The 6 Most Unlikely Partners in the Animal Kingdom
If you thought interspecies friendships were limited to Disney movies and the Chuck E. Cheese Pizza Time Theater, you'd be wrong. Because the animal kingdom is simply fraught with animals crossing species lines to help a brother out. Here are a few of the most seemingly incompatible animals who are actually homeys for life.
Coyotes and Badgers Form Tag Teams
If there's one animal the ghost of Chuck Jones owes a serious apology to, it's the coyote. Because chances are when you hear the word "coyote" you think of this:
When you should really think of this:
It's fast, it's strong and it looks like it should be singing backup vocals for Danzig. But this guy has a problem: As lithe as he is, he can't go underground, but his prey can, and do. So what's a Canis latrans to do? We'll tell you what it does: It tags in a badger buddy to dig those vermin up out of the ground and kill them dead.
Taxadea taxus: Tell him he looks like a skunk to his face.
What the Huh?
Coyotes and badgers essentially want the same thing in life: Small mammals to eat. But prairie animals can elude the badger by running fast, and can elude the coyote by crawling into their burrows. So at some point in history the badger and the coyote gave each other a meaningful glance...
...and decided get their peanut butter all up in each other's chocolate.
When a coyote and a badger work together, the coyote chases the prey until it tires out and hides in its burrow. Then the badger takes over and digs it out. If he gets it, he wins dinner. But if the animal pops up out of another hole and the coyote snags it first, he wins. Either way, the prairie dog loses.
Teamwork's only awesome when it's not killing you.
Scientists claim coyotes are more likely to hunt alongside badgers than other coyotes, and are more likely to succeed in the hunt with their badger partner. They also say it's only a matter of time before the badger and the coyote are the stars of their own hilarious buddy cop movie.
Although it would probably be Joe Pesci and Adrien Brody.
Ants Raise Aphids Like Farm Animals
We humans think we're pretty hot stuff with this whole "domestication" business: Chimpanzees have, what, 99 percent of the same DNA we do, and yet they wouldn't know how to milk a cow if you held a gun to their heads. Trust us, we learned that the hard way (we miss you every day, Dr. Jiggles). Indeed, very few other species have stumbled upon the secrets to agriculture. Among them are ants, who have figured out how to herd other smaller insects called aphids like cattle. Why? For the sweet nectar aphids secrete from their anuses.
What the Huh?
The bane of gardeners everywhere, aphids spend their entire lives eating so much that they almost continuously shit. Since virtually all they eat are the sugary fluids inside plants, that shit happens to be a juicy, candy-like goodness called honeydew.
Also known as "booty juice."
Various species of ants--which would normally tear most other insects into bite-sized chunks--have learned that you can get more food if you keep aphids alive. They've also evolved a way of gently stroking an aphid's ass to trigger the excretion of sugar-crusted bug crap, and even appoint "shepherds" to protect the aphids from predators. The helpers even carry them to new plants, demonstrating all the basic fundamentals of cultivation that one bullet-riddled chimpanzee failed to grasp.
Because chimps can tell when you're bluffing, that's why.
Watchman Fish and Pistol Shrimp Are Roommates
The shrimp goby, or "watchman fish," is a cute little bug-eyed fish so named because it shares its sandy burrow with a species of smaller "pistol shrimp," a cute little crustacean so named for packing a sonic freaking rifle in its claws. The deadly shrimp hasn't just moved in with the bigger fish, but created the entire burrow itself, taking the extra time to build it just wide enough for its scaly friend to live. It's just like the classic TV series The Odd Couple if Tony Randall fired sound blasts from his fists.
What the Huh?
A speedy fish with large, sophisticated eyeballs is pretty well equipped to evade predators, but can do little to build and protect a permanent nest. A burrowing shrimp with an atomic cannon in its arm is pretty equipped for home security, but happens to be terribly nearsighted.
Put these guys together, and you cover all the bases needed to keep off the seafood menu. While the shrimp provides the boarding and protection, it uses its long antennae to keep in constant contact with its seeing-eye-fish, kind of like a blind guy with a shotgun. The shrimp will even build a pad large enough to accommodate the goby's girlfriend, who will move in to raise a family and probably break up the band just like his buddy the pistol shrimp told him she would, man.
