The dormouse has a famously sleepy disposition. It’s an image that was cemented over 150 years ago when a very tired dormouse appeared in the well-known tea-party scene in Lewis Caroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. And unlike many animal reputations worldwide, this one doesn’t need exaggerating. No other British mammal sleeps for such a high proportion of the time – it can spend over half of the year asleep, from October through to April or May.
Large, lazy and very strange-looking – meet the ocean sunfish. This extraordinary animal is certainly very peculiarly-proportioned. Tall but vertically flattened, with a pale, circular body that seems to end abruptly behind its huge dorsal and anal fins, the sunfish almost looks as though it is simply a massive severed head with a short, frilly tail attached.
In global terms, the rarest bird you stand a chance of realistically seeing in the wild in the British Isles is the aquatic warbler. Even then, you need to be in the right place at the right time and have a bit of luck on your side, because the aquatic warbler doesn’t breed here, or even spend the winter – it is only a rare passage migrant to our shores.
The idea of a plant eating an animal seems like a strange concept. Perhaps it is because it shatters all expectations. Surely plants are supposed to be passive recipients of sunlight and water – not carnivores turning to the flesh of animals for their sustenance. Carl Linnaeus, the famous Swedish naturalist who devised a system of ordering all living things in the world, refused to believe that plants could be carnivorous, declaring that it went ‘against the order of nature as willed by God.’ He reasoned that so-called carnivorous plants only caught insects by accident.
If you were asked to think of a legless reptile, your mind would probably conjure up images of some kind of snake. But leglessness has also evolved in lizards – several times over, in fact. The biggest lizard family – the skinks – includes numerous groups that have on separate, multiple occasions lost their limbs. Here in the UK (which, it has to be said, is a very reptile-deficient country), we have just one legless lizard: the slow-worm.