Adélie penguins build their nests with stones, a rare commodity in Antarctica and one for which they are willing to pay. When their partner’s back is turned, they trade intimate favours with other single males in return for bigger, better stones – the only known example of bird prostitution.
“Client” males are sometimes so satisfied with the service that females can come back for more stones without offering sex, merely a little light courtship. The males clearly believe the loss of stones is worth it for the opportunity to father more chicks. Zoologists speculate that the female may be trying to improve the genetic variability of her offspring. Or she could just be having fun.
To keep alive in the wild, a pigeon needs to keep its eyes open for predators. Having eyes on the side of its head gives it a field of view of 340 degrees and, in order to fly at speed, its brain can process visual information three times faster than a human’s. If a pigeon watched a feature film, 24 frames per second would appear to it like a slide presentation. They would need at least 75 frames per second to create the illusion of movement on screen. (This is why pigeons seem to leave it until the very last second to fly out of the way of an oncoming car: it appears much less fast to them.)
A rat can swim for 72 hours non-stop. It can jump down 50 feet without injury. It can squeeze through a half-inch gap, leap three feet, climb vertical surfaces and walk along ropes. It can survive longer than a camel without water. It will eat anything that’s edible and lots of things that aren’t (lead sheeting, soft concrete, brick, wood and aluminium).
It reaches sexual maturity at three months. An on-heat female can have sex more than 500 times with a barnload of different males and produce 12 litters of 22 young each year. In short, rats are very, very hard to get rid of.
Newts are members of the salamander family that breed in water. They are the only vertebrates that can regenerate large parts of themselves, growing new limbs, spinal cords, hearts, jaws, tails and even eyes.
As the damaged part heals, the cells reverse their original function and turn back into an undifferentiated lump called a blastema (from the Greek blastos for “bud”), from which the replacement limb or tissue grows. How the cells know what to grow isn’t understood, but salamanders are being studied closely to see whether or not human tissue could be stimulated to regenerate.
Scorpions give birth to live young and some species are pregnant for longer than humans. They are one of the very few invertebrates to have independently evolved a womb where embryos are fed by teats linked to the mother (rather than by the yolk of an egg). Labour can take days, with up to 100 offspring scurrying up their mother’s claws to nestle on her back underneath her sting, so nothing can get to them. Nothing that is, except the mother who, if she gets hungry, may snack on them herself.
See other: Amazing Animal Facts