Everyone dreams of being a superhero. And a weird number of popular superpowers are just us fantasizing about being ... an animal. Gorilla strength, bat ears, doing whatever a spider can.. But the thing is, a lot of animals have weirder and wilder powers than we give them credit for. In fact, even the superhero powers that we don't think are inspired by animals are secretly possessed by animals after all. We're talking about things like how … 

Frogs Have Wolverine Claws

Wolverine is one of the most popular comic book characters of all time. He bangs redheads, he has no memory, he rides a motorbike—he James Dean, if James Dean lived long enough to get dementia. But the thing that's sexiest and coolest about him is his claws. Which aren't quite like the claws real wolverines but are instead made of actual bone (and then covered in sci-fi metal). 

Nature, abhorring an X-Men sized vacuum, stepped in and gave us a nightmare creature that does just what Wolverine does. The male hairy frog breaks its own toe bones to form evil claws. 

Taxidermied male hairy frog (Trichobatrachus robustus) at the Natural History Museum in London, England.

Gustavocarra

Four claws per limb means it's 33% cooler than Wolverine, at least

Trichobatrachus robustus is also known as the Wolverine frog or the horror frog, by reasonable scientists who think hair isn’t not the most notable part of this animal. Worse, this specific form of bone claw torture isn't the only type we see in frogs. The Otton frog (also known as the Wolverine frog) can whip out claws and stick them into his partner while mating, which is something our mutant friend Logan has definitely done. There's even another type of frog that grow spines on their thumbs, and even more that have cat-like claws. 

While scientists still don't know how those broken bone claws retract (they've only studied frogs corpses), it won't matter much as frogs are one of those species that your granddaughter will be asking you about, given all the mass extinctions happening to them. Now, if only they had Wolverine's other famous power … 

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Invisible. Shrimp.

Everything under the sea sucks. We can all unanimously agree that the worst Disney song ever is "Under the Sea"—itt's not better down where it's wetter, it's more horrifying, nightmare-inducing, and toxic than almost anything on land. We don't know all that much about our own oceans but can you blame us, every time we go down there we find an evil duck that farts green gas or whatever the heck this is:

Northern stargazer

Canvasman21/Wiki Commons

It awaits.

But luckily, the sea has finally started to give back. Not with extreme breakthroughs in scientific advancements for us here on the surface, but by finally starting to hide its shitty horrors from us. Yeah, see, it turns out that there are some underwater creatures that can fully turn invisible. Using bacteria

These hyperiids amphipods, which are basically hell shrimp, have figured out how to use nanotechnology (if we're going to be super loose with the definition of "nanotechnology"). Shrimp use tiny bacteria to cover their reflective hides and remain unseen by predators. These cells—around 100 nanometers—are used as a sort of shield, preventing light-shining predators from seeing these translucent little shrimp.

Actually, we aren't sure those are bacteria; that's just a theory.. All we know for now is that there are delicious shrimp hiding deep below the sea, and anyone who eats one will be crowned the Ultimate Hunter. Get to fishing, y'all.

Parasites Can Control Your Mind (Without Even Entering You)

The most terrifying power of all is mind control. Professor X, Wanda Maximoff, David Tennant's Purple Man, and even some versions of  Spider-Man possess the most uniquely horrifying power of all—that of complete control over their victim. The ability to make them do whatever you want, act however you want, bend to your will entirely—it's horrifying. And completely real. We've talked before about mushrooms that invade the minds of ants or how wasps can control others. But what if a parasite could infect and control you … without entering you at all? 

Turns out, some of them can!

See, animals are mostly pack animals. They follow after what others do. If you control enough members of a group, you can control the group. Tapeworms controlling one member of a group of fish change the behavior of the entire swarm

school of fish

OpenStax College

All it takes is one. 

Can this work on humans too? Sure, why not? Till now, we’ve only seen this type of control work on “lower” life forms like birds, but tapeworms infect humans, and have been shown to change behavior—including increasing risk taking. It’s only a matter of time until evolution … leaps forward. 

Dogs Know When You’re Lying

One of the most fascinating traits of human beings is our ability to lie, to tell stories, to say a bunch of words to fill an empty silence even if it all means nothing. We can cheat, steal, swindle and then lie about all of what we've done. But there's one hero who knows the truth about what we've done—Daredevil. 

Several superheroes have lie-detecting powers, actually. And so does your dog. 

Yeah, see, turns out, old Fido knows that you're not really taking him up to a farm but bringing him out to the back pasture. He knows that you're lying to your wife about where that smear on your collar came from. He knows you think Squid Game was good, but overrated. 

Scientists, who presumably came up with the experiment while incredibly bored and craving an animal they could pet, decided to mess with some dogs. They trained the dogs to listen to animal handlers who would lead them to treats, and then slowly started lying to the dogs … who would then realize and go the opposite direction (and no, it wasn't because they could smell the treat). 

The experiment has been conducted on chimpanzees as well, who failed more miserably than Old Yeller. Of course, since dogs don't have an elephant's memory, they'll eventually forget and you can continue lying to your dog forever, you evil ghoul, you.

Spiders Fly Hundreds Of Miles

Yeah, it turns out flinging themselves insane distances with their body, crawling on walls, and shooting sperm-substitute out of their little spider snatch isn't enough anymore. Spiders must go where the eagles call home. See, spiders make a sort of big kite for themselves using silk strand and then just up, up, and away. 

"Oh, so they just paraglide for a bit," say the more jaded among you, as though that's not totally crazy. But it's not a small hop from branch to branch. These little demons fly miles and miles. Spiders use this skill, called “ballooning,” to migrate—leaving threats and traveling to better, happier climates. They can travel 2.5 miles up and 1000 miles out … even a cruise ship won't be able to save you.

These ballooning spiders aren't merely floating around on the wind, though. They're actually reading the earth's electromagnetic field, using the negative charge of the ground and the positive charge of the air to fly. To test this theory, first proposed by Darwin, scientists did the funniest experiment ever, tricking spiders in a no-airflow environment into ballooning and then turning off the electric field and watching dozens of little spider heads plummet to the ground. 

So the next time you feel that static in the air as a storm cloud rises, remember … somewhere out there a spider is using that to fly away to happier homes (and potentially directly into your eyes, nose, and mouth). 

Tara Marie’s superpower is being able to tell the top card on a deck like 17% of the time. Tell her yours @TaraMarieWords or just read more of her stuff here, at The Hard Times, or by buying her comic. Remember, you’re not special, unless you can shoot lasers from your eyes. 

Top image: Pristurus/Wiki Commons

 

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