5 Amazing Ways Animals Can Control Their Bodies
If you could borrow any ability from another species, what would it be? Did you take the obvious one (flight)? Maybe you thought outside the box and went for the ability to breathe underwater, or to eat tin cans like a billy goat. Well, let us submit some lesser known yet still amazing bodily functions that would be life-changing or, if nothing else, hilarious.
Wood Frogs Can Survive Being Frozen Solid, Over and Over
Every autumn, the sanest animals head south, fleeing the encroaching winter lest they freeze to death or get torn apart by yetis. But then there's the wood frog, which manages not to give even a single shit -- when winter comes, it simply lies down and freezes solid. When it thaws, months later, it just hops away and gets right back to the business of frogging.
"It's pretty much just this, and the odd bout of hardcore pimpery."
And when we say "freeze solid," we mean just that -- one scientist reported, "When you drop it, it goes 'clink'." Apparently because drop-testing frozen animals is a part of somebody's job description.
So how do they do it? It's not like the frogs just slow down their metabolism and take a nap, like those cheating bears. The frogsicles are dead, in the sense that they have no brain activity. It's literally frog cryogenics -- when the spring comes, they slowly thaw out, everything starts up again, and the frogs find themselves a few months in the future.
"Where in fuck's armpit did these babies come from?"
The reason the frogs can do this and you probably can't is that living cells sustain damage when the water inside them freezes, so when the frogs feel winter coming on, their livers ramp up the production of sugar, which is then pumped into the cells in place of water. Since the sugar won't lose shape when it's frozen, the cells take exactly zero damage. If you're wondering what happened to the extra water that came out of the cells when the sugar went in, so did the scientists, so they threw their decency out the window and dissected a frozen frog to find that it had deposited the water under its skin as kind of an icy suit of armor, which explained the "clink" sound.
Click here to watch a frozen frog unthaw.
Then one of them probably put a frozen frog in his scotch and they laughed and laughed.
Sea Cucumbers Can Turn into Liquid Like the T-1000
Most people would say that the sea cucumber is possibly the lamest thing in the animal kingdom. The one thing it's known for (other than sitting on the sea floor looking like poop) is kind of amazing, but in a disgusting and sad way -- when attacked, it literally spills its guts out, then later regenerates all of its vomited body parts. It's true that if a human did that it would be considered a superpower, but you'd certainly never give that guy his own movie franchise.
Not unless Marvel or DC starts returning our phone calls.
But the sea cucumber can actually do one other thing that is much cooler, and no other living being in the world can do it: The sea cucumber is capable of transforming itself into a liquid.
The sea cucumber will quite literally, through sheer "neurological control," transform its solid tissue structure into a liquid, and then transform back into a solid, just for kicks. It's thanks to the special collagen fibers in their tissues that sea cucumbers can liquefy at will, allowing them to literally pour their bodies into tight spaces and solidify again to hide from predators (who are probably too confused and grossed out to retain their appetite anyway, especially if the cucumbers barfed up their organs first).
Because they're just so appetizing to begin with.
Scientists think that, once they unlock the secrets of how the cucumbers actually do this, they might be able to sciencily reproduce the effect. Without reading any further on the subject, we are going to declare now that within five years science will have perfected the technology to allow any of us to liquefy our own bodies like the T-1000 so we can slide under doors and shit. You can quote us on that, science blogs!
Some Squids Have Built-In Headlights
Now here's something we wish we had -- built-in lights that we could just click on and aim around the room to find our way in the dark. Note that we said we wish we had them -- if everyone had them, we're thinking that trying to watch a movie in a dark theater would suck. You know people wouldn't keep that shit covered.
"But how else am I supposed to find my cellphone?"
The Hawaiian bobtail squid does have these natural spotlights, however, and it's kind of genius how they work. As you may know, a lot of deep-sea creatures have natural bioluminescence -- a glow produced by a chemical reaction. The bobtail squid does not have this ability. It instead forms a relationship with a bacterium that does, called Vibrio fischeri. The squid hosts a pair of colonies of these glowing critters and can actually aim and focus the beams -- it literally uses the blobs of glowing bacteria like a pair of headlights.
Man, why do freaking squids get all the cool bacteria?
