The nose "horn" of Nasica. There is nothing to do: to a human observer, the nasal appendage of the Nasica (Nasalis larvatus), a widespread primate in the tropical forests of Borneo, appears decidedly exaggerated. But the females of this vervet may not think so. The "proboscis", which in an adult male can reach 17 cm in length, is a sexual trait comparable to the peacock's tail, which attracts the attention of the partners and produces sound reminders to ward off rivals. The nose also has another curious feature: it is probably the only primate that regurgitates the bolus to re-chew it, a bit like cows do. A selection of the most curious animal noses (watch)
The flash erections of ostriches. Other than hiding your head in the sand. When it comes to sex, for the male ostrich (Struthio camelus) the maxim is "short, but intense". The feathered - among the few to boast a real penis - however, swell their genital organ with a lymphatic and non-vascular system (as happens instead in man). For lymphatic fluid, however, the pressure is lower than for blood. This causes ostrich erections to last just a few seconds.
The most curious animal courting strategies
The retractable claws of the hairy frog. The defense mechanism of Trichobatrachus robustus, a frog native to central Africa, has been compared by many to that of Wolverine of the X-Men. If threatened this amphibian is able to intentionally break the bones of the hind legs, to push the sharp bones through the skin, like claws. These frogs - which we see here in the Natural History Museum in London - also have curious appendages similar to hair scattered on the skin, which serve to increase the skin surface able to absorb oxygen.
Not to be missed: the frog with fangs that gives birth to tadpoles
Penguin bullet-like feces. In addition to the dense bones suitable for swimming and the anti-freeze legs to resist the cold, the penguins can boast another important ability: to expel the faeces with a power equal to 5-10 times that of the man (!). What is it for? Keeping the nest clean: so the lazy feathered can hurl their needs away, and without having to move. For this discovery, the researchers Victor Benno and Jozsef Gal were awarded, in 2005, the Ig Nobel Prize for Fluid Dynamics.
Also read: the penguin, the strangest bird
The anal harpoons of scorpion flies. Mating is a far from simple matter for scorpion flies (Mecoptera ord.), So called for the terminal part of the abdomen of males, which resembles the tail of a scorpion. Generally the female only gives to the court when she is not busy eating. Then the male offers her a drop of saliva which he deposits on the ground, and while the partner feeds on it, he takes advantage of it to mate, renewing his bait from time to time. The males of the genus Dicerapanorpa do much more: they hold the partner with two anal spurs during the copula, in an embrace that can last two hours. Also read: the fascinating evolutionary history of the anus
Cows also like grass. And not just the common pasture tufts. In Mexico and the United States, it may happen that they eat astragalus and Oxytropis, poisonous herbs with the amazing effects that grow in those meadows. The effects are seen: the animals become solitary, they start walking in a strange way, they run into obstacles and try unlikely jumps to overcome non-existent barriers (like a stick placed on the ground). The phenomenon is called locoism.
Did the dinosaurs make LSD?
Dolphins get high with puffers. Sushi lovers know this very well: puffer neurotoxins can be deadly. But taken in small doses, they have a narcotic effect. At least that's what they seem to be about a dolphin population first observed by BBC cameramen (see video below). Some cetaceans have been seen passing a puffer fish gently, letting some of its air out in the water, and then floating on the surface in a state of "trance".
Some toads have mustaches. Worse than a bristly beard: the males of Leptobrachium boringii, an endemic toad of Mount Emei, in Sichuan (China), exhibit keratin spines on the upper lip during the mating season. The sharp mustache is linked to the struggle for the territory and for the best partner. How are they used? Sticking them into the opponent's belly, to see if it moves.
And also some spiders. Even the brown spiders of the Heteropoda venatoria species exhibit thick clear mustaches. These do not serve to attract the partner or even follow a trend. But to attract the preys that at night, seeing the clear hair, approach and fall into the trap.
