Armadillos swallow large quantities of air to inflate themselves into a balloon-like shape and float across water bodies.
The three-banded armadillo is the only one of its species that can form into a complete ball. Its shell is so hard that even dogs can’t break it.
When startled, armadillos jump 3-4 feet vertically into the air. This is the biggest cause of fatal accidents between cars and armadillos.
The nine-banded armadillo becomes mother to 4 genetically-identical quadruplets each time it gives birth. Why? It produces a single egg that divides into 4 equal and completely identical parts.
Armadillos are the only animals other than humans which can contract leprosy.
Armadillos are a delicacy in the United States. In fact, there’s a special dish called the Hoover Hog which locals in the southern United States make, using roadkill armadillo, fresh veggies and spices.
However, I strongly discourage you to try this dish, as it is one of the causes of leprosy transmission between armadillos and humans.
Minke whales have two V-shaped blow-holes on their heads. They can hold their breath up to 15 minutes.
Minke whales are very shy and typically swim alone. But they are also curious and can be spotted swimming up to ships and looking up at people.
The killer whale is the minke whale’s natural enemy.
Minke whale pregnancies last 11 months long and calves spend up to 5 years with their mothers.
Minke whales live up to 50 years of age.
Minke whales are the second smallest whales on the planet, measuring only 24 feet in length and weighing just under 4.3 metric tonnes. This is just a fraction of the world’s largest whale, the blue whale, which swims at 98 feet in length and weighs 180 metric tonnes.
Chevrotain are super small in size. The various sub-species of the mouse deer range in size between that of a Chihuahua and a Jack Russell Terrier.
Although they resemble deer and have mousey faces, the chevrotain are not related to either of the animals. In fact, they belong to a separate, mostly-extinct species called Tragulidae, of which they are the only surviving members.
They have very long and sharp fangs which they use during battle for territory and mates. Their bites can put even Dracula to shame.
Female chevrotain are pregnant for most of their adult lives. They mate and get pregnant within a few hours of giving birth.
Chevrotains walk down into the river bottom and remain submerged for up to 4 minutes at a time when they sense the presence of predators. They may also create secondary burrows for themselves underwater where they stay until the danger passes. To see what this is like, watch the video below.
The Bald Uakari are very unique to look at, with their completely hairless, red ballooned faces and extremely short tails. Their fur ranges from pure white to reddish-brown to orange.
Uakari have one of the most powerful jaws in primates and can cut open a hard Brazilian beetle nut with a quick bite.
Uakari females give birth just once every two years.
Uakari live in groups called ‘troops’ which can contain up to a 100 monkeys.
Uakari are considered vulnerable according to theIUCN Red List, due to extensive hunting by indigenous tribes in its native habitat of South America.
Uakari are very susceptible to malaria and often fall ill, which reduces the redness of their faces. Animals with paler red faces are rejected by potential mates as they indicate traces of ill health. This can be especially hard for Uakari who have never had the disease, but have pale faces due to genetics.
Okapi have tongues that are 30 cms long, which is approximately double the length of a standard television remote and three times the length of the average human tongue.
Okapi diet is as diverse as it is colourful. Okapi eat over 100 types of plants & fungi, red clay and charcoal. This type of diet ensures they get all the nutrients they need to be healthy.
New born okapi don’t poop until they are four to ten weeks old. Researchers believe this may be a tactic to avoid drawing predators through smell.
Mother okapi speak to their babies in infrasound, sounds that are too low for humans to hear.
Okapi release a black tar-like substance from their feet, which leaves marks when they walk. This could be a way of marking territory.
Okapi are extremely shy and live in secluded areas of the forest. Apart from calf-mother pairs, they seldom interact with any species, including their own. Till the time they were discovered in 1901 by British explorer Sir Harry Johnston, Okapi were called ‘African Unicorns’ because people thought they were a myth and didn’t really exist. It was only the indigenous tribes living in the Congo-Ugandan region who had occasionally seen the animals till then. Now they are found only in the Congo and are the country’s national animal.
Barn owls screech. In fact, other than the tawny owl that hoots, all owls screech.
