Top 10 Little-Known Facts About Wolves

Arguably no other animal on earth has been as important to humans as the wolf. They were gods in the Norse mythologies and nursed Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome. Most importantly, the wolf was the first animal to ever be domesticated by man, a process still shrouded in mystery that took place well over 10,000 years ago. They have been our dearest friends and direst enemies, and yet there is still so much we don’t know about them.

Black Wolf

Fact: Black wolves don’t occur naturally.

A 2008 study at Stanford University found that the mutation responsible for black fur occurs only in dogs, so black wolves are the result of gray wolves breeding back with domestic canines. The mutation is a dominant trait, like dark hair in humans, and is passed down to the majority of offspring. It is not entirely clear what benefit black fur has for the animals; they do not seem to be more successful hunters, but do show a marked improvement in immunity to certain infections. Black wolves are far more common in North America than they are in the rest of the world.

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Fact: A large percentage of coyotes are actually wolf hybrids.

In areas where wolves have been largely eliminated, coyotes have thrived. Over the last few years, large populations have moved east, into suburban areas and even major cities like New York and Chicago. Genetic testing on 100 coyotes caught in Maine revealed that 22 had some wolf ancestry. Coywolves are generally bigger than regular coyotes, but smaller than wolves, and are said to be extremely cunning. They exhibit a fearlessness of human civilization as seen in coyotes, but seem to maintain the wolf’s pack hunting instinct and high level of aggression.


Fact: Cannibalism is common amongst wolves.

Wolves are extremely opportunistic carnivores, and they will not miss a chance at a meal. Living in some of the most unforgiving terrain on the planet, they are sometimes forced to eat sick or injured members of the pack, and any wolf that has died is generally fair game. Wolves caught in snare traps must be very quickly attended to by hunters or they will be torn apart by other wolves. When two packs come into contact, very often they will engage in a fatal battle, with the alpha males most often being killed. Sometimes they are even eaten by their own offspring.


Fact: The heaviest wolves can approach 200lbs.

Wolves increase exponentially in size the further they are from the equator. Wolves of the tropics are often no larger than medium sized dogs, but those of the far north (Alaska, Canada, and Russia) can be in excess of 120lbs. The largest wolf ever killed in North America was taken in Alaska in 1939 and tipped the scales at 175lbs. In the former Ukraine SSR, a still more massive wolf was killed that weighed 190lbs. There are unsubstantiated reports of 200lb+ specimens, presumably alpha males in areas that boast a steady food supply.


Fact: Rabid wolves are extremely dangerous.

Although wolves are not a major vector of rabies, they can catch it from other species such as raccoons and fox. Unlike some animals, which display lethargy and disorientation, wolves fly almost immediately into a rage when they contract the disease. A significant number of attacks on humans are tied directly to rabies. Such incidents have dropped off precipitously over the years, but a few still occur every year. Although there are obviously treatments available for people bitten by rabid animals, the wolf’s propensity is to bite near the head and neck, and oftentimes the virus reaches the brain before medical help can be sought.


Fact: Wolves in the Americas are less likely to attack humans than elsewhere in the world.

There are very few verifiable records of wolf attacks in the US and Canada, but in Europe and Asia, wolves are far nastier. Historical accounts indicate over 3,000 people killed in France between 1580-1830. In the Middle Ages throughout Europe, special structures were built along highways for travelers to take refuge from roving packs. The wolves of India and Russia are also particularly well known to claim human victims. During World War I, soldiers from the Allied and Central Forces were occasionally forced to join forces fighting off starving wolves attracted by the scent of blood on the battlefield.

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Fact: Wolves find dogs delicious.

Although they are closely related (practically the same species) and can readily interbreed, many wolves consider dogs prey items. In a fight, the even large dogs are generally outmatched, as wolves of equal size have larger teeth and a more devastating bite. In Russia, where stray dogs have become a serious problem since the fall of the Soviet empire, they have become a staple in the diet of wolves. Often, a single wolf will solicit a dog to follow, and lead it into an ambush by the remainder of the pack. Only the largest and fiercest livestock guardians such as Caucasian Shepherds generally have a chance defending themselves


Fact: The black plague put humans on the menu.

The Black Plague, which devastated Europe in the Middle Ages, may explain much of the strained dynamic between wolves and humans. With corpses stacking up way faster than they could be buried or burned, it was only natural that wolves would gather at the edges of cities to feast on the dead. In doing so, whole generations developed a taste for human flesh and likely began viewing us as prey items. No doubt horrified, the highly superstitious people began spinning tales, contributing to already prevalent beliefs of werewolves, vampires, and ghouls.


Fact: Smallpox did too.

Smallpox brought to the Americas by European settlers had a devastating effect on the natives. Having had no contact with the disease in the past, their immune systems were defenseless, and of those who contracted it, 80 to 90 percent died. Swedish naturalist Peter Kalm, sent to America in 1748, records that in the period preceding the Revolutionary War smallpox was at a particularly devastating point along the east coast. Sensing an easy meal, wolves invaded the Indian villages, devouring the bodies and helpless sick. Although many Native Americans revered wolves, they also exhibited a healthy fear, especially in wooded areas, where one could encounter them unexpectedly and at close range.


Fact: Wolves eat their prey alive.

As reported above, wolves will eat nearly anything to stay alive, but their preferred meal is large ungulates (such as deer, moose, and elk). Unlike bears or big cats, wolves do not have an anatomical weapon capable of quickly dispatching such large animals. They kill by attrition, the entire pack swarming and slashing at the haunches and perineum, ripping away at the legs and the gut, until their victim collapses from exhaustion. They begin eating immediately, even though the prey is often still alive for quite some time.

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10 Incredibly Beautiful Fishes

As an avid aquarist and ichthyologist, I have been fascinated by fish for quite some time now. I thought I’d share some of the more beautiful species that I know. These are in no particular order, since beauty is, of course, in the eye of the beholder.

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First off, cichlids is pronounced “Sick-Lids”. African Cichlids are fish found in Three lakes in Africa; Malawi, Tanganyika and Victoria. The Victorian Species are less numerous and usually less colorful than the others. These fish usually grow to about six or seven inches long, with the exception of the Frontosoa Species, which grow to about twelve to fourteen inches in length. Fortunately, these fish are freshwater, and easy to raise in a home aquarium, the only requirement being that they have water with a higher pH level and plenty of hiding spots (they can be quite aggressive!). There are also species of Cichlids that live in the Amazon Basin, but these get much larger and are much more aggressive than their African relatives.

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Named Parrotfish because of their calcareous bird-like beaks. Parrotfish use these beaks to crush and eat the small invertebrates that live in coral. Much of the sand and sea floor of coral reefs are actually remains of meals from the parrotfish, they chew the coral, eat the invertebrates and spit out the leftover calcium. Like Cichlids, There are many individual species of Parrotfish, with varying degrees of color and patterns.

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Ever since “Finding Nemo” came out, these fish are usually referred to as “Dory Fish” by children. Tangs belong to a family of fish called Surgeonfish, who possess a small, retractable calcareous blade toward their tail fin. This blade is mainly used for defense, they extract it and rub against an attacker, in an effort to fend it off.

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A small angelfish, usually available at your local pet store, they really are a fish one needs to see in person to have a full appreciation of their color. These fish are usually keepable in any marine aquarium and are very hardy.

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A close relative of the Coral Beauty, the Flame Angel has some of the boldest color of any fish I’ve seen. As with the Coral Beauty, these fish are usually easily available and affordable, but from my experience are a bit more fickle than the Coral Beauty.


Yeah sure, most of the Koi you have seen are probably nothing more than orange or white. However, there are many (probably close to or more than 100) color variations of Koi (Just pick up a Koi trader’s magazine the next time you’re at a bookstore). Koi can comer in many colors, including orange, red, white, gold, and black. Certain patterns are sought after by avid Koi collectors, some of whom will pay thousands of dollars for a single fish.

