Science, Now + Beyond

10 animal behaviors that are so weird you might not believe them

There are lizards who can squirt blood from their eyes. Need I say more?

From the fainting goats to mourning elephants, this one will leave you with a greater appreciation for weird animal behavior.

1. The fainting goat

Myotonic goats, (aka ‘fainting goats’) would probably die easily in the wild. Why? Well, these goats faint when they get freaked out. Fainting goats have a breed characteristic known as Myotonia Congenita, a condition in which the muscle cells experience prolonged contraction when the goat is startled. This causes the goats’ muscles to freeze up when panicked, and they just fall right over. The stiffness of the goat when it ‘faints’ varies from goat to goat.

So cute, yet so sad.

2. Bloody lizard

It’s a hard life out there in the wild. Nature is unpredictable, food can be scarce, and predators are a constant threat. This is why horned lizards have plenty of ways to avoid predation. Their skin is a camouflage, they run in small bursts to confuse predators, and oh yeah – some of them can squirt blood out of their eyes. They are able to stop blood flow leaving the head, which increases the blood pressure and ruptures the tiny vessels around the eyes. Predators do not like this.

They can shoot blood up to ten feet into the air!!!

I literally can think of nothing to say other than: WHAT.

3. Supersonic Snap

The pistol shrimp is a 2 centimeter shrimp from the subtropics. Its amazing feature? The shrimp stuns its prey (other shrimp) by snapping its claw so quickly that it makes a sound louder than a gun shot. The noise isn’t created by the snap itself, but from the jet of water that shoots off from it. The tiny stream bursts out at 60 mph, making a low pressure bubble in its wake. When this collapses, it creates a bang louder than a jet engine. For a tiny fraction of a second the temperature in the bubble can become as hot as the sun.

4. Death march

Most ants navigate by using eyesight, but some army ants are completely blind. This means they can become disorientated and march in circles until they die of exhaustion. Army ants navigate by following pheromone trails left behind by others. However, if enough of them lose the scent, they begin to follow the ant immediately in front and a huge ant spiral forms, also called an ant mill. They eventually drop dead from exhaustion, an accidental suicide march, if you will.

Ant death spiral

5. The art of seduction

Sexual selection has evolved some amazing behaviors and characteristics. Being able to have sex and pass on your genes is vital to your own success. The male Bower bird’s redeeming feature: he can decorate like his life depends on it. Which, in a way, it does. Female bower birds are attracted to ‘beautiful homes‘. The Bower bird will decorate the dry grass with pebbles, flowers, and even rocks, sometimes spending hours color coordinating the home to attract the female. He will even go so far as to vandalize and destroy the competitive males’ home.

Hopefully she’s into it

6. Fake mother

The Cuckoo bird shirks all parental responsibility she was ever bestowed with. She lays her eggs in other nests, then abandons them completely. The baby bird is eventually raised and fed, and sometimes even indirectly kills its fake siblings. The cuckoo bird is so big and loud that all the other birds in the nest seem like runts. The cuckoo is then fed more and even steals the food out of the mother’s mouth. Once the bird has fledged and left the nest, it will go on to lay another egg (if female) in another nest and terrorize another mother.

Flying away from motherhood, perhaps.

7. Mourn the dead

Elephants are known to display incredible emotional behavior. They even have a few rituals related to death. When they come across elephant bones, they’ll stop and become silent. They’ll hold and prod the bones, fascinated with what the cause might be and trying to find out if they knew the elephant. Another highly noted behavior is that it seems they are paying homage to the elephant with a slight bow of the head. They even go back to grave sites and visit their dead. When an elephant from the herd passes away, other elephants stand by the body for hours, withdrawing from food or water.

8. The one with a grudge

Crows have the amazing memory capacity to remember those who have wronged them. In one test, crows that were once captured remembered their abductors- even going so far as to dive bomb them when spotted. To test the theory of whether crows remembered the face in reality, twelve male crows were captured by researchers all wearing a “threatening” mask. During the four weeks of captivity, the birds were fed by people wearing a “caring” mask. To understand what was going on in their brains, they were shown the two faces, and then given a brain scan. The birds that were shown the caring face reacted neutrally, and the birds presented with the threatening face were distressed.

You do not want to mess with an animal that can solve a Rock-a-Stack.

9. Meerkat teacher

When it comes to learning, we imagine that a young animal learns through trial and error. However, to a Meerkat family, the pup is taught. A main part of a meerkat’s diet is scorpion, so instead of allowing the pup to sting oneself trying to eat one, a different approach is set in motion. The parent will bring back dead scorpions to ‘practice’. As the pups get better at racking up fatalities, the parents bring back livelier scorpions until the pup can eventually catch and eat scorpions on its own.

Also baby meerkats are adorable.

10. Procrastinating pigeon

Pigeons are just like us- they’d rather relax than get a job done. When faced with a small task that needs to be completed, the pigeon flies away -literally- from its problems. In the end, the task becomes urgent and even bigger, requiring more effort than if it had been done earlier. We’ve all been there, right? But this can be so extreme that a pigeon will just sit around while a car is driving toward it, and not fly away in time! Yikes!

Not today, procrastination.