10 Fascinating Facts About Animal Intelligence

Animals continue to amaze us by displaying types of intelligence we once thought were reserved for humans. So the next time your partner fakes it or someone steals behind your back, remember—the animals did it first.

10Chimpanzees Start Fashion Trends

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We humans often admire individuality. Paradoxically, we also make fun of people who don’t follow the latest fashion trends in our society. Maybe we share our copycat tendencies with chimpanzees.

According to a study published in Animal Cognition, the copycat behavior of chimps leads to new traditions that are often specific to only one group of the animals. It’s similar to a new fashion trend emerging in their society.

For example, one of the researchers observed a female chimp, Julie, repeatedly sticking a strawlike piece of grass in one or both of her ears. Over time, other chimps in Julie’s group copied her behavior. A couple of the animals continued putting grass in their ears even after Julie died. It’s like your uncle wearing his hair in a mullet after the 1980s died. Some chimps (and people) just can’t give up their traditions even when they go out of style.

The researchers concluded that the grass-in-the-ear behavior wasn’t a random event among the chimps. They actively learn from one another and continue behaviors they find rewarding, even after the originator dies.

9Dogs Remember The Scents Of People They Love Better Than The Scents Of Other Dogs

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One whiff of the cologne or perfume of someone we love may trigger an immediate emotional reaction in us. For dogs, with their heightened sense of smell, the reaction is even stronger. As published in the journal Behavioral Processes, researchers set out to see how dogs would respond to the scents of absent humans and dogs, both familiar and unfamiliar.

Twelve dogs of various breeds were each presented with five different scents while undergoing a magnetic resonance imaging scan of the brain. The scents were taken from the test dog itself, a dog and a human that lived in the same house as the test dog, an unfamiliar dog, and an unfamiliar human. None of the scent donors were present during the test.

All five scents caused a similar response in the areas of the brain that detect smells. But in the area of the brain associated with emotion, the dogs responded most positively to familiar humans—even more so than to familiar dogs. However, the reward response occurred only with familiar humans (i.e. the people the dogs loved). The researchers weren’t sure if that response was based on food, play, or other factors. They concluded that dogs remember us even when we’re not there.

8Songbirds Who Sing Less Have Better Memories

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According to researchers from Duke University, male song sparrows experience a trade-off between the number of songs they sing and the strength of their other mental abilities. Furthermore, female song sparrows may use this fact to judge the mental abilities of their potential mates.

The females may have good reason to be judgmental. When male song sparrows’ ability to solve food-finding puzzles is tested, the birds singing fewer songs learned to solve the puzzles the quickest. They remembered where the food was.

The researchers believe this shows that there’s a trade-off between learning songs and other mental abilities, such as spatial memory. Song learning and spatial learning are controlled by different areas of the bird’s brain. So as the song sparrow’s brain develops, if more resources are used to learn songs, there are fewer resources left for other mental abilities like spatial memory.

This doesn’t apply to all birds, though. For example, starlings that sang more songs were quicker at solving spatial puzzles.

7Monkeys Know When To Double Down—Or Do They?

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It’s well-known that humans often see patterns in random events, believing in winning and losing streaks when they gamble. Well, it turns out that monkeys love to gamble, too. So researchers from the University of Rochester decided to study three rhesus monkeys to see if they also share our belief in winning streaks.

The scientists designed a fast-paced, computerized game where each monkey would pick right or left and get a reward if they were correct. There were three types of play. Two had clear patterns of correct answers. The third was totally random.

In the types of play with patterns, the monkeys caught on to the correct answer quickly. But even in random play, the monkeys favored one side as though they expected a winning streak. This continued for weeks, with over 1,200 opportunities in each sequence.

The researchers believe this study shows that we humans have inherited our bias toward seeing patterns in random events. They think this behavior originally evolved to help our ancestors recognize real patterns to find food in the wild.

6Zebra Finches Fake It To Make It

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Unlike male song sparrows, zebra finches aren’t giving their potential mates the opportunity to judge. If a zebra finch is sick, it will fake being healthy in front of other zebra finches, especially if there’s a chance to mate. No word on what else they’re faking.

A review by a researcher from the University of Zurich found that same behavior to be true of other animals as well. From rodents to birds to monkeys, many animals will alter their behavior depending on their social situation. Usually, the animals will consume less and rest more when they’re sick. This protects the life-sustaining processes they need to fight infections and recover.

But in front of their young, possible mates, or intruders threatening their territories, the animals change their priorities and hide their illnesses. That behavior might seem amusing or clever—until you realize how these actions affect the detection and spread of diseases among both animals and humans.

5Fruit Flies Think Before They Act

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A fruit fly’s lifespan is usually less than 60 days. That’s not much time to develop advanced mental capabilities. But a study from Oxford University shows that fruit flies actually think before they act. They even take more time when making difficult decisions (although they obviously can’t take more than 60 days).

To begin their experiment, the researchers trained Drosophila fruit flies to avoid a particular concentration of an odor. Then the flies were placed in a narrow chamber. At one end was the odor concentration to be avoided; at the other end was a different concentration of the same odor.

When the odor concentrations were easy to distinguish, the fruit flies would quickly go to the correct end of the chamber almost every time. But when the concentrations were hard to tell apart, the fruit flies took much longer to decide, leading researchers to conclude that they were gathering information before making a decision.

The researchers were able to predict the fruit flies’ decision-making process with the same mathematical models used for humans and primates. This indicates a higher intelligence in fruit flies than was previously thought possible.

4Asian Elephants Comfort Others In Distress

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Consolation is rarely seen in animals, possibly because it may require empathy. But a study published in the journal PeerJ shows that Asian elephants will now join the select group of animals scientifically shown to display this behavior. Until now, the group has only included great apes, ravens and certain other corvids, and canines.

A group of 26 captive Asian elephants in Thailand was observed for over a year. When an elephant became stressed by something like a nearby dog or snake, its ears and tail would stand out and it might even emit a roar. When this happened, the researchers observed that other elephants would rush to the distressed one to offer physical and vocal comfort.

A consoling elephant tended to make a chirping sound, almost like it was calming a human baby with “shh.” The comforting elephant might also use its trunk to softly touch the distressed elephant’s face, or “hug” by putting its trunk in the distressed elephant’s mouth. Nearby elephants might also respond as a group to help. The researchers also hope to study wild elephants to see if they also demonstrate this consolation behavior.

3Wolves Are Better Copycats Than Dogs

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In a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists found that wolves observe and learn from each other much better than dogs do.

The scientists studied 14 wolves and 15 mongrel dogs, each approximately six months old. During the test, each animal watched a trained dog open a wooden box with its mouth or paw to get a food reward. Afterward, all the wolves, but only four of the dogs, were able to open the box. The wolves were also more likely to use the method they originally observed.

The scientists repeated the experiment nine months later to see if the animals’ age had been a factor. But it wasn’t. Next, the researchers tested whether wolves are better problem solvers than dogs. Each animal tried to open the box without seeing it done first by a trained dog. Most of the wolves couldn’t do it.

The researchers believe that wolves are more dependent on each other, so they copy each other more easily than dogs. The scientists suspect that it’s this behavior in wolves that formed the basis for the original social understanding between dogs and humans.

2Rats Have Memories Like Computers

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Like computers, rats have short-term, random-access memories that store information used in ongoing processes. Humans and crows also have these “working memories.” In humans, this allows us to store and process information to play games, solve mental arithmetic problems, and follow conversations.

Researchers at the International School for Advanced Studies were surprised to find this type of memory system in a mammal as simple as a rat. They found that the rats responded to vibrations with their whiskers much as humans would with their fingertips. The rats’ working memories helped them recognize and decide how to respond to these environmental stimuli. Without this type of RAM, rats wouldn’t be able to use their experiences to figure out the best course of action.

The researchers don’t yet know which part of a rat’s brain is responsible for working memory. Other researchers have identified the area in a crow’s endbrain that contains its working memory. Since a crow’s brain is structured differently from a mammal’s brain, this shows that the development of cognitive abilities is possible in different brain structures—including some much simpler than a human brain.

1Large Groups Of Lemurs Steal Food Behind Your Back

As an experiment in “social intelligence,” Duke University researchers tested whether lemurs from big tribes or small groups were more likely to steal food from a human’s plate when that person wasn’t watching.

In the first test, two humans sat with two plates of food. One faced the plate and the lemur as it entered the room. The other person turned his back on the plate and the lemur. In the second test, the humans sat in profile as the lemur entered the room. One person faced the plate, the other was turned away from the plate. In the third test, both humans wore black bands as they faced the plates. One person wore the band over his eyes, the other over his mouth.

