We tend to think of animals as these cute, adorable little creatures that we can enjoy watching at the zoo, have as pets, or just watch nature shows about. But if anyone thinks that’s all there is to animals, think again! There’s a lot more to animals than meets the eye. Some of them are far more intelligent, cunning, and interesting than anyone who hasn’t taken the time to study them closely might ever be aware, while others are, let’s just say, hilariously less so. So let’s all jump right into the animal kingdom and discover some of the most surprising facts that most of us never knew about animals.
1. They’re Called Man’s Best Friend for a Reason!
Dogs sneeze when they’re playing with humans to show that they are in fact playing, and not being aggressive.
2. Making a Giant Impact
Due to island gigantism, the ancestors of the wombat were the size of hippos. Meaning that ancient wombats could literally poop bricks.
3. The Best of Both Worlds
There’s a thing called a deer mouse that is a type of mouse and a mouse-deer which is like a miniature deer. Mouse-deers are freaking adorable.
4. Size Doesn’t Matter This Time
The American bison is the only animal in which both lungs share a common cavity. In every other animal the lungs are separated. What this meant is that when shot by an arrow, both lungs would collapse and the buffalo would suffocate quickly. For other animals, being shot in the chest would only collapse one lung, and they would at least have a chance.
That’s why such a large animal could be taken down with relatively small weapons.
5. Snail Dentists Must Be Cleaning Up
A snail has over 2000 teeth.
6. Now That’s What You Call a Late Bloomer!
The Greenland shark reaches sexual maturity at 150 years old and lives 300 to 500 years in total. It always fascinates me that there’s something that can live that long.
7. The Mysteries of the Underworld
People thought the okapi, also known as a “forest giraffe,” was a hoax until it was photographed. In parts of Sumatra it is believed that the orangutan can speak and refuses to do so because they don’t want to work.
8. Fishing for Some Deeper Knowledge
Fish have been seen using tools—deliberately hitting a clam with a rock to get it to open so they can eat it. Some eels and groupers form hunting partnerships where they communicate across the species barrier with specific signals to put their individual strengths to work. The eels chase prey out of crevices to where the groupers are waiting in open water.
They also get fooled by illusions in the same way we do, meaning that their brains are processing and interpreting their environment in a similar way to us. That’s technically three facts, but I like fish.
9. All the World’s a Stage
There’s an insect called the scorpionfly that impresses mates by bringing them prey to eat. The bigger the meal, the better. Only, some scorpionflies aren’t that great at catching food. So some of these males will imitate females, and wait for other males to bring them their gifts. Then they take the gift, fly away, and give it to an actual female.
10. The Capeless Crusader
There are also a variety of ants called slave-making ants that will go scout around for other ant colonies nearby. Then they go on a little ant crusade and invade another colony. They capture the larva of the target colony and leave with them. The larvae are then tricked into thinking they’re originally from the enslavers’ colony and will serve for it how they normally would have theirs.
11. Sealed with a Kiss
Seals will get seasick if you put them on a boat.
12. A Lean Mean Killing Machine
Dragonflies have the best successful kill rate of any creature on earth. Their main targets are midges and mosquitoes. They’re the unsung heroes of the insect world. Also, dragonflies have legs but cannot walk.
13. They’re All Just One Big Happy Family
Cheetahs are so closely related to each other that you can freely transplant organs between all members of their species without needing immunosuppression.
14. Bon Appetit, Californians!
Opossum were originally found in the eastern and central parts of the United States until the 1930s when they were intentionally transported to the western portion to be used as food during the Great Depression. And thus, a classic cuisine was born.
15. Woah, Slow Down There, Partner!
Sloth hands work opposite to ours. They have to exert energy to open their “fist” and they have to relax to close it. This is how they can hang from trees while they’re sleeping and not fall off. Oh also, they only poop about once a week and it’s because it can take them an entire day to go down a tree and climb back up.
They poop A LOT when they finally do go. One of the reasons why they’re so slow is because it helps them stay hidden from larger predators because they aren’t as noticeable. A monkey jumps around super quickly and is easier to hear and see, but a slow sloth can stay still and look like it’s just a strange part of a tree.
They also grow moss on their backs for camouflage and nutrients.
16. A Buzz from Down Under
There aren’t a lot of bees in Australia, so for pollination plants relied on birds. Birds see the color red better, which in turn increased the flora reproduction rate—this is why a lot of plants are red in Australia.
