Gulo is Latin for ‘glutton’. The wolverine is a strong and versatile predator and scavenger. It can catch prey many times larger than itself. Wolverines eat everything from moose and mountain goats to squirrels, birds’ eggs and berries. They eat a lot of meat, and they even know how to store it for later. Wolverines use snow as refrigerators, creating caches for food such as meat from reindeer carcasses. During times when food is hard to find, the wolverines will go back to their stash to retrieve a meal.
Armadillos have leathery armour shells. The shells are so hard that they have been reported to fend of bullets. In July 2015 an East Texas man was wounded after he fired a gun at an armadillo and the bullet ricocheted back to hit him in the face. Karmadillo?
When dung beetles sniff out a fresh pile of manure, they shape a small ball out of it and push it away to a safe distance where they can eat it in peace, away from other competing insects. They like to run in straight lines, so they don’t accidentally change course and turn back towards the dung pile where another beetle will try to steal its precious ball. How do they get their bearings? Scientists have discovered that they navigate via the Milky Way! Tiny, poo-eating insects are down in the dirt but also have their eyes on the stars.
Dolphins are social animals, who live in groups that hunt and even play together. They are highly intelligent, and can communicate with each other in different ways: using body language, squeaking and whistling, snapping their jaws and and slapping their tails on the surface of the water. Because dolphins are mammals, they need to come to the surface to breathe. They can jump as high as six metres in the air.
With its long, wobbly-looking legs it may seem surprising that a giraffe can reach a speed of up to 56 kilometres per hour. The tallest land mammal is a fast runner but an unstable drinker. Drinking can pose serious problems for giraffes. To get to water, a giraffe needs to spread its front legs and crane its neck down at an awkward angle. This position leaves the giraffe clumsy and vulnerable to predators. Thankfully giraffes only need to drink water once a day, because they can get almost all the water they need from the plants they eat. For this they have a special tool: a 50 centimetre-long tongue! The giraffe can just wrap its tongue around the foliage and pull the leaves into its mouth. The tongue also serves as a personal grooming device: a giraffe occasionally uses it to pick its nose and to clean its ears out.
Elephants, the largest land animals, are equipped with a real multitool. They use their big trunks for breathing, eating, drinking, greeting and caressing each other. An elephant’s trunk can weigh more than two men, but it is so dexterous it can pick up tiny things like a single grain of rice. The trunk is great for sniffing things out from miles away, and that’s why elephants are good at finding water sources even in dry season. Elephants love to swim, and the trunk works as a snorkel when they need to pass deep lakes or rivers.
The trunk is also an instrument that makes a loud trumpeting sound when the elephant gets excited, nervous or angry.
Did you know that just as human babies suck their thumbs for comfort, baby elephants do the same with their trunks?
Snails may be known for their slow pace of travel, but they can get to most places eventually. Thanks to the glue-like slime they produce, they can crawl up even vertical objects like trees and walls. The slime also protects the snail’s soft body when it crawls over rough surfaces. Snails live in their own, rush-free world - they have no mechanism for hearing sounds and they are almost completely blind. However, their sense of smell is extraordinary, and in case a snail loses one of its eyes it can grow a new one.