Wildworkshops use various British wildlife for our sessions. Please click on the Animal photo of your choice to find out more about them.

Mice Factfile

Discover some fascinating facts about this miniature, mammalian marvel.

These nocturnal creatures are brown/grey in colour with a lighter belly, are finely built with large ears and eyes and have long, thin tails.

There are several types of wild mice found in England: the Harvest mouse, the Yellow-Necked mouse, the House mouse and the Wood Mouse. The Wood mouse, also known as the Long-Tailed Field mouse or common field mouse, is the most common. They dig holes and make tunnels in which they raise their young and store their food.

Mice used in Wild Workshops sessions are descendants of House mice. House mice measure 7-9 cm (not including their tail) and weigh approx. 25 g or less (less than a bag of crisps). They are found mostly indoors but will spend more time outside when the weather is good.

Indoors, areas favoured by mice tend to be food storage and preparation areas such as kitchens and pantries. Airing cupboards, under-floor areas, enclosed pipes in bathrooms and loft spaces are also favourite hiding places.

Outside they will inhabit sheds, stables, pet hutches, feed rooms, bird tables and anywhere else they can find a food source.

House mice have a rapid reproduction rate; pregnancy lasts approximately 19 to 23 days and the typical litter size is 4 to 12 young. In some instances, up to thirty young have been born. Males can mate with the female as soon as the litter is born, which means that a female could become pregnant with another litter within 3 days of giving birth. The baby mice, or pups, become independent after about three weeks and can have babies themselves after two months.

A pet mouse may live on average around 2 years (the record for a House mouse is 4 years) but they have a much lower life expectancy in the wild, weeks or months. This is in part due to predation from a whole host of creatures including cats, owls, hawks, snakes and weasels. This is why they have so many babies and grow up so quickly!

After humans and rats, mice are the 3rd most successful animal species on the planet. They live worldwide and are very adaptable.

Snail Factfile

Snails can hide in their shells when they are in danger. The shell is made of calcium carbonate and as well as protection it provides camouflage and some support of internal organs.The shell grows from the outer rim where it joins to the mantle. The shell is wound around a central support called the columella.

A snail's radula is a very specialised mouth, perfect for eating plant material. The radula is covered with fine, horny, curved teeth and is rubbed back and forth against a leaf tearing off small pieces for the snail to eat.

Snails have one foot. They move by ripples of muscle contraction moving down this foot and there is a gland behind the mouth which releases mucus reducing friction and preventing the foot being damaged. The slime can also deter smaller predators from attacking it.

Snails live in grass, hedges and gardens where it is cool, dark and moist. In the daytime they will hide away in old plant pots, under leaves and under sheds, at night time, or when it is wet, they come out to feed on plants. They are herbivores, meaning they will only eat plants. They provide food for birds and hedgehogs but are considered to be a pest to humans.

Snails are hermaphrodites, which means they have both male and female parts. They have an ovotestis which produces both eggs and sperm cells. Fertilisation occurs after stimulation from a love-dart. Small packets (called spermatophores) containing the sperm are exchanged between snails. The ovotestes now produce eggs which are fertilised by the sperm in the spermatophores. The eggs are laid on the ground or in litter.

Snails can eat lots of leaves, so much so that they can destroy gardens and ruin farmers' crops. If a plant loses too many of it's leaves it will die.

Woodlice Factfile

Woodlice are actually crustaceans; they are distant relatives of crabs and lobsters that have evolved to live on land!

Woodlice are about 2cm long and they have 14 legs. As well as the 7 pairs of walking legs they also have 5 pairs of 'breathing legs'. At the end of their body they have two fat 'tubes' which stick out; these are the uropods and have a sensory function like tentacles.

At the front, woodlice have a pair of antennae, these are used to smell the way in dark and damp places. Woodlice do have eyes, but they can't see well, they can only really make the difference between light and dark.

Woodlice are generally grey in colour and their body is covered with overlapping horny plates. This acts like a suit of armour. As the woodlice grows it has to shed its armour, this is called moulting.

Woodlice need to live in damp conditions. Unlike most land animals, woodlice have gill-like structures on their back legs, and so need water to take in oxygen.

Woodlice are usually found on the ground, in woodland or your back garden, under dead wood, loose bark or under stones.

Woodlice don't always return to the same place to rest, but you often find large numbers of woodlice resting together.

Woodlice are either male or female, although it is hard for us to tell the difference. The male is attracted to the female by smell, and if she stays still, he will climb onto her back to mate.

Woodlice normally feed at night, they feed on dead plants from leaves to rotting wood. They will also sometimes eat live plants.

Brine Shrimp Factfile

Brine shrimp is the English name of the genus Artemia, these creatures have evolved little since the Triassic period. Under magnification, the elongated shape and eleven pairs of limbs give this organism a shrimp-like shape, but they actually fall into an order of primitive crustaceans. Due to their transparent bodies they take on the colour of whatever they eat - various pigments from the phytoplankton that the shrimp eats give hues of blue, green, and red.

Brine shrimp are closely related to the Fairy shrimp found in English ponds. Fairy shrimp are fully protected in the UK and would not be able to be used in our investigations. We can learn a lot about Fairy shrimp through studying their close relatives.

Brine shrimp live in salt swamps such as those often found inland of the dunes at the seashore, in man-made evaporation ponds used to obtain salt from the ocean, and in salt lakes such as those found in the intermountain desert region of the western United States.

Like many other primitive aquatic creatures, this organism is attracted to light, rising to the surface in the daytime, and sinking at night. Artemia will move towards light (positively phototactic) to keep themselves at the same depth as their favourite food.

In the United States, in areas such as the Great Salt Lake, the brine shrimp's yearlong life cycle usually begins in early spring. After hatching, the larvae will go through 15 moults before it reaches the adult form. These begin to die by October and most will be gone by December. In the period from May to December females will give birth to either live nauplii or, if conditions are wrong for larvae survival, they will lay a number of cysts. These will be dispersed by winds and waves. Often the cysts drift to shore, where they remain until spring rainfalls wash them back into the water. These will later hatch when water, temperature, salinity, oxygen, and other seasonal conditions are right.

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