Few of the lemurs understood the point of the black bands. But in the other tests, the lemurs from larger social groups were more likely than those from smaller groups to steal food behind a person’s back. The lemurs all had the same brain size. So this suggests that complex social intelligence in primates, including humans, evolved from living (and stealing) in large social groups, not from increased brain size.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2014/07/21/10-fascinating-facts-about-animal-intelligence/

Top 10 Ugliest Creatures

In this list I am talking about physical ugliness, not internal, so don’t even bother mentioning your most hated left or right wing politician or celebrity in the comments (I know you want to). The list does not include insects – they are a whole other level of ugliness! So, from the least ugly to the most revolting, natures 10 ugliest creatures.

10. Mata Mata

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The mata mata is a freshwater turtle found predominantly in South America, notably in the Amazon and Orinoco basins. The animal’s peculiar physical aspect distinguishes it from other members of its order. It is an animal highly skilled in hunting techniques. French naturalist, Pierre Barrère described it thus:

“large land turtle with spiky and ridged scales”. The mata mata is quite visually distinctive: its head is triangular, large, and extremely flattened, with many tubercles and flaps of skin, most notably a ‘horn’ on the nose. There are two barbels on the chin and two additional filamentous barbels at the jaw. The snout is long and tubular. The upper jaw is neither hooked nor notched.

9. Horseshoe Bat

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Horseshoe bats (the Rhinolophidae family) are a large family of bats including approximately 130 species grouped in 10 genera. All rhinolophids have leaf-like protuberances on their noses. In rhinolophines species, these take the shape of a horseshoe; in hipposiderine, they are leaf- or spear-like. They emit echolocation calls through these structures, which may serve to focus the sound. Most rhinolophids are dull brown or reddish brown in color. They vary in size from small to moderately large.

8. Star Nosed Mole

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The Star-nosed Mole is a small North American mole found in eastern Canada and the north-eastern United States. It lives in wet lowland areas and eats small invertebrates, aquatic insects, worms and molluscs. It is a good swimmer and can forage along the bottoms of streams and ponds. Like other moles, this animal digs shallow surface tunnels for foraging; often, these tunnels exit underwater. It is active day and night and remains active in winter, when it has been observed tunnelling through the snow and swimming in ice-covered streams.

7. Sloth

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Sloths are medium-sized mammals that live in Central and South America. Sloths are omnivores. They may eat insects, small lizards and carrion, but their diet consists mostly of buds, tender shoots, and leaves. Sloth fur also exhibits specialized functions: the outer hairs grow in a direction opposite from that of other mammals. In most mammals, hairs grow toward the extremities, but because sloths spend so much time with their legs above their bodies, their hairs grow away from the extremities in order to provide protection from the elements while the sloth hangs upside down.

6. Naked Mole Rat

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The Naked Mole Rat, also known as the Sand Puppy, or Desert Mole Rat, is a burrowing rodent native to parts of East Africa. Typical individuals are 8–10 cm long and weigh 30–35 g. Queens are larger and may weigh well over 50 g, the largest reaching 80 g. They are well-adapted for their underground existence. Their eyes are just narrow slits, and consequently their eyesight is poor. However, they are highly adapted to moving underground, and can move backwards as fast as they move forwards. Their large, protruding teeth are used to dig. Their lips are sealed just behind their teeth while digging to avoid filling their mouths with soil. Their legs are thin and short. They have little hair (hence the common name) and wrinkled pink or yellowish skin.

5. Axolotl

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The Axolotl (or ajolote) is the best-known of the Mexican neotenic mole salamanders belonging to the Tiger Salamander complex. Larvae of this species fail to undergo metamorphosis, so the adults remain aquatic and gilled. Their heads are wide, and their eyes are lidless. Their limbs are underdeveloped and possess long, thin digits. Axolotls have barely visible vestigial teeth which would have developed during metamorphosis. The primary method of feeding is by suction, during which their rakers interlock to close the gill slits. Axolotls have 4 different colours, 2 naturally occurring colours and 2 mutants. The 2 naturally occurring colours are wildtype (Varying shades of brown usually with spots) and melanoid (black). The 2 mutants colours are leucistic (pale pink with black eyes) and albino (golden, tan or pale pink with pink eyes).

4. tarsier

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Tarsiers are prosimian primates of the genus Tarsius. Tarsiers have enormous eyes and long feet. Their feet have extremely elongated tarsus bones, which is how they got their name. They are primarily insectivorous, and catch insects by jumping at them. They are also known to prey on birds and snakes. As they jump from tree to tree, tarsiers can catch even birds in motion. Tarsiers have never formed successful breeding colonies in captivity, and when caged, tarsiers have been known to injure and even kill themselves because of the stress.

3. Hagfish

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Despite their name, there is some debate about whether Hagfish are strictly fish, since they belong to a much more primitive lineage than any other group that is commonly defined fish. Hagfish are long, vermiform and can exude copious quantities of a sticky slime or mucus. When captured and held by the tail, they escape by secreting the fibrous slime, which turns into a thick and sticky gel when combined with water, and then cleaning off by tying themselves in an overhand knot which works its way from the head to the tail of the animal, scraping off the slime as it goes. Hagfish have elongated, ‘eel-like’ bodies, and paddle-like tails.

2. Aye-aye

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The Aye-aye is a native to Madagascar that combines rodent-like teeth with a long, thin middle finger to fill the same ecological niche as a woodpecker. The Aye-aye is the world’s largest nocturnal primate, and dwells predominantly in forest canopies. The adult Aye-aye has black or dark brown fur covered by white guard hairs at the neck. The tail is bushy and shaped like that of a squirrel. The Aye-aye’s face is also rodent-like, the shape of a raccoon’s, and houses bright, beady, luminous eyes. Its incisors are very large, and grow continuously throughout its lifespan.

1. blobfish

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The Blobfish inhabits the deep waters off the coasts of Australia and Tasmania. Due to the inaccessibility of its habitat, it’s rarely seen by humans. Blobfish are found at depths where the pressure is several dozens of times higher than at sea level. To remain buoyant, the flesh of the Blobfish is primarily a gelatinous mass with a density slightly less than water; which allows the fish to float above the sea floor without expending energy on swimming. The relative lack of muscle is not a disadvantage as it primarily swallows edible matter that floats by in front it.

Creature Data courtesy of Wikipedia

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Read more: http://listverse.com/2007/09/13/top-10-ugliest-creatures/

Top 10 Most Deadly Animals

This is a list of the 10 most deadly animals found on land and in water. While some may seem innocuous – especially number 1, they lead to millions of deaths every year. From least, to worst, the list:

10. Poison Dart Frog

The backs of the poison dart frog ooze a slimy neurotoxin that is meant to keep predators away. Each frog produces enough of the toxin to kill 10 humans, though, strangely, in captivity, the frogs do not secrete this poison. The frogs are brilliantly coloured and live mainly in Central and South America. [Wikipedia Article]


9. Cape Buffalo

Cape buffalos weigh 1.5 tons and, when faced by danger, attack head on with razor sharp horns. They stand up to 1.7 metres high and 2.8 metres long. Humans are virtually its only predator and even lions will avoid crossing their path. Every year the Cape Buffalo is known to maul and kill multiple humans; some believe that it kills more humans in Africa every year than any other creature. [Wikipedia Article]

8. Polar Bear

These massive creatures, native to the Arctic, regularly eat elephant seals and could cut off a human head with one swipe of its paw. The Polar Bear is the most carnivorous of all the Bears and will eat walruses, whales, rheindeer, and even other polar beers. [Wikipeida Article]

7. Elephant

African Elephants, with their sharp tusks, are not as friendly as many believe. They kill over 500 people per year (either by stomping or impaling). The African Elephant generally weighs in at 16 tons. [Wikipedia Article]

6. Saltwater Crocodile

This is the largest of all living reptiles and is found mainly in Northern Australia and Southeast Asia. A healthy adult is typically 4.8 – 7 metres (15.75ft – 21ft) long, weighing up to 1.6 tons. There have been reports of larger. This creature is capable of killing and eating animals up tot he size of a water buffalo. In its most deadly attack (called the Death Roll) the crocodile grabs an animal or human with its mouth and begins to roll. A 1ton stallion is known to have been killed by this method in under 1 minute. In the water, the crocodile can move as fast as a dolphin. [Wikipedia Article]

5. African Lion

The African Lion can reach up to half a ton. Lions are thought to kill up to 70 humans per year in Tanzania. These large animals are eclipsed in size only slightly by the tiger. [Wikipedia Article]

4. Great White Shark

This shark is an exceptionally large shark found in coastal waters in all major oceans. It can reach lengths of up to 6 metres and can weigh up to 5 tons. The Great White Shark is the worlds largest known predatory fish. It is the only surviving species of its genus. In general these creatures do not attack humans, and (while there have been some fatalities) the majority of attacks on humans are believed to be test bites – the Great White Shark are known to test bite other objects in order to determine what they are. More people are killed each year in the US by dogs than Great White Sharks in the last 100 years. [Wikipedia Article]

3. Box Jellyfish

Also known as the wasp jellyfish, this salad-bowl sized jellyfish can have up to 60 tentacles as long as 15 feet. Each tentacle has enough toxin to kill 50 humans. They are found in Australia, the Philippines, and many other tropical areas. Since 1884 at least 5,567 deaths have been attributed to these creatures. [Wikipedia Article]

2. Asian Cobra

While the Asian cobra does not have the deadliest venom, it does make the most of what it has, causing the largest chunk of the 50 thousand deaths by snakebite per year. An average cobra is about 1 metre in length. [Wikipedia Article]

1. The Mosquito

Due to malaria carrying parasites transferred by the mosquito, it is responsible for the deaths of more than two million people per year. In addition, Mosquitos are estimated to transfer diseases to more than 70 million people per year. Even in countries such as the UK, New Zealand, and Japan, where the more temperate climate has reduced mosquito bites to mostly an annoyance, they still cause some deaths every year. [Wikipedia Article]

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Read more: http://listverse.com/2007/07/13/top-10-most-deadly-animals/

Top 10 Bizarre Animal Mating Rituals

Here is a topic about the birds and the bees – as it relates to the animal kingdom. This is a selection of 10 of the most bizarre mating rituals known to man.

