Our photo of the day offers a lesson in the mighty 'river horse.'
Inspired by this fabulous portrait taken by Michael Thomas, we're diving into the world of the ever charming Hippopotamus amphibious. Here's what we've learned.
1. They are not horses!
The mighty creature with a silly name is actually quite poetic. Hippopotamus comes from the Greek word meaning “river horse.” Even though, of course, hippos are not horses, they do in fact love rivers.
2. They're built for water
Hippos spend up to 2/3 of the day submerged in rivers and lakes in order to protect themselves from African sun and heat. Because of this, they are agile in the water, despite their size. They can hold their breath for five minutes! Their ears, eyes and nostrils are near the top of their head so that they can use them even when mostly underwater.
3. They can sleepswim
According to the San Diego Zoo, hippos can even sleep underwater, "using a reflex that allows them to bob up, take a breath, and sink back down without waking up."
4. No man is an island, but a hippo can be
When lolling in rivers, hippos look and act like small islands. Birds will fish from their backs; turtles and baby crocodiles might sun themselves there as well.
5. They sweat blood sweat
Rather than true sweat glands, the skin of a hippo secretes a thick, red ooze called "blood sweat," although it might sound gory, it protects the skin from burning and fights against infection.
6. They are truly mighty in size
National Geographic notes that hippos are the second largest land animal on Earth, right after the elephant. Males are about 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) long and 5 feet (1.5m tall), and can weigh up 7,000 pounds (3,200 kilograms).
7. They eat their greens!
Hippos rest all day and forage at night; they walk up to six miles in a single file line, grazing on up to 80 pounds of grass and other plants daily per animal.
8. Their bite is worse than their bark
Despite their roly-poly appearance, hippos are a force to be reckoned with. Their canine teeth reach 20 inches (51 centimeters) in length and are employed in both offense and defense. They can break a canoe into two with one bite.
9. Or is their bark worse than their bite?
They are seriously loud, which somehow seems fitting. Their calls have been measured at 115 decibels, notes the San Diego Zoo, about the same volume as being 15 feet away from the speakers at a rock concert. "They also use snorts, grumbles, “wheeze-honking,” and other ground-shaking—and sometimes subsonic—vocalizations to communicate to other hippos," adds the zoo. "As one starts calling, the rest of the family “sounds off” down the line."
10. They are party animals
Hippos are social; they live in herds of 10 to 30 animals ... but sometimes in groups of up to 200. They are lead by a single dominant male.
11. You can call them "a crash"
And for something to really impress your friends with; their collective animal name. A herd of hippos can be called a bloat, pod, siege, or crash.
Would you like to see your nature photo featured as the TreeHugger photo of the day? Join TreeHugger’s Reader Photo Pool on flickr and add your pictures to the group.