We may be the most advanced species around, but humans do a lot of things that could be deemed as bizarre behavior. So, it comes as no surprise that there are creatures out there that indulge in activities that appear strange or unseemly to us. Across the animal kingdom, there are examples of behaviors that are weird, counterintuitive, or downright gross. Here are a few of them.
1. Turkey vultures pee on themselves to cool off and stay healthy.
Animals can urinate just about anywhere and it wouldn’t be considered abnormal, but turkey vultures have found a way to make even that weird. That’s because the birds have been observed peeing on themselves. Strange as it may seem, scientists have a word for the practice: “urohidrosis.” Apparently, some birds urinate on themselves as a cooling mechanism. The evaporation of the liquid creates a cooling sensation which helps them get by in some of the warmer regions of South America. The urine might also help boost their immunity since the acids contained in it could sterilize their legs after the many hours spent around rotting flesh.(1,2)
2. Flatworms use their penises as weapons in an effort to inseminate each other.
First, some background… Flatworms are hermaphroditic, which means that any flatworm could function as either the male or female in a relationship. Which flatworm takes on what role depends on which one gets inseminated. How they go about making this decision, as you’ve probably guessed, isn’t through level-headed discourse. Instead, flatworms that are ready to mate go to war in a phenomenon known as “penis fencing.’ Each participant uses their penis as a weapon in an attempt to be the one who inseminates the other, therefore becoming the male in the relationship and not having to endure the rigors of pregnancy. The process can last up to an hour at times, with each flatworm being stabbed multiple times with the other’s penis.(1,2)
3. Sand tiger shark embryos cannibalize each other in the womb.
Sand tiger sharks take sibling rivalries to a whole other level. Scientists analyzing female sand tiger sharks across different stages of pregnancy have noted that the number of embryos seems to progressively reduce in the later stages of pregnancy. Where are the missing embryos going? They’re being consumed by fellow embryos in a fight for survival that starts a lot earlier than anyone would expect. Scientists conjecture that this occurs because female sand tiger sharks carry embryos born from multiple males, and the embryos cannibalize each other in a struggle to propagate only their own father’s genes.(1,2)
4. Male dolphins have been observed wrapping eels around their penises to masturbate.
More questionable penis behavior, this time from the seemingly wholesome dolphin. According to John Hopkins University professor David Linden, dolphins have been observed employing a few, let’s say offbeat ways, to pleasure themselves. That includes using live eels to assist with masturbation. The seafarers apparently wrapped the eels around the head of their penis in what was presumably an attempt to use them as improvised lubrication. Dolphins have also been seen masturbating using dead fish, so it’s clear they’ve got some weird inclinations in the self-pleasuring department.(1,2)
5. The white-throated snapping turtle can breathe through its butt.
Every breath you take, every move you make is possibly a little bizarre if you’re a white-throated snapping turtle. That’s because this species of turtle is known for its ability to breathe through its butt. The more classy way to express that is using the term “cloacal respiration,” which describes the turtles’ ability to absorb air through tissues located in their backsides. The white-throated snapping turtle is an endangered species, unfortunately, so conservation efforts are underway to keep them breathing, even if how they do it is a little unusual.(1,2)
6. Sea otters rape and drown baby seals
Sea otters might just be the cutest things alive, but don’t let their adorable appearances deceive you. Otters can get a little rowdy sometimes, especially the weaker ones in the group find it hard to find a mate that wants them over the more dominant males. These males often get desperate and turn to raping baby seals to satiate their desire for sex. Unfortunately, this often violent mating ritual can involve the otter holding the seal’s head underwater, leading to its demise.(1,2)
7. Ravens imitate wolves to bring them to carcasses and then steal the meat.
Not all weird animal activity is sexual in nature (even if that seems to be the case). Ravens have an interesting symbiotic relationship with wolves which leads to some interesting behaviors. Ravens are known to be extremely smart birds, maybe even the most intelligent birds known, some might say. However, they aren’t the best hunters on their own. To make up for their lack of prowess in that department, ravens imitate wolves to call out to them when the potential exists for a kill. Once the wolves show up, make a kill, and break down a carcass, the ravens take their share and go on their way.(1,2)
8. Adelie penguins prostitute themselves in exchange for stones.
The harsh weather of the Antarctic isn’t easy to deal with, and it seems to bring out some scurrilous behavior among Adelie penguins. It all starts when penguins eager to mate realize that they’re low on stones, a valuable construction material for nests in the frozen ice floes. Females take it on themselves to acquire the required stones, but not by foraging for them. Instead, they head out in search for males who have stones, and the openness to trade them in return for a jolly good time. She then heads back home with her reward, a stone that will contribute to the construction of her nest.(1,2)
9. Male Ceratioidei anglerfish fuse into the body of females to mate and never let go,
When it comes to mating behaviors, there are few more unique than those of the male anglerfish of the Ceratioidei suborder. Males of this species are known for their extremely small size in comparison to females. When mating season comes around, males head off across the depths of the ocean in search of a female. When they find one, they latch onto their body using their teeth. Then slowly, their circulatory system begins to fuse with the female, meaning that they literally become one with their partner. Talk about a clingy boyfriend.(1,2)
10. Male clownfish switch gender to become the dominant female in their group.
It pays to be at the top of the pecking order in a group, and clownfish go to great lengths to achieve that. Clownfish colonies are always matriarchal. The largest fish is female and the leader of the group. All the other members are male since that’s the gender every clownfish has at birth. When the dominant female of the group dies, the sexually active male takes over her spot by changing his gender and becoming female. In return, one of the smaller males in the group becomes the sexually active male. And on and on it goes.(1,2)