There are countless amazing facts when it comes to the animal kingdom. Throughout the world, animals of all types have evolved extraordinary evolutionary adaptations over tens of millions of years. Each species tells its unique story, from tiny insects, spiders, fish, and other minute organisms to some of the world’s largest animals. Today, we’re not going to tell you how high a spider can jump, how fast a cheetah can run, or why dogs wag their tails. Today, we’re going to look at animals that are endangered, unusual, or exotic.
Here are 25 Fascinating Facts About Rare and Exotic Animals!
The World’s Most Trafficked Animal
Pangolins are peaceful, solitary creatures that curls into a ball when threatened. Four of the world’s eight pangolin species can be found in Africa. These strange, peaceful, armored animals have the tragic honor of being the most trafficked animal in the world, which has led to them being protected by international law, and all commercial international trade is prohibited.
The reason for this animal’s highly trafficked status is a sad one. Their bodies are coated in scales, which gets used in a variety of “traditional” medicines. The saddest fact is that over 100,000 of these animals are stolen from the wild in Africa and Asia every year. People are causing their silent extinction.
Wombats Poop Squares
The fact that wombats poop square feces has received a lot of attention recently, and it’s no surprise! The reasons for this have long been a mystery, but a couple of scientists from Georgia Institute of Technology and Australia’s University of Adelaide decided to conduct a more thorough investigation. Wombat poop is exceptionally dry, as wombats, which live in arid areas, absorb every drop of moisture from their food. According to National Geographic, their intestines are also oddly formed and elastic, which helps to mold dry scat into its distinctive cube-like shape.
The World’s 2nd Ugliest Animal
Strigops Habroptila, also known as the kakapo, is a flightless, nocturnal parrot native to New Zealand that lives for roughly 60 years. And, yes, they are classified as the world’s second-ugliest mammal. (Although we don’t think they look THAT bad). Human colonization of the island nation and the consequent introduction of cats to the region wreaked havoc on the Kakapos. In fact, the parrot is thought to be extinct in its natural habitat.
However, the species’ numbers are steadily rising due to a government-sponsored conservation and relocation program. An adult male Kakapo can weigh up to 4kg, making it the world’s biggest and toughest parrot, roughly the weight of four enormous pineapples.
Rabbits Can Only Breathe Through Their Noses
Bunnies and rabbits are incredibly cute. That’s a fact. However, we found an interesting fact for you – did you know that rabbits can only breathe through their noses?
It’s true. These little creatures are, in fact, called “obligate nasal breathers,” meaning they rely exclusively on their noses for breathing. A rabbit that opens its mouth to breathe could have inflamed nasal passages blocked with mucus or nasal passages that are obstructed by another substance that prevents the poor guy from comfortable breathing. If you own or care for a rabbit, remember that if you ever find yourself in this situation, you must get the animal to the vet as soon as possible.
The Rise in “Grolar Bears”
Global warming is here to stay. But while scientists created flowcharts and made predictions, several unexpected consequences have occurred. One was the appearance of hybrid bears known as “grolar bears” in the wild. Historically, polar bears and brown bears had separate habitats, with polar bears staying in the far north while brown bears occupied the southerly regions. However, shorter and less severe winters have pushed polar bears further south from their original habitat in search of food, leading to encounters (and romantic excursions) with brown bears.
Scientists believe that these interactions are not random, given the extended courtship practices of both bear species. While nobody can be 100% sure how many of these hybrid bears currently exist in the wild, the ongoing trend of rising temperatures suggests that many more will emerge in the years ahead.
Polar Bears Aren’t Really White
While we’re on the subject, we thought we’d highlight that fact. It’s true. Polar bears have black skin (pay attention to their noses) that is coated with transparent, pigment-free hair. Each polar bear’s fur reflects and scatters visible light, making these beautiful animals appear white when they are not. Very sneaky. Before we move on to the next item, just one last polar bear fact. Did you know that polar bears have blue tongues? We all do now.
The Axolotl Doesn’t Grow Up
The axolotl is a salamander-like critter that can grow to about a foot long. It is entirely aquatic, vegetarian, and lives for 10 to 15 years. Axolotls resemble tiger salamanders during their larval morphogenesis but never completely metamorphose into full-fledged salamanders. What is truly remarkable, however, is that they can.
