Monday, June 5, 2017

Science: Meet a Hedgehog and a Snake

Written by Mrs. Yollis, Elie, Nolan, Rose, Brianna, Dylan B., and Josh

As part of our animal adaptation science unit, Beverly Critcher from Wildlife Experience
brought two wild animals to Mrs. Yollis' class for careful scientific observation. She brought a hedgehog and a gopher snake.

Wildlife Experience is a non-profit wildlife education organization that brings native and exotic animals to schools and teaches children about the importance of our natural world. Here is Ms. C., the owner of Wildlife Experiences.

Before we met the animals, we learned about a food chain. 
What is a food chain? 

A food chain is basically the circle of life. It always starts with a plant, which means herbivores (plant eaters) are on the bottom of the food chain. Then a predator comes and eats that herbivore and gets all the energy. Then another animal comes and eats that animal and gets all the energy. Soon, we have an animal that no other animal eats. That animal is the top of the food chain. An animal that eats another animal is called a carnivore. Animals that eat plants and meat are called omnivores.

When animals die, they decompose and make the soil nutritious, or better. That is the circle of life. A food chain can be formed in any habitat of the world. For instance, there are food chains in the oceans, savannas, and rainforests.    

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After the lesson on food chains, it was time to meet a hedgehog! Tucker, the hedgehog, is a cute fellow. Hedgehogs and porcupines have quills that can really hurt. Tucker is three years old. Out in the wild, hedgehogs usually live for up to three years. In captivity, a hedgehog can live up to seven years. Of course, that is very rare, but it is possible.

Here is a photo of some baby hedgehogs. Aren't they cute!

 See this short video of Tucker! 

Hedgehogs are mammals, but also considered as rodents. They are also insectivores. That means they eat a lot of bugs!

Hedgehogs have really cool adaptations. First of all, they use their quills (physical adaptation) to protect themselves. When the predator runs into the hedgehog, the predator gets the quills stuck into their face. The hedgehog backs up to make the quills go into the body even further. Ouch! But don't worry, the quills are made of the same thing as your hair and your nails, which is keratin. It grows back, just like you!

When a hedgehog sees a predator coming, it curls up into a ball. That is called a behavioral adaptation

Can you guess which African animal is afraid of the porcupine? It is a big animal, a big type of cat. Do you know it yet? You might be surprised, but it is a lion! Can you believe that a big lion would be scared of such a tiny creature? When a lion gets quills in his face, they hurt. Look at this photo of Mr. Shareski's dog. How can you tell that Clementine was interested in a porcupine?

Photo by Mr. Shareski

Are hedgehogs and porcupines born with quills? YES, they are. They are soft, but they turn hard and become stiff and dangerous.

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Gopher Snake

Next Miss C brought out a reptile. We know that reptiles are cold-blooded, are vertebrates, and hatch from eggs. The reptile she brought was a gopher snake. Like all snakes, it has lungs, no eyelids, and smelled through his tongue. Watch it flick its forked tongue.

Some snakes are venomous like the rattlesnake, cobra, or black mamba. When looking for a meal, they wait, strike, and wait some more. When the animal dies, the snake opens his mouth and swallows the prey whole.

Constrictors are snakes that do not have poison. Some examples are king snakes, boas, and corn snakes. Constrictors squeeze their prey until it dies and then consume it.

Ms. C showed us a gopher snake. A gopher snake looks just like rattlesnakes, especially from a distance. It has a body pattern that looks like a rattlesnake's, and it hopes that confusion will keep you  away! It will shake the tail and the rustling will sound like a rattler. This behavioral adaptation might save its life. We got to touch the snake with two fingers. What did it feel like to you?

Photo by Mrs. Yollis 

Photo by Mrs. Yollis 

As snakes grow, they shed in one long piece.

Photo by Mrs. Yollis 

Lizards shed in pieces and then eat the skin. This behavioral adaptation helps get rid of evidence.  Lizards don't want predators to know they are around.

Gopher snakes live up to 30 years in captivity. This snake is perhaps 24 years old.

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Why is the snake called a gopher snake?

What does a gopher snake eat? 
Is it an herbivore, a carnivore, or an omnivore? 

What does a snake feel like?

Why is the hedgehog born with soft quills? 

Which animal was your favorite?

Research on Worldbook Online and share some new facts! 

Give 3-6 animal food chain. Start with a plant. 


  1. Dear Mrs. Yollis,

    I loved Wildlife Experience! Ms. C brought wild animals to our class, and we even got to touch them. So far, Ms. C brought a tarantula, a kinkajou (a.k.a. A honey bear) which is endangered, a gopher snake, and a hedgehog. They were all so interesting to learn about!

