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 ...
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.
Atlantic Wolffish Make Their Own Antifreeze
Â© Citron / CC-BY-SA-3.0
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.