Axolotls can undergo the transformation they abandoned somewhere along the line by using iodine to stimulate their thyroids, a function they lack the hormones to do on their own. Unfortunately, the only native habitat of the axolotl is in the waters surrounding Mexico City. Dirt, pollution, invading fish species, and the fact that they appear to be delicious have all contributed to their dwindling numbers. There are currently more in personal aquariums than in the wild. They’re adorable, in my opinion, but they have managed to end up on every list of “ugliest things ever” on the internet.
Penguins Shoot Poop Bombs
You may or may not be aware of this, but penguins can “shoot” their poop across incredible distances, up to twice their body length in fact. And a group of scientists got together to figure out exactly how much force that requires.
Because they’re scientists.
And yes, it matters how much force a penguin needs to shoot poop.
For someone, anyway.
The researchers focused on Humboldt penguins (Spheniscus Humboldt), who release their feces in a sophisticated arc from their nests. The pressure generated in the penguins’ rectums was calculated to be around 4 pounds per square inch or 28.2 kilopascals. That means the powerful poopers can shoot their feces at speeds of up to 5 mph (8 km/h) and up to 53 inches (134 centimeters) away. Fascinating stuff indeed.
Koalas Have Fingerprints That Looks Just Like Ours
Koala and human fingerprints are practically indistinguishable from each other. This is part of a process known as “convergent evolution,” which is more widespread in the animal kingdom than you may expect. But the explanation for this particular trait – the virtually similar fingerprints between ourselves and the charming marsupials – is a little strange. For one thing, scientists estimate that our last common ancestor with koalas died out well more than 100 million years ago. So, the idea that we have fingerprints as intricately made as that of the charming tree-hugger is interesting in and of itself.
You may be wondering just how comparable our prints are. Well, let’s put it this way. For decades, law enforcement personnel in Australia have marked and recorded fingerprints recovered at crime scenes. They’ve amassed a vast database, and when they acquire fingerprints from new crimes, they check to see whether they “hit” on any old ones. Pretty standard. But there are now so many unmatched fingerprints in the database that officials are wondering if a significant fraction of these mystery prints belong to koalas.
China Owns All The Pandas
Fact: Pandas do not only consume bamboo, as many people believe (but bamboo does account for 99 percent of their diet). Fact: Pandas are sooooo cute. Fact: Pandas are critically endangered.
You may have noticed that your local zoo does not keep any, and that is for good reason. Pandas do not breed well in captivity, and there are just a few hundred in zoos, with an additional 1,500-3,000 potentially living in the wild. We were amazed to learn that China owns all of the world’s pandas during our research. Years ago, the country practiced “panda diplomacy,” delivering pandas as gifts to powerful friends such as the United States and the United Kingdom as a show of good faith. However, since 1984, the Chinese government has only leased the animals for up to a million dollars annually. Combined with the enormous cost of maintaining the pandas’ diet, it makes keeping them all but impossible for all but the biggest and most profitable zoos.
Know Your Tarantula
As pets, spiders are easy to care for, fun to interact with even if most can’t be handled, and typically meet friends’ excitement, anxiety, and other extreme but ultimately enjoyable reactions. For example, the New World tarantula or jumping spiders make excellent pets.
However, Old World tarantulas, as opposed to their New World brethren from the Americas, are drastically different and considerably less reasonable. While spiders from the New World are frequently placid, even calm enough to be handled with little behavioral knowledge without risking a bite, spiders from other parts of the world aren’t so friendly. While Old World species cannot kick annoying hairs, they usually are much faster, far more defensive, and may even have more potent venom, which, while not always fatal, will keep most humans away from these hairy giants that aren’t as gentle as their American relatives.
Did you know that if a female ferret goes into heat but is unable to mate, she will die?
Female ferrets can go into prolonged heat, during which they must reproduce, or they can die of aplastic anemia, a disorder in which the bone marrow ceases generating enough new blood cells (induced by estrogen poisoning). Since female ferrets are induced ovulators, mating must take place to bring the female ferret out of heat. Intact females that are not mated will remain in heat, and the high quantities of estrogen in the bone marrow will eventually cause the bone marrow to stop making red blood cells.
