Animal Facts

Dragonflies are the most effective predator in the animal world. How do other predators stack up?

The world can be a rough place for some animals. The capture of prey is necessary for survival, obviously, but not all species are in the same league in terms of effectiveness.

The dragonfly stands above the rest in this category. They have earned the distinction of successfully snatching about 95% of their targeted food. As if that weren’t a difficult enough task, the fact that their prey is usually captured in midair adds another reason to be in awe of the dragonfly’s unmatched effectiveness.

For some fresh perspective, compare the lion, for instance. It struggles to catch a quarter of all the prey it pursues. To take another example, look at the great white shark. For all its fearsomeness, it still manages to catch only about half the prey it goes after.

So what is the key to the dragonfly’s success? Scientists have found that they possess a nervous system that allows them to focus sharply on a single object. The neurons that connect the dragonfly’s brain to its flight motor center create a unique ability to follow a moving target, calculate its future position, skillfully change flight paths, and finally, capture a meal.

Then the process starts over again. Dragonflies go beyond having the capacity to capture prey just once. They have an appetite that can seem nearly impossible to satisfy.


Octopi are so intelligent that they're considered honorary vertebrates in animal cruelty laws!

The octopus isn’t the first animal that comes to mind when most people think of intelligent animals. That may make sense given that octopi are classified are invertebrates and belong to the mollusk family. In fact, there are some mollusks that do not have brains at all, such as the clam.

To say that Octopi are intelligent animals requires some definition of what is meant by “intelligence.” Well, they are capable of having emotions, displaying individual personalities, playing with toys, and can even form relationships with people.

These traits are rare among animals, being that only a few species have those abilities to any great extent. Chimpanzees are one example, but that’s hardly unexpected, since they are closely related to humans. In contrast, Octopi are not at all closely related to human beings.

An octopus has a brain about the size of a walnut, which is the largest brain of any invertebrate. It contains an estimated 130 million neurons. Though many are stored in the arms, they are a good indicator of an animal’s intelligence.

Researchers are aware that we cannot know with complete certainty how various animals perceive the world, but we are discovering new things all the time that we never expected.


Locusts are not a separate species of insect. What are they then?

If you thought locusts were a species in their own right, you would be far from alone. It is quite a common misconception.

In reality, what we call locusts are really grasshoppers during a certain phase of their life cycles called the swarming phase. The polymorphic grasshopper (a grasshopper that has the ability to change its physical form) may go through a swarming phase. This phase can be brought on by chemicals or overcrowding. It is during that time when they are called locusts.

As locusts, grasshoppers become much stronger, more active, and interact more with each other. Perhaps that is why locusts are associated with huge swarms more so than grasshoppers. As swarms, their superior numbers give them a great advantage when compared with grasshoppers that live as individuals.

It is because of their activity as swarms that locusts have gained such a bad reputation. They have been known to cause millions of dollars in damage to crops. In the 19th century, Rocky Mountain locusts caused trouble across the Western U.S. When 12 trillion locusts devastated nearly 200,000 square miles of agriculture. It was possibly the largest concentration of animals in the history of the world!


Some awesome lists!

There's a sea-slug that eats the venomous Portuguese man o' war. What does it do with the poison?

It’s no secret that some species of animals have developed incredible means of survival. The diversity of life in the ocean alone is difficult to fathom. Hence, there always seems to be an inexhaustible supply of interesting facts to learn about marine biology, and the blue glaucus (Glaucus atlanticus) is a perfect case in point.

Even though it is often mistaken for a jellyfish, the blue glaucus is distinct in a number of ways. This sea slug characteristically floats upside down near the surface of the water. How do they manage to do it? By swallowing air, which is then stored in their stomachs, giving them the ability to float.

That’s not even their most unusual quality. They survive mainly by eating hydrozoans (tiny animals living in salt water), including the Portuguese man o’ war . . . even the stings! In fact, not only do the stings provide sustenance for the blue glaucus, but they use the poison for their own defense.

For obvious reasons, this species has been of serious interest to scientists for as long as they have been known. They were first discovered by Westerners on Captain Cook’s second voyage to the Pacific. Scientists who accompanied him on his journey first described the animal in 1777.


Scientists have found beginnings of morality in some primates!

It makes sense that the animals most evolutionarily close to us would exhibit early manifestations of higher social behavior. In this case, scientists have observed that some primates are surprisingly sensitive to others' problems. For example, chimpanzees can't swim. Despite this, some chimpanzees have drowned in zoo moats trying to save others from drowning.

More evidence: Scientists set up an experiment where rhesus monkeys could pull a chain to get food. If they pulled the chain, however it would shock one of the monkey's companions. The result? They starve themselves for several days.

Behaviorists say that human morality grew out of this primate sociality, with two extra levels of sophistication: humans have a much more rigorous enforcement of moral codes with rewards, punishment and reputation building. We also have a degree of judgment and reason, something that other animals haven't developed.



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