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One of the most difficult fish to keep in a home aquarium (and very expensive as well), to most aquarists these fish are the pinnacle of the hobby. You may think you’ve seen them before, but you’re probably getting them confused with another species, the Bannerfish (also known as the False Idol). In eight years of the hobby, I’ve only ever seen these fish for sale in shops on three occasions.


Probably one of my favorite fish of all time, the Lionfish (or Zebrafish) is a fascinating species, and is easy to become mesmerized by one when watching it swim. The spines you see on its back possess a painful and powerful venom. Thankfully the Lionfish is somewhat docile and not a fast swimmer, but all aquarists who own one must take extra care when cleaning their tank.

Pompadour Discus

Another freshwater species, Discus are probably the single most beautiful species of Freshwater fish. They are also probably the most expensive Freshwater species, second only to the Koi or the Arowana. A small 3 inch juvenile can be anywhere from $50-$80. There are many color variations of Discus, most of which are simply breathtaking. Although they are Freshwater species, they do require more experience and care than some Saltwater fish.


A lesser-known species, these are probably the single most colorful and vibrant fish I’ve ever seen. There are two varieties, the standard Mandarinfish and the Psychedelic Mandarin. The standard typically has more interesting patterns and colors than the psychedelic, but both are very beautiful fish. These small fish (usually no more than 6 inches full-grown) usually don’t cost more than $20 for a specimen, but the main problem is feeding them. They only eat small micro-invertebrates that live within live rock in coral reefs. In order to sustain one in a home aquarium, one needs a sufficient amount of live rock that has been in the tank for at least a month prior to introducing the fish. As with some of the other species on this list, one really needs to see this fish in person to witness the amazing vibrance of its color.

Contributor: GhostShip

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10 Amazing and Creepy Corpse Fauna

Sooner or later, death comes for us all, and what was once a living, breathing organism is just another pile of food. While all manner of animals might stop to snack on a rotting carcass, some have adapted strange characteristics and behaviors entirely unique to the consumption of the dead. They may seem unsettling to those of us who prefer fresher meals, but fascinating scavengers like these provide a crucial service in recycling organic resources back into the food chain.

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When other scavengers are done picking soft tissues from a carcass, all that’s eventually left are the “dry” remains…the bones, the hair and leathery scraps of skin. These materials are edible to both larval and adult Dermestid beetles, found world wide and sometimes even in our homes where they consume organic fibers in clothing, carpeting and furniture. Museums and taxidermists even employ thousands of these creatures at a time to clean skeletons for display, but must be careful to retrieve them before the bone itself gets nibbled on.

The Burying Beetles, or Nicrophoridae, are one of the two main groups of carrion beetle. These Halloween-colored creatures usually mate for life, atop the body of a small, dead bird or rodent, then spend all night working the entire corpse into a small ball and burying it underground. The devoted mother is buried alive with the body, spending the rest of her days chewing up the rotten flesh for her larvae, while the male, if he didn’t join her, stays on guard above ground.

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Related to ants and wasps, bees come in a massive variety of forms throughout the world, but all feed at least partially on plant matter (especially nectar and pollen) with the exception of three bizarre species in the genus Trigona. These stingless social bees raise their larvae almost exclusively on decaying meat, which they chew and regurgitate into a liquid form the same way other bees make honey, filling their egg chambers with a thick, sticky slurry of rotten flesh.

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Most species of Hyena are primarily hunters, but the species Hyaena hyaena fits their scavenging reputation to a T. Feeding almost entirely off the kills of other predators—including their fellow hyenas—they are even specially adapted to easily digest whole bones, even consuming so much bone that it turns their droppings chalky and white.

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Storks are usually wetland predators, feeding primarily on small fish and frogs. Leptoptilos crumeniferus, however, also known as the “undertaker bird,” takes a cue from vultures and feeds frequently on decaying meat, even sporting a completely bald head for reaching deep into wet, festering body cavities. Due to these unusual dietary habits, it’s just as at home in dry, arid plains as it is in muddy marshland, and is possibly the largest scavenging bird in the world.

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Living up to its title, Sarcoramphus papa is one of the largest of all true vultures, by far the most extravagantly colored, and dominates over all carrion birds but the even larger Andean Condor. Though it usually lives alone, it will follow flocks of other, smaller vulture species to more easily locate food, and these vultures in turn often depend upon the “king’s” stronger beak to make the first tear in a large, tough carcass. Preferring to eat the skin, cartilage and other tough tissues, it leaves much of the meat and entrails to the lesser subjects.

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Many species of mite live in symbiosis with the carrion beetles we’ve already talked about, using the beetles as transportation from one corpse to the next. It’s not the putrid meat these arachnids are after, but rather the eggs and larvae of flies. It’s one of the most ghoulish mutual partnerships in the insect world; the mites devour the maggots, and the beetle’s larvae get all that decayed flesh to themselves.

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In the ocean, the dead often become a free-for-all buffet, scavenged by sharks, crabs, starfish, worms and innumerable other opportunists. The bizarre hagfishes, however, exhibit special adaptations for deep-sea scavenging. Survivors of an ancient, jawless vertebrate lineage, they wield a rasping, tooth-covered plate to shave flesh into their throats, and stranger still, are able to absorb nutrients directly through their skin as they writhe through decaying innards, similar to the feeding mechanism of a tapeworm. They are particularly renowned for the thick, sticky slime they can secrete in copious amounts, which assists them in slipping through the orifices of the dead and suffocates any sea creature foolish enough to attack them. These maggots of the water are usually the dominant scavengers at whale carcasses, swarming over the sunken giants until only the bones remain.

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Hagfish may be the sea’s leading connoisseurs of rotten meat, but there’s still a lot of nutrients locked deep within a skeleton once the flesh-eaters have had their fill. This is the domain of the Osedax worms, also affectionately referred to by some researchers as “zombie worms” and “snot flowers.” More plant-like than worm-like in anatomical structure, these otherworldly creatures drill into bare bones with a network of corrosive “roots,” breathe through pink, flower-like gills and rely on symbiotic bacteria to metabolize the lipids in bone tissue. At least, the females do, anyhow. Male Osedax are virtually microscopic, and live inside the females by the hundreds, continuously fertilizing thousands of tiny eggs. Like fungal spores, these eggs are released to drift in the water, hatching only when they come into contact with a suitable skeleton.


Flies are notorious for carrying disease, and their larvae are regarded as truly repulsive by much of the human race, but our world would overall be far filthier without them.

Every aspect of a maggot’s biology is exactly what the little creatures need to strip away dead tissues with maximum possible speed and efficiency; their tapered, limbless bodies, ringed with bands of rough pustules, function as the perfect organic drill as they undulate and twist into their food source. A set of hooks, like the tusks of a walrus, give them a firm grip as they feed, regurgitating digestive enzymes and slurping the remains into their soft, jawless throats. Thanks to a pair of breathing pores near their anus, they can bury themselves in their food and eat continuously without coming up for air, “snorkeling” through their butts.

All this may sound nauseating to our tastes, but these garbage men of the insect world are the most ubiquitous, efficient and ecologically important of all scavengers on the Earth’s surface, eliminating more animal waste than virtually all other processes combined. Even if they looked or moved too differently, maggots would not be the perfect recycling system that they are. They’re Mother Nature’s all-purpose deep cleaning solvent, even getting those tricky squirrel stains out of asphalt.

Next time you see these little guys inching around your trash, just be glad we’re not the ones who were given such a dirty job, and consider that maybe, just maybe, animals like maggots, snot flowers and bone beetles can have as much beauty and character as any fluffy grass-eater or majestic hunter.

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Top 10 Talking Donkeys

This is a list recognizing the ten greatest talking donkeys from books, movies and television. Some of the donkeys on this list are special because they were never expected to talk (like any normal donkey), and it is either magical or miraculous that they did. Others simply live in a world where all animals can talk, and they are noteworthy for other reasons. At all events, the two things each entry has in common are they all talk, and they all are donkeys. So with that, here are your top ten:

The Ass In The Lions Skin

The Ass in the Lion’s Skin is a fable attributed to the Greek slave, Aesop (famous also for the Tortoise and the Hare, the Ant and the Grasshopper, etc). The story is about an ass that dresses in the skin of a lion so that he can go around scaring the other animals. His trick works until he tries to talk to a fox, who, upon hearing him bray (he doesn’t say anything specific) instantly realizes that he’s not a lion but, in fact, an ass dressed in lion’s skin. The moral of the story is that you can never tell a fool by the way they dress, but you always can tell once they open their mouth. So true!

