Category Archives: Interesting Facts

Spinal Cord Facts

  • The spinal cord is the bundle of nerves running down the middle of the backbone.
  • The spinal cord is the route for all nerve signals traveling between the brain and the body.
  • The spinal cord can actually work independently of the brain, sending out responses to the muscles directly.
  • The outside of the spinal cord is made of the long tails or axons of nerve cells and is called white matter; the inside is made of the main nerve bodies and is called grey matter.
  • Your spinal cord is about 43 cm long and I cm thick. It stops growing when you are about five years old.
  • Damage to the spinal cord can cause paralysis.
  • Injuries below the neck can cause paraplegia — paralysis below the waist.
  • Injuries to the neck can cause quadriplegia — paralysis below the neck.
  • Descending pathways are groups of nerves that carry nerve signals down the spinal cord – typically signals from the brain for muscles to move.
  • Ascending pathways are groups of nerves that carry nerve signals up the spinal cord – typically signals from the skin and internal body sensors going to the brain.

Symbiosis Facts

  • Living things that feed off other living things are called parasites.
  • Living things that depend on each other to live are called symbiotic.
  • Many tropical rainforest trees have a symbiotic relationship with fungi on their roots. The fungi get energy from the trees and in return give the trees phosphorus and other nutrients.
  • A phyte is a plant that grows on another plant.
  • Epiphytes are plants that grow high up on other plants, especially in tropical rainforests.
  • Many plants rely on bees and butterflies to spread their pollen. In return, they give nectar.
  • Saprophytes are plants and fungi that depend on decomposing material, not sunlight, for sustenance.
  • Most orchids are saprophytic as seedlings.
  • Corsiaceae orchids of New Guinea, Australia and Chile are saprophytic all their lives.
  • Various ants, such as leaf-cutter and harvester ants in tropical forests, line their nests with leaves which they cut up. The leaves provide food for fungi which, in lure, provide food for the ants.

Chemical Compound Facts

  • Compounds are substances that are made when the atoms of two or more different elements join together.
  • The properties of a compound are usually very different from those of the elements which it is made of.
  • Compounds are different from mixtures because the elements are joined together chemically. They can only be separated by a chemical reaction.
  • Every molecule of a compound is exactly the same combination of atoms.
  • The scientific name of a compound is usually a combination of the elements involved, although it might have a different common name.
  • Table salt is the chemical compound sodium chloride. Each molecule has one sodium and one chlorine atom.
  • The chemical formula of a compound summarizes which atoms a molecule is made of. The chemical formula for water is H 20 because each water molecule has two hydrogen (H) atoms and one oxygen (0) atom.
  • Table salt, or sodium chloride, forms when sodium Hydroxide neutralizes hydrocloric acid.
  • There only 100 or so elements but they can combine in different ways to form many millions of compounds.
  • The same combination of elements, such as carbon and hydrogen, can form many different compounds.
  • Compounds are either organic (see organic chemistry), which means they contain carbon atoms, or inorganic.

Fox Facts

  • The larder of one Arctic fox was found to contain 50 lemmings and 40 little auks, all lined up with tails pointing the same way and their heads bitten off.
  • African bat-eared foxes have huge ears for radiating heat away from the body.
  • Arctic foxes live only 480 km from the North Pole.
  • The grey fox of North and Central America is the oldest surviving member of the dog family, first appearing 9 million years ago.
  • The African fennec fox’s 15-cm long ears are the largest of any carnivore.
  • The American grey fox leaps with ease between tree branches.
  • Some foxes roll about and chase their tails to ‘charm’ rabbits, which seem fascinated and come closer, allowing the fox to make a grab.
  • The red fox has adapted with great success to urban life, even moving into houses via cat flaps.
  • When locating insects beneath the ground, the bat-eared fox cups its large ears, gradually pinpointing the exact position of the prey before digging.
  • In early autumn, up to 90% of the red fox’s diet may consist of apples, blackberries and other fruits.
  • Basically a night hunter, the red fox is often seen during the day, and shows up sharply against winter snow.

Bat Facts

  • Bats are the only flying mammals. Their wings are made of leathery skin.
  • Most types of bat sleep during the day, hanging upside down in caves, attics acid other dark places. They come out at night to hunt.
  • Bats find things in the dark by giving out a series of high-pitched clicks — the bats tell where they are and locate (find) prey from the echoes (sounds that bounce back to them). This is called echo location.
  • Bats are not blind — their eyesight is as good as that of most humans.
  • There are 900 species of bat, living on all continents except Antarctica.
  • Most bats feed on insects, but fruit bats reed on fruit.
  • Many tropical flowers rely on fruit bats to spread their pollen.
  • Frog-eating bats can tell edible frogs from poisonous ones by the frogs’ 0iating calls.
  • The vampire bats of tropical Latin America feed on blood, sucking it from animals such as cattle and horses. A colony of 100 vampire bats can feed from the blood of 25 cows or 14,000 chickens in one night.
  • False vampire bats are bats that do not suck on blood, but feed on other smalI creatures such as bats and rats. The greater false vampire bat of Southeast Asia is one of the biggest of all bats.
  • There are about 130 species of fruit bat known as flying foxes. They fly on leathery wings, which can span as much as 1.8 m, to feed on fruits such as bananas and figs.

