Category Archives: Animals

Why a Final Performance is Called a “Swan Song”

swan-song

Gideon S. asks: Why is a final performance called a swansong? When someone performs for the last time, we often refer to it as a “swan song” which seems odd given that swans aren’t particularly known for their stage presence… So where exactly did this phrase come from? This expression is generally thought to have its genesis in the over […]

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Why Poison Dart Frogs Raised in Captivity Lose Their Toxicity

poison-dart-frog

Of the 300-plus species in the frog family Dendrobatidae, only three members of the Phyllobates genus have been documented as having their poison used for hunting darts: Phyllobates aurotaenia (a.k.a. Kokoe), Phyllobates bicolor (a.k.a. Black-Legged) and Phyllobates terribilis (a.k.a. Golden). While in the wild these frogs harbor poison sufficient to kill a grown man, after they have been held captive […]

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The Weird World of the Octopus

octopus

There are 289 different species in the Octopoda order, each of them just as strange as the last. With eight (or so) wriggly appendages, a bulbous mantle, homicidal tendencies and high intelligence, even a mid-sized octopus can be intimidating. And the more you get to know about them, the more you realize just how extraordinary these cephalopods are. Their best […]

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The Life Saving Animal Blood Worth $60,000 Per Gallon and the Truth About the Colour of Spider Blood

horseshoe-crab-blood

Kay P. asks: Is spider blood really blue? When it comes to spiders, people generally know two facts about them- that you swallow around eight of them per year and that their blood is bright blue. Fortunately, the former is absolutely not true at all, the latter, on the other hand, is mostly correct. While it’s certainly true that spiders […]

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Working for Figurative Peanuts and Literal Beer, the Fascinating Story of Jack the Signal”man”

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For most people, saying  “a monkey could do my job” is a roundabout way of saying that their current position of employment isn’t exactly that mentally taxing. For James Wide though, it was more of a statement of fact because for 9 years in the late 19th century, his job of railroad signalman at Uitenhage station in South Africa was literally done […]

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The Amazingly Tough Hero Shrew

hero-shrew

At only a few inches long and with no distinguishing external physical features to speak of, Scutisorex somereni, better known as the Hero or Armoured Shrew, is seemingly an unremarkable creature. That is, until you accidentally step on one. You see, the Hero shrew can comfortably survive being stood on by a typical adult human without any injury. The secret to […]

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The Toughest Known Creature on Earth and Beyond

targigrade

It is surely the stuff of science fiction: An extraordinary being arrives on Earth that can withstand a tortuous array of conditions: boiling, freezing, tremendous atmospheric pressure, near total dehydration, and exposure to massive amounts of ionizing radiation. While many joke that “cockroaches would be the only thing to survive an extreme global nuclear war”, in fact, cockroaches would not. […]

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The Wild and Wacky World of Mating in the Animal Kingdom

gay-dog

Karen A. asks: How prevalent is homosexuality in animals? Are there any animals besides humans that have members that are exclusively homosexual? While it is sometimes claimed that only humans engage in bisexual or homosexual relationships, this is far from the truth and the practice is actually quite common in the animal kingdom. For example, nearly 10% of male sheep […]

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