The donkey in the fable was directly alluded to, and given much more of a voice, in the book “The Last Battle,” the seventh and final book of C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, which features the talking donkey, Puzzle. Puzzle is noted for being courageous and humble, but also very naïve. He is tricked by his friend, Shift the Ape, into retrieving a lion’s skin from the frigid Caldron Pool, dressing himself in it, and then using it as a disguise for Aslan the Lion, in a ploy to gain control over Narnia. This pretense is eventually betrayed by Shift himself, but in the end Puzzle is pardoned by the real Aslan.


From the book The Beginning and the End comes an interesting story called “The Conversation of the Donkey.” In it, Muhammad receives from God a gift of four sheep, four goats, ten pots of gold and silver and a black donkey that can talk. The ensuing “conversation” between Muhammad and the donkey goes something like this:

Muhammad addresses the donkey asking, “What is your name?” “Yazid Ibn Shihab,” the donkey answers. Then Muhammad says to him, “I will call you Ya’foor!” Then Ya’foor replies, “I obey.” Muhammad then asks, “Do you desire females?” To which the donkey replies, “NO!”

Interesting, to say the least. Due to the difficulty in finding an image of Ya’foor, pictured above is the donkey Buraq, another donkey closely related to the tales of Muhammad.


Animal Farm (1945), by George Orwell, is an allegorical novella about a group of farm animals (mostly pigs) meant to symbolize Soviet politics. In other words, it’s one fairly boring topic allegorizing another. Nevertheless, it has its place in history and, supposedly (I admit I’ve never read it), there’s a talking donkey named Benjamin. The following is from the Cliffs Notes character description of him:

“Donkeys are known for their stubbornness, and Benjamin stubbornly refuses to become enthusiastic about the rebellion. While all of his comrades delight in the prospect of a new, animal-governed world, Benjamin only remarks, ‘Donkeys live a long time. None of you has ever seen a dead donkey.’ While this reply puzzles the animals, the reader understands Benjamin’s cynical yet not-unfounded point: In the initial moments of the rebellion, Animal Farm may seem a paradise, but in time it may come to be another form of the same tyranny at which they rebelled. Of course, Benjamin is proven right. Although pessimistic, he is a realist.” [Image Source]


For anyone who hasn’t seen this show, it’s basically a mash-up of Dumbo and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and it is worth checking out for sure. Nestor is a gray, stop-motion donkey with freakishly long ears who is rejected by all the other donkeys. After his mother is killed (okay, there’s a little Bambi in there too) he wanders to Israel and finds Joseph and Mary, whom he helps travel to Bethlehem where Baby Jesus is born.

Like the classic holiday hit A Charlie Brown Christmas, this movie seems to strike the perfect balance between secular and spiritual. And there’s plenty of talking donkeys to get your fix. The narrator of the story is a talking donkey named Spieltoe, and is mildly amusing. “You never knew Santa Claus had a donkey?’ he asks with a drawl, “who do you think pulls his snow plow?”


From the movie The Muppet Musicians of Bremen, Leroy is a talking donkey who, more impressively, plays the tuba. The movie is an adaptation of the German folktale, The Town Musicians of Bremen, first recorded by the Brothers Grimm. The Muppet version is set in the rural bayou of Louisiana, and the music is New Orleans-style jazz. Leroy is the first protagonist introduced but is later joined by Rover Joe, the hound dog (who plays the trombone), Catgut the cat (the trumpet) and T.R. the rooster (vocals and tambourine), with various rats and Kermit the Frog serving as MC. Together the animals escape their abusive, criminal owners and embark on a quest for freedom as a traveling band. This show alone is enough to demonstrate Jim Henson’s unique and enduring genius, as both a craftsman and a storyteller, and in no small part due to Leroy the Donkey.


For my money, there’s nothing cuter than a short cartoon burro with a sombrero and a thick Mexican accent. Enter Baba Looey from the wild west themed Quick Draw McGraw Show. When Baba Looey, voiced by Hanna-Barbera legend Daws Butler, says “Quick Draw” it sounds like “Quick Straw.” Now that’s adorable.

But in all seriousness, Baba Looey really was the archetypal sidekick. Loyal and resourceful, he rescued Quick Draw when in trouble, provided valuable advice and information, and was always there to pull Quick Draw’s head out of the clouds. In that regard, he was a very close reincarnation of the Miguel de Cervantes character, Sancho Panza, who actually rode a donkey in the Spanish masterpiece Don Quixote de la Mancha.

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This one is just plain awkward. Unlike the tale of Muhammad’s talking donkey which is obscure at best, the Judeo-Christian version, amazingly, is right there in the scriptures. In fact, on a Listverse top ten of the most bizarre biblical tales, it was weird enough to reach #2.

To recap, the prophet Balaam and his donkey are traveling together when the donkey sees an angel and refuses to walk any further. Frustrated, Balaam begins to beat the animal until it speaks, asking “What have I done to thee? Why strikest thou me, lo, now this third time?” [Source]

Balaam then says, “Because thou hast deserved it, and hast served me ill: I would I had a sword that I might kill thee.” At about this point Balaam finally sees the angel and falls down on the ground. Then the angel says to Balaam, “Why beatest thou thy ass these three times? I am come to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse, and contrary to me[.]” (On this one I would like to invoke the Fox News slogan: “We Report. You Decide.”)


Originally created by the British author A.A. Milne for the Winnie-the-Pooh books, Eeyore has reappeared in several Disney movies and television shows and has achieved the greatest popularity, by far, of all the characters in the series. As a quick demonstration, consider that, at the time this list was composed, Eeyore had over 241,000 fans on Facebook—92,000 more than compatriot Tigger and 85,500 more than the Pooh Bear himself. (Piglet, Rabbit, Owl and Christopher Robin don’t even come close to approaching these figures, not even combined.) Maybe all those fans can do something to help Eeyore overcome all his mental and emotional problems.

Now, I understand that his severely despondent attitude is, in part, to counterbalance the other characters, much like Oscar the Grouch or the Raincloud Care Bear, but Eeyore takes it way too far. He has dangerously low self-esteem and zero self-worth. In fact I dare anybody to read the following passage (credit to and tell me it’s not a little disturbing:

“You seem so sad, Eeyore.”
“Sad? Why should I be sad? It’s my birthday. The happiest day of the year.”
“Your birthday?” said Pooh in great surprise.
“Of course it is. Can’t you see? Look at all the presents I’ve had.”
He waved a foot from side to side.
“Look at the birthday cake. Candles and pink sugar.”
Pooh looked – first to the right and then to the left.
“Presents?” said Pooh. “Birthday cake?” said Pooh. “Where?”
“Can’t you see them?”
“No,” said Pooh.
“Neither can I,” said Eeyore. “Joke,” he explained. “Ha Ha.”

God help Eeyore.

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He’s positive, sensitive, talkative, his favorite food is waffles, and he even flew for a brief moment with the help of some pixie dust. Yes, the one and only Donkey from the Shrek tetralogy hardly needs any further explanation. In 2001, Donkey, voiced by veteran Eddie Murphy, and the rest of Shrek gang announced, with a bang, the arrival of DreamWorks Animation as a power player in the computer-animated family film genre. Up until that time this extremely lucrative industry had been dominated, if not monopolized, by the Pixar studio. Yet critics and fans alike hailed Shrek for its fresh jabs at fairytale conventions, hurled openly at Pixar bedfellow Disney, and it was enough for Shrek to win the inaugural Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

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It is impossible to overstate the sheer beauty and brilliance of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, although many have certainly tried. So what’s one more attempt going to hurt, right? It is, simply put, a timeless wonder; a phenomenon that has inspired at least one opera, one ballet and five modern films. And it all starts with Bottom. After all, it’s Bottom who dreams the dream, or as he calls it, the “most rare vision,” and any high school teacher could tell you the most important role in any Shakespeare comedy is the fool.

