It’s February 12, Darwin Day. Here’s 23 animals from evolution’s more twisted side

Thanks for the nightmares, evolution.

Darwin Day commemorates the anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin on 12 February 1809.

Here are 23 of evolution’s odder creations –  the ones that make you look, gasp and say “WTF!”

Must have made sense at the time.

 

Beaded Lacewing

When a baby Lomamyia latipennis or Beaded Lacewing gets hungry, it stuns a termite with a “vapor-phase toxicant” released from its anus.  That’s a fancy way of saying it sneaks up and farts on termites’ heads until they pass out, and then it eats them.

Silent and deadly?  Oh yes, one fart is powerful enough to immobilize six termites.

 

Sea spider

Evolution decided that the sea spider didn’t really need a body.  Instead, its organs and digestive tract are stuffed down its legs.  Those 8, 10 or even 12 legs.

The Southern Ocean giant sea spider leg span of 25 centimeters is about the same as the world’s largest land spiders like the Goliath Bird-Eating tarantula of South America.

Instead of eating insects, it sticks its long proboscis into sea anemones and sucks their insides out.

 

flatworms

This lovely pair of flatworms are hermaphrodites, so either of them can inseminate the other one to reproduce, but neither one actually wants to be inseminated.

This is called penis fencing.  Yep, They try to stab each other with their two-pronged penises while simultaneously avoiding getting stabbed themselves.

No reproductive organs needed.  The sperm is absorbed through the skin, causing fertilization in the flatworm, who becomes the “mother”.  Congratulations.

 

pignosed frog

The Pignosed frog or Indian purple frog looks like a frog supervillain.

It spends most of the year underground, using its short, stout limbs like spades to dig as far as 12 feet (3.7 meters) below ground.

This purple prince sings for potential mates after the rainy season.  From underneath a layer of dirt.

 

Evolution gave the velvet worm multidirectional face-mounted slime cannons.

On either side of its head are cannons—actually modified limbs—connected to a reservoir of slime made of proteins. The worm can fire this goo at prey as far as 8 inches away, just like Spider-Man.

Once their target is immobilized, the velvet worm sucks out the pre-digested tissues.

And lest the slime goes to waste, the worm eats that up as well.

 

Killer potatoes

These carnivorous potatoes have tiny, sticky hairs to trap the little mites that crawl by underground. Then the mites die, and the potato can absorb their nutrients.

 

giraffe-necked weevil

The male giraffe-necked weevil uses his extended neck to fight for the right to mate with a female.

She, on the other hand, uses her smaller neck to roll a leaf tube nest into which a single egg is laid.

If its giraffe neck isn’t enough to make this beetle stand out, its bright red wing covers do the job nicely.

 

Cassowaries

What’s scarier than a 125-pound modern dinosaur with killer claws? One that can leap 5 feet off the ground.

They also have prehistoric crests on their heads.  No-one knows why.

 

stinkhorn fungus

The stinkhorn fungus attracts insects with its foul smell, especially flies like the bluebottle.

Writing about life in Victorian Cambridge, Gwen Raverat (granddaughter of Charles Darwin) describes the ‘sport’ of Stinkhorn hunting:

In our native woods there grows a kind of toadstool, called in the vernacular The Stinkhorn, though in Latin it bears a grosser name. The name is justified, for the fungus can be hunted by the scent alone; and this was Aunt Etty’s great invention. Armed with a basket and a pointed stick, and wearing special hunting cloak and gloves, she would sniff her way round the wood, pausing here and there, her nostrils twitching, when she caught a whiff of her prey; then at last, with a deadly pounce, she would fall upon her victim, and poke his putrid carcass into her basket. At the end of the day’s sport, the catch was brought back and burnt in the deepest secrecy on the drawing-room fire, with the door locked; because of the morals of the maids

 

wrinkle-faced bat

While roosting, a wrinkle-faced bat can pull folds of skin on its chin completely over its face.

If you looked like this, maybe you would want to cover your face too.

 

Sheepshead wrasse

The sheepshead wrasse swims the shallow waters around China, Japan and the Koreas while resembling a very old man.

 

bobtail squid

The bobtail squid harbors glowing bacteria on its underbelly to mimic the moonlight and essentially eliminate its shadow.

The bacteria are housed in a special light organ in the squid’s mantle, where the squid provides food in the form of sugar and amino acid solution. The squid uses filters in this organ to adjust the brightness of the bacteria to match that of the moon, essentially using the light as an invisibility cloak or, as one researcher put it, a Klingon cloaking device.

 

 

elephant seal

This nose-picking bird eats parasites that live inside the elephant seal’s nose.

 

Christmas Tree Worms

The underside of these “tree branch”  gills contain light-sensitive molecules that may be the weirdest ‘eyes’ in the animal kingdom.

 

mola mola

The mola mola or sunfish spend up to half the day basking in the sun near the surface of the water, which helps warm their bodies up after deep water dives to hunt.

 

babirusas

For some unknown reason, evolution gave the babirusas weird extra tusks.  They are awkward, brittle, mostly useless for fighting, and may eventually grow so long that they curve around and fatally puncture their skull.

 

pufferfish

This beach ball is actually a pufferfish or blowfish.  It attempts to make itself inedible by ingesting enormous amounts of water (or air) and swelling to several times its typical size.

If this doesn’t work, one fish holds enough toxins to kill 30 people.

Giant, fluorescent pink slugs

Giant pink slugs are about 20 cm long (7.8 inches), only found on top of Mount Kaputar in Australia.

But giant pink slugs aren’t the only squishy inhabitants unique to that particular mountaintop. The forest there is also home to several cannibal snails, battling it out in slow-motion to see who can eat the other first.

 

Pigbutt worm

Even its Latin species name roughly translates to “resembling a pig’s rear”.

 

monkey orchid

The Monkey Face Orchid (Dracula simia), was named both after its simian face and Dracula.  The “Dracula” part refers to the two long spurs that hang down, almost like fangs.

What makes this flower even cooler (as if it needed it) is that it smells just like a ripe orange when fully blossomed.

piglet squid

An unusual pattern of skin pigmentation means that this piglet squid always has a smile on his face.

 

The horned lizard fends off predatory coyotes by shooting five-foot streams of its own blood from its eye.

 

tongue-eating louse

A parasitic louse that crawls into your mouth, vampirizes your tongue, then clamps itself onto the withered stub so it can ride around inside you and drink your mucus for the rest of your mutual lives? Good idea, evolution.

 

For more amazing twisted creatures, check out WFT, Evolution.