Humans communicate (with varying degrees of effectiveness) to connect with their fellow man and, even more fundamentally, to survive. Animals aren’t so different — they have their own ways to chit chat. However, unless you’re Dr. Dolittle, you might have a hard time breaking through the animal kingdom’s language barrier.
In fact, a lot of species’ behaviors continue to mystify researchers and scientists, despite years of study. While there’s likely a good explanation for these strange and sometimes seemingly supernatural behaviors, animals aren’t planning on sharing those any time soon — and it’s left the rest of us scratching our heads.
1. You’ve heard of fight or flight, but have you heard of fainting? Some breeds of goats are prone to passing out when they’re in distress. Their muscles freeze for a few seconds, often leaving them on their backs. It’s both sad and adorable.
2. Skunks aren’t known for their athletic prowess, but they are willing to pull out all the stops when it comes to survival. They do handstands to ward off prey! (Although, they may just be providing dinner and a show).
3. Cows like to stick together. If you ever see a herd of cows enjoying a meal, you’ll notice they always eat facing the same direction. Animal behaviorists do not yet have an explanation for this pattern, but it’s kind of sweet.
Farming Online / YouTube
4. Birds across the world exhibit “kamikaze” behaviors, where they dive beak first into windows and roads, killing them on impact. No one knows why, but it’s thought to be connected to reflective surfaces or light sources.
5. Vervet monkeys have been known to enjoy a drink or two. For centuries, they have been eating fermented cane sugar to get their buzz on. They have even been known to steal alcohol form tourists when given the chance!
6. As horrifying as it sounds, there are plants in the wild that are carnivorous! Pitcher plants usually eat insects, but they have been known to consume rodents and small birds if given the opportunity, Little Shop of Horrors-style.
JeremiahsCPs / Creative Commons
7. Elephants are known to be gentle giants, but they can actually have a mean streak. For reasons unknown, teenage elephants have had a habit of killing rhinos. Park rangers have created a “big brother” program where they assign an older elephant to guide the crazy teens.
Jan-Niklas Wedig / Kariega
8. In a phenomena scientists can’t explain, blue whales have been lowering their voices over the last 40 or so years. Their songs keep getting deeper, and experts have offered a few theories to explain it, including global warming and noise pollution.
National Geographic / Youtube
9. Zebra finches are very harsh critics of their partners. Apparently, when male mates are considered to be “less attractive,” the females lay larger eggs than they normally would to compensate with extra nutrients in case the ugly counterpart didn’t deliver.
10. Defense mechanisms are very common in nature, but the horned lizard has the most hardcore of all. If they feel threatened, these reptiles can squirt blood out of their eyes at will. Honestly, that’s a horrifying adaptation that would send anyone running the other way.
11. We might be further along on the evolutionary timeline than chimps, but we share some similar behaviors. Apes use human-like tactics to settle disputes, including battles that resemble war tactics and physical intimidation.
12. Naked mole rats are already visually vexing creatures, but they have some odd tics as well. Each has the ability to run backwards just as fast as it can run forward. Not to mention they are completely blind in the dark.
Liberty Science Center
13. Crows do not have a stellar reputation among the human community, but it turns out they don’t like us that much either. The have been known to hold grudges, remembering human faces they don’t like and acting repeatedly aggressive when they encounter them again.
14. Hippos would make horrible party guests. They have a truly gross way of showing their affection for a potential mate: they do this charming thing where they defecate and urinate at the same time. To each their own!
15. Obviously the rules of the animal kingdom are very different from those in the human world. But the Histiostoma murchiei, a female mite, takes it to a new, Freudian level. They lay their eggs without fertilization of a male…and then copulate with male offspring shortly before they die.
16. A wide variety of species, from reptiles to birds to dogs, have reportedly predicted weather events like earthquakes and hurricanes. Their sometimes-odd behavior preceding such an event proves they may be able to detect seismic movements.
17. Army ants are blind, and they rely on the smells of their fellow ants to make it back to the nest. Sometimes, when attempting to find their way home, a large group of them can get stuck in a loop and just march in circles until they die.
Amaze Labs / Youtube
18. The pistol shrimp may be small, but it can be very mighty. It has the ability to snap its claw so loudly that it generates the equivalent of a sonic boom. This temporarily stuns any prey that might go after this not-so-shrimpy shrimp.
