50 Animal Facts That Will Change the Way You View the Animal Kingdom
Impress your friends with mind-blowing trivia about sea otters, frogs, koalas, and more.
With an estimated 7.77 million species of animals on the planet, the animal kingdom is an undeniably diverse place. But while the breadth of earthly biodiversity may be well known, the amazing things our animal counterparts can do are often hidden to humans. From furry creatures you never realized could use tools to those who enjoy getting tipsy, these amazing animal facts are sure to wow even the biggest animal lovers out there.
Slow lorises are the only venomous primates.
They may be cute, but their bite can kill. According to Popular Science, these adorable animals secrete toxins from a gland in the crook of their inner arms. Their bites have caused anaphylactic shock and even death in humans. Better watch out!
Pigeons can do math.
You might think of pigeons as… not that smart. But it turns out, they're actually quite intelligent. In fact, one 2011 study published in the journal Science found that the birds are capable of doing math at the same level as monkeys. During the study, the pigeons were asked to compare nine images, each containing a different number of objects. The researchers found that the birds were able to rank the images in order of how many objects they contained. Put simply: they learned that the birds could count!
Zebra stripes act as a natural bug repellant.
One 2012 report published in the Journal of Experimental Biology suggests that zebras' black and white stripes may be an evolutionary feature to fend off harmful horsefly bites. "A zebra-striped horse model attracts far fewer horseflies than either homogeneous black, brown, grey or white equivalents," the researchers wrote.
Wild chimps like to drink.
Humans aren't the only animals who enjoy a drink or two. A 2015 study published in the journal Royal Society Open Science reveals that chimpanzees in Guinea had a fondness for imbibing fermented palm sap and getting tipsy in the process.
Sea otters are adept at using tools.
While many scientists believe that tool use among dolphins is a relatively new phenomenon, a 2017 study published in Biology Letters suggests that otters may have been using tools for millions of years. Sea otters frequently use rocks to break open well-armored prey, such as snails.
Frogs can freeze without dying.
Why tolerate the cold when you could just freeze yourself solid? According to Kenneth Storey, a professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, frogs undergo repeated freeze-thaw cycles. "We have false springs here all the time where it gets really warm and all the snow melts and then suddenly—bam—the wind comes from the north and it's back down to minus 10, minus 15 [Celsius], and they're fine," Storey told National Geographic.
Male horses have way more teeth than their female counterparts.
Koalas sleep up to 22 hours a day.
If you thought your cat was sleepy, just wait until you hear about koalas. According to the Australian Koala Foundation, these cuties sleep between 18 and 22 hours a day. The koalas' diets require a lot of energy to digest, which is why they've got to nap so much.
A group of ferrets is called a business.
No, it's not because they're so professional—it's a modernized form of "busyness," the word originally used to describe a group of these weasel-related mammals.
Octopuses can taste with their arms.
And yes, they are called arms, not tentacles. According to the Library of Congress, the animals can taste and grab with the suckers on their arms. Even more impressive? Octopuses are capable of moving at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour.
Dolphins have names for one another.
You already know that dolphins are smart. But did you know that they even have their own names? One 2013 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that bottlenose dolphins develop specific whistles for one another.
Reindeer eyes turn blue in the winter.
Reindeers have beautiful baby blues—but only in the winter! According to the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, "the eyes of Arctic reindeer change color through the seasons from gold to blue, adapting to extreme changes of light levels in their environment." The change in color impacts how light is reflected through the animals' retina, and improves their vision.
Giraffes have black tongues.
Scientists believe that it's so they don't get sunburns while they eat. The animals' tongues are also around 20 inches long.
Alligators will let manatees swim ahead of them.
In busy waters, manatees will nudge alligators to get in front, and alligators generally oblige.
Sloths can take up to a month to completely digest a single leaf.
Everything about life is slow for these sleepy mammals. Most sloths will only have a bowel movement once a week, and it can take them up to 30 days to completely digest a single leaf. For comparison, it takes the average human 12 to 48 hours to ingest, digest, and eliminate waste from food.
