STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books


STEM Friday Tales of Animal Tails

Animal Tails by Beth Fielding

36 pages, ages 4-8

Early Light Books, 2011

There are almost as many kinds of tails as there are animals: scaly tails, curly tails, wagging tails, striped tails, tails that sting, tails that warn and even talking tails. Think rattlesnake.

Beth Fielding gives us a visual tour of animal diversity – but this time, instead of tongues and eyes, she’s got us checking out the back ends of animals. Each photo-packed spread focuses on one animal and the special role its tail plays in survival. With kangaroos, it’s balance: those super-long tails help kangaroos balance their weight when they’re jumping. Squirrels use their tails as umbrellas, folding them over their heads and back. When it stops raining they just shake the water off like you’d shake off a wet raincoat. And when it snows, squirrels use their tails to keep warm.

Fielding writes about lizard tails, chameleon tails, cat tails and bird tails – which act like rudders when they’re flying and air brakes when they want to slow down. She even has a section on caterpillar tails – useful for tricking predators into thinking the tail end is the head end.

On each page there’s a nifty fact, something to think about, or an experiment to try. Why are whale tails so effective? Put on a pair of snorkel fins and find out.

At the end there’s six pages of “Tail Talk”- more tales about tails, and even a bit about how animals use their tails to communicate. A dog’ll let you know its happy by wagging a tail – but did you know pigs wag their tails, too? Cats, on the other hand, only wag their tails when they are annoyed or ready to attack. Could this explain the age old animosity between cats and dogs?

Check out more tail tales over at Archimedes Notebook, and take a look at what other people are posting here today.

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