4Parrots Have a Hangover Cure
You'd think that life as an herbivore would be pretty simple -- plants can't run away or fight back, so all you have to do is wander around and find them. But that's not true -- the wrong plant, or the wrong part of the right plant, will poison the shit out of you. Plants are like any other living thing: They want to keep living, and they are willing to kill your ass if you threaten them.
"Oh yeah, you're totally gonna regret eating 15 of me tomorrow morning."
So if you're, say, a macaw parrot, you like to use your gargantuan beak to crack open the seeds of fruit to get at the calorie-rich, oily goodness inside. But plants don't like that (they want their seeds to get planted and to grow, not to wind up mashed to bits in the belly of some flamboyant bird), and so, thanks to evolution, those seeds are laced with toxic alkaloids.
Advantage: plants. The stuff builds up in the macaws' system and makes them sick, and it's not like the stupid birds can go to the doctor and get an antidote.
The Medicine: Detoxifying Clay
Take a tour along the Amazon River and you'll see hundreds of brightly colored macaws feeding on clay along the river banks (bring earplugs -- those birds are also incredibly loud).
"MAW BEAWKS STWUCK TOGEVWER." "WHAT?!"
Those sites are usually referred to as parrot licks, because for a long time, people thought the birds ingested minerals that way, much like how deer and sheep use salt licks. Surprisingly, a closer look at the kind of earth ingested showed that it had little to no nutritional benefit to the birds, and yet they were oddly specific in consuming just that special kind of clay. Because they're birds, and they're stupid. Right?
"I don't taste great. I'll try the other foot."
The answer, of course, is that the clay contains elements that neutralize plant toxins they've ingested.
Experiments showed that parrots that had consumed clay carried about 60 percent fewer toxic alkaloids in their bloodstreams than their earth-deprived brethren, which means that the plants will have to come up with another method of keeping the parrots away from their family jewels. We suggest flamethrowers.
A beakful of clay keeps the poison at bay.
Think of the chain of events that would lead humans to come up with the same solution after overindulging. Actually, don't. We've already seen The Hangover II.
3Monkeys and Elephants Practice Family Planning
If there's one single thing that separates humans from animals, it's that we actually put some thought into who we'll have sex with. Animals don't plan for a baby; they just hump the nearest female they see and let natural selection take care of the rest. Hell, dogs will hump your leg if they're in the mood. They don't care. Put it in front of them, they'll hump it.
Of course they will. They're animals. Enjoying sex without getting pregnant is advanced stuff -- most human teenagers can't manage it, let alone monkeys.
The Medicine: Chemicals for Birth Control and Induced Labor
The woolly spider monkeys of Brazil have it figured out.
They've also cornered the limb market.
According to the Smithsonian National Zoo, anthropologists have found that the monkey females eat certain types of plants that increase their estrogen levels, thereby decreasing their fertility rates. Interestingly, they also found that others were eating plants that very likely raised the probability of getting pregnant. So those monkeys not only take the pill -- they come off of it and replace it with fertility treatments when necessary. Whoa.
Hope they have adoption centers, too, because awwwww.
African elephants, meanwhile, have figured out ways to induce labor. A pregnant elephant was once seen walking 17 miles to get to a certain tree, uprooting it and eating it whole. A few days later, a healthy calf was born. It hardly seems like coincidence -- trees of this very family, Boraginaceae, are also used by local Kenyan people to induce labor.
And while eating a whole tree might seem somewhat excessive, this is not uncommon behavior in elephants, as seen in Dresden Zoo, Munich:
Yes, that is a whole Christmas tree. Yes, he ate five of the damn things.