Can a Snapping Turtle Bite Your Toe or Finger Off?

Can they bite a finger or toe off?
There are no recorded cases of it but do you really want to find out the hard way? They are called ‘snapping’ turtles for a reason. It’s not the force of the bite that you need to worry about, it’s also the sharp beak like mouth that’s meant for cutting. To answer the question, with those two factors considered, it’s possible a snapping turtle could sever human fingers or toes.

The common snapping turtle, scientifically known as the chelydra serpentina species, can weigh up to 75 pounds and grow to be 18 inches in length. The exception to this is snapping turtles that are kept in captivity that are commonly overfed, causing them to often become overweight. In the wild, they rarely exceed 35 pounds. They have a hard shell covering both their back and stomach that protects them in the wild. Their tail, which is close to the length of their top shell, is covered in spiny sharp ridges. They have no teeth but possess a bony beak for a mouth that is particularly strong.

Snapping Turtle

In addition to a strong beak, they have sharp claws that they can use to fight off predators in the wild. Due to their many defense mechanisms snapping turtles are prey to a short list of animals but are the predator to several animals found in the wild.

Where Do Snapping Turtles live?

Snapping turtles are the largest freshwater turtles that can be found in North America. However, smaller and more aggressive turtles can be found in areas from Canada to South America. These animals commonly live in ponds, streams and even brackish environments like estuaries. Snapping turtles enjoy floating at the water’s surface, basking on logs in the sunlight and burrowing into muddy areas found in shallow waters.

How Powerful Can They Bite?

While toad-headed turtles have the strongest bites of any turtle, with a force of 432 newtons, the snapping turtle and snapping turtles are both still very serious threats to the animal kingdom. Snapping turtles have a bite force of 208 newtons and their cousins, the alligator snapping turtles, have a slightly weaker bite force of 158 newtons. It is believed that the bite force of the alligator snapping turtle is strong enough to snap a broomstick in half. While there have been no reported cases of snapping turtles actually biting fingers off, there are nightmarish stories of snapping turtles biting and latching onto people’s faces and hands. In one incident, an alligator snapping turtle bite led to infection that caused a young man to have a “near total amputation” of his finger.

In comparison, Crocodiles with the strongest bite have a force of 16,460 newton, and humans have a bite force of around 890.

But remember, snapping turtles have a sharp beak like mouth that can cut. They don’t need to crush their prey when they can cut it in half.

How Do People “Safely” Catch Snapping Turtles?

Catching snapping turtles is easy, but steering clear of its powerful jaw proves to be a more difficult to task for some. There have been several accounts of fisherman accidentally catching snapping turtles while using jug or limb lines to catch catfish. Anglers argue that the best time of year to catch snapping turtles is during the winter due to how much slower these animals become when the temperature drops. When capturing a snapping turtle it is safest to use a trap containing bait. When using this method you greatly reduce the risk of learning firsthand how painful a snapping turtle’s bite can be.

Snapping Turtle Mouth

Some people use nets when capturing turtles, not realizing that the turtles can become ensnared in the net. This can this cause a threat to the turtle as well as the person handling it when the time comes to cut the netting away.

If you enter the water where snapping turtles are present, be careful not to place your feet or hands in the muck where they like to hang out. Normally they would try to flee but if they feel threatened, as in you stepped on them, they will bite. If signs are posted noting their presence, it’s best to heed the warning and stay out of the water.

Why Snapping Turtles Don’t Make Great Pets

Snapping turtles and alligator snapping turtles are fascinating creatures. When people think of pet turtles they typically envision smaller breeds like the eastern box turtle and western painted turtle. Snapping turtles often more than double these smaller turtles in length and have a mass of 15-30 times that of the average eastern box turtle. Even though most people have the knowledge that snapping turtle are particularly aggressive, while other breeds are docile, some still find the idea of keeping a snapping turtle as a pet to be tempting.

People have been fascinated by reptiles from the beginning of our existence. While some reptiles are relatively safe to keep as pets, it is a bad plan to hold others in the captivity of your home. When snapping turtles are kept as pets, they frequently grow to weigh over 60 pounds. The sheer size of the creatures makes it difficult to handle them.

Snapping turtles are known to be highly aggressive animals. It is important to remember that when left in their natural habitat these animals are mighty hunters to many animals such as frogs, insects, worms, snakes, frogs, fish, smaller turtles, birds, small mammals, and crayfish. It is only natural for them to use their bite and strength to “hunt” for food, even when they are kept in captivity. If you are considering keeping a snapping turtle as a pet you should keep the force of their bite in the forefront of their mind. There are a plethora of videos on the internet depicting the damage that these animals can cause. Considering that they are capable of biting through the thick shell of another turtle, it is easy to draw the conclusion that they can easily penetrate both the skin and muscle of humans.

When considering a turtle as a pet several people across the globe opt for a smaller, less aggressive breed. There are several very good reasons for this. Aside from the nasty bite that snapping turtles can deliver, it is necessary to consider the size that snapping turtles can grow to. Once a turtle surpasses eight inches in length it is recommended that they are kept in a 55-gallon tank at the very least. As these animals grow it becomes more and more difficult to keep them contained in a large enough enclosure. This is the cause of many snapping turtles that have been held in captivity being released back into the wild as they approach adulthood.

Is It Cruel to Ear Crop and Tail Dock a Dog?

Ear cropping and tail docking for dogs is usually considered to be cosmetic surgery for dogs. In other words, neither procedure is necessary for a dog’s health; it is simply done for appearance. These procedures used to be standard for certain breeds.

However, many owners are reconsidering having them done because they are unnecessary and may be considered cruel.

adult doberman pinscher dog

Which Dog Breeds Have This Done?

According to the American Kennel Club, there are as many as twenty breeds that routinely undergo this procedure. These are some of the most common breeds.

Ear Cropping

Tail Docking

  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Rottweilers
  • Boxers

The American Kennel Club estimates that there are 17 other breeds that undergo ear cropping and 62 other breeds that undergo tail docking in addition to the most common ones listed here.