10. Red-Sided Garter Snakes

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These snakes are small and poisonous, and live in Canada and the Northwestern United States. Their highly unusual mating takes place during an enormous orgy. Hundreds snakes slither together in a large den, eager to copulate. In that pile, one female may have as many as 100 males vying for her. These ‘nesting balls’ grow as large as two feet high. Now and then a female is crushed under the heavy mound.

Interesting Fact: Some male garter snakes are able to release the same scent that females release, causing them to be mounted by hundreds of other snakes. Scientists believe this may be for warmth and protection.

9. Argonaut

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Argonauts exhibit extreme sexual dimorphism in size and lifespan. Females grow up to 10 cm and make shells up to 30 cm, while males rarely surpass 2 cm. The males only mate once in their short lifetime. The males lack the dorsal tentacles used by the females to create their eggcases. The males use a modified arm, the hectocotylus, to transfer sperm to the female. For fertilization, the arm is inserted into the female’s pallial cavity, then is detached from the male.

Interesting Fact: Argonauts are capable of altering their color. They can blend in with their surroundings to avoid predators.

8. Whiptail Lizard

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The whiptail lizard is an all-female species. It reproduces through a method called parthenogenesis. Each Whiptail lizard has an ovarian cycle of 21 to 28 days. When two are placed in a cage together, they synchronize their cycles so they are opposite. For 10 to 14 days, one of the females will act male, which means she mounts the other. The remaining Whiptail takes the female role by receiving; then they switch roles. This is unusual as neither is truly male. The resulting offspring of this method of mating is a perfect clone of its mother.

Interesting Fact: In the lab, through genetic manipulation, scientists have been able to artifically create true male whiptail lizards.

7. Anglerfish

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The Anglerfish has one of the most unique mating methods. When a male is born, it has no digestive system so it needs to find a female (all of which do have digestive systems) quickly. When it finds a suitable female, it latches on to the side of her by biting her and it releases an enzyme that melts her skin causing the two to fuse together. The male then wastes away and the female has a permanent supply of sperm to fertilize her eggs on demand.

Interesting Fact: The anglerfish is a culinary speciality in certain Asian countries. In Japan, each fish sells for as much as $150 USD.

6. Bedbug

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Bedbugs mate by “traumatic insemination” – what this means is that the male doesn’t even bother with the female sexual organs – it simply stabs the female with its own sword like sexual organ in any part of her body. Lovely. This form of mating is thought to have evolved as a way for males to overcome female mating resistance.

Interesting Fact: Bedbugs are generally active only at dawn, with a peak attack period about an hour before dawn.

5. Giant Panda

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Giant Pandas are famously difficult to get to mate in captivity – at least until some bright spark in China discovered that showing them panda porn seems to help increase their libido! In 1998 the result of showing panda porn lead to the population of pandas in Wolong zoo to more than double.

Interesting Fact: Two of President Theodore Roosevelt’s sons were the first Westerners to shoot a giant panda for sport.

4. Percula Clownfish

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The star fish in Finding Nemo is a clownfish. What most people don’t know, is that Nemo was neither a boy nor a girl – s/he was both! Clownfish can change gender! They will normally live together in a small group – the largest is the female, the second largest is the male, and the rest are non-mating males. If the female dies, the largest male will become the female, and the largest of the non-mating males will be promoted to the mating male.

Interesting Fact: Clownfish and damselfish are the only fish that can avoid the potent stings of an anemone.

3. Giraffe

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Female giraffes associate in groups of a dozen or so members, occasionally including a few younger males. Males tend to live in “bachelor” herds, with older males often leading solitary lives. Reproduction is polygamous, with a few older males impregnating all the fertile females in a herd. Male giraffes determine female fertility by nudging the females backside until she urinates in his mouth – he uses the taste to determine whether the female is in heat.

Interesting Fact: Giraffes have extremely long tongues – often up to 45cm.

2. Porcupine

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Female porcupines are only interested in sex for 8-12 hours per year. Interested males will stand on their hind legs and spray a female with urine. If she is ready and interested, she will expose her quill-less belly to the male and they will mate until they are both exhausted. if the male tires before the female, she will seek another male to take his place. If a female is not ready or interested in a male, she will make a screaming noise and shake the males urine off herself.

Interesting Fact: Porcupine meat is valued as a food for humans in parts of Africa, Italy, and Vietnam.

1. The Spotted Hyena

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Unlike most other hyenas, the female spotted hyena has a pseudo-penis (enlarged clitoris). Female hyenas give birth, copulate, and urinate through their protruding genitalia, which stretches to allow the male penis to enter for copulation, and it also stretches during birth. The anatomical position of the genitalia gives females total sexual control over who is allowed to mate with them. The female is also larger than the male. In the spotted hyena family, the female really does wear the pants.

Interesting Fact: Hyenas, unlike other canids, do not raise their leg when urinating.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2008/01/30/top-10-bizarre-animal-mating-rituals/

10 Truly Eccentric Organisms

Most species of organisms are unrecognized for their unique, versatile abilities, appearance and existence. When we think of organisms we often think of the typical dog, cat and other household pets. When we think of wild organisms, we think of zebras, lions, monkeys and other animals seen in habitats that are known for housing wild animals, like zoos. When thinking of aquatic organisms we think of jellyfish, goldfish, and sharks. We have become accustomed to a stereotype of the organisms that form each label of organisms; people are becoming ignorant to the variety and eccentricity of organisms we have among us today. This following list is of 10 eccentric organisms, showing the plethora of organisms within each species.

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Sea pigs are sea creatures closely related to sea cucumbers, belonging to the kingdom Animalia. These aquatic organisms are about four inches in length, and have 10 tentacles with tub like feet that are used not for swimming, but for marching along the ocean floor. Sea pigs are bottom feeders and detect food by scent; they remove organic particles from the mud with their deflating and inflating tentacles and eat the particles trapped in their tentacles. These sea creatures obtained their name from their pink-tint and chubby body, do not fall short of idiosyncrasy.

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The yeti crab was only discovered in 2005 by Marine biologists in the Pacific Ocean. This organism resembles the mythical organism yeti with its hair-like sinuous, and resides in the hydrothermal vents of the pacific ocean that protrude a toxic liquid that to the average organism would be deadly. This organism is not well-researched yet, but its albino-like eyes suggest that the organism may be blind and it is suspected to feed off of the toxic minerals from the hydrothermal vents.

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The viperfish, which can easily be recognized from the Disney film “Finding Nemo” with its hinged lower-jaw containing long stringy, pointy teeth, is a deepwater fish that lives in tropical and temperate waters. The viperfish varies from 12 to 24 inches in length and swims in depths from 250 to 5,000 feet. Although the viperfish is frightening in appearance, it is preyed on by sharks and even dolphins! This fish can live up to 40 years and holds the Guinness world record for largest teeth in comparison to head size in a fish.

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This marine crab is the biggest arthropod in the word in overall size containing eight legs. The Japanese spider crab is found about 150-800 meters deep off the southern coasts of the Japanese island Honshu and has a leg span of 3.6 meters. This crab can live up to a miraculous 100 years and are known to be calm animals. The Japanese spider crab feeds off animal carcasses, plants and shellfish; they could be considered the vulture of the sea.

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The giant isopod, a crustacean living in the Atlantic Ocean, is an alien-looking sea creature that exists in the pitch darkness of the bathypelagic zone in depths as deep as 7,020 feet. This interesting organism has stayed relatively the same for the past 130 million years! The giant isopod can be up to 14 inches in length and up to 30 inches in height and have four sets of jaws. The giant isopod is a scavenger that feeds with its four sets of jaws, on dead whales, fish, and squid. This organism has the ability to survive without food for more than eight weeks!

