Animals from head to toe


Go "wild" this summer and discover biodiversity all around you, by watching animals from head to toe. Learners can get a closeup look at live animals and their amazing adaptations in all kinds of places—the zoo, science center, wildlife center, beach, park, even backyard or schoolyard. 

Starting at the top, take a close look at animal mouths. We describe them with words like lip, beak, mandible, jaw and snout. Can you spot how an animal uses its mouth to eat, communicate, feed its young, build a home, and/or ward off predators?

Take beaks, for example. A pelican's beak comes with its own food storage compartment. A woodpecker's beak is tough as a hammer. A hummingbird's long, slender beak sucks up nectar from deep inside a flower. In the activity What Do Birds Do?, brainstorm a list of bird behaviors that involve beaks, like pecking for insects or preening feathers, then head outside to watch bird beaks in action. Through this activity, you can link to the video DragonflyTV GPS: Cave Swallows. Want to try your hand at picking up objects the way a bird does with its beak? Try the Bird Beaks activity. Which beak do you wish you could have?

Working your way to the bottom, scope out animal feet. Think of all the words that refer to feet such as hoof, claw, flipper, trotter, and paw. In the activity Biodiversity of Feet, look closely at live animals' feet to envision how each animal uses its appendages to live in its environment. Does the animal use its feet to hop, gallop, dig, paddle, hang, hunt, eat, and/or dance? (Wondering which animal dances? Take a look in the mirror!) From this activity, you can link to the video DragonflyTV GPS: Biodiversity, and "tour" the Bronx Zoo. Can't get close enough to measure a live animal foot? Try the Elephant Foot activity to size up your own foot compared to one of the biggest baby feet on Earth.

For a fun literature connection to animal biodiversity, go global with the book of animal poems Around the World on Eighty Legs by Amy Gibson.

[Tokay gecko photo by M. Moffett, courtesy UC Berkeley]