all living things
There are many millions of different kinds (species) of insects. Bees are insects – they have three body segments and six legs, like all insects. But they are not all the same species. There are about 20,000 different kinds of bees.
Where there are flowers there are bees. They collect pollen and honey from the flowers.
Most bees live in large groups, or colonies, and they have different jobs. But some kinds of bees live on their own.
An alien? From space?
No! It's a bumble bee, with a hairy body and legs, antennae, and huge eyes.
So many species
A special thing about beetles is that there are so many different kinds.
Wild carp are plain colours , but people have bred colouful ones, such as Koi carp and goldfish. Breeding animals for what we want is called artificial selection.
This yak is a cow from Asian mountains.
Maybe the old wild cows looked a bit like this.
A courtship dance
In this photo a male and female are dancing together. Cranes usually stay with the same partner for their whole life, and have chicks each year.
A pair of wood pigeons
Wood pigeons are large wild pigeons. This is a female and male pair. They seem to be showing affection. This is called 'bonding' and helps the pair to stay together while they both look after their eggs and chicks.
An African elephant
A group of young elephants by the side of the Zambezi River, Africa
Is it nearly lunchtime?
The picture on the left shows a human stomach and intestines. The one on the right shows a tapeworm growing inside someone's intestines.
On land or water
Frogs grow from tadpoles, which live underwater and have gills, like fish. Tadpoles are their larvae. Adult frogs have lungs, like land animals.
In the early springtime frogs gather in still water. The female produces eggs (frogspawn) and the male scatters small 'cells' (sperm) onto the eggs so they can develop into tadpoles.
There are many kinds of animals, many kinds of animals with backbones (vertebrates), many kinds of reptiles, and many kinds of lizards.
We call him Muddy the meerkat. And he certainly looks cute. But meerkats can be aggressive killers. Giving names to animals is something humans like to do. We like to pretend that they are like us. But they're not. They are what they are and not what we would like them to be.
Meerkats live in the deserts of southwest Africa.
Octopuses live in all of the oceans of the world.
Most of our planet is covered in water, and most of us never go far beneath the surface. Life in water and life in air are very different.
Polar bears: mother and cubs.
Polar bears can live for about 25 years. The most common cause of death is starvation.
Where polar bears live
The far north of the Earth, and the Arctic, is at the centre of this map. So it's an unusual view of our planet.
Polar bears live around coastlines of the far north.
Predator and prey
An orca whale tries to catch a seal , on the coast of Antarctica.
Sea urchin shells
After the animal dies the spines usually break off. Underneath there is amazing natural beauty.
A 'jumping spider'
It's one king of about 50,000 kinds – all with eight legs, all breathing air, all making silk. Also, with more eyes than you have.
The orange areas of the map show where tigers lived less than 200 years ago. The dark blue areas show where wild tigers live now.
People caught cats to keep in many parts of the world,
but modern domestic cats are descended from cats from the area shown by the red circle.
What's special about beetles? Well, one thing is that they have hard wing cases. Also, there are a LOT of different kinds.
Some experts say that 25% of species of animals on Earth are beetles.
You think that humans 'dominate' the planet? Ha! Meerkats think that they super-special, too.
Insects, especially beetles, rule.
Bees, beetles, butterflies ... three kinds of insect. (There are many more kinds, such as mosquitoes, moths, and midges.)
Butterflies have scales on their wings, with bright colours.
They have an interesting life cycle – adult - egg - larva - pupa - adult - egg - larva - pupa - adult - egg - - -
(A cycle means something that happens over and over again.)
Carp are freshwater fish. That means they don't live in the sea, which is salty water and not 'fresh'.
Many people like to eat carp. And some people like to catch them with a fishing rod and line. Those people are anglers.
Other people, in China and Japan, have chosen the most beautiful fish. They have bred kinds such as 'koi'. They certainly add colour, movement and interest to large garden ponds and lakes.
Carp come from Europe and Asia, but people have taken them to other parts of the world.
Cows or cattle
Cows are domesticated animals. That means that humans keep them. They're not wild animals.
Of course, a long time ago there were only wild cattle. At first humans hunted them. Then people captured them.
The people selected the ones they wanted to have calves. So there are many kinds of cow but they are all just one species.
They are very useful to us. They give us milk and meat. They also give us cow dung, or muck, that we can use as fertilizer for crops.
Wherever people have spread, they have taken cattle with them.
Cranes are the tallest of all flying birds. They have long necks and legs and they move lightly, like really good human dancers.
There are fifteen species of cranes, and we call these different kinds a 'family'.
There are cranes in all continents except South America and frozen Antarctica. Several species are 'endangered'. That means that they could become extinct soon.
Doves and pigeons
Doves and pigeons are the most common birds in the world.
They live everywhere except in dry deserts and the cold parts of the Earth in the far north and south.
They're not all the same. There are more than 300 species.
Some are domesticated, and people keep them. They can provide meat, but they have a very special ability to find their way home even from far away. Sometimes they can carry human messages back home. These pigeons are descended from a species called rock pigeons.
