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Elephants. Some of the most intelligent creatures on the planet.
With cognitive abilities rivaling that of other highly intelligent animals such as dolphins and apes
elephants are incredibly fascinating. They are highly social and
altruistic, meaning that they are greatly concerned with the wellbeing of others.
Nothing makes this more clear than the almost human-like grief and sorrow they display at
the death of a herd member. Going so far as to covering the deceased with branches, leaves,
and dirt while remaining by their side for several days. This altruistic behavior even
extends beyond their own species as there are countless documented incidents of elephants
attempting to aid wounded people or even mourning deceased humans as one of their own.
However, this respectful and intelligent behavior may soon be a thing of the past. For many
decades now, illegal poaching and extensive habitat loss has created an increasingly turbulent
environment for all of elephant society. So much so that reports of unprovoked and lethal
elephant attacks are now commonplace and rapidly increasing all over Africa, India, and Southeast Asia.
Biologists and other experts believe this abnormal level of aggression to be an
unforeseen side-effect caused by humanity's continued mistreatment of the species.
You see, much like us humans, young elephants need guidance and time to learn from their
elders. Calves need to learn how to behave, how to communicate, what to eat and what not
to eat, what's dangerous and what's safe, and the list goes on. I mean, it should go without
saying but children need their parents. However, due to illegal poaching, a lot of calves become
orphans at an early age and thus their natural development is interrupted. Not only that
but because of their intelligence and strong familial bonds, seeing their loved ones being
brutally massacred and mutilated right in front of them is about as traumatic as it
would be for you and me. These events can significantly impair normal brain development
and cause hyperaggression and unpredictable behavior similar to that of people suffering
from PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder. So not only is humanity slowly driving the
species towards extinction, but due to our ruthless means of doing so
we may also be responsible for their mental, societal, and intellectual decline in the process.
Okay, let's forget about humanity's failures for a second. It's just too depressing. Let's focus
on one of nature's failures like the platypus. An animal that would honestly make a lot more
sense if it was inspired by Psyduck than the other way around. The platypus is one of the
only five remaining species of monotremes. Monotremes are mammals that lay eggs, as opposed
to giving live-birth, and are endemic to Australia. It was discovered by European explorers in
1798 and a specimen was later examined by zoologist George Shaw. Its strange appearance
and features made Shaw question whether or not this was a hoax. Again, how can you not.
It looks like a reversed beaver. He writes in a scientific journal from 1799 that:
"Of all the Mammalia yet known it seems the most extraordinary in its conformation; exhibiting
the perfect resemblance of the beak of a Duck engrafted on the head of a quadruped."
He also writes "it naturally excites the idea of some deceptive preparation by artificial means".
So in more modern terms, was this just another social experiment by some 18th
century YouTube prankster or could the specimen truly be that of a real creature? Evidence
for its existence and its supposed egg-laying capabilities remained highly debated topics
for almost a century. Of course, we now know that this Scrooge-McDuck-looking Pokémon-template
of an animal is more real than your hopes and dreams.
How do you tell a lion from a lioness? No, no, no.. besides looking at their genitals. Most would
argue that the easiest way to tell them apart is that a male lion has a mane while the females
do not. However, this isn't always true. Multiple maned lionesses and maneless lions have been
observed in select regions across Africa. Experts believe increased and decreased levels
of testosterone to be the cause and in the case of maned lionesses it may prove to be
quite advantageous. You see, a lion pride consists of multiple adult females, cubs,
and a small number of adult males. The amount of males in a pride is directly proportional
to how threatening that pride will seem to outsiders. So if the maned lionesses are perceived
as males they may actually boost the pride's overall threat.
It's a perfect example of how random genetic mutations can cause a species to change and evolve over time.
This is a rare sight. A fully functional parliament. As strange as it may seem, a parliament is
the collective noun for a group of owls. Besides having a permanent "How the hell did I get here?"
facial expression, owls also have a knack for necks. All 200+ owl species can
rotate their necks and heads up to 270° which makes humans and owls the only two species
capable of doing this. The only difference is that when humans do it, we die. Owls are
able to survive such extreme neck twisting as they have 14 cervical vertebrae while many
other vertebrates have a lot fewer. For example, we humans only have a laughable seven.
Like many other nocturnal species, owls do not have eyeballs instead they have eyetubes.
This peculiar shape allows for exceptional night vision. However as the eyes are non-spherical
they are completely fixed in their sockets which is why owls need such flexible necks.
If you live to be 90 years old you will be older than people who have yet to reach or surpass that age,
you will also have spent 32 of those years asleep.
Instead of dreaming about your dreams, that's 32 years you could've spent awake, not achieving your dreams.
But if you're a dolphin or a duck sleep isn't half as wasteful. A few select
aquatic and avian species has developed what's known as unihemispheric sleep. Which is the
ability to sleep with one half of the brain while the other half remains awake. This ability
can be quite beneficial for different reasons. In the case of unihemispheric sleep capable
birds, such as chickens and ducks, they literally sleep with one eye open. This allows them
to constantly keep an eye out for potential predators and it's 100% adorable. On the other
hand various aquatic animals, such as dolphins, aquaman, and whales, use this ability to surface for
air even when they are half-asleep. It's been widely scientifically unproven that if humans had this
ability, we would spend this extra time speculating over what we would do if we had more time.
