As much as you might be an expert on cats and dogs, there’s a lot more to the animal kingdom than most people realize. Creatures have all kinds of unusual traits and behaviors in their natural habitat, and this isn’t just limited to obscure species. Take these “friendly” birds, for instance.
Humans have been fascinated with penguins since they were first discovered, but with one big caveat. Upon revealing some of the species’ more disturbing activities, scientists were stunned to find publishers refusing to share their findings! Even today, most of us have no idea about the cold, cold truth about our favorite little waddlers.
Chances are you’ll never visit Antarctica — the cell service down there is terrible. But if you did decide to take the frigid trip, you likely would see a number of penguins. They’re cute and cuddly creatures, you tell yourself. Then you find out the hard truth.
Movies and TV taught us that these birds are as friendly as could be. They’ve danced with Jim Carrey and marched along the Arctic landscape to Morgan Freeman’s soothing voice. However, there’s a lot about penguins not fit for family entertainment.
Upon a closer look, penguins are cruel, sadistic, and just plain weird. There’s a good reason why the general public isn’t aware of this avian depravity. They were misled from the very start.
Between 1910 and 1913, Robert Scott led a British expedition through Antarctica. Though their ultimate goal was to be the first men in the Western world to reach the South Pole, they documented the other wonders they found along the way.
The scientists aboard took meticulous notes on the local flora and fauna. Though the frigid landscape wasn’t exactly teeming with life, the colonies of Adélie penguins caught their attention. The explorers had never seen animals quite like them.
The most careful observer of the penguins was George Murray Levick, a naval surgeon who was one of the few men to survive the disastrous Arctic trek. Once he was back home, he compiled a book based on his findings.
He fondly recalled, “The Adélie penguin gives you the impression of a very smart little man in an evening dress suit, so absolutely immaculate is he, with his shimmering white front and black back and shoulders.”
That description made it into mainstream society. When publishers read Levick’s paper titled, “Sexual Habits of the Adélie Penguin,” however, they refused to print it. Although the author swore every word of it was true, the penguins turned out to be completely obscene.
Even today, a myth persists that penguins are compassionate creatures that mate for life. In reality, modern ornithologists’ reports corroborate with Levick’s horrific descriptions. When it comes to breeding, penguins are nothing short of monsters.
The males of this species are far from romantic. Rather than stick to their so-called life partner, they frequently engage in orgies, often involving members of the same sex. This free-wheeling debauchery is only the tip of the iceberg.
When it comes to mating, male penguins will get involved with just about anything. They’ve been spotted trying to copulate with corpses of other penguins and even the ground itself. Needless to say, these encounters don’t produce too many chicks.
Twitter / Mission Blue
Researchers have tested the limits of how far male penguins will go, and the results are pretty astonishing. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to convince them to try and breed under the most ridiculous circumstances.
In one case, a scientist found a frozen penguin head, which he drew big eyes on and set upon a rock. It wasn’t long before a throng of actual live penguins attempted to get it on with this crude scarecrow.
At the same time, female penguins aren’t exactly saints, either. Ornithologists found they constantly have flings with various members of their colony. And their behavior only gets more despicable when it comes to the next generation.
All animals feel the urge to reproduce, but mother penguins play dirty. Desperate to grow their family, they will actually kidnap another female’s chicks in many cases. Every trick is on the table, even if it means fighting other moms to the death.
BBC Wildlife Magazine
Accounting for all of these jaw-dropping acts of wickedness, it seems that these animals are more like the Gotham City version of The Penguin than actual birds. So why is their sinister reputation kept under wraps?
After the Scott Expedition, publishers figured that Levick’s graphic description of penguins’ sex lives would offend delicate Victorian sensibilities. And even today, most people don’t want to hear the ugly truth about animals that are so cute from a distance.
Fine Art America
Still, there’s no need for us to judge penguins. Many species commit acts that are heinous by our standards but really just boil down to acting on instinct. They’re just trying to survive like us, but without a firm sense of right and wrong.
