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Science

17 photos of animals that prove there's nothing natural about traditional gender roles

These animals demonstrate the greatness of nature and its stubborn unwillingness to conform to human expectations for the way things "should be."

animals, nature, gender roles, traditional
Image via Pixabay.

We have our eyes on you too.

Traditional gender roles are "natural," goes the common refrain.

Heterosexuality? That's natural too, apparently. Staying one gender your whole life? Definitely natural.

There's only one problem: Nature (and science) beg to disagree.


In reality, male and female animals set up their relationships thousands of different ways in the wild. In many species, males are the primary caretakers of the next generation while females ignore their offspring and mate promiscuously. Even the existence of "male" and "female" as distinct categories is often not so clear in certain species.

Some animals have the ability to change sex to respond to various outside pressures and conditions.

A few can even mate with themselves.

Here are 17 animals that demonstrate the greatness of nature and its stubborn unwillingness to conform to human expectations for the way things "should be."

1. Jacanas

birds, science, nature, incubation

"Mom went out for a pack of cigarettes and never came back."

​Photo by Ozan Kill

Ask any tropical bird out there, and they'll tell you that male jacanas are pretty much the best dads of the bunch. Not only do male jacanas stick around the nest to incubate the eggs and raise their offspring, they even carry them under-wing when they fly.

Meanwhile, female jacanas are ... not exactly super nurturing. After gathering up a harem of nearly half a dozen males and laying her eggs, the female jacana splits in order to fly around, murder the young of rival females, and mate with their former partners.

This is considered charming.

2. Clown fish

species, environment, reefs, fish

Clown fish were invented by Disney/Pixar in 2003.

Photo by Rachel Hisko on Unsplash

Like many species of reef fish, clown fish can, and frequently do, change sex. Unlike most species of reef fish however, all clown fish are born male and are led (in familial groups) by a dominant female.

When she dies, the next-biggest male simply ... becomes female and takes charge of the group.

What you just heard was the sound of a billion other species slapping themselves on the forehead at the same time, wondering why they didn't think of that, realizing it's now too late and that now they'd just be, like, hopping on the trend.

3. African buffalo

leadership, hierarchies, grazing, grasslands

Everyone is getting out there for an afternoon stroll.

Photo by Soerfm/Wikimedia Commons.

Not only are female buffalos are responsible for coordinating the movements of the entire herd — they do it democratically. When it's time to find a new grazing spot, each female takes a turn standing up and gazing in the direction they want to travel, and when they're done, the whole group moves that way.

While status hierarchies exist within herds, the elections are equitable — one cow, one vote.

Change You Can Moo-Lieve in. Make the Grasslands Great Again.

4. Bees

matriarchy, male drones, hive, honey

"Aaaaaaagh! Aaaaaagh! Aaaaaagh!" — Nicholas Cage.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Bees famously take the matriarchy to the extreme. A single queen bee oversees thousands of smaller female workers and male drones.

While most bees live, at most, a few weeks, the queen typically survives several years before the hive goes looking for a new queen to start the cycle over again. All to advance the species-wide goal of refusing to fly out of your car even though all four windows are down.

5. Komodo dragons

komodo dragon, eggs, offspring, evolution

Party out with your tongue out... alone even.

Photo by Mark Dumont/Wikimedia Commons.

Female komodo dragons can lay viable eggs that produce offspring without a male partner, which pretty much explains why komodo dragon Tinder never truly caught on.

6. Praying mantises

copulation, life cycle, insects, hunters

Not as romantic as it looks.

Photo by Oliver Koemmerling/Wikimedia Commons.

Mantis males are often smaller than mantis females, a discrepancy that leaves many males feeling insecure, as it enables females to frequently — though not always — eat their heads during sex.

7. Common reed frogs

amphibians, forrest, frogs, reproduction

So many choices for the day ahead.

Photo by ChriKo/Wikimedia Commons.

These tiny, resilient amphibians can change sex from female to male, allowing them to successfully reproduce if they suddenly find themselves surrounded by frogs of the same sex.

This ability makes them one of the most successful species on Earth at inspiring anxious Sam Neil monologues.

8. South American marmosets

monkeys, jungle, troops, community

"Hey, pa? You ... you wanna ... play catch?"

Photo by Maxim Bilovitskiy/https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/en:Creative_Commons.

Female marmosets tend not to be terribly interested in their babies. A few weeks after giving birth, they're mostly out of their kids' lives forever.

