5 Horrors Of Evolution School Never Mentioned
Schools are generally full of apathetic people who don't want to be there and are thiiis close to breaking and trying to bludgeon themselves with a history textbook from 1978. And the students are even worse. Frankly, it's a miracle anyone even shows up to school, which is why you haven't been taught some of the more bizarre facts about evolution. Because, let's be honest, if a teacher tried to teach you any of the following, that would be the last push you needed to walk out of the room while muttering "Look, if you're not going to take this school thing seriously, then neither are we." Tell us that wouldn't be young you's reaction to being told that ...
Sharks Are Older Than Trees
Picture Earth 420 million years ago. *BZZZT* Wrong! Here are all the ways you screwed up that mental exercise: no Cthulhu, no sharks, but yes trees. It's perfectly understandable. See, while most people think that trees are, in proper academic parlance, "old as shit," that's actually not accurate at all because there was poop on Earth for millions of years before trees first appeared on our planet. And some of that poop came from shark butts. In fact, sharks have been pooping in our waters for 70 million years before we got our first tree.
Still, it doesn't mean that old-timey Earth was just a perpetual Jaws the Ride as these prehistoric sharks were very different to what we know today. The earliest ones may not even have had teeth, and the first shark teeth fossils possibly belonged to a shark that was so "un-shark like," scientists named it Doliodus problematicus. This is what happens when you don't have a healthy way to process all those years of bullying you endured in high school: you start to bully fish with Latin. Then again, the Doliodus was pretty small and might have had all of its teeth fused together, which is Mother Nature's equivalent of braces, so it was probably used to a little bullying.
The first "shark-like shark" dates back to around 380 million years ago, still way before trees. Once again, these weren't exactly ringers for the Great White, and later updates would include such bizarre beauties as the Stethacanthus, the shark with a joystick controller-shaped protrusion on its back, or the Helicoprion, the buzzsaw-mouthed shark. All this variety points to the secret to the sharks' eon-long lineage. Think about it. Although you have a very specific image of a shark in your head, there are so many different varieties on Earth right now like the whale shark which looks nothing like a tiger shark which looks nothing like the hammerhead. That's because sharks are the only creature on Earth that aren't full of shit when they say "Baby, I can change."
Sharks have survived a bunch of extinction events because they are adaptable. When, say, the ocean lost a bunch of its oxygen, some moved deeper underwater and developed the ability to glow in the dark, and it's because they keep evolving that they have managed to survive long enough to go "What, and I cannot stress this enough, is that weird-looking shit?" when they came across the first tree.
Related: Urban Legends Older Than You'd Think
Giant Squids Evolved 3-Foot-Long S&M Penises, We're Sorry
We mentioned before that, to avoid being eaten by the larger females after or even during sex, some (coward) octopuses will rip off the tentacle that acts as their penis and throw it at a potential mate so that they can inseminate themselves. And what's even more disturbing is that this is apparently the version of sex they teach at cephalopod Sunday School with posters that say things like "A gentleman octopus and his penis are soon parted." It's generally bad news when the possibility of cannibalism and dismemberment are considered vanilla sex in your world.
See, some cephalopods do engage in their own version of "rough sex" and it's as terrifying as the term "rough cephalopod sex" implies. Giant squids still largely remain a mystery to us, but from the few specimens we did study, we determined that "Nope, hentai is still weird," and that male giant squids are giant dicks. Sorry, we meant to say "have giant dicks" but, then again, the first version still make sense.
Giant squids evolved penises about 3 feet long, and when they use them to mate, they literally attack the female, using either their beaks or the hooks on their tentacles to first rip and slash open their partner's skin. Then, they stick their penis inside the wound and inject sperm packets into it "at high pressure," not unlike a flesh syringe at a fertility clinic designed by Tim Burton. Again, we are just so very sorry.
It's not exactly clear what happens next as the sperm injection sometimes isn't anywhere close to where the eggs come out. Some scientists speculate that the sperm deposits will normally continue to burrow themselves deep into the female squid's flesh until they reach a place where they can fertilize the eggs just as they come out... Just so incredibly sorry, though it might explain why scientists call these squid dongs "terminal organs."
Here's an additional, fun-sized fact about the male giant squid's brutal mating habits, with an emphasis on "fun-sized." While it's true that these creatures' nightmarish penis pumps are about 3 feet in length, you also have to remember that the squids themselves can grow up to 70-feet-long. On a 6-foot-tall human, that same body to penis size ratio would result in a dong about 3.5 inches long. And if that fact made you feel better about yourself, then you have issues that only a therapist behind bulletproof glass can fix.
