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10 Really Messed-Up Facts About Animals

messed-up facts about animals

Did you know that a lobster’s brain is located in its throat? You probably didn’t. Or did you know that Tasmanian devils fight so much that they have created a devious, oral cancer that has put them on the endangered species list? Probably not. Well, if you are interested in such messed-up facts about animals, then we suggest you read on!

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1. A lobster’s brain is located in its throat with its teeth located in its stomach. Its nervous system is located in its abdomen, and its kidneys are located in its head. It also tastes with its feet.

Female Lobster Anatomy
Image credit: Francis Hobart Herrick/Wikimedia

If you are a seafood fan, then a few lobsters might have made their way to your plate. There’s even a National Lobster Day celebrated on the 15th of June in the United States. That’s how much we love lobsters! They are not just a source of protein and energy for us. Lobsters are used as fertilizer for crops and as bait while fishing. But the thing about lobsters that has intrigued us most is its anatomy.

The lobsters are renowned for their unique anatomy. They have not evolved much over the last 100 million years but have continued to pique our interest. The most interesting part of their anatomy is that the brain of a lobster is located in its throat. Instead of the brain, the kidneys are located in the head. Moreover, the lower part of the lobster, which is the abdomen, is the location of the nervous system. Their nervous system is very primitive and is similar to that of an insect. They have only about 100,000 neurons. as compared to us humans who have over 100 billion.

The lobsters have an unusual stomach as well. Their stomach consists of a pair of grinding teeth that grinds food into small digestible particles. Next comes the legs. They have five walking legs that end in pincers. Pincers are small, sharp, scissor-like claws that the lobsters use to handle and taste their food. The pincers consist of tiny hairs that are sensitive to taste and touch. This makes up for their poor sight and weak auditory abilities.(1,2,3)

2. Sea sponges have no head, mouth, eyes, bones, heart, lungs, or brains and yet they are alive.

Sea Sponges, Sea Sponges diagram
Image credits: Twilight Zone Expedition Team 2007, NOAA-OE/Wikimedia, Kelvinsong/Wikimedia

Sea sponges are one of the simplest creatures that Mother Nature created. Even after 700 million years of evolution, sea sponges have maintained their simplicity growing slowly over many decades. They grow in all types of sizes, shapes, textures, and colors, and scientists have discovered around 5,000 unique species.

But the interesting thing about sea sponges is that even though they are classified as animals, they do not have brains or even digestive, circulatory, or central nervous systems. This means they do not have a head, a mouth, or any of the internal organs like heart and lungs. Also, their body is luxuriously soft and porous and does not consist of any bones. Then how do they survive?

Well, once they are established firmly, the sea sponges survive by taking in the nutrients from the ocean water. They accomplish this by moving the ocean currents through their bodies. They then filter out tiny organisms such as bacteria or planktons in the water for food, take in the oxygen dissolved in the water, and release the waste.(source)

3. Female cockroaches can make their own babies without the help of any male cockroach. Of course, the babies would turn out to be all females.

Cockroach, Female Cockroach Reproductive System
Image credit: Pixabay, Image source: biologydiscussion.com

According to a research by Japanese scientists, female cockroaches can continue reproducing for several years without requiring the assistance of any male. It might sound weird as we all know that it takes two to make a baby! But cockroaches have a backup system in place for reproduction when they cannot find any males around.

Female cockroaches have the ability to reproduce asexually through a process known as parthenogenesis. Parthenogenesis is a type of asexual reproduction in which the embryo develops directly from the unfertilized egg.

Researchers at the Hokkaido University also discovered that when the female cockroaches were kept in a group they reproduced significantly faster as compared to when alone. They would even sync up their reproductive cycles making experts consider this as a primitive example of female cooperation.(source)

4. Some newborn ducks think the first thing they see is their mother whether or not it’s a duck. This is because of imprinting, and ducks have been known to imprint on numerous things ranging from humans to cardboard boxes.

Ducklings following their mother
Image credit: Radoslaw Ziomber/Wikimedia

Ducklings are born with an innate knowledge that the first thing they see after opening their eyes is their mother. So if a newborn duckling sees a milk carton, then they will worship the carton as if it’s their mother.

This phenomenon happens due to imprinting. Imprinting basically produces a fast-learning experience in young animals that is triggered by a specific event occurring at the right time. So, in case of the newborn duckling, the appearance of the milk carton triggered the response of following it. Hence, the duckling imprinted on it.(source)

5. Clownfish are sequential hermaphrodites, meaning that if a female is removed from a group, the dominant male becomes female.

Clownfish
Image credit: janderk at English Wikipedia/Wikimedia

Reproduction in cases of fishes is complicated. But when it comes to certain fish species like the clownfish, it gets downright crazy. Clownfish are born hermaphrodites, which means that they are born with both the male and female sex organs. As they grow, they develop into males first. Eventually, they turn into females when the need arises.

