We come to expect some things as par for the course in the world. The sun rises in the east, tacos are delicious, roosters crow, and so on. But just because you expect a thing and have even grown used to a thing based on past experience doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how it always is. It may not even be that way at all, you just have a misunderstanding of the facts, like back when people thought the sun revolved around the Earth.
Many things in the natural world are not always the way we think they are. Nature is nothing if not surprising. So with that in mind, let’s look at some life forms that may not work the way you expect.
10. The T. Rex Lacked the Ability to Roar
Do you remember the end of the first Jurassic Park, when the T. rex somehow stealths its way into the visitor’s center, takes on the velociraptors, and enables our heroes to escape before letting out a mighty roar? Most of us can probably pick that sound effect out of a crowd at this point. And that speaks to the power of sound in movies, and Steven Spielberg’s vision. It’s also very ironic because, as far as the evidence shows, the T. rex could not roar at all.
It’s hard to piece together the anatomy and real-life characteristics of dinosaurs based on fossils, but we’ve been doing this for a long time. While it’s also speculative, based on the science at hand, it’s unlikely a dinosaur like a T. rex had a larynx. That means it’s unlikely it could vocalize like any mammal that exists today, such as bears and lions and others we associate with roaring.
Birds, however, have something called a syrinx, and that allows vocalizations. It’s more likely a dinosaur could have something like that to allow for bird-like chirps, but even then, that may have been from the order of smaller, arboreal dinosaurs that evolved into modern birds.
Still, the T. rex could have made sounds, but they may have been more in line with more modern reptiles. Think the hissing that can be done by snakes and crocodiles, or even humming and drumming sounds. While they weren’t likely to be 100% silent, they were probably nowhere near as vocal as the movies make them seem.
9. Cheetahs Aren’t Big Cats Because They Can’t Roar
Speaking of roaring, in the modern world, a roar is a defining characteristic of what we consider a big cat. Obviously, a lion can roar, and tigers can do that, too. Jaguars and leopards also have that trait, so if you ever hear that coming from the woods at night, maybe stay indoors. But don’t think you’re always safe if you don’t hear it.
Aside from roaring cats, there are purring cats and while that may sound like your cute kitty at home, there are other cats in the same group that are bigger than seems entirely normal. The cheetah, for instance. It can’t roar, and is therefore not a “big” cat in that sense of the word. It lacks a ligament in its larynx that allows the other big cats to make big noise.
Despite the fact a cheetah can weigh up to 140 pounds and run at over 60 miles-per-hour, it’s not a big cat. They’re actually in a weird family all their own called Acinonyx. They’re the only cats with only semi-retractable claws instead of fully retractable ones, too.
8. Earthworms Can’t Drown Very Easily
How many times have you gone outside after the rain and seen the sidewalk covered in earthworms, all pale and damp? If you’re like most people, you assumed, or even learned, that this is because they were escaping the rain so they don’t drown. After all, their little worm holes have to be full of water, right? Not so fast.
Earthworms breathe through their skin and can survive, fully immersed in water, for days. They need dampness to breathe properly. So the rain can’t drown them at all. Instead, it’s believed worms surface because it allows them to get where they’re going faster.
Because they need moisture to survive, burrowing in dry soil is actually a slow process for a worm. But in the rain, they can come up, stay as moist as they like, and likely move places much faster. It’s a convenience thing.
A second possibility is that rain confuses worms who may think the patter of drops is a predator, so they’re just heading up to escape. Either way, though, they’re not drowning.
7. Baby Pandas Cannot Poop Without Help
People make jokes online about pandas a lot. Thanks to many videos of the animals being goofballs, it’s not uncommon for folks to ask how they survive in the wild at all since they seem like limited-diet cartoon characters. With that in mind, here’s another thing to make you wonder how they’ve lasted this long.
Baby pandas are at risk of dying if they are not taken care of by their mothers from the moment of birth because they are some of the most helpless babies in all of nature. At just 1/900th of their mother’s size they cannot see, they cannot move, and they cannot even go to the bathroom on their own. They can potentially die of constipation without help.
Panda mothers can be observed licking their cubs frequently, not to groom them but to stimulate excretion. Yes, that means they need help to, shall we say, unload. For the crucial first week, mothers are with their young constantly, rubbing their bellies to make sure they can poop when they need to.
6. Reindeer Can’t Walk and Pee
Ever heard a joke about not being able to walk and chew gum at the same time? That’s an old school one that basically means someone seems clumsy and too incompetent to handle simple tasks. But the fact is some animals out there can’t walk and do other basic tasks at the same time. Reindeer, for instance, cannot walk and pee.
