Strange But True

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From Xplor: January/February 2019

Your guide to all the unusual, unique, and unbelievable stuff that goes on in nature.

  • A beaver’s front teeth are chainsaw-sharp and never stop growing. If the bucktoothed builder didn’t nibble on trees every day, its chompers would soon grow too long for its head.
  • In the fall, a black-capped chickadee stashes seeds in hundreds of hiding spots. While doing so, its brain actually grows bigger. Its noggin stays oversized all winter to help the hungry bird find food. Then it shrinks back down to normal size in the spring.
  • Slithery slumber party: Eastern gartersnakes often crowd together in the same winter den. One crevice in Canada is known to contain tens of thousands of resting reptiles tangled together in a space the size of your living room.
  • Gulls aren’t found only at the beach. Ring-billed gulls are often spotted at large lakes and rivers throughout Missouri. They even turn up at city dumps and supermarket parking lots looking for scraps of food.
  • Unlike other deer, elk have two canine teeth called ivories. The thumb-sized chompers are made of the same stuff as elephant and walrus tusks. Scientists think prehistoric elk used longer, saberlike tusks for fighting.
  • The bright yellow dots on a spotted salamander are a warning to would-be predators. When threatened, the candy-bar-sized amphibian releases a milky poison from its skin that makes it taste terrible.
  • Snow brrrrrds: Common redpolls sometimes tunnel under the snow to stay warm on chilly winter nights. By doing so, these tough northern finches can survive temperatures of 65 degrees below zero.

Also In This Issue

Click Beetle
We’re jumping into this extra-long year by celebrating Missouri’s bounciest critters.
Tent in the Snow
Learn how to turn a snow day into a snowy sleepover.

This Issue's Staff

Bonnie Chasteen
Les Fortenberry
Angie Daly Morfeld
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
David Stonner
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White