5 Creepy Things You Won't Believe Animals Are Learning to Do

In a world filled with terrifying monsters, we humans are lucky that most of the things that want to eat us follow a pretty predictable set of rules. You're probably safe to take a trip to the DMV without getting attacked by sharks, for example. Likewise, you shouldn't worry too much about bear attacks while you're out sailing in the ocean. But as we've shown you in the past, the animal kingdom has its fair share of loose cannons who may break all the rules, but damn it all, they get things done.

#5. Crocodiles Can Climb Trees

Kristine Gingras/Dinets et al

When the time came for the dinosaurs to either die out or evolve into chickens, crocodiles clicked the opt-out box and continued right on existing as scaly armored nightmare machines. These giant meat blenders are more or less the dominant life form in whatever body of water they inhabit, and a good 20 feet of the land surrounding it. If you blunder into their territory, pretty much your only option is to find the highest tree to climb and hope they don't wait you out, Tremors-style.

nopparatk/iStock/Getty Images
You can tell if they're waiting; you'll hear their clock tick.

Except ...

Crocodiles can totally climb trees.

Van Welsem/Australian Geographic
Chop them all down, then burn the wood. It's the only way to be safe.

For a long time, scientists assumed that crocodiles were more or less confined to two dimensions when out of the water. However, anecdotal reports of reptilian death from above got some researchers curious, and they set out to see if they could confirm the stories about tree-climbing crocodiles. Unfortunately for ground dwellers and your own impending night terrors, they found them. All over the world, from Colombia to Mississippi to the Philippines, crocs were scampering up trees like the devil's squirrels. And not just trees: Some were even spotted scaling chain-link fences and brick walls.

That's like suddenly realizing that your cat knows how to unlock your gun chest, only to find that almost every cat in the world knows the same trick. You'd think the silver lining here would be that they're at least restricted to the lower branches of relatively short trees, but nature loves nothing more than a surprise party: Juvenile crocodiles are sometimes found as high as 30 feet up in a tree, which you may recognize as about three stories above the ground. Which floor do you live on again?

#4. Octopuses Can Move Across Dry Land


Most of the time, the ghoulish monstrosities who inhabit the sea are content to stay there. Science has a scientific name for the land jellyfish -- they call it "dead." That presumably goes for anything else that isn't blessed with a skeleton to fight the tyranny of gravity.

Vinicius Tupinamba/Hemera/Getty 
Or a fishhook.

Except ...

Octopuses frequently crawl around on land. In this video, we see a little octopus going for a bit of a constitutional just to keep the old vigor up.

How shocking and terrifying and yet clumsy and sweet.

Octopuses are happy to crawl out of the water for several minutes to avoid predators, to look for food in other tide pools, or, if you own a pet store, to eat your other merchandise. Yep: They often crawl out of their own tank, seek out another tank, devour what's inside, and then sneak back into their own tank. They know enough to cloak their misdeeds -- we're pretty sure that's how Skynet starts. They're so stealthy about it that aquarium workers only know about the octopus' murderous roving by the damp tracks left between tanks. There you go: Half your horror novel is already written for you.

The only reason we don't see octopuses just moseying along the promenade every day is simply because they're mostly nocturnal, so their stalking happens under cover of darkness. As though that makes it less unsettling.

#3. Armadillos Can Swim Underwater

University of Michigan

Armadillos are nature's tiny Sherman tanks, scurrying their way across the sun-baked desert highways of North and South America. If we asked you to picture one, you'd most likely imagine it against a backdrop of cacti and wandering coyotes, or perhaps coiled up in a ball and rolling along the barren plain like a little beige Samus Aran.

Serjio74/iStock/Getty Images
Old cowboy trick: When you're thirsty, crack an armadillo open and fill your canteen.

You almost certainly didn't imagine it paddling across a lake and chilling with the fish.

Except ...

Against all reason, armadillos are pretty fantastically well-designed for water. It turns out nature's own speed bump is capable of filling its armored tummy with air and floating across relatively large bodies of water like the world's most adorable D-Day invasion.

Their stomachs and intestines can hold enough air to counteract the weight of their armored shells, allowing them to dog-paddle across ponds, rivers, and lakes. In fact, it's not too uncommon for people to find armadillos taking a little leisure time in their swimming pools.

Carey Whaley
"Whatever. I'm not the one peeing in it."

If that's not surprising enough, armadillos can dive underwater for up to eight minutes by holding their breath and using their claws to walk along the bottom. They'll often employ this trick to cross rivers. If that doesn't seem remarkable to you, picture diving to the bottom of a river one day only to find a happy armadillo casually motoring across the bottom. You'd think the Matrix had glitched and loaded him in the wrong spot.

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