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Friday
Jan302015

10 facts about cute animals you may not know

Original Image courtesy of Enya Cody, Frontier Costa Rica Animal Rescue Project

These animals are really cute… but they also have some surprises in stock for us! For example, did you know the three-toed sloth can turn its head 270 degrees? Test your knowledge against our list - you might learn a thing or two!

Koala

Image courtesy of Mario Granberri

Our relationship to koalas stops at our shared class: we are both mammals. Beyond that, our infraclass is primates while that of koalas is marsupials. It is therefore quite a surprise that koala fingerprints should be so similar to ours! Scientists think that this is a case of independent evolution of these features, related to skin adapting to climbing.

Brown-throated three-toed sloth

Courtesy of Imgur

Sloths are renowned for their laziness… but this takes it to new extremes! Thanks to their 10 vertebrae, sloths can turn their necks up to 270 degrees… We’re slightly conflicted as to whether this is cute or creepy, but sloths being sloths, they get a free pass!

Grasshopper mouse

Don’t be fooled! This cutie is actually quite aggressive and almost scary. Despite its size (3.5 to 5.0cm), this mouse is carnivorous and does not hesitate to attack other mice, scorpions, and even snakes! It borrows traits from other animals, stalking its prey like a cat and howling like a wolf to defend its territory.

Hadal snailfish

Video courtesy of Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

A team of Japanese and UK scientists found a shoal of 17 of these fish at a depth of 7.7km (or 4.8miles) off the coast of Japan, making it the deepest any fish has ever been recorded alive! According to the scientists, they were surprisingly active and “actually very cute”.

Dolphins

Image courtesy of Ste Elmore

This fact might not surprise that many of you, but we still think it’s so cool it deserves to be mentioned. Dolphins must maintain consciousness to breathe, which means a sleep state cannot be a complete loss of consciousness… so they rest their brains one hemisphere at a time! They sleep about 8 hours a day this way.

Rats

Image courtesy of S G

Rats may not be at the top of your list in cuteness, but many people keep them as pets and they have earned their place as cute little fur balls. By studying which paw they preferentially use to reach for food, scientists have determined that most rats are “right-handed”… or, rather, “right-pawed”!

Caracal

Image courtesy of Imgur

Caracals are also called “desert lynx”, and are found across Africa, Central and Southwest Asia. These cats have particularly striking ears, which they use to communicate by twitching and flapping them around.     Though this fact may sound pretty boring, wait until you see them in action… it’s adorable!

Central American Squirrel Monkey

Image courtesy of Kansasphoto

This type of squirrel monkey is specific to Costa Rica and Panama. During breeding season, males make themselves look bigger to attract females… not through muscle, but by altering their water balance. This is done by converting their male sexual hormone, testosterone, into estrogen, the female sexual hormone.

Tarsier

Image courtesy of Jacky W

This gremlins-like creature is not constantly surprised, it just has huge eyes! The tarsier’s eyes are almost 16mm in diameter, and each is about as large as the entire primate’s brain – they are the largest eyes relative to body size of any mammal. The tarsier’s brain is organised differently to other primates in regards to visual information, suggesting they evolved independently.

Rough skinned newt

Image courtesy of Jen

It may look like a toy, but this newt is very real… and very dangerous! It produces a neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin (or TTX for short) in order to protect itself from its natural predator, the common garter snake. Some snakes exhibit a resistance to this toxin and are the only known animals able to ingest a newt and survive, but will still likely be paralysed for a time after ingesting its prey.

Animals can sometimes surprise us with their abilities and behaviours, that’s why studying them is fun and preserving them is vital. You too can get closer to animals and help preserve some endangered species by volunteering with wildlife or marine conservation.

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