6 Underrated Predators With Mind-Blowing Abilities

Nature is a brutal place where savage predators sift through infinitesimal strands of stimulus you cannot begin to imagine ... and you routinely fall on your face because you thought there was "one more stair." Obviously, you don't stand a chance in the wild -- not when animals like these are out there murdering each other with what might as well be magic powers.

#6. Snakes Have Nine Senses


The five senses are pretty standard among living creatures. Some animals will have an extra sense thrown into the mix -- directional, barometric, fashion -- but five or six is generally the limit of mortal perceptions. Unless you're a snake. They can have up to nine senses that we know about. No, they can't see dead people or anything -- it's just that they double up on all of the basic ones. Snakes have two types of hearing, two types of smell, and two types of sight.

"And 12 types of kickass."

A snake's jaw is linked directly to its inner ear, allowing it to literally hear surface vibrations. Snake jawbones are so sensitive that a horned desert viper can accurately strike at a small, quiet mouse coming up behind him ... in the middle of a pitch-black night. Further, their lower jawbones are separated into two halves, and the difference in timing between the vibrations received by the two sides informs the snake of the direction of its scampering prey. Snakes have high-fidelity directional hearing in their mouths.

Better yet, because snakes "smell" by "tasting" the air with their tongues, and because those tongues are typically forked, they also have incredible directional smelling. Snakes effectively smell in stereo. Finally, many varieties of snake have heat-sensing pit organs that can detect infrared light. For their relatively tiny size, these sensors are up to 10 times more sensitive than anything our technology has managed to create, and they come in several different types that all focus on different wavelengths.

Sichert, Andreas, et al.
"Suck it, Predator."

But pit vipers take it a step further; they not only possess this crazy Predator-vision, but actually use the heat map to direct multiple attacks on a single target. They'll strike their prey once, wait for the adrenaline to kick in, watch for heat spikes that show where their prey is most vulnerable, and then direct their next strikes to the weak spots. You might recognize that as the exact same tactic you use to beat video game bosses. That's right: Pit vipers' whole lives are basically one big round of Metal Gear Solid.

#5. Spiders Can Hear With Their Hair


Spiders have an astounding and frightening array of abilities, like web spinning, jumping, and just ... generally existing at all. And now science is throwing another handful of meat into the Terror Jambalaya: Studies done on the hunting spider, Cupiennius salei, reveal that they can leap up and catch a bug flying past them ... while blindfolded. (Side note: We call "dibs" on not being the guy who has to tie the tiny spider blindfolds.)

"Take it off, motherfucker. I could use a finger steak."

C. salei accomplishes this feat by "feeling" the air around it with the sensitive hairs covering its body. They're so finely tuned that each hair can detect the direction and pressure of the airflow to accurately time and orient the spider's attack without the benefit of vision. It's not necessarily a new trick: Most mammals (including us) have hairs in their inner ear that detect sound vibrations, and spider hairs work on a similar principle, making their entire body a giant super-ear that can hear vibrations down to one ten-billionth of a meter ("roughly the width of an atom"). That's how sensitive their body beard is ... aaaaand of course they use it for murder.

But that's not the only molecular power arachnids possess. Most spiders use their hairy front legs for grasping prey, but some, like Palpimanus gibbulus, have incredible adhesive properties that make escaping intact literally impossible once they lay legs on something. But there's no webbing or glue involved: The microscopic hairs on P. gibbulus' legs are so small that molecular forces give them insane grip. Once seized, its prey, usually other spiders, can only escape by ripping off their own limbs. See? That's how terrifying spiders are: Even spiders are scared of them.

"Get back here! I want to try a double high-five."

#4. Foxes Have a Magnetic Targeting System


Foxes have been romanticized throughout history as sly creatures. They've been called cunning, quick, sneaky, and deceitful, but two adjectives have been curiously absent when describing foxes up until now: "mutant" and "sniper." And we should probably fix that, because it's absolutely true: Foxes use the Earth's magnetic field to aim their strikes.

Researchers noticed that, when not appearing in charming anthropomorphic fables, foxes in the Northern Hemisphere preferred to pounce on hidden animals while facing exactly 20 degrees off from magnetic north. We know that lots of animals, from cows to bees, can sort of navigate using the Earth's invisible fields of energy, but no other animal, to our knowledge, uses it to hunt. After observing over 600 fox strikes, the evidence clearly shows that they prefer a northeasterly attack vector. When launching an attack against hidden prey from this direction, a fox's kill rate was a whopping 73 percent. From the exact opposite direction, it was 60 percent. Attacks not issued on this invisible axis at all fell to a pitiful 18 percent success rate. How, exactly, the fox manages this feat is still up for debate, but the leading theory is that they use the Earth's magnetic field in conjunction with their hearing to line up the target in a sort of biological crosshair.

Biology Letters, doi:10.1098/rsbl.2010.1145
You should see this guy sneak up on a Milk-Bone.

Here's how it might work: In the Northern Hemisphere, magnetic forces angle down at around 60 to 70 degrees. As the fox nears its prey, it listens for movement: The "sweet spot" is where the sound from the prey also matches the angle of the Earth's magnetic field. Another possibility is that this magnetic angle is actually built right into the fox's eyeballs, giving it a literal heads-up display.

Which might explain why Star Fox was the only competent pilot in his squadron.

Let's just hope there's never a fable about the time the fox met the pit viper, or we're all going to need Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Glover on speed dial.

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