"Wait a second," you might be saying. "That's a little squishy animal that lives under the sea -- why the fuck would it shine lights around and announce its presence to every predator within biting distance? And why announce to its own prey that it's coming, so that they have plenty of time to scurry away? This thing's a dumbass!"
Your problem is that you're thinking about how things are up here on land, where darkness hides you. Under the sea, darkness is the norm. If you're a tiny squid, predators and prey spot you by swimming under you and looking up -- it's your silhouette showing against the light filtering down from the surface that gives you away. So how do you hide your silhouette? You strap on a couple of on-board lights and adjust them with perfect precision to cancel out your own shadow.
To gain the same effect for yourself, simply never turn your brights off.
See? We don't use the word "genius" lightly. Now let's talk about rooster semen ...
Hens Eject Semen from Unwanted Mates
OK, if there is one technology where you'd think that animals would absolutely have no advantage over humans, it's birth control. Hell, what other creatures even want contraception? Animals don't worry about family planning or having too many mouths to feed; their survival depends on trying to breed faster than their predators can eat them. A dog will try to impregnate your leg. Hell, a male turkey will try to mate with a severed turkey head on a stick.
"On the plus side, no pillow talk."
But a lack of birth control can be a problem for some species, like chickens. They rely on a pecking order, when only the top roosters are supposed to be allowed to reproduce. But everybody is crammed together in one tiny coop, and in the heat of a hardcore chicken orgy, it can be difficult to tell which cock is which (we're not sorry for that mental image -- this is science, it's not for pussies). But in that frantic storm of flying feathers and rooster boners, hens have a backup plan -- they can actually eject the sperm of unwanted male suitors so that they don't get knocked up by a loser.
"I ain't laying just any eggs."
How in the possible hell did scientists ever figure this out? They lined up various roosters on a scale of one to six as determined by their social status and, in what must have been one of the most awkward experiments ever performed involving chickens, the researchers carefully recorded how much sperm the hens ejected after they finished mating.
Unfortunately for the less-dominant males, the results did confirm that hens will eject the semen from the lesser males regardless of what order the males were "presented" to the hens. And then, presumably, the researchers went home, poured a stiff drink, and thought hard about where their lives were headed.
"Don't pretend this isn't hot."
Cats Use Purring to Self-Heal, Can Survive a Fall from a Tall Building
Hey, don't tell us we're pandering to the Internet by putting cats on here. If we were doing that, we would have put them at the start of the article instead of saving them for the end.
Speaking of cats, look at this one! He's in a bag!
Besides, there's a reason why cats are said to have nine lives. For instance, scientists think that, simply by purring, cats are helping to rapidly heal themselves. So it's kind of like if Wolverine were actually a small, furry animal.
What, you thought that cats purr only when they're happy? Experts were pretty sure that wasn't the whole story, considering that cats also purr when they're frightened or after you kick them. So they set up their special cat microphones and got their science on, and they found that a cat's purr has an average frequency of around 25 to 150 Hertz. And, apparently, sound frequencies in this range have been shown to promote bone density, healing, and pain relief. This doesn't just apply to cats, either -- the sound of a cat purring can also help heal other animals in the immediate vicinity of the cat, including humans. Holy shit! They cast an area healing spell.
"Keep this up and I'll adorable the shit out of your leukemia."
As if that's not enough, nature also built cats to be virtually immune to falling. We don't just mean that they could fall out of a tree and walk it off; we mean that you could throw a cat out of a plane and it would be perfectly fine, albeit incredibly pissed off. This is due to the fact that all cats have a built-in terminal velocity of around 60 mph, nowhere near the sidewalk-ruining 120 mph that larger animals have.
For a cat, there's no difference between a fall of 50 feet and a fall of 5,000 feet except that one means that it can give birds the finger for about 20 seconds longer. Weirdly, a fall from four stories up is statistically more dangerous for a cat than a fall of 40 stories, as the world's most depressing graph will attest to.
The sharp decline in injuries after seven stories is because most cats reach their terminal velocity after falling that distance, allowing them to adequately prepare for the fall. And even then, they can just purr themselves back together again anyway.
Find more from Karl on his Twitter or his blog. If you want to, that is. Want Micah to write you a limerick?
For more insane things animals can do, check out 7 Superpowered Animal Senses You Won't Believe Are Possible and 8 Animals With Real Superpowers.