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11 Animals Who are Way Cooler Than Superheros

11 Animals Who are Way Cooler Than Superheros

It’s the beginning of the summer blockbuster season, and it would not be complete with out a loud, raucous, snarky superhero movie. Luckily, Marvel has us covered this year with Iron Man 3. Which I of course stood in line to see opening weekend.

Despite myself, nothing pumps me up like a good superhero movie. Superheroes seem really – uh – super, but their powers are utterly mundane compared to many animal species. I present to you the League of Extraordinary Animals.

11. Peter Gecko

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In the Toby McGuire Spiderman movies, we see Peter Parker climb a bunch of walls. He does this by utilizing little hairs on hands. This is silly. Spiders don’t do that. But geckos do. Gecko feet are covered with hundreds of thousands of very tiny hairs (much smaller than a human hair) called setae. The gecko uses the tips of these hairs to create a van der Waals force, which is basically a kind of molecular bond. The tips of the tiny hairs on the gecko’s feet create a bond with the molecules on a surface – even a very slick surface – and that allows the gecko to basically scale anything it wants, including polished glass.

 

10. Mr. Immortal Jellyfish

Credit: Flickr

Last summer, Marvel may have put The Avengers on the movie map, but there is much more to that franchise than meets the eye. There’s a Great Lakes Avengers, which, if Wikipedia is to be believed (and when is it not?), is “a regional offshoot of the Avengers made up of heroes with abilities far less powerful and consequential than their better-known peers.” (Ha! Burn.) The leader of this less awesome team of superheros is Mr. Immortal. Guess what his power is.

You may be wondering at this point what kind of animal is immortal, and why haven’t we bottled that stuff up? I can’t answer the latter question, but I can answer the former. Turritopsis nutricula, or the immortal jellyfish, is truly amazing. It has the ability to, when it hits sexual maturity, revert to its polyp form. The mature jellyfish turns into a colony of jellyfish polyps, potentially making it biologically immortal. How bananas is that?

 

9. Bashful Waterbear

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Fantastic Four is not my favorite comic, but you can’t argue with the durability of Thing. He has tremendous durability and can tolerate extreme temperature fluctuations. Kind of like the unexpectedly adorable waterbear.

The waterbear (or moss piglet or, if you want to get fancy about it) is one badass little dude. These guys are tiny – microscopic, even – but don’t let that fool you. They are extremophiles, which means it thrives in areas that are usually hostile to life. Waterbears can live in temperatures just above absolute zero and above the boiling point of water. They can stand being bombarded with ionizing radiation and can withstand higher pressures than are found at the bottom of the ocean. But that’s not the craziest part. These teeny, hard-as-nails creatures can go without food and water for nearly 120 years. They can dry out so that three percent of their body is water, rehydrate, and go along as normal. It doesn’t get much more hard-core than that.

 

8. Weapon Axolotl

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

When most people think of Wolverine, they think of his awesome adamantium claws. That’s a power, to be sure, but he has another that is more relevant to the axolotl: regeneration. (How else are his hands not constantly shredded?) Wolverine can heal from any injury at an accelerated rate. The axolotl, a salamander native to only one lake in Mexico, is way more awesome than Wolverine could ever hope to be.

You see, the axolotl can basically regenerate any part of its body. Arm, leg, spinal cord, jaw, whatever. I’m not exaggerating. Prof. Stephane Roy of the University of Montreal puts it this way:

You can cut the spinal cord, crush it, remove a segment, and it will regenerate. You can cut the limbs at any level – the wrist, the elbow, the upper arm – and it will regenerate, and it’s perfect. There is nothing missing, there’s no scarring on the skin at the site of amputation, every tissue is replaced. They can regenerate the same limb 50, 60, 100 times. And every time: perfect.

Holy jeez. That’s phenomenal. And not only that! It is 1,000 times more resistant to cancer than mammals and can accept organ transplants.

 

7. Mystique Octopodes

If you’ll remember, Mystique is a character in Marvel’s X-Men comic. She’s a shape shifter, a master of disguise. There are a lot of animals that are good at camouflage, but none that quite live up to the mimic octopus.

Seriously. I could try to describe it to you, but I can’t do it justice. You just have to see it to believe it.

And this!

Do you see what I mean? While other octopodes can change color and texture, the mimic octopus can actually do impressions of more than one animal. It is the boss of underwater camo.

 

6. The Incredible Dung Beetle

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Ah, the dung beetle. Those little, adorable poop eaters. That’s really the first thing you think of when someone says, dung beetle. How could you not? However, dung beetles are one of the strongest creatures around. They are a Hulk of the animal world.