    When she brought in the tarantula, I saw that everyone got the chills. We learned that a tarantula has eight eyes, has eight legs, has hair on its back, and sheds skin. A spider is an arachnid. That means that it has eight legs and two body parts, the head and the stomach. Spiders have eight eyes because they can’t move one eyeball around, so they use eight eyeballs to look in each direction. They have hair on their back as a physical adaptation. When a predator comes on up, the tarantula starts rubbing the hairs so they fly up while the predator’s mouth is open. Since the hairs are very course and spiky, they go into the predator’s throat and the predator’s mouth starts to get itchy. There he is, while the tarantula is running away. A tarantula also sheds, or molts, his or her skin. If your pet tarantula is laying on its back, he is not dead, he is molting! After a couple of days, you’ll see a bigger, new spider.

    We also learned about a kinkajou. A kinkajou is basically a cat-monkey. He has pointy ears, a long tail, fur on their skin, and a long, six-inch tongue. Kinkajous have long tails to wrap around objects to hold on if they’re going to fall. Kinkajous also pollinate. Just like bees, kinkajous love nectar. They suck the nectar with their six-inch tongue. Not so much like bees, while drinking the nectar, pollen gets stuck onto his body. But it gets stuck on his face! He goes from flower to flower pollinating with his face. Kinkajous also love honey and other sweet things. That is why in some places, he is called a honey bear.

    Sadly, Mrs. Yollis’ blog only lets comments be 4,096 characters! Part two of the comment is coming!


  2. Dear Mrs. Yollis,

    Here’s part two of my comment! Enjoy!

    We learned about the hedgehog as well. The hedgehog is a little animal with pointy quills, a cute face, and a roll-up-into-a-ball able body. The hedgehog’s quills are made of keratin, like your hair and your nails, which means that they grow back. The quills are crossed, side to side. You may be thinking, “What about when the baby is born?” Well, if the baby was born with full on quills, it would poke the mom’s stomach. They are actually born with soft quills, about as soft as your hair, and after a couple of weeks, they harden into attack quills. When I say “Attack quills,” I mean that they use their quills to attack predators. When a predator comes up to it, the hedgehog will curl into a ball. When the predator comes running to eat it, the quills will get stuck in his or her face. Then, with the hurt animal behind him, the hedgehog backs up into the animal to put more quills in deeper pierced into the skin. Although they are feisty, they are very cute. Their little faces are amazing! But don’t touch them, you’ll get poked.

    Finally, we learned about gopher snakes. Right off the bat, no, gopher snakes do not eat gophers. Snakes can eat an object only three times the size of their head. The gopher snake got its name because the snake hides in gopher holes to cool it down since he is cold blooded, which means the temperature of the air is the temperature of their body. So on hot days, these snakes hide in the shade of gopher holes to cool down. The snakes hide in gopher holes to cool down. Gopher snakes are carnivores, which means that they eat meat. This snake is a constrictor. Constrictor snakes are not poisonous. Did you know that snakes smell through their tongues? When you see a snake shaking his tongue rapidly, they are smelling around? Snakes have forked tongues, and one side of it smells to the east, and one to the west. To eat their prey, snakes wrap around the prey until it cannot breath, and then eat a tasty meal. To me, with their scales, snakes kind of feel like footballs or basketballs. A weird feeling, that is.

    I think my favorite animal was the kinkajou.

    What was your favorite animal and why?


  3. Dear Ms.Yollis,

    I actually liked two animals the most, and couldn't decide which one I liked better, so I wrote about them both. I liked the gopher snakes because I think snakes are so fascinating. Their rough scales were very neat to touch. The gopher snakes’ tongues looked so cool because they looked like dragon tongues. It was fun learning interesting facts about the snakes --- like how they can make their muscles tight so that they can hang on trees. I also liked the hedgehog because it was so adorable. Its adaptations were awesome to learn about --- like how they have quills as a protection. The gopher snakes and the hedgehog were my favorite of all the animals.

  4. Dear Mrs. Yollis,

    I really enjoyed Sally the tiger salamander’s visit.

    First the Sally the Salamander is an amphibian. (It means they can breath in and out of water.) All salamanders can eat one scorpion under water. Isn't that cool?

    The salamander felt like a hot dog but it was a little bumpy and slimey. Salamanders They have lungs, They also have tiny little holes called pores. Sally is 12 years old. Did you know that a salamander an grow to be 5 1/2 feet long.



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