Barn owls never make nests. Instead, they lay eggs on their own pellets and droppings.
Barn owls are monogamous pairs who breed only once in their life, laying up to 7 eggs. If food supplies are very high, they may brood again, but with a much smaller nest of 2-3 eggs.
Barn owl chicks are the only birds in the world who sacrifice their share of the food to feed siblings who have less to eat or are ill and need more.
Barn owls have the most sensitive hearing of all animals on the planet and can hear sounds between 0.5 to 10 kHz. They have lopsided ears, with one ear positioned higher than the other. This difference in placement means the birds can listen for the most minute sounds both from the air and the ground simultaneously.
Barn owls were voted Britain’s favourite farmland birds in 2017. It’s not uncommon to find artificial nest boxes in homes across Britain, that are created specifically to encourage barn owls to nest.
Bearded dragons get their name from the folds of skin underneath their throats, which when enlarged with an inhale of air, appears like human beards.
If a bearded dragon loses or breaks its teeth in a hunt, a new set grows back within days. But unlike other lizards, the broken tail of the bearded dragon never grows back.
Baby bearded dragons weigh only 2 grams at birth. That’s the same weight as 5 paperclips!
Bearded dragons can change the colour of their skins if they are stressed out or need to change their body temperature. Lighter colours like yellow are taken on when they need to cool their bodies and darker colours like black, when they need more warmth. Bearded dragons choose fiery colours like orange and red to scare-off predators.
Bearded dragons have a very unique way of showing their submissiveness to a dominant male. They repeatedly wave one of their legs in the air in a counter clockwise direction, while placing the other three firmly on the ground. Imagine them waving hello to someone and you’ll understand what this gesture looks like. But if you want to see it, visit the link here.
In hot and dry places, bearded dragons will open up the spines on their back and collect any water that falls as rain. They then store this water in their back and use it for hydration by licking their backs occasionally.
Video: Two-headed baby bearded dragon. This happens due to a genetic mutation that fuses the embryos together. (viewer discretion is advised)
Magpies are scared of shiny objects. That’s why it’s advisable to place shiny buttons, coins and glassware near plants to prevent the birds from wreaking havoc on them.
The magpies tail is as long as his body, making him one of the longest birds in the avian world.
They are the only species of birds that can recognise themselves in mirrors. In fact, they are one of the only non-mammalian species apart from ants and manta rays to have this ability.
Apart from self-recognition, magpies can recognise other animals by their faces. So, if you’ve ever had a magpie attack you when you’re out running/cycling, get ready for a lifetime of dislike. These birds form friendships and enemy-ships (is that a word?) that last a lifetime.
Unrelated magpie males help widowed females raise the chicks of another male with great gusto, even if it means the female may leave him in the end.
There’s an old superstition that says the number of magpies one sees in a day can predict if there is bad luck in store or not. In fact, a famous nursery rhyme claims origin from this superstition – One For Sorrow. Here it is:
Also called Little Blue Penguins (due to their blue-coloured feathers), Fairy Penguins are the smallest penguin species in the world, standing at 1 foot in height at adulthood. That’s around the same height as a 2-year old baby.
Fairy Penguins are the only penguins not found in Antarctica. They live in New Zealand, Australia, Chile and South Africa.
Fairy Penguins are monogamous during each breeding season and seldom mate with multiple partners during the same season. But once the chicks leave the nest, they may choose a different partner for the next season.
Although they aren’t on the endangered species list, survival of the Fairy Penguins is solely dependent on humans. If it weren’t for the protected lands set aside for them, native predators would have long made this penguin population extinct.
Fairy Penguins can be quite the gluttons, eating up to 2 kilograms of fish and krill a day. That’s a lot of food for birds their size.
Fairy Penguins moult every February to grow thick, new waterproof feathers. Since they won’t have any feathers at this time, they are trapped on land unable to swim and unable to hunt for food for a week. To overcome this, these penguins eat double the usual quantity and put on weight to survive the week of starvation.
