5 Weirdest Ways Animals Catch Their Prey
Claws, sharp teeth, and photosynthesis are hackneyed ways to obtain energy. Earth has quite a bit of biodiversity, and we focus too much on the boring grazers and maulers of the world. It does not take an infatuation with biology to appreciate the animals out there that are truly creative hunters, hunters that provoke interesting evolution questions. Here are five, and since I found more than five, I may write another similar article.
Oh, and by the way, to the right is a battle between a giant centipede and a snake. It's also an attempt at subtle foreshadowing.
#5: Orchid Mantis
Imagine, hypothetically, you are going through McDonalds like you always do for breakfast. You pay for a diet coke and breakfast sandwich, and then when you try to take a bite out of the sandwich, it turns into a bear and mauls you. That's what happens to moths and butterflies when they land near orchid mantises that they think are flowers.
So take a second and appreciate your status on top of the food chain.
Orchid mantises are interesting creatures. They're native to Southeast Asia, so warn all your bug friends to be wary when they are traveling in that part of the world (it's late at night, and I'm a bit loopy). Even their children are disguised as another bug, making the whole lifespan of the mantis a double life. They can also change color between pink and brown so that their costume fits their environment. Not only are they well disguised, they're basically better at being Orchids than Orchids are... researchers say they draw more insects than the actual flowers do.
Also, Mantises are pretty fierce creatures. Here is some video evidence:
Bonus video, mantis attacks humming bird (:11)
#4: Psychic Tentacled Sea Snake
If the tentacled sea snake were a pokémon, it would be super-effective against poison and fighting type. If you don't get that joke, just move along, you had a very different childhood than myself.
At first glance this southeast Asian snake species doesn't appear too outstanding in any way. However, if you spend a lot of time studying snakes you know that snakes don't usually have tentacle-like appendages coming out of their face. In fact, this is the only species of snake with such sensors.
The tentacles might have been the reason that scientists initially took an interest to the snake, but to their surprise, that was not the only peculiar thing about it. When given fish to eat, the fish appeared to dart straight into the snake's mouth. I'm sure they probably called in the Long Island Medium to see what kind of psychic shenanigans were going on.
In reality, the snake has a clever ambush tactic. When a fish is nearby, it will create a small disturbance with part of its lower body that triggers an escape reflex in the fish. The snake will predict where the fish's head will be as it attempts to escape, and then will strike that point. Someone watching might think that the fish swam into the snakes mouth. Here's the video evidence:
In real life speed, the whole tactic is of course hard to observe because of how quickly it happens. After all, the snake is timing an escape reflex. The video below does a good job of giving you various speeds to watch it at. Also, I don't know what the world would be like without Youtube.
Tentacled Sea Snake (:55 is a good place to start watching)
#3: Blanket Octopus
Octopuses (or Octopi) are extremely intelligent. In fact, are among the most intelligent invertebrates that you'll find. The Blanket octopus is no different, using problem solving abilities to use its environment to its advantage.
It also is quite honestly pretty beautiful. One interesting fact to impress your friends with is that the females can grow to be a couple of meters long while the males will only be a couple of centimeters big. So next time you're feeling inadequate as a man, use my proven tactic of comparing yourself to a blanket octopus. You're welcome.
But animals don't get put on this list for being beautiful or stroking men's egos. One particularly peculiar (and somewhat terrifying) behavior of the young Blanket octopus is its tendency to rip the tentacles off the poisonous Portuguese Man O' War, and then use those tentacles as its own weapon (both offensively and defensively). Somehow it is one of the few organisms immune to the toxins of those tentacles. Blanket octopuses are attractive, but next time you are swimming in the ocean, don't let them whip you with stinging cnidarian appendages.
Also, to add to the alien-like reputation of the Blanket octopus, the males have an entire tentacle that breaks off during mating. Then the male dies, although I'm sure it was totally worth it.
There are lots of videos on Youtube of blanket octopuses swimming around, but I think you'd rather see a Mantis catching a goldfish.
Mantis catching a goldfish is worth a second of your time (:37)
#2: Amazonian Giant Centipede
Two places you'll never find me relaxing are the Amazon and Australia. Both of those places have too many scary critters for a sane person to relax.
Adding to the list of "nopes" in the Amazon is the Amazonian Giant Centipede (it can be found in other places like the Caribbean, too). When encountering an animal in the wild, you don't want said animal to be carnivorous, nervous, and aggressive--but those are the best adjectives to describe the Amazonian Giant Centipede. It literally feeds on just about anything it can kill. Think about that. If this centipede were any bigger (it can grow up to about a foot), it might rule the world with carnivorous rage.
Don't believe me? Here is one catching a bat.
A little after the 1:20 mark is the actual catch.
Centipede catches bat (1:20)
Once again, take a deep breath, and appreciate your position on the food chain. Giant centipedes are gross and nightmarish, and so it would be mean to leave you with that to round out the countdown. We'll go back to a less disturbing creature for our #1.
Why would a fish be named after a human invention that obviously requires hands? There's no way that a fish can behave in a way that replicates the human bow and arrow, right?
Wrong. This is nature's sniper, bringing down prey with spit. There is quite a bit of physics involved, in fact. Any spearfisher knows that aiming a blow into or out of water requires knowledge of refraction. Not to mention hitting a moving target...it would be very hard for even a trained human to do. Here is an article on just the physics of such a feat.
Why is that worth a read? Or what's the point of the article so you don't have to read it? The point is that scientists found out that the speed of the spit is actually GREATER when it impacts the target than when it leaves the mouth of the fish. Bullets or bows can't do that. In fact, I'm satisfied with calling it witchcraft.
And here is a video of it in action. Finally, something on this list that I wouldn't be super terrified of if it was significantly bigger. Maybe I should be though; hypothetically it might be able to shoot down planes or something. After all, a giant Archerfish sounds more plausible than a sharknado. It’s probably time for me to stop writing.