Giant Prehistoric Bears Were The Size Of Cars And Horrifying
Arctotherium angustidens, a South American giant short-faced bear that lived 500,000 to 2 million years ago, was so frightening because of the 11 feet. Now, it's impossible for a sentence to contain the words "giant," "bear" and "11 feet" and not be anything other than pure nightmare fuel. Either you're talking about a bear measuring 11 feet, having 11 feet, having eaten 11 feet, or having 11 distinct feet fetishes. For the record, Arctotherium was 11-feet-tall when standing up, though we do acknowledge that it might also have eaten its share of feet, which may or may not have given it a boner.
The monster ursine probably weighed up to 3,500 pounds, or to put in more descriptive terms, exactly as much as 3,500 1lbs weights. It owes its size to the fact that its hunting grounds were originally full of prey and low on predators, so over time evolution made the bear larger and larger because there were no other animals around to go "Hey, chief, what about us?" and make it distribute size more equally. We're pretty sure that's exactly how evolution works. Over time, this produced a walking ball of muscle and teeth that could most likely accidentally swallow an entire human baby and never even notice.
No one is of course saying that modern-day bears are small, because we worry that if we said that out loud, then Leonardo DiCaprio's character from The Revenant would appear in front of us and punch us right in the neck. We're just saying that this bear of yesteryear (yesterbear) was so gigantic, it makes its current cousins look about as threatening as the Chicago Bears. (Look, nobody at Cracked watches or knows sports; we only went with the team because of the name. We're not even sure what sport they play. It's synchronized swimming, right?)
However, over time, as more predators muscled in on the murder bear's territory, it evolved a smaller size and a more diverse diet to better make use of the available resources. Meaning that if you want to make an animal smaller, you have to surround it with hungry wolves and tigers or something. Trust us, we've checked. On a related note, does anyone know how to get unbanned from "literally every zoo on the planet"?
Magnolias Are So Freaking Old, They Evolved To Get Pollinated By Beetles Instead Of Bees
Magnolias aren't generally thought to be thoroughly tough flowers. Just as an example, the title of the movie Steel Magnolias was meant to indicate that the story's heroines could be soft and delicate like the magnolia flowers, but also strong like steel. Which is just an artsy (and kind of passive-aggressive) way of saying these flowers are weak-ass shit.
But the magnolias' gentle facade is just that: a facade meant to hide their badass evolutionary history. See, the magnolia is ancient. It's actually one of the oldest flowering plants on the planet. How old is it? It's so old, it evolved to be pollinated by beetles and flies instead of bees and butterflies because bees and butterflies haven't existed yet when these flowers first appeared on Earth. On the one hand, that's a terrible "Yo mamma" joke but it has the benefit of being 100% factual.
This is why the magnolia trees flower so colorfully and produce very simple flowers. In proper scientific terms, beetles are considered "dumb pollinators" because, we repeat, scientists still haven't found a healthy way to deal with being locked in their lockers all those years ago. Then again, beetles are generally incapable of finding a magnolia flower unless it makes itself super noticeable, and once inside it, the insects can't do much besides "haphazardly bump" around, shaking some of the pollen loose and carrying it over to the next flower while looking for more nectar.
Magnolias also evolved thick leaves and durable seeds to survive the beetles' "sloppy" nectar-collecting with their mandibles, which in most other species would leave the flower looking as tattered as Pinhead's foreskin. Still, feels mean to call them "dumb" because of it, though we may only be saying that because we somewhat identify with a species that needs extremely (some might say insultingly) clear instructions, and only does a good job by sheer accident.
The Last Woolly Mammoths Lived A Sad, Incestuous Life On A Remote Island
The wooly mammoth died out about 4,000 years ago. So right about the time some of the pyramids were still being built. Not that the Ancient Egyptians ever enjoyed mammoth kebabs, since around that time, all the surviving furry mega-phants could only be found on Wrangel Island, located more or less between Russia and Alaska in the Arctic Ocean. Most of their kin died out during the last ice age but a small group got trapped on Wrangel and lived for a few more millennia. But they didn't live well.
By all accounts, Wrangel Island is a pretty nice place. In the springtime, it's supposedly full of flowers, but the mammoths never got to smell them. Because their group was so small, these noble animals really took the "noble" part to heart and eventually started inbreeding like crazy. Without genetic diversity, their autumn boning sessions (when they would "pump kin") mangled their DNA so much, the Wrangel mammoths developed all sorts of diseases, from loss of smell to diabetes. They also suffered from low sperm count, but at this point, that sounds more like a blessing.
In the end, though, what probably killed the Wrangel mammoths was some extreme climate event that deprived them of food and caused them to slowly starve to death.
There is also evidence that they didn't have access to quality drinking water near the end of their lives. We don't know what these animals did to piss off God, but for whatever reason, he really wanted to make sure they suffered before wiping them off the face of the Earth. At this rate, we wouldn't be surprised if it turned out that Wrangel Island is also home to the world's only "mammoth dick-biting acid spider."
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