Let’s face it. The Earth, the planet we all call home, is a crazy place that is filled to the brim with more creatures than we’ve been able to catalogue, and holds a surprise around every corner. Yet, there are still some facts about the place that standout as being especially surprising. We’re here to hopefully inform you of some of those wacky tidbits about life on the third rock from the sun that most people have yet to find out about.
In order to make this list, a fact had to first and foremost revolve around the planet Earth, of course. We weren’t interested in facts about us humans, as that could make up another list for another day. Aside from a lack of interest in humanity, pretty much everything else was up for fair game but we put a premium on facts that go surprisingly underreported. So, without any further ado, let’s get to the list.
15. “Upside Down Waterfalls” Exist
Although there are several types of waterfalls we find fascinating, like hidden waterfalls, crystal blue waterfalls, underwater waterfalls and even frozen waterfalls, the “upside down” one blew our minds. Perhaps these natural occurrences would be better described as boomerang waterfalls, but no matter what you call them there are several of these things around the world. The idea of a waterfall that runs backwards may be something that seems like it should be found in a sci-fi film, yet our planet is home to waterfalls where the water flies back to its source.
If you’ve ever been advised against pissing in the wind, envisioning the result if you ignored that helpful tip will give you a good idea of what is happening here. Seen where powerful gusts of wind meet a waterfall, if you’re lucky enough to arrive when these two elements meet, you’ll receive a crazy view. Water that starts to fall towards a river below but returns from where it came as the wind forces it back up. Obviously, these events only take place when the right events converge, but we know we’d sit and watch water fall for hours if we knew we could see this in person.
14. Really Old Plants and Trees
We all know that the different life forms on Earth have widely varying expected lifespans. A mayfly lives for twenty-four hours, Drone Ants last three weeks, Guinea Pigs live for four years and on the other end of the spectrum, some Tortoises live 150 years and Bowhead whales are known to stick around for 211 years. We’ll even throw in an extra fact; scientists discovered a quahog clam that had been alive for 507 years before they actually managed to kill it during their research.
It just so happens though, that our lifespans are laughably short in comparison to some of the trees and bushes we share the planet with. According to scientists, there are fungi known as Armillaria bulbos that last 1,500 years, while the Californian bristlecone pine tree is thought to stick around for 4,900 years. Even more amazing, those two are young whippersnappers in comparison to the creosote bush, the oldest of which has rings that indicate that came to be 11,700 years ago.
13. Rats Spawn like Crazy
When it comes to animals that procreate, a lot think of rabbits first and foremost to the extent that breeding like rabbits (and its cruder variation) has become a popular phrase. Turns out that the rat deserves that credit a great deal more (we get that mating like rats isn’t nearly as cute and probably wouldn’t catch on too well, though).
According to researchers at the University Of Michigan Museum Of Zoology, an average female rat can give birth to seven litters of eight every year. At such a rate it is believed that two rats could come together over eighteen months and create a million descendants. Dependent on their pups coming together and creating legions of little ones themselves, it is still mind-boggling to think about two creatures becoming a million in such a short span of time. Remind us to make sure our houses are rodent free, please.
12. The Tale of the Lonely Whale
We have to warn you, this one is going to get pretty sad, so if you’re an animal lover you might want to prepare yourself. Whales, like us, are a social species that travel the world’s oceans in pods that remain stable, assuming us dastardly humans don’t intervene. Far more intelligent than some of us give them credit, these majestic beasts create bonds that last years, the one between a mother and her calf is seen as especially strong which is heartwarming.
In 1989, however, a group of biologists discovered an unusual sound in the North Pacific Ocean they never expected. Similar to the songs and cries they’d come to expect from whales, these repetitive sounds were fifty-two hertz above the range whales are typically heard at. Observed again in both 1990 and 1991, they managed to get their hands on a Navy Sound Surveillance System and have it tracked every year since. Travelling from the North Pacific and ending up offshore in California and the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, the sound is the work of a single whale. The only creature ever discovered to make a cry like that, they theorized that the creature may be deaf or a hybrid of two species but is alone. Poor thing has been deprived of the lifestyle it was born to enjoy.