Chinese-Giant-Salamander

The Chinese giant salamander has stayed almost exactly the same in resemblance as its ancestors of 30 million years. This organism is the largest known salamander in existence and its habitats include mountain streams and lakes of China. This salamander can grow up to 73 inches in length and have lived up to 80 years at a time. The Giant Salamander does not have eyelids, and therefore has poor vision and rely on sensory nodes to detect possible vibrations made by predators. This amphibian has the ability to breathe through the pores and wrinkles in the skin and is mainly a nocturnal animal that hunts during the night feeding on crabs, crayfish, fish, frogs, insects, shrimps, snails and worms.

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This proteus, aquatic, snake-like amphibian is a blind organism that lives in the caves of the subterranean waters. The Olm is about 8-12 inches and the small fragile superior limbs contain three fingers and the inferior limbs containing two. The olm’s skin resembles the color and texture of humans and is sometimes recognized as the “human fish” for its skin. The olm has not only external gills but also has lungs that are rarely actually used during the respiratory process. Due to their eyes that lay deep beneath the dermis and only somewhat detect light, the olm is dependent on their acute sense of smell and hearing abilities to survive.

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The giant grenadier is the only member of the Albatrossia genus that is found along the north Pacific part of Japan to the Okhotsk and Bering seas. This fish can reach up to seven feet in length and has been proven to live up to at least 56 years-old. The Giant Grenadier feeds mainly on different species of squids, crabs, worms, shrimps and echinoderms and is well known for its frightening resemblance to snakes with its long pointy tail and its large eyes.

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This fish, also known as the oarfish is the longest bony fish in existence. It is found in depths from 300-1000 meters in any of the world’s oceans. The king of Herrings remains in deep waters and does not surface often; typically if it surfaces, it dies when doing so. This 16 foot long fish was first discovered washed up dead on the shore in Bermuda in 1860. It is believed by scientists that the great myth of a sea serpent could have branched off of a king of herrings sighting. Despite that, this organism is a fish, it does not have any scales and although frightening in size, is not a threat to the human race based on its small teeth and one dorsal fin.

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This cuddly creature is a domestic rabbit bred for long and soft wool. They originate from Angora, Turkey, are affable companions for those looking for a pet, and live up to seven years when well taken care of. There are five types of Angora rabbit breeds including English, German, Giant, French and Satin. The Angora rabbit can be up to 12 pounds and in spite of their large fluffy appearance, are very active creatures.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2012/02/11/10-truly-eccentric-organisms/

10 Bizarre Facts About The Duck-Billed Platypus

The duck-billed platypus has long enjoyed a role as nature’s jester. We all know this animal is funny-looking, but the bizarre facts of this strange creature’s life go far beyond its appearance. The platypus has some of the strangest attributes, habits, and anatomy of any animal. Clearly, the platypus was a practical joke played on us by God—and He’s still laughing.

10 Venom Spur

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On top of all the other strange things that make up this patchwork creation is a poison spur that the platypus can use for self-defense or aggression. This spur can easily kill small animals, including rival platypuses for mating, but it can also cause incredibly intense pain to fully grown human beings.

Scientific understanding of platypus venom isn’t concrete. We have no evidence that It can kill you, but it can definitely cause intense pain. An Australian man who once found himself on the receiving end of a platypus spur said a bullet would have been more enjoyable. After receiving the sting, he lost all use of his arm.

9 Initial Skepticism

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Human beings have been trolling since long before the Internet was a thing and would probably find our pranks lazy at best. You see, back in the day, naturalists liked to play a game where they stitched up different animal parts and tried to see if they could convince people it was a new species.

The duck-billed platypus was discovered at a time when this kind of global trolling was very popular. This caused most people at the time to believe the platypus to be an elaborate hoax. Many people were skeptical even after viewing a live specimen, refusing to believing their eyes.

8 Electrosensitivity

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Like many mammals, the platypus hunts for food, but it does things in its own uniquely freaky way. To begin with, these crepuscular little fellas do most of their hunting underwater despite being mammals. However, more strangely, platypus has no use for those common, everyday hunting senses like vision, hearing, and smell.

To seal itself off from water, the platypus shuts off all of those normal senses and finds prey based solely on electrical signals and mechanical waves that it picks up using its bill. This allows the platypus to create a perfect representation of its surroundings to find prey, all from its own watertight cocoon.

7 Monotremes

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The experts who first spotted the platypus considered it a mystery. Apart from looking like a Frankenstein’s monster patched together from discarded animal parts, it is also one of the few mammals that lay eggs. Humans, cows, and most other mammals give live birth, but this furry little abomination had to buck the trend and pop out its young in oval shells like some kind of rebel.

Other mammals laid eggs long ago, but the only one now left besides the platypus is the echidna. Scientists assigned them the exclusive “monotreme” category just so they’d have some way to classify the latest nightmare to come out of Australia.

6 Knuckle Walking

You’d think that the platypus, being a mammal with legs, would be meant for land. Actually, the animal’s very awkward outside of the water. The platypus has webbed feet, which are great for swimming and certainly increase its diving abilities. However, unfortunately for the platypus. this makes walking on land about half as energy efficient as swimming. The poor thing has to basically walk on its knuckles.

The platypus does have some nails it can extend, and it uses them to dig for food or shelter. In fact, despite hunting underwater, the platypus usually spends the majority of any day holed up nearby in a dry burrow.

5 Improvised Teeth

The platypus looks a fair bit like a furry beaver with webbed feet, but also has the bill of a duck. It looks like a carnival freak show; it was clearly dealt a difficult hand. But the platypus is always up for improving and making the best of the things. Despite the adults having no teeth whatsoever and often hunting food that requires a fair bit of breaking up, the platypus is doing just fine.

When the platypus stirs up the muck at the bottom of the river to scoop up prey, it will often grab up gravel with it. It then uses this gravel to help break the prey up into smaller chunks. Say what you will about how they look, but the platypus seems to be the first animal to invent dentures.

4 Unorthodox Breasts

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As you know, our favorite little rebel likes to do everything differently from its mammal brethren, and as this extends to feeding its young as well. Like all mammals, the platypus feeds milk to its young. However, the platypus doesn’t actually have teats at all and they aren’t a necessary part of the process for this little freak.

Females produce milk, but their mammary glands don’t protrude as nipples. Instead, the areolae act as “milk patches,” which secrete milk much like skin secretes sweat. The little monsters can then lap up the milk straight from their mother’s skin in some kind of odd, furry ritual offering to their heathen gods.

3 Precious Fur

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In the early 1900s, when we didn’t even know much about the platypus, people used to hunt them for their fur. The Platypus has a very thick, waterproof coat that proved quite popular in the fur trade. Hunters would stun the poor little beaver-duck hybrids by firing into the water and would then have their dog do the dirty work.

Unfortunately, the poor mutts would sometimes get poisoned by the wily platypuses, but the hunters still found the trade too profitable to abandon. Platypus fur was especially popular in rugs because its thickness actually made it hard to work into clothes.

The Australian government decided to clamp down on the practice, banning platypus hunting to protect it from destruction. As of right now, the species numbers arelooking just fine.

2 No Stomach

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The platypus has been dealing with the short end of the stick from evolution for a very long time and has no stomach for any guff from anyone. And we mean that quite literally, as the platypus has actually evolved out of the need for a stomach.

The stomach breaks down certain foods to aid in digestion, but the platypus just sort of has an intestine and esophagus that connect together. As far as scientists can tell, the platypus is definitely descended from species that had stomachs, but it somehow ended up without one. The best theory is that the diet it has become used to over the years didn’t include foods that required the usual complex digestion so the species simply stopped producing stomachs.

1The Plural War

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The biggest debate regarding the platypus has nothing at all to do with the creature and everything to do with its name.

Many people disagree on what the plural of “platypus” should be, and it can be very confusing. Some people insist that it is “platypi,” but this is incorrect. According to some sources the name is actually of Greek origin, which would mean that the correct plural would be “platypodes.” However, platypodes is a plural most people are likely unfamiliar with and would only make things more confusing.

“Platypus” or “platypuses” has become the primary correct way to pluralize this abomination in most dictionaries and is usually the best way to be understood. Just remember, if someone smugly corrects you saying it must be “platypi,” you can just as smugly tell them that they are mistaken.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2014/01/23/10-bizarre-facts-about-the-duck-billed-platypus/

10 Huge Prehistoric Cats

Before man became a hunter and made his way to the top of the food chain, the Felidae, or cats, were the most successful, powerful predators in most of the world. Even today, big cats such as tigers, lions, jaguars and leopards keep causing admiration and fear, but these magnificent beasts are dwarfed by some of their extinct relatives. I give you ten of prehistory’s largest, mightiest cats, some of which were seen by humans only a few thousand years ago.

Pardinensis

The Giant Cheetah (Acinonyx pardinensis), belonged to the same genus as our modern day Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), and probably looked very similar, but it was much bigger.

