This Marine Mollusk Has Teeth Literally as Hard as Steel

The gumboot chiton, a marine mollusk also known as the Wondering Meatloaf, has teeth made of the hardest biological material known to man.

Magnetite is a geologic mineral commonly found in the earth’s crust, but it’s also somehow produced by the gumboot chiton and synthesized into rows of small teeth hard enough to scrape algae off of rocks. The top of these teeth is layered with magnetite, which makes them literally as strong as steel, but the root is also incredibly tough, thanks to another iron-like material that has never been observed in living creatures before – santabarbaraite. This unique combination makes the chiton’s teeth the hardest biological material in the world.

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‘Door Head Ants’ Use Their Large Flat Heads as Doors to Shut Down Their Nests

The workers of several ant species have large, flattened, and slightly concave heads that they use as plugs to block entrance to their colonies’ nests.

The so-called ‘door head ants’ are soldier ants with armored heads that match both the size and the shape of the entrance to their colonies’ nests almost to perfection. They function as living doors, using their heads to plug shut the nest and only allow access to other members of the colony while keeping unwanted guests out. Door head ants can be found in several ant genera, including Cephalotes and Carebara. How these species developed the exact size and shape as the entries to their nests is the result of millions of years of evolution.

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This Fascinating Bird Looks Like a Feathered Dragon

What do you get if you mix a bird, a squirrel and a lizard? Well, I think you’ll have a tough time finding a better answer than the Great Eared Nightjar.

Seeing a great eared nightjar for the first time, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for a squirrel or even a lizard. The fact is it kind of looks like a combination of animals, or even a real-live version of Toothless, the dragon from DreamWorks Studios’ hit animation “How to Train Your Dragon“. You could say it’s living proof that birds are more closely related to dinosaurs than reptiles.

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Plant Evolves to Become Less Visible to Humans in Areas With Excessive Harvesting

Fritillaria delavayi, a plant used in traditional Chinese medicine, has apparently evolved to match its background and become more difficult to spot as a direct consequence of heavy harvesting.

Scientists had known that many plants evolved to use camouflage as a way of hiding from herbivores that may eat them, but a recent study suggests that one particular plant species has developed the same mechanism to hide from human harvesters. Researchers found that fritillaria delavayi plants, which grow on the rocky slopes of China’s Hengduan mountains, match their backgrounds most closely in areas where they are intensely harvested by humans.

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The Elusive “Scorpion Beetle” – The Only Known Insect Capable of Inoculating Toxins Through Its Antennae

Beetles are generally regarded as harmless to humans. Out of the over 350,000 documented species of beetle, only three are actually known to bite people, and only if they feel threatened. However, there is another species that few sources mention. Onychocerus albitarsis, aka Scorpion Beetle, is the only known insect capable of stinging humans with its antennae and delivering a painful toxin.

First described in 1859 by famous English entomologist Francis Polkinghorne Pascoe, the scorpion beetle is considered by many experts a fascinating case of convergent evolution. While all other known insects deliver venom or toxins by biting with fangs or stinging with a structure used exclusively for this purpose, e.g. a bee’s stinger, the scorpion beetle does it through its two long antennae, which research has shown have evolved to closely resemble a scorpion’s segmented tail.

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Members of Indonesian Sea Nomad Tribe Can Stay Underwater for Up to 13 Minutes at a Time, Thanks to Their Unusually Large Spleens

Known as ‘Sea Nomads’, the Bajau people have wandered the waters of southern Asia for thousands of years, living in house boats and free diving for fish. They’ve long been known for their ability to stay underwater for long periods of time, but until recently, no one really knew how they were able to keep their breath for so long.

According to a recently published study from Cambridge University, the Bajau people have 50 percent larger spleens than their land-dwelling neighbours, which plays a key role in how long they can stay underwater. It plays a key part in what’s known as the “human dive response” or “dive reflex”, preferentially distributing oxygen to the brain and heart, and enabling submersion for long periods of time. As the heart rate slows, blood is directed to the vital organs, and the spleen contracts to push oxygenated red blood cells into the circulation. In an average person, the spleen can boost oxygen levels by 9 percent, but even more in the case of the Bajau, due to its unusually large size.

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