Winter Connections #8 – Penguins, Cats, Bears and More!

Minute differences are often found in the animal kingdom. Some species are sooo close in appearance and in anatomy, but yet those differences exist. The DNA is different, and most likely, the species will not interbreed. If they do, the resulting young may be sterile.

So – is there any real difference between a Lynx and a Bobcat, a Grizzly Bear and a Kodiak Bear? Or how about an Emperor Penguin and a King Penguin? Read on to learn more.


A Lynx and a Bobcat?
Not much at first glance, but a closer look shows the lynx to have more pronounced ear tufts, longer fur (unfortunately valued by trappers) and much bigger, furry feet on somewhat longer legs than the bobcat’s. Deciding which is which is easy, because lynx and bobcat rarely share habitat. The lynx prefers deep North American forests and snow country, while bobcat range includes swamps, farmland, and rough scrub brush (even when arid). Bobcats dwell in all the lower forty-eight states except just south of the Great Lakes.

Both cats occasionally emit a fiendish shriek and howl (irritated bobcats actually bark) that can startle hidden prey into fatal moves and make inexperienced campers wish they’d stayed home with their heads under the covers.

A Grizzly Bear and a Kodiak Bear?
There is controversy as to whether grizzly bears are of the species called “big,brown bears.” The Kodiak bear is certainly a member, distinguished by where it is found: on islands – including Kodiak Island – off the coast of Alaska. Alaskan brown bears are the world’s largest carnivorous land mammals. Magnificent males weigh as much as 1,700 pounds. Their hind paw prints have been measured at 16 inches long by 10.5 inches wide. They can claw-mark tree trunks 12 feet or more from the ground (not counting snow).

Grizzly bears are large bears named for the silver-white hairs that show in their brown coat. Some people call grizzlies “silvertips.” A little smaller than Kodiak bears, grizzlies are noted for their unpredictable, violent behavior when disturbed.

An Emperor Penguin and a King Penguin?
Emperors are the largest penguins, 4 feet tall and up to 100 pounds. They live on the Antarctic continent, and are the only penguin that breeds in winter. Females lay one egg and then depart for the open sea. The male keeps the egg warm between the tops of his feet and his belly until it hatches 2 months later. The female then returns to care for the chick, allowing the emaciated male to regain lost weight.

King penguins are a bit smaller than emperors, with more orange color on the head and neck. Kings live in large colonies on islands far north of Antarctica. They breed in summer in areas protected by tussock grass. Both parents incubate the eggs and raise the chicks.

(Today’s information is taken from the “What’s the Difference?” Sierra Club Knowledge Cards, text by J. Baldwin.)

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