A resident Athenian and weaver by vocation, Bottom is transformed (or more precisely “translated”) from human being to ass by the “shrewd and knavish sprite” Robin Goodfellow in the first scene of the third act. The rest, well, we all know what happens. But for those who don’t; he has sex with the Queen. In most performances he is given an ass’s head or ears, only, but there are alternative interpretations that hold that he was endowed with a lot more than that. Peter Brook, who directed the epic 1970 Royal Shakespeare Company’s production, apparently shared this view. “Peter used to tell us that the ass has the largest penis in the animal world,” recalls Sarah Kestelman, who played Titania.

Anyway, without going any more into that, or any other textual analyses—of which there are hundreds, and many quite intriguing—suffice it to say that Bottom is a globally beloved ass who gave us the greatest midsummer night in all of literature.

Plus, he’s an ass named Bottom. How could he not be at the top of this list?

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10 More Ridiculously Weird Facts About Whales

Whale are some of Earth’s most mysterious animals. They’ve popped up in stories from the Book of Job in the Bible to Star Trek IV: The Journey Home, so you’d think by now we’d have learned everything about our ocean-dwelling cousins. Yet there are 78 species of whale on the planet, and we’re still learning weird stuff about them all the time. For example . . . 

10 Beluga Whales Love Music

From one point of view, we can never know if the beluga whale really loves music. However, they do respond and express great curiosity and even sometimes join in synchronized dance.

In 2013, a pair of artists rigged a boat with an underwater sound system and sailed out to sea in order to play the belugas an underwater symphony. The whales were extremely interested and even joined in, showing an appreciation for music and art above and beyond most known creatures on Earth.

Any doubt that beluga whales enjoy music could probably be dispelled by the above video of a mariachi band playing to a captive beluga whale who, scientific objectivity aside, seems to be loving it.

9 Bowhead Whales Can Live For More Than 200 Years


In 2007, a dead bowhead whale being studied by scientists was found to have something very strange embedded within it. Upon closer inspection, it appeared to be a weapon fragment that dated back to a patent filed in 1879. This suggests the bowhead survived a whaling attack from more than 100 years earlier.

Scientists actually can’t agree on the bowhead whale’s maximum lifespan. Most die between the ages of 60 and 90. However, amino acids in the eyes of bowhead whales suggest that the oldest ever discovered may have been up to 211. Some scientists have speculated that the whales could live even longer than that. The only thing we know for certain is that it’s unlikely that a human could survive that long, even without an ancient harpoon embedded in its back.

8 Female Humpbacks Have BFFs

The Mingan Island Cetacean Study group have been using photographic techniques to study humpback whales for the last 16 years. In that time, they began to realize that female humpback whales not only make friends with one another but reunite each year. They remember their pals and even find them across the ocean and among other whales. This was quite a shocking discovery, as up to this point scientists believed that humpback whales were generally unsociable towards each other.

When a female humpback meets her friend, they simply float along together, eating and enjoying each other’s company. These friendships seem to have benefits as female humpbacks who hang out in this way are healthier and give birth to more calves each year. However, friendships between females and males (or even male-male friendship) are mostly unheard of. For reasons that no one can explain, only the ladies like to hang out with each other.

7 The Blue Whale Is The Largest Animal On Earth—Ever


If most people had to guess the largest animal that ever existed, they would probably name some long extinct creature like a mammoth or dinosaur. However, the largest creature isn’t extinct. It’s the blue whale, which can reach over 30 meters (100 ft) and weigh 180,000 kilograms (400,000 lbs). A blue whale’s heart can be as big as a small car and beats loud enough to be detected from 3,000 meters (2 mi) away. Its mouth is big enough to fit 100 people, and its arteries are so big that a basketball could float through them.

And according to science, it’s getting even bigger. Don’t panic—the increased growth isn’t due to a toxic spill or gamma rays. It’s just good old global warming. Thanks to warmer ocean currents increasing the amount of krill found in their habitat, they’re bucking the trend of other mammals by growing instead of shrinking.

6 Some Whales Imitate Human Speech

Whales can make a variety of sounds. One whale in captivity, a beluga called NOC, became so good at mimicking human voices that researchers thought that they were overhearing two people conversing in the distance. This went on for a while until the whale convinced a diver in his tank that someone was shouting at him to surface.

At first, the wider scientific community was skeptical. But NOC’s sounds, on closer review, were indisputably unusual for a beluga and shared the same acoustic patterns of human vocalization. NOC produced these sounds by unnaturally varying the pressure in his nasal tract and inflating a sac in his blowhole. Eventually, NOC stopped making these sounds altogether. Nobody really knows why. Perhaps hormonal changes made the sounds impossible as he aged, or maybe he simply got bored of doing it.

NOC wasn’t a one-off. For example, reports in the 40s told of wild belugas who sounded like children. A captive whale called “Lugosi” at the Vancouver aquarium could reportedly say its own name.

5 Sperm Whales Sleep Standing Up

Until fairly recently, whales were all thought to share the sleep pattern of dolphins, who sleep with half their brain, letting them keep one eye open for threats. However, a group of scientists in 2013 following sperm whales fitted with location tags discovered something very different and bizarre.

They found the whole pod just of the coast of Chile with their bodies completely vertical to the surface of the water and their heads just bobbing at the surface. The scientists were able to get right into the middle of the pod and could even nudge one of the whales. At that point, all the whales sprung to life and took off. They had been sleeping.

This means that sperm whales sleep in one of the weirdest ways known within the animal kingdom. We think that they dive down and grab snatches of sleep that can last up to about 12 minutes and then slowly drift to the surface head-first. Also, for some reason that remains unknown, they only sleep between the hours of 6:00 PM and midnight.

4 Whales Feed By Swallowing Their Weight In Water

Scientists have discovered that whales have a mysterious organ shared by no other known animal on Earth. This organ, which is about the size of a grapefruit is located in the chins of baleen whales. Nobody knows quite what the organ does just yet. However, it’s assumed that it’s what allows whales to “lunge feed.”

Lunge feeding is when whales rush headlong at their prey (plankton or fish, depending on the species) and completely engulf swarms of them by swallowing the surrounding water. This means taking on huge amounts of water—during lunge feeding, whales can actually absorb as much as their own body weight in water.

The whales then filter the food, separating it from the water, using “baleen” hairs in their throats. The newly-discovered organ helps whales control the vast amount of precise movement involved in filtering out the water trapped inside their throats afterwards.

3 Moby Dick Was Real


Most people nowadays would consider the idea of a vindictive whale taking revenge upon whalers as a ridiculous fiction. However, Herman Melville based his idea for Moby Dick on real events and a real whale named Mocha Dick. The event, which Melville read about, happened around 1820 when Mocha Dick hit and sunk an English whaling ship. The crew landed on a deserted island where they were forced to resort to cannibalism.

Contemporary descriptions of Mocha Dick pretty much match up with Melville’s. He was a white albino whose spouting sounded like a continuous roar. However, accounts from the time make him sound even more terrifying than his fictional namesake. He was covered in barnacles and was usually sighted still trailing harpoons and rope from encounters with whalers who’d failed to kill him.

2 Whalesong Spreads Like Pop Music

Scientists studying humpback whale songs in 2011 discovered something very odd. The rise and decline of an individual whale’s song is very much like that of a pop song.

In any area shared by whales, everyone sings the same song. Over time, the song will change, and if the new song is catchy enough, it will spread to other populations of whales. When a new whalesong comes out, it’s sometimes a sort of remix of the previous song. And that’s not just a gross oversimplification—a researcher from the university of Queensland who has been analyzing this odd trend described it as “like splicing an old Beatles song with U2.”

Other times, the new song can be completely original. The more popular songs act like chart music, rising in popularity as they’re sung by more whales and then travelling eastward to other whale populations.

