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Facts and Figures Index

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Plankton

Model of plankton, The Aquarium, Plymouth, UK © Shirley Burchill

Model of plankton, The Aquarium, Plymouth, UK

Plankton is found in vast quantities in the sea. Plankton is a mixture of millions of microscopic plants and animals. All filter feeders living in the sea, which include the large baleen whales, feed on plankton. The plant part of the plankton is called phytoplankton which feeds by photosynthesis. This is why the plankton is mostly found from the surface of the sea to a depth of 80 metres. Most of it is concentrated between 5 metres and 10 metres in depth.

Sunlight is not able to penetrate very far into the sea water. The sea water provides adequate supplies of minerals and dissolved carbon dioxide. The phytoplankton is responsible for 98% of the photosynthesis carried out by all sea water plants. The small animals in the plankton, the zooplankton, feed on the phytoplankton. The plankton is the start of many of the food chains which exist in the sea.

 

The Polar Bear

Polar Bear, Berlin Zoo, Germany  © Shirley Burchill

Polar Bear, Berlin Zoo, Germany

The male polar bear can reach a mass of 408 kg, which is about 6 times the mass of a fully grown man. Around 140 kg of the total mass is fat which helps to keep the polar bear warm. Polar bears live between 20 and 25 years, often in very cold conditions.

The polar bear hunts alone. It can travel 20 km in one day in search of food. It eats mainly seals, although some polar bears have been known to attack walruses and small whales.

 

FACTS AND FIGURES

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The Otter

The otter's diet includes frogs, crayfish, crabs and fish which are caught and eaten immediately. Otters are energetic animals and need to eat frequently. The sea-otter is unusual because it uses a tool to help it break open clam shells. The sea-otter floats on its back with a flat stone lying on its chest. It holds the clam with its front paws and strikes the clam on the stone until the shell breaks. This can take between 2 and 22 tries.

When the sea-otter finds a stone with the correct shape it may use it more than 20 times to break open clam shells.

The otter has webbing between its toes to help it swim under water.

 

Locusts

 

Locusts, Bristol Zoo, UK  © Shirley Burchill

Locusts, Bristol Zoo, UK

 

A locust is a herbivore. Many millions of locusts travel together in a swarm. When a swarm of locusts arrives in a region of Africa the sky turns black. There are so many locusts that they stop the light from reaching the ground. There can be as many as 40 million locusts in a swarm. They can travel 3500 kilometres in one month.

The swarm does not travel at night because it is too cold. About two or three hours after sunrise, when the temperature reaches between 25°C and 30°C, the swarm takes to the air.

The locusts can fly up to 8 hours before they come to rest on an area of vegetation. They then eat until sunset. Each locust eats 2 grammes of vegetation each day. in a single day the swarm can eat 80,000 tonnes of vegetation. If the swarm comes to rest on a field of crops, it can eat enough food to feed 400,000 people for one year.

 

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