Nearly 70 percent of the world’s animals are nocturnal, and good reason. It’s cooler at night, it’s easier to avoid detection by predators, and there’s 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 can see well in low light, while others do not rely on the sense of sight.
Nocturnal animals use the night hours to hunt, eat, mate, and play. Let’s take a look at five animals that are busy while most of us sleep.
1. Yes, yes
Native to Madagascar, the Hey Hey It is a type of lemur that spends most of its life in the treetops: eating, sleeping and mating. They also spend 80 percent of their nighttime hours foraging and can travel more than two miles in search of food. Although they have rodent teeth (with incisors that never stop growing) and squirrel tails, they are actually primates.
In fact, they are the largest nocturnal primates in the world. The locals of Madagascar kill many aye-ayes, due to the myth that they bring bad luck. Now endangered because they are hunted for their meat and due to habitat loss, it is believed that there are less than 10,000 left in the world today, perhaps even as few as 1,000.
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Hedgehogs are popular pets, although there is a lot to consider consideration before getting one. Being nocturnal presents certain challenges, such as the fact that they usually wake up between seven and nine at night. This gives owners a relatively short window of time to bond, as most people sleep while their pet hedgehog is most active.
In the wild, they can travel up to eight miles each night as they search for food. This is why some hedgehog owners have wheels for them to run on. They love to sleep and are only awake an average of six to eight hours a day. Wild hedgehogs usually live under hedges and bushesin search of larvae, roots, fruits and small vertebrates such as frogs to eat.
3. Nine-Banded Armadillo
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Of the approximately 20 species of armadillo, the nine bands it is the only one that can be found in the US. About 2.5 feet long and weighing an average of 12 pounds, they can have between seven and 11 bands (despite their name). These nocturnal insectivores feed on larvae, termites, beetles, and worms. Nine-banded armadillos are the only species that has been linked to leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease.
It is not common, but there have been 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, which are identical quadruplets. When startled, they can jump up to five feet into the air.
There is a myth that if you see a raccoon during the day, it must have rabies. While not necessarily true, daytime raccoon activity could be a sign that something is wrong. Raccoons are a common carrier of rabies in the US., but there is only one known case of a person dying from raccoon rabies.
Another misconception is that they “wash your food.” They actually 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, allowing for increased tactile senses. With seven species of raccoons in the US, range in size from 12 to 35 lbs. Raccoons are strong swimmers and good climbers, able to climb down from the top of a tree 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, eating lizards, small birds, fruit, seeds, and nectar. Their diet also includes insects, but instead of spending a lot of energy searching for them, they wait until the insects fly into their area. Another way they get food is by stripping the bark off trees to get out any 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 the patagium, located between the 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.