1 Whales Adopt Other Animals And Objects


Not all whales are as violent as Mocha Dick. Most are usually quite gentle, even to other species.

For example, in 2011 a pod of sperm whales adopted a bottlenose dolphin born with a deformed, s-shaped spine. The dolphin’s pod presumably rejected him due to his deformity. Logically, this would make the slower moving whales very attractive to a social animal like a dolphin. Yet, experts are still puzzled as to why the whales so readily accepted it as a member of the group.

Similarly, but on a sadder note, female beluga whales have been known to turn objects into surrogate babies. Belugas in the wild have been seen carrying planks, other small objects, and even complete caribou skeletons on their heads or backs and treating them like calves.

+Zombie Worms


Whales have the biggest bones on the planet. Without someone disposing of them, the sea floor would be cluttered with whale bones forever. Luckily, there’s a creature that handles that job: the zombie worm.

The zombie worm’s scientific name is Osedax mucofloris, which literally translates to “bone-eating snot flower.” It’s an appropriate name: They burrow into whale bones and develop a root system, and the only exposed bits are covered in mucus that looks like, well, snot.

As if that weren’t weird enough, the zombie worm has no mouth, so its skin produces acid to break down bones. It then feeds off the protein and collagen the bones release. But the worm doesn’t have a digestive system or anus either, making it even weirder and deepening the mystery of exactly how it processes the stuff the acid releases. The best guess so far is that the zombie worm absorbs the collagen and protein through a symbiotic parasite that exists within its body.

So, the zombie worm is an acid-throwing spit monster that feeds on bones and has parasitic creatures living inside it. We’ll never complain about spiders again.

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Top 10 Fascinating and Unique Crocodilians

There are 23 species of crocodilians in the world. Usually, we think of these reptiles as being all the same; big head, short legs, many teeth and an eternal appetite for whatever unfortunate creature falls into their reach (humans included). Although it is true that modern day crocodilians share a very similar basic design, each species is really unique, and has its own interesting traits. This list features the least “mainstream” crocodilians, often overshadowed by their more famous relatives, including the Nile crocodile, the Saltwater crocodile and the American alligator.

Cuban Crocodile

Found only in certain swamps of Cuba and Isla de la Juventud, this crocodile is highly endangered nowadays. At three meters (9.84′) long, it is not particularly large for a crocodile, and it doesn’t have a very unusual appearance either, but don’t let this fool you; it is actually one of the most unique crocodilians, and according to zookeepers who have worked with them, they are also the most aggressive of them all. Due to the rarity of the species, and their extremely limited range, attacks of Cuban crocodiles on humans are uncommon and seldom reported; even so, they are very dangerous, not only because of the usual reasons (bone crushing jaws, puncturing teeth and immense strength), but also because of their unusual agility and intelligence. Keepers have reported that Cuban crocodiles can work as a team to surround and subdue large prey (humans included!), the same way “raptor” dinosaurs are supposed to have done in prehistoric times. Although Nile crocodiles have also been reported to hunt in coordinated groups, they don’t seem to do this as often, or as skillfully, as Cuban crocodiles do. This is a very active species that spends a lot of time on land, although they are still considered to be semiaquatic animals rather than terrestrial.


Found in the tropical rivers and swamps of western and central Africa, this is the smallest true crocodile species; it measures only 1.5 meters (4.92′) long (rarely 1.8 meters – 5.90′) and is a shy predator that feeds on insects, frogs, fish and whatever carrion it can find. It is not dangerous to humans unless harassed (although a female protecting her nest will attack any intruders, as do almost all crocodilians). An interesting physical trait is that they are not only armored on the back, as usual in crocodilians, but also in the belly and the throat. This may be a defensive adaptation to compensate for their small size, which makes them more vulnerable to predators such as leopards. These little crocs dig burrows in the riverbank and only come out of said burrows at night; this makes them very hard to see and study, and therefore, we don’t know a lot about this interesting species. Some experts believe that there may be more than just one species of dwarf crocodile. Although bush meat trade (the hunting of wild animals for their meat) and habitat destruction have caused a decline in Dwarf crocodile populations, they are not considered to be as highly endangered as other crocodilians.


Another native of tropical Africa’s rain forests, the slender snouted crocodile is much bigger than the Dwarf crocodile, growing up to 4 meters (13.1′) long. It feeds mostly on fish, but has been known to accept red meat in captivity; one kilogram of meat per day is enough to keep a slender snouted crocodile happy, and just like other crocodilians, it can go without eating for several days, or even weeks. Although not considered dangerous by scientists, the tribes of certain African regions fear these crocodiles, as they claim that they are quite aggressive. Even so, they are physically adapted to go after fish and small prey, and it is unlikely that they will attack humans unless harassed or defending their nest. The call of these crocodiles is said to resemble a truck exhaust backfiring; they also emit a chirping sound, similar to the one produced by baby crocodilians of other species. Unfortunately, this crocodile is endangered due to habitat loss and bush meat trade.


Native to South Eastern Asia, particularly Malaysia and Borneo. It is seldom mentioned as one of the largest crocodilians, but there is plenty of evidence of them reaching incredible sizes, in the range of the 6 to 7 meters (19.6-22.9′). They are called false gharials because their slender snout resembles that of the actual gharial, another crocodilian found in India; however, their jaws are still broader and the largest individuals can prey on large prey, from monkeys to wild boar and deer, instead of only fish. They also feed on carrion when they get the chance. On the other hand, they only attack humans very rarely, and when this happens, it is usually to protect their nest or because they have been harassed first. The False Gharial is endangered due to habitat loss; it is also killed sometimes out of fear and ignorance.

Esteros Del Ibera Yacare

Sometimes called the “piranha” yacare, the Yacare belongs to the group of the caimans, mostly South American relatives to the famous alligator. The piranha seems to be its favorite prey, hence its popular name. It has also been said that they are called “piranha yacare” due to the protruding teeth of its lower jaw, which resemble the piranha’s. Besides piranhas, they feed on any other fish they can catch, as well as aquatic birds, small mammals and carrion. This is one of the most abundant crocodilians in the world; there are supposedly 100,000 to 200,000 of them living in the swamps and floodplains of Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina. Fortunately, they are rather small (2 meters, rarely 2.5 (8.2′)) and they seldom if ever attack humans (although they can bite if harassed, of course). Unlike Nile or Saltwater crocodiles, which are apex predators and very rarely hunted by other animals, Yacares are preyed upon by jaguars and anacondas, and possibly even by the larger, aggressive Black Caiman.


The Spectacled caiman is the only caiman that can be found in the Northern Hemisphere (its northernmost range includes the states of Chiapas and Oaxaca in Mexico), and is also the most common crocodilian in the world, with a total population of one million individuals. Spectacled caimans are unusual because they are known to change the color of their skin (although they do so rather slowly), as well as the pattern of black markings on it. As for their name, they owe it to the bony ridge between the eyes, which to some people looks as if the caiman was wearing glasses. Spectacled caimans grow up to 3 meters (9.84′) long, but are usually smaller. Spectacled caimans in Mexico are seemingly smaller on average than those in South America.

Trigonatus7-Schneiders Dwarf Caiman-By John White

There are actually two species of dwarf caiman. Due to their small size (usually under 2 meters (6.56′) long), rather cute appearance (big eyes, short upturned snout and what not), and the fact that they are not endangered, Dwarf Caimans have recently became somewhat popular as exotic pets. However, they actually don’t make good pets; just like any other crocodilian, they have powerful jaws and their teeth, although small, can puncture human skin easily and cause wounds that go septic very quickly; even what may seem like a non life-threatening wound may cause an irresponsible owner to end up in the hospital. As is always the case with wild animals, Dwarf Caimans are best left in the wild. These little crocodilians are native to the Amazonian basin in South America; they feed on whatever small animal they can catch and often hunt on dry land, especially at night. Unlike crocodiles, caimans, and particularly dwarf caimans, tend to walk with their neck and head raised well above the ground. I highly recommend this website to those who may be thinking of getting a pet caiman or any other crocodilian.