Black Bear Facts

  • American black bears vary in colour from black, through brown, cinnamon, honey and ice-grey, to white, according to regional races.
  • Beavers are a favourite food of some black bears, because of their high fat content.
  • In autumn, when they are feeding up for the winter sleep, black bears put on up to 1.5 kg per day.
  • Black bears mate in the summer, but the fertilized egg does not begin to develop until the autumn, and the cubs are born in January or February.
  • Black bears occasionally raid people’s beehives and orchards, as well as city dumps.
  • Black bears are excellent climbers and in autumn will climb trees and gorge themselves on fruit, nuts and berries.
  • ‘Nuisance’ bears that have learned to beg and scavenge garbage in US national parks have to be tranquillized and moved to new areas some distance away.
  • The most northerly Canadian black bears have a varied diet ranging from caribou and seals to birds’ eggs and tiny shrimp.
  • The sun bear of Southeast Asia is the world’s smallest bear, at 27-65 kg. It specializes in gathering honey and insects with its long tongue.
  • South America’s only bear is the spectacled bear, which builds feeding and sleeping platforms in the branches of fruit trees.
  • The black sloth bear of India has a mobile snout and closable nostrils for dealing with ants.
  • Asiatic black bears are constipated when they awake from their winter hibernation, and in Russia they drink birch tree sap as a laxative.

Beach Facts

  • Beaches are sloping bands of sand, shingle or pebbles along the edge of a sea or lake.
  • Some beaches are made entirely of broken coral or shells.
  • On a steep beach, the backwash after each wave is strong. It washes material down the beach and so makes the beach gentler sloping.
  • On a gently sloping beach, each wave runs in powerfully and falls back gently. Material gets washed up the beach, making it steeper.
  • The world’s largest pleasure beach is Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA, over 45 km long.
  • Waves crashing against the shore can weaken cliffs and cause some to fall into the sea.
  • The little bays in this beach have been scooped out as waves strike the beach at an angle.
  • The slope of a beach matches the waves, so the slope is often gentler in winter when the waves are stronger.
  • A storm beach is a ridge of gravel and pebbles flung high above the normal high-tide mark during a storm.
  • At the top of each beach a ridge, or berm, is often left at the high-tide mark.
  • Beach cusps are tiny bays in the sand that are scooped out along the beach when waves strike it at an angle.
  • Many scientists believe that beaches are only a temporary phenomenon caused by the changes in sea levels after the last Ice Age.

Salmon Facts

  • Salmon are river and sea fish caught or farmed in huge quantities for food.
  • All salmon are born in rivers and lakes far inland, then swim down river and out to sea.
  • Adult salmon spend anything from 6 months to 7 years in the oceans, before returning to rivers and swimming upstream to spawn (lay their eggs).
  • More than five salmon species, including the sockeye and the chinook, spawn in North American rivers running into the North Pacific.
  • Cherry salmon spawn in eastern Asian rivers, and amago salmon spawn in Japanese rivers.
  • Atlantic salmon spawn in rivers in northern Europe and eastern Canada.
  • Spawning salmon return to the same stream they were born in, up to 3,000 km inland. They are probably sensitive to the chemical and mineral make-up of streams and rivers, helping them to recognize their own stream.
  • To reach their spawning grounds, salmon have to swim upstream against strong currents, often leaping as high as 5 m to clear waterfalls.
  • When salmon reach their spawning grounds, they mate. The female lays up to 20,000 eggs.
  • After spawning, the weakened salmon head down river again, but few make it as far as the sea.
  • Salmon returning to their spawning ground make mighty leaps up raging ion cats. The journey can take months.

Facts About Annuals and Biennials

  • Annuals are plants that grow from seed, flower, disperse their seeds and die in a single season.
  • Some annuals’ seeds lie dormant in the ground before conditions are right for germination.
  • With an annual, producing flowers, fruits and seeds exhausts the plant’s food reserves, so once the seeds are dispersed the green parts of the plant die.
  • Many crops are annuals, including peas and beans, squashes, and cereals such as maize and wheat.
  • Annual flowers include petunias, lobelias, buttercups and delphiniums.
  • Biennials live for two years.
  • In the first year the young plant grows a ring of leaves and builds up an underground food store such as a bulb or taproot like beetroots and carrots. The food store sustains the plant through the winter.
  • In the second year the plant sends up a stem in spring. It flowers in summer.
  • Many vegetables are biennials, including beetroot, carrots and turnips.
  • Biennial flowers include wallflowers, carnations, sweet williams and evening primroses.

Dinosaur Facts

  • Dinosaurs were reptiles that dominated life on land from about 220 million to 65 million years ago, when all of them mysteriously became extinct.
  • Although modern reptiles walk with bent legs splayed out, dinosaurs had straight legs under their bodies – this meant they could run fast or grow heavy.
  • Some dinosaurs ran on their back two legs, as birds do. Others had four sturdy legs like an elephant’s.
  • Dinosaurs are split into two groups according to their hipbones – saurischians had reptile-like hips and ornithischians had bird-like hips.
  • Saurischians were either swift, two-legged predators called theropods, or hefty four-legged herbivores called sauropods.
  • Theropods had acute eyesight, fearsome claws and sharp teeth. They included Tyrannosaurus rex, one of the biggest hunting animals to ever live on land – over 15 m long, 5 m tall and weighing more than 7 tonnes.
  • Sauropods had massive bodies, long tails, and long, snake-like necks.
  • The sauropod Brachiosaurus was over 23 m long, weighed 80 tonnes and towered 12 m into the air. It was one of the biggest creatures ever to live on land.
  • Most dinosaurs are known from fossilized bones, but fossilized eggs, footprints and droppings have also been found. In 1913, mummified hadrosaur skin was found.
  • Some scientists think the dinosaurs died out after a huge meteor struck Earth off Mexico, creating a cloud that blocked the sun’s light and heat.