The Oklahoma Brown Tarantula Keeps Toads as Pets
To a spider the size of a hairy, mutant child's hand, soft little frogs and toads are just another tasty meal that can do nothing to fight back. And to a soft little frog or toad, a baby spider is just as appetizing as a fly. This equation of mutual destruction is presumably no different for the Oklahoma brown tarantula, and the the Great Plains narrow-mouthed toad. Which makes it so strange that in the wild, Oklahoma brown tarantula burrows are often home to one or more of these inch-long toads. The two species manage to ignore the sign that blinks "Prey! EAT!" every time they pass one another in the hall, grudgingly respecting one another's fatal vulnerabilities much like the relationship between you and your cat.
What the Huh?
The little froggies devour any tiny bug other than freshly-hatched Oklahoma spiderlings, and are in turn left in peace by the monstrous momma spider. Why? Because narrow-mouthed toads are primarily adapted for eating ants, and a giant arachnid can defend its home from ants about as well as you can punch out bacteria. So the toad eats the tarantula's enemies, and in return it gets an armor-plated, venom-drooling roommate most frog-eating things would rather not mess with.
So we weren't just making a lame cat joke up there. It really is literally the same relationship; these spiders have learned to tolerate a tiny amphibian for the exact same pest control service that first brought together humans and felines. There's no word on whether or not aging, barren spinster spiders just surround themselves with toads and let them piss all over the ottoman, so we're going to go ahead and assume they do.
The Sea Anemone Poisons Everyone But Nemo
It's hard to imagine anemone as predators, because they mostly just sit around looking like acid-trip flowers, wowing hippies and maybe occasionally squirting water at stick-wielding students on field trips to the beach. But they're really killers. Those pretty petals/tentacles are covered in cells that literally explode with poison when triggered, paralyzing prey and directing its inert body to the anemone's mouth. And as if getting gobbled up by a space-hippy flower wasn't bad enough, the whole thing looks like somebody exploded a butthole--it's just downright embarrassing to get killed by that.
Unless the animal wandering among the tentacles is a clownfish. Because the clownfish and the sea anemone have devised a diabolical partnership, the likes of which hasn't been seen since Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat tackled "Opposites Attract."
What the Huh?
As babies, clownfish work up an immunity to anemone poison by rubbing against their tentacles. Scientist think the anemone mucus and fish mucus mingle, until the poison flower eventually just thinks the fish is part of its own gross, undulating body. So the anemone provides the clownfish with a poisony hiding place, and Nemo returns the favor by bringing its friend scraps of food, fighting off anemone enemies or luring bigger fish to their lair to be murdered.
He's waiting for you.
Yeah, the movie didn't show you the whole "luring into murder" thing. Probably because it's hard to relate to the endearing father/son dynamic if their chief bonding activity is essentially the undersea equivalent of murdering hobos in a van together.
And speaking of anemone...
The Boxer Crab and his Anemone Gloves
FACT: The ocean is crazy as crap. You need look no further than the relationship between the boxer crab and the anemone for proof of that. The anemone isn't just an anus mouthed magic-eye painting, at least not in the hands of the boxer crab. To the crab, the anemone is the perfect sidekick against predators and prey alike. There have been plenty of classic sidekick relationships: Batman and Robin, Kirk and Spock, Holmes and Watson; but the relationship between the anemone and the boxer crab is less like Ed McMahon to Johnny Carson, and more like Rob Schneider to literally anybody that will pay attention to him. See, this sidekick desperately grapples onto the host's body, permanently attaching to its claws like toxic mittens.
What the Huh?
Little Mac up there isn't just carrying those pompom anemones; they're actually growing on him. And he wants them there. He has straight up weaponized another animal. Because those precious mittens aren't just for flair, they're going to kill that crab some food. And for their services, the pompoms get some scraps and mobility. The only equivalent we can imagine would be if a whole race of people grafted angry toddlers to their arms, then walked around swinging those babies at would-be interlopers. This analogy especially works if the toddlers are dripping in poison and have dreadlocks.
Like this, but gloves.
The boxer crab just wanders around the ocean, knocking motherfuckers out with its poisonous predator fists. So when you lay your head on your pillow tonight, just before you close your eyes, remember this: You live in a world where things that look like a cross between a deep-sea spider and a cobra team up with venomous tentacled sphincters to uppercut poison into all that oppose them.
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