Can’t feel pain. Literally do not have the receptors for it.
They are extremely long-lived (30 years, but remember they’re small rodents) and they stay young right up until they die, they don’t sort of generally break down the way everyone else does.
Almost wholly immune to cancer. “Their cells secrete a kind of sugar, which prevents cancerous cells from multiplying and overcrowding.”
Immune to not having any oxygen. They live underground in mass bundles, where there’s no fresh air, so they’ve evolved a bunch of ways of doing this.
a) “the haemoglobin in their blood is very sticky for oxygen, able to grab oxygen molecules out of atmospheres with very low oxygen levels.”
b) “they reduce their need for oxygen by not generating body heat—they are the only cold-blooded mammal. Keeping warm takes a huge amount of energy which normally requires a huge amount of oxygen.”
c) normally, your pain receptors go crazy if you breathe in too much CO2. Naked molerats lack of pain receptors allow them to comfortably hang in a high-CO2 environment
d) they can release fructose into their bloodstream and use it for energy. Normally all mammals use glucose, which is much more efficient, but required oxygen to break down into ATP (energy that cells can use). You know who uses fructose? PLANTS. Whole article just on this oxygen thing.
How is there a sixth thing! The sixth thing: they (along with one other mole rat species) are the only known mammals to have the queen/worker/drone social structure (called ‘eusociality’). Other animals that have this: ants, bees, wasps. Not mammals. Naked molerats have a single fertile queen, three or four fertile breeding males, and all the workers are sterile.
Any one of these things would be amazing on its own. I can’t believe molerats. How are they. Anyway here are photos but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
You’ll notice they don’t have bald heads, the way other vultures do. That’s because they’re not sticking their heads into messy carcasses; they wait till they’re picked clean. They can swallow whole or bite through bones up to the size of a lamb’s femur, where their hyperacidic stomach dissolves the bones and lets them digest the marrow. (Wikipedia page)
If the bone is too big, they fly around 100 metres up and drop it onto rocks, cracking it into manageable pieces. (Their other names are ‘lammergeier’, meaning lamb-vulture, or ‘ossifrage’, bone-breaker.)
They’re also HUGE, with a wingspan of nearly 3 metres. When they can’t get bones, they surprise ibex and goats on cliff-edges and batter them till they fall off. Then eat them AND their bones.
Incidentally, their necks aren’t actually orange. They’re white. But they find patches of iron oxide-rich dust to groom into their feathers. This doesn’t have any direct benefits, but it tells other bearded vultures you have the time and resources to spare to find a real good patch of iron-oxide dust to groom with, so people find it very impressive.
Lastly, please enjoy this commentary by Thomas Littleton Powys, the 4th Baron Lilford:
We have two fine bearded vultures, or lammergeiers, one of which (with a companion that has died very lately) enjoyed complete liberty since its arrival here as a nestling till a few days ago, when I was obliged to have it caught up and confined, on account of very conspicuous breaches of decency about the roof of the house and our flower garden.
Okay, so 1) this spider (called Bagheera kiplingi after the Jungle Book) is the single vegetarian species out of 40,000 species of spider. “The jumping arachnid, which is 5–6mm long, has developed a taste for the tips of the acacia plants – known as Beltian bodies – which are packed full of protein.”
2) Beltian bodies are no good to the acacia plant, they’re not like buds or shoots or anything. The acacia is a type of myrmecophyte – a plant that has a symbiotic relationship with ants. It grows Beltian bodies for the ants to eat, and oversized thorns for them to hollow out and live in, and the ants aggressively attack any grazing animals or creeping vines that threaten the acacia. Or any spiders that try to steal the Beltian bodies.
3) “The spiders live on the plants – but way out on the tips of the old leaves, where the ants don’t spend a lot of time, because there isn’t any food on those leaves.”
But when they get hungry, the spiders head to the newer leaves, and get ready to run the ant gauntlet.
“They wait for an opening – they watch the ants move around, and they watch to see that there are not any ants in the local area that they are going after.
“And then they zip in and grab one of these Beltian bodies and then clip it off, hold it in their mouths and run away.
“And then they retreat to one of the undefended parts of the plant to eat it.” Full article
“Hunting for food, ants roam haphazardly. But when they find it, they use celestial cues, perhaps from the sun, to head back to their nests more or less in a straight line – rather than retracing the tortuous journeys they’d made on their outbound searches.
So how does an ant know when to stop running?
It must not be based on seeing the nest entrance, because a returning ant rarely runs straight down into its hole. Instead, when they think they’re in the right area, they stop running, make a U-turn, and pace back and forth until they find it.”
Scientists showed that they ‘count’ their steps by giving some ants stilts and amputating the last segment off the legs of other ants (ants’ legs can’t feel anything because they have to walk across boiling sand). The ants with stilts overshot their nest by 50% and the ants with stumps only got halfway home.
“Interestingly, the ants quickly adjusted to their new leg lengths. The next day the modified ants were allowed to engage in normal foraging, and they returned to the nest as well as the unmodified ants.” Full article
“The bird is inky black from the tip of its comb to the end of its claws, with blue-black skin, jet-black eyes, and a black tongue. It is covered in shimmering metallic black feathers, and even its internal organs are black.”
Controversial but interesting! I’m gonna try and summarise this long read on all the stuff that’s missing from the conversation:
There are many many pollinators, honeybees aren’t even that great it.
Industrial agriculture relies on bundling up pollinators and taking them from farm to farm:
“Domesticated landscapes bloom all at once, and die all at once. If you’re a pollinator, that means that you’ve got a ton of food, and then you have no food”—not a sustainable living situation for an insect. “We’ve created a system where we need to bring in an outside pollinator. And the honeybee, being stackable, is what we selected.”
STACKABLE. So yeah, we rely on honeybees because they’re portable.
Only 5-10% of honeybees are wild, the rest are part of this industry.
Our much-talked-about reliance on honeybees is not natural, it’s a result of a disastrous lack of biodiversity.
Don’t save the bee, become less dependent on the bee!
Lack of pollinator diversity is a bigger threat than Colony Collapse Disorder.
Okay obviously there’s a LOT I haven’t included here, but oh my gosh, CONTRARIAN DELIGHT. Read the full article.
Dragonfly wings are covered in irregular nanospikes, which bacteria get stuck on and then tear themselves open when they try to move. Scientists are experimenting with antibacterial textiles that mimic this texture. Full article
Boxer crabs (or pom-pom crabs) go through their lives with an anemone in each claw. (The anemones have defensive stinging cells.) If you take one of their pom-poms away, they’ll induce asexual reproduction in the remaining one by tearing it in half. If you take both away, they’ll steal one off another crab and do the same thing, so they always have two at all times. Full article
“We have created an ecosystem in which intelligence is prized above all else.The strength or endurance of the wolf could not save it from rifles; the rapid reproduction of the rabbit protects it only where its habitat remains intact.
The survivors are the bin animals: the ones who can extract resources from our waste products, who can outfox (so to speak) any attempts at capturing or controlling them. They are the raccoons, the bears, the rats, the pigeons, the crows, the foxes, the ibises and the gulls.” Keep Reading