Bats practice oral sex … Protected from darkness and the privacy offered by leaves, bats with a short snout (Cynopterus sphinx), a species widespread in Asian countries, engage in oral sex. In particular the females have been observed licking the base of the male genitalia, to prolong (and not shorten) the relationship. This is the only non-primate in which this behavior has been documented: it also occurs in bonobos, but generally among young males, as a form of play.
The world upside down: photos and curiosity about bats
… and sabotage the senses of rivals. Between an erotic feat and another, bats will have to eat. The Mexican-free bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) interferes with the echolocation sounds of its rivals, disorienting them just as they are about to fall on the bite to grab the best morsel. Even a shrewd grinding moth has been observed in the enterprise, which manages to save her life.
There are vampire ants. Which, fortunately, do not suck human blood but - even more "sadistic" - that of their heirs. The ants of the genus Mystrium, widespread in Madagascar, drill holes in the body of the larvae and feed on their hemolymph (the equivalent of blood). This behavior does not seem to kill the larvae (which only end up "pricking") but feeds the adult ants. The same form of cannibalism occurs with the ants of the genus Amblyopone (in the photo during a snack), spread in Australia and New Guinea.
Penguins don't taste like fish. Another myth that collapses: how is it possible that penguins don't feel the taste of their main food source? A genetic study released in February 2015 states that the feathered have lost the receptors of three of the five fundamental flavors in the course of evolution: umami (fundamental for perceiving the taste of fish), sweet and bitter. They perceive only the sour and the salty, but it is not that it matters much, since these birds devour their entire prey, swallowing it without tasting it. The cold, which neutralizes the functioning of some receptors, may have contributed to this evolutionary trick.
Sea lions have sex with penguins. The episodes were documented on four different occasions on Marion Island, an island in the sub-Antarctic Indian Ocean (we talked about it here). The macabre fact seems to be linked to the sexual frustration of young males of fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella), which see in the penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) an easy sexual prey.
There are animals with a multifunctional anus. A species of sea cucumber, Parastichopus tremulus, uses its anal orifice both to defecate and to breathe. But above all, he uses it as a defense organ: when he feels attacked, he expels part of his bowels from the anus, and in some cases also part of the respiratory system. The organs wrap around the intruder like a net, and allow the animal to crawl away in peace. The organs will reform in it shortly thereafter. The biological origin of the anus tells us about evolution
The dirty-mouthed turtle. Speaking of orifices, for some animals the affair can work "on the contrary": when it's time to pee, the soft-shelled Chinese tortoise (Pelodiscus sinensis) immerses the head under water and lets the urea pass through small gill-like structures located in the mouth. At one time it was thought that these organs served to breathe, but a 2012 study denied the hypothesis. Urea reaches the mouth by traveling through the blood, and is expelled by rinsing the mouth in the brackish waters where the reptile lives. The adaptation, unique in the animal kingdom, is very useful in the habitat of the tortoise, which prefers small mirrors of stagnant water. Urinating in a "traditional" way would require large amounts of water, not always available.
No millipede has a thousand legs, but … There is one that has 750. The Illacme plenipes holds the unusual record of an animal with several pairs of legs. What do you need it for? Probably nothing. The animal may have evolved an extremely long digestive system (in proportion: the centipede in question is less than 3 cm long) to optimize food resources. The legs could be an accessory included in the package. The artropode is located in an area of 4.5 square kilometers in California, kept secret to protect the vermon from the assaults of the curious.
On the moon, we could run on the water. An extraterrestrial "bonus", which goes beyond the animal world: on Earth, walks on water are the preserve of a few insects, or basilisks (small tropical lizards). But on the Moon, we could do it too: it was demonstrated by an Italian professor and researcher, Alberto Minetti, with a research that earned him the 2013 Ig Nobel Prize (here the study and the exclusive interview). Lunar gravity, six times lower than Earth's, would allow the feet to move in the water for a few seconds without sinking. The research could be used to build robots with this capacity. What if the Moon orbited the ISS?