Despite their poopy name, dung beetles are amazing animals. Some dung beetles are rollers (meaning they roll dung into balls), some are tunnelers (which means they bury the dung where they find it), and some are dwellers (meaning they actually live in poo). Earlier this year it was revealed that dung beetles actually orient themselves by the universe. But perhaps the most impressive feat is the dung beetle’s feat of strength. They can roll up to 10 times their body weight. One species can pull up to 1,141 times its body weight. That’s the equivalent of a human lifting a full double decker bus.

 

5. Static Electric Eel

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Static is a comic book character in the DC universe whose superpower is his ability to control electromagnetism. That might seem pretty incredible to us normals, but to the electric eel, it’s par for the course.

The electric eel – which is actually a knifefish, not an eel – can generate electric shocks up to 600 volts. (For reference, the voltage in an average American home outlet is 110-120 volts.) The electricity is produced via three pairs of organs that make up most of the electric eel’s body. The animal creates an electric current in a similar manner to a battery. Its body causes a sudden change in electric potential, and – BAM – dinner is served.

 

4. Bat Murdock

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Daredevil isn’t just a crappy Ben Affleck flick. He’s also the comic book alter ego of Matt Murdock, a man who developed a radar sense after going blind. Like a bat.

A lot of bats use echolocation to see, but bats in the Rhinolophus genus are the best at it. Like the greater horseshoe bat. I bet you’d know it if you saw it. It has a funny little nose with lots of folds. Those folds help focus the sound so it can more effectively “see.”


3. Thunder Shrimp

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

It was a big deal with humans finally broke the sound barrier. I mean, that’s super fast! And we all know what happens when you go faster than the speed of sound: the pressure waves cause a sonic boom. The Marvel UK character Thunderclap figured out how to do this with hydraulically powered gloves. The pistol shrimp does it with just its claw.

Commonly known as the snapping or alpheid shrimp, the pistol shrimp is part of a family of crustaceans with asymmetrical claws. It uses a specialized claw to kill its prey, but not in the way you might think. The shrimp snaps its claw shut so fast that it creates bubbles that travel at 60 miles per hour and can produce 218 decibels. The pressure can kill a small fish.

That’s cool, but it gets cooler. Or rather much, much hotter. As the bubble created by the claw snap collapses, tiny bursts of light are produced. As the bubble collapses it reaches about 5,000 Kelvin. (For reference, that’s slightly less than the surface of the sun.) Ouch.

 

2. Acid Anarchy

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Anarchist is a Marvel superhero who sweats acid and can shoot acid out of his hands. The bombardier beetle acts in much the same way. This bug secretes hydroquinones and hydrogen peroxide from specialized glands. The chemicals are kept separated in the abdomen until threatened; then the chemicals mix. The result is an exothermic reaction that vaporizes about a fifth of the concoction. The rest is very hot, almost boiling, and is shot out of an outlet valve right into the face of the enemy.

 

1. Karma Chameleon Wasp

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Life would be a lot easier if I could control people’s minds, at least once in a while. Karma is a Marvel superheroine who has this ability. The Glyptapanteles genus of wasp has this ability in real life, in the most cruel way possible.

Glyptapanteles lay eggs in a caterpillar. However, the caterpillar continues to live as normal. Until it’s time for the larvae to emerge to pupate. A couple of larvae stayed behind. Why? To manipulate the caterpillar, that’s why. What happens is the left-behind larvae causes the caterpillar to stop eating, stand guard next to the pupae, and thrash whenever the soon-to-be wasps are in danger. The caterpillar eventually dies, of course (I mean, it’s not eating); its most basic instincts overrun by a couple of very controlling wasp larvae.

 

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Top photo: Ginger Me/flickr

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110 comments

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10:20AM PDT on Jul 8, 2013

the mimic octopus! awesome

12:40PM PDT on Jun 25, 2013

very interesting, thanks for sharing :)

2:07PM PDT on Jun 8, 2013

Interesting, thanks for sharing.

11:41AM PDT on May 28, 2013

Just 11????

8:07PM PDT on May 21, 2013

Very interesting article, thanks.

8:17PM PDT on May 20, 2013

All animals are cool......I love all animals.

9:32AM PDT on May 20, 2013

love stuff like this :)

6:10AM PDT on May 20, 2013

Thanks for sharing.

5:45AM PDT on May 20, 2013

thanks!

5:44AM PDT on May 20, 2013

Axolotls are amazing. They only live a couple lakes near Mexico City and most of that habitat has been wiped out, so they are very close to extinction. I didn't know they can regenerate *any* part of their body, but I knew they could regenerate limbs. Having been nearly wiped out in the wild, there are many living in aquariums, but those are mostly born without pigmentation. Still, I suppose it's better to have some in captivity than have them completely extinct. It's illegal to own them in some states (like California), because they are an endangered species. They're very cool animals. I've considered buying a captive one, but I really don't know if that would be helping or hurting the situation.

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Kathleen J. Kathleen is currently the Activism Coordinator at Care2. more
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