Doberman pinscher baby natural ears
According to the Pet Health Network, these procedures served a useful purpose at one time. Cropped ears on guard breeds such as Great Danes and Dobermans prevented the ears from being ripped in a fight. Docked tails on hunting and herding breeds prevented injuries as the dogs performed their various functions. Over time, these breeds were used more for companionship rather than the purpose for which they were originally bred. So the necessity of these procedures are being questioned.

How Are These Procedures Performed?

The procedures are usually performed on very young puppies. Tail docking is performed without anesthesia when a puppy is only a few days old. Although the puppy feels pain, the rationale is that the puppy is so young that it will recover quickly. The vet uses scissors to cut off the tail to the desired length and then bandages the stump to prevent infection.

Ear cropping is a more complicated procedure which requires the use of anesthesia. The flap of the dog’s ear is removed and the ears are taped for several weeks to “train” them to remain upright. This procedure is typically performed on puppies that are six to twelve weeks old.

Why Are These Procedures Done?

As stated previously, at one time there was a practical purpose for these procedures. However, they have now become more cosmetic than practical. Several countries, including Australia and the United Kingdom have banned them altogether.

In the United States, the controversy is becoming more heated. This is partially due to the American Kennel Club’s stance on preserving the historical standards of the breeds. In fact, these procedures are still part of the AKC standards for these breeds even though they now say that dogs who have not had them done can still compete and win dog show competitions. However, many veterinarians in the United States are against the procedures and the American Veterinary Medical Association discourages the practice. Because of this, a few states are considering banning the procedures but none have done so at this time.

What Are the Pros and Cons?

As with any surgical procedure, there are health risks to consider. Young puppies who have these procedures are at increased risk for blood loss and infection of the surgical wounds. Futhermore, docked tails can develop nerve damage over time, which can cause pain and affect the dog’s temperment.

Tail docking can cause social issues as well. Dogs use a complex body language for social communication to other dogs. When the tail is docked, the dog may not be able to communicate effectively which may cause unwarrented aggression or fights with other dogs.

The only argument for tail docking is that it can prevent injuries for working dogs. Herding and hunting breeds who are active in their respective fields are prone to broken or sprained tails. However, dogs who are merely used for companionship rarely need to have the procedure done.

As far as ear cropping is concerned, there are more arguments against it than for it. Ear cropping in this modern age is done purely for cosmetic reasons rather than health concerns. The procedure exposes a young puppy with an immature immune system to the risk of infection. Also, there is no evidence that ear cropping reduces the risk of ear infections.


Companion and service dogs have no need for either of these procedures. There is no increased risk of injury or infection if they are not done and the procedures do not give any real benefit to the dog. Research also indicates that the perceived risk of injury for working or hunting breeds is unfounded.

Boston Terrier Ears Up

Therefore, these procedures are cosmetic and elective. The only motivation for them is to conform the dog’s appearance to a certain standard. When enough pressure is brought to bear on the dog show world, hopefully those standards will change and the procedures will be banned altogether. This is why many animal welfare associations are actively working to legalize a ban on these procedures in the United States and for cropped ears and docked tails to be removed from AKC standards.

Ultimately, every dog owner needs to research and decide what is best for their dog. However, the majority of evidence proves that not only are these procedures out-dated and unnecessary, they do inflict pain on young puppies and expose them to an increased risk of infection.

Because of this, ear cropping and tail docking could indeed be considered cruelty to dogs.

Controlling Feral Cat Populations Using Trap-Neuter-Return Programs

Trap-neuter-return, or TNR consist of the capture, sterilization, and release of feral cats in order to control the population of feral cat colonies.

Either local animal control or a caregiver who has been feeding the cat will use a live cat trap with food inside to procure the animal. Then, the cat is transported to a veterinary facility or animal shelter to be examined and spayed or neutered.

Trap Neuter Return Programs

In many cases, the cat may also receive vaccinations such as those for rabies. Treatments for common feline medical conditions such as deworming medications are sometimes also available. Often, clinics will perform a procedure called “eartipping”: a small segment of the tip of the ear is cut in order to identify sterilized cats. This practice prevents readmission of cats who have already received a vasectomy or hysterectomy. After a short stay in the clinic of one or two days, an adult cat is then returned to its original habitat where it was trapped. A kitten or stray cat is instead taken to a shelter to be cared for until adoption.

What are the pros and cons of such programs?


Trap-neuter-return provide communities with a solution to ever-increasing numbers of stray and wild cats. With a committed caretaker providing necessary food and shelter, feral cats who have been involved in a TNR program may have a lifespan of up to 10 years. Eventually, the colony will reduce since the individuals are no longer able to reproduce. In a complete absence of the colony, a new one would take its place, utilizing the resources the old one left behind. This fact makes trap-and-kill methods less effective than TNR. Feral cats who have undergone a TNR program, and are properly cared for, are useful for reducing rodent populations on farms and near restaurants and homes. Due to their wild behaviors, most feral cats are rarely accepted into shelters and cannot be adopted; fix and release programs offer both these cats and the community a less disruptive solution than euthanasia or relocation. In most areas, TNR programs are usually preferred to trap-and-kill since they are humane and cost roughly $60 as opposed to euthanasia, which costs around $100. Animal shelters that house feral cats, instead of adopting TNR, spend taxpayer funds and end up having to euthanize most of the cats due to low adoption rates.


Feral cats who are released back into the wild may develop diseases and infections such as feline AIDS, feline leukemia, upper respiratory infects, and anemia. Fleas, ticks, worms, and other parasites can cause unbearable discomfort and even illness. Feral cats are also subject to the elements, including extreme heat, freezing temperatures, and oncoming vehicles. Predators are yet another risk to their wellbeing; domestic and wild dogs, other cats, birds of prey, and even cruel humans may attack feral cats, injuring or killing them. Starving or consuming tainted prey, such as mice that have eaten poisons, are also likely causes of harm.

