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Bats

Fruit bat, Daintry, Australia © Shirley Burchill

Most bats eat insects but some bats have more unusual diets. Fruit bats eat fruit, nectar and pollen as well as insects. the nectar drinking bat has a long tongue (almost as long as its body!).

The bat cannot hover in the air like insects do, so it can only feed for a fraction of a second as it flies over a flower.

There are fish eating bats which use sound to find the position of animals just under the surface of the water. These bats fly just above the surface of the water and use the sharp claws on their feet to catch fish, water insects and crustaceans.

Vampire bats drink fresh blood. Their teeth make small holes in the skin of birds and mammals. There is a chemical in the bat's saliva which stops the blood from clotting (getting hard). The bat uses its long tongue to lick blood from its victim.

Beavers

Beavers are rodents which live near streams and rivers. They can be up to 1,6 metres long and have a mass of up to 30kg. They have webbed feet and a wide, flat tail to help them swim. The beaver uses its tail to change direction when swimming and it can move its tail up and down to swim fast. When it dives, a thin, transparent tissue covers its eyes, and the nose and ears close tight. The beaver’s tongue moves to the back of its mouth to block its throat. This means that the beaver can gnaw and carry branches in its mouth under the water. They eat twigs, leaves and tree bark. Beavers will eat any tree but they prefer willow and birch. They use their gnawing teeth to cut through the branches and even tree trunks.

The Dragonfly

Dragonfly © Paul Billiet

The dragonfly has large compound eyes which almost meet at the top of its head. It can see the movement of another insect even when it is 13 metres away. It flies towards its prey very quickly, reaching speeds of up to 35km/h. It attacks its prey from below, using its legs to catch the other insect. The prey is then moved from the dragonfly's legs to its mouth. This happens in a few seconds while the dragonfly is still in flight.

Jonny the Otter icon

Johnny's Fact File No.2
Some whales have whalebone, called baleen, which hangs from the upper jaw on each side of the mouth. The edges of the baleen are separated into between 100 and 400 thin strips. These thin strips filter the plankton. The sea water is sucked into the mouth and then squeezed out through the baleen. The baleen holds back the plankton but allows the water to move through it. The whale then scrapes the plankton off the baleen with its tongue.
These baleen whales are the largest mammals on Earth and yet they feed only on plankton. A blue whale needs to eat 3% to 4% of its body mass each day. This is about 2,5 tonnes of plankton.

Cheetah

The cheetah has a mass of between 39kg and 65kg, a little less than a fully grown man. It is the fastest animal on land; it can run at a top speed of 115km/h.

It is able to chase its prey for only 20 seconds over a distance of 170 metres. Because of this it has to be within 30 metres of its prey before it starts to run. The cheetah has a 50% success rate; this means that it catches its prey once in every two attempts. It kills its prey by gripping onto the windpipe with its teeth. the adult cheetah needs to eat around 2kg of meat each day.

Deer

Deer, Ashton Park, Bristol, UK © Shirley Burchill

There are many different types of deer. The chevrolain is the same size as a rabbit with a mass of up to 13 kg. The Canadian moose has a mass of 800 kg.
Deer use hearing, sight and smell to detect predators. They often lift their heads up as they eat, to look out for danger.

They eat grass, shoots, twigs, leaves, flowers and fruits. Deer change their diet with the seasons. In the autumn they eat acorns, beech nuts and fruits. In the winter they eat holly and bramble.

The reindeer eats lichen in the winter. It uses its antlers and hooves to scrape away the snow and take lichen off stones and other hard surfaces. The Canadian moose needs to eat 4 kg of food each day, which is the same mass as 20000 leaves! In the summer it eats a lot of water plants. It can eat over 1100 water plants each day.

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© Paul Billiet and Shirley Burchill 2014