Animals are amazing. I mean, really, really amazing. When you stop to think about it, they just might be the most amazing things not only on our planet, but in the entire solar system and maybe beyond. In the vast unknown cosmos of our endless universe, only here, only right here all around us, do we know that there exist the miracles and beautiful complexities of life.
In the cavernous expanse of space we can find natural displays beyond our imagination, collections of matter and energy that spin and dance their way into fantastic patterns on scales that cannot be properly comprehended. Yet even though these cosmic glories inspire us and captivate the minds and dreams of our people, in the end it must be said that space is cold, and it is distant. For most of us, we cannot appreciate a quasar as we can appreciate a butterfly, cannot admire its graceful motions nor contemplate its incredible complexity and feel at peace. We cannot marvel at the life cycle of a star across billions of years as we can marvel at the life cycle of a mayfly, whose entire existence can begin, succeed, and end within a mere thirty minutes. We cannot love a nebula as we can love a dog, or a fish, or a parrot, full of life and wonder.
The world of animals can offer more complexity and diversity than you could ever imagine. There are more than 1.3 million species of animals, and we discover ten thousand more every year. Each one is utterly unique, and we have only just begun to understand them.
In the myriad designs of the animal kingdom, you will find creatures that are so small you cannot see them with the naked eye, and creatures that are so large they could swallow you whole. Animals sing, dance, run, play, hide, laugh, learn, dream, swim, fly, jump, crawl, love. Animals live, just as we do. From the smallest to the largest, they make their way through this ever-changing world, and seek to continue their own kind through countless generations. They are endlessly inventive at finding ways to adapt and to survive, and they have developed more behaviours than we could ever hope to fully document.
My goal with this project is to share with you the full depth of wonder and majesty that exists in the animal world, to help you learn and appreciate the complexity and diversity of the creatures that share with us the soil, the sea, and the sky.
It is beyond the capacity of one person, however dedicated, to document the full list of different species on our planet. There are simply too many. Imagine having to pick up, examine, and describe to the last measurement and detail every single penny in $14,000, and another 27 pennies are added to the pile every single day. Trying to fully describe every species of animal would be like that, only much harder because the pennies are all different shapes and sizes, some of them might just be penny-coloured buttons, some of them hide from you, and every once in a while a tornado goes through the room.
We do not even know a great deal about many of the species already discovered, simply because there are so many, and the number of people researching them so comparatively few. It is the work of a lifetime and of lifetimes beyond.
What I propose instead is to offer a broad accounting of the animal world. This project will contain information about every single basic type of animal in the known world, plus more detailed stories about the interesting lives, behaviours, history, or stories for chosen individual species or groups.
What I will not do, however, is seek to bore you with an excess of mundane details or lists that I have found in many animal documentation projects. I will leave that for the zoologists and taxonomists who seem to enjoy detailed descriptions and precise measurements of every last aspect of every last animal, recorded in the bland manner that science demands. Bless their hearts, because they are all very good at their jobs and without them we would know much less about our world, but that is the work of a reference text that will never stir your soul with wonder.
No, what I want to do is to thrill you, to teach you, and to open your eyes to the astounding diversity of life in our world. How it lives, and everything that makes it unique, special, and interesting, with none of the dry descriptions of textbooks and academic literature.
As such, you must not rely on the entries in this project for completely factual information, as for school projects and the like. Though there will be many scientific facts and much research done on my part, I am not an expert and this is not a scientific document in the strictest sense. And just between you and me, I’m not going to let rigorous accuracy stand in the way if there is a really great story about an animal that I think you should hear. Don’t tell the zoologists I said that.
And with that, let us begin. I don’t know how long this labour of love will take me, but I do hope you follow along as we discover the brilliant beasts that live all around us.
– September 12, 2011
(Please note that any distribution maps used in this blog are for the most part derived from Grzimek’s Encyclopedia, Second Edition.)