At around 120-150 kgs (265-331lbs), it was as large as an African lioness, and was able to take on larger prey than its delicate modern day counterpart.
The Giant Cheetah was also adapted to fast running, but there’s some debate on whether it could run as fast as the modern Cheetah, due to its larger weight, which, according to some, probably made it somewhat slower.

Others, however, have suggested that the Giant Cheetah, having longer legs and bigger heart and lungs, was probably able to run as fast, or even faster, than the cheetah does today – that’s over 115 kph (72mph)! The Giant Cheetah lived in Europe and Asia (from Germany and France to India and China) during the Pliocene and Pleistocene epochs; it went extinct during the last Ice Age. Due to its living in colder environments than modern day Cheetahs, it is possible that the Giant Cheetah had longer fur and perhaps a lighter coloration.

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Xenosmilus is a relative to Smilodon (the ever famous “sabertoothed tiger”), but instead of having long, blade-like fangs, it had shorter and thicker teeth. All of its teeth (not only the canines) had serrated edges to cut through flesh, and were more like the teeth of a shark or a carnivorous dinosaur, than the teeth of modern day cats.

Xenosmilus didn’t strangle its prey as modern day cats do; it only had to bite off a huge chunk of flesh from its victim, and wait until it bled to death. A Xenosmilus’ kill was much bloodier and messier than that of any big cat today!

Xenosmilus was a very big cat for today’s standards; at 180-230 kgs (397-507lbs), it was as big as most adult male lions and tigers, and was much more robust, with shorter, stronger limbs and a very powerful neck. The remains of this cat have been found in Florida, along with those of giant prehistoric peccaries (pig-like animals) which were seemingly its favorite meal. It lived during the Pleistocene period but no one knows exactly when it went extinct; whether it encountered (or ate) humans or not is anyone’s guess.

Jaguar Augusta

Jaguars today are rather smallish cats if compared to lions or tigers; they usually average 60-100 kgs (132-220lbs), and the largest males (recorded from South America) were around 150 kgs (330lbs), about the size of an African lioness. In prehistoric times, however, both North and South America were home to gigantic jaguars, belonging to the same species as modern day jags (Panthera onca) but much bigger.

These giant jaguars also had longer limbs and tails than jaguars living today; scientists believe that jaguars used to be open plain denizens, but that competition with American lions and other big cats forced them to adapt to more forested environments, where they developed their modern short-legged appearance.

Giant prehistoric jaguars were about the size of a fully grown lion or tiger, and were probably several times stronger, with a much stronger bite.

There are two subspecies of prehistoric giant jaguars known to date; Panthera onca augusta, from North America, and Panthera onca messembrina, from South America (also known as the Patagonian panther). Both of them were active during the Pleistocene period, but went extinct about 11.000 years ago, during the last Ice Age.

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Unlike the Giant Jaguar mentioned before, the European jaguar or Panthera gombaszoegensis did not belong to the same species as modern day jags. Nobody knows what the European Jaguar looked like; some scientists have suggested that it probably looked much like a modern day jaguar (hence the name), or perhaps, a cross between a lion and a jaguar. A fossil feline from Eastern Africa has been said to resemble the European jaguar, and described as having “tiger-like” features as well.

Regardless of its external appearance, it is obvious that it was a huge predator, weighing up to 210 kgs (463) or more, and probably at the top of the food chain in Europe, 1.5 million years ago. Its fossil remains have been found in Germany, France, England, Spain and the Netherlands.

Cave-Lion

The Cave lion was a gigantic subspecies of lion, weighing up to 300 kgs (661lbs) or more (and therefore, being as large as the Amur or Siberian tiger, the largest cat of our days).

It was one of the most dangerous and powerful predators during the last Ice Age in Europe, and there is evidence that it was feared, and perhaps worshiped, by prehistoric humans. Plenty of cave paintings and a few statuettes have been found depicting the Cave Lion. Interestingly, these show the animal as having no mane; barely a ruff around the neck sometimes, as in modern day tigers.

Confusingly, some cave paintings also show the Cave Lion as having faint stripes on its legs and tail. This has led some scientists to suggest that perhaps the Cave Lion was actually more related to the Tiger. Genetic studies on the ancient bones, however, have confirmed the original idea that the Cave Lion is, indeed, a lion after all – albeit, if cave artists are to be trusted, a very unusual looking one.

Homotherium

Also known as the “Scimitar cat”, Homotherium was one of the most successful felines in prehistoric times, being found in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. It adapted well to a variety of habitats, including the sub-arctic tundra and survived for five million years until its extinction 10,000 years ago.

Homotherium was seemingly a pack hunter, adapted to fast running and active mostly during day (thus avoiding competition with other, nocturnal predators). It had very long forelegs and shorter hind legs, which gave it a slightly hyena-like appearance. Although Homotherium is not very famous for its size, some fossil remains of a Scimitar cat unearthed recently in the North Sea suggest that they could reach 400 kgs (882lbs) in weight, being larger than modern day Siberian tigers.

If you are wondering what these enormous, pack-hunting cats ate, some paleontologists believe that they were quite skilled mammoth hunters, although their ability to run at high speed would allow them to chase after fleet-footed animals as well.

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Despite Smilodon’s fame as the classic “sabertooth tiger”, its short tail and different body proportions were very different from an actual tiger.

Machairodus, on the other hand, probably looked pretty much like a gigantic tiger with saberteeth; it had very tiger-like proportions and a long tail, although it is impossible to know if it had stripes, spots or any other kind of fur markings.

Machairodus is seldom mentioned as a giant feline, but some fossil remains found in Chad, Africa, (and classified as a new species, Machairodus kabir), suggest that this creature was among the largest cats of all times- weighing up to 490 (1080lbs) or perhaps 500 kgs (1102lbs), and being “the size of a horse”. It fed on elephants, rhinos and other large herbivores which were abundant at the time.

Machairodus kabir probably looked somewhat like the gigantic “sabertooth tiger” in the film 10.000 B.C, although sadly, it went extinct during the Miocene period, long before the appearance of humans.

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Often called the largest cat of all times, the American lion or Panthera atrox, is probably the best known of all prehistoric cats after Smilodon.

It lived in both North and South America (from Alaska to Peru) during the Pleistocene epoch, and went extinct 11,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age. Most scientists believe that the American Lion was a gigantic relative to modern lions, perhaps even belonging to the same species (in which case the correct name would be Panthera leo atrox).

However, others are not so sure, and suggest that the American lion, although closely related to the lion, was a separate species and probably looked quite different on the outside. Recently, it was suggested that the American lion was probably more similar to the jaguar.

One thing is certain; the American lion was the largest cat in North America during the Ice Age, weighing up to 470 (1036lbs), perhaps even 500 kgs (1102lbs), and being able to take on very large prey. There is still some debate about its hunting technique, for although modern day lions hunt in groups, American lion remains are scarce, suggesting that these cats were probably solitary hunters.

This would make sense if we consider that the North American Smilodon fatalis, a species of sabertooth, was seemingly a pack hunter. By hunting alone and preying on different animals, it may be that the American lion avoided competition with the sabertooth, explaining why both cats coexisted successfully for such a long time.

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This is easily the most obscure cat in the list, being known from fragmentary remains which have yet to be formally described. I should mention that the “Pleistocene tiger” is not a separate species, but rather the “early version” of the same tigers we see today. Tigers evolved somewhere in Asia about 2 million years ago, specifically to prey on the enormous diversity of large herbivores living on the continent at the time. Tigers are the largest felines nowadays, with large Bengal and Siberian males reaching up to 300 kgs (661lbs) or more.

However, during the Pleistocene, the food supply was greater, and so the tigers themselves were bigger. Some fragmentary remains (including massive jaws and fangs) have been found in Russia, China and Java, suggesting that these “Cave tigers” could reach up to 490 kgs (1080lbs) in weight, being worthy contenders for the title of largest cat ever.

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The ever popular “sabertooth tiger”, Smilodon is one of the most famous prehistoric predators, and also one of the most formidable.

There were at least three species living in both North and South America; the smallest species, Smilodon gracilis, was about the size of a modern day jaguar, while Smilodon fatalis was as big as a lion.

However, the South American species Smilodon populator dwarfed both of them, weighing 300 kgs (661lbs) on average and reaching up to 500 kgs (1102lbs) when fully grown!
Smilodon was not as agile as modern day big cats, but it was immensely powerful, with thicker, stronger limbs and neck than modern day cats, and particularly long claws to hold on to prey. Its fangs could reach 30 cms (12″) in length, and were perfect for causing mortal injury to mammoths, ground sloths and possibly any large animal unlucky enough to be ambushed by this super predator.

Smilodon went extinct 10,000 years ago, meaning it encountered humans, and probably hunted them once in a while. But perhaps the most amazing thing about Smilodon, is that it is the only prehistoric cat known to have caused the extinction of an entire species. The victim was another formidable predator, the saber-toothed marsupial or marsupial relative known as Thylacosmilus.