This little reptile is sometimes credited as being one of the inspirations for the Chinese dragon myths. (Unlike the western dragon, the Chinese version was a short legged, aquatic animal with no traces of wings). This is the only species of genus Alligator, other than the more famous American alligator. But while the latter can grow up to lengths of 5 meters (16.4′) and is aggressive and powerful enough to devour humans, the Chinese gator is a small (1.5 meters 4.92′) long), shy animal that feeds mostly on mollusks. It will also eat any fish or small animal it can catch. Unless provoked, it poses no danger to humans whatsoever. This is one of the world’s most endangered crocodilians, with as few as 200 of them living in the wild nowadays, mostly in the Yangtze river. Fortunately, they breed readily in captivity, but habitat loss and pollution may spell doom for the species in the wild in a few years.


Also known as Johnston’s crocodile, the Australian freshwater crocodile is yet another crocodile with a slender snout adapted to catch fish. Although it bites people on occasion, this happens usually when the crocodile is protecting its nest or territory, or when it has been provoked; most of the time it is a very calm, harmless animal and Australians often swim in places where freshwater crocodiles (locally known as “freshies”) are known to live. Freshwater crocodiles are notorious because of their agility; they are actually capable of galloping on land like a mammal. Usually, they gallop when they feel threatened and want to return to the safety of water as soon as possible. However, they have also been known to charge at intruders in this way. Young individuals of other crocodilian species have also been known to gallop, but the freshwater crocodile are the fastest, reaching speeds of 18 kms p/h (11 m/p/h). Compare that to the average running speed of a normal, healthy man, which is of 24 kms p/h (15 m/p/h). It’s not a big difference really! And let’s consider that freshwater crocodiles have much shorter legs. These crocs can grow up to 3, sometimes 4 meters long (10-13′), but are usually smaller. Although not considered endangered, they are vulnerable to the infamous Cane Toad plague which is spreading in Australia; having evolved separated from Cane Toads, freshwater crocodiles have no natural defenses against the amphibian’s poison, and often die while trying to eat one of them.


The Gharial is undoubtedly the most bizarre looking crocodilian. Its very long, very slender snout is adapted to catch fish, as are the interlocking, needle-like teeth. Gharials are possibly the most aquatic of all crocodilians, and they have very short and weak legs; they actually only leave water to bask in the sun and to lay their eggs. This crocodilian is found in India and Nepal, and is among the largest members of the group, reaching 7 meters (23′) in length. Despite their huge size, they are usually harmless to humans; however, they can bite in self defense if provoked. Gharials get their name from the protuberance in the adult male’s snout, which is called a ghara. Gharials use the ghara to produce a sound which is supposed to attract potential mates.

It seems that males also use their ghara to produce bubbles with the same purpose. Some prehistoric crocodilians such as the enormous, dinosaur-eating Sarcosuchus also had a ghara. Who knows what amazing sounds they may have produced! Gharials are, themselves, the last survivors (along with false gharials) of a crocodilian group that was once widely distributed and diverse; remains of gharials and gharial-like crocodilians have been found even in South America! Unfortunately, the survival of the Gharial is, as usual, threatened by the advance of “civilization” and the loss of habitat. There are around 1500 gharials living in the wild nowadays, and the population seems to be declining due to water pollution with heavy metals.

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10 Common Misconceptions About Animals

There are certain animal facts that everybody seems to know. Cows can sleep standing up, goats have four stomachs; that sort of thing. But there are a lot of widely-believed animal facts that are actually not very factual at all. We’re talking about ideas like:

If there’s one thing everyone knows about sheep, it’s how stupid they are. After all: if one sheep starts moving quickly, the rest of the flock will follow rather blindly. They’re generally perceived to have almost no individual instincts or motivation, and many people would rank them next to rocks in intelligence

Animal scientists, on the other hand, would rank sheep just below pigs, rodents, and monkeys. In some tests, they even come close to humans. Recent studies have found that they’re of fairly average intelligence among farm animals. They actually learn quite quickly, and can adapt to changing circumstances, create mental maps of their environment, and possibly even plan ahead. 

It’s not advanced calculus—but for an animal constantly lambasted as the dumbest of all, it’s a decent effort. 

Any parent will tell you that goldfish are a great first pet for a child. They hardly need any attention, and they won’t be around for too long. Flushing a goldfish in its first week is pretty common—it even happened to my first goldfish. But it turns out that goldfish aren’t as helpless as we all think.

In fact, the incredible survival skills of goldfish have become something of an urban legend among those who know. One fish <a href="
“>survived for thirteen hours after jumping out of its tank, while another lived for seven hours on a stone floor (it was covered in fuzz when the owner picked it up). It turns out that when goldfish are in a low-oxygen environment, they can often slow down their bodies, much like hibernating bears in winter. When they’re returned to water their bodies speed up again, and they go right on swimming without batting an eyelid.

Sure, an animal that spends most of its time rolling in its own feces probably won’t be the next Einstein—but what most people don’t realize is that pigs are more intelligent than they look. They can even respond to a given name within one week of birth. Researchers have pitted pigs against human toddlers in joystick-controlled video games involving object recognition and manipulation. The pigs consistently perform better than toddlers.

If a pig (Spamela Anderson) notices that another pig (Magnum P.I.G.) is heading for a stash of food, Spamela will follow him to the stash and try to steal it. But Magnum isn’t a complete idiot—so if he realizes that Spamela is stronger than he is, he’ll try to ditch her or lead her to a fake stockpile. The pigs are showing a theory of mind—that is, the ability to understand what other animals are thinking or desiring, a talent previously observed only in chimpanzees and dogs.

Everyone knows that dogs are intelligent, but studies have found that they’re even smarter than we think. Researchers—in a test involving human toddlers, chimps, and dogs—showed the subject two upside-down buckets, one of which had a treat underneath it. 

The experimenter would then gesture at the correct bucket by variously tapping it, pointing at it, nodding his head towards it, and even remaining completely frozen while just looking at it. Chimps and toddlers were pretty bad at picking the correct bucket, but learned well after a period of trial and error. But the dogs consistently chose the correct bucket, succeeding four times as often as the chimps and twice as often as the toddlers. That’s right: Fido can understand you better than your own child.

Most mothers probably wish their husbands would help them out a little more. Whether the man of the house is working away from home or simply lazy, it would certainly be nice if he could chip in sometimes. Well, goat mothers are in luck—their husbands can grow udders and feed the children. 

It’s important to note that this is a fairly common occurrence, and has been well-documented. But it’s an udder mystery for scientists, who aren’t entirely sure why the functioning male goats have bonus lady parts. Guys, don’t you wish you could do that?

Scaly, hard-biting crocodiles are fast in the water and slow on land, right? But that’s wrong in two ways: First of all, they don’t actually have scales. The scaly appearance is actually the result of their skin cracking as they grow. Second, they’re actually pretty fast on land. They can move at speeds of more than ten miles (16km) per hour—and considering  that they don’t usually attack until their prey is very close indeed, that land speed is more than enough.

Most people also know that crocodiles are the top predator in their environment. But that’s probably because the other big animals they eat are herbivores like the water buffalo or the wild boar. What if they had to deal with a real fighter? Well, saltwater crocodiles have been observed taking down sharks. Yes, that’s even scarier than it should be. 

Of course animals understand death: they have to protect themselves and their young, and many of them kill other animals for food. But it would probably surprise you to know that several species actually hold “funerals” and observe mini-rituals when others die. Baboons, for example, show increased levels of stress hormones (as do humans) and will expand their social circles and interactions with others. A red fox has also been observed burying a deceased companion.

Elephants frequently guard the bodies of their dead—even if they were not related in life. If a western scrub jay sees a dead bird of the same species, it will investigate the body and call out so that other jays in the area hear the news. It might seem like they’re only warning their friends about the danger—but strangely, the birds also stopped eating for more than a day. Either animals are more like humans than we thought, or humans are more like animals; who’s to say?

This is what most people would think—especially concerning the animals that really pump out the babies, such as rabbits and mice. But both of those animals are surprisingly poetic when it comes to love-making: they even sing a kind of song as part of their mating rituals.

