Sharks are already pretty damn terrifying, since we are programmed to fear that which can eat us, especially when it's the size of a small boat and filled with razor blades; we don't need it to posses superpowers as well. Hammerheads have just that -- an enhanced ability to detect electric fields, and incidentally, better smell and a wider field of vision than most sharks, with 360 degrees of vertical binocular vision.
And they average 500 to 1,000 pounds. And they travel in packs.
Their most impressive feature, however, is their ability to use their wide-set terror-head as a sort of natural minesweeper, detecting the minutest electrical signal over vast distances or through mud. All sharks have receptors called ampullae of Lorenzini, which actually sounds more like a pasta dish than a super-sensory organ. Hammerheads just have more of them, and they are spread out over that giant head, giving them something similar to an electrical signal detecting radar array on their face.
Some faces are bigger than others.
As a result, hammerheads can detect half a billionth of a volt. For some perspective, when you drive around in your car on a dry day, then get out and zap yourself on the door handle, that's because your body built up about 8,000 to 10,000 volts of static. That is more than a trillion times the voltage needed for a hammerhead to find you, even if you are hiding in an underground bunker at the bottom of the goddamn ocean. Because of this, hammerheads are able to easily find just about anything on the bottom of the ocean that tries to hide from them. Just be glad sharks don't walk around on dry land.
We know what you're thinking: Everything can sense fire. Which is true. Unfortunately for most of us, we have to be relatively close before we are aware of it.
Some of us closer than others.
So while the average human can see fire for hundreds if not thousands of feet and can possibly smell it for hundreds, our meager detection skills pale in comparison with those of the jewel beetle. Jewel beetles can sense a pine fire tens of miles away, which is an oddly specific sense. But nature rarely if ever gives an animal some weird power for no reason, and there are two that are more popular than the others: the first is for food, and the other is to make sweet sweet love (and babies). The jewel beetle doesn't eat burned wood, so guess which one it is?
That's right, these beetles developed super-senses for the simple need to bone and lay eggs in burned pine trees. Not only do they have a sense of smell that could rival the silvertip grizzly's, they also have infrared sensors embedded in their chests so advanced that scientists are scrambling to replicate them to use as passive forest-fire detectors. Even DARPA has designs for them.
The beetles, also called black fire beetles, actually flock to forest fires to reproduce, and scientists determined they evolved this way because it's actually safer for the beetles and their offspring. It turns out that most anything that would want to eat the beetles would either flee or be killed by the fire. Also, since the beetles lay their eggs in already dead trees, the trees can't mount their defenses and either drown the kids in acidic sap or grow faster to crush them.
You don't notice any black fire beetles trapped in amber, do you?
There is a case from 1924 in which a swarm of beetles traveled over 50 miles from the forest to an oil fire in the desert. There is no way they could have known the fire was blazing, since beetle text messages are still a few months off, and there was none of their usual pine fare, yet the entire swarm covered what would be a rough commute for a human to snuggle up to a blazing inferno, all over the promise of some risk-free booty. We might also note that they have a tendency to bite when threatened, and Wikipedia notes that fires cause them to "aggregate to swarms of biting beetles in recently burned areas." If the prevailing winds line up just right, we may actually see a sudden and catastrophic end to the whole Burning Man phenomenon.
While Mantis Shrimp Man would be the second-worst sounding concept for a superhero ever, read on and you will find out why he would have the most badass eyes of any hero, ever.
If eye power determined a species' place in the hierarchy of life, mantis shrimp would rank higher than eagles with night-vision goggles. The sheer number of abilities associated with their eyes is almost incomprehensible. They can see the following: the spectrum of light visible to humans, ultraviolet, infrared and polarized light. This means they can see everything the jumping spiders can, and they can see heat, much like the jewel beetle.
And this guy.
And the polarized light? That means that while they are seeing in two spectra that we need thousands of dollars of equipment to see, they can do it with the awesome glare-cutting power of Ray-Bans. There is almost nothing a mantis shrimp can't see, and they would get roughly three times as much enjoyment out of the "Mona Lisa" as we would. But that's hardly where the amazing shit their eyes can do ends. So in addition to seeing the world in a way that can only really be represented with this:
When Cracked promises you superpowers, we deliver that shit. So what could possibly make super-positionable multispectral sunglass-eyes that can probably see ghosts and God himself even more incredible? They have brains designed to clearly interpret all of that information, and they can do it with greater precision than a Blu-ray player. And they can move their eyes, independently, up to 70 degrees in every direction. Remember that alien in Men in Black that looked over its own head? They have more range than that.
And are better-looking.
So you've probably revised your opinion of Mantis Shrimp Man. You might be picturing him as a secret agent, breaking into a competitor's headquarters, hopscotching his way through an invisible laser alarm system that he can literally see from a mile away, pulling a Blu-ray disc out and reading all the information off it, seeing the approaching security guard sneaking up behind him with eyes that flop over his head just in time and pulling out a gun and shooting him. Well you're close. Only he wouldn't have to pull out a gun, since his arm is a super-powered plasma gun.
Yeah, nature is badass.
For more reasons why you'll never be better than an animal, check out 5 Animals That Can Do Amazing Things ... With Their Penises and 8 Animals With Real Superpowers.
And stop by Linkstorm to join the resistance forming to fight off our soon to be animal overlords.
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