What is it that compels a male clownfish to turn into a female? Well, clownfish remain in groups. The group is designed based on a dominance hierarchy. The strongest and largest female is at the top followed by the other male fishes. Only one male and one female in a group reproduce. If in any case, when the female succumbs to her death, then the next strongest and largest male turns into a female and mates with the other remaining males in the group. This sequence continues as long as there are no females around.(source)

6. Sloths take more than two weeks to digest their food. They are known to sometimes take about a month to digest a single leaf. They have the slowest digestive rate of all mammals.

Sloth eating, Sloth
Image credits: Fruitwerks/Wikipedia, Pixabay

When someone says “sloth,” all we can think about is a bunch of slow-paced, lazy creatures. Well, it’s true! Sloths are really slow in their day-to-day activities. But in their defense, there is a reason behind them being slow. It’s their metabolism.

Sloths have the slowest digestive rate among all mammals. It takes more than a week for the food eaten by sloths to be converted into energy.

The reason behind this slow metabolic rate of sloths is the design of their stomachs. They have a complex stomach with multiple pouches. The pouches separate the food into segments depending upon the stage of digestion it is in, and then it is slowly fermented by bacteria. The three-toed sloths have a more complex stomach than the two-toed sloths, making their digestive rate the slowest among all mammals. Sometimes to speed up digestion, the three-toed sloths would just lie in the sun and expose their bellies to the sun for deep body warming.(1,2)

7. Male bed bugs don’t bother with vaginas when mating, they simply stab the female in the abdomen with their penis and ejaculate in her body cavity.

Bed Bug, male bedbug traumatically inseminates a female one
Image credits: AJC1/Flickr, Rickard Ignell/Wikimedia

Sharks are known to have one of the most brutal mating rituals. The male shark brutally attacks the female and bites into her head, gills, and pectoral fins while mating. But bed bugs have taken it to a whole new level. While mating, they just stab the female in the abdomen, create a hole in her body, and ejaculate through it.

This particular mating phenomenon is known as “traumatic insemination.” Here, the male pierces the female’s body with his sharp penis and injects his sperm through the brutal wound into the female’s abdominal area. The sperm then diffuses towards the ovaries and fertilizes the eggs.

Now, you might be wondering how the female survives after this let alone give birth to offspring. Well, the female bed bugs have developed a pair of sperm-receptacles as part of their evolution. Experts believe that these structures help minimize the traumatic effect at the abdominal area. But there hasn’t been any statistics to confirm this.

There have been numerous theories which try to explain the reason for the adoption of this mating technique. Some believe that the mechanism has been adopted to overcome female resistance while mating. Others believe that while copulating, males eject a glutinous material that almost seals the female reproductive tract. Hence, subsequent males had to resort to traumatic insemination to inject their sperm directly into the female’s circulatory system.(source)

8. Penguins have been known to push a fellow penguin into the water to check to see if the area is safe and free of predators.

Penguin
Image credits: Photo © Samuel Blanc/Wikimedia, Pixabay

Penguins are cute creatures. But even they have a mean streak, especially the Adelie Penguin. While jumping into the freezing waters of the Antarctic, the penguins first gather along the edge of the cliff. To check how cold the water is, the group targets the weakest and the most unfortunate penguin among them and forcefully pushes him off the cliff. They then wait to see if the penguin successfully makes it to safety on the other side. Only then do they jump off the cliff.  Maybe while residing under such extreme conditions, this is a selfish survival instinct that they cannot do without.

And that’s not all. They are even known to steal stones from their neighbors while building their nests. They are sneaky too!(source)

9. Tasmanian devils spend so much time fighting and biting each other they’ve developed contagious mouth cancer.

Tasmanian Devil, Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease
Image credit: JJ Harrison/Wikimedia, Image source: tcg.vet.cam.ac.uk

Tasmanian devils constantly fight with each other for food or mates. The most common strategy they utilize during fights is to bite each other in the mouth. This had given rise to a deadly cancer of the mouth. Named “DFTD,” this cancer was first observed in 1996. The disease causes small tumors to appear on the face or inside the mouth of the affected animals. They grow large over time and eventually lead to the death of the affected Tasmanian devil. This has led to a massive decline in the population of these animals putting them 1in the endangered species list.

In 2016, a new cancer was identified among the Tasmanian devils. Named “DFT2,” this cancer leads to tumors that appear different than the ones created by DFTD, which was renamed “DFT1.” A government-funded project has been initiated under the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program in order to protect this species.(source)

10. Because beavers’ teeth never stop growing, they must constantly gnaw on objects to keep them at a manageable length. Their teeth would eventually grow too long if they didn’t maintain them.

Beaver, Beaver's teeth, Beaver's teeth marks on tree
Image credits: Steve/Flickr, Sylvain Haye/Wikimedia, Homoatrox/Wikimedia

Beavers are pretty strong creatures. They can chop down whole trees with just their front teeth. And that too in just one night. The reason behind the sharp teeth of the beavers is that they have harder enamel on the front of their tooth as compared to the back. So while chewing, the softer enamel wears down faster and leads to a sharp blade at the front. But why do they keep chewing continuously? Well, a beaver’s teeth never stop growing as long as it is alive. This requires them to continue to chew on objects and wear out their teeth so that they can maintain a reasonable length. Otherwise, they may get so long that it would be difficult for the beaver to manage.(source)

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