The 200 or so species of octopuses are mollusks belonging to the order Cephalopoda, Greek for ‘head-feet’. Those heads contain impressively large brains, with a brain to body ratio similar to that of other intelligent animals, and a complex nervous system with about as many neurons as that of a dog.
In honor of World Elephant Day, we present you with 12 little known facts about one of our favorite creatures…in GIFs, of course.
1. Elephants know every member of their herd and are able to recognize up to 30 companions by sight or smell.
2. They can remember and distinguish particular cues that signal danger and can recall locations long after their last visit.
3. An elephant’s memory is not limited to its herd, nor is it limited to its species. In one instance, two circus elephants that performed together rejoiced when crossing paths 23 years later. Elephants have also recognized humans that they once bonded with after decades apart. 4.
4. The elephant boasts the largest brain of any land mammal as well as an impressive encephalization quotient (the size of the animal’s brain relative to its body size). The elephant’s EQ is nearly as high as a chimpanzee’s.
5. The elephant brain is remarkably similar to the human brain, with as many neurons and synapses, as well as a highly developed hippocampus and cerebral cortex.
6. Elephants are one of the few non-human animals to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
7. Elephants are creative problem solvers.
8. Don’t try to outsmart an elephant! They have an understanding of basic arithmetic and can even keep track of relative quantities.
9. Elephants communicate using everything from body signals to infrared rumbles that can be heard from kilometers away. Their understanding of syntax suggests that they have their own language and grammar.
10. Elephants can recognize 12 distinct tones of music and recreate melodies.
11. Elephants are the only non-human animals to mourn their dead, performing burial rituals and returning to visit graves.
12. Elephants are one of the few species who can recognize themselves in the mirror.
Given what we now know about elephants, and what they continue to teach us about animal intelligence, it is more important than ever to make sure that these magnificent creatures do not vanish.
Despite an increase in awareness and advocacy across the globe, elephants are still a highly vulnerable population. Consider adopting an elephant or donating to one of many organizations that work to conserve elephant populations! <3
In fact, how do any toxic animals survive their own secretions? The answer is that they use one of two basic strategies: securely storing these compounds or evolving resistance to them. Snakes employ both strategies – they store their flesh-eating, blood-clotting compounds in specialized compartments that only have one exit: through the fangs and into their prey or predator and they have built-in biochemical resistance. Rattlesnakes and other types of vipers manufacture special proteins that bind and inactivate venom components in the blood.
Poisonous and venomous animals aren’t the only ones that can develop this resistance: their predators and prey can, too. The garter snake, which dines on neurotoxic salamanders, has evolved resistance to salamander toxins through some of the same genetic changes as the salamanders themselves.
That means that only the most toxic salamanders can avoid being eaten— and only the most resistant snakes will survive the meal. The result is that the genes providing the highest resistance and toxicity will be passed on in greatest quantities to the next generations.
As toxicity ramps up, resistance does too, in an evolutionary arms race that plays out over millions of years. This pattern appears over and over again. Grasshopper mice resist painful venom from scorpion prey through genetic changes in their nervous systems. Horned lizards readily consume harvester ants, resisting their envenomed sting with specialized blood plasma. And sea slugs eat jellyfish nematocysts, prevent their activation with compounds in their mucus, and repurpose them for their own defenses.
Today is World Oceans Day, a global day of ocean celebration and collaboration for a better future. A healthy world ocean is critical to our survival. Together, let’s honor, help protect, and conserve the world’s oceans!
1. While the Earth’s oceans are known as five separate entities, there is really only one ocean.
2. The ocean contains upwards of 99% of the world’s biosphere, that is, the spaces and places where life exists.
3. Jellyfish are soft because they are 95% water and are mostly made of a translucent gel-like substance called mesoglea. With such delicate bodies, jellyfish rely on thousands of venom-containing stinging cells called cnidocytes for protection and prey capture.