When ants sporadically roam about in search for food they can travel as far as 200 meters
from their nest. To avoid getting lost most ant species leave scent trails and can thus
smell their way back home. They can also keep track of directions using the position of
the sun and by combining this information, they can work out the shortest path back to
the nest. But in certain environments, this method of navigation is not an option. Such
is the case for the desert ant. The featureless landscape along with the windy conditions
of the Saharan desert completely negates the use of scent trails. Instead, they've learned
to count the number of steps they take to keep track of travel distance. A sort
of internal pedometer. You may be wondering, how could we possibly know this? Well, a team
of researchers observed as a group of ants slowly made their way towards a piece of food.
Once they arrived the ants where collected and experimented upon. 25 of the ants received
stilts and another 25 had their legs shortened. As the ants made their way back home something
interesting was observed. The stilt-legged ants overshot the nest by more than 50%
while the amputated ants undershot the nest by nearly as much. In other words, they must
be using an internal step-counter to keep track of travel distance.
Male humpback whales can spend more than 24 hours continuously repeating the same 10-20
minute song. So what you're listening to may be one of the hottest mixtapes to hit the blue market.
Either that or Chewbacca is in dire need of help.
The purpose behind these extensive musical performances largely remains a mystery.
Researchers believe it could be to attract females, to challenge other males, or a form of echolocation.
Or perhaps, and I may be going out on a fin here, perhaps they just love to sing, right?
It wasn't part of any of the scientific articles I could find but surely it's a possibility
worth considering at least? The ocean is a pretty big place. Maybe this is how they pass
the time. I mean we sing in the shower just to pass the time and whales live in the shower so...
I don't know, I feel like they jumped the whale on this one. Like they avoided the
whale in the room. I guess now, the whale is out of the bag.. Okay I'm sorry...
What we do know is that these songs often spread amongst humpback whale society much the same
way the latest pop-music can spread across the globe in our human society. It begins with a localized
population of whales producing a unique string of melodies and after roughly two years time,
the song has moved between numerous whale populations across the pacific. And the songs
are often heavily remixed along the way. Each year, a new viral hit
takes form and the underwater music industry continues to thrive.
Ah, the very face of freedom itself. Few things can better symbolize American patriotism than
the bald eagle. As the national animal of the United States of America this bird has
become known as an American symbol and it has an equally iconic sound.
The problem is, this is not the sound of a bald eagle. Credit should instead go to another North-American
bird known as the red-tailed hawk. Whenever a bald eagle made an appearance in the early
days of television it was often dubbed over with the powerful scream of the red-tailed hawk as it has a
rather unimpressive screech of its own. This is what the bald eagle unfortunately sounds like.
Bees are capable of flapping their tiny wings with an astonishing speed. Their wing-beat
frequency has been recorded at 230 flaps per second. It's so fast that the flapping generates
a positive electrical charge. And they can actually use this ability to their advantage
as the pollen they collect from flowers is normally negatively charged and will thus
be electro statically attracted to the bee. Furthermore, it was recently discovered that
bees can actually detect the presence of floral electrical fields. What this means is that
bees can fly over a meadow and quickly determine if a flower has already been visited or not
depending on the electrical charge of the flower.
Sloths. The traffic jams of the animal kingdom. Natures response to slow motion photography.
Actually why is this shot filmed in slow motion? Did I just spend $50 on stock footage that
looks like a sloth PowerPoint presentation? Oh don't blink, or you might miss nothing.
Nothing is happening. The idleness of sloths is how they conserve energy. The reason they
need to conserve energy is due to their folivorous diet, which means they mostly eat leaves.
These leaves provide very little energy and nutrients, and take up to a month to digest
completely. In fact, when this guy is satisfied roughly 2/3 of his body weight consists of
leaves. Almost anything else would be less of a struggle to consume. You live in the
god damn jungle with tasty fruit and insects all around yet semi-edible leaves is your
food of choice. Truly the face of brilliance. About once a week, the sloth descends from
above for a quick toilet break. And by quick I mean slow. It climbs down, digs a hole in
the ground, defecates, covers the hole with leaves, and climbs back up to safety.
Now you may be wondering why would they not just simply hang from a tree branch and let gravity do
the rest? Well you're not alone as no one truly knowns. Perhaps it's to fertilize their
favorite tree, to prevent the brown from making sounds as it falls to the ground, or maybe,
and this is my personal theory, they're just a bit slow.
And this defecation ritual is truly bizarre as more than half
of all sloth deaths occurs when they climb down to poop. They are slowly pooping their
way to extinction. Speaking of poop, they also like to eat it. No, not their own. That
would be disgusting. Only the most pungent of stenches oozing from an overflowing human
latrine can drive them down from the tree tops. In it, they will bathe and fill their
stomachs to the brim with human waste. The majesty of the sloth is truly unrivaled.