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Learning Wonders :: FREE CURRICULUM :: Pond Life - Pages 5 & 6


Crayfish – Crayfish are relatives of the ocean variety of lobsters. The crayfish is and invertebrate, its body is covered with an armor-like exoskeleton that protects the soft tissue underneath. They are bottom dwellers or scavengers, gathering up food any where they can. They forage mostly at night and spend the days safe in their tunnels which are dug into the pond’s edge. Crayfish have 5 sets of crawling feet. They can easily spot danger and flee backwards with a flick of their powerful tail.


Newt – Newts are shy secretive animals. For part of the year they live on land hiding out of sight under cool, moist rocks or leaves. They venture out in the evening to feed on insects and snails. They usually hibernate in the winter, underground. Every few weeks newts molt, shedding their entire body length of skin. They have webbed back feet helping them to be fast swimmers. Newts migrate long distances to mate, often traveling to the pond where they grew up, finding it by sight and smell. Newt eggs hatch into carnivorous (meat-eating) young called tadpoles. Newt tadpoles have feathery gills to take in oxygen from the water so that they can breathe. In a few months the newt tadpoles develop into tiny adults, leaving the pond to live on land.


Turtles are the most common reptile found in ponds. Their lower shell is called a plastron, and the dome shaped upper shell is called a carapace. Most turtles can draw their head and legs partly or completely inside their shell for protection. Turtles have sharp bony jaws, but no teeth. The female digs a hole in dirt or sand, deposits her eggs then covers them up. The turtle eggs are incubated by the heat of the sun. Turtles can’t make their own body heat. They bask in the sun to warm their bodies and strengthen their shells. Predators for turtles and turtle’s eggs are raccoons, squirrels, foxes and skunks.

Snapping Turtle – A snapping turtle may weight as much as 35 pounds. The average is 10-14 pounds. They eat both plants and animals and often buries deep into the muddy bottom of the pond. Snapping Turtles are scavengers of the pond, frequently feeding on dead fish.

Painted Turtle – The painted turtle is found in the shallow receded area of the pond. It eats mostly plants, but does eat some small pond critters. The US variety may vary greatly in colors and textures depending on climate. The average painted turtle is only 6-9 inches in length. The Painted Turtle is a basking turtle, often pulling themselves up onto logs or rocks to bask in the sun. In cold climates they hibernate at the bottom of the pond during the winter season.


Bull Frog – Frogs are excellent swimmers. They have webbed back feet and can elongate their body to glide through the pond. Adult frogs are very shy and leap into the water at the first sign of danger. Frogs come to the surface to gulp air and to eat insects on the pond surface and resting in reeds. They have large eyes which are very sensitive to movement. Frogs have sticky tongues which they use to fling out toward insects and snails. Frogs often swallow their food whole, including the shell. Frog legs are so strong, that most frogs can leap 12 times their body length.

Frog Eggs – Frogspawn, which is transparent and has a jelly type consistency, contains up to 3000 eggs. These eggs float in the pond until the tadpoles are hatched in about two weeks. The jelly protects the tender eggs from other tiny microscopic pond creatures, and it helps the eggs to stay warm.

Tadpoles – A Tadpole is a young frog. A tadpole gets their oxygen from water like a fish, not from the air like a frog. The big bullfrog’s tadpole is one of the largest tadpoles in the pond. After hatching from an egg, the tadpole grows for a month or two before developing legs, then emerging as a frog. Tadpoles feed on aquatic plants, algae and insect larvae.

Algae – A simple tiny plant form. Necessary for the chlorophyll and oxygenation of the pond water.
Aquatic – Living or growing in water.
Bask – To lie in or expose yourself to enjoyable warmth, especially from the sun.
Bill - The beak of a bird, consisting of two pointed jaws protected by a horny covering.
Carapace – The top hard portion of a turtle shell.
Dwellers – To live and have a home in a particular place.
Ecosystem - a localized group of interdependent organisms together with the environment that they inhabit and depend on.
Exoskeleton – An outer covering on the body, made of a substance called chitin.
Flee – To move quickly away.
Hibernate – To rest or sleep during the cold months of the year.
Larvae – Grubs, which eventually develop into adult insects.
Migrate – To travel long distances to find food and a suitable place to breed.
Molt – To shed the skin or exoskeleton.
Nymph – The larva of an insect, that will grow into an adult.
Perching – When a bird rest on a limb of a tree or plant.
Plastron – The softer underside of a turtle shell.
Plumage - The feathers on a bird.
Pupa – The resting stage between a larva and an adult insect.
Rudder – A flat instrument used to steer in water.
Spawn – A mass of frog or fish eggs.
Submerged – Below the water surface.
Surface – The top of the pond, the edge between the water and the air.
Webbed – The feed have a thin layer of skin between the joints of each toe.

Wader - An animal that walks slowly through water
Prey - animals hunted by other animals: an animal or animals that are caught, killed, and eaten by another animal as food
Invertebrate - animal without backbone: an animal such as an insect or worm that does not have a backbone
Nest - A safe, private place where animals make a home for the new babies.

Pond Life - Pages 5 & 6
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