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.
The weasel is small. Really small. Much smaller than most people realise. It is not only the smallest mustelid, it’s also the smallest carnivore in the world. Growing to between 13 and 26 cm in length and weighing as little as 25 grams in some cases – about the same as an AA battery – it is a mere 0.0025% of the weight of the planet’s biggest terrestrial carnivore, the polar bear.
When I was young, the first bird of prey that I was able to easily identify was the kestrel. I suspect the same is true of many other people. The kestrel’s silhouette, suspended in the sky as if by wire over some heathland or motorway, became instantly recognisable to me, for no other British bird of prey can hover in place with such utmost precision.