17. Get Your Head Out of the Sand
On ostrich farms, some farmers have a hard time with breeding because the ostrich is more attracted to humans than other ostriches. That’s right, somewhere out there an ostrich wants to have sex with you.
18. That Must Have Been a Towering Waddle
Ancient penguins could have been up to seven feet tall.
19. Killing 52 Humans With One Liver
Polar bears are so efficient at storing Vitamin A, consuming polar bear liver can cause death. One polar bear liver contains enough Vitamin A to kill 52 adult humans.
20. That One Just Fell Flat…
Flatworms are male and fence each other with their private parts. The loser gets stabbed with the winner’s private part and becomes pregnant.
21. The See Food Diet Won’t Work for These Guys
Some squid have toroid-shaped (donut-shaped) brains, with their esophagus (throat) passing through it. This has a bizarre side effect. If they eat something too big, they can get brain damage.
22. All You Ever Wanted to Know About Naked Mole Rats
Naked mole rats are very freaking weird animals—and that’s not even counting their looks. They don’t feel pain at all. They can survive 30 min without oxygen. They can’t regulate their body temperature. Their incisors can work independently. No one has ever found cancer in a mole rat. They are thought to be immune to it. They can live for 30 years.
Even weirder, mole rats are the only mammals who live in colonies like bees or ants, with one large queen mole rat giving birth to all the others. Scientists once believed that the queen’s urine contained a chemical that renders all other females in the colony infertile so that she can maintain her status. Upon further research, however, it appears that scientists no longer believe that it is the urine of the queen that causes the infertility.
Currently, scientists appear to not be entirely certain what prevents the others from being fertile, but it has been noted that removing the females from the colony causes them to begin ovulating within weeks of removal.
23. If You Can’t Trust Your Dog to Be Loyal to You, Who Can You Trust?
Dogs may actually make social judgments about people based on how those people treat their owners. A study out of Japan had dog owners asking two people for help opening a container. There were three possible outcomes. A person reacting negatively by refusing and turning away, a person remaining neutral and a person helping.
The dogs were then offered food from the people the owner had approached for help. Dogs were much much less likely to accept food from the people who had refused to help their owners, and much more likely to accept food from those who had been neutral or who had helped.
24. Maybe Spider-Man’s Powers Aren’t Such a Stretch After All
Did you know that spider webs are initially liquid? Upon coming into contact with the air, the web hardens, creating a substance that is five times stronger than steel. It is believed that, if a spider could produce threads as thick as a pencil, they would be strong enough to stop a plane in flight. However, farming silk from spiders was largely impossible, both due to the quantity of the silk and due to the fact that the spiders would attack one another.
For this reason, scientists have genetically engineered goats with spider DNA that can produce silk through their milk. They are called spider goats and they are chimeras, i.e. a creature with the genetic information of two animals. In this case, the genetic information comes from two different species.
25. Ohhh Snap!
Snapping/pistol shrimps and their colonies are so loud that they can interfere with sonar used by other animals and submarines. They also create tiny but incredibly powerful implosions through the sheer force of their pincers closing ludicrously fast, which is cool.
26. You Better Watch Out…
Tasmanian devils can carry a type of cancer that is contagious. So if you happen to be another Tasmanian devil, you better watch your back…
27. Protecting the Feelings of Our Furry Little Friends
I think it was in Switzerland where it’s forbidden by law to only keep one guinea pig as a pet. The animals have a tendency to experience loneliness, so having only one is considered animal cruelty.
28. I Hope None of Us Ever Have to Experience Either of These
The warrior wasp’s sting was described by biologist Justin Schmidt, creator of the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, as “Torture. You are chained in the flow of an active volcano. Why did I make this list?” It was also considered “traumatically painful” on the Starr Sting Pain Scale. But according to Coyote Peterson of Brave Wilderness, who made videos about him being stung by the most painful insects in the world, the warrior wasp’s sting isn’t nearly as bad as the bullet ant.
Being stung by the bullet ant feels like you’re being shot, and the pain can last for up to 24 hours. It hurts to even think about it.
