Joe the Zoolab ranger came in to talk to Form 1 about the Rainforest. He talked to them about the layers of the Rainforest and asked them to describe the habitat of the forest floor.
The first creature was Bruce the Giant African Land snail. He is eight years old ande has a treat on Thursdays – watermelon! He has 10,000 teeth on his tongue and he licks his food. Amazing fact: Whatever he eats, that’s the colour of his poo! Martha held him and said he felt slimy and hard at the same time!
Joe’s second animal was introduced as a six-legged insect, a cave-dweller that likes to scuttle around on the cave floor…. It was Jeff the Madagascan hissing cockroach! The children loved learning that cockroaches live on cave floors as they like to eat animal poo! This is a very clever part of the ecosystem – without cockroaches our world would be full of rubbish. They have been keeping our world clean for 300 million years. Jeff could run straight through fire and he would be fine! He could be in the freezer for two years and he would survive!
You can identify a male cockroach as they have bumps on their heads where their horns are. If cockroaches become decapitated they can still live for 10 days as they are very tough bugs and have two brains! Mrs Unwin noticed that Jeff has two little hairs on the end of his tail; Joe explained that he uses these to senses the change in air pressure and can run away from danger.
Joe took us to the Understorey to see animal no 3. She was an arachnid. Form 1 had to be very quiet in order to see this an eight-legged, hairy creature. Joe said she was a venomous creature not a poisonous one. The difference is that a venomous creature bites or stings you in order to inject the venom but a poisonous creature has the poison on them and it can be transferred to you. This creature was revealed to be Felicia the Tarantula. She is very clever as she feels and ‘hears’ using the hairs on her body.
She can even smell and taste with her hair. She prefers to flick her hairs off and cause intense itching to predators rather than biting them. Therefore Joe only let the children look, not touch her! She eats insects and they learnt that she is an ‘insectivore’. In addition to her eight legs, she also has eight eyes – so she can see 360 degrees. She could live for a whole year without eating! The female tarantulas often eat the males – one of the Form 1 boys remarked, “I wouldn’t want to be a male tarantula.”
Animal 4 was another creature from the Forest Floor with abut 200 legs! It is a myth that they have millions of legs – in fact the world record is about 7000! Josh guessed that this was going to be a millipede. Joe put him on the floor and asked the children to watch Magnus the African Millipede as he moved across the floor. They learnt that he has cleaner mites under his body.
The millipede’s legs felt like a hairbrush as Joe brought him round for everyone to touch. Josh said he thought it felt “tickly and fizzy,”. Magnus is 4 or 5 years old and is almost fully grown, measuring about the length of a school ruler (30 cms!). He has an unusual defence mechanism which is to wee at predators. Fascinating fact: Monkeys in the rainforest roll in millipede wee which acts as an insect repellent.
Joe explained that he couldn’t bring a snake from the Rainforest as they are far too big – but he brought a snake from America – the American Corn Snake. All snakes are carnivores – corn snakes are found in corn fields because they eat rats and mice that live there. Citrus the Corn snake eats mice once a week and eats them whole! This is possible because he has a quadrate bone in his mouth that is already dislocated and floats in cartilage – so it is an urban myth that snakes dislocate their jaws! He has 410 bones in his body. The 4 types of snake found in the UK: Grass snake, Barred grass snake, adder and Smooth snake.
The children learnt a huge amount from Joe’s visit and we are very grateful to Zoolab for bringing the rainforest to CPS!