Earth is home to about 1 million known animal
species, each one representing an ancient tome of biological trivia
. Much of this random knowledge gets lost in the ether, leaving us to speculate about things like dinosaur divorce rates or amphibian dance moves. But we still catch an awful lot, providing us with plenty of interesting — if not always actionable — facts about our fellow fauna.
The list below is a tribute to such trivia. From extinct penguins to newly identified wasps, these tidbits reflect the depth of our own species' curiosity about nature — and our skill in shedding new light on it. As you peruse these facts, imagine all that went into discovering each one. We embrace their randomness here, but most hail from a robust body of knowledge about the animal in question.
So without further ado, here are 36 random animal facts that may interest you:
4. Cats and horses are highly susceptible
to black widow venom, but dogs are relatively resistant. Sheep and rabbits are apparently immune.
5. Sharks kill fewer than 10 people per year. Humans kill about 100 million sharks
8. Humpback whale songs spread like "cultural ripples from one population to another."
are extremely durable microscopic animals that exist all over Earth. They can survive any of the following: 300 degrees Fahrenheit (149 Celsius), -458 degrees F (-272 C), the vacuum of space, pressure six times stronger than the ocean floor and more than a decade without food.
13. Less time
separates the existence of humans and the tyrannosaurus rex than the T-rex and the stegosaurus.
17. Dogs' sense of smell is about 100,000 times stronger
than humans', but they have just one-sixth our number of taste buds.
19. Male gentoo and Adelie penguins "propose" to females by giving them a pebble.
21. Barn owls
are normally monogamous, but about 25 percent of mated pairs "divorce."
25. A human brain operates on about 15 watts
26. Warmer weather causes more turtles to be born female
27. African buffalo herds display voting behavior
, in which individuals register their travel preference by standing up, looking in one direction and then lying back down. Only adult females can vote.
28. If a honeybee keeps waggle dancing
in favor of an unpopular nesting site, other workers headbutt her
to help the colony reach a consensus.
29. Honeybees can flap their wings 200 times
30. The claws of a mantis shrimp
can accelerate as quickly as a .22-caliber bullet.
31. A single strand of spider silk is thinner than a human hair, but also five times stronger than steel of the same width. A rope just 2 inches thick could reportedly stop a Boeing 747.
32. A supercolony of invasive Argentine ants
, known as the "California large," covers 560 miles of the U.S. West Coast. It's currently engaged in a turf war
with a nearby supercolony in Mexico.
33. The recently discovered bone-house wasp
stuffs the walls of its nest with dead ants.
34. By eating pest insects, bats save the U.S. agriculture industry an estimated $3 billion per year
35. Fourteen new species of dancing frogs have been discovered in 2014, raising the global number of known dancing-frog species to 24.
36. A sea lion is the first nonhuman mammal with a proven ability to keep a beat
Illustrations by Russell McLendon/MNN
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