Incredible animal facts you probably didn’t know before (part 3)
Get ahead of your trivia competition with these weird and wonderful animal facts!
Tiny, iridescent hummingbirds sure move fast, darting from flower to tube-shaped flower so fast you can hardly see them. But their wingbeats – of 40 to 80 every second – don’t just propel them forward. They also help them to move backwards, which is a feat that no other bird can accomplish without the help from the wind.
It’s a strange but true animal fact that is worth repeating, just because it’s so darn cool: pink flamingos aren’t pink. They’re actually born grey. And they’d stay that way, too, if it weren’t for their highly specialised diet of shrimp and blue-green algae. According to BBC’s Science Focus, these foods contain a natural dye called canthaxanthin, which causes flamingo feathers to gradually turn pink over time.
Speaking of shrimp, they are uniquely odd little critters, anatomically speaking. They’ve got ten legs instead of a backbone and all of their vital organs – not just brain but heart, stomach, ovaries, and testicles – are located inside their heads. And although the words ‘shrimp’ and ‘prawns’ are often used interchangeably, scientifically speaking, they’re members of different suborders.
Able to survive and thrive only in the cleanest, clearest, fast-moving fresh water, caddisflies are mothlike insects that have an enviable ability: they can make their own protective houses. Using the same ‘silk’ they produce to make cocoons as larvae, they stick together tiny bits of river detritus like pebbles, pine needles and leaves which they fashion into tubelike caves, reports the Hitchcock Center. They add on to these portable homes as they grow bigger.
They moo. They chew grass. They make milk. And they also…make friends! You heard that right. According to an article in Frontier magazine, scientists have discovered that bovines can have besties and just being around them causes them to feel relaxed and free of stress.
Forget about buying the love of your life a diamond ring. If you’re a male penguin, what you’re really interested in finding is a pebble to lay at the feet of your beloved. This gift has a practical purpose, though. The Adélie species of penguin make their nests out of pebbles and rocks to keep the eggs inside safe from melting snows.
There’s something so joyful about the site of a bunch of penguins jumping into the air before plunging from the ocean onto the ice. Here again, penguins are eminently practical. According to BBC’s Blue Planet, just before they make this little move “they release air bubbles from their feathers. This cuts the drag on their bodies, allowing them to double or triple their swimming speed quickly and launch into the air.”
Even more penguins
These (arguably) cutest of all possible animals have a less attractive side. Once a year they go through what’s called a ‘catastrophic molt’ and it’s as shocking as it sounds; they lose all their feathers at once, which means no swimming or fishing for dinner for the two weeks or longer it takes for new feathers to grow in.
They eat tulip bulbs in people’s gardens in spring and in the autumn, they dig up all the garden beds to hide their acorns. All winter long they chase hungry birds away from garden bird feeders. Still, these backyard thugs are surprisingly good neighbours. According to scientists, they’ll actually adopt orphaned baby squirrels as their own.
The videos are all over YouTube: macaque monkeys in Japan and elsewhere picking the pockets of tourists and taking their coins. What could possibly be inspiring these acts of larceny? Hunger. The clever macaques take their coins straight to vending machines and use them to buy themselves a little snack.
Fact: Pandas are endangered. Fact: Pandas are ADORABLE. Fact: Pandas don’t just eat bamboo, as most of us have been lead to believe (although bamboo does comprise a whopping 99 percent of their diets). Actually, giant pandas are omnivores and when they can get their paws on other comestibles, they also enjoy noshing on small animals and fish.
Living on land or in the water, snails are gastropods that in some cases can grow up to 30cm (ugh). Notorious for their slime trails, researchers have found these may actually have some surprising uses, as antioxidants that can also reportedly regenerate human skin and act as all-natural wound-healers.
Sure, they eat roadkill (actually doing us a huge ecological favour). But that’s not the least party-friendly behaviour exhibited by vultures. According to Animal Planet, since these massive birds do not have any sweat glands, they’re forced to find another way to keep cool in the hot months. That way: pooping on their own feet.
According to Modern Farmer magazine, sheep have a lot more going for them than might be immediately apparent. They “have rectangular pupils that give them amazing peripheral vision – it’s estimated their field of vision is between 270 and 320 degrees; humans average about 155 degrees – and depth perception.” Good luck sneaking up on these herbivores!
Not to be outdone for unusualness in the farmyard, goats have a few odd traits themselves. For starters, they have no teeth in their upper jaws. They’ve also got accents, which vary from country to county. And as if all that wasn’t peculiar enough, reports Mental Floss, one species of goat is known to have its muscles freeze up when it startles, causing it to fall over in a faint-like action.
Stories from the farmyard, goats that care.
Turns out, humans aren’t the only animals that experience REM – the rapid eye movement of sleep during which we dream. Chickens have REM sleep, too, says ThePoultrySite.com. And more than that, they also experience something called unihemispheric slow-wave sleep, in which one half of their brain stays awake while the other one rests.
Did you know you can combat loneliness with the company of hens?
Like possums, raccoons have the annoying habit of rummaging through people’s garbage for a meal – making an almighty mess. But did you know that these masked scavengers have been seen dunking their food in water in what looks suspiciously like they’re giving it a preliminary wash.
Honeybees living in a colony perform all sorts of tasks – cleaning and guarding the hive, feeding larvae, collecting pollen and flower nectar. In 2012, scientists at the University of Illinois reported findings that bees have personalities that allow them to do well at the jobs they’re best suited to, for example ‘thrill seekers’ excel in scouting out new nest sites.
Few folks since the end of the Victorian era, when leeches were (misguidedly) used as a curative, have any fondness for these predatory worms. And it turns out, the distaste for them is well-founded. According to the American Museum of Natural History, leeches have “three separate jaws with 100 teeth each…[E]ach of the jaws and teeth makes a separate incision”… all the better to suck out your blood. Er, no thank you.
Faced with the seemingly impossible task of penetrating the hard shells of walnuts in order to gobble the sweetmeats inside, crows in Japan have learned to lay the nuts out in the middle of the road so that cars can run them over and crack them open. But perhaps most amazing of all, according to a PBS report, the crows are reading traffic lights in order to know when it’s safe to arrange the nuts, and when it’s safe to hop down and gobble them up.
Think humans are the fastest learners? Here are 8 animals that learn even faster than humans.
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