For some animals, life is difficult—full of hostile environments and dangerous neighbors. In order to survive, many creatures have developed some head-scratching adaptations. Here are a few such evolutionary traits, ranging from the weird to the downright terrifying.
1. Maned wolf
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There are many unusual things in maned wolf. Known as the “fox on stilts,” it is the tallest of the canine species and does indeed look like a fox—although it is not actually a relative. It is believed that the wolf’s thin legs allow it to spy on the high grasslands of the savanna that it calls home. Its distinctive bark, called a roar-bark, is also quite different from any other species.
But his most unusual trait is the smell of his urine, which smells like marijuana. Curiously, scientists believe that this smell is attention of other maned wolves to keep out of their territory.
2. Peacock mantis shrimp
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Among the 400 species of mantis shrimp that exist, some evolved into a spearsome possess a hatchet-like appendage, and some—like the peacock mantis shrimp—opt for the good old-fashioned smashing technique.
This diminutive creature packs a huge punch. Although it only reaches about 7 inches in length, the mantis shrimp punch is known as the most powerful in the animal kingdom — rips through its prey with the force of a .22 caliber bullet. How the little creature doesn’t obliterate its own fist is due in part to a a network of natural shock absorbers below.
3. Black lemur
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On the island of Madagascar, black lemurs like to frolic – and their source is millipedes. Although these lemurs largely prefer to eat fruit, sometimes they can grab a millipede, eat it, and slather themselves with the toxin it sprays. That’s what scientists think the secretion acts as a form of natural pesticide, helping to keep unwanted beasts away. In the process, the lemur also gets his kicks.
While certainly unusual, black lemurs are not the only species to practice zoopharmacognosy—or self-medication. Many other species rub, chew or lick their path to health in different ways. However, not all of them are excited about it.
4. Fishing cat
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Most cat owners can attest that their furry feline friends are not very fond of water. But this is not true of cat fishing. This type of small cat, distributed in South Asia, is well adapted to a semi-aquatic life and lives in mangroves, swamps and river banks. Equipped with partially webbed front toes, the fishing cat is a strong swimmer.
He also sports a kind of “thermal underwear”, a short layer of fur under the fur that offers some amount of water resistance; this allows cats to spend their time hunting in water.
5. Crypt Guardian Wasp
(Courtesy of: Scott P. Egan, Kelly L. Weinersmith, Sean Liu, Ryan D. Ridenbaugh, Y. Miles Zhang, Andrew A. Forbes/CC BY-SA 4.0/Wikimedia Commons)
The evolutionary trait of the parasitic crypt keeper wasp is straight out of a horror show. The wasp lays its eggs in the hollows of oak trees, right next to those of other wasps such as Bassettia pallida.
The crypt keeper larvae then burrow into the bodies of Bassesttia hatchlings and, when it’s time to hatch, bar them from chewing their way out of what has become a tomb; scientists not sure how the crypt keeper accomplishes this a terrifying feat, although it is suspected to be a form of mind control. After the host is eaten, the young crypt guard wasp slowly emerges through the head of its victim.
Match the durability of tardigrade is hard. With an evolutionary timeline stretching back to the age of the dinosaurs, this tiny micro-animal – also known as the water bear – is known for its ability to survive in extreme conditions. With bodies less than 1 millimeter in size, these creatures can survive high doses of radiationfreezing conditions, extreme pressure and is launched into space.
They do this by entering a state of “thump” in which their bodies dry up and curl up into a small ball, entering a state of protective hibernation. Unfortunately, the little creature can’t take it high temperatures for an extended period of time from time. Still, the tardigrade probably accepts the ticket as the evolutionary equivalent of the titan.