11. Jellyfish Predate Dinosaurs
Jellyfish are amazing creatures that are capable of killing us with their sting, but look incredible when seen in the wild. A gelatinous being that possesses tentacles of various lengths, there are thousands of different species that we know of and scientists seem to find more regularly. A form of plankton that floats or slightly swims, they mostly move through the water due to the tides and some can even be as big as one hundred feet long.
We could list cool facts about these creatures all day long, and they may just reappear on this list yet, but for now let’s talk about the fact that they are believed to have existed on Earth for so long. Around for an awe-inspiring six hundred and fifty million years, they predate dinosaurs by more than four hundred million years. In fact, the span of years in which dinosaurs lived and went extinct could fit in the intervening years twice as dinos lasted less than two hundred million years. We’re dropping bonus facts left and right.
10. Newborn Kangaroos are Tiny
We don’t know about you but when we think of kangaroos, three things come to mind: boxing gloves, pouches and Australians. The biggest of the species, the Red Kangaroo, can be one and a half meters, or 4.9 feet, in height from tail to head while the smallest, a Musky Rat-Kangaroo, stands only six to eight inches tall.
The point is that these animals can vary hugely in size from species to species which doesn’t surprise us, but we were blown away to find out how small they can be at birth. A baby, otherwise known as a joey, can be only as big as a grain of rice, .2 to .9 inches or 5 to 25 millimeters tall. Guided to the pouch, it remains there, protected for a long time, ranging from one hundred twenty to four hundred fifty days, where it continues to grow.
9. How Much Salt there is in the Ocean
Nearly everyone knows that our planet is largely made up of water, covering seventy-one percent of the surface and that most of it is comprised of oceans. Of that water, ninety-six point five percent of it is salt water, while a paltry three point five percent of our water is fresh. Pretty amazing to think that small percentage is enough to support billions of us humans.
For those of you who have never actually been in the ocean, salt water’s name is earned as the concentration of salt per water is thirty-five parts per thousand. That may sound like a paltry amount but when you remember how much ocean our planet has, that is a crazy amount of salt. In fact, some scientists estimate that if we were able to extract it all, that salt would cover every inch of land on the planet standing five hundred feet tall.
8. Gravity Varies
A lot of us learned early in life that gravity is not a constant, which is a pretty easy concept to understand. Different on every planet and moon in the solar system, it depends on the mass of the celestial body you find yourself on, how strong the pull it creates is. Thus Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system has gravity that would be significantly stronger than ours is, while Mercury, the smallest, has weaker gravity. Smug in our belief that we had a pretty strong grasp on gravity, we were shocked to find out the Earth’s gravity varies by location.
We never knew that the same person would weigh about half of a percent more at the poles of our planet than at the equator. It all comes down to the fact that based on the altitude at which you stand; gravity will actually affect you slightly differently. Because the Earth is not actually perfectly round, the distance from the core of the planet you stand is different at the equator versus the poles which changes the pull of gravity. Additionally, the geology of a location can make a slight difference.
7. Octopus Biology is Awesome
An underwater creature that is mostly known for its eight limbs, two of which are legs and six of which are arms (no matter what you have heard), the body of these beings are incredible. With that said, we’re going to get down to business as there are just so many cool aspects about them. For instance, a fifty-pound octopus can fit through a hole two inches in diameter, and their females can lay ninety thousand eggs at once. Also, they are ninety percent muscle, they have blue blood and their limbs can grow back if they are lost to predators.
The coolest fact has to be that they have nine brains and three hearts inside of their bodies. Controlled by a network, they have a central brain that is the size of a walnut, but they remain intelligent because it is aided by eight more of its ilk in every limb. Even the manner in which they pump blood is more complicated, as they have two hearts that work in each of its gills, while a third one pushes blood into the body.
6. Amphibians Ruled the World’s Swamps
The world holds an estimated eight point seven million different species today, we humans stand as the undisputed rulers of the world, despite creatures born to hunt us existing. So, it may seem hard to fathom that wasn’t always the case, even though we know that Dinosaurs once ruled the planet and they’ve only been around so long. So it stands to reason that other creatures reigned supreme before. Well, now you’ll know, the next time you see a toad, frog or salamander cross your path, that their ancestors ruled our world’s swamp lands for tens of millions of years.