This beast ruled South America for millions of years, until the sea levels became lower and North America became connected to South America.

Smilodon, native to North America, made the journey to South America about 2 million years ago. Thylacosmilus disappeared practically at the same time, outcompeted, and perhaps even, hunted to extinction by the cat. In other words, Smilodon basically conquered an entire continent, driving its less adaptable competitors to extinction, therefore its place as #1 in this list.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2010/12/02/10-huge-prehistoric-cats/

10 Bizarre Extreme Record-Breaking Birds

Extremes, especially those of a bizarre nature are a subject of great interest to man. While many spectacular accounts detail human sports achievements or abilities, we will turn to the avian world to look at the most incredible traits, abilities and superpowers of the most extreme birds on Earth. In this fascinating account, we learn about the bird that can outperform a submarine, the fastest raptor on the planet, and the bird that can do a full barrel roll in flight.

The Peregrine Falcon is the fastest predator on the planet, bar none. Peregrine eyes are over 12 times as powerful as a human eye, and can spot a small bird up to 5 miles away. Once a bird is sighted, the peregrine folds its wings and enters an angle swoop in which speeds of over 300 kilometers per hour are reached. Unlike most birds of prey, the peregrine does not slow down or use its talons, but hits its prey at full speed, killing it with a blow from its keeled breast bone. Once known as the “duck hawk” Peregrines Falcons are actually more closely related to parrots than hawks and eagles according to leading research. Additionally, Peregrines have a keratin bill tooth to sever the spine of captured prey.

In general, raptors are the fiercest avian hunters, and most prey stand little chance against the fighter pilots of the natural world. However, in the process of evolution, four raptors have avoided competition by specializing in decidedly bizarre diets. European Honey Buzzard, for example uses its talons to empty beehives for the honey. As it is fond of adult wasps, this bird may place some of the meat in a tree and waits for a scout hornet to arrive. The Honey Buzzard then follows the hornet and proceeds to raid the wasp nest. While most kites swoop down after small birds, the rare Everglades Snail Kite feeds only upon Pomacea Apple Snails. Africa’s Palm Vulture is an eagle that feeds primarily on palm fruit, and finally, the Lammergeyer Vulture depends exclusively on bone marrow extracted from carcasses rather than the expected carrion.

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In the Aesop’s Fable account of a contest to find the highest flying bird, the Eagle appeared to win, until a hummingbird buried in the eagle’s feathers emerged and flew just above the great hunter. In fact, the Eagle is not the highest flying bird, and it loses the contest to a rather surprising winner. The highest flying regular migrant is the Bar-headed Goose, a large waterfowl native to Eurasia, with a migratory route taking it from arctic breeding grounds to the sub-tropical estuarine deltas where it winters. To clear the Himalayas, the Bar-headed Goose ascends to heights over 21,000 feet, and has been spotted from airliners gliding right over the peak of Mount Everest. Unprotected flight at such altitudes would kill most species without lengthy acclimatization, including humans.

Pengu

Penguins are famous for their almost human-like appearance as they step across beaches in Antarctica, Australia, Africa & the Galapagos Islands. However, the diving abilities of these ancient birds are no less than super-human. While a dive of around 200 feet is an achievement for most waterbirds, the Emperor Penguin is capable of diving to a shocking depth of over 1,500 feet thanks to an incredible twist of physiology that allows it to metabolize oxygen at a slower rate in dives than it would during rest. Additionally, the Emperor Penguin and its runner-up cousins have special adaptations that allow extremely low blood levels of oxygen that would kill a human in minutes to be tolerated by the brain. The male Emperor Penguin may also go without food for over 130 days during egg incubation.

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The smallest bird on the planet is the aptly named Bee Hummingbird from the remote rain forests of Cuba’s central mountains weighs in at a mere 2 grams, and 2 inches in length. A bird so tiny has an extreme metabolic rate and limited ability to process many foods. In order to survive, the bird forages on pollen grains, which provide the energy to sustain its 60 to 80 wing beats per second. Bee Hummingbirds are essentially predator-proof, having very few natural enemies due to their incredible speed and minute size. Many species of moths, spiders, and even the namesake bees are actually larger than this tiny feathered creature with a sharp bill and vertebrate intelligence.

We are familiar with the loud cries of gulls, crows and hawks, but the record for the loudest and most piercing bird call goes to a songbird. The Three-wattled Bellbird is native to South America’s rainforest regions, but its call appears starkly alien in this remote environment. Sounding like an industrial warning buzzer, the bird may be heard over 1 kilometer away. This species is a member of the Wattlebird family, named after a bizarre set of three fleshy tendrils that dangle from the bill like a creature from Pirates of the Caribbean. Wattlebirds are the noisiest species on the planet, and the bizarre three-wattle is among the noisiest of this elite group of racket-raisers.

When asked to name the most primitive living bird, flightless species such as Ostriches may come to mind. Actually, the most primitive living bird appears to be South American relict from the dinosaur era that has not only gained the abilities of flight, but retained reptilian claws on its forearms. The Hoatzin is a relative of the Cuckoo that inhabits riverside forests. When the young hatch, small claws extend from the wings, and are used by the young birds to climb among the trees as they feed on leaves. As adults, the claws disappear, but the birds continue feeding on leaves through their cow-like digestive systems in a marked departure from the protein rich diet of most modern birds.

Of all the birds living on Earth, it should come as no surprise that an eagle ranks at the top in the category of sheer strength and killing force. The Harpy Eagle of South America, named after the Greek winged spirit of theft and plundering crashes through the peaceful forest canopy with force of a charging leopard. The immensely powerful harpy seizes its monkey or sloth prey in its massive talons, which are the largest of any living bird. Pressures of over 500 pounds per square inch may be delivered by the talons, which are capable of breaking a human arm with a mere squeeze and piercing the shells of armadillos. Prey equal or greater in weight to the 22 pound eagle may be taken. By controlling middle predators that raid nests, such as monkeys, the Harpy actually protects many tropical bird species.

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The European Roller is in fact a bird, but a casual onlooker might very well mistake it for a small stunt plane. Native to Bavaria, Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, the “Roller” is named for its ability to pull off a full speed, 360 degree barrel roll in mid-flight. Resembling a starfighter in combat, the Roller twists its feathers in an opposing pattern to disrupt lift to the wings, causing the bird to flip and perform a complete rolling maneuver. The move shows off the male’s flying skills, and serves as a core part of the mating display. The birds may also perform the maneuver for apparent practice, or when hunting prey.

Red-Billed-Quelea

The field of ornithology and bird conservation is evolving as one of the leading aspects of natural science and wildlife protection. However, conservation is turned on its head when plagues of birds come into conflict with humans, presenting an Alfred Hitchcock like scenario in real life. Africa’s Red-billed Quelea, a “weaver finch” is known for building bizarre communal nests that may engulf entire trees. Over 1.5 billion birds have been counted, and a super swarm of close to 10 billion individuals is believed to exist. Descending on crops, these often too successful birds may strip fields bare within hours, leading to culling of millions of birds. These culls have no effect, and tragically, have resulted in the deaths of many rare waxbills that join the flocks.

Ron Harlan investigates of the mysteries of nature and the bizarre findings that often crop up on this planet. He is a freelance writer and student of science. Contact Ron for content writing services.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2013/06/13/10-bizarre-extreme-record-breaking-birds/

Top 10 Crazy Animal Facts You Don’t Know

As someone who loves nature trivia, I get very disappointed seeing the same 50 tidbits making the rounds on the internet like some greatest hits of the animal kingdom. Cheetahs are fast, hyenas are mean and everything in Australia wants to kill you. We know. So here are 10 random things in nature that I think you haven’t heard before.

Worlds-Heaviest-Bug-Weta1

Actually it isn’t blood at all, but rather something called hemolymph. It’s been somewhere between 500-600 million years since humans and insects shared a common ancestor, so it is no surprise that there are a few differences. Hemolymph is copper-based, rather than the iron that runs in our veins, giving it a blue or greenish tint when it is oxygenated.

It’s not used to carry oxygen, however, as respiration through the skin is adequate for an insect’s oxygen needs. This means they can have a much more relaxed circulatory system. Their hearts beat much less frequently than our own, and can even even enter a state of rest to conserve energy.

A New Zealand insect called the Weta has been popping up on a lot of list sites lately because of a protein in its hemolymph that prevents ice crystals from forming. This is actually not that uncommon, as many beetles, flies and bees possess the same trait.

Star Nosed Mole

One of the simplest ways to annoy a cat is to pet it the wrong way. If you were to somehow tame a mole and stroke it from tail to head, however, the mole wouldn’t mind at all. The individual hairs on a mole’s body are each embedded in a sack of fluid, allowing them to lay in any direction against the skin with no discomfort or resistance.