Adult cats only meow at humans.
You probably know that cats love to talk to their humans. But did you know you're unlikely to see your feline friend interact the same way with another cat? That's because other than kittens meowing at their mothers, cats don't meow at other cats.
Elephants and humans have similar self-soothing techniques.
Elephant calves will suck their trunks to comfort themselves. The babies do it for the same reason humans do (it mimics the action of suckling their mothers).
Female bats give birth to babies that weigh up to a third of their weight.
According to Bat Conservation International, bats give birth to babies—known as pups—that can weigh as much as one-third of the mother's weight. If that doesn't sound like a lot, imagine a person giving birth to a baby that weighed 40 pounds.
Painted turtles survive winter by breathing through their butts.
Not all creatures head to warmer climates when it gets cold out, and that means they need to learn to survive in chilly conditions. Painted turtles need to adapt to frozen ponds, which restrict their access to the air above the water. They do that by breathing through their butts—specifically, the all-purpose orifice called the cloaca. Thanks to a process called cloacal respiration, the turtles are able to get oxygen directly from the water around them.
Dogs have way fewer taste buds than humans.
While you may think that Fido has the same dinnertime experience as you do, he's actually got a much different taste bud arrangement. Humans have about 9,000 taste buds, while dogs have only around 1,700. And while they can identify the same four taste sensations as people, dogs are not fond of salt.
Otters have the world's thickest fur.
They're thought to have up to one million hairs per square inch. Their fur consists of two layers and is designed to trap a layer of air next to their skin so their skin doesn't get wet.
Alligators can grow for more than 30 years.
According to a 2018 study published in Copeia, alligators often haven't hit their full size until 33.
A group of owls is called a parliament.
Their legislative powers, however, are still up for debate.
Snow leopards don't roar.
Snow leopards have less-developed vocal cords than their fellow large cats, meaning that they can't roar, but make a purr-like sound called a chuff instead. For a 2010 study published in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, scientists researched why some cats have a higher-pitched meow than others. They found that it's not size that determines a kitty's call, but habitat.
Axolotls can regenerate their parts.
The salamanders are the only vertebrates that can replace their skin, limbs, tail, jaws, and spines at any age. On the flip side, humans can regenerate lost limb buds as embryos and fingertips as young children.
A group of rhinos is called a crash.
Individual male rhinos are referred to as bulls, and females as cows.
Squirrels will adopt orphans.
Turns out, squirrels have an intense motherly instinct. One 2010 study by researchers at the University of Guelph found that the animals will take in the orphaned pups of their late family members.
"Social animals, including lions and chimpanzees, are often surrounded by relatives, so it's not surprising that a female would adopt an orphaned family member because they have already spent a lot of time together," said lead researcher Andrew McAdam, an evolutionary biologist. "But red squirrels live in complete isolation and are very territorial. The only time they will allow another squirrel on their territory is the one day a year when the females are ready to mate or when they are nursing their pups."
Giant anteaters have two-foot tongues.
According to National Geographic, it's the longest tongue of any known mammal.
Cows have best friends.
Cows have stronger social ties than you might think. One 2013 study conducted by researchers at the University of Northampton found that when cows were separated from their BFFs, their heart rates increased as a sign of stress.
Moths experience love at first scent.
When a male moth catches a whiff of a female moth, he'll travel miles to find her—based off her scent alone. According to the experts at Audobon, "they don't know what the female sounds like, or even what she looks like. But when they smell her, boy, do they know it, and they use her seductive musk to track her down."
Horses have distinct facial expressions.
Horses can make 17 facial movements, which is 3 more than chimps and only 10 fewer than humans, according to a 2015 study published in PLOS One.
Deer can run up to 35 miles per hour.
An octopus has three hearts.
Octopuses have two hearts more than you do. Two hearts are used to pump blood to its gills, while the third brings blood to the rest of its body. If that's not enough, they also have nine brains.
