Believe there's nothing left in nature that can surprise you? Guess again.
These 23 animals will make you think again.
1. The Klipspringer could probably jump over your house.
Have a silver dollar nearby? Hold it in your hand. Now picture a 40-pound, 3-foot-tall deer balanced delicately on it. Congratulations, you've caught a klipspringer!
Native to sub-Saharan Africa, the klipspringer is a tiny ungulate with a big vertical jump. Its little legs — tipped by tiny round hooves each the size of a dime — are incredibly strong and can propel the klipspringer up to 50 feet in the air. It's the highest jumper relative to body size in the animal kingdom.
Another fun fact? Thanks to the succulent plants they eat, klipspringers never need to drink water.
2. Hummingbirds have adorable tiny bodies and disturbingly big appetites.
If you think flight makes your heart beat faster, you have nothing on the hummingbird. To stay aloft, this tiny avian wonder flaps its wings up to 3,000 times a minute — with up to 1,260 heartbeats in the same time.
Hummingbirds have the fastest metabolism of any warm-blooded animal and need to eat 3,500 calories a day (for a human, that would be about 510 cheeseburgers a day). When resting at night, they go into a state of semi-hibernation, slowing their metabolism to 1/15th of its normal rate.
3. The hippopotamus is fast. And will bring the pain.
A full-grown hippo is the third largest land mammal in Africa, behind elephants and rhinoceroses.
Their name in greek means "river horse," and if you've ever seen them swim, you can understand why.
They're also just as fast on land — running up to 11 mph over short distances — as this unlucky gentleman found out.
Because of their aggression and size, hippos are considered one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. But maybe they have a right to be — the International Union for the Conservation of Nature rates hippopotamuses as "vulnerable" to habitat loss and at risk of poaching for their meat and ivory canine teeth.
4. The mantis shrimp can boil water. Seriously.
First things first: This shrimp is not for scampi.
Unlike a lot of other shrimp, the mantis doesn't scavenge. It prefers to hunt its prey; attacking snails, mollusks, and rock oysters with quick hits from its club and spear-like appendages. Just how quick? This quick:
Or, as The Oatmeal put it in an ode to the Mantis shrimp: "If human beings could accelerate their arms at 1/10th that speed, we'd be able to throw a baseball into orbit."
A mantis shrimp strike can reach speeds of 75 feet per second, so fast that they cause the water around them to boil, creating a powerful shock wave of bubbles that blasts their prey immediately after a hit. Even if the first hit somehow misses the prey, that shock wave is often enough to incapacitate or kill it.
Not surprisingly, the mantis shrimp isn't super popular among aquarium keepers due to their tendency to destroy decorative corals, eat every other living creature, and sometimes (apparently) break the glass of the tank.
5. The albatross thinks 12-hour flights are for wimps.
With a wingspan stretching more than 12 feet, the great albatross is the largest living flying bird. Their huge wings make them expert gliders. By riding updrafts and downdrafts as they fly, albatrosses can cover up to 1,000 miles in a single day — all without flapping once.
Albatross pairs fall in love over several years and — after several complicated mating dances — will bond for life. The female lays a single egg every year.
Perhaps the most badass albatross is a female Laysan albatross named Wisdom. Born in or around 1951, she is the oldest known wild bird in the world. Researchers first banded her in 1956 and estimate that she's flown 3 million miles since then — the equivalent of circling the globe 120 times.
There are 22 subspecies of albatross in the world, all of which are endangered or vulnerable.
6. Bonobos take "make love, not war" to a new level.
The bonobo is neither violent nor vicious, which may have you wondering how it made it on this list of badass animals in the first place. But the bonobo wouldn't be thinking about that — it'd be too busy getting busy.
The bonobo is the second-most-sexual living animal, after humans. Researcher Franz de Wall dubbed them the "make love, not war" species, after noting that they resolve almost all of their conflicts through sexual activity.
Bonobo society is a gynecocracy, with groups of females responsible for maintaining the peace. The only pairings of bonobos who do not have sex are mothers and sons. Aside from that, bonobos are sex-positive, promiscuous, and appear to form no lasting monogamous bonds. They are also highly tactile animals, kissing and holding hands, with both males and females engaging in same-sex interactions.
