7 Scenes From Nature Too Ridiculous To Be Real (But Are)
Over the course of countless millennia, evolution has produced a mind-boggling variety of beauty and majesty. But you know what else it's made? Insanity. There are times when Mother Nature is a maniac flinging neon paint and giraffe DNA into our universe just to see what will happen. Here are seven of those times.
The Fabulous, Cartwheeling Flic-Flac Spider
If spiders terrify you, you're not alone. Most of us agree they are horrifying, unsettling little poisonous things, and if you think differently we have bad news: When spiders can't smell fear in a human, they wait until they're asleep and crawl into their ears and mouth. Anyone not scared of spiders has at least 12 of them living and nesting inside their body at any time.
And while we're sharing fun facts about spiders, one of the most ferocious family of spiders is Sparassidae. They're known as Huntsman spiders and they're not only leaping, agile predators; they're pants-shittingly huge.
"Let's make a bet. I can jump onto your face before you can make a fist. Go."
But every family has an embarrassing member and the black sheep of the Sparassidae clan is the flic-flac spider. It was discovered by Professor Dr. Ingo Rechenberg less than 10 years ago during a Moroccan desert jaunt, and it's fucking stupid. The flic-flac somehow, after generations of hunting desert prey, adapted itself to travel by lunatic cartwheel.
Look at this ridiculous thing go. It's like it spends its whole life falling down the stairs. The flic-flac got its name from the gymnastics move it uses to travel (obviously). It can move up to 4.5 mph this way, which sounds like a brisk walk, but would scale to something like Mach 1 at human size. While other spiders worked out how to build enormous webs and pit traps, flic-flacs were somehow given the ability to always look like they're celebrating.
"She kissed me! She kissed me!!! Wheee!!! Oh god, oh god, I can't stop! Why can't I stop?! AIIIIEEEE!!!"
Oh, and they also build bizarrely unappealing tubes as nests. They construct them using their feelers and a specialized set of bristles and hold them together with spider silk. Think about what that means. It means not only did evolution create a cartwheeling spider, it created mortar tubes to launch those cartwheeling spiders. No, really. Think about what that means. Right now, this very second, you live in a world that naturally creates mortar tubes for launching cartwheeling spiders.
Giraffe Neck Boxing
Giraffes are pretty easy-going for a wild animal. Sure, if a lion attacks them they might stomp them into lion chutney to get away, but until recently, researchers could only speculate that giraffes had their own form of neck karate.
"Here it comes! I got this! REooOWRSHIT!!! SHIT, I don't got this!"
Tall, skinny, and visibly awkward in movement, the giraffe is nature's lanky teenager bumbling through puberty. But they've managed to turn that awkward lankiness into a weapon of war.
When it's time for giraffes to settle a beef, they engage in a violently clumsy battle of head butts. It begins by the giraffes getting into the gentlemanly position of war -- standing shoulder to shoulder facing the same direction. Then, almost politely, they take turns ramming their own neck into their opponent's neck. A match ends when it hurts enough for one of them to stop. If you translated the ritual into human, men would settle issues by shaking each other's hands, unzipping their pants, and slamming their dongs together until one screamed. So no different, really. Theirs is just a bit more metal.
"RAINING BLOOOOOOOD! FROM A LACERATED SKYYYY! BLEEDING ITS HORROR!
CREATING MY STRUCTURE; NOW I SHALL! REIGN-IN-BLOOD!"
The ridiculous neck-on-neck violence was captured just a few years ago by a BBC Nature and Discovery Channel production in Namibia. They followed a herd of giraffes down the Hoanib river until they finally beheld the Secret Kumite of the giraffes. As with most fights, it started over a girl. She was lanky, covered in flies, and had a 20-inch blue tongue, but in the giraffe community those are not deal breakers.
The dominant male responded to her moist, musky ovulation, but things got less sexy when a young bull interfered. Giraffes do not have celebrity-hosted mid-season replacement dating shows to pick their mates like we do, so the two suitors had to battle. And thanks to BBC Nature and the Discovery Channel hiding behind a bush and watching it, we now know giraffe ladies give up their flowers to the herd's best neck fighter. The herd's second-best neck fighter gets the consolation prize: a giraffe-patterned sack of neck bones.
The Death March Circles Of Army Ants
As we've mentioned before, ants -- when working together -- are among the most cunning creatures on earth. But not all ants are so capable. For instance, labidus praedator army ants have an evolutionary function that often leads to the stupidest deaths in the animal kingdom.
