Surprising Facts We Learned From The Animal Kingdom

The animal kingdom is full of surprises. Animals have evolved to perfectly suit their surroundings, from the way they communicate to the food that they eat to the way they find a mate.

Some animal behaviors are just downright wacky. Did you know that wombats have cube shapes poops? Keep reading to find out why. I promise it’s not because they have cube-shaped butts. Also, read on to find out which creature vomits by expelling its entire stomach.

Pigeons Can Detect Cancer

Pigeons can be trained to do some crazy things. Through some good ol’ classical conditioning, pigeons can learn to tell the difference between paintings by Pablo Picasso and paintings by Claude Monet.


Photo by David Mirzoeff/PA Images via Getty Images

Pigeons can also be trained to read histology slides and detect the presence of breast cancer cells about as well as the average pathologist. The next time you call someone a “bird brain,” you may want to rethink the meaning of that phrase. 


Sea Otters Have Super Dense Fur

GettyImages-639203590 sea otter esting in kelp bed.Enhydra lutris.Monterey Bay, California
Photo by: Francois Gohier/VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Sea otters hold hands while they sleep so they don’t drift away from each other. They also have the densest fur in the entire animal kingdom. That super thick fur helps keep them warm in frigid waters. These marine mammals don’t have blubber or a thick fat layer like seals and sea lions.

They have to constantly groom themselves to keep their fur in good condition. Otters also have little folds of skin under their armpits where they can store leftover bits of food. 


Wombats Poop Cubes

GettyImages-838287322 A wombat looks for food inside its enclave at John Morony Correctional Complex Wildlife Centre in Sydney
Photo by SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images

Wombat poop is cube shaped. That’s right, cubed poop. No, they don’t have a square shaped anus, but their intestines aren’t exactly perfectly cylindrical either. Their poop is square because of the wombat’s slow digestive process. Their scat becomes super dry and compacted, which is why it comes out looking oddly geometric.

Wombats are little marsupials from Australia. These little creatures are herbivores, which means that they like to snack on grass, plants, and seeds. 


An Ostrich’s Eyes Don’t Leave Much Room For Its Brain

GettyImages-1134805525 An ostrich is pictured in an enclosure at ostrich breeder Emmanuel Robert's breeding 'L'autruche rieuse' (The laughing ostrich) in Montmachoux
Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP/Getty Images

An ostrich eye is bigger than its brain. An ostrich’s eye is about the size of a billiard ball. The eye takes up so much room in an ostrich’s skull the there’s barely any room for a brain. That might be why ostriches aren’t very good at outsmarting predators.

They’re good at running quickly, but sometimes they end up running in a circle. Ok, maybe we can go back to using that “bird brain” insult.

Binturongs Smell Like Popcorn

GettyImages-548194131 Germany Berlin Lichtenberg - Binturong (Arctictis binturong) at zoo Tierpark Friedrichsfelde
Photo by Hohlfeld/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Bearcats (also known as binturongs) smell like buttered popcorn. These tree-dwelling mammals are native to South and Southeast Asia.

Their musk glands release a distinctive buttery and salty odor. This odor may exist to attract animals of the opposite sex, although it’s more likely that the pleasant smell (that actually comes from their urine) is a byproduct of other biological processes. If you have to smell like something, delicious buttered popcorn isn’t a bad choice. 


Baby Porcupines Get Their Quills Very Quickly

GettyImages-959712798 A baby porcupine is viewed at an exotic animal and wildlife rescue center
Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

Porcupine needles are only soft and pliable for the first 30 minutes of the porcupine’s life. Pretty soon after a baby porcupine has been born, its spines will begin to stiffen and become prickly. Within a few days, their quills are fully developed.

Those spines are the porcupine’s only defense against a world of predators. Little ones have to grow up and grow quills fast if they want to survive. You definitely don’t want to get in an angry porcupine’s way. 


