, in this way, these animals are able to use their stored fat and convert it to energy. That’s why bears, in particular, eat sufficient foods like nuts, berries, insects, fish, roots and other foods to increase their body mass and fat. Foods rich in fat content are salmon and nuts.

Hibernating bear sleeping in a cave

Fatty acids, special components in these foods, are biochemically converted to energy precursors like glycerol. Fat also serves as a great insulator. Since the cold winter months lack the provision of food due to weather change, these animals must hibernate in secluded areas to keep warm and survive until the spring season.

For some animals, it is also a reproduction stage, where they await the birth of their offspring. Examples of animals that hibernate are mammals like bears, bats, hamsters, skunks, and raccoons. In particular, bears that hibernate are polar bears, black bears, and grizzly bears to name a few common species. These animals live in very cold weather where the winter season can last up to 6 months.

The places bears like to hibernate are caves or dens to keep other predators away and protect their offspring when spring comes. Bears and other animals get ready for winter by gathering and hunting for food.

The Hawksbill turtle unbelievable odds

As the sun slowly hid in the distant horizon, an unexpected surprised started to unfold in a nearby sand nest. Miniature, small hatchlings were surfacing from a Hawksbill or tortoiseshell turtle nest. Hawksbill sea turtles are named for their mouth appearance; it looks like a Hawk’s beak. Perhaps, it may have taken only a couple of months to hatch from the thousands of eggs beneath the egg chamber. But they finally made it out.

Although one in 10,000 newly born turtles make it to the shoreline of the open ocean waters, it will start to crawl and use its flippers to move across the sand. The journey is not easy. Many predators seek an easy meal as they wander around the beach. Raccoons, crabs and birds feed on these helpless hatchlings. Even raccoons dig for Hawksbill eggs, sometimes eating all of them.

Humans are a main concern for these endangered species. Places like Malaysia and the Caribbean use the turtle shells for jewelry and decorations. In fact, they even eat the eggs as a food delicacy or use them for medicine. But that’s not all. Hotel lights and beach house lights, although illuminate the night at beaches; they unfortunately, disorient female turtles and hatchlings as they seek the ocean waters. Beach house construction disrupts the nesting processes of the female turtles.

Hawksbill sea turtles as well as the other 7 species of sea turtles return to the origin of birth in beaches to lay their eggs. When construction along the beaches obstructs their pathway to the sea, it makes it difficult for female turtles to lay their eggs.

Pollution also impedes them to lay their eggs on the sandy beaches. Plastic bags, waste, oil, and other chemical spillage are hazardous not only to the sea turtles trying to embark on their journey to their habitat of coral reefs but to all marine life. Plastic bags, in particular, can be dangerous. Sea turtles may confuse them for appetizing jellyfish.

Hawksbill sea turtles can also feed on sea grass, sponges, corallimorphians and zoanthids. Fishing nets pose a danger to sea turtles. Many of them get tangled, making it harder for them to escape. However, many fish boats are now utilizing the TED (Turtle Exclusion Device) method, which allows them to escape from an open area when accidentally stuck in a net. If the small Hawksbill sea turtle, against all odds, makes it to the beach shoreline, it will try to swim its way to its natural habitats – the coral reefs.

There it will grow and develop a brown and yellow, spiky carapace or shell. And, it may grow to be as big as 100 pounds and 30 inches long. Amazingly, it will navigate through rough ocean waters until it reaches the currents. Sea turtles use the ocean currents as their navigational compass to travel from one region to another.

They may travel as much as 1,400 miles to reach their original birthplace. When female turtles arrive at their beach destination, every 2 years to nest, they lay as many as 160 clutches of eggs, unaware of the many dangers ahead. Predators and pollution have caused the population of Hawksbill turtles to decline by 80% worldwide in the last 105 years.

courtesy of iStockphoto

Biologists and conservationists are making efforts that these sea turtles do not go extinct. They work hard to educate about conservation and preservation methods for the 8,000 nests recorded around the world. Sea turtles are an essential part of the ecosystem, the living area that surrounds the beaches and the ocean where all different species coexist.

When they lay their eggs on the sand, they nourish the nearby plant roots, preventing beach erosion. When sea turtles feed on sea grass, they promote healthy living for other species in the water that use sea grass as their home. When sea turtles are not able to nest on beaches, it greatly sends a signal of the conditions of the area.

Have you seen turtle nesting sites in your area?