Imagine being wide awake at midnight and going through your normal day. What would it be like to eat lunch at midnight, go to school, and talk to your family? That might seem odd to some of us, but to nocturnal animals, that’s how they live their lives! From a tiny bird, to a scary hyena, let’s have a look at some animals that stay up past 10!
Wahlberg’s epauletted fruit bat
Most bats use echolocation, also called bio-sonar, to navigate in the dark and hunt for food. They do this by producing high-pitched sounds from their noses or mouths. The sound waves bounce back when they meet an object such as an insect, and carry information about the object’s distance and size. This allows the bat to “see” with sound. Flying at night also prevents bats’ wings from absorbing large amounts of heat.
Get thisBats are the only mammals that are able to fly.
Aardvarks are very shy and mysterious creatures, which makes them perfectly suited to the night life. During the day, they stay cool in their underground burrows, and at night, they put their powerful feet and claws to good use by digging for their favourite food – termites. They forage over many kilometres in grasslands and forests, and swing their long nose from side to side to pick up the termites’ scent. Their sense of hearing is very good, so they are able to detect approaching predators from far away. If they need to escape, they can dig fast or run in zigzags. If not, they can strike with their claws, tail and shoulders, and have been known to flip onto their backs and lash out with their four legs.
Get thisAardvarks are digitigrades, which means they walk on their toes, and not on the soles of their feet.
Porcupines have poor vision, but they have an excellent sense of smell. They have sharp front teeth that keep growing throughout their lives, and sharp claws to climb trees and feed on the bark and twigs high off the ground. During the night, porcupines patrol their territory and defend their feeding areas. Porcupines use their quills as a defence against predators. They will either shake them and make a rattling noise, or charge backwards into the predator.
Get hisA porcupine can have more than 30,000 quills, which are actually just sharp bristles of fused hair.
Aardwolves are insectivorous, and have a strict diet of termites. They use their acute hearing and smell to detect termites in the ground and then use their broad, sticky tongue to lap them up. Termites give the aardwolves the same amount of protein as they would have gotten from lean meat, but this food option reduces competition with other carnivorous animals and is less effort to hunt!
Get thisAardwolves adapt and expand dens that were dug and abandoned by springhares, as their front legs aren’t strong enough to dig new dens.
An owl’s eyes collect light to enhance their vision in the dark. Their eyes are also forward facing, which means that they have to use their flexible necks in order to see around them. To complement their eyesight, owls also have excellent hearing. They can hear the tiniest, ultrasonic sounds made by their prey. This is helped by the feathers around an owl’s face which are arranged to direct sounds towards their ears. Owls are also the masters of silent flight, and their large wings allow them to fly without having to flap much. This is important, as owls must be able to hear their prey and remain unnoticed while hunting.
Get thisBarn owls have a movable flap on their ears that can direct sounds coming from behind them.
Springhares are rodents that hop like a kangaroo and are propelled by their large hind legs. They use their sharp, curved claws to dig systems of burrows, where they hide during the day. At night, they come out to forage for food and stick close to their burrows. If they are threatened, they will hurry back to their holes, and can jump two metres if necessary. They have long whiskers and sensory hairs to help them navigate and detect danger. They also have advanced senses of sight, hearing and smell, which help them to avoid predators during the night hours. Their large feet can also detect vibration on the ground.
Hyenas are not dogs, nor are they cats. They actually belong to their own animal family: hyaenidae. During the night, hyenas come out to hunt and can cover up to 70km a night. Their unusual slanted posture saves them energy while they walk. These animals use their exceptional sense of smell to help them hunt, and can follow scents that are three days old!
Get thisDuring the night, you can hear hyenas ‘whooping’ or calling to each other. This is to advertise territory or rally clan members.
Nightjars are hard to spot because of their brown camouflaged feathers. During the day, they are pretty much motionless, but during the night, they come out to put their aerodynamics to good use and catch insects. They have very large eyes, which allow them to see well in the dark. Because of their sharp eyesight, they can easily spot insects against the night sky. Their broad, squat bills mean that they can open their mouths wide – basically sucking insects into it! Sensory feathers around their face (called rictal bristles) also help to channel food into their mouths.
Get thisNightjars are often called the ‘swallows of the night’.
Dung beetles are animals that compete for a limited amount of food at a dung pile, so when an individual is finished rolling a ball of dung, it tries to make a quick escape. And the fastest way to travel is in a straight path. Dung beetles are able to move in straight lines by using the light from the Milky Way to guide them. Special photoreceptors in their eyes detect the symmetrical pattern of light that shines from the Milky Way, and this helps them to make their quick escape!
At night time, geckos are often found around lights, since they are attracted to the warmth and the insects that gather there. They have huge eyes, which help them to see at night and they keep their eyes moist by licking them. Geckos can also dilate their pupils very wide, to let in as much of the dim night light as possible.
This article appeared in Supernova magazine Vol. 10.1
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