Evolution is a pretty straightforward affair: If you can't stab through thick antelope pelt like you used to, you'll evolve sharper, bigger teeth or stronger jaws. If you keep getting eaten by giant-toothed predators, you'll evolve longer legs for greater speed. If you keep getting harassed by hawks, you'll evolve lanky, hawk-swatting arms. It's pretty much just an endless race of reach and teeth. But occasionally, evolution will reach way the hell out of the box and come back with solar-powered lizards and Iron Man snails ...
#6. The Spotted Salamander Is Solar-Powered
Spotted salamanders are the first known vertebrates to effectively be solar-powered. They are living amphibians that get energy from photosynthesis, like plants. How is this possible? Well, scientists have long thought that algae had a symbiotic relationship with salamander larvae, giving them only the resources it didn't need (scientists refer to this as the "your shitty college roommate effect"). Research in recent years has proven that this is not the case, however: New studies have shown that salamanders actually have algae all up in their very cells. Aside from being very, very gross, this trait helps the spotted salamander put a new, very literal meaning behind green energy.
"Here comes the sun, doot-'n'-doo-doo ..."
The spotted salamander's larval stage lasts for months, and embryos with algae in their somatic and germ cells have a faster growth rate and higher survival rate than those without. If humans are one day able to adapt this amazing trait as our own, we could bolster the world's food supply by becoming walking slime-hybrids! That ... sounded better before we typed it out. Regardless, the next time you see some Oompa-Loompa-looking Jersey Shore d-bag, withhold your scorn: He could be our best hope for combating global starvation.
#5. Atlantic Wolffish Make Their Own Antifreeze
At first glance, it looks like wolffish got beaten with the short end of the evolution stick. These terrifying yet inexplicably stupid-looking fish inhabit the deep sea, and like most deep-sea creatures, they have cleared massive biological hurdles in order to survive where they do. To thrive in an area where it's too cold for most things to even exist, the wolffish have to make their own antifreeze.
And we mean that literally: This very same antifreeze protein can now be found increasing the freezing tolerance of crops, improving farm fish life in cold climates, lengthening the shelf life of frozen foods, enhancing preservation of tissues for transplant in medicine, and even improving the texture of low-fat ice cream (mmm, wolffish sundaes).
Via Jonathan Bird
Don't you just want to put whipped cream on them and lick 'em?
Think about that for a second: The Ron Perlman of the fish world up there has antifreeze proteins that have allowed us to make great strides in medicine, ensure a consistent world food supply, and provide delicious frozen treats that are easy on the waistline -- all because it's too stupid to move someplace warm.
#4. Tripod Fish Have Built-In Chairs
The tripod fish's fin rays have evolved into long, bony protrusions that it uses like a biological Barcalounger. That's not exaggeration on our part: The tripod fish's whole strategy for survival is to sit on the ocean floor, using its hind fin-legs to angle its body so that it faces against the current. This way it can simply open its mouth to eat small shrimp, fish, and crustaceans that the current sweeps by, and it doesn't even have to move!
The human equivalent would be moving a recliner in front of a conveyor belt so that you can eat Fritos without all that pesky "reaching for the bag" business. The deep ocean is a terrifying and unforgiving place: If you're going to survive down there, you need at least one amazing trait to trip up the animal reaper when it comes swimming for you. Most creatures evolve to be faster, camouflage themselves better, or simply scare the shit out of any and everything on God's green Earth. The tripod fish, on the other hand, evolved nature's version of a disability scooter. Watching them "in action" is truly an inspiring sight, in the same way that watching a Rascal-bound fat man knock cans of spray cheese off the top shelf with his umbrella is an "inspiring sight."