Perhaps these revelations won’t affect the general public, but hopefully zookeepers learn the truth before waltzing into the penguin enclosure. In fact, while most people still buy into some ludicrous myths, animal professionals do learn quite a bit about the true nature of our furry counterparts.
Take dogs for instance. To train “man’s best friend,” we often insist on dominating or scaring them and making sure that we’re the “alpha.” The theory is that because wolves choose an alpha leader (or do they?), our loyal canines respond to the alpha-beta relationship, too.
While wolves in captivity sometimes choose a leader, wild packs don’t necessarily do that: they just follow whoever they trust at the time. That being said, your dog should know how to listen to you, but you don’t have to scare its waggy tail away.
Zebras: What’s the evolutionary reason zebras have stripes? People have wondered this for ages, and many believe they’re camouflage or optical illusions that help them blend into their environments and keep predators away. But this is not the case…
Researchers found the stripes just help ward off biting flies and other insects, from which horses (the zebra’s cousins) often suffer. They may not fool any lions, but we’d rather just get eaten than plagued by bugs.
Piranhas: Known as one of the scariest underwater creatures, Piranhas have been featured in the media as blood-thirsty, man-eating monsters that will rip apart and devour anyone who crosses their path. The truth?
Sure, they do have razor-sharp teeth that can tear flesh right off, but here’s the thing: they mostly feed off animals that are already dead! In fact, people in the Amazon tread piranha-infested waters all the time, so don’t freak out if you see one.
Sloths: Their name literally means “slow,” and they truly are. But unfortunately for them, they’re the only animal named after a sin: extreme laziness. This isn’t the case, though.
In captivity, sloths don’t need to gather food or hide from predators, so they sleep around 16 hours per day. However, in the wild, they only sleep around 9 hours — just like humans! Then again, some of us are pretty lazy, too.
Cats: “A cat will always land on its feet.” It’s not just a saying, it’s also a common belief. And while cats really are good at spinning around mid-fall so they can land paws-down instead of on their pretty heads, they can’t always do it.
Only full-grown cats can do this. Secondly, the cat needs to be at least 30cm (or a foot) in the air so it has enough time to spin. Lastly, cats without a tail sadly have a harder time doing this because their balance is off. Still a neat trick, though!
Praying mantis: A common misconception is that praying mantises pray all the time. Just kidding. But people do believe that the females always eats the male’s head after procreating. Yikes…
This only occurred between mantises that were part of an experiment. They were starving, which resulted in them eating each other. Also, the male could just as well have snapped off the female’s head. That’s right — equality.
Pigs: Other than in Babe and Charlotte’s Web, pigs tend to get a pretty bad rap. They’re said to be messy, fat, and sweaty. We even have a saying: “sweating like a pig.” But that couldn’t be less accurate!
Pigs don’t actually have working sweat glands, which is why they cool down in the mud so often. They never pass waste near their living space and even wash their food, which makes them cleaner than most of us.
Komodo dragons: As far as reptiles go, the Komodo dragon is pretty terrifying. Many believe that, like alligators, they have really strong jaws and can bite their living prey to bits, but this is not the case.
It wasn’t discovered until 2009 that Komodo dragons actually spew venom when they bite their victims, after which they just wait until their food gets weak and they can eat it in peace. Which means we still suggest avoiding them at all costs!
Earwigs: For centuries, people all over the planet have collectively shared one great fear: an earwig worming its way into their ears and laying eggs. But don’t worry. Those fears aren’t grounded in reality.
They’re called ear-wigs because their wings are shaped like a human ear! They can’t fly well, so it would be hard to reach a human ear, and the mother wig stays with her babies — she wouldn’t leave them in an ear.
We often fall for these lies about animals because, let’s face it, the animal kingdom is full of spectacular creatures with traits and behaviors that almost sound made up.
1. Chameleons’ tongues, for instance, 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. The list of amazing animal behaviors never ends.
Smarter Every Day / YouTube
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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
8. 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
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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
14. 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.
15. 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
16. 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
17. 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
18. 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
19. 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.