Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

The Naturalist's Apprentice: Ahead of Them All

The Mississippi paddlefish is not alone in having special adaptations on its head. Below is a list of familiar Illinois animals that also have special modifications of the head. Match the animal with the description of the adaptation on the right.

A. Beak is long, hard, and chisel-shaped. It is well adapted to chipping holes in wood.

B. Hard, branched head growths, called antlers, are used as a display to attract females and to spar with other males.

C. The moist, leathery nose is very sensitive to scents on the ground. It can help find prey and distinguish the scent of other individuals of its species that have been present in an area. 

D. The large, strong incissor teeth can chew through wood.

E. Large, sensitive ears pick up clicking noises that are emitted from the mouth and bounce back after hitting an object. This is a form of echo-location.

F. Eyes are greatly reduced due to subterranean life, where they are of little use and would be easily damaged by soil. Also, the nose is soft and sensitive to feel and taste.

G. Long, fleshy whiskerlike growths are sensitive organs that can locate food in the mud.

H. Large, hooked beak is capable of tearing small pieces of flesh from a fish or other prey.

I. Long, jointed antennae are used to "feel" the path in front of them. They are able to detect a chemical trail left by others of their kind who traveled the path before them.

J. Large, fluffy antennae of the males have many chemical receptors that are able to detect even the faintest chemical cue from a female. 

K. Pit in front of the eye is able to detect the body heat of warm-blooded animals.

Carolyn Nixon, Center for Economic Entomolgy

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