4. Plastics & litter that make their way into our oceans are swiftly carried by currents, ultimately winding up in huge circulating ocean systems called gyres. The earth has five gyres that act as gathering points, but the largest of all is known as the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ and has grown so immense that the oceanic garbage patch can shift from around the size of Texas, to something the size of the United States.
5.The 200 or so species of octopuses are mollusks belonging to the order Cephalopoda, Greek for ‘head-feet’. Those heads contain impressively large brains, with a brain to body ratio similar to that of other intelligent animals, and a complex nervous system with about as many neurons as that of a dog.
6. Some lucky animals are naturally endowed with bioluminescence, or the ability to create light. The firefly, the anglerfish, and a few more surprising creatures use this ability in many ways, including survival, hunting, and mating.
What? You thought we ran out of cannibalism stories? Nah….
Many fish indiscriminately cannibalize each other during foraging behavior. Fish produce large numbers of tiny young, and adults exhibit about as much individual recognition of their offspring as humans do for a handful of raisins. Fish eggs, larvae, and juveniles are easily available, nutrient-rich meals, and with thousands of eggs in a clutch, plenty are still available to hatch after the adults have snacked.
Baby fish aren’t just at risk of being cannibalized by adults—siblings eat each other too.
While it may seem counterproductive for members of the same species to eat each other, cannibalism can promote the survival of the species as a whole by reducing competition, culling the weak, and bolstering the strong.
Sand tiger shark eggs develop and hatch inside their mother’s oviducts at different times. When the hatchlings run out of yolk from their own eggs, they eat the other eggs and hatchlings until one baby shark from each oviduct remains. When they emerge, the young sharks are well-nourished, experienced predators who stand a better chance of surviving.
Imagine you’re being attacked by a ferocious predator.
With no chance of escape, you do what any courageous, self-respecting possum would do: curl into an immobile state called catatonia, stick out your tongue, drool, and ooze some foul-smelling liquid from your anal glands.
Disgusted, your assailant loosens its grip, decides you’re not the dinner it was looking for, and departs. After 10 minutes, you resurrect and merrily saunter on.
From lemurs to lizards, ants to amphibians, sharks to chickens, hundreds of animals “play dead” as a survival tactic. Nicknamed “playing possum” after its star performer, feigning death is also called ‘thanatosis’. That’s from Thanatos, the ancient Greek deity of death. But most scientists call it tonic immobility, or TI. How and why TI occurs depends on the species and situation.
Most of the physiological mechanisms underlying these theatrics originate in the parasympathetic nervous system, better known for controlling cycles of resting and digesting. In possums, the parasympathetic nervous system causes their heart rates to drop by nearly half, respiration by a third, and body temperatures by more than half a degree Celsius for up to an hour.
But maintaining a death ruse isn’t easy. The performers are constantly gauging their surroundings for cues on when it’s safe to rise. So TI can work to an animal’s advantage, unless someone else knows its secret. Would you believe that California orcas can flip over young great white sharks, inducing TI for so long the immobilized sharks, who must move to respire, essentially suffocate.
In the deserts of the American Southwest, spadefoot toad tadpoles hatch in tiny oases. Until they develop into toadlets, they can’t survive outside of water, but these ponds are transient and quickly evaporate.
The tadpoles are in a race against the clock to grow up before their nurseries disappear. So nearly overnight, some of the brood explode in size.
They use their jack-o-lantern teeth and huge jaw muscles to devour their smaller pond mates. Nourished by this extra fuel, they develop quicker, leaving the pond before it can dry out.
The spadefoot toad is far from the only animal to eat members of its own species as a normal part of its life cycle. All of these animals do, too.
If that surprises you, you’re in good company. Until recently, scientists thought cannibalism was a rare response to starvation or other extreme stress. Well-known cannibals, like the praying mantis and black widow spider, were considered bizarre exceptions. But now, we know they more or less represent the rule.