It’s a very practical adaptation. When you live your life in tunnels that are no bigger than your own body, sometimes you have to go straight backwards. That’s a lot easier to do when your fur is always streamlined for any directional change.

The softness of mole fur has not gone without notice throughout history, and I’m told they make lovely coats. Between that and their status as a pest in human society many species of mole are now threatened with extinction.

Bird-Drinking

I’ve seen a few websites over the years postulate that birds could do pretty well in a zero-gravity environment, and one even speculated that the only reason we’ve never taken them up is because of hygiene issues. I can tell you right now that could not be further from the truth. Well, except maybe for the hygiene thing, because… Ew.

The single most important reason birds can’t live in space is because most all of them can’t swallow, including the actual swallow. While birds are pro-regurgitators, they rely on gravity to get their food and drink down in the first place. That is why you see them dip their beaks in water then lift their heads to let it trickle down. If we were to take birds up to the ISS, they would more than likely die of dehydration, if not drown trying to drink.

On a side note, pigeons have been taken up on the ‘Vomit Comet’, which is the plane that flies in long parabolic arcs to simulate zero-gravity for short periods of time. They didn’t do too well with the whole flying thing, either.

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Bats are some of the most fascinating and well documented hunters in the animal kingdom, so being a nocturnal flying insect seems like it might as well be a death sentence. Turns out they are actually embroiled in an arms race 50 million years old. The major problem with echolocation is that the target knows you are coming as soon as you use it, just like in every submarine movie ever.

Many species of moths use this to their advantage, to the point where some of them can gauge the distance to their attacker and react with more urgency the closer they are. My favorite tactic is called “flight cessation”, otherwise known as falling.

Tiger moths take defense a step further by employing counter-measures. At nearly the last moment of the attack they will release a series of clicks in order to jam the bat’s sonar, causing them to miss as often as 4 out of 5 times in a recent study.

Axolotl-3-Best

The axolotl is a salamander-like animal that grows to around a foot long, give or take. It is completely aquatic, vegetarian, and lives anywhere from 10 to 15 years. While its cousin the tiger salamander looks a lot like it during its larval stage, the axolotl just never gets around to having its own metamorphosis into a full-fledged salamander.

What is really fascinating, though, is that it can. By using iodine to stimulate the thyroid, something it lacks the hormones to do itself, the axolotl can be forced into undergoing a transformation that the species abandoned somewhere along the way.

Unfortunately the axolotl’s only native habitat is in the waters around Mexico city. Pollution, invasive fish species, and the fact that they are apparently delicious has reduced their numbers to critically endangered levels. More now exist in home aquariums than in the wild. I personally think they’re adorable, but they still end up on every list of “ugliest things ever” on the internet.

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It is hard to look into the face of an owl and not think that sucker knows something you don’t. It does, actually, but that thing is how to kill and eat rodents with great efficiency and that’s about it. An owl’s eyes are quite large, but its skull… not so much. This leaves very little room for a brain that, while capable of processing very large amounts of optical data, just doesn’t have the power to do much critical thinking.

It is incredibly difficult to train them to do even the most rudimentary tasks. When Gary Gero, an owl trainer that worked on the Harry Potter movies, was asked where the term “wise old owl” came from, he replied with, “I don’t know who coined the phrase, but I certainly know it wasn’t an owl trainer.”

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Every saltwater fish tank had caulerpa taxifolia in it when I was a kid. It’s an impressively hearty and vibrant species of seaweed, which produces a toxin that makes it inedible to almost all aquatic life. This is great for certain species of tank fish that like to destroy your live decorations. So what happens when a fast-growing and poisonous plant happens to get into an ecosystem where it doesn’t belong? It gets dubbed “The Killer Algae”, and then tossed right onto the IUCN’s list of most invasive species in the world.

How it got into the Mediterranean Sea is as much a matter of debate as its effects, but it only took a decade for taxifolia to cover an estimated 30 square kilometers by the early 90′s. Some research implies that its introduction might even be overall positive, but the fact remains that many native species simply cannot coexist with it.

The saddest part is that the invasion was discovered early. Debate over whose fault it was prevented it from being dealt with, and now it may be too late to do anything more than watch what happens.

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On to an animal that is doing just fine. The hoatzin is a really neat looking bird that tastes awful and smells worse, which are very useful advantages for being left alone by humans. There are a few types of birds that hatch with some form of spurs or claws on their wings, but in hoatzin chicks they actually have a purpose.

The babies are active climbers, using the pair of claws on each wing for extra grip as they make their way around the trees. Falling? That’s okay, they can swim pretty well too. In fact the only thing they aren’t so good at is flying. A newborn will have to wait months before it’s developed enough to fly, and the adults are notoriously clumsy.

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Just because something has eight eyes doesn’t necessarily mean it has great eyesight. Field of vision isn’t the same as acuity. It isn’t really an issue for most spiders since they hunt by setting a trap and waiting, but not so in the case of more nomadic hunters like the jumping spider.

Only in recent years have researchers begun to understand how the jumping spider’s eyes actually work. The two primary eyes are incredibly complex. Even though the lenses are fixed, they are able to achieve some form of binocular vision by moving the retina around behind it. Those retina are composed of separate layers of light sensitive cells.

An image that’s in focus on one layer is out of focus on the one right above it, so by comparing the sharp image to the blurry one the spider is able to judge distance quite accurately. It does this so well that a Japanese company is currently attempting to apply the concept to a camera potentially capable of filming in 3D with a single lens.

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Siphonophores raise some really important philosophical questions about what makes an individual organism, but first I should probably explain what they are. The most famous example is the Portuguese man o’ war, which is often incorrectly classified as a jellyfish. Other notable members include the praya dubia which is one of the longest creatures we know of at an astounding 50-60 meters, and a recently discovered species of the Erenna genus that produces an extremely rare red bioluminescense.

The Siphonophore is composed of zooids, each a singular animal within the colony, which are specialized for certain tasks. These zooids are capable of performing their duties on their own to the benefit of the collective, but they must rely on others types of zooids to perform the functions they cannot. This doesn’t necessarily make them individuals. Despite all the things that separate from the rest of the colony, the entire siphonophore still grows from a single egg.

So are they one creature or many? That’s where it gets complicated. Zoom back far enough and it certainly looks and behaves as one animal, but the closer you examine it the more distinctive the pieces become. Because they hover right on the line between colonial and a complex multicelled organism the siphonophore may hold some very important clues as to how evolution could have bridged that gap. That, to me, is truly amazing.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2012/11/11/top-10-crazy-animal-facts-you-dont-know/

Top 10 Fratricidal Baby Animals

Life in the wild can be so brutal, that sometimes animals are forced to do terrible things to ensure survival. Cannibalism and infanticide are well known in many species, but perhaps the most disturbing cases are those of baby animals killing their siblings, sometimes moments after they are born! This is a list of ten species that start their lives as ruthless fratricides.

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Like most large birds of prey, Golden Eagles breed rarely, and usually lay only two eggs per nest. Often, one of the eggs hatches with a few days of advantage, and the firstborn chick starts being fed before its sibling is even born. Due to this, the firstborn grows bigger and stronger than the younger chick, and usually wins most squabbles for food. If food is very scarce, the younger chick can eventually become weak and is likely to die because of malnutrition.
But that’s not all; if food is extremely scarce, the ever-hungry firstborn will actively kill and devour its younger sibling in the nest, without its parents doing anything to prevent the fratricide.

This provides a valuable meal for the stronger chick, as well as reducing the workload for the adult eagles (it is always easier to feed one single chick than two). Scientists believe that up to 80% of all second born Golden Eagle chicks die like this. Fratricide has been reported in other kinds of raptors, such as the Bald Eagle, but it doesn’t seem to be as frequent as in Golden Eagles.

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Most large predatory mammals, such as big cats, are born with eyes closed and toothless; in other words, completely harmless. However, that’s not the case with African spotted hyenas. They are born with eyes open, alert and armed with sharp teeth, and start fighting each other at a surprisingly early age to establish their dominance; the larger cubs bite their weaker siblings brutally, and although adult hyenas may try to separate them, as soon as the babies are left alone in the communal burrows, they continue with their fighting; battles between hyena cubs can last for weeks.

Baby hyenas have even been known to dig smaller tunnels inside the burrow, and fight inside these tunnels, where their mother couldn’t possibly reach them.
In some cases, the weaker cubs die because of their injuries, but usually their fate is even worst; after being bullied so ruthlessly by the stronger cubs, they become so shy that they won’t even dare leave the burrow when their mother comes home to feed them. Eventually, they die of starvation inside the burrow.

Besides being a strategy for the stronger cubs (the future leaders of the hyena clan) to eliminate potential competitors, fratricide is also a natural way to regulate the population. Indeed, hyenas are the most abundant large predators in Africa, and other than lions, which kill some of them occasionally, they have no natural enemies at all.

