Label: Animals

March 22, 2010

Photo Credit: Liz Nealon

The next book that I’m writing for my Smithsonian/Collins series is a book on butterflies. This is a photo of a monarch taken when we were visiting the monarch butterfly trees in Pacific Grove, California. The trees were filled with monarch butterflies; they looked like autumn leaves rustling in the wind. It was magical-realism, something like a scene out of Marquez’s A HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE (the book is for adults and may not be appropriate for children). Sad to say, but the population of Monarchs is way down probably due to a number of reasons, not the least is the fact that milkweeds (whose leaves the monarch caterpillars eat)  are being destroyed as a weed alongside some state highways around the country.

Maybe it’s time for butterfly lovers to begin planting a few milkweed plants in butterfly gardens?

Here’s a link to the story (similar to one sent to me by my friend, the cat lady, Carrie Smelser): Female monarch butterflies on 30-year decline in eastern North America 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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March 16, 2010

Last week, I shared 6 things every family should know before deciding to get a puppy, and promised a followup about how to train your new pet. So,  here we go!

The first thing that you can teach your puppy is its own name. Always reward a puppy when you call its name and it comes running, either by petting and praising it or by giving it a tidbit.  After awhile, just use praise to reward an older puppy. You don’t want to teach it to come only when you have food.

Simon, Seymour. DOGS. New York:  Collins/Smithsonian, 2009, pg 13.

Don’t use baby talk with a puppy. Keep your commands short, clear and consistent (everyone in the family should use the same words, in a similar tone). A puppy learns by the tone of your voice as well as by the words.

One of the first things you will need to do is paper train your puppy, as soon as it comes home. Spread newspapers on the floor of the room where the puppy is kept, but leave part of the floor bare. Your puppy should be placed on the newspapers as soon as it wakes up from a nap and after each meal. Watch the puppy carefully. As soon as it shows that it wants to squat to relieve itself, rush it over to the newspapers. When it wets the paper, praise it by saying "Good dog, good dog." As you praise your puppy, pet it and make it feel good.

When you see the puppy wet the bare floor, say "Bad dog," in a stern tone. Push its nose to the wet spot and let him know you are unhappy by the tone of your voice.  Then place the puppy on the paper and pet it. Clean up the mistake on the floor very thoroughly; you may want to use a few drops of vinegar to disguise the odor of the spot. If the scent of urine remains, it will attract the puppy and it will tend to wet there again. It’s useless to scold a puppy for mistakes a long time after they have been made, so you will have to spend a lot of time watching your puppy in the beginning to get good results. An 8-week-old puppy doesn’t have much control over its bladder and bowel movements, so it will learn much quicker if you watch it so that you can praise it when it goes on the paper.

Then,  when you first start to take your puppy outside for walks, take a piece of newspaper with you and repeat the process out of doors. Before long,  your puppy will be housebroken.

Other kinds of training should really be started only after your puppy is housebroken. You teach a puppy any new behavior in the same way. Remember that directions should be simple and always in the same tone. Always reward your puppy when it is successful.

Don’t try to teach your puppy too many things at once. Wait until your puppy has learned one thing before you go on to the next. A good command to learn from the beginning is the word "no."  Say this firmly and make the puppy stop whatever it is doing. If the puppy stops by itself after you say no, praise and pet the puppy.

"Sit"  is the command you will give when you wan your puppy to sit down and be still. Push down...

read more

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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March 10, 2010


Have you ever heard the word "clowder"? It means "a group of cats."  So, if you have more than one cat in your house, your pets are a clowder of cats.


A group of kittens is referred to as a "kendle." So, that is a kendle of kittens on the cover of my book CATS! 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, Cats, Pets, Science Dictionary   •  Permalink (link to this article)

February 23, 2010

Seymour Simon recently visited the island of Aruba, which is in the Caribbean Sea. Seymour takes his camera with him everywhere he goes,  because you never know when you might find an interesting creature like this iguana.

The iguana is a protected species on the island of Aruba, and once the warm sun rises in late morning, it is not hard to find an iguana. On the tree trunks, in the bushes, or sunning on the warm tiles by the pool,  iguanas seem to be everywhere in Aruba!

This is the iguana that Seymour was photographing.

You can see the row of spines along his back and tail - they help to protect him from predators. You might also notice that this iguana has a pouch of skin underneath his chin. This is called a dewlap, and he can make it seem much bigger than it really is, which is very useful when he is trying to ward off predators. Males use the dewlap to intimidate rivals and also to attract females during the mating season.

Some of the other lizards Seymour saw on Aruba are called Pega Pega - a cousin of the Gecko. They they have suction pads on their feet that allow them to climb straight up the side of the buildings! 

Posted by: Liz Nealon

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October 21, 2009

Spiders are one of the most familiar animals in the natural world, but many people don’t know much about them. Lisa McPherson’s Class at Cold Water Elementary in Missouri is learning all about spiders from Seymour’s book. Did you know that spiders can be found less than twelve feet from where you are, right now! They live all over, in gardens, in the ground,  in leaf litter, under tree bark, in freshwater streams, and… right in your house.

Welcome to the world of spiders!

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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July 30, 2009

How much do you know about your favorite feline friend? Cats are fascinating, complex creatures. Since cats were first tamed more than 100,000 years ago, they have enchanted people with their elegant beauty and mysterious manner. But cats can also be playful and affectionate pets, death-defying acrobats, or ruthless hunters.

