MEXICO — The Chewonki Foundation, a nonprofit educational organization, brought a little bit of the wild to town Tuesday.

Children gathered in the Calvin P. Lyons room at the Town Office to watch a presentation on how animals adapt to different environments. It was part of the Mexico Public Library’s Terrific Tuesday! program.

Foundation member Catherine Griset explained that every animal she would be showing was donated to the organization.

Once an animal is in captivity, it cannot be re-released into the wild,” Griset explained. “They wouldn’t know how to survive, so we keep them at the Chewonki Foundation to help them get better,” she said.

Griset said there are three ways animals adapt to a specific environment: mouth, feet and body covering. For each category, she asked children to volunteer to stand at the front of the room and wear articles of clothing shaped like certain animal parts.

For animals that use their mouths to adapt to their environment, Griset used the bill of a duck and the tongue of a hummingbird or a butterfly as examples.


“Hummingbirds and butterflies need large enough tongues to get the nectar out of the flowers,” Griset said as a child from the audience held a long, felt tongue in front of his face as an example. “The bodies of these animals are specially adapted to reach that.”

Griset also pointed out that snakes use their tongues as a means of smelling things.

“Not many people realize this, but snake tongues are forked because they have little holes in the roof of their mouths that connect to their brain,” she said. “The snakes will take the forks, put them in the holes, and that’s how they smell things.”

As for foot adaptations, Griset cited webbed feet as an example.

“Creatures with webbed feet swim around in the water a lot, and the webs help them to push through the water,” she said.

“If we swam like this,” Griset began, holding her hands up with her fingers spread apart, “we wouldn’t get very far. We have to cup our hands to swim. That’s what the webbing does for different animals.”


The presentation also included three live animals, which elicited “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” from the children when they were brought out.

Griset walked a big brown bat, a salamander and an eastern water dragon around the room, allowing children to marvel at them while parents took pictures. She said they received the eastern water dragon after a family who kept him for a pet decided they couldn’t properly provide for it.

“It’s really difficult to keep lizards and reptiles as a pet,” Griset said. “They have a specific diet and they require a lot of heat and light. The lights alone cost a lot of money.”

The family decided to donate it to the foundation, she said, “and we’ve been taking care of him ever since. We give him a special diet with a lot of vitamins, and also feed him crickets and mealworms as protein.”

After the presentation, Griset allowed the children to look at animal parts, including the talons of a bird, the skull of a duck and the wing of an owl.

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