Incredible Animal Facts You've Never Heard Before

By Jake Schroeder
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Photo Courtesy: skeeze/Pixabay

There are millions of different animal species on Earth, a large portion of which are still unknown to us. Even the ones that we know about still largely remain a mystery. Though we know they exist, we still have much to discover about their behaviors and anatomies.

Some of the things scientists have learned, however, seem too strange to be true. Get ready to learn some of the weirdest, wildest and coolest facts about animals.

Sea Otters Are Skilled at Using Tools

Using tools was once thought to be a uniquely human skill. But as it turns out, we’re not quite as special as we believed we were. Many species of animals around the world use tools to find and gain access to food.

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Photo Courtesy: skeeze/Pixabay

Among these intelligent species are chimpanzees, elephants, crows, dolphins and sea otters. Otters use rocks to break down the armor of their prey; they crack snail shells to reach the delicious meat inside. According to a study published in Biology Letters in 2017, scientists believe that sea otters have been using tools for millions of years.

Octopuses Have Three Hearts

You don’t have to peek at an octopus for more than a minute to realize how different its biology is compared to our own. At first glance, it looks almost alien — like it belongs on another planet, not in our oceans. And indeed, these creatures are just as strange on the inside as they look on the outside.

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Photo Courtesy: glucosala/Pixabay

Octopuses have three separate hearts. Two of them are used to bring blood to its gills. The third one pumps blood throughout the rest of its body. But that’s not even the weirdest thing about octopus anatomy; they also have nine brains!

Ravens Are Pranksters

Ravens give a whole new meaning to the expression "bird brain." They’ve gained a reputation for being one of the most intelligent species on the planet, bird or otherwise. Ravens are members of the corvid family, which is full of exceptionally smart birds like jays, magpies, crows and others.

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Photo Courtesy: Free-Photos/Pixabay

But just how smart are these animals? A study published in Animal Behavior found that ravens have the ability to deceive one another. The 2002 report recounted instances of the birds playing pranks on each other and teasing other animals.

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Orcas Can Speak Dolphin

Haven’t you always wanted to talk to animals? You may never become Dr. Dolittle, but orcas may be living your dream under the ocean waves. Killer whales have their own dialects that vary from group to group.

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Photo Courtesy: Schmid-Reportagen/Pixabay

It turns out these dialects are influenced by the orcas (and other animals) that they hang around with. One 2014 study in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America discovered that orcas can replicate the sounds dolphins make. Killer whales were housed with a group of bottlenose dolphins. Over time, the orcas learned the language of the dolphins.

Butterflies Taste Using Their Feet

Butterflies don’t have typical mouths like we (and other animals) do. Instead, they eat using a straw-like appendage called a proboscis. This allows them to drink the juice and nectar that they need to survive. But without mouths, how do they taste their foods?

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Photo Courtesy: PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay

Well, they taste with their feet, of course! When a butterfly lands on a plant, tiny sensors in its feet let it know if the plant it’s standing on is edible. Beyond that, the receptors in butterfly legs are 200 times stronger than human taste buds.

Zebra Stripes Are Natural Insect Repellents

Zebras are known for their unique black and white stripes, but until recently, scientists didn’t know why these markings existed. For a long time, people believed that zebra stripes served as camouflage, keeping them concealed from lions and other predators.

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Photo Courtesy: hbieser/Pixabay

Now, however, researchers believe the stripes serve multiple purposes. Zebras’ stripes may also act like natural insect repellent. The animals evolved their unique appearance to keep away horseflies, whose bites carry dangerous diseases. A 2012 report in the Journal of Experimental Biology found that zebras attracted far fewer horseflies than solid-colored black, brown, gray or white horses.

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Sloths Have Incredibly Slow Digestive Systems

Sloths are slow-moving in every sense. These animals sleep between 15 and 20 hours every day and spend most of their awake time eating. As herbivores, their diets consist mainly of leaves, shoots and buds, along with some small insects. Though eating takes up a minor part of their day, digestion is quite the opposite.

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Photo Courtesy: Myagi/Pixabay

Most sloths only have a single bowel movement per week. It can take up to a month for them to digest one leaf. Humans, on the other hand, take between 12 and 48 hours to eat food, digest it and eliminate waste.

Axolotls Can Regrow Body Parts

You may recognize these little cuties by their feathery horns and glassy, wide-set eyes. These salamanders live in the water permanently and are also known as "the walking fish." But did you know that they hold a secret superpower?

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Axolotls can regrow their limbs, skin, tails, jaws, spines, hearts and even parts of their brains. Though they may be able to regenerate, their power might not be able to save them; the species is listed on the critically endangered list. If we don’t act soon, we may lose these little wonders for good.

Elephants Have a Lot in Common With Humans

We may not look anything alike, but humans and elephants have more similarities than differences. Elephants live in complex societies, with one matriarch leading a family group. They also have many of the same maternal instincts, caring for their babies for much longer than other mammals do.

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Even the babies are similar; young elephants suck on their trunks to comfort themselves. They also mourn their dead, display empathy and have senses of humor. Elephants have very long memories and can remember meeting other elephants that they haven’t seen for many years.