Between 29,500 and 50,000 bonobos remain in the wild, only in the basin of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They are endangered, with commercial poachers posing their greatest threat.
7. The Hercules beetle could kick your butt at Crossfit.
The Hercules beetle is the rare insect that even an entomophobic can appreciate. The third-largest insect in the world, it regularly grows to six and a half inches in length, though its prominent horn-like pincers can sometimes account for more than half that length.
Unlike many other insects, Hercules beetles remain in their larval stage for a year or more, growing more than four and a half inches long and weighing 3.5 ounces. Researchers previously thought a Hercules beetle could carry up to 850 times its weight on its shell but have since adjusted that figure down to 150 times. Which is still pretty awesome.
By comparison: The strongest human, Paul Anderson, once lifted 6,270 pounds, or 17x his weight.
Hercules beetles are generally very peaceful herbivores and only fight other Hercules beetles during mating season.
8. The Pacific salmon has a built-in GPS.
Whoever coined the phrase "you can never go home again" clearly never met a Pacific salmon. Every year, millions of Pacific salmon leave the ocean and migrate up rivers and streams to spawn and die.
During their journey, Pacific salmon swim against powerful currents, hurl themselves up and over river rapids, evade wolves, birds, and even hungry grizzly bears before reaching the same spawning grounds where they were born a few years before. And they do it all based on their memory of what that stream smelled like when they swam in it as tiny fry.
Pacific salmon are a keystone species that feed otters, seals, eagles, wolves and bears. Researchers estimate that bears leave about half of the salmon they eat on the forest floor, where the carcass deposits life-giving nitrogen to help trees and plants grow.
Salmon are at great risk of habitat encroachment by industrial development, pollution, and overfishing. And yet there's still hope. A local citizens group in Burnaby, Canada, spent the past few years remediating Still Creek — a salmon-bearing stream in an industrial area that had not seen salmon for 80 years. And in 2013, the salmon returned for the first time.
9. The cold never bothers the wood frog. He just freezes solid in it.
In many ways, the wood frog is just your average amphibian. He's relatively small, likes to eat bugs, and has an excellent long jump. But there's one thing that makes him extremely unique, and it's how he handles cold weather.
He freezes solid.
No, really. Solid.
There are two reasons wood frogs can freeze and thaw and still live. First, they stuff their cells full of glucose and urea so that only a few ice crystals can form inside. Then they burrow under leaves and wait for the cold. When a wood frog touches an ice crystal, its skin freezes first, then its blood. As long as no more than 65% of the water in its body freezes during the winter, a wood frog will wake up in the spring ready to go.
10. The octopus can escape from things we haven't even thought up yet.
There are a number of reasons the octopus might land on a list of badass animals. It has jet propulsion, amazing camouflage, ink-jet self defense, and powerful sucker-studded limbs. But above all, the octopus is exceptionally intelligent — perhaps the most of all the known invertebrates.
In research environments, octopuses can navigate mazes and solve puzzles with relative ease. They are famed for figuring out complicated locks and escaping enclosures. Like, for example, a jar:
In the wild they've been known to sneak aboard fishing boats and eat crabs in the hold. Oh, and they can use tools! Like this octopus toddling off with a pair coconut shells to construct a shelter.
Certain countries, including Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the European Union, have banned surgical research on octopuses and cephalopods without anesthetic, citing the animals' superior intellect.
11. The atlas moth isn't a pair of snakes, it just really really looks like it.
With a wingspan stretching nearly 10 inches, the atlas moth is one of the three largest insects in the world. It takes its name from three possible origins:
- Atlas, the Greek titan who holds the world across his back.
- The map-like patterns across its wings.
- Or the Cantonese name "snakes head moth," which pays tribute to the details on its wingtips that make the moth look like it is two snakes intertwined in a tree. It's more than just a pretty pose; this also helps the atlas moth escape birds, who will see the wing tips and think a snake is about to eat them!
A lot of websites report that Taiwanese women use atlas moth cocoons as purses, but we couldn't find any photographic proof. Have you seen one? Let us know!
