Ethology is the term used for the study of animal behavior. Strange animal behaviors can be genetically determined or learned behaviors and I have included some of both. Either way, whether learned or instinctive, these behaviors don’t change the fact that some animal behavior is just… strange. Here is my top 10:
10. Naked Mole Rats
The Queen Gets Pushy And Runs In (Backwards) To 10
Most commonly known as naked mole rats (also called the desert mole rat and sand puppy), they are neither moles nor rats but a type of guinea pig. They are ugly animals, often described as resembling a bloated bratwurst with teeth. The behavior they exhibit, in all its hilarity, is their ability to run as fast backwards as they can forwards, in the dark, and completely blind. Even stranger, the queen mole rat is the only one to breed and bear young, similar to the queen bee. In order to secure her exclusivity to mate she will push around other female mole rats in order to cause them stress. This releases hormones that make them unable to procreate.
9. The Bowerbird
Interior Decorator at Heart
For all those anal-retentive interior designers the Bowerbird enjoys decorating too. Not only does the Bowerbird make great efforts to adorn his nest, he even goes so far as to destroy the nests of his neighbors in order to draw more attention to his own. In an effort to attract a mate, the male Bowerbird builds what are termed, ‘bowers’. The Bowerbird is a meticulous decorator and will use flowers, feathers, stones and bits of discarded plastic and glass to decorate his ‘bachelor pad’ in the hopes of impressing a female. The Bowerbird will even decorate using one particular color. He will focus on decorating for hours and only break his concentration when he goes to another bird’s home to steal or vandalize.
8. Cuckoo Birds
Shirking Parental Duties
Another strange bird behavior is that of the Cuckoo bird. Cuckoo birds have a rather interesting approach to parenting in that they do not build a nest to lay their eggs in, but do so in other bird’s nests for them to look after their young. The Cuckoo bird is solitary and will lay or drop its eggs into the nest of another bird once she’s observed that the other birds have gone out. She will then quickly lay her eggs or transfers them there. Each breeding season she will find new places to deposit her eggs and once her eggs hatch, she will attempt to drop the other species eggs out of their own nest when the foster parents are out in order to secure her own babies’ survival.
7. The Female Brown Trout
Ever fake an orgasm? She Knows All About It
The next time you ladies think you are the only animals in the animal kingdom to fake an orgasm, think again. The Female brown trout fakes orgasms to encourage males to ejaculate prematurely. By faking the orgasm, the female trout deceives the male into thinking he’s mated successfully when in fact he has failed. Maybe not the strangest behavior for humans, but when you consider first that fish have orgasms, and second that they can fake them, this fish swims up the ranks of strange behavior to number 7.
6. Zebra Finches
He May Not Be Perfect, But He’s All Mine
Next in line on the list of strange animal behaviors is the Zebra Finch at number 6. Most female birds lay smaller eggs when their mate is unattractive; however, the Zebra Finch does the complete opposite. She lays a larger egg to give her little ugly finch-ling the best start in life possible (more nutrients, more room to grow) despite the father’s shortcomings.
5. Adelie Penguins
A Rock and Roll Romance
The Adelie Penguin’s mating ritual is strange but endearing. When choosing a mate the male penguin rolls a stone to the feet of the female to make it clear that the engagement has been offered. The match only melds once the female has given her approval and responds with a belly-to-belly mating song. They even go a long way from the pack to mate in private making them a strange romantic breed at number 5.
4. Horned Lizards
Giving a Whole New Meaning To The Word ‘Bloodshot’
Horned Lizards have a rather strange and intimidating defensive reaction against their enemies. They shoot an aimed stream of blood from out of their eyes by voluntarily increasing the blood pressure in their sinuses until they explode. This stream of blood can reach distances of up to 5 feet. The blood has no poison, it merely creates chaos and confusion to the attacker. The blood does taste foul to canine and feline predators but it has no effect on bird predators. In honor of the Horned Lizard’s gruesome defense, it earns number 4.
Stoic Over Death, Elephants Grieve and Bury their Dead
The strangest emotionally driven animal behavior is exhibited by elephants. Elephants have a few rituals in regards to death and dying. When they come across elephant bones, for example, they seem to be able to indentify that the bones are of other elephants. They will spend a great deal of time investigating the bones in a very subdued and quiet manner. Often elephants will visit elephant gravesites regularly. They will stay close beside a deceased elephant from their herd for some time, withstanding hunger and thirst before leaving for food or water. Elephants will take leaves, dirt, and branches and cover other elephants after they die. It has also been observed that elephants will do the same for humans and other empathetic animals like dogs. The evidence attests to the fact that elephants are extremely empathetic animals and for that they deserve to be near the top of the list at number 3.
2. Dung Beetles
Dung Beetles Love their Dung in More Ways than One
The Dung Beetle rolls in, appropriately, at number 2. And, they don’t call it a Dung Beetle for nothing. Dung Beetles are part of the Scarab family: they live and eat and breed in dung. Dung, in case the term escapes you, is excrement (manure, feces…) and the Dung Beetle loves it. The Dung Beetle lives in dung, eats dung, lays its eggs in dung, hatches its offspring in dung, and then finally feeds dung to its young. To top it all off with the greatest of all dung deeds, the Dung Beetle rolls balls of dung long distances while standing on its head and moving backward using its hind legs to push it around. Of all Egyptian symbols, the Scarab beetle was the most important religious symbol. The myth of the Egyptians was that Khepera, the scarab god of the sun, rolled the sun across the heavens and buried it in the evening much like the famed and appropriately termed Dung Beetle does with his little ball of dung!
Love and War… and Penis Fencing
Absolutely by far the strangest and most outrageous of animal behaviors is exhibited by Flatworms who inch in at number one. Flatworms actually engage in what is called ‘penis fencing,’ an act of battle meant to secure a mate. Love and War, baby. Flatworms are ‘hermaphrodites’ which means they can inseminate and be inseminated. Some species have two penises and one or more genital pores for the process of reproduction. Flatworms meet and penis fence in order to determine who will be the female and who will be the male. Both worms want to be male because the female role is much more difficult: it takes more energy and sacrifice to develop eggs and raise young. Even worms know this! Okay, not really, but nature knows it and Flatworms fight it out to the finish with the one that pierces the skin of the other winning out the hideous affair.
By Natalie Jaro