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Hippos defecate in the water. Their dung provides essential basic
elements for the food chain. Tiny microorganisms feed on it and then
larger animals feed on those organisms. On land, hippos' large bodies
make trails through vegetation that other animals may use for easy
access to water holes. Because hippos' favorite food is short grass, they
keep these grasses well trimmed which may help to deter grassfires.
Hippos are an important part of the African ecosystem.
Hippopotamuses love water, which is why the Greeks named them the
"river horse." Hippos spend up to 16 hours a day submerged in rivers and
lakes to keep their massive bodies cool under the hot African sun. Hippos
are graceful in water, good swimmers, and can hold their breath
underwater for up to five minutes. However, they are often large enough
to simply walk or stand on the lake floor, or lie in the shallows. Their eyes
and nostrils are located high on their heads, which allows them to see
and breathe while mostly submerged.
Hippos also bask on the shoreline and secrete an oily red substance,
which gave rise to the myth that they sweat blood. The liquid is actually
a skin moistener and sunblock that may also provide protection against
At sunset, hippopotamuses leave the water and travel overland to
graze. They may travel 6 miles (10 kilometers) in a night, along single-file
pathways, to consume some 80 pounds (35 kilograms) of grass.
Considering their enormous size, a hippo's food intake is relatively low. If
threatened on land hippos may run for the water—they can match a
human's speed for short distances.
|Conservation Status : Conservation Dependent
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