Pros ad Cons of TNR

In some cases, feral cats also pose a danger to humans: rabies, toxoplasmosis, typhus, and even bubonic plague. Cats left to their own devices in the wilderness will also decimate bird, small reptile and mammalian populations due to an innate instinct to hunt–hunger is often irrelevant.

Do TNR Programs Work?

In the event there is a caregiver who is consistent in meeting the needs of these cats, feral cats can live long, peaceful and fulfilling lives in their natural habitat. However, they are still somewhat at risk of the many dangers that come with living outdoors and still pose a risk to humans. For the benefit of local communities, TNR programs are more likely to bring significant changes to the local population of feral cats; trap-and-kill programs will lead to other colonies occupying the previous one’s habitat due to available resources left behind.

How to Care for Feral Cats

Fix and release programs only work if the entire colony is sterilized and there are consistent food and water sources made available. Not only will feral TNR populations reduce over time, they will avoid traveling in search of resources, virtually eliminating the spread of pests and diseases beyond their current colony area.

What Are the Alternatives

Common alternatives to Trap-neuter-return programs include trap-and-kill programs and relocation. Trap-and-kill programs aim to reduce local populations of feral cats by euthanasia; however, these programs only lead to new feral cats–who have not been spayed or neutered–moving into the area and utilizing existing resources. Also, there are many advocates for these cats that deem trap-and-kill programs cruel and inhumane. Relocation places the feral cats in another area, creating the same concerns as to whether or not this method is truly effective at reducing feral cat populations as trap-and-kill but with its own problems as well, including increased rates of starvation and disease. As animal shelters have housed many a feral cat, they have realized the financial burden on local taxpayers and charity organizations is much greater when a fix and release program is not implemented. Shelters provide food, housing, and veterinary care and attempt to acclimate feral cats to humans. When they cannot be adopted out of the system or cared for after a certain amount of time, the cats are euthanized, which is another large cost to the community. Overall, it is much simpler and cheaper for local shelters and governments to implement fix and release, or TNR, programs.

Who Funds Trap-Neuter-Return Programs?

Trap-neuter-return programs are funded by charity organizations, local government agencies, and communities. Some city and county governments in the following states have established and implemented fix and release programs for feral cats:Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Spay and Neuter

Local animal shelters may also provide vouchers which reduce or eliminate the costs to spay or neuter feral cats.

What is the Largest Rabbit Breed?

What Is the Largest Type of Rabbit?
Flemish Giants are the largest breed of rabbits, often referred to as the ‘king of rabbits’ due to their enormous size. Flemish Giants routinely reach an adult weight of 14 pounds, but Giants have been recorded hitting weights of as much as 22 pounds.

In the wild, the average rabbit tends to weigh anywhere from about 1 to 4 pounds. It would take about 9 such rabbits to equal the mass of the largest rabbit in the world.

flemish giant rabbit largest breed

There’s a wide range of sizes from breed to breed of rabbits, with the heaviest breed of rabbits tipping the scales at over 20 pounds. Here are a few facts about giant rabbit breeds:

Largest Breeds of Rabbits

The American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) recognizes a handful of giant rabbit breeds. Here are five of the largest:

Giant Angora

Giant Angoras are the largest of the Angora breeds, and must grow to a minimum of 9 1/2 pounds for senior bucks and 10 pounds for senior does.

Originally from Turkey, Angoras were popular among French Royalty for their fur, which was woven into angora wool.

Giant Angoras tend to have an easy-going temperament.

Big Angora Rabbit

French Lop

The French Lop, which weighs about 10 points on average, was originally bred in France, where it was created by the crossing of a butterfly rabbit and an English Lop.

French Lops have short ears which hang down each side of its head, and are known to be intelligent and of easy and calm temperament. As such, they tend to be a good breed for interacting with children. French Lops like company, meaning they should be kept in pairs whenever possible.

huge french lop rabbit

Checkered Giant

Known as Giant Papillons in the United Kingdom, Checkered Giants have a minimum weight of 11 pounds for senior bucks and 12 pounds for senior does.

No one is precisely certain as to the origin of the Checkered Giant, though some speculate that it came about from crossing a Lop with a Flemish Giant.

The Checkered Giant derives its name from its unique color pattern, featuring a white coat with blue or black markings. It has circles around its eyes, a dark strip of fur down the length of the spine, and a butterfly on its nose.

Checkered Giants are known as a breed of nervous temperament, and have been known to bite on occasion. Experience is needed if raising or showing the breed.

rabbit papillon

Giant Chinchilla

Giant Chinchillas, created in 1921 in the United States, have a weight of 12 to 15 pounds for senior bucks and 13 to 16 pounds for senior does.

The first Giant Chinchilla was a cross between a Flemish Giant and a Standard Chinchilla. Giant Chinchillas are frequently raised for meat, though they are of a gentle and calm temperament. They’re known for their large litters, as litters of 6 to 8 are frequent.

chinchilla rabbit

Flemish Giant

Flemish Giants are believed to have come from stone rabbits in the Flemish region, though specifics are unknown.

Flemish Giants are a hardy breed, and if socialized at a young age tend to be of a gentle temperament.

How Large Do They Get?

The largest Flemish Giants on record tip the scales at over 20 pounds, and have been measured at lengths of over 4 feet.

One of the most famous Flemish Giants was named Herman, and clocked in at 22 pounds. Another celebrated Flemish Giant was named Rudi, and outweighed Herman by two pounds. Herman, however, was longer than Rudi, and is generally regarded as the bigger rabbit overall. But then there is Humphrey, a French Lop that’s over 42 inches long.

Lifestyle and Temperament

Flemish Giants can be tolerant of handling and docile, but must be handled frequently to reach that temperament. If improperly handled or neglected, they can become either fearful or aggressive.

Anyone thinking about getting a Flemish Giant should be aware of a few special conditions when raising the breed.