Everything is Slow When It Comes To Sloths
Sloths take their time with everything, from moving to climbing to looking around. However, activity and motion isn’t the only thing that takes time in a sloth’s life. Sloth digestion is also incredibly slow!
To give you a better idea and reference point, the average human digests each meal in about 12 to 24 hours, with some people having a digestion cycle that lasts a little bit shorter. For sloths, the process takes much, much longer. Each and every meal takes the average sloth about two weeks to digest. Yes, two weeks. In the most extreme cases, experts have discovered that sloths can digest their food for up to 30 days!
Guinea Pigs Do Not Make Their Own Vitamin C
When it comes to cute and cuddly pets, a guinea pig might not be everybody’s cup of tea. Cute as they are, they usually live in cages – and those cages need daily cleaning; otherwise, it can turn into a messy affair, but let’s not get sidetracked into guinea pig pros and cons.
If you’re in the market for one, it’s essential to know that guinea pigs need daily oral vitamin C supplements – feeding them vitamin C-rich foods such as bell peppers won’t make a difference. If a guinea pig doesn’t get enough vitamin C, it won’t be able to produce collagen and the other proteins needed by their body; their teeth will fall out, their gums will bleed, and their blood vessels won’t function normally.
Killing Off A Species For Its Fur
The Amur leopard can be found in the Amur region, spanning China and Russia. It has been hunted to the brink of extinction for its distinctive spotted fur. However, in recent years, the population has experienced a modest increase, rising from just 14 adult individuals in 2005 to approximately 84 today. The trend is partly attributed to the establishment of a conservation area in Russia’s Far East, which has played a pivotal role in aiding their recovery. It is believed that the absence of prey will discourage them from returning to their old habitat.
Now, while we promised not to talk about the cheetah’s speed today – it’s worth noting that the Amur leopard, a creature weighing between 75 and 100 pounds, can reach speeds of up to 60 kilometers per hour (37 mph), execute horizontal leaps spanning 6 meters (19 ft), and bound skyward to heights of 3 meters (10 feet).
Lemur Eye Color
Apart from liking to “move it” “move it,” (that’s a Madagascar reference in case you missed the animated movie), lemurs are loved the world over. And it’s easy to see why. They’re adorable, charismatic, and strangely human-like. Despite not being as closely related to humans as chimps and other apes, lemurs are still part of the family. These Madagascar-dwelling creatures include the ring-tailed lemur, the critters with the extremely long tails, and the blue-eyed black lemur – which is incredibly enough – the only primate with blue eyes other than humans.
Unfortunately, despite their universal appeal, lemurs are the world’s most endangered mammals. The species are declining dramatically as their forest habitats are devastated by slash and burn agriculture, as well as logging for charcoal and fuel wood.
Tigers Have The Brightest Eyes of All Animals
While we’re on the subject of eyes, did you know that tigers have the brightest eyes of any animal? That’s because the tiger’s eye is backlit by a layer of tissue that scatters light through the retina. As a result, tigers have the brightest – and, in my opinion, the most beautiful – eyes in nature. And while we’re on the subject of tigers, did you know tiger urine smells like buttery popcorn? There’s an interesting fact for you – we’re not quite sure what you’re going to do with that bit of information – but use it well.
Flamingoes Aren’t Pink
It’s a fascinating but actual animal fact worth repeating just because it’s so darn cool: famously pink flamingos aren’t pink. They are, in fact, born grey. And they’d stay that way if it weren’t for their highly individualized diet of crustaceans and blue-green algae.
According to the BBC’s Science Focus, these foods contain canthaxanthin, a natural dye that causes flamingo feathers to turn pink over time. To top this specific item off, it’s fascinating to know that a flamingo’s head HAS to be upside down when it eats. Imagine swallowing your food like that.
Chameleons Glow in the Dark
In 2018, researchers put a few of the color-changing animals in a dark room and zapped them with a UV lamp. Most of the chameleons began to glow a stunning electric blue in the aftermath. The powerful biological light had nothing to do with the creatures’ legendary ability to adjust their colors. Surprisingly, the neon glow emanated from their bones.
The tendency of bones to glow beneath UV light is not new to science. However, live skeletons are covered in muscle and skin, making them much harder to detect. The newly discovered ability of chameleons was easier to identify due to their shallower structure. You see, the bones of chameleons are lined with “spikes” that practically touch the skin, allowing for unhindered fluorescence. Because chameleons can sense ultraviolet light, they will likely glow to appear romantic (males sport more shiny protrusions) or communicate.
