Some animals can do amazing things with their heads and faces. Many such
feats have only been recently documented by science.
10 Limpets Use Their Tongues Like A Jackhammer
Limpets are small, sturdy aquatic snails. They lack a face in the conventional
sense but compensate with jaggedly terrifying maws on their undersides. Like
more commonly known animals, the limpet has the gastropod equivalent of a
Like the pointy papillae that turn cat tongues into sandpaper, a limpet’s radula
is forested with spiky projections for scraping algae. The appendage also
doubles as jackhammer. It’s used to rasp cozy alcoves into rocky surfaces for
the limpet to inhabit.
It helps that limpet teeth are nearly indestructible and have recently been
labeled as the strongest biological material known to man. When researchers
atomically deconstructed the adamantium-like teeth in the lab, they found
them studded with goethite nanofibers, giving them a consistency tougher than
Kevlar. This unmatched tensile strength allows the limpet to constantly chew
rocks without any damage to its teeth. Also, the raspy spikes retain their
integrity regardless of size, although materials typically become weaker as
they become larger.
9 Moles Have Stereoscopic Smelling
A mole’s nose is the only body part that it isn’t ashamed of. In spite of
overwhelming blindness and inadequate tactile sensitivity, common moles
excel at locating food sources .
To find out how, mole scientist Kenneth Catania placed food (worm bits)
around the edge of a circular “arena” into which the moles were set loose—
first unencumbered and then again with one nostril plugged. Finally, he
inserted small tubes into each nostril and crossed them so that they received
scents from the opposite side of the body. The moles fumbled about,
suggesting that they smell the world in stereo , a trait common to vision and
hearing yet almost unheard of in the olfactory domain.
Trained rats have previously been coerced into stereo smelling to detect air
currents, but such a strange ability had never been observed in the natural
world. It’s a novel find, implying that other champion sniffers (like dogs) may
be benefiting from the same technique.
8 Vibrating Mosquito Probosces Inspire New Types
Of Painless Needles
The mosquito proboscis, nature’s most annoying appendage, has finally
become useful by inspiring a new breed of painless hypodermic needles.
Modern medical needles are formulated for maximum holing ability rather than
comfort, but if mosquitoes are any indication, it doesn’t have to be that way.
You’ve probably noticed your failure to notice being bitten. Such stealthy
attacks aren’t noticed until the itch kicks in.
Your blood is kept flowing by an anticoagulant, and the bite itself goes
unnoticed because the mosquito’s wildly serrated pricker makes minimal
contact with nerve endings. In contrast, the much smoother hypodermic
needle smashes through receptors like a runaway bus. Once the mosquito has
hit paydirt (aka you), it widens the wound with its two-jawed proboscis and
deploys a crazy straw-like tube to suck your blood. For added efficiency, the
whole thing vibrates to cut an easier, more painless path into your body. How
7 C. Elegans Has A Magnetic Antenna In Its Face
It’s obvious that some creatures detect earthly magnetic fields, but until now,
scientists have been unable to identify the physical structures responsible for
these mutant superpowers.
In June 2015, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin finally
stumbled upon the underlying nuts and bolts while tinkering with a little worm
named C. elegans. Within the tiny nematode’s head, they found an even tinier,
TV-like antenna—a double whammy of learning, as it was assumed that soil-
dwelling worms were magnetically blind.
Researchers confirmed their supposition by placing worms in a gel-filled tube.
Local worms always moved downward, as if scavenging food from soil. Worms
from other corners of the globe, however, moved in directions which would
have corresponded to “down” in their country of origin, as dictated by Earth’s
magnetic field .
The scientists also found that they were able to boss worms around by
altering magnetic fields within the lab. They also ascertained that a certain
faulty gene renders worms senseless to this invisible realm. Future research
will hopefully determine if other magnetically inclined animals have the same
antenna-like structures embedded in their brains as well.
6 The King Of Saxony Bird-Of-Paraside Is The King
The oddly named King of Saxony bird-of-paraside is the owner of the animal
kingdom’s most glorious eyebrows. (Let’s just call them “Kings” for simplicity.)
These erectile appendages, called wires, don’t really do anything other than
look good and have only evolved to their current state because females
consistently mate with males that have the beefiest brows .
Even with a healthy set of wires, males are under severe selective pressure to
win the attention from the fairer sex and have therefore acquired a variety of
skills to supplement their dapper headgear. These include an avian version of
interpretive dance , as well as an arsenal of screeching noises that could very
well pass for an alien language. The birds also produce a strange, clicking
song that resembles a combination of pattering rain and an old lawnmower.
During their intricate mating procedures , Kings also employ aggressive head-
ruffling, haphazard wire-waving, and a weird pumping motion most accurately
described as twerking.