The fact reindeer need to stop for regular pee breaks, and they will all stop together in herds, is so well known that the Finnish reindeer herders have a name for the length a reindeer will walk before it pees. One poronkusema is about six miles. If the herd all stops to pee, you can count on them to all walk about six more miles before it has to happen again.
5. Birds Are Unaffected by Capsaicin
We know from YouTube that people love hot peppers. Hot Ones is a big deal, after all. But whether you love or hate spicy food, you’ve probably experienced the sensation that capsaicin, the ingredient in peppers that gives you that hot feeling, provides.
If you’re not a spice fan, you may be envious of birds because they lack the ability to experience what capsaicin offers. Part of this is because of birds and their incredibly rudimentary ability to taste. Humans have 2,000 to 10,000 taste buds that help us experience flavor. A chicken has 24. Research suggests birds either have no capsaicin receptors, or just ones that are not very sensitive. This could also be beneficial to plants because it would allow birds to ingest seeds from spicy peppers and spread them around, making it an evolutionary advantage.
4. Velociraptors Lacked Higher Intelligence
We already visited Jurassic Park once. Why not go back and look at the raptors? The movies have also given modern audiences an idea of how a velociraptor works. They’re pack hunters, sly and deadly and intelligent, and nothing short of Chris Pratt with his arm extended can stop them. But, again, that’s Hollywood. And while raptors may have been smart in real life, that’s a loaded word.
Raptors were smart for dinosaurs, which is like describing a hot dog as pretty tasty for gas station food. When you’re the best of the worst, you’re still not great. Smart for a dinosaur, based on the size of the cavity in which its brain was housed, means a raptor was probably smarter than a rabbit but not as smart as a cat.
Also, don’t forget, movie raptors were actually closer to Utahraptors. Velociraptors were small, about the size of turkeys, and with less intelligence than a cat, they were less intimidating than we all think.
3. The Domestic Silk Moth No Longer Has the Ability to Fly
Agriculture has done wonders for mankind, but that’s not always the case for things we farm—for instance, the silk moth. For thousands of years, humans have been making silks out of these insects, and that has changed the way these little creatures live. They’re the second most widely cultivated animal in the world after bees, and we breed trillions of them.
Once upon a time, when a silk caterpillar went through a metamorphosis and became a moth, it could fly away. Thanks to generations of farming, the domestic moth no longer can fly because we’ve bred it out of them. For so long they’ve never been allowed to fly that now, even if they had the chance to fly away, they couldn’t.
2. Cats Can’t Taste Sweetness
Cats can be remarkably finicky about the food they eat or they can be furry garbage cans taking everything from cat food to salad, bread, and rabbit turds. Like people, there’s no accounting for taste sometimes. But you shouldn’t let that trick you into thinking food is the same for cats as it is for us.
If your cat likes your ice cream, you might be tempted to think he has a sweet tooth, but that’s not the case. Your cat may love all desserts, but that’s probably because of the dairy or the fat or literally anything else. Cats are physically incapable of tasting sweetness.
Almost all other mammals can taste sweetness. There is a gene responsible for sending sweet signals to our brain and it’s useful for survival because sweet usually means sugar, which means a carbohydrate, which means energy. For most animals, sugar means something to keep you alive. But cats, carnivores as they are, don’t work that way. So the gene, known as Tas1r2, works with another gene to create the proteins that make up sweet receptors. But cats didn’t evolve that way.
Now, when it comes to cats that seem to go crazy for sugar, there may be something else at play. Researchers say it’s possible the other gene, Tas1r3, allows them to taste sugar at high concentrations. Or maybe cats are just weird.
1. Not Everyone Has an Inner Monologue
It’s very easy to take for granted that the way you think is the way other people think. In fact, it’s probably impossible to get through life without wondering what the heck someone else was thinking when they did something foolish. But the truth is, we do not all think the same way. And some of us think very differently than others.
Most people experience an inner monologue when they think. Your thoughts exist as words, whole sentences and you “hear” them in your mind, probably in your own voice, as though you were talking to yourself. You may be surprised to know not everyone can do that and even the people who can don’t do it all the time.
It’s been estimated that inner monologue is the predominant method of thought for between 30% and 50% of people. But we also engage in other manners of thinking. Another common method is visual thinking, which is picturing something in your mind. Not everyone can do that, either. But in this way of thinking, you imagine a place you want to go, a person you want to see, maybe a food you want to eat with no actual words or dialogue included.
There are other methods of thinking also based on feeling, based on sensory awareness, and based on a thoughtless kind of instinct. Most of us engage in all kinds at various times, and rarely just a single kind. So few people have an inner monologue 100% of the time, but some people seem to have it none of the time.