12. The giant squid is the size of a bus and lives in your nightmares.
Found in the deep sea worldwide, this massive cephalopod can grow to lengths up to 43 feet for females and 33 feet for males.
Like their genetic neighbor the Humboldt squid, giant squid are predatory, feasting on deep sea fish and other squids. To capture its prey, the giant squid reaches out with two of its six suction-studded tentacles. Each sucker is surrounded with sharp bone-like serrations, allowing it to grab hold and dig into the flesh of its target.
Once they grab hold, the giant squid uses its tentacles to pull the prey into its sharp beak, where more tiny serrations on its tongue shred anything left to bits.
Giant squid are so large that their only known predators are sperm or pilot whales. They're also totally terrifying to see underwater, particularly when they come at your camera.
13. The immortal jellyfish thinks your "YOLO" tattoo is adorable.
Some animals can regrow limbs. Others heal extremely quickly. But only one animal can never die.
The immortal jellyfish is the only known creature to revert back to a youthful state after reaching full sexual maturity. Starting life as a tiny blob, the creature grows into a polyp colony, then into the full life cycle of a jellyfish, then back into a polyp colony. It does this over and over and over again, making it (as one researcher says) "biologically immortal."
The immortal aspects of this jellyfish were only discovered in the mid-1990s, so there's a lot still to be learned from it. But if researchers ever figure out how to make humans live forever, we might owe some of that to this little guy. Give him a high-tentacle next time you hang out.
14. The Tasmanian devil can bite through a bowling ball.
Pound for pound, the Tasmanian devil is one of the meanest, toughest mammals on the planet. It lives only on the island of Tasmania, south of Australia, which is probably for the best because this fella is lethal.
Honestly, it is. The Tasmanian devil likes to hunt at night and is capable of climbing trees, swimming across rivers, and running 17 miles per hour for 60 minutes straight. Once it has its prey within reach — watch out. The devil has a bite strength of more than 1,200 pounds per square inch — the same as a grizzly bear.
Devils have a voracious appetite, eating everything from roadkill to wombats to small kangaroos to swimming rats to discarded shoes.
Unfortunately, Tasmanian devils are now classified as endangered after a rare facial cancer wiped out tens of thousands of devils in the past several years.
15. The superb bird of paradise can beat you in a dance-off.
If the aptly named superb bird of paradise could sing, he'd be the avian equivalent of Justin Timberlake. After all, he's already got the best dance moves around.
This badass tropical bird lives only in the rainforests of New Guinea. In the species, males greatly outnumber females, to the point where a female superb bird of paradise will reject between 15 to 20 male suitors before selecting a worthy mate. So, what's a male bird got to do to stand out?
During mating season, male superb birds of paradise will select a dance floor (sometimes even cleaning it with leaves before a female arrives), then call out for a potential partner.
When she arrives, he'll dance up on her, plumage on fleek, until she either gives in to the moment or flies away.
16. Hey "Hunger Games" fans, the lyrebird is an IRL mockingjay.
The lyrebird has an incredible gift for imitating the sounds it hears in the forest, both from animals and humans. Check out this incredible video where David Attenborough watches a lyrebird imitate a kookaburra, two different types of camera shutters, a car alarm, and a chainsaw. You might not believe your ears.
Amazing, right? But there's more. Here's another lyrebird who has learned to imitate the sounds of children's video games, among other sounds.
The odds are ever in your favor if you want to see and hear a lyrebird in the wild: They're found throughout Australia and Tasmania.
17. The clownfish takes its birth gender as a light suggestion.
For most of us, our knowledge of the clownfish is pretty much limited to what we picked up from watching "Finding Nemo." But the reality of these little tropical anemone-dwellers is quite different than what Pixar showed us and significantly more awesome.
For one thing, clownfish are what you might call in fancy science terms, "sequential hermaphrodites." They'll develop first as females and then into males. A female clownfish is the head of a colony, which will usually have a few juvenile males in it along with one adult male breeding partner. Should the female disappear or leave the colony (say for barracuda-related reasons), the male breeding partner would reverse gender and become a female. The next eldest juvenile male would grow up quickly and take his place.
Gender fluidity and immunity to sea anemone venom? That's a pretty badass little fish (even if he can't really tell a joke).