First of all, because of their weight Flemish Giants are particularly prone to sores on their feet and hocks if caged with improper gauging.

Second, Flemish Giants need a good deal of space to flourish. It’s recommended that they receive at least 5 feet of floor space, and even more for larger than average Flemish Giants.

flemish Giant Baby Bunnies
The diet of Flemish Giants is a little bit different than many other rabbits in a few ways. Flemish Giants need more food than most rabbits, which may be stating the obvious. But they also need more protein than most rabbits early in their lives. Flemish Giants need to produce far more bone mass, and they grow relatively slowly. And all that food means more waste – Flemish Giants produce quite a bit more than the average rabbit.

A Flemish Giant reaches full size at about a year and a half, and lives around 8 to 10 years.

Do They Make Good Pets?

Flemish Giants can make excellent pets. However, it’s best to know certain things about them before considering them as a potential pet.

  • It’s imperative that Flemish Giants receive socialization at a tender age. If they are properly socialized when young, they will usually have a gentle and peaceful temperament.
  • A Flemish Giant’s temperament (if properly socialized) is suitable for children, but the breed may not be the best choice for a family with young children. The weight of the rabbit tends to make it too difficult for young children to carry a Flemish Giant.
  • Flemish Giants need to be lifted and carried carefully, with special attention given to their spine alignment, again due to their weight.
  • It’s also necessary to consider whether you’re willing and able to devote the resources needed to raise and keep A Flemish Giant. Can you allocate enough space, and are you able to support its larger-than-average diet? And you’ll need to stay on top of keeping its habitat clean in light of the waste it produces.

If all of the above sounds reasonable and you want to own the ‘King of the Rabbits’, a Flemish Giant could be the rabbit for you.

Further Reading

image credits:
By Stamatisclan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Ben23 (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By No machine-readable author provided. Hagen Graebner assumed (based on copyright claims). [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Can You Die from Touching a Poison Dart Frog?

Can A Dart Frog Kill You?
Yes, a golden dart frog’s poison is strong enough that a single frog can kill 10 men with a single dose; it only takes 2 micrograms, an amount that can fit on a pinhead, to fell a single human adult.

Dendrobatidae frogs, meaning “tree-walker” in Greek, are a family of frogs native to Central and South America.

Genus of this family include: Colostethus, Epipedobates, Phyllobates, and Minyobates steyermarki.

After a revision in 2006, the Dendrobatidae consists of 13 genera and 170 species. The Hyloxalus genus is the largest at 56 species and Minyobates steyermarki is a monotype, meaning that it is the sole member of its genus, known as Minyobates.

Azure dart frog

Why Are They Called “Poison Dart Frogs?”

These animals received their nickname after evidence that the mucous from a handful of frog species, all from the relatively large Phyllobates genus, was used to poison the blowdarts of indigenous people. Most tribes tended to prefer using the curare plant for this purpose.

origin poison dart frog


Beyond the common “poison dart frog,” these animals are also known as poison frogs or dart-poison frogs. Several genera have their own unique nicknames as well: Colostethus frogs are sometimes referred to as “rocket frogs;” Epipedobates frogs are referred to as “phantasmal poison frogs” because of the large number of species that exhibit cryptic coloration (see below); Phyllobates frogs are referred to as “golden poison frogs” for their bright yellow coloration and are the most toxic of all poison dart frogs and Minyobates steyermarki has garnered several nicknames, including “demonic poison(-arrow) frog,” and “Yapacana’s little red frog.”

the most toxic frog golden dart

They exhibit “aposematism” or “color warning.” These animals have extremely bright patterns of coloration to signify their toxicity to predators. Some species exhibit “cryptic coloration,” meaning that they do not actually produce any toxic mucous, but merely survive by signalling the implication of toxicity. Generally, the brighter and more vibrant the coloration, the more toxic the frog is or wants predators to believe it to be.

How Big Are They?

Poison dart frogs range in size from 1.5 cm to 6 cm, depending on the sex and species.

Where Do They Live?

Although poison dart frogs are chiefly found within the tropical rainforests of Central and South America, at least one species was introduced to the United States of America by way of Hawaii. Although they are tree frogs, these animals can generally be found along the ground and in foliage no more than 30 feet off the ground.

Red striped poison dart frog

How Poisonous Are They?

The answer to this question depends on two factors.

Factor #1: Is it a species that actually exhibits poison mucous?

Despite their common name, only three species of poison frog, Phyllobates terribilis, Phyllobates aurotaenia, and Phyllobates bicolor were ever used to coat the tips of darts by indigenous peoples. The most toxic species, Phyllobates terribilis is capable of producing 20 times as much batrachotoxin and homobatrachoxin as other Dendrobatidids; these two poisons affect the heart and nervous system and their name literally translates as “frog poison” in Greek.

Factor #2: What does the poison frog eat?

Only poison frogs that consume vermin like ants, mites and termites are able to secrete their trademark poison and such creatures tend to focus their diet on such fare. Furthermore, it is believed that most of the insects such frogs consume tend to only make those frogs poisonous because of the insects’ diets of poisonous plants. Poison frogs that rely on cryptic camouflage tend to have a much wider-degree of diet thanks to the freedom of not needing fuel to generate the highly-noxious toxins iconic to the animals. Domesticated poison frogs tend to have a diet that excludes the sort of insects that allow them to secrete toxic mucous.

How Dangerous Are They Compared to Other Poisonous/Venomous Animals?

