Truth is stranger than fiction, they say, and nowhere is this more true than in the natural world. Symbiotic pairs, camouflaged critters and color-changing animals are one thing, but what about exploding and raining animals? Oh yes, it happens. From the world’s weirdest team-ups to the most surreal self-detonating creatures on the planet, here are seven phenomenal wonders of the animal kingdom.
7) Symbiosis: Surprising Animal Team-Ups
Sure species work together, but they also work with other species in strange and unlikely ways. In the water, sharks hunt with sidekick fish, shrimp clean up eels and crabs use anemones as poisoned boxing gloves. In the air, some birds flit down to take scraps from the teeth of crocodiles while others sit comfortably on the backs of huge mammals from buffaloes to elephants. On the ground, keen-sighted zebras eat side-by-side with hearing-enhanced ostriches, each prepared to warn the other of danger.
6) Clever Camouflage and Colorful Animal Stealth
Animals adapt over time to their environments, some so much so that they begin to look like their surroundings – a helpful evolutionary advantage in the face of potential predators (or while stalking prey). There are octopi that blend in perfectly with sandy ocean floors, insects that look just like leaves and fish that resemble oceanic plants. There is even an octopus that can mimic nearly twenty other oceanic species to scare off attackers.
5) Color-Changing and Shape-Shifting Animals
Some animals require weeks to shift from one state to another while others can change color and even texture in a matter of hours or minutes. In some cases they blend in roughly with their surroundings while in others they are almost a carbon copy of what they are next to. Even when you are looking for them, some color-changers fit into their context so well you would never even see them at close range.
4) Cannibalistic Macabre Mate-Eating Animals
Scientists still do not know for sure what drives some animals to eat their mates. If they predominantly engaged in this behavior after mating one would assume they were getting sustenance for their newly-fertilized eggs – but most females attempt to eat the males even before mating. Scorpion males save themselves by stinging their partners into submission, mantises wait until a female has fed to approach her and spiders actually bring an offering of food in the hope that they themselves will not be the main course.
3) Group Builders and Animal Architects
Humans work together all the time to build incredible structures we could never have dreamed up, let alone construct, on our own – but some animal architecture is arguably even more impressive. There is a spider web built by a variety of species working together that spans much of a public park, an ant colony that extends for thousands of miles and birds nests built by entire flocks living together under one thatched roof.
2) Naturally and Artificially Exploding Animals
Yes, you read that right: some animals explode. In some cases they unfortunately have help – like the whale detonated to get it off a public beach or the tank-hunting suicide dogs from World War II. In other cases, though, it happens as a defense mechanism or the by-product of an unknown natural phenomena. One of the widest publicized cases of an exploding animal involved gaseous buildup inside of a giant whale being transported by truck down a busy city street – you do not want to see those pictures.
1) Raining Animals: Radical but Real
Raining animals … it sounds ridiculous, right? Nonetheless, it happens – albeit rarely. Fish, frogs and birds are the most common forms of animal rain. Sometimes the creatures land relatively unscathed but in others they are frozen or shredded to pieces. Theories vary in their details but generally it is assumed thatcertain kinds of strong winds lift up the animals with a volume of water (fish and frogs from ponds, for example) or sweep them out of the sky in the case of birds and then deposit them, often right before a major storm.