Marmoset dads, on the other hand, are excellent caretakers, feeding, grooming, and transporting their young as well as coaching Marmoset Little League and always batting their kid cleanup.

9. Spotted hyenas

aggression, dominance, African plains, arid climates

Someone has to lead this party.

Photo via Pixabay.

Not only are female hyenas stronger and more aggressive than males, male and female hyena genitals are nearly identical in appearance. They're so similar that it's extremely difficult to tell the difference with the naked eye, which ultimately doomed the '70s game show "What Sex is That Hyena?" to cancellation after just half a season.

10. Seahorses

eggs, mating process, sea life, oceans

"OK, so. I need a really big favor."

Photo by Mikhail Preobrazhenskiy on Unsplash

While males of numerous species nurture their offspring, the male seahorse takes things several steps further. During the mating process, he receives eggs from the female and not only fertilizes them, but carries the offspring until they hatch.

A recent poll of male seahorses found that an overwhelming majority experience a secret surge of satisfaction when their partners get kidney stones.

11. Cuttlefish

coloration, species rivalries, genetics, fish

Blumph.

Photo by Michal B. on Unsplash

Unlike middle school boys across America, male cuttlefish don't have a lot of hang-ups about appearing feminine to their peers. Masters of camouflage, these future delicious fried antipasto will often alter their coloration in order to pass for female around rival males.

If an actual female is around, they'll leave the other half of their body as is, appearing half male and half female.

12. Topi antelopes

Africa, herd animals, promiscuity, food

Oh hey.

Photo by Whit Welles/Wikimedia Commons.

Female topi antelopes are not only sexually promiscuous, but when it's time to mate, they almost always make the first move. In some cases, female topis pester male antelopes for sex so relentlessly that the male has to physically fight them off. (Cue dozens of Facebook commenters yelling at male antelopes for complaining about something that's "obviously awesome" and insisting they're lucky and should "just be grateful for the attention.")

13. Laysan albatrosses

birds, mating, wildlife

"Al." "Al."

Photo by Patte David/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Public Domain Images.

Some female albatrosses mate in female-female pairs, often for life.

(Side note: All male albatrosses are named Al Batross. Every single one of them. That's a proven fact).

14. Banana slugs

slugs, sex organs, horror

"When I think about you..."

Image via Pixabay.

A hermaphroditic species, banana slugs have both male and female sex organs and occasionally mate with themselves.

Though banana slugs do seem to prefer mating with other slugs, doing so typically ends with one slug chewing the other's penis off, because nature is a cavalcade of endless, random horror.

15. Orcas

whales, pods, matriarchal, peers

"You have to hit the home button twice, grandma."

Photo by Mike Doherty on Unsplash

Killer whales live in matriarchal pods, and female whales are more likely to take charge of the group than their male peers.

The oldest female whales are often the go-to source for information about where to find food, and in exchange for keeping the whole family alive, the younger whales patiently show them time and again how to use the iPad.

16. Emperor penguins

documentaries, Antartica, frozen tundra, trekking

"Where is that voice coming from?"

Photo via Pixabay.

Anyone who's seen "March of the Penguins" knows that male emperor penguins guard their eggs tightly, perilously balancing them on their feet while their female companions go off to do traditional woman stuff like trekking across the Antarctic tundra, diving for food in the freezing cold ocean, and pleading with Morgan Freeman to shut the hell up so they can focus on not being eaten by seals for like five goddamn seconds.

17. Bonobos

genetics, sex, apes, animal kingdom

"Mmmmmm. Yeah. Mmmmm. All right. Yeah." — Bonobos, all the time.

Photo by Sean Foster on Unsplash

The female-led bonobos have invented perhaps the most ingenious way of preventing intra-species violence in the entire animal kingdom. Basically, everyone just has sex with everyone else — males with females, females with females, males with males, in pretty much every kind of way imaginable.

The near-constant hetero-homo-orgiastic delight that results pretty much prevents anyone from being mad at anyone ever and unites the species around the common goal of being the best apes ever invented.

We share about 99% of our DNA with bonobos.

Planet

Easy (and free!) ways to save the ocean

The ocean is the heart of our planet. It needs our help to be healthy.

Ocean Wise

Volunteers at a local shoreline cleanup

True

The ocean covers over 71% of the Earth’s surface and serves as our planet’s heart. Ocean currents circulate vital heat, moisture, and nutrients around the globe to influence and regulate our climate, similar to the human circulatory system. Cool, right?

