We're back for another instalment in our animals throughout the world series!
It’s Independence Day for the United States today! Americans are celebrating the signing of the Declaration of independence in 1776, which declared their country as its own, separate from the UK. To celebrate this, we’re counting down some of our favourite facts about the diverse range of animals that live in and around North America!
1) Bald Eagles have been the national animal almost as long as the US has been a country
It’s true! America became its own country in 1776 when the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, and the Bald Eagle was made the national animal just 6 years later in 1782! They’re featured on many US emblems, including the ‘Great Seal’ where its outspread wings signify the country’s strength.
BONUS FACT: When you hear an eagle screech in TV and movies, it’s often not actually an eagle but a red-tailed hawk. Eagles actually make a series of high-pitched whistles.
2) Black Widow spiders have a pretty painful bite!
There are 3 species of Black Widow spiders that live in the US. Famous for the coloured hourglass shape on the abdomens, they are rather painful biters with venom reportedly 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake’s. They get their name from a bizarre mating ritual in which they sometimes kill their mates after mating.
3) There’s a family of Catfish native to North America!
The Ictaluridae are a family of catfish with around 51 different species! The most common of these is the Channel Catfish which is the national animal of several states including Nebraska and Tennessee. The Channel Catfish can also secrete different chemicals and pheromones to help communicate with other catfish and have special cells to detect these chemicals!
4) Rattlesnakes aren’t just found in the wild west.
Rattlesnakes are a staple of the American wild west, but the Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake is considered a generalist when it comes to habitat – they live in desserts, grassy plains, and even beaches. Rattlesnakes get their names from the rattling sound their tails make – their tails are made up of hard rings of keratin which they can shake back and forth up to 90 times per second.
5) One of the most endangered seal species lives in Hawaii
Hawaii has been part of the United States since 1959 and the Hawaiian Monk Seal lives in Hawaii’s waters. Populations are at one third of historic levels and there are only around 1,570 left in the wild. They don’t tend to migrate seasonally, but some have been known to travel hundreds of miles into open ocean.
6) A US president helped save bison populations in America.
Ex-President Theodore Roosevelt used to be an avid hunter and travelled in 1883 to the Dakota Territory to hunt bison. After seeing the dwindling numbers of bison, he returned with a drive to improve the numbers across the US. He helped to found the American Bison Society and, in tun, numbers have been rising ever since!
7) Raccoons don’t wash their food before eating.
No American suburb is complete without a raccoon or two rifling through the trash cans. They’re opportunistic scavengers, feeding off of food scraps from rubbish in city settings and anything from seeds to bird eggs in the wild. What is most interesting is that they often dip their food in water before eating. You might think that this is to clean the food, but it’s actually to soften the callouses on their hands to better feel their food. By doing this, they can learn how to identify and find the food in the wild a whole lot easier.
8) Brown Bears are big fish eaters.
Brown Bears love to hibernate through the chilly Northern American winters, and they need plenty of fat storage to sustain them through this period. In aid of this, they eat lots of Alaskan Salmon. Brown Bears, usually solitary, will sometimes gather in the autumn in large groups at Alaskan fishing spots to graze on the salmon swimming upstream to mate. These bears will need to eat around 90lbs (40kg) of salmon to see them through their hibernation.
9) Lasagna Lizards and Snot Otters are real!
It sounds weird but they are totally real! They’re both nicknames for the Salamander, which live under rocks in streams across the US. The Americas are actually home to more species of salamander than the rest of the world and there are around 600 species worldwide. Some species spend the majority of their lives underwater and breathe oxygen through a membrane that covers their skin.
10. Beavers have great teeth!
Beavers are well known for gnawing away at trees to build their dams. Their teeth are actually dark orange due to a protective coating and grow constantly throughout their life. They are worn down through daily use and are so sharp that they can cleave a willow the size of a human finger in one bite. Pretty strong gnashers, eh?!
What a list! Which one surprised you the most? Let us know down below and Happy 4th of July to all who celebrate!