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Animal Themes
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Servals



Servals
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 6 to 8
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   6.38

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    serval, servals, standing, adaptation, oddity, hearing, top-notch, necessarily, further, conservation, overall, survival, rank, offspring, various, coloration
     content words:    Sahara Desert


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Servals
By Vickie Chao
  

1     Out on the grasslands of Africa, superb hunters are never in short supply. If we are to name a few, most people will call out lions, tigers, cheetahs, and leopards. Those four animals, as it turns out, all belong to the same family -- Felidae. The Felidae or cat family consists of about 40 members. Apart from the famous "fantastic four," there is actually another cat species in Africa whose killer instinct is just as good, if not better. That animal is called the serval. It can be found in various parts of Africa, south of the Sahara Desert. It prefers grassy areas with easy access to water.
 
2     The serval's appearance is quite an oddity. It has very large ears and very long legs. If we were to rank every member of the cat family by either the size of its ears or by the ratio of its leg-to-body-length, the serval would be the champion on both counts. A fully-grown serval measures about 40 inches long and weighs nearly 30 pounds. It has black spots and stripes all over its body. The color on its head, shoulders, back, and tail is tan to yellow. And the color on its chest and belly is off-white. The serval's tail is about 1 foot long. It features several black rings and a black tip. When standing erect, it is about 20 inches tall. Its hind legs are longer than its front ones.
 
3     Of course, in the animal kingdom, looking odd is not necessarily a bad thing. In the serval's case, its large ears mean acute hearing. Its coloration means camouflage. And its long legs mean adaptation to short-distance running and leaping. Together, these three strengths are what make the serval a top-notch predator. When hungry, the animal patrols the ground covered with tall grass. As it moves about the area, it listens carefully for any sound. Once the serval detects something, it creeps nearby, leaps high with all four feet off the ground, and then pounces on the object. Often times, it does not even see the victim before its surprise attack. Instead, it relies solely on its hearing to pinpoint the exact location of the prey. Even when the target (such as a mole rat) is well hidden underground, it can never escape the notice of a serval. The minute that this excellent hunter picks up a signal, it will dig and flush out the doomed victim. And if the intended prey is a bird, the serval can spring up to 10 feet high to catch one in mid-air. Overall, this amazing cat has a fairly high success rate of about 50% in hunting. Its diet includes lizards, snakes, rodents, hares, young antelopes, quails, flamingos, or other birds.

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Animal Themes
             Animal Themes


Grasslands
             Grasslands



Animals
    Amphibians  
 
    Birds  
 
    Deserts  
 
    Fish  
 
    Freshwater  
 
    Grasslands  
 
    Insects  
 
 
    Invertebrates  
 
    Mammals  
 
    Oceans  
 
    Polar Regions  
 
    Rain Forest  
 
    Reptiles  
 


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