Orangutangs and Broken Bones
We rarely think about it, yet it stands to reason that animals regularly break their bones in the wild. They run, jump, chase prey, flee from predators, climb, and inevitably get hurt. So, it should not be surprising that many wild animals suffer from broken bones during their lives.
For one species in particular, orangutans, these breaks are so regular that researchers literally expect to come across them in the wild animals they observe and study. According to estimates, at least half of adult orangutans have one or more shattered bones somewhere in their body. While these animals are strong, agile, and made for a life in the trees, orangutans frequently fall. And when they do many suffer catastrophic bone fractures when they hit the ground. After weeks of anguish, the lucky ones are generally unscathed and can transform the injury into a ton of scar tissue.
Leprosy in Armadillos
Leprosy is a dreadful, disfiguring disease that was very common in ancient times. It is incredibly rare today, and only 150-250 cases are recorded in the US each year, mostly among people who traveled to third-world countries. However, there is another uncommon carrier for leprosy: the armadillo. The secretive, armored species is indigenous to the American South, where it is most commonly encountered as roadkill.
The disease gets spread as, believe it or not, even in this day and age of quick food and frozen pizza, a few people, primarily in Louisiana and Texas, eat armadillos. While leprosy can be treated if identified early, the damage is generally done before symptoms appear. Humans and armadillos are the only living creatures known to get the disease.
Bearded dragons can be found in Australia’s deserts, savannas, scrublands, and subtropical forests. However, because of their amiable temperament, constant smiles, and indolent nature, they are frequently kept as pets all over the world. One fascinating aspect about “beardies,” as they are affectionately known, is that they can run at human speeds. Yep. Are you picturing it yet?
We also adore how these reptiles carry their emotions on their chins. It’s true. These dragons’ signature beard acts like a mood ring, turning black when the animal feels threatened, stressed, or excited. They are also well-known for their arm waving and head bobbing. The reason for these actions is unknown, however, beardies have the endearing habit of waving their arms in an unusually human-like manner to show recognition.
Don’t Irritate a Platypus
No matter how silly they look, you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of a platypus. One of the fascinating facts about animals that appear innocent, like the platypus, is their unusual defense mechanisms. The heels of their back feet carry venomous spurs, making these untamed creatures one of the rare forms of poisonous mammals. While their venom is not lethal, it is excruciating and can induce swelling and hyperventilation.
But we’re 100% sure you already knew that fact, so we got you three more – did you know they’re one of the only mammals that lay eggs? These incredibly resourceful animals also dig burrows and make plugs to deceive predators, and their bill is utilized as a sensory organ to locate prey underwater.
Alpacas Are Fire- and Water-Resistant
Alpacas are those odd-looking, fluffy animals with a habit of chewing and spitting constantly. They are extremely gregarious and should never be left alone. They are also resistant to water and fire; at least their fleece is! Any product created using their fiber is flame retardant and moisture wicking. It is very good to know if you are the type of person who loves knitting or crocheting – although alpaca yarn or yarn blends can be pretty pricey.
However, the most wholesome fact we could uncover is that being around alpacas are incredibly therapeutic, and they are frequently brought to hospitals in order to bring healing and joy, particularly to children.
The Happiest Animal in the World
A quokka is rarely seen without a big “smile” on their face! These happy-go-lucky Australian mammals have taken over Instagram, but quokkas are so much more than just a friendly face! The cute critters are native to Rottnest Island in Western Australia, a nature reserve where freshwater is rare. Fortunately, these little fellas can last a month without drinking water, owing to their diet consisting primarily of moist leaves and plants. Because they are marsupials and related to kangaroos, moms carry newborn quokkas, also known as joeys, in pouches! Another interesting fact is that much like cows, they regurgitate their food…and then eat it!
Sadly, quokkas are vulnerable. Within Australia’s national environment law, quokkas are categorized as vulnerable to extinction because of habitat damage, climate change, and invading predators. Their happy grins can be spotted all over social media in the shape of quokka selfies! In fact, there are over 20,000 #quokkaspiration quokka selfies on Instagram.