29. How On Earth Did They Lose Their Race With the Hare?
A green sea turtle can swim faster than Usain Bolt can sprint. That’s right, an animal out there with a house for a body can swim at speeds we don’t allow in playground zones (35 MPH). Let that sink in a bit…
30. The Giant Ground Sloth: Long Gone but Never Forgotten
Avocados were evolved to be eaten by the giant ground sloth. Imagine a sloth, but so massive it could only live on the ground. The flesh attracted the sloth and the very large seed was “designed” to travel through their intestinal tract for re-seeding or whatever plants do. Humans killed the sloth but loved the avocado. We domesticated the avocado to increase the yummy flesh.
The avocado pit has gotten smaller but is still very large. Whenever you eat an avocado, think of the long extinct giant sloth. And another cool fact: scientists in South America have been studying massive, symmetrical cave systems in the jungle that are anywhere from 30 to 300 feet deep with different branches and chambers.
Because of the shape of the tunnels (perfectly oval-shaped and symmetrical), they couldn’t have been formed by water flow, or nearly any other geological process. However, by looking at the unique markings on the walls of these tunnels, the scientists have determined that they were carved out over many generations by ground sloths.
Different species created different sizes, with some being three feet wide, and others over 10 feet wide, and hundreds of feet deep.
31. You Can Never Tell Us Too Many Times About Porcupine Defense Mechanisms
Porcupines climb trees and come down backwards and use their tail to feel for the ground. Sometimes their tail will hit a branch and they will think it is the ground and so they will jump off and impale themselves. Over time they evolved to have antibiotics in their quills so when they fall out of trees they don’t die.
Instead of just evolving to climb down facing the ground…
32. Well Guess Who Got the Last Laugh in the End!
Scientists thought the platypus was a joke until they sent a dead one back to be studied. In fact, one of the scientists of the time actually took a knife to the dried pelt to search for stitches. They thought it had to be a prank with different animals sewn together.
33. Sounds Like an Identity Crisis to Me
Coral is an animal, and is actually related to jellyfish. Many coral species have a symbiotic relationship with a microorganism called zooxanthellae, which lives in their tissue and photosynthesizes like a plant, converting light into organic energy. Corals also deposit calcium carbonate and build huge geological structures, called reefs.
The most massive structure ever created by any living organism on planet earth is a coral reef. Corals are like a cross between animals, plants, and rocks, and they’re incredibly important for the health of our oceans because reefs serve as a “nursery” for many, many marine species. Save the reefs.
34. Move Over, Einstein! You Have Some Competition
Crows are absurdly intelligent. We all know that they have very good problem solving skills, like if you throw a nut onto a road then they’ll only go to pick up the remains when the lights turn red. But they have social structure. They punish crows who have stolen food from younger crows. They avoid areas where a lot of crows have died.
They don’t caw or make noise during funerals. And when a crow dies, its buddies come examine the corpse to see how it died, presumably so they can avoid a similar fate. Yes, crows understand the concept and are afraid of death and try to avoid it at all times. On top of that, crows have been found to keep a like and dislike list of people.
If you’re routinely nice to crows, they remember and will treat you in kind. If you’re a jerk to them, well they will repay that accordingly too. They’ve also been known to pass that information down to other crows as well as later generations. I also read that crows are able to distinguish between female and male humans.
This has always left me feeling inferior as I am not able to distinguish between male and female crows. I do however, have opposable thumbs.
35. Some Never Forget a Face
My father recalled the crows in his village knowing which people were good with guns. If they saw my grandfather, they would just hang around nonchalantly. But if they saw my uncle come by, who was a pretty good shot with a rifle, they’d quickly scatter. Apparently you could also tell when there were strangers in town based on the crows’ cawing.
They can remember faces of everyone in a village.
36. The More You Know!
Mammoths were originally believed—by some tribes, at least—to live underground. Additional fun fact: the word “mammoth” coming to be used to mean “something really stupid big” is partly down to Thomas Jefferson. He was keenly interested in paleontology, and once used the word to describe a very big wheel of cheese.
37. One Man’s Bug is Another Frog’s Pet? Sounds About Right…
Some species of burrowing tarantula let tiny frogs live in their burrows. The frogs are kept safe by the big, mean spider, and in exchange, they keep the burrow free of pests too small for the tarantula to deal with. This is pretty much how cats were domesticated. Tiny frogs are tarantula cats.
