Almost 70 percent of the world’s animals are nocturnal – and for good reason. At night it is cooler, easier to avoid detection by predators and there is less competition for food. Most nocturnal animals have some special adaptations, including a highly developed sense of smell and hearing. Some have large eyes that see well in low light, while others do not rely on sight.
Nocturnal animals use the night hours to hunt, feed, mate and play. Let’s take a look at five animals that are busy while most of us are sleeping.
Born in Madagascar, Aye is a species of lemur that spends most of its life in treetops – eating, sleeping and mating. They also spend 80 percent of their night time foraging and can travel more than two miles in their search. Although they have rodent-like teeth (with incisors that never stop growing) and squirrel-like tails, they are actually primates.
In fact, they are the largest nocturnal primate in the world. The natives of Madagascar kill many aye-ayes because of the myth they carry bad luck. They are now endangered as they are hunted for meat and due to habitat loss, there are thought to be fewer than 10,000 left in the world today, perhaps as few as 1,000.
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Hedgehogs are popular pets, although there are some considerations consideration before you get one. Night life presents certain challenges, such as the fact that they usually wake up between seven and nine at night. This gives owners a relatively short period of bonding time, as most people sleep while their pet hedgehog is most active.
In the wild, they can travel up to eight miles each night while searching for food. This is why some hedgehog owners have wheels in which to run. They like to sleep and are awake for an average of six or eight hours a day. Wild hedgehogs usually live under hedges and bushessearching for grubs, roots, fruits and small vertebrates like frogs to eat.
3. Nine banded battleship
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Of the approximately 20 species of armadillo, nine lane is the only one found in the U.S. At about 2.5 feet long and weighing an average of 12 pounds, they can have anywhere from seven to 11 bands (despite their name). These nocturnal insectivores feed on grubs, termites, beetles and worms. Nine-banded armadillos are the only species associated with leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease.
It is not common, but there are confirmed cases of animal-to-human transmission. Another unique thing about the nine-banded armadillo is that when they give birth, there are almost always four babies that are identical fours. When startled, they can jump up to five feet in the air.
There is a myth that if you see a raccoon outside during the day, it must have rabies. Although not necessarily true, raccoon activity during the day can be a sign that something is wrong. Raccoons are a a common carrier of rabies in the US., but there is only one known case of a person dying of raccoon rabies.
Another misconception is that they “wash their food.” In reality, they wet their food to increase their sensory input. Raccoons gather two-thirds of their data from tactile sensations. Wetting their paws activates their nerve endings—thus allowing for better tactile senses. With seven species raccoons in the US, they range in size from 12 to 35 pounds. Raccoons are strong swimmers and good climbers, capable of descending a tree head first.
5. Sugar glider
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Like all nocturnal animals, sugar gliders eat at night. However, they do not spend much time hunting. Instead, they are opportunistic feeders that will eat lizards, small birds, fruit, seeds, and nectar. Their diet also includes insects, but instead of spending a lot of energy searching for food, they wait for insects to fly into their area. Another way they get food is by stripping the bark off trees to get at the liquid that may be inside.
Sugar gliders are social and live in large groups in the wild. They can glide thanks to a network of skin-like membranes called a patagium located between their front and back legs. They steer by adjusting the tension of the patagium and moving their limbs according to the direction they want to turn.