Superpowers are things that absolutely fascinate humans. After all, millions of people spend huge amounts of time reading comic books and watching movies from the likes of Marvel and DC. All of this media is consumed so that people get the chance to see superheroes who have extra abilities and skills that far outshine our own physical limitations. It is also the reason why people with great talents, especially in terms of sport or intelligence, are so revered.
However, superpowers are not just some fictional device that are used to entertain us. Nature is full of different creatures that have incredible capabilities when compared to humans. Having evolved in different environments with diverse demands, these organisms have had to develop powers that seem out of this world simply to survive. Often, these abilities will allow them to capture prey or escape from predators, and so they are an essential part of their daily life. That doesn’t diminish the pure wonder and rarity of these superpowers that amaze anyone who is able to witness them.
Whether the creatures in question possess super strength, intense speed, or even extra senses that we cannot really comprehend, they are all superpowers that anybody would love to possess themselves.
15 Bombardier Beetles
There are many different animals that have evolved to have defense mechanisms to help protect them from predators. One of the strangest types of defense is for an animal to squirt or shoot out some sort of unpleasant substance to act as a deterrent. Unlike skunks, which just produce an awful smelling gas, the bombardier beetle is essentially a walking bomb.
Using a series of complicated biological systems, the beetle is able to mix together several chemicals within a sealed portion of its body. This produces a powerful exothermic reaction, raising the temperature of the mixture to almost 100 °C, while the pressure buildup allows the creature to eject the chemicals at any threat.
14 Mantis Shrimp
Although the mantis shrimp may not look like anything that special, it is arguably one of the strongest animals alive today. The marine creature usually only grows to around 4 inches in length but it packs a punch that is on par to the likes of The Incredible Hulk. They are capable of striking with their claws with the force of a high-powered rifle. Their punches are so strong it can easily break through quarter-inch thick glass or the shell of a crab.
The shrimp also has another superpower that is unique to it. Its elaborate eyes give it a visual system that is made up of 16 receptive color cones, more than 5 times more than humans do, which allows them to see in infrared and ultraviolet.
13 Alpine Ibex Goat
The Alpine ibex is a breed of wild goat that is particularly impressive for its ability to climb on almost any surface, regardless of how steep it is. This ability has evolved because of the rocky and mountainous terrain in which they live in, meaning they have to be incredibly sure-footed and agile to ensure that they do not fall from great heights to their death.
As Italy has allocated more land as national parks, the goats have been able to move into new areas. This has also given them the opportunity to climb on new structures that they usually would not come across in the wild. Most notably, they have been seen travelling on the side of dams that have almost vertical walls without falling.
12 Turritopsis Dohrnii Jellyfish
The ability to live forever is something that has fascinated humanity for thousands of years. The idea of immortality has appeared in all kinds of media, from novels to blockbuster films, showing just how intriguing the concept is to many people around the world. Until very recently, though, it did not seem possible that any living creature could possess such an ability. That is until the discovery of the Turritopsis dohrnii – a sea creature that is more commonly known as the immortal jellyfish.
The name comes from the fact that the jellyfish is able to revert to become sexually immature, effectively turning itself back into a child-like stage. This means the animal can bypass death and may actually be biologically immortal so that it cannot die from old age like other organisms in the animal kingdom.
The axolotl shares many characteristics with other salamanders but also is distinct in two very important ways. Firstly, the amphibian very rarely reaches full maturity, instead staying in its youth stage in the water. More impressive, though, is the second superpower that allows it to regenerate. While many amphibians share this ability, the axolotl is able regenerate almost any part of its body perfectly.
“You can cut the spinal cord, crush it, remove a segment, and it will regenerate,” explained Professor Stephane Roy of the University of Montreal. “You can cut the limbs at any level—the wrist, the elbow, the upper arm—and it will regenerate, and it’s perfect. There is nothing missing, there’s no scarring on the skin at the site of amputation, every tissue is replaced. They can regenerate the same limb 50, 60, 100 times. And every time: perfect.”
10 Sea Cucumbers
All animals have their own way of avoiding predators and other threats. Some will fight back while others will try to escape as quickly as possible. Certain sea cucumbers take a different approach as they are able to shapeshift to confuse and hide away from potential threats.
This apparent superpower is possible thanks to a certain type of protein that is present inside the creatures. Called MCT, it is also a protein that humans possess, though it works differently in sea cucumbers where the protein can change its form much more quickly than is possible in other organisms.
When the MCT protein is combined with a special nervous system matrix, the animal is able to morph its body into almost any shape it wants.
9 Dragon Millipedes
In 2007, scientists found a new species of millipede called the Desmoxytes purpurosea. It is more commonly known as the dragon millipede as a result of its shocking pink color. Many researchers believe this distinctive coloring may act as a warning to any predators that it is toxic, as the dragon millipede has a special ability to produce and fire cyanide.
