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The word "animal" comes from the Latin word animale, neuter of animalis, and is derived from anima, meaning vital breath or soul. In everyday colloquial usage, the word usually refers to non-human animals. The biological definition of the word refers to all members of the Kingdom Animalia. Therefore, when the word "animal" is used in a biological context, humans are included.
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About Whale Sharks

Posted by WishbonE at 1:07 AM

Thursday, January 29, 2009

As the largest fish in the sea, reaching lengths of 40 feet (12 meters) or more, whale sharks have an enormous menu from which to choose. Their favorite meal is plankton. They scoop these tiny plants and animals up, along with any small fish that happen to be around, with their colossal gaping mouths while swimming close to the water's surface. Its massive, fusiform body reaches lengths in excess of 46' (14m). It has alternating thin white vertical bars and columns of spots on a dark background, with long ridges along the upper side of the body and a prominent lateral keel. The narrow mouth extends across the full width of its flattened head. The eyes are small and far forward on the head. Each nostril has a small barbel and the gill slits are long and extend above the pectoral fins. Above the relatively small pelvic fins are the first of two dorsal fins. The powerful caudal fin is semicircular.

The whale shark is a filter feeder — one of only three known filter feeding shark species (along with the basking shark and the megamouth shark). Whale Sharks swim slowly near the surface, consuming small crustacean plankton, small fishes, such as sardines and anchovies, and even larger fishes such as mackerel. Preferring warm waters, whale sharks populate all tropical seas. They are known to migrate every spring to the continental shelf of the central west coast of Australia. The coral spawning of the area's Ningaloo Reef provides the whale shark with an abundant supply of plankton. The whale shark is a live-bearer. Pregnant females were recently found to contain hundreds of young, up to about 2' (60cm) long.

The whale shark is found in all tropical and subtropical oceans, along coastal regions, and enters lagoons on tropical islands. It is mostly seen on the surface were divers and snorkelers can swim with this gentle, curious creature. This species, despite its enormous size, does not pose any significant danger to humans. It is a frequently cited example when educating the public about the popular misconceptions of all sharks as "man-eaters". They are actually quite gentle and can be playful with divers. The eggs remain in the body and the females give birth to live young which are 40 centimetres (15.7 in) to 60 centimetres (23.6 in) long. It is believed that they reach sexual maturity at around 30 years and the life span has been estimated to be over 100 years.

About Saber-Tooth

Posted by WishbonE at 1:19 AM

Friday, January 23, 2009

Saber-toothed cats are some of the best known and most popular of all Ice Age animals. They are among the most impressive carnivores ever to have lived. The saber-toothed cat, distinguished by two large canine teeth which often reached a length of over 8 inches, lived in the last ice age which took place in the Pleistocene era dating from 1.5 million years ago to around 9 thousand years ago. These cats were the primary predators of that era and used their unique canines to pierce the soft tissue of their prey's soft underbelly area. Sabre-toothed cats were generally more robust than today's cats and were quite bear-like in build.

Two different types of saber-toothed cats lived in the midwestern U.S. at the end of the last Ice Age. One type was the familiar sabertooth, represented by the genus Smilodon. These cats had enlarged canines usually associated with the name sabertooth. Their canines were up to 18 centimeters (7 inches) long. The second type was the less familiar scimitar cat, represented by the genus Homotherium. Scimitar cats had shorter (only about 10 centimeters [4 inches] long) and flatter canines. Numerous skeletons of saber-tooths have been found with one or both of their large canine teeth broken off or splintered. This suggests that even though these teeth came in very handy for killing prey, they were brittle and easily damaged..especially when accidentally striking bone. Jamming these canines between the ribs of their prey and jerking back to rip open stomach cavities accounted for a large number of broken teeth. These cats were about 2/3rds the size of our present day Bengal tiger and had a skull which measured about 1 foot from the tip of the nose to just behind the ears. Other information about the saber-tooth is not available but it is known that this species roamed over North and South America. It is believed that the cat originated in North America and as the ice age advancedand became more severe, the saber-tooth migrated south towards warmer weather and more ample prey.

The sabertooth had short, powerful legs. These animals were not built to run fast or far. The sabertooth was probably an ambush hunter. It would have stalked its prey or attacked large animals from a hiding place. The scimitar cat had long forelimbs, a long neck, and relatively short, powerful hindlimbs. It seems to have combined strength with speed. It probably chased its prey more than did the sabertooth. Saber-toothed cats ranged throughout much of the world during the last Ice Age. The sabertooth has been recovered from many sites in both North and South America. The scimitar cat had an even wider distribution. It is known from Africa, Eurasia, and North America. Both the sabertooth and scimitar cat have been recovered in the midwestern U.S. Both types of saber-toothed cats went extinct approximately 11,500 years ago.

About Gulls/SeaGulls

Posted by WishbonE at 11:51 PM

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Gulls or SeaGulls are typically medium to large birds, usually grey or white, often with black markings on the head or wings. They typically have harsh wailing or squawking calls. They have stout, longish bills, and webbed feet. Gull species range in size from the Little Gull, at 120 g (4.2 oz) and 29 cm (11.5 inches), to the Great Black-backed Gull, at 1.75 kg (3.8 lbs) and 76 cm (30 inches). Color mainly white with no brown plumage, head feathers vary seasonally from dirty white/brown to pure white/black, and tail whitish with no dark bars. Immature gulls often dirty white to brown.

Most gulls, particularly Larus species, are ground nesting carnivores, which will take live food or scavenge opportunistically. The live food often includes crabs and small fish. Apart from the kittiwakes, gulls are typically coastal or inland species, rarely venturing far out to sea and into surrounding deciduous forests. Sea gulls are intelligent birds existing in great numbers along coastal areas, as well as inland lakes and rivers. Gulls can drink either salt or freshwater and their scavenger diets allow them great adaptability. Sea gulls eat anything from dead fish and garbage to field mice and insects.

Gulls—the larger species in particular—are resourceful, inquisitive and highly intelligent birds, demonstrating complex methods of communication and a highly developed social structure; for example, many gull colonies display mobbing behavior, attacking and harassing would-be predators and other intruders. Sea gulls are mainly nuisance pests around harbors, landfills, agricultural areas, and when begging for food. In addition, they foul residential and commercial buildings and public areas with their smelly droppings, and they account for 50% of documented aircraft-bird strikes.

Several species of sea gulls have extended their ranges significantly inland, with landfills and agricultural development being the attractions.

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