Fifty Percent Of Orangutans Have Broken Bones

GettyImages-1153352186 baby orangutan seen playing in conservation, West Java, Indonesia
Photo cby Afriadi Hikmal / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Have you ever wondered how orangutans can swing around in the jungle so easily without getting injured? Well, they do get injured. Quite regularly, in fact. Around 50 percent of orangutans have fractured bones because they fall out of trees so often. Luckily, their bones can heal pretty well without medical intervention, and they can get right back to swinging.

Orangutans who live in captivity don’t get injured as often because they don’t have access to super tall trees.

Frogs Expell Their Stomachs Instead Of Vomiting

GettyImages-1149137141 A pond frog sits in the sun on a stone by a small pond.
Photo by Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

Frogs can’t vomit. If a frog has to vomit because it’s eaten something that it can’t digest, it will just vomit its entire stomach. This is called full gastric eversion.

After the stomach is expelled and emptied (the frog will use it’s front legs to remove food from the stomach hanging out of its mouth), the frog will tuck its stomach back into its body. This is a whole new kind of disgusting. Regular vomit might just be less gross. 


Giraffes Have Black Tongues

GettyImages-687980954 giraffe sticking its tongue out
Photo by: Mikel Bilbao/VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If you’ve ever seen a giraffe’s tongue, you’ve probably noticed that it’s very long and very dark. In fact, giraffes have black tongues. Some scientists think that giraffes have black tongues so they won’t get sunburnt while they’re eating from tall trees. Melanin (the pigment that makes skin darker) absorbs the sun’s UV rays so that DNA doesn’t have to.

That’s why you’ll never see a giraffe with a sunburnt tongue. They have built-in sun protection. 


Octopuses Have Three Hearts

GettyImages-929090744 a red and white octopus underwater
Photo by FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

An octopus has three hearts. Two of the hearts pump blood to their gills, while the third heart pumps blood to the rest of their body. Humans only have one heart, but our hearts have four chambers. The right side of our hearts pumps blood into our lungs, and the left side pumps blood into our bodies— so in a small way, we’re kind of like octopuses.

Octopuses also have a beak under their bodies in the middle of their mouths.

Tigers Have Striped Skin

GettyImages-1151854101 Siberian white tiger is seen at the
Photo by Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

Tiger’s don’t just have striped fur, they also have striped skin. A tiger’s stripes help disguise the outline of their body. The black stripes look like shadows as they pass through long grass while stalking prey.

Tigers usually prey on deer and wild boar. The striped pattern on their fur helps them blend in so they can sneak up on unsuspecting prey. A tiger’s stripes are like its fingerprint. No two tigers have the same stripe pattern. 


Butterflies Taste With Their Feet

GettyImages-1154611837 A Machaon (Papilio machaon) butterfly gather pollen from a lavender flower
Photo by ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images

Butterflies don’t have taste buds on their tongues, so they taste with their feet. Butterflies can’t really bite or chew. They mostly just suck up nectar from plants with their long tongues.

When they land on a plant, they use their feet to figure out if what they’re standing on is something they’d like to eat for lunch. We’re pretty lucky we don’t taste with our feet, though. so don’t have to know what the inside of our shoes tastes like. 


Vampire Bat Saliva Has Anticoagulant Properties

GettyImages-170486495 A bat, caught in a net for research. Oxapampa, Pasco, Peru
Photo by: Majority World/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Vampire bat saliva keeps blood from clotting. Vampire bats live off of the blood of other animals. When they bite an animal, they want that animal’s blood to flow freely. Luckily (for them), evolution gave them a neat adaptation.

Their saliva works as an anticoagulant. Anticoagulants stop blood cells from sticking together. That way the bats can drink blood to their hearts’ content. Who knew blood was so delicious? The bats certainly seem to like it.

