We've already pointed out that animals are capable of building pretty impressive cities, but at least they're not driving around the streets in little beaver sedans and amassing armies of spider war-jets, right?
Horribly, we're not too far from that reality, either.
#7. Spider Arachnogliders
Spiders are among the most widespread, successful predators on Earth, though we can take comfort in the fact that at least they can't fly. Oh, except that they totally can and do.
Via Science Daily
Above: The living embodiment of a nightmare.
Many newly hatched spiders like to do something biologists have dubbed "ballooning," which basically involves building a kite out of their own webbing. A spider can catch updrafts on its "parachute" and sail anywhere from a few feet to a couple thousand miles, sometimes catching jet streams into the upper atmosphere for weeks at a time and always making sure to land directly on your face.
Well, we made that part up. They don't always manage to do that. Though spiders absolutely do routinely parasail across the country. The largest airborne spider ever recorded was still well under an inch in length, which seems like it should be comforting until you learn that thousands or even millions of spider "balloons" may get caught up in the same current and dumped over the same area like a scurrying, venomous blizzard.
Also, even tiny spiders look huge when they're dropping out of the sky and landing on your eyeball.
#6. Caterpillar Beanrovers
Via Wiki Commons
We've all heard of "Mexican jumping beans," but chances are you thought they were an invention of Warner Bros. cartoons. And you're sort of right. The beans themselves aren't beans. They're tiny seed pods. Also, they're not actually jumping. That would be crazy. They're being driven around like Flinstone-era pogo cars by leaping caterpillars. See, there really is a totally logical explanation for everything.
Via Wiki Commons
"My spinning rims are still in the mail."
The tiny moth Cydia deshaisiana lays its eggs exclusively in the pods of Sebastiana shrubs, providing every caterpillar with a well-armored house containing all the food it will ever need. Unfortunately, most caterpillars are notorious for their inability to properly install or even fundamentally understand central air conditioning, and it can get pretty stuffy in a windowless little seed. But they have another solution: When it gets too hot, it leaps around like an idiot until the "bean" lands in a cool spot.
Of course, the caterpillar has no way of knowing where it's going, and it's just as likely to bounce away from the shade of a nearby tree and right into the caldera of a volcano. But hell, when you've accumulated enough negative karma to be born as a grub forever trapped inside a seed pod, you take all the small graces you can get.
Via Wiki Commons
"At least I'm not homeless."
#5. Larvacean Snotmobiles
Much like a lot of the bullshit you find in the open ocean, a larvacean just looks like a gelatinous floating blob to the untrained eye. But that's just how it fools you. The actual animal is a tiny, tadpole-like critter piloting a submarine it built out of its own snot.
Science Magazine/Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Even Sean Connery couldn't make this glamorous.
The tiny larvacean is a member of the tunicate or "sea squirt" family, a primitive cousin to us vertebrates. We say "primitive," but if you can't collect your sneezes and construct an elaborate harvesting machine from blobs of your own phlegm and bile, then we're really not sure which is the master race here.
It may be less than an inch in length, but its blobmobile, which scientists call a "fishing house," can be several times its size and comes with a central water intake for mobility, a rear exhaust port/escape hatch and a pair of upper intakes which divert water through two sets of mesh-like filters to sweep the ocean clean. What's more, the larvacean has to build a whole new one of these every four hours or so.
This thing doesn't just float around, either -- it's propelled by nothing more than the constant wriggling of the larvacean's spermy-looking tail, like a little mad scientist in a pedal-powered snot blimp. You go, little guy.
#4. Phronima's Corpse Carriage
By Sarah Gotheil
If you've read Cracked for any length of time, you may be aware of the fact that the deep ocean is a stygian nightmare world of gelatinous tentacle demons, giant mutant sea lice and lamp monsters made of teeth. So there's really no surprise that there's something down there that will hollow out your torso and use it as a mode of transport.
by I. MacDonald
Using the same strategy on humans requires an exceptionally strong ice cream scoop.
Phronima is a hyperiid amphipod crustacean, which we guess is science talk for "Who left the experimental hellgate open? Everyone pretend we just discovered a new species." The female takes extensive care of her babies and protects them in a custom-built mobile nursery.
Pretty cute, you think? Hell no. First she hunts down a gelatinous, swimming animal called a salp, then chews her way inside the salp's body, eats it alive from the inside-out, then lives inside the hollow carcass with her little ones.
The horror doesn't end there, naturally. The paddling of her tiny fins pumps water through the skin's severed ends, turning it into a little submarine to easily hunt down more unsuspecting victims. The hollowed-out carcass not only serves as protection from predators, but becomes an inescapable prison to the tiny, tasty creatures mommy drags inside. It's like a lion raising its cubs inside a half-eaten rhinoceros which can also fly around and suck antelope into its ass.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Moira Galbraith
"It's amazing they haven't made me the star of a Disney movie yet!"