38. Apparently It Takes Brains to Become a Parasite
There’s a parasite that needs to get inside a warm-blooded animal. Problem is, it lives in freshwater. It waits to get swallowed by a fish, then it attaches itself inside, “takes over” a part of the host’s brain, adjusting its behavior so that the fish is no longer afraid of shadows. The fish is then more likely to get eaten by a heron, a large bird that stalks freshwater fish. And the parasite gets inside its warm-blooded host and does lord knows what.
Researchers took a leech, put it in a maze and put food at the other end. Eventually the leech figured out the route. They then liquidized the leech, fed that leech to other leeches, and those leeches were able to complete the maze on the first try. They had “acquired” the other leech’s memory.
39. Don’t Let Them Anywhere Near a Library!
Like every other shrimp, the pistol shrimp has two claws. However, its right claw is much bigger than its left. When the pistol shrimp claps his oversized claw together, it produces a sound of approximately 219 decibels. A shot from a gun ranges between 140-180 decibels, depending on the type of gun. This makes the pistol shrimp the loudest animal on the planet.
Not only does it produce such a loud sound, it also shoots bubbles when it claps its claw, which it uses to shoot its prey with. When these bubbles collapse, a heat of 4,700 degrees Celsius is released. The surface of the sun is 5,500 degrees Celsius.
40. A Public Service Announcement for the Ferret Community
Female ferrets die within a month if they don’t have sex with their male counterparts. Sounds like someone could use some attention! Now the one caveat to this is that it’s only true unless they are spayed. Basically, when they go into heat, they stay in heat until they are impregnated. And if they don’t become pregnant they die of exhaustion because being in heat takes a toll on the body.
So spay and neuter your pets, but especially your ferrets.
41. The Things You Learn From Experience!
Fishkeeping is a gateway to an untapped goldmine of obscure, useless, and easily demonstrable animal facts. Freshwater in particular is great for this, because there’s a lot of weird stuff that ends up in the hobby, and you just tend to learn about it as you get more into it. For example, did you know that Electric Catfish exist? They’re weird looking and a tad stupid, but they do in fact generate offensive electric shocks.
Also, electric eels are not in fact eels, but rather South American knifefish, a group that contains several species of electricity-generating fish, though none as potent. Then there’s bichirs, a group of primitive freshwater fish that have basic lungs, lobed, limb-like paired fins, and—while in the larval state—feathery external gills like a salamander.
These are all things I learned just as a hobbyist.
42. I Mean, the Last Line Kind of Says It All…
There is a group of barnacles that are body-snatching parasites of both crabs and shrimps. The parasite first infects the crab internally, growing tiny tendrils of parasite tissue throughout the host’s body, entwined with the host. Then the parasite pushes a stalk through the crab to outside, growing a huge reproductive sac.
At this point, the crab is castrated and its energy goes towards the parasite’s own reproductive ends. The parasite feminizes male crabs and makes both sexes of infected crabs care for the parasite sac as if it were the crab’s egg mass. Welcome to your worst nightmare…
43. There is an Antidote for Everything
Opossum are basically immune to most toxins, and you can give other animals, including humans, temporary immunity using their serum. My number two fact is that wombats poop cubes, but don’t have square buttholes.
44. You Better Duck and Cover… Literally!
Male ducks have crazy inflatable corkscrew genitals, so the females evolved corkscrewed vaginas that corkscrew the other way. The females also have “pockets” in their vaginas to store the sperm before it gets too far. Whatever you do, don’t search Google for the video of the scientists measuring the velocity of a duck erection. They’re monstrous and broke the test equipment.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
45. Always Give Credit Where Credit is Due
Squirrels are responsible for thousands of new trees every year. They collect and bury their nuts all over the place so they’ll have food to last through the winter, but they forget about most of them. On an even more detailed level though, I have also read some studies indicating that while squirrels are certainly a factor, and are the type of critter everyone thinks of when it comes to seed dispersal, birds like jays are more to credit in this area.
While a squirrel might pick up an acorn and move it around within a relatively small radius, that very well might fall within the same stand of oak where the growing space might already be occupied, and where oaks are gonna seed in anyway. Whereas a bird might pick up an acorn, fly a good distance away, and then sometimes accidentally drop it somewhere that is more likely to be a place where seed wouldn’t have arrived without animal intervention.Squirrels
All in all, we have many animals to thank for the number and location of trees around us. So yea, thank you animals!!