Some domesticated pigeons escape. Many cities have flocks of escaped pigeons.
Elephants are smart animals with strong emotions. They show sadness when one of them dies.
Females and young live in family groups. The oldest female is usually 'in charge'. Males leave the group when the become adult. They spend time on their own or with other males.
African elephants are bigger than Asian elephants, and have very big ears. They can flap their ears to keep cool.
In Asia, elephants can be trained to work for humans.
Humans kill elephants for their tusks, and sometimes they kill them because elephants damage their crops. So there are fewer and fewer wild elephants.
Flatworms are invertebrates. That means they don't have any bones.
Insects and shellfish don't have bones, either. But they have skeletons on the outside – hard outer layers (exoskeletons).
Flatworms don't have that, so they're just ... soft and wriggly. They're simple animals. They don't have hearts and the don't breathe. They need oxygen, just as you do. But they take it in through their skin. Most are small, or they wouldn't get enough oxygen. The flat surface also means that all of their inside are close to their skin.
Some are parasites. They feed off other living things and do them harm.
Tapeworms (from meat that isn't fully cooked) and schistosoma (which can get in through your skin, from dirty water) can both infect people. They cause weakness and other serious problems.
Maybe that's why humans don't like them. We don't want to eat their 'babies' and then have them growing inside us.
Fleas are another parasite that can infect humans.
Many wild animals have fleas. Dogs and cats can easily be infected. Humans, too.
Mostly fleabites are not a very serious problem. They can just cause itching. But fleas are like mosquitoes. They stick their noses where they shouldn't - through skin and into blood. It's the blood they want. It's their food.
But they can spread disease from person to person, from animal to animal, from pet or wild animal to person. Hundreds of years ago, millions of people in Europe died of plague. Fleas helped it spread from rats to people, and from person to person.
Fleas are insects with no wings. They can't fly but they can jump. They are very very good at jumping, so they can jump from animal to animal.
They also have very hard outer layers – exoskeletons. It's very difficult to squash a flea to kill it.
Frogs, toads and newts spend part of their lives living on dry land, in the air, and part of their time in water. We call them amphibians. They make a whole class of 'animals with bones'. (The other classes are birds, mammals, reptiles and fish. They all have inside-skeletons, with bones.)
Frogs have lungs to breathe (except when they are tadpoles, which breathe through gills, like fish). But they can also take in oxygen through their skin, and they can do that underwater.
Do you have eyes at the back of your head? No. But frogs' eyes are useful. They stick out from their heads, so that they can see behind them almost as well as in front. It's hard to creep up behind a frog.
Lizards are reptiles. Their reptile relatives include snakes, crocodiles and turtles. And experts now say that birds are closely related. They say that birds and reptiles make a single 'class' of 'animals with backbones'. (Animals with backbones are called vertebrates.)
Snakes are the closest relatives to lizards. In fact some lizards have no legs so they look, and move, like snakes. But, unlike snakes, lizards have ears on the outside (though they are usually just small openings and not big outside tabs like you, me and elephants have).
There are different groups of lizards, including iguanas, chameleons and geckos.
Some lizards have special padded feet so that they walk on vertical surfaces. Some iguanas live by the sea, and find food underwater. Some chameleons have crystals in their skin so they can change colour.
Meerkats - the truth
Meerkats look cute. So we've used them on this website to help us to tell stories.
Meerkats quickly learn that humans who come to photograph and film them are harmless, and they become brave enough to come close. (Most wild animals have a strong instinct to get away from humans, even when people feed them.)
But they make very bad pets. They bite, and they create smells (scents) to mark their territory. They count humans as well as their homes as part of their territory.
In fact, even though meerkats live in groups and work together closely, they can kill each other's babies.
A group (or 'mob') of meerkats has a 'king and queen' – called the alpha pair. These two often kill babies of other members of the group, so that their own young have a better chance to survive. They will kick a mother of other babies out of the group. She must go to try to find a new group.
So ... meerkats are animals that bite, smell bad, and kill baby meerkats. Cute? Only to look at.
Female mosquitoes bite, to feed on blood. They like larger land animals – vertebrates. That includes mammals, and so it includes humans.
There are many species of mosquitoes. Many are harmless. Many don't bite humans at all. Others bite but they don't cause a problem. And then there are those that bite, and then bite more people. They spread small amounts of blood from one person to another. In that blood are very tiny living things, bacteria and viruses, that cause diseases.
Mosquitoes spread disease. This is less of a problem in cooler parts of the world. But in places that are warm all year it's a huge problem. The diseases kill, children as well as adults. Or they make people too ill to work. If you are already poor and you can't work then life is very hard.
Mussels live in water. The ones people like to eat live in salty water – that is, in the sea. Others live in fresh (not salty) water such as rivers and lakes.
Mussel shells have two halves, with a 'hinge' so they can open and close. They then suck in small living things, such as plankton, from the water. They filter the water. They keep the plankton, and blow the unwanted water back out from their bodies.
