Animal of Many Kinds
Farm Corner - March 8, 1956
by Joe F. Combs
Because we can not see all the animal life on our rounds, we rarely realize just how many different kinds actually exist within our range of vision at any one time.
Every pond, lake or stream has millions of tiny animals in it, in addition to the larger species we are familiar with. And even the larger ones seem to be able to avoid our gaze. Of course, there are times when we can see a fish, turtle or snake dart about in the water or on the surface, but what we see is a very small percentage of what is actually living within a stone's throw of us all the time.
The soil is inhabited by many forms of life from microscopic ones to those we can readily see. But the larger ones have learned all the tricks about keeping away from their enemies. Few people ever see a mole or a pocket gopher.
Fewer have seen a shrew, the smallest of mammals. The tiny shrew, known as the pigmy shrew, is only about two inches long, from nose to tail tip. These little mammals are common in grasslands, but so evasive few people ever see them. The writer has only seen one in his lifetime in the shrew's natural habitat.
This little fellow is often referred to as the "tiger of the grassroots." This name is given him because he is a fiendish killer. He lives mostly on insects but will attack mice twice his size, and after killing them feast on their bodies. They can not be kept in cages together, because one will destroy the other or they will both go down in deadly combat. How they ever manage to keep their tribe flourishing, with this sort of killer instinct, is amazing.
The shrew lives in the soil, and dens under logs, rocks or large roots of trees, or tunnels underneath the grasslands. This very nervous and active animal must eat constantly, naturalists say, and will starve in a few hours if food is not available, and they consume a large amount compared to their tiny size.
Some scientists venture the guess that there are at least 3,000,000 different kinds of animals living on earth. And if the tiny micorscopic kinds are to be taken into account, there is no telling how many millions actually exist. Parasitic animals are very abundant, and there is practically no animal on earth that is not infested with some kind of parasite, internal or external, and that includes man. Some one once said, "Great fleas have little fleas upon their back to bite 'em, and little fleas have lesser fleas, and so on ad infinitum."
So man, though he thinks he is the big shot of creation, is actually a tiny part of life on the earth. In fact, there are billions of times more animal life on earth than there are human beings. We need to know that other creatures dominate the earth in many ways, and that we are at their mercy in many cases.