The trouble begins with the fact that these army ants are blind and have to navigate by scent. They follow, with unwavering loyalty, the pheromone tracks laid down by the scouting party ants. And this works fine as long as the lead ants don't get lost or confused. If that happens, all the ants start following each other and create a spiral of idiots that lasts until each one dies.
Yes, ants invented their own NASCAR.
There's no way out for the ants. Since they can't see, they have no idea they're even circling the same 20 inches of territory. Or maybe they know something's wrong but questioning the leader's pheromone glands is above their pay grade. We aren't going to try to get inside an ant's head, because if they are capable of sadness, these death marches would be goddamn depressing.
"Are we there yet? Ha ha, Larry, did you hear what I said? You're Mike? Larry's dead?
Well, do YOU like jokes, Mike? Because I asked Larry if we were there yet!"
The video simulation below shows just how quickly the situation can turn sour for these poor creatures. It's 47 seconds long and shows how a momentary lapse of concentration by a single inattentive ant can create a closed circle of "come this way" pheromones that sucks in every ant in the area and dooms them all.
Obviously, walking yourself to death is an objectively shitty adaptation, so why hasn't evolution put a stop to these shenanigans? The most likely answer is because who cares? An ant colony is so massive that a few hundred ants running in a circle until they die doesn't matter. It sounds barbaric, but if you've ever called Comcast, it's their exact customer service policy.
The Costa's Hummingbird Masked Mating Ritual
Hummingbirds are the metabolic equivalent of fighter jets. If you scaled these non-stop, vibrating birds to human proportions, they'd need to eat around 155,000 calories a day, which comes to 275 Big Macs, nearly 40 more than the national average. And as you might expect from someone who just ate the equivalent of 275 Big Macs, their courtship ritual looks like a helicopter accident. Males attempt to impress the ladies with a fluttering display too skillful to resist.
Most breeds of hummingbirds whistle, hover, and perform a few high-velocity nosedives, presumably while a friend holds their beer. But the Costa's Hummingbird, native to the deserts of California and Arizona, kicks up the histrionics to a uniquely unsettling notch. First let's take a look at him when he's not trying to get laid.
"I'm just not ready to jump into anything right now."
He's got some showy plumage -- a touch of shiny green in his feathers and a bright purple head, but he's a pretty unassuming bird. Get him within dick's reach of a female, though, and he goes nuts. He flutters at ludicrous speed and his courting ritual transforms himself into an unholy extraterrestrial terror, consigned by a vengeful god to requite man's sins. He looks like he's wearing a Cthulhu-themed Mardi Gras mask. No, this has not been doctored:
"TO LOOK UPON SHUB NIGGURATH IS TO KNOW ONLY MOISTNESS, GIRL."
The disturbing display is meant to close the deal romantically, because while it looks like a video game glitch to us, it's sexy as hell to a lady hummingbird. He does it by puffing out his throat feathers and angling himself just right against the sun's rays. The effect is an erotically indescribable octopus monster face. It works because a woman feels special when your face rewrites the very laws of the universe for her.
The Raging Shitstorms Of Mayflies
At around 8:45 p.m. on July 20th, 2014, a National Weather Service sweep spotted a sudden cloud of indeterminate origin and composition descending on the American northeast. It pinged their radar like this:
"Uh, sir ... the river just exploded?"
As you probably guessed from the title of this entry, it turned out the "cloud" was a Biblical swarm of mayflies immense enough to appear on radar. Mayflies are insects who spend a majority of their life in the water. Females dump their eggs into lakes or rivers which hatch into pre-pubescent nymphs which hang out doing nothing for a year. Eventually they float to the surface and hatch again, and in this second life cycle, they have two things: huge dragonfly wings and less than a day to live.
The mayflies emerge en masse -- countless horny insects desperate to live their last day to the fullest. They squirt into the sky like dirty brown waterspouts whipped up by Poseidon's furious butthole itself.
"This is going to be the greatest and only day of our liiiiiives!!!"
A tsunami of sex-crazed river bugs sounds like a worst-case scenario for a fishing trip, but it's not much better for people on shore. Like most bugs, they're drawn to light sources, so the mayflies buzz their fuckswarm directly for the nearest populated areas where they fornicate and die on every possible surface. The aftermath of a mayfly orgy looks like every diaper in the world was thrown into a wood chipper:
It's a landscape of diarrhea and corpses.
The adult mayflies' sole purpose is reproduction. They don't even have digestive systems, so once they're done boning, all they have left to do is drop dead. Each of them decorates the site of their first date with their own oozing corpse. If you wanted to live your life like a mayfly, you'd have to take a nap in a bathtub for 80 years, then rip off your skin and die having sex over the course of 32 hours. Say what you want about our human art and philosophy, but that sounds like a pretty sweet deal.