Amphibians are creatures that breathe through gills in their larval stage but grow to use lungs as they become adults and before the dinosaurs, some grew to be as big as fifteen feet long. Gigantic in comparison to the animals who shared their ecosystem, they were the unquestioned apex predator of their world.
5. There Were Really Tall Penguins
A fascinating species that has been extensively studied, we thought we knew just about all of the interesting facts about them after watching March of the Penguins. We were really wrong. Most of us think of Penguins as those little waddling creatures who look like they’re wearing little suits and grow as big as three foot seven. That wasn’t always the case, though.
Around since prehistoric times, there was a species of them that existed millions of years ago and stood at six foot eight inches tall. Creatures that would have stood taller than the majority of humans alive today, we probably wouldn’t have thought these guys were nearly as cute. Dubbed the Colossus Penguin, as any other name didn’t do them justice, they broke free of the subantarctic regions and one fossil was found only two thousand kilometers from the equator.
4. Ant Slaves
We know that ant colonies are complicated bodies with queen ants, worker ants and army ants, to name just a few. Seen on nearly every of the planet’s landmass, they thrive in almost any environment and may form fifteen to twenty-five percent of the “terrestrial animal biomass”. Able to solve complex problems, communicate with one another and divide their labour, many observers believe that their societies parallel humanity’s.
Unfortunately, one of the darkest eras of our history is still seen alive and well in the ant world, as certain colonies of ants go into battle and take a lot of prisoners in the form of larvae and pupae. After an initial discovery by a scout, a force of their nest-mates returns to their intended prey and attacks, taking as many as fourteen thousand pupae in a single season. Eating some of their prey, the young who manage to become adults are forced to do the bidding of their new masters. A rare occurrence, this behaviour has been observed several times in colonies that are totally independent of each other.
3. Animal Democracies
Democracy is a wonderful thing that has made modern life a whole lot better in our eyes. A system that we think of as a human invention, it turns out that there are several animal species that have their own forms of it. For instance, Chimpanzees follow an alpha male but he can’t take his exalted status without the acceptance and support of the females of the group. Red Deers of Eurasia live in herds that roam the countryside before finding a spot to rest. Once they do, they lay on the ground and won’t leave until sixty percent, or the majority, of the adults, stand once again.
The case of democracy in the animal kingdom that we find most interesting though, has to be the movement practices of the American Buffalo. In the 1990s, researchers picked up on the fact that the “mundane stretching” they observed was something else entirely. It turned out that the adult females of the herd, one by one would stand up and stare in the direction they thought the group should travel and lay back down. In almost every case, the direction that the majority of the women pointed to would be the path of choice for the herd.
2. Giant Fungi
These days we think of fungi as either something to eat or something to stay away from, but there was a time, hundreds of millions of years ago, that we would have seen them very differently. Back when the tallest trees were only a few feet in height, fungi may have taken their place in the skyline. Not as tall as modern trees, these growths were huge for their time and gigantic in comparison to the mushrooms we see today.
Although there are some detractors of the theory who feel that the massive spire fossils we’ve discovered aren’t fungi, a study has concluded that they were just that. As tall as twenty-four feet tall when standing and as wide as three feet, imagining them in real life is awesome.
1. There are Essentially Immortal Jellyfish
Did you forget we teased, even more, jellyfish facts were coming? The coolest fact we’ve ever read about these creatures, which last week didn’t have much competition, came about after we learned of the Turritopsis Dohrnii species. Four and a half millimetres wide, these tiny creatures appear to never actually die naturally.
Instead, when they reach a point in their life that would usually mark the end, they somehow manage to revert to a sexually immature state and begin their life again. Their bodies shrink, their tentacles retract and they sink to the ocean floor ready to begin the maturity process once again. Seen pulling this feat off in labs, they are capable of reverting in this manner again and again. It hasn’t been seen happening in nature yet, but the fact that it happens at all certainly implies it’s going on in the wild.