Some worms can jump.
Certain species of the Amynthas worm, which have recently been identified in the Midwestern United States, can jump and detach their tails when disturbed.
Crocodiles can live up to 100.
Nile crocodiles can live for a full century. And they can do a lot of damage over the course of those 100 years: Approximately 200 people die every year from Nile crocodile attacks.
Ravens are masters of deception.
Just how smart are ravens? A 2002 study published in Animal Behaviour found that these tricky birds have the ability to deceive each other. The entire corvid family—which includes crows, ravens, and jays—is exceptionally intelligent. These birds have also been known to play pranks on one another, and to tease other animals.
While scientists don't exactly think they have a sense of humor, rats will make a laugh-like sound when tickled.
Tigers have striped skin.
You might think it's just their fur, but no, tigers have striped skin. And speaking of those stripes, much like our fingerprints, they're unique to every tiger.
Cats recognize their own name but choose not to respond.
Sorry, cat owners, you're not just being paranoid: Your pet does know when you're calling their name, and they're ignoring you anyway. In a 2019 study published in Scientific Reports, researchers discovered that while cats can distinguish their own name, they don't necessarily feel obligated to respond.
Cows produce more milk when listening to slow music.
Call it a moo-d. Researchers at the University of Leicester School of Psychology found that cows produced 1.54 more pints per day—a 3 percent increase—when they were played slow music, as opposed to more upbeat tunes.
Butterflies taste with their feet.
Not only do butterflies taste using their feet—the receptors on their legs are also 200 times stronger than human taste buds. When a butterfly lands on a plant, they use these sensors to determine whether or not what they're standing on is edible.
The spur-winged goose's diet makes it poisonous.
Don't plan on eating a spur-winged goose if you happen to come across one during your travels. These birds, natives of sub-Saharan Africa, have flesh that's often poisonous to humans, thanks to their diet of blister beetles, which contain the deadly cantharidin poison.
Vampire bat saliva keeps blood from clotting.
Vampire bats do more than just bite their prey—they also keep the other animal's blood from clotting. Their saliva works as an anticoagulant, so that the blood can flow freely as they feed. Here's another fun fact: the protein in the anticoagulant has been nicknamed "Draculin." Spooky!
Wombat poop is cube-shaped.
Wombats use their droppings to warn other animals to stay off their turf. Luckily, their cube-shaped poop makes it easy to see that a spot is governed by wombats, as the little squares tend to stay put more easily than spherical droppings would.
Giraffes with darker spots are more dominant.
You can learn a lot from the color of a giraffe's spots. According to a 2019 study in Animal Behaviour, giraffes with darker spots are more dominant than giraffes with lighter spots. And not only that: Dark-spotted giraffes also tend to be more solitary.
Orcas can learn to speak dolphin.
Groups of killer whales have their own dialects that are further influenced by the company they keep. A 2014 study published in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America revealed that orcas housed with bottlenose dolphins over a long period of time were able to replicate the dolphins' language.
Queen mole rats make other female mole rats infertile.
To ensure her dominance, the queen mole rat works to make it impossible for other female mole rats to have litters. In fact, the queen can produce a substance in her urine that renders other female mole rats infertile.
Horned lizards squirt blood from their eyes.
The horned lizard has a pretty impressive trick for evading predators. When a horned lizard finds itself in a perilous situation, it can squirt a stream of blood from its eyes. The predator then runs off, because, well, wouldn't you?
Catfish have taught themselves how to kill pigeons.
Relax, pigeons—it's not all catfish. But yes, in Southwestern France, a group of European catfish have learned to kill pigeons, launching themselves out of the water to grab the sunbathing birds.
Primitive crocodiles could gallop.
If you think crocodiles aren't frightening enough, consider this: They used to gallop. While modern-day crocodiles can move surprisingly fast, giant crocodiles during the Cretaceous period could use their legs to chase and kill dinosaurs.