6 Weird and Wild Animal Behaviors Revealed in 2022
- December 11, 2022
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The diverse animals that inhabit the Earth have adapted to survive in their environments and interact with members of their own species and others in ways that can be exquisitely fine-tuned — and at times downright odd. Every year researchers uncover new insights into the weird, cool, and sometimes hilarious behaviors animals can exhibit, and 2022 was certainly no exception. Below, Scientific American has rounded up some of our favorites from the past year.
Like a New Yorker saying, “Hey, I’m walking here!” Living in dense conditions off the coast of Australia, dusky octopuses could communicate with their fellow species — by throwing things. Underwater cameras recorded the cephalopods gathering clams, silt and algae with their arms and hurling them at each other with jets of water from their siphon to propel the debris. The researchers even observed the receiving squid ducking to avoid being hit. Scientists haven’t figured out exactly what motivates the behavior, but suspect it’s a form of communication.
The strange sex life of spiders
Life can be tough for some male spiders who want to reproduce because they can end up being eaten by their mate in a practice called sexual cannibalism. But the males of one species of orb-weaver spider have figured out how to avoid that grisly end: the energy stored in their front legs allows them to catapult a hungry female away in a split second. “Imagine a 1.8 meter tall man catapulting himself 530 meters in one second,” the study’s lead author Shichang Zhang, a behavioral ecologist at China’s Hubei University, told Scientific American. “That’s what these male spiders do.” And they live to mate another day.
Male spider jumping from a female during mating in slow motion. Photo credit: Shichang Zhang (CC BY-SA)
Yum, fossils for lunch!
The researchers got a big surprise when their underwater cameras showed colonies of fluffy deep-sea sponges covering extinct volcanoes in the extreme conditions at the bottom of the cold, ice-covered Arctic Ocean. How could these creatures survive in an area notoriously lacking in food? It turns out they have bacteria that help them digest the fossils of long-extinct tubeworms.
The scariest nose picking you’ve ever seen
Little kids aren’t the only ones picking their noses and eating what they dig up. An aye-aye – a species of lemur – has been spotted on camera ‘digging for gold’. And he did so with his three-inch-long middle finger, which is typically used in the animals’ nocturnal hunt for insects in logs. When the finger is inserted into an Aye-Aye’s nose, it can reach up to its throat! Scientists are unsure why Aye-Ays practice extreme nose picking, suggesting that perhaps they do it because they can.
Setting up a microbial slime trap
Okay, technically these aren’t animals. But they are living organisms, and they bring a lot of weird things to the table. Mixoplankton are protists, which are basically all eukaryotes — an organism with one or more cells that have a nucleus and organelles — that is not an animal, plant, or fungus. They get energy both through photosynthesis and by eating other microbes. This year, scientists discovered a mixoplankton species, Prorocentrum cf. balticum, builds a mucous sac around its body overnight and then lures its prey (microbes) into this ‘mucosphere’. This mucosphere is also rich in carbon, which is stored on the sea floor after the slime is shed.
Cockatoos compete against humans in the Bin Wars
An innovative arms race between cockatoos and humans could be raging in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia. The highly intelligent birds have found ways to use their beaks and feet to open trash cans in residential areas. Tired of the resulting litter-strewn streets, residents have tried to find ways to keep the birds away, such as placing heavy rocks on the lids. The birds have since learned to defeat at least one of these strategies, suggesting they can learn and adapt, forcing people to look for more sophisticated methods to ward them off. For one, we welcome our trash can raptor overlords.
Video Credit: Barbara Klump/Current Biology (CC BY-SA 4.0)