This is an updated introduction to these beloved and beautiful pets. Would you like to vote on which is your favorite pet? Drop me a note and vote for 1. Dogs 2. Cats 3. Another kind of animal. I’ll report your preferences on here. 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, Animal Books, Cats, Pets   •  Permalink (link to this article)

July 30, 2009

I was excited to receive a package in the mail the other day from my publisher HarperCollins. It contained three new books of mine: DOGS, CATS, and GLOBAL WARMING. The first two are reissues and updates of my books in their new uniform editions from Smithsonian/Collins. GLOBAL WARMING is not really a book yet, but printed sheets which are not yet bound. (Publishers call them f&g’s,  which stands for "folded and gathered sheets.") I’ll post photos of the covers soon. 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: New Books, Animals, Animal Books, Cats, Global Warming, Dogs, Pets   •  Permalink (link to this article)

June 1, 2009

Doing an experiment with a child helps them learn about science. To learn new things, you have to build upon what you already know. In everyday interactions with children, there are many things you can try without lecturing or applying pressures to help them learn science. Of course,  you can’t experiment with a dolphin but here are a few ideas that will help you learn about how dolphins survive in the sea.

1.  How long can you hold your breath? Compare that to how long a dolphin can hold its breath underwater.

2. Do sounds travel underwater? Can you hear sounds when you are swimming? Have you ever played a game where you and a friend make sounds and "talk" underwater,  and try to understand each other?

3. Which freezes more quickly: freshwater or ocean water? Fill two plastic cups halfway, one with freshwater and the other with salty water. Put them in the freezer and check them every ten minutes to see which freezes first. How do the results help to explain why dolphins don’t live in freshwater lakes in places that get very cold in winter?

4. Dolphins dive deep under the water where the water pressure is very great. In the sea,  pressure increases with water depth. Here’s how you can demonstrate that pressure increases with depth. You will need a large, empty tin can, a hammer, a large nail, water, salt, a ruler and a basin or a sink.  Use the hammer and a nail to make three holes, one above the other and each two inches apart in the side of the can. Stand the can on the side of the basin or sink and fill with water. Measure the distance the water spurts out from each of the holes. Try it again with salty water.

a.  Which spurts out further? Why? Remember that the weight of the water is greater over the bottom hole than over the top hole. The heavier the water above, the greater is the water pressure below. At sea level, air pressure is a bit less than 15 pounds per square inch. At 300 feet, the water pressure is about 150 pounds per square inch.

b.  Could humans survive at that pressure without protection? Do research to find out how dolphins survive the pressure of deep waters.

Click on this for Dolphins FAQs 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, Dolphins, Summer Vacation Science, Science Projects   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 31, 2009

What’s so interesting about dolphins?

  A while ago, I read a science fiction story about an ocean planet populated with intelligent water mammals such as whales and dolphins. The ocean animals of this planet even explored beyond their planet in spaceships filled with ocean water. And who were the leaders and the smartest sea life on the ocean planet? Dolphins, naturally.

  What makes dolphins so smart? Why their brains of course. Dolphins have very large brains in relation to their body size. In fact, bottlenose dolphins rank second only to humans in the ratio of their brain size to body size. Just how intelligent on the dolphins that live on our planet Earth? Nobody really knows the exact answer to this question (or at least no one on Earth knows), but researchers are finding out that dolphins can and do communicate with each other and that they can even solve some puzzles and problems.

  All of this is interesting, but the real reason I wrote a book about dolphins is that they are beautiful and fascinating to watch at sea and even in large public aquariums.  And like with most of the books I write, even after the book is published I still am finding out new things which I wish I had put in the book. Do you know things about dolphins or have you taken pictures or video of dolphins that you would like to share with readers of Seymour Science?  Send an email to Seymour Science  and tell me all about it so I can post your note on my site.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, Animal Books, Dolphins, Video   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 31, 2009

Teacher Guide: Let’s talk about dolphins!

  1. Dolphins are the "wonder of the animal kingdom." Take a tour of a dolphin’s body to find out what makes them so wonderful.

    a. Teeth: A dolphin’s teeth are not for chewing, but how do they help in food gathering? Some scientists think that the teeth are spaced in a way to help dolphins analyze sound waves.

    b. The melon: The melon is used in echolocation to focus sound waves the dolphin gives off.

      c. Dorsal fin: As distinctive as a person’s face. Used by scientists to identify individual dolphins.

    d.  Eyes: Special glands to protect their eyes from ocean water.

      e. Skin: Many nerve endings in skin helps explain why tame dolphins like to be stroked.

    f. Blowhole: Like a person’s nostril.  Blowhole allows a dolphin to breathe while swimming at top speed.

  2. What makes Dolphins so smart?

    a. Brains: large size, second only to human in ratio of brain size to body size.

    b.  Communication: Dolphins communicate by sounds. Listen to a recording of a "conversation" to hear the squeaks and whistles.

      c. Dolphins make choices and learn quickly.

  3.  What are some amazing dolphin facts? What other facts do you know?

          a. Using sonar, a dolphin can find a single marble dropped into the end of a 70 foot pool.

    b. A mother dolphin will stay with a calf for two to three years.

      c. The killer whale (Orca) is really the largest dolphin, not a whale.

    d. Dolphins can mimic a human whistle.

      e. Baby dolphins "babble" like human children.

      f. Dolphins were once land animals and evolved into sea animals.  Their front legs became fins for steering although they still have a land mammal’s finger-like bones.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, Animal Books, Dolphins, Teachers and Librarians   •  Permalink (link to this article)

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