The hydrogen cyanide is produced in special glands in the insect, meaning that it smells like almonds, but the poison is able to kill any threats that might try to eat it. Strangely, the creature only grows to a size of around 1 inch, meaning it can pack a big punch for its size.
8 Dung Beetle
The dung beetle is the world’s strongest insect. It can push and pull things that are more than 1,140 times their own body weight. This incredible strength would mean that a human would have to be able to pull a staggering 100,000 kilograms in order to have comparable strength.
The superpower has grown from the dung beetle’s mating rituals, which involves pushing competing mates out of holes. This has led to that trait being selectively passed on to future generations.
"Insects are well known for being able to perform amazing feats of strength, and it's all on account of their curious sex lives," Robert Knell, of the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at Queen Mary University of London said. "Female beetles of this species dig tunnels under a dung pat, where males mate with them. If a male enters a tunnel that is already occupied by a rival, they fight by locking horns and try to push each other out.”
7 The Pistol Shrimp
Like the mantis shrimp that was discussed earlier in the article, the pistol shrimp is a species of sea creature that has evolved to have a unique ability that is comparable to any power that a comic book superhero has. This power gives the shrimp its name as it essentially has a gun that it can fire to incapacitate and kill prey.
Using a special claw that has a complex series of muscles that can contract at high speed, it can shoot out jets of water at more than 100 feet per second. The shot is so powerful that the water heats up to 8,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of the surface of the sun, and causes a flash of light. The noise created is also 50 decibels louder than a genuine gunshot.
Much of the lyrebirds' life revolves around singing. While they will sing all year around, during the mating season they have been known to sing for as much as four hours at a time every day. They do this to attract female lyrebirds but what is really unique about them is that they also mimic other sounds during these songs.
Although it is not unusual for some birds to be able to copy sounds that they have heard, with parrots in particular being prime examples of this type of behavior, the lyrebird can mimic almost any sound it hears. Recordings made by researchers have demonstrated them even accurately copying the noise of car engines, fire alarms, chainsaws, ring tones, and even crying babies.
The hummingbird is extraordinary for a variety of reasons. They are one of the smallest species of bird in existence, usually only growing to around three to five inches in length and the tiniest of them weighs less than a coin. The birds also have an incredibly fast metabolism, causing their heart rate to reach up to 1,260 beats per minute while their breathing rate can increase to 250 breaths per minute.
This fast metabolism is necessary to provide the energy needed for the hummingbird’s wing-flapping rate. The intense flapping of up to 50 times per second provides an audible hum. They can then precisely hover in place and even fly backwards due to the wing movement, allowing them to get nectar from flowers more effectively or prey in insects.
4 Mimic Octopus
There are many different animals that are able to camouflage themselves according to their environment. Some have simply evolved to have a certain color or pattern on their skin or fur, while others have the ability to actually change their appearance to help them blend into their surroundings. There is one creature, though, which is far better at this skill than any other living thing.
The mimic octopus is called this because it is an expert at camouflage. Not only can it hide itself within the environment by changing its skin color and texture to match naturally occurring objects but it can even impersonate other living creatures. This provides a distinct advantage when it is hunting prey and allows it to take the form of poisonous creatures to put off potential predators.
The platypus is undoubtedly one of the strangest creatures on the entire planet. It has such a strange appearance that many who first saw the creature believed that it must have been a hoax, while it is also one of only five known mammals that lays eggs rather than live infants. They are even one of the few examples of a venomous mammal.
However, these strange animals also possess an ability that is on par to a comic book superpower. Using their distinctive bills, which have thousands of specialist cells in them, they can actually sense electric fields. This gives it the ability to hunt prey and sense predators through the natural electrical fields that are generated by all living creatures without the need to see or smell them.
The tardigrade is a type of microscopic animal that is widely known as the “hardiest animal on Earth” thanks to its ability to survive in practically every extreme environment. Commonly called the water bear, it has shown the capability to live in conditions that would kill almost every other living organism.
Research has already shown that they can withstand temperatures ranging from -458 °F to 300 °F, being the only example of a living creature that can survive at practically absolute zero. They are also able to live without food or water for at least 30 years before effectively coming back to life and can also live in the vacuum of space and survive doses of radiation that are five times stronger than that needed to kill a human.
One of the most common superpowers that show up in comic books and films is the ability to climb any surface. In particular, Spider-Man is well known for his ability to scale buildings that are completely vertical and hang upside down. It turns out that there is an animal that can do exactly that - the gecko.
The lizards are able to do this because of the tiny hairs that cover their feet. More than 14,000 individual setae cover every foot, giving the creature the ability to stick to almost any surface by using the micro-hairs to interact at the molecular level with other atoms. The gripping force is so strong that a gecko can stay attached to a vertical and smooth glass surface with just one toe.
Sources: ScienceMag, NationalGeographic, DailyMail, NYTimes, BBC