Rabbits—especially does—will make soft honking noises to let their mate know when they’re ready. Mice take things one step further, though, and actually sing to their mates. The sounds they make are ultrasonic (so humans can’t hear them), but when recorded and adjusted for human ears, they actually form a coherent song. The males will only sing these songs in the presence of females, or if they’re prompted with a female’s scent. So mice are a bit classier than the dirty sex machines we took them for.

This is usually true. Most river fish will either eat insects flying over the water, or any of the tasty-looking plant growth they encounter. 

But European catfish, in typical snooty fashion, are moving up in the world. They’re learning to hunt pigeons that come to the water to drink. They sidle right on up and then leap out of the water, chomping at a leg or wing. If they can grab one, they’ll attempt to drag the pigeon back into the water and drown it so that they can eat their meal in peace. Note to self: don’t go fishing in Europe.

Anything that lives in the desert is going to be drenched in sweat. When daily temperatures reach one hundred degrees Fahrenheit (38° Celsius), the only thing that doesn’t sweat is probably a robot—or a camel, as it turns out.

Most animals sweat to regulate their body temperature; when things get too warm, the body tries to cool itself down. But camels just let their body temperatures soar—all the way to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Their bodies have adapted to ignore the heat—because if you think about it, sweating depletes the most precious resource in the desert: water.

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10 Harsh Animal Parenting Techniques

We often hold animals up as examples of dedicated and selfless parenting. Animal mothers ferociously protect their young, sometimes standing up to predators much stronger than themselves. That’s not to say that all animals are gentle parents. In fact, some have pretty harsh parenting styles.

10 Burying Beetle


A burying beetle’s diet consists of the rotting carcasses of birds and small rodents. Once a carcass is found, a number of beetles will wage war over who gets to keep it. The strongest couple will usually prevail. They then bury the carcass and the female lays 10–30 eggs in the soil above it.

Burying beetles are among the few insect types where both parents take care of their young. This requires careful food rationing. The larvae are usually able to feed themselves but will often resort to “begging” for regurgitated food. With up to 30 kids screaming for their attention, it’s no wonder that the parent beetles occasionally snap. Greedy offspring get taught a harsh lesson—by being devoured. Consuming the most nagging larvae helps keeps the rest more honest about their dietary needs.

9 Rhesus Macaque


Rhesus macaques are easily recognizable by their red faces and brown fur. They hold the honor of being the first primates to ever go to space. Rhesus macaques usually live in large social groups called “troops.” They raise their children in an open, communal atmosphere of the troop. Just like us.

Unfortunately, they’re also just like us in a different way: Some rhesus macaques get physical when disciplining their children. Up to 10 percent of rhesus macaque mothers were seen scratching, biting, or dragging their children abusively, especially during the first months of the infants’ lives. These bouts of aggression are usually interchanged with long periods of normal care giving. (And, similar to humans, abused macaque babies were more likely to become abusers when they had children of their own.)

8 Tropical Skink


Tropical skinks are a type of lizard that (shockingly) live in the tropics. Females lay up to 13 eggs during the breeding period. There are many threats to a skink’s clutch of eggs, mostly from egg-eating snakes. Skinks typically attack the invading snakes in an attempt to protect their eggs, but if snakes begin to attack more frequently, the mother skink will use a curious strategy: She will eat her own unhatched eggs.

This move is reminiscent of “scorched Earth” tactics. The mother skink prevents predators from getting her eggs, while recycling egg materials, so that she can try again with a future brood. She is especially likely to resort to this strategy if she’s already carrying another clutch of eggs in her belly. While it makes good sense for the mother to wait on better times, the unborn skinks can’t be all too happy with this parenting approach.

7 Mustached Tamarin


Mustached tamarins are found in the Amazon. They’re black and have what looks like an upside-down white “heart” on their face. The heart resembles a mustache, hence the name. Despite their deceptively cute looks and small size, tamarin mothers aren’t always gentle and kind. If they believe that an infant has a low chance of survival, they may simply kill it to “cut their losses.” While it’s common for many animals to weed out the weaker babies, mustached tamarins were observed to do this in an especially gruesome way—by throwing their babies out of trees.

6 Harp Seal


Harp seals are named for the harp-shaped rings on their backs. Harp seal mothers give birth to a single pup in late February or March. She will protect, care for, and feed them—for about two weeks. After that, the mother says “enough is enough” and abandons the baby alone on ice.

Abandoned pups have to survive on their own fat reserves. They fast for around five weeks after being left alone and lose up to 10 kilograms (22 lbs) of body weight. Only then will they gradually start to feed on crustaceans and small fish. This parenting style ensures that the pups quickly develop the skills necessary to fend for themselves.

5 Guinea Fowl


Guinea fowl are indigenous to Africa but have been domesticated and bred as livestock elsewhere. The guinea fowl mom doesn’t seem to care much about the well-being of individual chicks. She will drag the flock through wet and cold grass and travel over long distances, expecting the rest to keep up. Because of this, a number of chicks die of getting too cold and wet. Others become exhausted on these long journeys and fall behind. For that reason, farmers are advised to use hen mothers to raise the young guinea fowl chicks.

4 Panda


Everybody loves the adorable panda. It’s the real-life equivalent of a Care Bear. Unfortunately, the panda population has long been considered endangered. A lot of effort is being put into helping pandas survive and breed. Yet panda mothers themselves are quite negligent parents. They often give birth to two cubs but only end up caring for one. Newborn panda cubs are extremely helpless, requiring their mom to properly hold and position them when nursing. Moms often fail to do this with one of their cubs. As if that wasn’t enough, panda moms are also known for accidentally crushing their newborns while sleeping. (If that isn’t a weight-loss wake-up call, we don’t know what is.)

3 Moose


The mother moose is the ultimate protective parent. During the first year of a calf’s life, she will guard it tirelessly. Anyone who gets between a moose mom and her calf is in for a world of hurt. But that all changes when mom is expecting a new calf. Once that happens, the mother moose will viciously chase away the calf she was protecting so diligently.

Naturally confused by this turn of events, the calf will attempt to rejoin its mother, only to be chased away again. The calf will then follow its mother at a distance. After a few days of rejection, the calf will finally give up and leave. Sure, any animal is forced to leave home eventually, right? The problem is that during all this confusion and mooning around at its mother, the young moose is quite vulnerable and may fall prey to a wolf or a bear. But if the calf survives, he learns independence quickly and begins to fend for himself.

2 Red Kangaroo


Red kangaroo mothers usually feed three different babies, called joeys, at the same time. These joeys are in three different stages of development. One is old enough to live outside the pouch but still needs mom’s milk. Another lives inside the pouch and gets fed there. The last is at an embryo stage inside the uterus. Talk about a multitasking mom!

Sadly, when droughts occur, mother kangaroos are forced to make a tough parenting decision. Unable to produce enough milk for all three, mom will stop feeding the oldest one, leaving him to his own devices. This usually means that the oldest joey doesn’t make it. While this approach seems ruthless, it allows kangaroos to raise a higher number of joeys far more efficiently than humans (also partly due to the fact that most humans don’t raise joeys).

1 Barnacle Goose


Barnacle geese are found in the northern regions of Greenland, Norway and Russia. In order to protect their eggs from predators—mainly arctic foxes and polar bears—barnacle geese build their nests on mountain cliffs. While this makes their offspring hard to reach, it presents another challenge: Vegetation that barnacle geese feed on is found at the bottom of these cliffs. Parents don’t bring food to their offspring, which means that baby goslings have to come down to feed.

But three-day-old goslings are unable to fly, so they are basically forced to perform “controlled” falls. They jump out of the nest and stumble down cliffs, often higher than 400 meters (1,400 ft). Many goslings don’t make it, and even if they do, there’s still a chance of them running into predators below.

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18 Things Every Awkward High Schooler Understands

1. You’re EXCELLENT at stalking your crush…

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2. …but not so great when it comes to actually talking to him.

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3. When your class is reading aloud paragraph by paragraph and you skip to yours so you can practice in your head.

