If there's one thing that we were frequently reminded of this year, it's that the animal kingdom – Homo sapiens included – never fails to be a source of surprise and fascination. But often we humans are so interested in our own species that we forget to marvel at the incredible curiosities of our cohabitants on this planet. When we take the time to notice what the other creatures are up to, we see what a remarkable place the natural world is. Like, a place where there are queen-saving bee swarms and talking horses and googly-eyed squids ... all of which took top honors on TreeHugger this year, along with a number of other beautifully bizarre tales of animal wonders. Enjoy!
YouTube/Video screen captureIn a tale of intrigue and derring-do, the crafty cephalopod slipped out of his enclosure and found his way to freedom. Go, Inky, go! Full story here.
KTLA 5 News/Facebook/Screen captureThe California Highway Patrol spent hours trying to find the fugitive fantasy creature after it escaped from a fairy-tale photo shoot in Madera Ranchos. Full story here.
A Chick Called Albert/YouTube/Screen captureAlwyn Wils was in for a happy surprise after trying an experiment to see if supermarket eggs really are unfertilized. The product of his curiosity? A cute little bundle of quail named Albert. Full story and video here.
© Applied Animal Behaviour ScienceNorwegian researchers taught 23 horses how to express their needs using symbol boards, and the horses loved it. Full story here.
PaulAuwehla/Public DomainNew research confirms what goat lovers already know; aside from the fact that goats are totally wonderfull, they are also smart and have the capacity for complex communication with people. The other "man's best friend"! Full story here.
Science Friday/Video screen captureAs if they weren't remarkable enough, now we can add "prancing about on a pair of arms" to the cephalopod's impressive bag of tricks. Full story and video here.
Nautilus Live/Video screen captureWide-eyed with surprise? Nope, it's a stubby squid, says researchers – and it's purple. And what a cutie it is! Full story and video here.
© Gardner Police Department/FacebookA Kansas police department set up trail cameras to investigate reports of a mountain lion; the photos they got were quite a surprise. Full story here.
Vimeo/BBC1/Video screen captureThis is how a group of hermit crabs performs a housing exchange, the orderly nature of it all and the crabs' patience is incredible! If only humans could show such efficiency when it comes to sharing resources. Full story and video here.
Tom Moses/Facebook/Screen captureWhen Carol Howarth parked her Mitsubishi in the town of Haverfordwest, Wales, to do some shopping, little did she know the mayhem that would ensue. Two days of it! The moral of the story is: Devotion knows no bounds when it comes to bees and their leader. Full story here.