The complexities of the animal kingdom never cease to amaze and, after millions of years of evolution, many species have adapted in ways which belittle human endeavors. Whether it’s effortlessly flying, breathing under water, or simply being alien in appearance, these 20 animal facts will remind you of the amazing world beyond human society.
1. Dolphins use biological sonar
Dolphins have remarkable eyesight and can hear frequencies ten times over what an average adult human can. Its sensory abilities are so evolved that it can monitor its environment to an incredible degree. Senses such as echolocation (biological sonar), and what is believed to be an ability to navigate by the Earth’s magnetic field, are so powerful a dolphin could, literally, “see” through you if you were swimming with one.
2. Orcas are highly cultural
Orcas have the second heaviest brain in the oceans. In 2010, neuroscientists examined the brain of a dead killer whale. Following MRI scans, and observation in the wild, this much is clear: they have the ability to learn local dialects, each pod has its own language, they teach and learn complex hunting methods, and pass on individualistic behaviors. Biology professor Hal Whitehead, in 2001, stated he believes orcas to be the most cultural species other than humans.
3. Cats can rehydrate by drinking seawater
A cat’s kidneys are so efficient it’s possible for them to exist on a diet of meat, and they can rehydrate by drinking seawater. Their carnivorous ways, however, are mandatory. It is a struggle for them to digest plants, although they can often be observed chewing on grass.
4. Snake charming secrets
The ancient practice of snake “charming” is famous in India, but the music has nothing to do with the apparent hypnoses. The highly venomous Indian cobra is used for the performance. Cobras can’t hear music – the snake is actually in a defensive stance. They view the charmer and the pungi (instrument) as a threat, and move their head in time with the charmer’s motions.
5. Hamsters aren’t nocturnal
Chronobiology examines how creatures react to solar/lunar rhythms. Hamsters rise at anti-social human hours, and it is common belief they are nocturnal. However, it is now widely considered they are crepuscular (active between twilight) as their peak activity can be observed during dawn and dusk.
6. Coconut Crabs aren’t from another planet
Startling images of these large creatures have been appearing across the Internet. Rest assured, the Coconut Crab is a hermit crab of sorts which, due to its imposing size, makes it alien in appearance.
6. Jurassic Park isn’t possible
If you enjoyed Michael Crichton’s novel, or the film adaptation, the sad news is the science in Jurassic Park can’t happen. A recent study titled The Absence of DNA in Sub-Fossil Insect Inclusions Preserved In ‘Anthropocene’ Colombian Copal highlights the disappointing fact that insects preserved in amber are simply too old to have any DNA present. Still, at least Jeff Goldblum exists.
7. Blobfish aren’t ugly
Blobfish recently won the inauspicious “World’s Ugliest Animal” competition. The deep sea fish are often brought to the surface by fishing trawlers, but it’s worth noting they look markedly different in their environment (artist’s impression above), which can be 3,900ft under the ocean.
8. Great White Sharks are highly enigmatic
Despite modern research methods, these remarkable sharks remain puzzling. They lead solitary lives and swim enormous distances, making it difficult for scientists to observe them. Due to this it is still largely unknown how the species reproduces. Despite the fear they provoke, great whites are vital to the ocean’s ecosystem, but over-fishing could be pushing them towards extinction.
9. Panda Ants have a secret
These small insects are wasps. Ants evolved from wasps, and panda ants are part of the family of Mutillidae, which is made up of around 3,000 different species of wasps. The different species are often referred to as Velvet Ants, presumably as the wingless females resemble large ants. They also pack a nasty sting and are regarded as “cow killers.”
10. Adélie penguins once outraged the British
Adélie penguins appalled Robert Falcon Scott’s 1910 British Antarctic Expedition. Scott dismissed them as “fatuous” in his diary, whilst George Murray Levick’s notes on the their aggressive procreation methods were considered too indecent for publication. The behaviour was described as “astonishing depravity” by Levick, who cited “hooligan males” as the worst offenders. His findings were only officially released in 2012.
11. Honey Badgers are remarkably tenacious
Despite their diminutive appearance honey badgers have been observed fending off a pride of lions, invading bees’ nests, attacking poisonous snakes, defeating monitor lizards, and battling with hyenas. They’re equipped with tough skin, endless energy, and since they’re so aggressive, few predators hunt them. As a consequence honey badgers are classed as “Least Concern” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
12. A Rattlesnake’s rattle is interlocked keratin
The legendary “rattle” is made up of hollow segments which are interlocked by keratin. A rattlesnake can contract its muscles in its tail to make the segments vibrate against each other, which makes the sound. This process of muscle contractions shakes at 50 times per second, and can go on for three hours.
13. Hibernating animals aren’t sleeping
Hibernating creatures should be distinguished from merely sleeping. The process is known as torpor and is a state of decreased physiological activity; this is achieved by lowering body temperature and metabolic rates. Many animals enter long bouts of hibernation for seasonal reasons, whilst others have bouts of daily torpor.
14. Cats could help astronauts
During exhalation and inhalation cats purr between the frequency of 25 and 150 Hertz. This is considered the sound range which can promote healing in damaged muscles and bones. Scientists at the University of California have consequently postulated purring could alleviate muscle atrophy and bone density loss. Dr. Leslie Lyons suggested this could be useful for astronauts who have spent long periods of time in zero gravity, where muscle atrophy is a serious problem.
15. The nimble moth
This picture by Jerry Strzelecki displays the very unique Hummingbird Hawk-moth. It’s a species of Sphingidae, which are a family of the moth kingdom. It’s earned its name, unsurprisingly, due to its similarity to the hummingbird. It can hover, and hums as it does, making this moth one nifty little creature.
16. Courtship displays can be flamboyant
The Superb Bird of Paradise of New Guinea has an exceptional courtship display. As seen in the BBC’s Planet Earth, the male makes a clearing for its “dancefloor”. It then proceeds to dance around a female in a flirtatious pursuit similar to many Friday nights in cities across the world.
17. The Shoebill is “Statue-like”
The distinct looking Shoebill can be seen in human culture as far back as Ancient Egyptian artwork. Due to their stoic habit of remaining silent and standing still for prolonged amounts of time, they have earned a reputation in Africa for being statuesque.
18. Some scorpions can live for 25 years
The lifespan of these predatory anthropods varies for each species, but some have been known to live for 25 years. Surprisingly, despite there being 1,300 known species, less than 30 have venom powerful enough to kill a human.
19. There is a sting pain index
The Schmidt Sting Pain Index was developed by entomologist Justin O. Schmidt. Following incidents whilst researching he developed an index noting the respective agonies of insect stings, releasing a paper in 1990 titled “Hymenoptera Venoms: Striving Toward the Ultimate Defense Against Vertebrates”. He cites the Bullet Ant (pictured) and pepsis wasp as the worst stings he suffered.
20. Jellyfish have 24 eyes
Jellyfish have been part of the world’s oceans for over 500 million years. As noted by Current Biology, they also have 24 eyes “of four different types, including eyes structurally similar to those of vertebrates.” Despite this, their visual ability is restricted to basic object avoidance, meaning it is unclear why they have so many eyes.