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Ranger Stu's Virtual Zoo - Week 12 - Paws and Claws!

Its Week 12 of Ranger Stu's Virtual Zoo, this week we are looking at animals paws, claws, fins and flippers!


This is a great topic to combine with classification as animals limbs look quite different to each other and animal groups tend to share similarities in their limbs.


As usual on Wednesday I will be posting a video on my YouTube channel (subscribe here!). We will be checking out some animals feet up close and learning how to spot animal signs and tracks in the wild!



Animals don't only use their limbs for movement but for many other reasons too. Catching food, fighting predators, building nests, communicating and even using smart phones (that's humans by the way and not the local park squirrel!)

I thought it would be interesting to look at how some animals use their feet in some seriously unusual ways, so here are my top three!


Extra Ears!

Elephants can "hear" through their feet!

Elephants don't just communicate by trumpeting, they make very low frequency noises that travel through the ground. These noises can travel many miles and other elephants can detect these noises through their feet. They can then communicate back through more low frequency noises!

This means that elephants can warn of danger and keep in contact with other members of the herd using a noise level that is below human hearing!


Defying Gravity!

Many geckos can climb buildings, trees and even glass, sometimes you will find them completely upside down hanging from a ceiling or leaf!

How do they do this? Why don't they fall?

Well geckos have tiny hairs on their feet called setae and each foot has around 14,000 of them, each of those split into around 1,000 even smaller bristles called spatulae.

This means they have an incredible grip that they can turn on and off by the movement of their body!


Venom glands!

When we think of venomous animals we may think of a snake or scorpion but there are a small number of mammals with venom glands and the male duck billed platypus is one of them.

They have venomous spurs on their legs. Only the males have this which they use to fight each other during the breeding season!

Apparently the venom will not kill a human but is extremely painful! (so don't poke one!).



Now we have learnt about some amazing feet adaptations its time for your weekly tasks!


Animal Tracks


This week rather than give a separate EYFS and KS1+2 topic I would like to combine them and get everyone out there learning how to spot signs of animals, discovering their tracks and work out which animal they came from.


Your task this week is to go out into your local woodland or park and see what animal tracks you can discover. Animal tracks are foot prints left behind in soft ground by the animals that have walked through them.

The best place to spot an animal track is in mud, sand or snow. After this weeks rainfall its the perfect time to go out and search for tracks!

If you are in a city it may be a squirrel, fox or bird track, if you are out in a rural area you will be able to see a larger variety of foot prints.


Footprints can tell you a lot about an animal, where it came from, what direction it was going and even if its healthy or not!

Once you start looking you will find other signs of animals such as fur, feathers, poo (scat) and burrows. It can soon become a fun activity every time you leave the house!


The Wildlife Trust has a great guide to identifying tracks to start off, check it out here. If you don't know what animal created the footprint then take a look online, the fun is in discovering what animal has previously walked the path that you are now on!


Here are some animal tracks and signs that we found on our local nature reserve yesterday!


A deer hoofprint around a cattle trough - This means that a deer is using the water trough to drink from during the dry weather that we have had for the past few months.


A broken snail shell - This is likely a tree stump that is used by a thrush. They smash open the snails shells by throwing them against the stump and then remove the soft body of the snail to eat.


Small burrow - We found two small burrows close to each other, likely made by a small rodent such as a mouse. Whilst taking a closer look we found a seed which had been chewed in half and you could see rodent teeth marks on it!



If you would like to share pictures of your animal tracks that you have found then you can post pictures of your activities to my Facebook and Instagram or you can post them in the comments section below.


Enjoy, take care and stay safe.

Ranger Stu



Ranger Stu's Virtual Zoo will always be free to use.

It’s difficult times for most of us in the animal industry with uncertainly about the future and our jobs. If you are a school using my blog as a resource for your students perhaps or would just like to donate. You can do so using paypal.me/rangerstu Your donations are massively appreciated.


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