36 Random Animal Facts That May Surprise You

Owl drawing

Treehugger / Russell McLendon

Earth is home to more than 1 million known animal species, each one representing an ancient tome of biological trivia. Much of this random knowledge gets lost in the ether, leaving us to speculate about things like dinosaur divorce rates or amphibian dance moves. But we still catch an awful lot, providing us with plenty of interesting — if not always actionable — facts about our fellow fauna.

The list below is a tribute to such trivia. From extinct penguins to newly identified wasps, these tidbits reflect the depth of our own species' curiosity about nature — and our skill in shedding new light on it. As you peruse these facts, imagine all that went into discovering each one. We embrace their randomness here, but most hail from a robust body of knowledge about the animal in question.

So without further ado, here are 36 random animal facts that may interest you.

Anatomy

octopus drawing
Treehugger / Russell McLendon

1. Octopuses have three hearts.

2. Owls don't have eyeballs. They have eye tubes.

3. Polar bears have black skin.

4. A human brain operates on about 15 watts.

Abilities

drawing of reindeer
Treehugger / Russell McLendon

5. Butterflies can taste with their feet.

6. Animals with smaller bodies and faster metabolism see in slow motion.

7. Dogs' sense of smell is about 100,000 times stronger than humans', but they have just one-sixth our number of taste buds.

8. Reindeer eyeballs turn blue in winter to help them see at lower light levels.

9. A single strand of spider silk is thinner than a human hair, but also five times stronger than steel of the same width. A rope just 2 inches thick could reportedly stop a Boeing 747.

drawing of an airplane
Treehugger / Russell McLendon

10. The claws of a mantis shrimp can accelerate as quickly as a .22-caliber bullet.

11. A sea lion is the first nonhuman mammal with a proven ability to keep a beat.

12. Squirrels can't burp or vomit.

13. The extinct colossus penguin stood as tall as LeBron James.

14. Honeybees can flap their wings 200 times every second.

Survival and Adaptation

15. A type of "immortal" jellyfish is capable of cheating death indefinitely.

16. Cats and horses are highly susceptible to black widow venom, but dogs are relatively resistant. Sheep and rabbits are apparently immune.

17. Sharks kill fewer than 10 people per year. Humans kill about 100 million sharks per year.

18. Tardigrades are extremely durable microscopic animals that exist all over Earth. They can survive any of the following: 300 degrees Fahrenheit (149 Celsius), -458 degrees F (-272 C), the vacuum of space, pressure six times stronger than the ocean floor and more than a decade without food.

Behavior

drawing of humpback whales
Treehugger / Russell McLendon

19. Wild dolphins call each other by name.

20. Young goats pick up accents from each other.

21. Humpback whale songs spread like "cultural ripples from one population to another."

22. Elephants have a specific alarm call that means "human."

drawing of elephant
Treehugger / Russell McLendon

23. There's a place on Earth where seagulls prey on right whales.

24. Horses use facial expressions to communicate with each other.

25. Azara's owl monkeys are more monogamous than humans.

26. Male gentoo and Adelie penguins "propose" to females by giving them a pebble.

drawing of two penguins
Treehugger / Russell McLendon

27. Barn owls are normally monogamous, but about 25 percent of mated pairs "divorce."

28. African buffalo herds display voting behavior, in which individuals register their travel preference by standing up, looking in one direction and then lying back down. Only adult females can vote.

29. If a honeybee keeps waggle dancing in favor of an unpopular nesting site, other workers headbutt her to help the colony reach a consensus.

30. The bone-house wasp stuffs the walls of its nest with dead ants.

Bonus Weird Animal Facts

drawing of a dancing frog
Treehugger / Russell McLendon

31. Less time separates the existence of humans and the tyrannosaurus rex than the T-rex and the stegosaurus.

32. Animals have some unusual group names. For instance, a group of parrots is known as a pandemonium.

33. Warmer weather causes more turtles to be born female than male.

34. A supercolony of invasive Argentine ants, known as the "California large," covers 560 miles of the U.S. West Coast. It's currently engaged in a turf war with a nearby supercolony in Mexico.

35. By eating pest insects, bats save the U.S. agriculture industry an estimated $3.7 to $53 billion per year.

36. Fourteen new species of dancing frogs were discovered in 2014, raising the global number of known dancing-frog species to 24.