The world is full of weird surprises. Starting from nature to plants to animals, we barely know what we see. According to studies, our planet has about 8.7 million species of which we only know of approximately 1.2. The animal kingdom has been the most fascinating field of study since time immemorial. Many species came and evolved, while many got lost in the battle of survival in the course of evolution. Some animals even have dangerous and mysterious stories to tell. However, here we’ll throw light on 12 such lesser-known animal facts that will blow your mind for sure.
1. Dog’s eye muscles changed physiologically after they were domesticated. This anatomical change in them gave them such expressive and infant-like looks, unlike wolves, their closest relatives.
Who wouldn’t meltdown from an innocent puppy stare? Almost everyone, right? But surprisingly, these “puppy eyes” ain’t an accident, perhaps.
It’s more of an evolutionary trait that was left unnoticed for the longest time. A bunch of recent research proposed that the gradual change in dogs’ eye muscles since the time of domestication has resulted in such expressive traits.
Dr. Juliane Kaminski, a psychologist at the University of Portsmouth, U K and the co-author of the research work, reported that several centuries of human association changed the anatomical features of dogs’ eyebrows.
The changes led to facial gestures that ease out dogs’ communication with humans. Further, the research findings indicate that the eye muscle movement makes the dogs’ eyes look larger and baby-like.
In a report published in the National Academy of Science, Dr. Kaminski mentioned that this muscle development under the inner eyebrows was found missing in dogs’ immediate and non-domesticated variant, wolves. (source)
2. Crocodiles’ extraordinarily evolved metabolic system digests and stores everything they eat and helps them survive over a year without eating. They can turn off tissue activities for long periods during extreme conditions.
Talk about Darwin’s “survival of the fittest”, nothing but a crocodile fits the statement perfectly. If we look at the history of evolution, none of its ancestors could make it to the very present time. However, the crocodile ancestors had appeared around 200 million years ago on the Earth, and now it’s been over 80 million years that the current form of the species saw its existence.
Despite such prolonged existence and environmental changes, crocodiles manage to thrive as the most advanced reptile and a predominant being in their aquatic habitat. Including the uniquely designed jaw muscles and bony armor, crocodiles are blessed with an extraordinary metabolism.
Their metabolism is so advanced that they manage to process and use almost every bit of the food they eat. This feature allows them to survive over a year without consuming anything.
Besides that, during extreme environmental conditions crocodiles, can shut off their tissue activities. The ectothermic crocodiles heat their body from sunlight. Because of this, they need not feed themselves every day. That in turn helps save the energy that would be invested in searching for food. (source)
3. If a butterfly has ever landed on you, it is not because it likes you or because you look particularly like a flower. Actually, butterflies get attracted by the odor of your sweat and blood. But, their proboscis is so negligible that you don’t feel when they feed off you.
If you are one butterfly fascinator, then it’s high time to change your perception. They ain’t any benevolent souls. There are darker shades behind those brighter wings. And the beauty you behold is an absolute deception. Here are a couple of facts that are far from the fairytale!
If you ever happen to notice a butterfly landing on you, it’s not because they like your look or smell. To your surprise, it’s here to feed off you! Butterflies get attracted by the odor of your sweat and blood. They suck nutrients from your body surface that you hardly notice.
But, hold on! An even more disturbing fact is that certain butterfly species like the zebra longwing are cannibals in their caterpillar form. This means that they consume their own siblings.
Besides that, butterflies indulge in something termed as “pupal rape.” It’s when the female butterfly is in its chrysalis stage, and yet to emerge as a butterfly, the males crowd in clusters and fight each other to forcefully to mate with the pupa. (1, 2)
4. Meerkats are the most murderous animals on earth. Almost 20% of all meerkats die at the hands of another meerkat.
Meerkats, as we know, are the cute little mongoose from the wildlands of Africa. But there lies a tale of hostility and violence behind those wild stares. The kind of violence that we can relate to. Meerkats top the list of the most murderous mammals according to a recent study.
Jose Maria Gomez, a scholar from the University of Granada, Spain, in the Nature Journal reported about four million deaths by 1,024 mammal species. Among these reports revealed the fact that about 20% of the meerkat population die in the hands of fellow meerkats.
Such acts of murdering their own species often resemble human violence. Extensive studies showed that meerkat murders are mostly the result of inter-community violence.
Documentation in the Science Daily Journal reveals that meerkat females prevent their fellow female inhabitants from breeding and kill the progenies of the latter to retain their dominance. The kind of community violence is quite relatable to human society, isn’t it? (source)
5. Crabs may be able to intimidate other creatures with their claws, but if that’s not enough, ghost crabs will growl at their enemies like a dog. Unlike our canine friends, crabs make these fearsome noises using teeth located in their stomachs.
Crab…, the name is enough to give us bone-chilling visuals. The fear factor gets a notch higher if we tell you crabs can growl! Ghost crabs, or the Hawaiian beach crabs, are blessed with this extraordinary talent that can scare the bones out of you.
Along with the amazing quality of abruptly disappearing into the sand dunes, these crabs can make scary sounds by crushing the teeth inside their stomach. Now, a few crab species have teeth in their stomach to enhance digestion. But, what comes as a surprise is this unique feature of making noise right from the stomach.
However, they don’t growl for no reason. This is one of their unique defense mechanisms. They grind those stomach chew machines to make such horribly scratchy sounds every time they face a predator. Researchers tried to give it another perspective by identifying these stomach growls as a mode of communication. (source)
6. Llamas that are given too much attention by humans can suffer from a psychological disorder called “Berserk Llama Syndrome,” where the Llamas view their handlers as fellow llamas and actually become more violent and aggressive towards them.
The face of a llama appears to us as a portrayal of a calm yet happy state. We often characterize an innocent smile as a “Llama smile.” This is because a llama is one of the most widely accepted domestic creatures among the camelids. But all that looks pleasant isn’t a breeze.
While llamas appear as friendly domestics, there is a flip side too. Berserk Llama Syndrome indicates a rather dark side of raising a llama at home. This is a phenomenon or a psychological disorder especially observed in the llama species that are raised under human observation.
The syndrome occurs because of a prolonged dissociation of a llama child from its own community. The child doesn’t develop the ability to distinguish between humans and fellow llamas. They eventually end up showing dangerously hostile and aggressive behavior towards their handler.
During juvenile days such aggressive behavior seems cute, but the hostility reaches its peak while the llama grows to its breeding age. The behaviors include scratching, biting, chest-ramming, and at times, severely hurting their human foster parents. (source)