Unless you are planning a trip into the tropical jungles of Central or South America, you have relatively little to fear from poison dart frogs. Even upon encountering a legitimately poisonous poison dart frog, you are perfectly fine unless you come into physical contact with it. Because their poisonous mucous works entering the body through the skin, these deadly animals can be handled with gloves. Lastly, poison dart frogs are passive threats; their poison is on their skin, rather than on a natural weapon like a snake’s fangs or a scorpion’s tail.

poison arrow frog

In the grand scale of poisonous and venomous animals, the golden dart frog (Phyllobates terribilis), the most toxic among its Family, would be placed right between the cone snail’s conotoxin, which there is no cure for, and the box jellyfish’s nematocysts, which affects the heart, nervous system and even the skin. A golden dart frog’s poison is strong enough that a single frog can kill 10 men with a single dose; it only takes 2 micrograms, an amount that can fit on a pinhead, to fell a single human adult. While the cone snail and box jellyfish are relegated to just the ocean, the golden dart frog’s habitat continues to shrink due to urban development. When assessing the poison of most other species, the overall effect is an incredibly unpleasant taste when a predator’s attempts to eat it.

venomous vs poisonous

Beyond batrachotoxin and homobatrachoxin, the poison secreted by these frogs can include:

  • Allopumiliotoxin 267A, a poison that affects the heart
  • Epibatidine, which is derived from Epipedobates anthonyi, informally known as Anthony’s poison arrow frog. While research went into medicinal uses like a painkiller, the unfortunate necessity to use nearly as much of the poison as a normal fatal dose ended such research.
  • Histrionicotoxins, named after the Oophaga histrionica of Columbia, are a relatively low-power poison that can be recovered from in a few hours. The chief effect of these poisons is damage to the nervous system.
  • Pumiliotoxin 251D, which affects the heart and nerves, leading to cardiac arrest, convulsions, hyperactivity, and even death, especially in arthropods.

Further Reading

How Much Work Is It to Own a Saltwater Fish Tank?

When you were a kid, your family probably had a bowl with a couple goldfish swimming around. If you were really lucky, you had a freshwater aquarium containing such popular fish as guppies, tetras or even a gorgeous betta.

Now that you’re grown, you’re ready to take an additional step and upgrade to a saltwater fish tank. Before you “get your feet wet” in this new venture, however, you should consider some of the differences between the types to make sure a saltwater aquarium is right for you. Here are some of those differences:

Clownfish in fish tank

Cost of Setting Up

Generally, the initial cost to set up a saltwater tank is higher than for a freshwater aquarium. First, you must decide what kind of tank you need. The three main types of saltwater tanks, from lowest-priced to highest, are: (1) fish only, (2) fish only with live rock and (3) reef.

When you compare the cost to set up freshwater and saltwater tanks, the actual tank itself runs about the same, provided both hold an equal number of gallons. In order to maintain a healthy environment for your saltwater animals and plants, you’ll need a tank that holds a minimum of 50 gallons. The cost of aquarium lights is also about the same. A quarantine tank for new fish likewise costs about the same for fresh and saltwater aquariums.

The cost of the substrate on the bottom of tank will vary, as you need gravel for a freshwater tank and sand for the saltwater aquarium. You can count on sand costing about 2 1/2 times more than gravel.

The basic test kit for a freshwater tank tests pH, ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. In addition to these tests, a saltwater test kit should include tests for calcium and alkalinity. Thus, you can expect a saltwater test kit to cost around $20 more than that for freshwater.

The most expensive and time-consuming tank setup is the reef tank. Reef tanks require a more complicated lighting system, as corals need a food supply that highly depends on photosynthesis. The reef tank lighting might actually turn out to cost 5 times more than that for freshwater or regular saltwater tanks. In addition, if your tank includes anemones and certain types of corals, you might need to invest in a reverse osmosis water filter system. Considering all the extras needed for a reef tank, you can expect the initial cost of setup to run around twice that of a regular saltwater tank.

Cost of Animals

As a rule, saltwater fish are more expensive than freshwater species. Such saltwater invertebrates as starfish, shrimp, clams, snails, crabs and urchins tend to be pricey, especially if you’re not located near the ocean and need to pay high shipping and handling costs to have them delivered to your door.

Related Reading:


To be sure, maintaining a saltwater tank is more time consuming than taking care of a freshwater aquarium. All aquariums require periodic partial water changing. If you have a freshwater tank, you can usually get by with removing around 10 percent of the water by using an aquarium vacuum and just refilling with filtered or chlorine-free tap water. For a saltwater tank, however, you need to separately mix the salt and water in another container, such as a bucket or large tank, several days in advance of changing.

Although not essential, a protein skimmer can be extremely beneficial in a saltwater tank system. A step above a mechanical filter, a protein skimmer works on the same principle as ocean waves that crash and deposit dirty particles in sea foam on the shore. A collection cup on the skimmer removes harmful substrates contained in bubbles.

Yellow Tang

Special Biological Needs

Not essential but highly recommended for a saltwater tank is live rock. Broken off as pieces of a coral reef, live rock is so named because living organisms, such as algae, bacteria, marine worms and small crustaceans, make their homes on marine coral reef structures.

Live rock serves as an important biological filter in the tank. This type of filtration allows good bacteria to grow and convert ammonia that results from uneaten food and fish waste first into nitrites and then into nitrates. Because of its porous nature, live rock provides living and hiding spaces for saltwater animals. Some creatures even use it for food.

Live rock also contributes to the aesthetics of a saltwater aquarium, as it adds to the natural appearance of the tank and can be a home for beautifully-colored algae.

Most freshwater fish available for sale have been raised on fish farms for several generations and are used to eating man-made food or fish flakes. Because most species of saltwater fish are caught in the wild, they might need to be slowly acclimated to an aquarium diet over the course of several weeks or even months.

Are Hedgehogs Related to Porcupines?

Hedgehogs and porcupines, though often confused, are very different creatures. Apart from their enthusiasm for acupuncture, they are entirely different species who have merely developed similar reactions to physical threats over the years.

What is a hedgehog?

hedgehogs are not related to porcupines

A hedgehog is a small carnivorous mammal, that can measure between six inches to one foot in length. Their most striking visual feature is certainly the hard, sharpened spikes, also called spines, on their backs. These are a type of defense mechanism used to deter predators. If a hedgehog feels threatened, they tuck themselves into a small ball, covering their vulnerable body parts and exposing their sharp, spiky exterior. Because they are nocturnal, they also are known to sleep in this defensive position as well. There is a lot more to hedgehogs besides their spikes, though.