Our ocean systems provide us with everything from fresh oxygen to fresh food. We need it to survive and thrive—and when the ocean struggles to function healthfully, the whole world is affected.

Pollution, overfishing, and climate change are the three biggest challenges preventing the ocean from doing its job, and it needs our help now more than ever. Humans created the problem; now humans are responsible for solving it.

#BeOceanWise is a global rallying cry to do what you can for the ocean, because we need the ocean and the ocean needs us. If you’re wondering how—or if—you can make a difference, the answer is a resounding YES. There are a myriad of ways you can help, even if you don’t live near a body of water. For example, you can focus on reducing the amount of plastic you purchase for yourself or your family.

Another easy way to help clean up our oceans is to be aware of what’s known as the “dirty dozen.” Every year, scientists release an updated list of the most-found litter scattered along shorelines. The biggest culprit? Single-use beverage and food items such as foam cups, straws, bottle caps, and cigarette butts. If you can’t cut single-use plastic out of your life completely, we understand. Just make sure to correctly recycle plastic when you are finished using it. A staggering 3 million tons of plastic ends up in our oceans annually. Imagine the difference we could make if everyone recycled!

The 2022 "Dirty Dozen" ListOcean Wise

If you live near a shoreline, help clean it up! Organize or join an effort to take action and make a positive impact in your community alongside your friends, family, or colleagues. You can also tag @oceanwise on social if you spot a beach that needs some love. The location will be added to Ocean Wise’s system so you can submit data on the litter found during future Shoreline Cleanups. This data helps Ocean Wise work with businesses and governments to stop plastic pollution at its source. In Canada, Ocean Wise data helped inform a federal ban on unnecessary single-use plastics. Small but important actions like these greatly help reduce the litter that ends up in our ocean.

Ocean Wise, a conservation organization on a mission to restore and protect our oceans, is focused on empowering and educating everyone from individuals to governments on how to protect our waters. They are making conservation happen through five big initiatives: monitoring and protecting whales, fighting climate change and restoring biodiversity, innovating for a plastic-free ocean, protecting and restoring fish stocks, and finally, educating and empowering youth. The non-profit believes that in order to rebuild a resilient and vibrant ocean within the next ten years, everyone needs to take action.

Become an Ocean Wise ally and share your knowledge with others. The more people who know how badly the ocean needs our help, the better! Now is a great time to commit to being a part of something bigger and get our oceans healthy again.

Pets

Family brings home the wrong dog from daycare until their cats saved the day

A quick trip to the vet confirmed the cats' and family's suspicions.

Family accidentally brings wrong dog home but their cats knew

It's not a secret that nearly all golden retrievers are identical. Honestly, magic has to be involved for owners to know which one belongs to them when more than one golden retriever is around. Seriously, how do they all seem have the same face? It's like someone fell asleep on the copy machine when they were being created.

Outside of collars, harnesses and bandanas, immediately identifying the dog that belongs to you has to be a secret skill because at first glance, their personalities are also super similar. That's why it's not surprising when one family dropped off their sweet golden pooch at daycare and to be groomed, they didn't notice the daycare sent out the wrong dog.

See, not even their human parents can tell them apart because when the swapped dog got home, nothing seemed odd to the owners at first. She was freshly groomed so any small differences were quickly brushed off. But this accidental doppelgänger wasn't fooling her feline siblings.

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All images provided by Prudential Emerging Visionaries

Collins after being selected by Prudential Emerging Visionaries

True

A changemaker is anyone who takes creative action to solve an ongoing problem—be it in one’s own community or throughout the world.

And when it comes to creating positive change, enthusiasm and a fresh perspective can hold just as much power as years of experience. That’s why, every year, Prudential Emerging Visionaries celebrates young people for their innovative solutions to financial and societal challenges in their communities.

This national program awards 25 young leaders (ages 14-18) up to $15,000 to devote to their passion projects. Additionally, winners receive a trip to Prudential’s headquarters in Newark, New Jersey, where they receive coaching, skills development, and networking opportunities with mentors to help take their innovative solutions to the next level.

For 18-year-old Sydnie Collins, one of the 2023 winners, this meant being able to take her podcast, “Perfect Timing,” to the next level.

Since 2020, the Maryland-based teen has provided a safe platform that promotes youth positivity by giving young people the space to celebrate their achievements and combat mental health stigmas. The idea came during the height of Covid-19, when Collins recalled social media “becoming a dark space flooded with news,” which greatly affected her own anxiety and depression.