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These predatory insects are famous because of their nightmarish sexual habits; the female often eats the male after sex, or even during sex, usually starting by biting off the unfortunate lover’s head. But these cannibalistic tendencies are not just an adult thing. Usually, a female mantis lays its eggs in a special egg case, and attaches it to a stem, leaf or branch. All 100 to 200 baby mantises hatch at the same time, and often their first meal is one of their siblings. This is more common when other small insects are scarce around the area where the baby mantises where born.

These insects are not the only fratricide invertebrates; baby spiders and scorpions have also been known to eat each other on occasion, and in the case of spiders, even the mother may join her babies for a same species snack, particularly if, as is often the case, she has fasted while guarding her eggs.

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Snowy egrets are noted for their beautiful, elegant appearance and flight, and they are seldom thought of as brutal animals. However, they are actually among the most prone to fratricide. Usually, female snowy egrets lay three eggs. However, there is a difference between the two first eggs and the third one; the first egg usually gets a high dose of hormones during development inside the mother’s body, and the same happens with the second egg. However, the third egg only gets half the dose of hormones, which leads to less aggressive behavior.

When food is scarce, the two older egret chicks often harass their younger sibling, which, being more passive, usually can’t defend itself and is eventually killed, either stabbed by the sharp bills of its siblings, or thrown out of the nest. This means more food for the murderous chicks.

It may seem strange that Snowy Egrets lay three eggs if only two chicks are to survive, but there is an explanation for this; if something happened to the two first eggs, or to the first born chicks during the first days, the third chick would serve as a replacement. As cruel as it may sound, the third Snowy Egret chick is just a spare.

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As do most amphibians, Tiger Salamanders start their lives as aquatic larvae or “tadpoles”. But they are unusual because their eggs can develop into two different kinds of tadpole. These are the so called “normal morph” and the “cannibal morph”. The cannibal morph has a larger head, bigger mouth and more developed teeth, and is larger than its normal siblings; usually, the cannibal morph appears only when the pond where the eggs were laid starts to dry up, or when food is scarce. They eat smaller tadpoles and develop more quickly as a result, metamorphosing earlier into adults. This clever, if brutal survival strategy allows Tiger Salamanders to successfully breed even when the circumstances are not the most idoneous.

The most amazing thing about these cannibalistic tiger salamanders is that they seem to recognize their siblings and will usually avoid killing them; instead, they go after unrelated tadpoles born in the same pond. They can even recognize their first cousins and avoid eating them as well! But if food is too scarce, they don’t mind gulping a few brothers or sisters, hence their inclusion in this list.

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Common Cuckoos are easily the most famous fratricides in the Animal Kingdom. However, they are special because they usually don’t kill their actual siblings, but rather their foster siblings. Adult female Cuckoos look a lot like Sparrowhawks (small but ferocious raptors that hunt smaller birds), which comes in handy to scare other birds away from their nest. While the nest is abandoned, the female Cuckoo quickly eats one of the eggs and replaces it with one of her own, then she flies away.

When the nest owners return, they don’t notice anything different and continue to care for their brood. But the baby Cuckoo will usually be born before the nest owner’s chicks do, and (still blind and featherless) it will immediately start pushing all other eggs or chicks out of the nest and into their death; this murderous behavior is seemingly not conscious, but rather caused by the Cuckoo’s sensitive skin which can’t bare contact with other objects in the nest.
If there are two Cuckoo chicks in one same nest, eventually one of them eliminates the other, but this is very rare.

Eventually, the foster parents, which can’t do anything to prevent the “crime”, have no choice but to start feeding the only remaining chick in the nest… the Cuckoo. It seems that the baby Cuckoo’s begging calls mimic those of a nest full of chicks of whatever species the host parents are; this makes the adult birds behave as if they were actually feeding many of their actual chicks, bringing plenty of food to feed the impostor, which soon grows to a monstrous size compared to its foster parents. And they keep feeding the Cuckoo until its ready to leave, and, if it’s a female, mate and continue the cycle.

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If you think the Common Cuckoo is bad, wait until you meet its slightly larger cousin, the Great Spotted Cuckoo, found in parts of Europe and Asia. The female Great Spotted Cuckoo often lays her egg (usually one but sometimes two) into a magpie’s nest. The baby Spotted Cuckoos don’t have the impulse to throw the other eggs and chicks out of the nest, but they usually develop faster than their unfortunate foster siblings, and they have huge, brightly colored gaping mouths which seem to be irresistible to the adult magpies. The result is that the magpies feed them more frequently than their own chicks. Eventually, the fast-growing Spotted Cuckoos leave the nest, but still demand to be fed by the magpies. This spells doom for the magpie chicks, which often die of starvation, abandoned in their own nest.

Why do magpies accept the Great Spotted Cuckoo’s eggs instead of just throwing them away? Scientists have discovered, much to their surprise, that adult Great Spotted Cuckoos will ruthlessly destroy all eggs or chicks of any magpie nest where the parents have thrown the Cuckoo egg away. In other words, it’s a Mafia-like system; the unfortunate magpies have no choice but to raise the Cuckoo chicks as their own if they don’t want all of their offspring to die. Although cruel, this is Nature’s way of controlling the magpie population, since magpies themselves often raid the nests of other birds and if they become too numerous, can cause great damage to other species.

Queen-And-Court

As everyone knows, Honey Bees live in colonies composed of one Queen, a few Drones (male bees whose only function is to fertilize the Queen), and Workers, which are sterile females and do basically all the hard work in the colony, from finding food, to producing honey, wax and a special substance called Royal Jelly which is produced by a special gland in the Worker’s head.

Royal Jelly is a highly nutritious food and is fed to the Queen and to all developing larvae in the colony. However, when the Queen starts growing old and its reproductive power diminishes, the Workers select a few larvae, take them to special cells away from the others and start feeding them with huge amounts of Royal Jelly. This causes them to develop into fertile Queen Bees. Once they reach a certain age, the future Queen Bees pupate (they build themselves a cocoon and undergo a metamorphosis into an adult bee).

However, there can only be one Queen in the colony, so the first Queen Bee to be born immediately finds the other Queens and stings them to death before they emerge. If two or more Queens emerge at the same time, there will be a vicious battle between them until one has killed all others. When this happens, the Worker bees will kill the old, original Queen and the new, young one will take its place. Life is not so sweet for a bee after all, is it? All bees in a colony are born from the same Queen and therefore siblings; that’s why they occupy #3 in this list.

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Copidomopsis floridanum is a parasitoid wasp, one of the most extreme examples of fratricide in the world. The adult wasp first finds a caterpillar and stings it, causing it to become completely paralyzed. Then, it injects two eggs into the caterpillar’s body; one of the eggs is male and one of the eggs female. But they don’t give rise to one brother and one sister. Instead, the eggs quickly “clone” themselves, in a process known as polyembryony, and soon the caterpillar is the still living, but completely impotent nursery to 200 male larvae, and over 1,200 female larvae.

Out of these females, around fifty grow larger than their siblings, developing huge jaws but no sexual organs. It was once thought that these “monster larvae” were supposed to be the guardians of their smaller, fertile siblings, which would eat the eggs of any other wasp that could try to inject its brood into the already occupied caterpillar.

However, it is now known that this is not the case; they actually seek and devour as many of their brothers as they can find. The reason they do this is because the male larvae will actually fertilize their sisters while inside the caterpillar, and only one or two males are enough to fertilize all the females. Therefore, by eliminating the surplus of males, the cannibalistic larvae ensure that there will be more food (the unfortunate caterpillar’s body tissues) for their fertile sisters, boosting their chances of survival. This is the only function of the cannibalistic larvae, since they are sterile and will never reproduce themselves.

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Known in Australia as Grey Nurse Sharks, these fierce-looking (if usually harmless to man) predators are #1 in this list with very good reason. Female Sand Tiger Sharks have two wombs, and each of them produces many eggs. The eggs hatch while still inside the womb, and the Sand Tiger embryos soon develop sharp teeth and start killing and eating their brothers and sisters and any unfertilized eggs in the womb, until there is only one embryo left alive in each womb.
As a result, the mother only gives birth to two pups (the last survivor of each womb), and since they fed abundantly in the womb, they are already quite big when they are born, around one meter long!

The Sand Tiger shark is therefore the only fratricide in this list that starts killing their siblings before being born; at the moment of its birth, it is already an experienced killer. This brutal survival strategy is known as intrauterine cannibalism, and was discovered in 1948 when a scientist, who was probing the womb of a Sand Tiger Shark, was bitten in one hand by one of the embryos! Although intrauterine cannibalism has been reported in other species of sharks, including the Great White Shark and even the Basking Shark (a placid, harmless plankton-eater as an adult), these feed only on unfertilized eggs while in the womb. The Sand Tiger Shark is the only shark known to cannibalize other embryos in the womb.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2010/09/04/top-10-fratricidal-baby-animals/