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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The Crooked Bush of Saskatchewan – An Intriguing Botanical Anomaly

Saskatchewan’s Crooked Bush, a small grove of aspen trees that grew in a very unusual way, is a botanical oddity that has fascinated both tourists and scientists for years.

Aspen trees don’t usually grow crooked. Like most other threes, they grow straight up, towards the sun, but not the specimens that make up the Crooked Bush. Located near Hafford, in Canada’s Saskatchewan province, this anomaly is the world’s only known crooked aspen tree grove. The strange appearance of the trees was first observed in the 1940s and it has since attracted thousands of tourists to this place. The advent of the internet only made the Crooked Bush more popular and there is now even a wooden walkway that visitors can use to avoid stepping on new growth.

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Devious Parasite Grants Host the Gift of Eternal Youth, But For a Price

Scientists have discovered that Temnothorax ants infected by a certain tapeworm parasite can live at least three times longer than their uninfected peers while maintaining a youthful appearance and getting special treatment.

A multi-year scientific study published in May of this year has revealed a phenomenon worthy of a science-fiction or fantasy blockbuster – a parasitic tapeworm that grants its host eternal youth while making them irresistible to their uninfected peers, who work harder just to bring them food and fulfill their every wish. It sounds unreal, but scientists at the  Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Austria have studied colonies of Temnothorax ants and found that when they are infected with the tapeworm Anomotaenia brevis, they become virtually immortal.

Temnothorax-nylanderi is a relatively common species of small ants that live in forests throughout Central Europe. They form small colonies on the forest floor, inside acorns or wooden branches, and most importantly, they serve as an intermediate host for the tapeworm Anomotaenia brevis. Up to 70 parasitic larvae can survive in the hemolymph, the body fluid of insects, but instead of competing for resources with their hosts and slowly killing them, the parasites appear to extend their lives considerably, possibly even indefinitely.

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The Surprising Love Story Between a Cow and a Leopard

Viral photos of a leopard and a cow cuddling somewhere in rural India tell the unique love story between two very unlikely friends.

Cows and leopards are usually not the best of friends, with the latter sometimes preying on bovines to survive. However, you wouldn’t even be tempted to think that looking at a set of viral photos that have been doing the rounds on social media for nearly two decades now. They show an adult leopard cuddling and playing with a cow, which, if the accompanying caption is to be believed, adopted and breastfed the feline as a cub. The story behind the photos has been exaggerated over the years to attract even more attention, but the photos are real and the relationship between the two animals is a testament to the fact that miracles can happen.

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Caterpillar Wears Its Molted Heads as a Bizarre Multi-Tiered Hat

The caterpillar of the Uraba lugens moth is deserving of the nickname “Mad Hatterpillar”, as it stacks the heads of its molted exoskeletons into an intriguing headpiece.

The Uraba lugens caterpillar molds up to 13 times while in its caterpillar phase, but it doesn’t shed all of its previous body parts. It uses some of the empty shells that once housed its head to create a rather impressive tower-shaped headpiece. As the caterpillar grows, so does its head, so each of the empty shells on top of its head is bigger than the next. Every time it molds, the head portion of its exoskeleton stays attached to its body, giving the critter a unique look as well as a handy decoy in the case of an attack.

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Hagfish – Weird Slime-Spewing Monsters of the Ocean

At first glance, the humble hagfish looks like just another species of ocean-dwelling eel, but they are something much weirder and at the same time fascinating. From the bizarre slime-like substance it produces as a defense mechanism, to the lack of a backbone, there’s a whole lot of weirdness to address.

The hagfish is a primitive, virtually blind creature that spends its life on the bottom of the ocean, slithering and feeding mostly on dead or dying fish. Among the several things that make the hagfish unique is its body structure. It has a skull, but no jaw and no vertebral column. This allows them to tie their bodies into knots in order to scrape the sticky slime they produce off of their skin. They can burrow into dead or dying animals through various orifices and even through their skin – using two rows of keratinous teeth – and devour them from the inside. But they don’t really need the teeth, as they can absorb nutrients through the skin and can go months without eating. Pretty freaky stuff, and we haven’t even talked about their slime-producing capabilities.

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This Shrimp Punches So Hard It Can Chip And Even Crack Fish Tanks

The peacock mantis shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus) is recognized as having the fastest punch in the entire animal kingdom, with an acceleration comparable to a .22mm bullet fired out of a handgun.

One of several known mantis shrimp species, the O. Scyllarus is native to the seabed of the Indo-Pacific, from Guam to South Africa. It is an agile and active predator, using its club-shaped appendages to smash its prey, which mainly consists of other crustaceans, gastropods, and bivalves. The peacock mantis shrimp is known as a ‘smasher’ for a reason, as it uses its appendages to repeatedly deliver blunt force to its victims until it breaks their exoskeletons in order to reach the soft tissue underneath. Every blow travels at a speed of over 50 miles per hour (80 km/h), the fastest recorded punch of any living animal.

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For Some Reason This Tree Species Leans Sideways When Planted Outside Its Natural Habitat

Araucaria columnaris, also known as the coral reef araucaria, Cook pine or New Caledonia pine, is a species of conifer native to New Caledonia that tends to tilt sideways when planted outside its natural habitat.