Their name comes from an appropriation of their foraging behavior, which early peoples found similar to the behavior of foraging hogs. They make similar grunting noises while rustling through hedges for the small bugs, rodents and occasional amphibians that comprise their diet. Hedgehogs utilize their great sense of smell to compensate for their poor vision.

Occasionally found in gardens and increasingly kept as pets, hedgehogs are known to keep largely to themselves in the wild. They are solitary animals, born in litters of about a dozen, and only remaining in their nest for about two months prior to embarking out into the world.

What is a porcupine?

porcupines are not hedgehogs

Porcupines are mammals, that can be two to three feet in length, not including their tail, which can measure just under a foot in length. The size can roughly be compared to that of a domestic house cat, but that is about where the similarities end. A porcupine’s hair is soft, but it’s back is covered by a thick layer of needle-like quills. The quills vary in length with the species, but can be up to twelve inches in length. They begin as hairs grown within the first few days of birth, but quickly harden to form their primary defense system. The porcupine can perk up, and even eject the quills at attackers when it feels threatened.

North and South American porcupines largely live on branches and eat small twigs and tree bark. They have tails similar to possums that can wrap around branches for better climbing grip. Eurasian and African varieties can inhabit a large variety of environments from wooded forests to deserts and typically have shorter, less specialized tails. No matter where they are found, porcupines have a feisty nature to contrast their herbivore lifestyle.

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How are They Similar?

The obvious comparison between hedgehogs and porcupines is their spines. The backs of both mammals are covered in sharp points and used for their protection. Another similarity can be found in looking at the Latin root of the name porcupine, which translates to “quill pig,” meaning both animals have a historic comparison to swine. Like the male and female versions of swine, the male and female gendered porcupines and hedgehogs are called boars and sows respectively. Hedgehogs and porcupines each make vocalizations comparable to pig grunts as well.

type of hedgehog

Other similarities stem from their independent nature. Neither hedgehogs or porcupines are social creatures and spend the large majority of their lives alone. Both can be found in several different climates and geographic locations around the world. Though they consume different diets, both animals find their food by using their great sense of smell to make up from their limited eyesight. Eyesight is not essential for either animal because most varieties of each are nocturnal.

How are They Different?

While it might be tempting to conflate images of the two mammals, they have less in common than most people imagine. There are many important differences between the animals both in appearance and behavior.

Porcupines are much larger than hedgehogs, weighing much more and growing to almost four times the length. For reference, the average weight for a hedgehog is just under two pounds while some species of porcupines weigh easily over thirty-five pounds. Any easy way to visually distinguish between the two species if size cannot be accurately determined, is to look at their noses. Hedgehogs have what could be described as berry, or button noses that extend from a tapered snout and porcupines have large pronounced nostrils similar to that of a large rabbit or small dog. Porcupine noses are typically snubbed and pink, in comparison with a hedgehog’s rounded brown nose. Their feet are very easy to distinguish between, and follow suit with the rest of their nature. Hedgehog paws are petite with short ineffectual nails. Porcupine feet are wider with long, strong claws that are better for climbing and stripping bark.

Porcupine Species

In terms of behavior, hedgehogs and porcupines have different diets, quill types, and many other attributes. Eating only plant-based natural material, porcupines are vegetarians. In contrast, hedgehogs typically leave vegetation alone and rather eat the small insects and snails that bother plants, making them the perfect tiny guardians little guardians. This, paired with their small size and mild-mannered demeanor, make hedgehogs a relatively popular house pet. Porcupines, however, would make terrible pets because they are too large and much more aggressive.

Their quills can become dislodged when they are attacked, but hedgehog quills are much more permanent. Knowing this, porcupines have avoided being the target of many predators over the years while hedgehogs are known to supplement the diets of large rodents and carnivorous birds.

Porcupines do not hibernate, and are found active even in cold climates. Hedgehogs hibernate through most of the winter. That being said, a majority of porcupine species are found in more tropical regions, making their winters less harsh. Hedgehogs are born in large litters, but porcupines are born in litters as small as one sometimes and their period of gestation is several weeks longer.

The animals, though both adorable and important, are not related. That being said, the world is certainly big enough for them both.

Why Do Ducks, Geese, and Other Birds Migrate?

Many species of bird migrate seasonally, usually along a flyway. In many cases, the flyway is defined by natural water barriers such as oceans, rivers, and seas. Bird migration has been going on for a very long time. Many ancient cultures noted this phenomenon and even recorded it. The same patterns continue to date, although the birds now suffer because of the destruction of their stopover sites and wintering habitats.

This phenomenon happens for many reasons. Birds primarily move because of the availability of food, and this is normally influenced by changes in seasons.

Canada Geese Migrating

Which Birds Migrate?

Not all birds migrate. In fact, some sedentary birds can never move more than a kilometer from their birthplace.

That being said, about 40 percent of the world’s bird species migrate regularly. That equals around 4,000 bird species.

Barn Swallow Migration

The best known migrant species are the northern land types such as the swallow and the birds of prey.

These migrate from Europe to Africa during winter. As you would expect, regions such as Canada, Europe, and the USA have higher proportions of migrant birds compared to tropical regions. This is because the birds need to escape winter in these regions. In this season, predator birds such as insect eaters have to migrate in search of food.

Some species of bird migrate to Europe in summer so as to breed. Once the season is over, they move back to their regular homes, along with their offspring.

Birds that migrate to Europe include:

  • cuckoos
  • turtle doves
  • terns
  • hobbies
  • ospreys
  • yellow wagtails

Other seabird species also spend their spring season at the shores of the oceans. One of the species in this category is the gannet.
Certain bird species find food more easily in winter. These migrate to colder regions when the weather gets warmer. Such types include geese, ducks, and other wading birds. For them, winter seasons are milder.
After arriving at their destinations, some bird species will still move in large numbers to other places. This phenomenon is referred to as bird irruption. The event is normally caused by a depletion of the available resources. Such events occur very rarely, and only a few bird species have been noted to irrupt.