Tortoises Come In Different Colors Depending On Where They’re From

GettyImages-1147161903 An Aldabra giant tortoise stands on its way from its winter quarters in an outdoor enclosure in the zoo
Photo by Sebastian Kahnert/picture alliance via Getty Images

Toirtises from hotter places are lighter in color. If you live in a cold climate, you’re probably used to seeing tortoises that are dark brown or even black in color. If you live in a warm climate, you’ll notice that the tortoises in your area (like the African spurred tortoise) are more of a light tan color.

That’s because light colors reflect heat and dark colors absorb it. Turtles in cold areas need all the help they can get to keep warm. 


Stingrays Never See Their Food

GettyImages-1064388258 stingray is seen on the seabed at the Samandag Cevlik Akcay diving site off the coasts of Samandag, near the Turkey - Syria border
Photo by Sebnem Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Stingrays never see what they eat. Their eyes are located on either side of their heads and their mouth is located underneath their bodies. Their sense of smell is much better than their sense of sight, though, so they use smell to find food.

Their undersides are white so that they blend in with the ocean’s surface, and their tops are darker so that predators attacking from above can’t see them against the ocean floor. 


Penguins Are Excellent At Co-Parenting

GettyImages-492757807 Gentoo penguin chick begging for food from one of its parents (Pygoscelis papua), Spheniscidae, east coast of Pebble Island
Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images

Penguin parents take turns sitting on their eggs. When the male penguin leaves the nest to find food, it’s often hard for them to find their way back to their partners. The male penguins will let out a scream that their female partners recognize.

Then the females will scream back so the males know where to go. Each penguin has a unique call that can be identified by other penguins amid all of the screaming. 


Llamas Bite Off Each Other’s Testicles During Mating Season

GettyImages-1138323923 Alpacas are standing on their pasture. At the alpaca farm in Saarbrücken
Photo by Oliver Dietze/picture alliance via Getty Images

llamas are quite competitive when it comes to mating. Male llamas will actually bite off the testicles of other male llamas to get rid of their competition.

I don’t think that kind of behavior would fly in the human dating scene, although it’s even surprising that it’s acceptable for llamas. I guess you just really don’t want to get in between a male llama and the lady llama he’s trying to make babies with. Stay safe, boys.

Hippos Have Red “Sweat”

GettyImages-1136248020 Hippopotamuses seen playing in National Zoological Park
Photo by Sanchit Khanna/ Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Hippos have red sweat that kind of looks like blood. This “blood sweat” doesn’t come from sweat glads, so it’s not actually sweat. The substance comes from mucous glands that are located all over the hippo’s body. The red mucus helps protect hippos from sunburn and it keeps their skin moist.

Imagine how much money you would save on sunscreen and moisturizer with that unique adaptation? You would constantly be red and slimy though, so maybe spending money on creams isn’t so bad. 


Horned Lizards Shoot Blood Out Of Their Eyes

GettyImages-1038690852 A desert horned lizard in a terrarium at the Wilhelma zoological/botanical gardens in Stuttgart, Germany
Photo by Lino Mirgeler/picture alliance via Getty Images

Speaking of blood-like substances, horned lizards can squirt actual blood from their eyes. When a horned lizard feels threatened by a predator, it can squirt a continuous stream of blood from its eyes as a defence mechanism. This is the stuff that horror movies are made of, people. Nature is full of spooky creatures.

Why blood? Why can’t these lizards squirt something nicer from their eyes, like rainbows or something? I guess that wouldn’t be very frightening. 


Killer Whales Can Learn New Languages

GettyImages-1004169276 An orca in Avacha Bay off Kamchatka Peninsula on Russia's Pacific coast
Photo by Yuri SmityukTASS via Getty Images

Killer whales can learn to speak dolphin. Each killer whale pod actually develops its own unique dialect. Killer whales from different groups don’t even speak the same language. However, scientists published a study in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America that revealed that when housed with dolphins, orcas were able to pick up the dolphins’ language.

Now we just need killer whales to learn to speak human languages. Now that would be surprising.

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