18. The Galapagos tortoise will outlive your great-great grandchildren.
There are very few animals who've remained relatively unchanged for millennia. The Galapagos tortoise is one of them. These giant, lumbering ancient beasts can live well over 100 years and up to 225 years in captivity.
Early biologists discovered 15 subspecies of Galapagos tortoise, of which 10 remain. The differences between the species — particularly those between tortoises living in highlands versus lowland regions — were part of what sparked Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.
One very famous tortoise, Lonesome George, lived in the Galapagos for more than 150 years before he passed away in 2012. George was famous for many reasons, the greatest being his reluctance to take a mate. His death marked the extinction of his subspecies (abingdonii).
While there are an estimated 19,000 tortoises worldwide, the species is still considered vulnerable.
19. The tarsier is a bug-eyed, branch-hopping bringer of death.
Believe it or not, this odd little creature is a primate —and the only exclusively carnivorous one in the entire order.
Found only in Southeast Asia, tarsiers are known for their nocturnal habits, their long legs, and their gigantic eyes. Those eyes are almost the same size as the tarsier's brain, giving them incredible night vision for hunting their favorite prey: insects (though they'll also eat birds, snakes, lizards, and bats). Those giant eyes don't move in their sockets, though, so to see anything that isn't directly in front of it, the tarsier must swivel its head about 180 degrees.
Once it sees potential prey, the tarsier can jump 40x their body length from branch to branch to catch it. This is for the best since the combination of its long skinny back legs and smaller front legs means it cannot walk on land or dance a jig.
20. The leafy sea dragon's fashionable camouflage could make the cover of undersea Vogue.
With their beautiful feathery plumage, it's easy to mistake a leafy sea dragon for a piece of Australian kelp or seaweed.
These expertly camouflaged sea dragons are genetic cousins of sea horses. And like seahorses, the males raise the babies. After fertilization, male leafy sea dragons incubate eggs for four to six weeks, carrying them on a sponge-like "brood patch" on the underside of their tail.
In the 1980s, taking home sea dragons as pets became popular with divers. By 1990, population levels were so low that the Australian government instated full protection for the species. Numbers have recovered, but leafy sea dragons are still listed as near threatened.
21. Meerkats use teamwork — and venom immunity — to defend their manor.
We know what you're thinking: How can anything that cute possibly be badass?
But the meerkat is pretty incredible. They're devoted team players, living and working together with family and friends.
They're extremely vocal and use clicks and purrs to communicate while hunting. They have six distinct calls to warn each other about possible dangers. They live in the Kalahari desert, one of the most inhospitable places on Earth. And unlike humans, they're immune to the venom of Kalahari scorpions. So jealous.
22. The platypus is an adorable venomous abomination.
With a duck bill, webbed feet, furry body, and beaver tail, the platypus looks like the Mr. Potato Head of mammals. Seriously, look at this little weirdo:
Don't let its seemingly contradictory appearance fool you, though. The platypus is venomous!
When threatened, a male platypus secretes venom from a gland connected to spurs on its back feet. This venom isn't strong enough to kill a human, but it can cause excruciating pain and severe swelling to those unfortunate enough to be caught behind an angry platypus during mating season.
23. The narwhal is the unicorn of the sea.
The narwhal only has two teeth, but what it lacks in tooth quantity, it makes up for in quality.
As it matures, a male narwhal's canine tooth will grow through its upper lip into a giant spiral ivory tusk 9 or 10 feet long. The tusk is incredibly sensitive with up to 10 million nerve endings inside. Its true purpose is not certain — initially researchers believed the tusk was a weapon, others thought it had navigational functions, and others believe it is used for mating rituals or battles with other potential suitors.
The narwhal is mentioned throughout classical literature — including Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues under the Sea" and Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick."
The two greatest risks to narwhal populations are pretty depressing: suffocation under shifting sea ice or starvation. About 80,000 narwhals live in the wild, and the species is considered near threatened.
These animals are undeniably awesome.
But there's one opposite-of-badass quality a lot of them have in common. Seven of them are considered endangered, vulnerable, or threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. If you're interested in learning more about helping at-risk animals, visit their website.
Oh, and if you could share this, that'd be awesome.