They include:

  • Bohemian waxwings
  • Boreal chickadees
  • Purple Finches
  • Common redpolls
  • Northern shrikes
  • Varied thrushes
  • Snowy owls
Bohemian Waxwing Bird Irruption

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Why Do Birds Migrate?

Birds migrate for many reasons. As noted, their primary motivation is the availability of food. For certain species, food is hard to get in winter, meaning they have to find warmer places to stay if they have to survive. On the other hand, some species have to stay in cold places since they will be able to find food easier in this specific weather. Usually, the birds fly back to their original homes after the season.

In some cases, birds will even migrate in large masses once their food reserves in one place are depleted. For example, if they move to a warm place and the population ends up growing too large for the available food, the birds will move to a neighboring place. This phenomenon occurs once in every 2 to 10 years.

Migration can also be simply influenced by the harsh weather. Some birds cannot survive comfortably in extreme winters and as such, have to find more temperate regions.

birds migrating in winter

Changes in day length also influence migration. Breeding birds prefer regions with longer days since they have more time to feed their offspring.

Species such as the shelduck migrate in order to molt. All birds shed their feathers every year. However, birds such as shelducks lose all their feathers and are completely unable to fly till they grow back. For this reason, they migrate to places that are perceived to be safer.

Bird migration is also influenced by changes in the quality of seed crops. Those that eat these crops move as soon as the trees start to give poor products.

How Do Birds Migrate?

Birds generally migrate north and south. Bird watchers have discovered patterns in their migration. One notable migration pattern involves the birds moving northwards to temperate or Arctic summer, mainly for breeding purposes. In the southern hemisphere, the birds fly southwards to temperate regions for the same reason.

Not all bird species migrate north, south, east or, west. Some simply migrate up and down or vertically. For example, in winter, the birds may move to lower areas in search of more tolerable climate and food. One species known to migrate vertically is the snow bunting.

Some birds are referred to as passage migrants. This means they will stop over at a specific place for a few weeks, then carry on with their journey. The birds usually do this because they need to rest and get re-energized.

The migration of birds usually starts in a broad front, and this later develops into a narrower route. These routes are referred to as flyways and are commonly defined by water bodies and other natural barriers. Birds don’t usually fly over large water bodies. Instead, they choose to fly just along the river or ocean. The flyways may also be influenced by wind patterns.

Migration routes and wintering grounds are determined traditionally and, in many species, the knowledge appears to be genetically determined. In species such as the white stork, the eldest member of the flock leads the birds during migration. Younger members of the flock take these opportunities to learn the migration routes. Some bird species have not been around for long enough to have their own learned migration routes. Most of these follow genetically determined routes during migration.

Almost all birds move in flocks and a formation. For example, geese usually fly in a V formation. Flightless birds such as penguins also migrate in flocks, although they swim instead of flying.

Some birds choose to travel in the night, probably as a way of conserving energy and staying safe from predators. These are referred to as nocturnal migrants. To maintain the pattern of the formation and prevent collisions, these birds make use of nocturnal flight calls.

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What Is Equine Assisted Therapy?

Equine assisted therapy is an alternative therapy often employed in the treatment of mental health issues, including addiction and anxiety, as well as physical health disabilities. It covers a variety of treatments and is used by many different types of medical professionals, including psychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers and more. Equine assisted therapy is not a new concept and it has very ancient roots. As with any alternative therapy, it often raises concerns among professionals who believe it should not take the place of more evidence-based treatments.

equine therapy

What is the history and origins of equine therapy?

Horses have long been used in a therapeutic capacity, and therapy using horses can be traced back to the ancient Greeks. The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates wrote about using horseback riding as a therapy for those with incurable diseases. In the modern age, 17th century medical writers discussed using equine therapy for conditions such as gout, depression and various disorders of the nervous system. As early as 1946, a poliomyelitis outbreak in Scandinavia was partially treated with equine therapy.

The current form of equine therapy began in the 1960s when countries such as Germany, Switzerland and Austria began to add it as an additional therapy within the confines of regular physical therapy. The treatment was supervised by a physiotherapist and included a horse specifically trained for the task and its handler. The therapist gave directions to the handler in guiding the horse’s movement.

Late in the 1980s, Canadian and American therapists would bring the treatment back to North America after traveling to Germany to learn how it was used and devised. It received formal recognition in the United States in 1992 when the American Hippotherapy Association was conceived.

Riding horses as a therapy received further modern validation when Denmark’s Liz Hartel used the discipline to win Olympic silver in 1952 in dressage, despite being paralyzed from polio. At the same time, Germany was also using it to treat other orthopedic issues like scoliosis. The 1960s saw therapeutic riding centers open throughout North America. With these centers also came the formation of two groups: the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association and the Community Association of Riding for the Disabled. As of 2011, the former group is now known as the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship.

Do therapy horses need any specific training?

Therapy horses receive specific training and have a number of desired traits. Horses selected for training should have three distinct gaits, physical soundness, a gentle temperament, ability to tolerate lots of attention, a calm demeanor and a height somewhere between 14 and 16 hands. Breed usually doesn’t matter, though Quarter Horses in particular often have the desired characteristics of therapy horses. Conversely, a more high-strung breed like the Arabian may not be a good choice, but horse personalities vary widely, even within a specific breed.

Once a good therapy horse candidate is identified, it is exposed to the type of work it will be used in during therapy classes. The horses are taught to walk calmly behind the handler’s shoulder and use body language cues to speed up or slow down. Horses are also exposed to a variety of noises, including music, enthusiastic people and toys. Such situations are introduced slowly to therapy horses in training along with much positive reinforcement. Once the horse has shown itself to react calmly and without fear to a range of stimuli used in therapeutic riding classes, then it can be used in a real therapy situation.