4. When you have a presentation in front of the class and you’re freaking out the entire time…

5. …but then it gets pushed to the next day because everyone took too long.

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6. You always wear your best outfit on the one day that your crush is absent.

7. You absolutely dread walking in late to class because everyone feels the need to turn and look.

8. You’re really great at thinking of comebacks…six hours after the actual confrontation.

9. When you start daydreaming about getting your first kiss and you trip…in front of your crush.

10. The pain of needing to cough but not wanting to attract attention so you try to hold it in.

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11. When a teacher calls on you and you don’t know the answer and every. single. person. is staring at you.

12. Everything about gym class is actually horrifying…from the changing to your attempt at sports.

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13. You walk into the wrong classroom way more than you should.

Photo Credit: rburtzel via Compfight cc

14. You spend most of your conversations feeling like you’re annoying whoever you’re talking to.

15. Several times a day you start daydreaming in class and then you realize you’ve been creepily staring at someone the entire time.

16. The feeling of horror when the teacher asks you, specifically, to stay after class.

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17. But keep doing you, because deep down you know you’re charming, spectacular…

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18. …and SUPER cute!

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10 Bizarre Animal Facts

The natural world is a wild place; both ancient and ever evolving, there are no shortage of weird stories. For all we know about animals, we are constantly surprised by their ability to adapt and survive despite the costs. Even our house pets, subject to thousands of years of domestication, can harbor dark sides we’d rather not think about. Below are ten strange animal tales; from flying crocodiles to giant rats to a sexual predator of the sea.

Co Mammals Nine Banded Armadillo

Leprosy is a horrible, disfiguring disease largely confined to more ancient times. It is extremely rare in the United States, with just 150-250 yearly cases reported, mostly amongst those who have traveled to third world countries. But there is another bizarre vector for leprosy: the armadillo. The elusive, armored creature is native to the American south, where it is most likely to be seen as roadkill. But even in this age of fast food and frozen pizza, some people still eat armadillos, mostly in Louisiana and Texas. They’re taking their lives in their hands. While leprosy is treatable if caught early, often the damage is done before symptoms manifest. Humans and armadillos are the only two animals in the world that are known to have the disease.


Crocodiles are some of the most fearsome creatures on the planet, responsible for many human deaths throughout the world. They are even formidable enough to feast on adult lions who wander too close to the water’s edge. But few could ever imagine such a beast terrorizing them while flying in a plane thousands of feet from the earth’s surface. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened in 2010 on a flight in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The small passenger plane was flying its customary route between the capital city of Kinsasha and the Bandundu airport when the crocodile, which was being smuggled inside a passenger’s bag, broke loose. The stewardess fled toward the safety of the cockpit, with the passengers in tow. The commotion caused a catastrophic load imbalance on the plane that the pilots were unable to correct. The aircraft crashed into a house, killing the crew and 19 passengers. The crocodile survived. It was killed later with a machete blow to the head.

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There are few creatures on the planet as cute as the Giant panda. But you may have noticed that your local zoo doesn’t have any, and for good reason. The critically endangered panda is native only to a tiny section of China. They do not breed well in captivity, and there are only a couple hundred in zoos, with another 1,500–3,000 potentially living in the wild. All of the pandas in the world currently belong to China. Years ago, the country exercised what was called “panda diplomacy”, giving pandas as gifts to powerful allies such as the United States and Great Britain as a sign of good faith. Since 1984, however, the Chinese government will only lease the animals, at a cost of up to a million dollars a year. This fee, along with the enormous cost of maintaining the panda’s diet (it costs about five times more to feed a panda than it does an elephant) make it almost impossible for all but the largest and most profitable zoos to keep them.

Robot Jockey Camel

Although it lacks some of the high speed excitement found at the Kentucky Derby, camel racing has been popular in the Middle East for hundreds of years. In the past, jockeys were typically children (some barely more than toddlers), whose light weight allowed the camels to run faster. Today, robot jockeys are taking over. The robots are remote controlled; in one arm, they hold a whips, and the other controls the reins. Unfortunately, it has been reported that some racers use more devious methods to spur on their camels, such as electric shocks.


The Isle of Rum, off the west coast of Scotland, is home to only about 20 people. And some bloodthirsty deer. The diet of the Scottish Red Deer is the stuff of nightmares; they dine on the heads and limbs of baby seabirds. For some time, it was a mystery what was mutilating the Manx shearwater chicks of Rum, until the deer were observed chewing on them. It is believed this chilling adaptation has been adopted by the deer to make up for a mineral deficiency in their diet, the bones of the birds likely giving them some desperately needed calcium. The phenomenon remains under investigation.


The sea otter is another adorable creature, known to bob on its back in the ocean, clutching the hands of family members to keep them from floating away. They prey primarily on shellfish, using rocks to break them open. But like many animals, the sea otter has a dark side. The males have been known to confront baby harbor seals and attack them—biting into their faces, drowning them, and raping the bodies. Indeed, the otter mating ritual is amongst the most brutal in the animal kingdom, with many female losing their lives each year.


Global warming is a very real concern, with some environmentalists pointing toward some obviously imminent ecological disasters. Some effects are more unpredictable, such as the recent appearance of ‘grolar bears’ in the wild. In years past, the climate kept polar bears and brown bears somewhat separated; the polar bears kept far north, where they could hunt for seals from ice floes, while brown bears remained further south. But as winters have become markedly shorter and less cold, the polar bears are forced further and further from their original habitat in the pursuit of food. This has caused them to come into contact with brown bears, and actually mate. Scientists have asserted that these aren’t “chance encounters”, as both varieties of bear have an extended courtship ritual. In 2006, the first known wild grolar bear was shot in the Canadian Arctic. It is very difficult to determine how many such beasts might exist, but the continuing trend toward rising temperatures indicates many more will soon be born.


In 2007, NFL quarterback Michael Vick’s Bad Newz Kenels were raided, and dozens of pit bull terrier fighting dogs were seized. Evidence of incredible cruelty too depressing to recount was found on the scene. Both PETA and the Humane Society campaigned to have the dogs put to sleep. A public outpouring of support saved them, and a curious thing happened: when the killer Vick dogs were approached, most of them were found to be incredibly friendly. As their breed standard described, fighting dogs loved people. Of the 51 dogs rescued from Vick’s kennel, only 1 was destroyed for being too aggressive. Several are kept at sanctuaries or with experienced handlers to work through behavior issues, mostly fear due to minimal socialization. But then there are the success stories; six have earned Canine Good Citizen Awares, and some are even therapy dogs that visit cancer patients and help children practice their reading skills. Sadly enough, once Vick’s probation expired, he was able to get another dog.

Alligator Snapping Turtle

India’s Ganges River is sacred to those of the Hindu faith, with worshippers often bathing in its purifying waters. The problem is, the Ganges is actually one of the most foul and disgusting rivers in the world. In addition to industrial pollutants, it is used to dump human corpses as somewhat of a portal to heaven. Although the bodies are supposed to be burned, often the families do not have the means to properly cremate their loved ones, and partially burned carcasses are a common sight along the river’s banks. Each year, thousands of carnivorous turtles are released in the Ganges to help combat the problem. The turtles are born in captivity, and for their first year, they are fed a diet of nothing but dead flesh. This keeps them from attacking live bathers and only going after the bodies. It is estimated that a full grown turtle eats about a pound of meat a day.

Rats Drinking Milk

Nearly every big city in the world has its issue with rats, but the monsters that run the streets of Tehran are another thing entirely. The city is under siege from enormous sewer rats, some of which weigh over ten pounds. According to city council environment adviser Ismail Kahram, the rats are the result of a genetic mutation stemming from exposure to radiation. He said, “They are now bigger and look different. These are changes that normally take millions of years of evolution. They have jumped from 60 grams to five kilos, and cats are now smaller than them,” Some experts disagree, but no concise explanation has been given to just where the monster rats came from. The Iranian government has grown so desperate for a solution that they have employed snipers to roam the streets at night, picking off the giant vermin.

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