They're not that scary!
Halloween is almost here! Let's spend some time demystifying a few (not so) scary, creepy and crawly animals you can find at your Zoo.
Creepy? Check. Crawly? Definitely. But the Madagascar hissing cockroach is not as bad as you may think. They cannot fly, but some entomologists attempt to make them grow wings by adding things to their diet. They also clean themselves constantly, nibbling off a parasite called the cockroach mite that feeds on its body.
The grizzly bear’s scientific name is Ursus arctos horribilis, which means “terrifying bear.” Many people are afraid that they may be attacked by a grizzly in the wild, but most attacks are usually the result of mothers protecting offspring or being startled near a food source.
The unique, aquatic salamander the hellbender has a name worthy of a horror film. The species may have been named by settlers of eastern North America who thought “it was a creature from hell where it’s bent on returning.” Hellbenders are solitary, nocturnal salamanders – so the chance of encountering one is slim.
Beautifully colored but dangerous in the wild, poison dart frogs can excrete an alkaloid-based poison from its skin that can kill or paralyze snakes and large spiders. The toxicity comes from its diet, which is mostly ants, centipedes and mites. Frogs in captivity, like the ones at your Zoo, are not toxic since they are fed a diet of fruit flies and crickets.
Are you afraid of bats? Fear of bats is called "chiroptophobia" and originates from the fear of blood feeding bats. But there’s no reason to be afraid! There are only three bat species out of more than 1,200 that feed on blood and they live in Latin America (phew!). The majority of bat species will feed on insects, fruit and nectar.
Many Madagascar natives believe that if an aye-aye points their middle finger at someone they are marked for death. An aye-aye’s hands are actually designed perfectly for foraging. They have delicate fingers and use their long middle finger for eating, drinking and grooming.
Red-bellied piranhas get a bad rap for going into feeding frenzies, and movies sometimes show them stripping their prey in a matter of minutes. In reality, piranhas mainly feed on fish, insects and aquatic vertebrates. Piranha feeding frenzies occasionally occur because of starvation or provocation – but rarely do they attack at random.
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