5 Pink Underwing Moth Young Wear A Literal
A pink underwing moth’s smooth blandness belies the deeply disturbing
foulness of its adolescence . The horrible larva starts out hideous enough and
then develops into a repulsive, skull-faced demon. Circular spots mimic the
appearance of large, ever-seeing eyes, while a row of white splotches below
gives the fearsome appearance of teeth. Its actual head is slightly more well-
guarded, being curled up within its poo-colored mass of flesh.
However, it’s all a bluff. Even though the larva is decked out in scary face
paint, it’s entirely harmless and is actually a strict herbivore . Its frightening
visage is meant to scare away predators, as the animal itself is, to put it
kindly, completely defenseless.
It spends its time rather unglamorously, foraging in bushes for the delicious
vines that make up the bulk of its vegan diet. Luckily for you, it’s only found in
the few undisturbed subtropical Australian environments where its exceedingly
rare food source grows, so you’ll most likely never encounter one up close.
4 The Pinocchio Lizard Tips Its Phallic Nose At The
The Anolis proboscis, or Pinocchio lizard, gave researchers a nice surprise
when it was unexpectedly found in an Ecuadorian cloud forest. Having feared
it to be extinct, ecological bounty hunters from Tropical Herping searched for
three years before serendipitously (and anticlimactically) finding one asleep on
a branch. It was actually still quite a feat, since searches were carried out by
night; the lizard is far too good at camouflaging itself during daylight. It also
lives very high off the ground in the most inaccessible strata of trees.
The distinctive horn is possessed only by males, who are known to articulate
their enlarged stumps quite suggestively at females. The huge schnoz is
somewhat of a burden, though, as it must be . . . erected during feedings. How
such a maneuver is accomplished is still a physiological mystery, because the
area beneath should be devoid of muscles. Only time will reveal the
evolutionary purpose of the horn, a rare feature found on only two other types
of South American lizard.
3 Monkeys Use Faces Like Name Tags
Monkeys boast the most colorful faces in the mammal kingdom, and they’re
not just for show. Like humans, they discern friend or foe by facial features,
which have evolved to be especially distinctive under the selective pressures
of keeping a tight-knit community.
Researchers liken the phenomenon to a primitive, simian Facebook. The
increasingly intricate markings are used as biological name tags to
differentiate family members from other closely related individuals. To learn
more, primatologists compiled a Tinder-like database of monkey head shots.
Interestingly, they noticed that an Old World monkey’s social status is reliably
predicted by its face. Those living in larger communities boasted more
intricate decorations, while small-town monkeys featured plainer faces. Then,
in a total surprise, it was revealed that New World monkeys follow an opposite
trend, sporting more flamboyant faces in smaller communities. Also,
specimens living in densely vegetated equatorial regions tend to have darker
faces, presumably for better camouflage.
2 Venomous Frogs
Some frogs and toads are famously toxic but in the laziest ways—they only
secrete their foul toxins and then wait for hungry or stupid animals to
intoxicate themselves by contact. To be considered venomous rather than
poisonous, an animal must take a more active approach in delivering its toxin.
The hateful Greening’s frog does just that, head butting its enemies into
submission like a drunk soccer hooligan.
This odd and novel form of envenomation is possible thanks to numerous
venom-dispensing barbs on the frog’s skull. The Brunos’ casque-head frog also
possesses this ability, making these feisty specimens the only two venomous
frogs ever documented.
This recent and painful revelation came by chance when a researcher in
Brazil’s scrubby Caatinga ecoregion scooped up a cute little frog and spent the
next five hours trying to extinguish the invisible flames engulfing his arm.
Carlos Jared got lucky—he was “stung” by a Greening’s frog, whose venom is
only more potent than a pit viper. A single gram of Brunos’ casque-headed
frog juice, on the other hand, could lay down 300 men.
1 Harris’s Three-Spot Moth Larvae Use Their Old
Heads As Weapons
To put it nicely, the Harris’s three-spot moth larva is the most revolting
creature ever conceived, and it survives only by being too disgusting to touch.
It’s also pretty good at hide-and-seek, spending its winters hibernating like a
bear. Technically, it’s transforming during this time, but it doesn’t just dangle
off a branch like other stupid pupae. Instead, it bores its way into a stump and
seals off its new domain with a silky seal, embedded with woody fragments to
perfectly conceal its presence.
Even though it looks like hairy, slithering fecal matter, its most unsettling habit
is a predilection to hoarding useless old things—like, for example, its own
heads. Those brownish bits adhering to the caterpillar are
discarded heads from the creature’s past moltings.
In true heavy metal fashion, the decapitated mementos are used as weapons—
in close-quarters as bludgeons or from range as manual projectiles .
Alternatively, it can choose to simply confuse opponents by shaking.
By: Ivan Farkas