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Snow Leopards Can’t Roar

Snow leopards are ferocious in many ways, but you wouldn’t know it from their noises. Unlike many other big cats, snow leopards can’t roar. Instead, they can only make a purr-like sound known as a chuff. This is because their vocal cords are less developed than other cats’.

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A 2010 study published in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society aimed to examine why some cats’ meows are higher-pitched than others. As it turns out, size has very little to do with the sounds that cats make. Instead, their meows and roars are determined by their environments.

Crocodiles Have a Long Lifespan

In appearance, crocodiles are the closest thing we have to dinosaurs in our modern age. Though these creatures may actually not be prehistoric, they can live for a very long time. Crocodiles have a lifespan of up to 100 years.

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Here are a few more terrifying facts about this beast of a reptile. Some species of crocs grow to be more than 20 feet long and weigh up to 2,000 pounds. Their jaws produce 5,000 pounds of pressure per square inch. (Human jaws produce around 100 pounds per square inch.) An estimated 1,000 people die from crocodile attacks every year.

Pigeons Can Count

Ravens aren’t the only smart birds flying around these days; pigeons are also surprisingly intelligent. One example of their intelligence is their ability to count and do basic math. According to one study published in the journal Science in 2011, pigeons can do math at the same level as monkeys.

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During the experiment, pigeons were presented with nine images, each one picturing a different number of objects. Scientists found that the birds arranged the images in order of how many objects each photo contained. By ranking the images from least to most, the pigeons showed their extraordinary ability to count.

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Koalas Sleep a Ton

Most people could learn a thing or two from koala bears. We walk around, constantly sleep-deprived, waiting for the weekend when we can finally turn off our alarm clocks and get some rest. Most adult humans don’t even get the recommended eight hours of sleep every night.

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Photo Courtesy: StockSnap/Pixabay

Koalas, on the other hand, sleep for the majority of their lives. They get between 18 and 22 hours of sleep a day. They need a lot of energy to digest their food, so frequent naps are a must. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

Horned Lizards Have a Crazy Defense Mechanism

Animals use all sorts of different techniques to protect themselves from predators. Some animals use camouflage to blend into their environments. Some live in hard shells that are difficult for predator teeth to penetrate. And others, like the horned lizard, squirt blood out of their eyes.

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Yes, you read that right. Horned lizards can shoot streams of blood a few feet away out of their eye sockets. This defense mechanism is meant to confuse and scare off potential predators. The blood also contains a chemical that’s particularly harmful to wolves, dogs and coyotes.

Deer Are Super Speedy

Never try to outrun a white-tailed deer; you’ll lose every time. These deer can run up to 35 miles per hour. On top of that, they’re also incredible jumpers. They can reach heights of seven feet from standing and up to 10 feet when running. Deer can even bound well, covering 30 feet in a single leap.

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While that may be amazing, white-tailed deer have nothing on reindeer. No, they can’t really fly, but they’re still impressive. Some reindeer can run at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour.

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Cats Know Their Names

However, they may not always choose to respond. House cats are very smart. But, they’re also very independent and don’t like to be told what to do. Your pet does, in fact, know that you’re calling its name. But whether it decides to come or not is entirely up to the animal itself.

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A study was published in Scientific Reports in early 2019. Throughout the experiment, researchers found that cats do know how to distinguish their own names, but they often choose to ignore them when they’re called.

Vampire Bats’ Saliva Prevents Blood From Clotting

Unlike their fictional namesakes, vampire bats don’t actually drink blood. They make small incisions with their teeth and lap up the blood as it drips out. This would be a rather short meal if it wasn’t for their spit.

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The saliva of vampire bats functions like an anticoagulant and prevents the other animal’s blood from clotting. This keeps the blood flowing so the bats can feed freely until they’re full. You don’t have anything to worry about, though. These bats rarely feed on humans (and it’s hardly noticeable if they do).

Reindeer Eyes Change Color

Much like the leaves of a maple tree, reindeer eye colors change with the seasons. As the weather gets colder and winter approaches, the arctic reindeer’s eyes shift from gold to blue. So what causes this weird and wonderful transformation?

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According to the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, this is a reaction to the extreme changes in the level of light in the region. The blue color impacts how light reflects through the animals’ retinas. It helps the reindeer to see better during winter when light is limited, allowing them to avoid predators and stay safe.

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Wombat Poop Is Shaped Like Cubes

Wombats are super adorable, but this isn’t their only claim to fame. What they’re possibly best known for is their unique bathroom habits. This may be one of the rarest skills in the animal kingdom; no other animal poops perfect cubes.

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Scientists believe that wombats use their droppings to mark their territory. They evolved to produce square feces because the droppings are more likely to stay in place than spherical ones are. Physiologically, researchers think that wombats’ ability to produce these strange droppings depends on the elasticity of their intestines.

Dolphins Have Names

No, we’re not talking about Flipper. Dolphins actually have unique names that they use to refer to each other. According to a 2013 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, bottlenose dolphins have specific whistles that they use for one another.