Knowing that she couldn’t be the only one feeling this way, “Perfect Timing” seemed like a valuable way to give back to her community. Over the course of 109 episodes, Collins has interviewed a wide range of guests—from other young influencers to celebrities, from innovators to nonprofit leaders—all to remind Gen Z that “their dreams are tangible.”

That mission statement has since evolved beyond creating inspiring content and has expanded to hosting events and speaking publicly at summits and workshops. One of Collins’ favorite moments so far has been raising $7,000 to take 200 underserved girls to see “The Little Mermaid” on its opening weekend, to “let them know they are enough” and that there’s an “older sister” in their corner.

Of course, as with most new projects, funding for “Perfect Timing” has come entirely out of Collins’ pocket. Thankfully, the funding she earned from being selected as a Prudential Emerging Visionary is going toward upgraded recording equipment, the support of expert producers, and skill-building classes to help her become a better host and public speaker. She’ll even be able to lease an office space that allows for a live audience.

Plus, after meeting with the 24 other Prudential Emerging Visionaries and her Prudential employee coach, who is helping her develop specific action steps to connect with her target audience, Collins has more confidence in a “grander path” for her work.

“I learned that my network could extend to multiple spaces beyond my realm of podcasting and journalism when industry leaders are willing to share their expertise, time, and financial support,” she told Upworthy. “It only takes one person to change, and two people to expand that change.”

Prudential Emerging Visionaries is currently seeking applicants for 2024. Winners may receive up to $15,000 in awards and an all-expenses-paid trip to Prudential’s headquarters with a parent or guardian, as well as ongoing coaching and skills development to grow their projects.

If you or someone you know between the ages of 14 -18 not only displays a bold vision for the future but is taking action to bring that vision to life, click here to learn more. Applications are due by Nov. 2, 2023.
Pop Culture

A-ha's stripped-down, slowed-down performance of 'Take On Me' is a must-see

The slower tempo and simple instrumentation creates a sadder, more haunting version of the 80s monster hit.

A-ha performing live for MTV Unplugged Summer Solstice

According to NPR—and the ABBA blaring from my young adult daughter's headphones—we're in the midst of an 80s music revival. As a Gen Xer who came of age in the 80s, I think most of that decade should stay locked in a time capsule, but there are a few songs that have managed to remain timeless despite the synthesizers and bad hair.

A-ha's "Take On Me" is one of them. Despite its consummately-80s sound, the song with the famous sketch animated video is still enjoyable (if not a little earwormy—good luck once it gets stuck in your head).

But a lesser-known 2017 arrangement of the song is actually, miraculusly, even better. A-ha performed "Take On Me" for an MTV Unplugged Summer Solstice album, and it's significantly different than the original. The Norwegian band filmed the performance live on the island of Giske, dropping the electric piano as well as the tempo for a stripped-down version that has become a fan favorite. As of this writing, the video has 97 million views on YouTube.

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Photo via Rob Lopez/YouTube.


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Photo via Rob Lopez/YouTube.


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Some people talk about changing the world. These young people are actually doing it.

From tackling maternal mortality in Cameroon to fighting food insecurity in the U.S., these "Goalkeepers" are making their mark on global development goals.

Photo by Chris Farber/Getty Images for Gates Archive

The 2023 Goalkeepers Awards honored activists from opposite sides of the globe.

The past two centuries have seen humanity transform into a truly interconnected global community. Like any community, we have our virtues and strengths as well as our challenges that require collective effort to overcome.

The United Nations created 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 to help us focus our efforts on vital areas of concern, including poverty, gender equality, education, food security, health, climate and more. And every year since then, changemakers have arisen to meet those goals in various ways. Some of these changemakers are already leaders on the world stage, from heads of state to global celebrities. But others are grassroots activists doing incredible work on the ground to move us toward meeting our SDG targets by the 2030 deadline.

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Man finds adorable best friend after never having a pet

Not everyone gets to grow up with pets so they don't get the first hand knowledge of how it feels to love an animal. Sure, they may have experience with friends' or family members' pets but that's not the same as caring for one under your own roof. The memories and mini serotonin boosts you get when pets snuggle up to you on a hard day are missed by those who never own a pet.

Up until recently, Caleb had been in the "never had a pet" camp, then one day he found a tiny little kitten. He knew when he saw how little and helpless she was that he just had to rescue the sweet baby.

"I was walking home and I looked down and there was this little kitten," Caleb told The Dodo. "I feel chosen, this is my first pet."

He named the itty bitty kitty, Nala Jaye and takes her everywhere he possibly can.

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