Pearls can grow inside mussel shells. And inside the shells of other shellfish. Pearls are small 'stones' that grow in the same way as a mussel's shell grows. But they are hard, usually round, and shiny. So people use them for jewellery. Only very few shells have pearls, so they are rare. Beautiful and rare – those are things that make something very valuable to humans.
Octopuses are related to mussels, and snails. They're molluscs.
Unlike mussels and snails, octopuses live in a world where few people go. Even with modern diving gear, not many people explore under the sea.
It's not like our world of dry land and air. It's like another planet.
But it isn't another planet. It's this one. It's MOST of this one, since the Earth is mostly covered in water.
Like aliens from another planet, sea life is strange to us. But there is also much that is the same. animals like octopuses have males and females. Their bodies works with the same complicated chemicals, such as DNA.
Octopuses are predators. That is, they eat other animals, such as shellfish, worms, prawns and even fish. But their babies, newly hatched fro eggs, are very tiny, and they float with plankton. So they, in turn, are eaten. To make up for that, a female octopus lays very many eggs – maybe tens of thousands, because only a few will survive. The female of some species places her eggs in hidden places, and even looks after them for a few months. Then, the mother octopus dies. By that time, the father octopus has been dead for some time.
They're sometimes called 'bears of the sea', but maybe they should be called bears of the ice, or maybe bears of the far north. They can live on land, on floating ice, and they can swim for long distances.
Some people of the far north call them nanuq, or nanook
They are closely related to other large bears, especially brown bears, but they do not live in forests. Mostly, they live on floating ice. They hunt seals to eat, and can move quickly over rough or smooth ice.
Mother bears are very caring of their young ones. First they dig a den in the snow, and stay there through the winter, sleeping for a lot of the time. The babies, usually two, are born during the winter, and they're very small. The young ones drink her milk, and they grow. The mother doesn't eat in this time, but lives off her fat. Eventually they break out of their icy den, and she can eat again. The babies watch and play and learn. They stay with her mother for two or three years. After that they must look after themselves.
Some seals, like polar bears, live in the far north. They have the same habitat – icy coastlines. Seals provide food for polar bears. The seals are polar bears' prey.
It can be tough being a seal. There are other predators, like killer whales (orca) and some large sharks.
But many seals also live in other parts of the world. There are no polar bears in the Antarctic nor in the huge southern oceans of the world. But there are seals there. They live as far north as the southern coasts of Australia, South Africa and South America.
There are even some seals in the Galapagos Islands, close to the equator. But most seals prefer cooler water.
Where seals live
There are many species (kinds) of seals. Different species live in the north and in the south.
Sea urchins live everywhere.
Everywhere in the oceans, that is. And since oceans cover most of the world that is a lot of places.
They can live in shallow water – so be careful you don't tread on one if you're paddling in a rocky place. They can live in deep water, all the way down to 5000 metres below the sea.
If you see one you might think it's a spiky plant. But they move and they eat. They're animals
There are almost a thousand different kinds (or species). (There is only one species of humans. Scientists call us all 'home sapiens'. We live in lots of different places, too. But not deep in the oceans.)
The shells of sea urchins can be very beautiful. They can look like something carefully made by a very skilled human. But they are 'natural' – not made by people.
There may be almost a thousand species of sea urchins, but there are almost 50,000 (fifty thousand) species of spider. That's a lot of different kinds.
They all breathe air, so they live on land. They make silk, and many kinds build webs. They all have eight legs*. They have mouths with fangs, and the fangs deliver poison.
By instinct, people are scared of crawling things like spiders. But you can overcome your fear once you know that a particular spider is harmless. Most common spiders very rarely bite people, and if they do the poison is not strong enough to do much harm
There are a few species that do need special caution. Australian funnel web spiders have poison that can kill. But people know how to deal with the problem – first aid treatment and a chemical that makes the poison harmless work very well. NOBODY has died from a funnel web bite since the 'anti-poison' was created.
*You can only be a spider if you have eight legs. But having eight limbs doesn't mean that you MUST be a spider. Octopuses have eight arms, but they are not spiders.
Tigers and domestic cats
Tigers are the biggest of all cats.
They are 'fearsome' animals. It means that we are afraid of them, and also that we admire them.
But people have not been good for tigers. The map shows how the places that wild tigers live have shrunk in less than 200 years. The orange areas show where they lived before, and the dark blue areas show the only places left for them.
It's interesting that we have been much better for smaller cats. We call them domestic cats. They are not so fearsome, unless you are a mouse, a rat or a bird. We like cats because they purr, they keep us company, and they're cute. But we also like them because they are killers. They have sharp eyes and sharp claws. They help us to control numbers of rats and mice who are keen to take our food.
The first domestic cats, like the ones we have now, lived in the Eastern Mediterranean region of the Earth. Humans caught them, and kept them.
(C) Smilite Ltd, 2019
Image credits: all photography and illustration by Adobe Stock, unless otherwise stated