Ozzy Delaney / Flickr
19. Much like humans trapped on a remote island, animals will eat anything to survive. Herbivores such as cow and sheep will become carnivores if need be and sometimes will even turn on their own kind.
20. Recent research has showed that parrots name their infants. Though these birds are famous for talking, parrot parents don’t dub their kids “Billy” or “Susan.” Instead, they assign a particular cry to each chick.
TJ Lin / Flickr
21. Chameleons’ tongues are extremely fast. They can go from zero to 60 miles an hour in a 100th of a second, so they only need 20 milliseconds to snatch their next meals. Their tongues can also be up to twice the length of their bodies.
Smarter Every Day / YouTube
22. The blue whale is the largest known mammal to ever exist. The largest recorded blue whale was 98.09 feet in length and weighed 173 tons. Their tongues alone are about 3 tons each, which is about twice the weight of a Toyota Camry.
23. Bats can range in weight anywhere from less than an ounce to several pounds. The bones in their legs and feet are so thin that even the smallest of bat’s legs are too weak to hold them up.
24. Just as humans have a dominant hand, either right or left, Elephants do, too. Well, they are either right-tusk or left-tusk dominant. You can tell which side they favor because one tusk will be more worn down than the other.
25. Hippopotamus sweat acts as a natural sunscreen. Initially, their sweat is clear and dries to a red-orange color, then to a brown color. Good thing! The sun in the sub-Saharan African terrain is extremely strong.
26. Cows “go to the bathroom” around 15 times per day. They also produce, on average, 65 pounds of manure per day — or 12 tons in a year! No wonder farms are so fragrant.
27. Elephant seals spend their days hunting in the deep sea. In fact, the deepest recorded elephant seal dive was to a whopping depth of 7,835 feet. They can hold their breathes for up to two hours while deep diving, and they’ll even stop blood from circulating to certain organs in the process.
Justin Hofman / Nature’s Best Photography
28. Dolphins can stay awake for about two weeks at a time. When a dolphin does need to recharge, it has the ability to let half of its brain go to sleep and keep the other half awake. This allows them to come up for air and be alert to impending predators.
Earth, Wind, and Daisies
29. Once a mother kangaroo is pregnant, she will give birth about 30-36 days after conception. The joey is born about 2 cm long — or about the size of a lima bean. Then, they crawl into their mother’s pouch and develop further for the next 9 months.
30. Homo sapiens have been around for about 200,000 years; meanwhile, the oldest known bee fossil was found in a mine in the Hukawng Valley of Myanmar (Burma), and is about 100 million years old.
31. It’s a common misconception that camels store water in their humps and that’s how they go long periods of time without water. In reality, on average, a camel can drink about 30 gallons of water in around 13 minutes.
32. A reindeer’s eyes will change color based on the season. During the summer months, their eyes are golden, but in the winter, they change to blue. This helps them see better during the dark Arctic days.
33. African buffaloes hold votes to determine which direction the herd should go. This is decided based on what direction the majority of the females in the heard are facing. That’s right: only the females are allowed to vote!
Living Like Water
34. Certain species of female dragonflies will actually freeze mid-flight and go crashing down to the ground in an effort to fake their own deaths. They do this because they are trying to avoid mating with certain males.
35. Starfish have the ability to regenerate lost limbs. They are known to rip off one of their appendages if they feel like they’re in danger. The original starfish will regrow its lost appendage, and the lost appendage will actually grow an entirely new starfish.
BBC / YouTube
36. Manatees regulate their buoyancy by using flatulence. The gas they naturally hold within them makes them float near the surface of the water. When they want to dive deeper, they will pass gas, which helps them sink.
Paul Nicklen / National Geographic Creative
37. The Turritopsis Dohrnii jellyfish can make itself younger. Once the jellyfish reaches maturity, it has the ability, under certain environmental stresses or threats, to revert back to its immature state.
Takashi Murai / The New York Times Syndicate / Redux
38. Koalas have fingerprints that are similar to humans’. They are so similar, in fact, that there have been reports of crime scene investigators collecting the animals’ fingerprints at the scene!
San Diego Zoo
39. Sloths spend the majority of their lives hanging upside down in the trees, and it can take up to 30 days for a sloth to digest a single leaf. Because of these two facts, sloths will only leave the trees to defecate about once a week.
40. Finally, Mantis shrimp are extremely strong for only being several inches long. They can throw a punch with the same speed as a rifle bullet and only needs three-thousandths of a second to hit its target. Don’t mess with the mantis shrimp.