First classified by Johann Reinhold Forster, a botanist accompanying Captain James Cook on his second voyage to circumnavigate the globe as far south as possible, the araucaria columnaris soon became popular all around the world, thanks to its distinctive narrowly conical shape and its height (up to 60 meters). Nowadays, these evergreen giants are planted as ornamental trees in various areas with warm and temperate climate on five continents, and they generally don’t attract too much attention, but in some cases they have one noticeable particularity – they lean heavily to one side, and when there are more of them planted in the same area, they all lean in the same direction…

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Wombats Produce Square-Shaped Droppings And Now We Know How

Despite having round anuses like all other mammals, bare-nosed wombats do not produce round pellets, tubular coils or messy piles; they are the only creature on Earth that poops cubes.

Wombats, marsupials native to the grassy plains and eucalyptus forests of Australia, are among the most adorable animals in the world, but to animal experts they have been a tough-to-solve mystery for a very long time. And it has all been because of their poop. You see, wombats have the unique ability to produce up to 100 distinctive, cuboid pieces of poop every day. Now, researchers say they have uncovered how the wombat intestine creates this unusually-shaped excrement.

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California Tree Is Still Smoldering After Last Summer’s Wildfires

Scientists and fire crews in California recently discovered a giant sequoia tree that is still smoldering and smoking, almost a year after the surrounding area was devastated by massive wildfires.

The 2020 Castle Fire, which broke out in August of last year and scorched more than 150,000 acres of land, including at least 10 sequoia groves in the region. No one knows how many of these ancient giants were destroyed by the blaze, but one thing is for sure, at least one of them is still smoldering and smoking, almost a year after. National Park Service staff made the shocking discovery earlier this month, while conducting surveys in the area to assess the damage caused by last year’s wildfire. One of them noticed plumes of smoke rising in the distance, and, using a long camera lens, tracked it down to a single sequoia.

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This Caterpillar Mimics a Scary Skull to Keep Predators at Bay

The caterpillar of the rare pink underwing moth has a very peculiar defense mechanism. When disturbed, it suddenly arches its back to reveal a pair of large, frightening eyes and what looks like a two rows of barred teeth.

The pink underwing moth is a rare and enigmatic insect found from subtropical New South Wales through Queensland and New Guinea. It feeds on rotting fruit and, although nocturnal, doesn’t seem to be strongly attracted to light. The moth’s name was inspired by the bright pink bars on its hidden hind underwings, which some experts believe act as a defense mechanism. The theory is that a sudden display of color can startle or surprise a predator for long enough to let the moth escape. But that defense strategy pales in comparison to that used by the pink underwing moth in caterpillar form.

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This Rare Bird Could Go Extinct Because It Has Forgotten Its Mating Song

The regent honeyeater is already one of the world’s rarest birds, but experts are worried that it could soon go extinct, because they have forgotten how to sing.

Flocks of hundreds of regent honeyeaters could once be spotted all over south-eastern Australia on a regular basis, but today the species is critically endangered, with only 300 specimens believed to exist in the entire world. They were also known for the complexity of their mating songs, but as their numbers started dwindling, ornithologists started noticing this complexity diminishing, to the point where male regent honeyeaters didn’t even sound like their species anymore. Today, there is ample evidence that regent honeyeaters have forgotten how to sing, which could render the entire species extinct.

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Golden Tortoise Beetles – Nature’s Living Jewels

Ever seen a tortoise the size of a fly? How about a golden one that can actually fly? Well, today’s your lucky day, as you get to discover one of nature’s shiny treasures – the golden tortoise beetle.

Before you open a fresh tab to search if these adorable critters are real or just the result of digital editing, make sure you use the species scientific name, aspidimorpha sanctaecrucis, as “golden tortoise beetle” is a really common name shared by a number of beetles, like charidotella sexpunctata, among others. What makes this species of beetle special is that the gold pattern on their transparent protective carapace actually makes them look like tiny tortoises.

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Remarkable Slug Can Sever Its Own Head and Grow a New Body

Japanese researchers recently the incredible ability of a sea slug to basically sever its own head and simply grow a new body, complete with fresh vital organs.

Autotomy, the behavior whereby an animal sheds or discards one or more of its own appendages, usually as self-defense mechanism, only to grow them back later, is well documented in the animal world. However, autotomy usually involves limbs or tails, appendages that don’t feature vital organs, whish is why a sea slug that can apparently sever its own head and then grow a new body complete with these vital organs has stunned scientists.

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This Cuddly Rodent Coats Itself in Lethal Poison to Keep Predators at Bay

The African crested rat, an elusive rodent that lives in forested areas of Eastern Africa, has a very strange yet intriguing defense mechanism against would-be predators – it licks deadly toxins onto its own fur.

People inhabiting the highland forests and woodlands of countries like Somalia, Sudan or Ethiopia have long known to stay clear of the large maned rat that makes its home in those areas. Known as Lophiomys imhausi to scientists, this long-haired rat is the world’s only poisonous rodent. But the most interesting thing about it is that it’s not born poisonous; it actually “borrows” the lethal toxin of a plant known as the “poison arrow tree”, which contains a poison strong enough to kill an elephant, when applied to an arrow head. The rat applies this toxin to specialized hairs on the sides of its body, turning itself into as lethal weapon against anyone foolish enough to attack it.

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