#3. African Dung Beetles Navigate Using the Milky Way
Dung beetles are the tiny waste management officials of the insect world, but did you know that they have the soul of an astronomer?
It turns out that African dung beetles plot their courses using the light from the Milky Way, effectively making dung beetle navigation more complicated than your crummy knockoff GPS. For dung beetles, moving in a straight line away from a poo pile is crucial. Rolling giant balls of crap can be dangerous, because it's easy to get off track, as anybody who has set out to Katamari an innocent pile of skis and then accidentally absorbed a child's playground can attest.
Diurnal dung beetles are able to detect a symmetrical pattern of polarized light that appears around the sun by using a set of photoreceptors -- meaning that they can roll better in a straight line by looking at the sky than they can by watching where they're going. However, this isn't the case for the African dung beetle, which is nocturnal. Scientists initially thought they navigated using light from the moon, but repeated experiments proved that it was something far more philosophically complex.
Via Current Biology
Looking toward the heavens, the African dung beetle ponders the meaning of life. It is to roll poop, he concludes.
It turns out that African dung beetles can actually see the dim strip of light that is the Milky Way from the Southern Hemisphere. This is incredible for an animal of this size, or anything without a telescope, for that matter. And the absolute best part? The dung beetles' galactic navigation abilities were proven by forcing test beetles to don tiny hats that blocked their view of the sky. The beetles then proceeded to roll around aimlessly, never getting anything done or having any clue as to where they were going, but at least thinking they looked pretty damn fly while doing it. You know: Just like every dude who wears a fedora.
Via Eric Warrant for National Geographic
"Leave me alone -- I've got shit to do!"
#2. Japanese Puffer Fish Make Crop Circles
When an underwater photographer off the coast of Japan found these almost-6-foot-wide intricate structures drawn on the ocean floor, he had no idea what made them. Aliens? Aquaman? Alien Aquamen? (Isn't that what Stargate: Atlantis was about?) Regardless, these underwater crop circles (we have to ask: What's the crop here, fellas?) thrilled and excited all who saw them as they pondered what great and mysterious beings must surely be behind these astoundingly complex works of-
Oh, it was a horny fish? All right then.
It's like the fish version of a booty text.
A television crew observed the tiny Japanese puffer fish painstakingly carving the design all day and night using just one fin. The more elaborate the "crop circle" was, the more likely a male was to find a mate. But they're not just elaborate Piscean fuck-palaces -- the intricately carved walls do serve other functions. The underwater crop circles act as a buffer for the ocean currents, which allow the puffer fish's eggs and young to stay in one place, and they also really blow the minds of frizzy-haired idiots on the History Channel.
#1. The Scaly-Foot Gastropod Can Turn Flesh into Metal
There exists a species of hydrothermal vent snail that can incorporate metal from deep-sea vents into its own flesh like a gross, slimy version of Colossus from the X-Men. The snail's "foot" (that big pad of flesh it moves around on) is covered with iron-mineral scales that it culls from sulfides, and its shell comes complete with an outer layer of greigite (so named for its discoverer, Greg, the toughest marine biologist in the seven seas).
Scientists have observed deep-sea crabs attempting to break these snails between their claws for literally days on end, which often accomplishes jack levels of squat. Though the crabs get through on occasion, for the most part the scaly-foot gastropod just slimes around, covered in the maritime equivalent of the Iron Man suit, laughing at nature's various ineffective attempted murders.
Pictured: The billionaire alcoholic of the undersea world.
The mollusk's iron plating is so tough that the U.S. military is even taking cues from its unique shell makeup to design better armor for soldiers. Experiments at MIT's Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies have shown that the scaly-foot gastropod's organic middle layer absorbs mechanical pressure (from things such as squeezing) while dissipating heat; the outer, metallic layer is extremely hard to pierce; and the innermost layer is ... well, snail.
If the evolutionary race between prey and predator that has created these snails is any indication, somewhere down the line there will eventually be a species of crab that can take down this snail, and then, the world.
For more interesting gadgets animals can have, check out The 6 Most Badass Murder Weapons in the Animal Kingdom and The 9 Most Mind-blowing Disguises in the Animal Kingdom.
Animals have proven that they can be prepared for any situation, but we humans will always have 5 Things in Life You're Never Really Prepared For.