Dam Fun Facts About Beavers


They’re one of the largest rodents in the
world, they’re indisputably adorable, and hey, Canada doesn’t put just anyone on their
money. But the main reason you should appreciate
beavers is that they’re second only to us in their ability to completely transform the
environments they live in. Usually for the better, though. While we like to surround ourselves with warehouse
stores and hamburger restaurants, beavers will turn a stream-fed meadow — even a patch
of desert — into a lush, watery habitat for all sorts of wildlife, aquatic and land-lubber
alike. They do it, of course, by building dams. And
darn, can these guys dam. Most beaver dams are 5 to 10 meters long and
form small ponds behind them. But sometimes these structures have been known to turn into
decades-long development projects. The biggest beaver dam in the world, in Canada’s
Wood Buffalo National Park, is more than 850 meters long, forming a huge wetland that’s
actually been photographed from space. It’s been under construction since the 1970s,
with subsequent generations of beavers adding to it, and it’s getting bigger every year. Beavers go through all the trouble of dam-building
primarily for defense. Some build lodges made of sticks and mud in the ponds that they create,
while others burrow into their muddy banks. Both are designed to be entered only underwater.
By surrounding themselves with deep water, beavers can protect their dens from predators
like wolves and wild cats, while creating a habitat that supports the aquatic plants
they like most, like cattails, willows, pondweed and aspen. The dams are usually started by single males
trying to attract a mate, or a young couple, which pair up for life. Adorable beaver love. But one thing that’s a little less cute is
how completely serious these guys are about their dams. Scientists call it instinctive
behavior, but it can end up looking kind of compulsive. Biologists believe that the sound of running
water actually triggers dam-building behavior in beavers. Some theorize that beavers may
even be able to feel, or otherwise sense in the water, when a leak has sprung in a dam. Research has shown that little gaps intentionally
created in a beaver dam will cause the members of a colony to drop everything to repair it,
regardless of whatever else needs to be done. Scientists — a little evil — have even
played audio recordings of running water near beaver sites, and have returned in the morning
to find the speakers covered with sticks and mud. This obsessive engineering is all made possible
by beavers’ trademark teeth. And you may have heard that their teeth continue grow throughout
their lifetimes, which is true — but only their big, curved front incisors. Beavers’ voluminous tree-gnawing keeps their
teeth from growing too long, but they don’t actually eat through trees. They actually
prefer to feast on non-woody plants, like water lilies and cattails, in the spring.
In winter, they strip trees of their bark and the layer of soft tissue underneath known
as cambium. And, despite what cartoons have taught us,
beavers’ famous front teeth aren’t white, they’re ORANGE because their tooth enamel
contains iron, which makes them incredibly strong and sharp — even though it makes them
look like they have a two-pack-a-day habit. And finally, a note about beaver butts. They smell DELIGHTFUL! Both male and female beavers have a pair of
anal scent glands that they use to mark their territory. And the yellowish oil that they
produce, called castoreum, smells precisely like sweetened vanilla … … so much so that for hundreds of years
it was used to flavor food and drinks and, in some places, can still be found in perfumes
and processed foods under the ambiguous moniker of “natural flavoring.” Other cultures have prized castoreum for its
medicinal properties. And that might be because one of beavers’ favorite snacks is the bark
of willow trees, which contains the chemical salicin, which people have used for centuries
to make natural pain-killers. But because beavers eat so much of the bark, their sweet-smelling
butt-oils can be chock full of salicylic acid, which is the precursor compound to aspirin. Now — what other animal can you think of
that makes its habitat more livable, drops everything to keep its neighborhood safe,
and has a bum that smells like dessert? I can’t come up with anything. Thanks for watching this SciShow Dose! If
you’d like to learn more about all kinds of animals, check out our partner channel Animal
Wonders at YouTube.com/AnimalWondersMontana; there’s a link in the description. And don’t forget to go to YouTube.com/SciShow
to subscribe so you can keep on getting’ smarter!

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Comments

  1. Man, in one of the photos it seemed like there were two capybaras. Right after you said that beavers move in pairs

  2. What other animal makes its neighbourhood more livable, drops everything to keep it's neighbourhood safe and has a bum that smells like desert? Honey Ants?

  3. you have never smelled beaver castoreum. It is a nasty must. But when mixed with other substances it gives the substance staying power. IE it don't wash away.

  4. what other animal makes its habitat more livable drops everything to make its neighbor hood safe and has a but that smells like a dessert

    A Cop with chocolate butt lotion

  5. Next time I'm at the strippers and have a headache from all the cig smell, I'm plunging my head straight into the nearest beaver available. #beaversandbutts #aspirinandvanilla

  6. "Some evil scientists have even played the sound of running water near beavers, only to return in the morning to find speakers covered with sticks and leaves…"
    It's official.
    I have a new favourite animal. 😀

  7. Have to google what this guy is referring to a world’s largest beaver-made dam because, guess what, he didn’t even showed a photo of the dam.

  8. Why do you give measurements in meters, and not feet? Are you in Europe? You forgot to mention something as well… how DESTRUCTIVE beavers are to ANIMALS, as well as humans (but you don’t seem to care much about humans… probably because that wouldn’t fit your liberal agenda). What about all the lizards and chipmunks that either drown, or get kicked out of their homes because of annoying ass beavers????

  9. This is too cringey to watch. I want to look at beavers , not this dudes face and him trying to act interesting

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