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20 strange animal facts for curious minds

by Caroline Décoste

The animal world is full of amazing creatures. Whether it’s giant panda fertility, wombat droppings, or mammals with toxic bites, these 20 strange animal facts will surprise you!

Giraffes hum

The peculiar morphology of a giraffe’s neck led many to believe that these animals could not make sounds. However, scientists at the University of Vienna have discovered that giraffes communicate by humming, specifically by emitting very low-frequency noise.

Koalas have fingerprints

Koalas are the only members of the marsupial family to have fingerprints, similar to gorillas and chimpanzees (primates). Scientists are still trying to explain this phenomenon.

Platypuses swim with their eyes closed

When platypuses go hunting underwater (primarily for molluscs, larvae, and fish eggs), they close their eyes and use their snouts to feel their way by touch.

Sloths digest food for a month

Because sloths have stomachs similar to those of ruminants, they take a long time to digest their meals. Foods that sloths eat regularly pass more quickly through their digestive systems, but rarely-eaten foods can take up to a month to digest.

Giant pandas have a unique mating ritual

Getting pandas in captivity to reproduce is notoriously difficult. In the wild, pandas have a very particular mating season. Not only is the female fertile for only one to three days a year, but she usually chooses her partner based on who she finds the most sexually attractive. Normally solitary, pandas stay together during the mating season, and both males and females mate with multiple partners.

Axolotls never reach adulthood

…or almost never. This Mexican salamander usually remains at the larval stage for its entire life, but can still reproduce. To reach maturity and live on land, it must receive hormones. That decreases the axolotl’s life expectancy by two-thirds, though!

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Magpies are self-aware

It was believed that only primates, primarily, could recognize themselves in a mirror. Magpies can not only recognize themselves, they can also distinguish between themselves and their reflections!

Orangutans are carpenters

These highly intelligent great apes build beds in the treetops. To construct a bed that will support its weight, an orangutan selects branches, cuts them, and weaves them together using a special technique.

Capuchin monkeys cover themselves with urine to seduce a mate

To display their social status and perhaps attract females, unattached male capuchin monkeys pee into their hands before covering themselves with urine.

Elephants are capable of empathy and comfort

The emotional intelligence of elephants never ceases to amaze humans. In addition to sensing fear and sadness in their fellow pachyderms, elephants offer comfort by gurgling, caressing, and putting their trunks in each other’s mouths!

Otters hold hands while sleeping

To avoid drifting apart while sleeping, sea otters within the same clan or family (mother and baby) sleep paw in paw. This behaviour also protects them from predator attacks. A group of hand-holding otters is called a raft.

Wombats have cubic excrement

While the end result is plain to see, the cause continues to fascinate scientists. Why do wombats have cubic poop? Intestinal grooves and a need to absorb all available water could be part of the answer.

Octopuses hit fish

Common reef octopuses (Octopus cyanea) and fish make good partners, but they’re not friends. While these creatures often work together when hunting along the sea floor, octopuses will sometimes throw punches with their tentacles to control a fish’s location or force it out of the group.

Prairie dogs kiss

When prairie dogs meet, they kiss, and not just as a sign of affection, but also to recognize each other and initiate grooming.

Armadillos always have litters of four identical babies

The nine-banded female armadillo almost always gives birth to genuinely identical quadruplets.

Bats give birth upside down

When giving birth, pregnant females of many bat species will grip the cave ceiling with their feet and catch their newborns with their wings just before the babies instinctively grab onto their mothers. Some species also form a group of mothers called a maternity roost.

Beluga whales go through menopause

Few animals go through menopause like humans. According to a recent discovery, only the beluga, killer whale, narwhal, and one other species of toothed whale seem to go through this stage.

Flamingos eat upside down

Flamingos get their bright feathers from their food, even if they eat it in a funny position. Because of their uniquely shaped beaks, flamingos turn their heads upside down to find food in the water.

Lorises produce venom that is toxic to humans

Native to the island of Borneo, the slow loris is the only primate known to secrete venom. Its very painful bite is not usually fatal to humans, unless it causes an allergic reaction (anaphylactic shock).

Jellyfish are immortal

Biologically speaking, Turritopsis dohrnii are immortal. This small jellyfish, measuring just half a centimetre (a quarter-inch) long, can return to the polyp stage when crises arise, such as injury or hunger. Polyp colonies give birth to jellyfish that are genetically identical to the original jellyfish — it’s an endless cycle!

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