How effective is equine therapy?

The effectiveness of equine therapy is widely debated depending on what it’s used for. Scientific literature often cites inadequate data for the usefulness of equine therapy for people with orthopedic issues, or even mental health issues. Many reviews of the discipline argue that the quality of research for its effectiveness is poor, though they also conclude that the treatment doesn’t do any harm either.

However, mental health issues do not always positively respond exclusively to traditional medical treatments either. Sometimes those in treatment for addiction and other behavioral disorders have a difficult time communicating with other people. Horses have distinct personalities just like people, but they are also silent and non-judging. Research has shown that patients interacting with horses have reduced stress, heart rate and blood pressure. They also show increases in positive feelings like patience, trust and self-esteem. Often these patients have a hard time relating to other people, which can make it difficult for psychotherapy to have much effect. These same people often do not have a problem relating to horses or other animals.
Animal Assisted Therapy Horse

Communicating with horses requires much patience and sensitivity. Horses are known to reflect the moods of people they interact with, which requires patients to go outside of themselves to better respond to the horse.

What other animals are used in therapy?

Horses aren’t the only animals used in this type of therapy. Dogs, cats, birds and even reptiles can be used in a therapeutic environment. Dogs are still the most popular animal used in a therapy situation. Dogs are natural companion animals and many breeds take well to this type of training. Both large and small breeds of dogs may be used as therapy animals.

Cats are probably the second most commonly used animal, but do not have the range of uses like dogs do. Cats may be found in nursing homes especially as they can wander about freely and lay with patients. One recent example of a therapy cat is with Thula the Maine Coon cat who helped a six-year old girl with severe autism become less withdrawn and more social.

Bird are fairly common as well, and especially parrots. Not only can parrots be taught to speak, but they are known for showing high levels of empathy. Smaller animals like reptiles, hamsters and rabbits can be used to improve concentration, attention and motor skills. Taking care of any kind of animal requires a certain amount of focus and affection.

Do Dogs Really Only See in Black and White?

Is it a myth?

Yes, it is a myth that dogs see only in black and white, but they don’t have quite the color vision of human beings. A dog relies on its sense of smell to give it the most information about the world. When a person takes their dog for a walk and the dog sniffs at eveyrthing, it is getting about as much information as a human would from reading the morning paper. A dog’s sense of smell must be as astonishing to humans as human vision would be astonishing to a dog.

Still, a dog’s eyes are very much like a human’s. It is a sphere made up of a cornea, vitreous chamber, lens, pupil and a retina at the very back of the eye. The retina is filled with structures called rods and cones. Cones allow the dog to see colors and bright light while rods allow the dog to see in low light.

Since humans and dogs are both predators and work in groups, their eyes are positioned in the front of the head, but some dog’s eyes are a bit more widespread. This gives them a wider field of vision as well as good depth perception. This helps the dog focus on potential prey and helps it see where the pack/tribe members are.

Dogs can see in the dark three times as well as a human because they have more rods than cones in their retinas.

They also have large pupils and a membrane called a tapetum lucidum beneath their retina, which enhances their ability to see in low light. Cats also have a tapetum lucidum, which we shall see. This membrane is why the eyes of both cats and dogs glow in the dark.

What colors do dogs see in?

Because dogs have more rods that cones in their retinas, they don’t see colors that well. They also have only two types of cones where humans have three. Dogs can probably see shades of blue, greens and yellows, but what humans experience as reds and oranges may elude them.

How do dogs see compared to people?

The three types of cones that humans have are sensitive to blue, red and green, and the two cones in dogs are sensitive to blue and a color between green and red, whatever it is. Dogs can’t focus as well on close items as human beings and would be considered quite nearsighted if they were human. Most dogs have about 20/75 vision, which is fairly bad! They don’t discriminate between shades of colors well either. A forest full of beautiful autumnal trees is a blurry, dull light green to a dog.

However, dogs have an advantage when it comes to motion detection. This is because of their better night vision and their ability to sense even the smallest prey moving in the duff. A drawback of their large pupils is that an image is sharp only in the center of the dog’s field of vision while everything to the side is fuzzy. This is an acceptable situation when a dog is running down a prey animal or a ball. Dogs can also see much farther than humans, especially if the object is moving. In one test, dogs were able to see a moving figure a half a mile away, and a stationery figure a little over a third of a mile away. Dogs are also better able to see flickering lights. When a person sits down to watch TV with their pooch or sneaks them into a movie theater the dog sees the film frame by very fast frame, while human eyes are tricked into thinking the film is one continuous experience. This flicker fusion frequency, as it is called, is another thing that helps the dog find small prey at night.

How do dogs see compared to cats?

The dog and cat eye are comparable in that they both have a nictitating membrane and a tapetum lucidum. The nictitating membrane is a transparent eyelid that keeps the animal’s eye clear as it hunts at night. It is also called the haw and allows the animal to keep its eyes open while it is hunting. Most dog owners don’t notice this third eyelid until the dog gets an infection called cherry eye. Cats and dogs also experience the same limited range of colors.

Though they have some things in common, dogs and cat vision is somewhat different. Cat’s can’t see as far away as dogs, but they are able to focus on close objects in the way the dog can’t, and their vision overall is much sharper. The cat’s night vision is much better than a dog’s, which is much better than a human’s. When exposed to bright light, the house cat’s pupils furl up into slits, a phenomenon not seen in dogs or humans. This not only protects the cat’s retinas but improves its depth perception.

Dog eyes also have a fovea, which is a pit in the center of retina that is full of cones. Instead of a fovea, a cat has a structure called a visual streak, which isn’t a pit or a point but a streak that is found across their retina. This makes them better able to detect movement in their peripheral vision.

But no one should feel sorry for cats and dogs because their vision isn’t as color-filled or sharp as a human’s. Their other senses, such as touch, taste and especially smell are much more acute than human’s, and tell them everything they need to know about the world.