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Calling each other by name isn’t the only way these sea creatures show off their intelligence. Dolphins can also mimic human behavior, set traps and plan ahead. They also show signs of self-awareness and can recognize themselves in a mirror. This is why dolphins are often thought of as the smartest animals in the sea.

A Group of Ferrets Is Known as a Business

Picture a business of ferrets. We know what you’re imagining: a bunch of ferrets wearing suits and carrying briefcases, sitting behind computers and chatting about their weekend plans by the water cooler. While this may be adorable, it isn’t quite where the name originated.

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While no one knows when ferrets were first domesticated, they've been pets for hundreds of years. The term for a group of ferrets is a modernized version of the word "busyness," which was the word originally used. Of course, it’s much cuter to picture a company run by these weasel-like critters.

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Frogs Can’t Freeze to Death

Despite their small size, frogs are very tough and can survive in the most extreme of environments. Like many other animals, frogs hibernate during the winter. But how do they survive below-freezing temperatures without dying? They freeze themselves.

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Frogs’ blood is like antifreeze. When the temperature drops low enough, ice crystals form in a frog’s body cavity and under its skin. High levels of glucose in the blood prevent the vital organs from freezing. Its lungs and heart may stop working during the winter, but when its body thaws in spring, the organs start right up again.

Squirrels Adopt Orphaned Babies

Squirrels aren’t typically thought of as social animals. Unlike chimpanzees and lions that spend most of their lives surrounded by family, red squirrels tend to be very territorial and live in isolation. But as it turns out, a squirrel’s mothering instinct is as strong as other animals’.

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Photo Courtesy: NadiaTighe/Pixabay

In a 2010 study performed by the University of Guelph, researchers studied the habits of red squirrels. They found that the squirrels took in orphaned pups. But, they only adopted babies that were the offspring of their family members.

Cows Have BFFs

Animals have personal relationships much like humans do. Cows have strong social ties to the other animals that they spend their time with. Surprisingly, they may even have best friends. In 2013, researchers at the University of Northampton completed a study on the subject.

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Researchers studied the cortisol levels of cows when they were on their own, when they were with their BFFs and when they were with other cows they didn’t know. Researchers found that cows showed serious signs of stress when they were separated from their besties.

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Painted Turtles Have a Unique Winter Survival Tactic

Not everyone is lucky enough to travel south for the winter. But the cold, harsh weather can make survival difficult. Creatures must evolve and learn how to live through freezing winter conditions. Painted turtles have a particularly unique way of making it through the chill.

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Photo Courtesy: 631372/Pixabay

This species of reptile had to adapt to living in frozen ponds that cut off their access to the air above the ice. Painted turtles are still able to breathe through the use of their cloacas. Through a process called cloacal respiration, the turtles are capable of getting oxygen directly from the water surrounding them.

Some Worms Jump

In general, worms are creatures that deserve celebration. Earthworms aerate the soil, help plants grow and can help humans catch fish. For all they provide us, we should be grateful for the humble worm. But, that doesn’t change the fact that they can also be quite unsettling.

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And, the recently discovered jumping worm is like something out of a nightmare. Found mainly in the Midwest, this species of Amynthas worm jumps and writhes violently on the ground. When disturbed, these worms can also detach their own tails.

Tigers Have Striped Skin

As the largest of all the wild cats, tigers are truly incredible works of nature. In addition to giving them their distinct look, the tiger’s stripes also serve an incredible purpose. They break up the outline of their bodies and make it more difficult for other animals to see the big cats at night. This helps them to be even better hunters.

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Did you know it’s not just their fur that’s striped? Tigers actually have striped skin. And, every tiger’s stripes are unique, much like a human’s fingerprints. Who’d have thought stripes could be so fascinating?

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Dominant Giraffes Have Darker Spots

How important are giraffe spots? They can tell you a lot more about these long-necked animals than you think. Believe it or not, dark spots on a giraffe indicate that they’re dominant and prefer to be solitary.

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From one 2019 study in Animal Behavior, researchers have found that giraffes with lighter spots are much less dominant than those with darker spots. So, the next time you take a look at a giraffe, examine whether its spots are darker or lighter, and you’ll be able to tell which one is a loner and which one is a real party animal.

Octopuses Can Taste With Their Arms

Just how smart and dangerous are octopuses? These animals can travel up to 25 miles per hour, can camouflage their bodies and can use defensive ink squirts against predators. However, when they’re not escaping from jars, they’re tasting their next meal with their arms.

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Octopuses can taste, grab and devour their prey with the help of the suckers on their long, twisting arms. These limbs are not only flexible but are also incredibly powerful; made almost entirely of muscle, they’re known to be able to wrestle sharks and break plexiglass.

Slugs Have Four Noses

Did we say noses? We meant tiny, moving tentacles. And yes, there are four of them. A slug uses two of these tentacles to smell, and the other two are stalks that house their eyeballs on the top. Although these tentacles might look strange up close, they serve an important purpose.

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Photo Courtesy: Michel_van_der_Vegt/Pixabay

Two are smaller in size for smell, and the other larger two stalks house their eyeballs. Just remember — these tentacles shouldn’t be touched. Oil from your hands can harm the slug, and you don’t want this creature catching your scent and following you all the way home.

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