The Laser Light Shows Of Ostracods
Ostracods are tiny marine animals affectionately known as seed shrimp, because they're no larger than a seed and their only other distinguishing feature is a cartoonish little mustache.
If only he had the fins to twirl it.
Hilariously puny and with zero physical weapons, the ostracod is the bullied Peter Parker of the undersea world. But like Peter Parker, it is filled with secret radioactive goo. If a larger fish tries to eat it, the ostracod squirts a bioluminescent load into its attacker's mouth and escapes in the neon confusion.
Fish apparently hate the taste of laser.
The shining splooge does more than help them break free. It might blind their attacker and also lases them with a temporary glow, which reads like a giant neon "Eat Me" sign in the ocean depths. The sneaky thing is, there's no way for the fish to know this about the ostracod. Unlike most other glowing creatures like fireflies or fungi, ostracods are visually inert. The create their glowing goo by spitting out two compounds and letting them mix together, like the bombs in Die Hard 3. And speaking of badass, the compounds are called "luciferin" and "luciferase." Ostracods might look like fried eggs dying of lung cancer, but for the love of God, don't piss one off.
Spitting out your own glowsticks makes for a weirdly effective defense mechanism, but it's even better for impressing members of the opposite sex. These plankton-brained creatures are apparently capable of romance, and horny ostracods create patterns of light like personalized aquatic love notes. So to recap, ostracods spend their days taunting their enemies and watching them die and spend their nights making sweet love by the light of their own neon squirting. We should also mention that most of a male ostracod's body is made of sex organs and it produces unthinkably large sperm for a creature its size.
"I'm single, my sperm can be up to 3.6 times longer than my actual body, I'm ready to mingle."
Python and Gator Battles
In addition to bath salt rampages and nude men covered in penis electrodes, Florida faces a lesser known threat: giant pythons. Almost certainly inspired by terrible movies and awesome Whitesnake album covers, Floridians have been importing Burmese pythons to the area as pets for years. And if there's one thing you can't trust Florida pet owners with, it's a lethal invasive species. If Gremlins was set in Florida, it would have been six minutes long and rated NC-17 for Gremlins Killing Fucking Everybody Violence.
So many pet pythons were released into the wild after growing too large to keep in homes that they made the Everglades their home and started breeding with each other. And when they're not restricted to a diet of snake pellets and Hot Pockets, Burmese pythons grow big -- up to 20 feet long. Their population is estimated at tens of thousands to even hundreds of thousands, a statistic that doesn't inspire confidence in local snake catchers or local snake counters.
The pythons are decimating small mammal and bird communities, and due to dwindling numbers of tiny game, they are now focusing on larger targets. Like full-grown deer:
"Well here's yer problem. Ya gotta giant snake wrapped around yer deer, buddy."
It's disturbing a snake can swallow something as large, fast, and antlered as a deer, but even more disturbing is that they've started taking on goddamn alligators:
And winning. This is called a "Florida Pretzel."
Sometimes, both animals die in stomach-turning flesh puzzles of horror. This python body was found with a partially digested gator rupturing out of its stomach. Being killed by your own food sounds terrible, but the snake was also found without a head, so it's somehow possible its food killed it while in the process of being swallowed by eating it back? When snakes and gators battle, they create Cronenberg scenes that baffle medical science.
This is called a "Florida Turducken."
With no resolution in sight, Florida called upon its sizable but underutilized population of gun-toting residents by hosting the Python Challenge, a state-sponsored snake-killing jamboree. Even if each of those heroic hunters turns out to be the greatest snake killer in the world, it's unlikely the problem will ever be resolved, but the state isn't out of ideas. It has introduced a number of snake detection dogs, and if they get out of hand, they simply train some gators to eat the dogs, which we already know we can control with Burmese pythons. It's what's called "The Florida Circle of Life."
Think Nana and Pop-Pop's loving 60-year monogamous relationship is quaint and old-fashioned? First off, sorry for that disturbing image, but we've got some news for you: the monogamous sexual relationship is actually brand new relative to how long humans have been around. Secondly, it's about to get worse from here: monkey sex.
On this month's live podcast, Jack O'Brien and the Cracked staff welcome Dr. Christopher Ryan, podcaster and author of 'Sex at Dawn', onto the show for a lively Valentine's Day discussion about love, sex, why our genitals are where they are, and why we're more like chimps and bonobos than you think.
Get your tickets here.
For more ways Mother Nature has a sick sense of humor, check out 6 Plants And Fungi Designed By Mother Nature (And Satan) and 7 Species That Got Screwed Over By Mother Nature.
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