Newly hatched fairy penguin chick at Cincinnati Zoo
Fruit flies can’t stand carbon dioxide. It makes them woozy and unfocused.
Fruit flies’ chromosomes look like barcodes.
Fruit flies have 100,000 neurons, which is a very high number for flies and it is this large brain matter that makes fruit flies so intelligent.
Fruit flies love their beer and males often get drunk on both alcohol and fruit. Female fruit flies have been observed rejecting males who get drunk often. (here’s an addition: humans like the same beer and wine as fruit flies…go figure)
Fruit flies enjoy sex as much as the human whose house they are in. Turns out sexually-deprived males go into depression and look for alcoholic drinks/food, while their sated counterparts steer clear of alcohol.
Fruit flies are a boon to science. They have a whopping 14,000 genes in their bodies (humans have 24,000…so that should tell you something) and extremely fast life cycles (fruit flies can mature from eggs to adults in as less as two weeks), which makes them perfect for genetic experimentations. In fact, fruit flies have contributed to 6 Nobel Prizes between 1933 & 2017.
So, what did fruit flies help us understand?
Role of chromosomes in heredity
Role of radiation in genetic mutation
Control of embryonic development through genetic experimentation
Ladybugs aren’t really bugs. They’re beetles – insects that chew solid food and have hard wings. In fact, they are (correctly) called Ladybird beetles in Europe.
When a ladybug is under threat of danger, it releases a yellowish liquid called hemolymph from its knees. This liquid has a truly horrendous smell which deters predators from attacking.
Ladybug moms lay two sets of eggs – one set which is hatched and the other set which acts as food for the new borns.
Not all ladybugs are darlings. One species, the harlequin ladybug, indiscriminately kills all insects it comes in contact with by infecting them with a deadly parasite called Nosema apis.
Ever had wine that tasted like peanuts or asparagus (shudder!)? This was probably the fault of a ladybug. Sometimes ladybugs that reside in vineyards are accidentally collected with the grapes and crushed in the machines that extract grape juice for wine. The hemolymph released by stressed-out ladybugs taints the wine and gives it a foul flavour.
Legend says that ladybugs first made an appearance in farms that were plagued by plant-eating insects, after farmers prayed to the Virgin Mary (The Lady of Sorrows) to release them from their sorrows. That’s where they get their name from – The Lady’s Bug. According to stories, the red colour of the ladybug represents the Virgin’s cloak and the seven polka dots, the seven sorrows.
What do French bulldogs, Scottish terriers, Clumber spaniels, German wirehaired pointers, Mastiffs and Pekingese have in common? 80% of their species are born via C-section!
Puppies are born blind and deaf at birth and only get their eyesight and hearing around the 7 week mark. They get their sense of smell at 3 weeks.
Puppy dog face is a real phenomenon. Research shows puppies deliberately make puppy eyes and cutesy expressions when they’re being watched by owners. This is a tactic to get attention, hugs and treats.
There are instances of identical twin pups, although they’re very rare. In 2016, an Irish wolfhound in South Africa delivered twin pups who shared the same placenta.
Puppies learn important lessons from other dogs and humans before 7 weeks of age. They must be introduced to humans and other animals by this age or they’ll never get over their fear of other creatures and become anti-social.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is training a Weimaraner pup named Riley to find and hunt pests that may damage irreplaceable artwork.
Cheetahs are super-fast and can reach 112 kms/hour in just 3 seconds. Top speeds have been recorded at 120 kms/hour in 3 seconds!
A cheetah’s body is designed to run. The thick rudder-like tail, muscular legs, non-retractable claws, flexible spine and wide chest make it the ultimate lean, mean running machine.
There are only 7100 cheetahs left in the wild. The cheetah is on the Endangered Species List and is considered extremely vulnerable to extinction.
Ancient Sumerians, Egypt’s King Tut and the Mughal emperor Akbar trained thousands of cheetahs as guards and hunters for their royal houses.
(But this didn’t mean they could keep up with the Cheetah during chases and hunts. Take a look at this video which pits two of the fastest creatures on the planet in a race against each other, to know what we mean)