To celebrate World Animal Day, we’re honouring all creatures great and small with 10 of the most fun facts we could find! You might be thinking, ‘But what is World Animal Day?’ In short, it’s a day dedicated to celebrating all things animal. Backed by Naturewatch Foundation – a UK-based animal welfare charity – the day brings awareness to the shortcomings of animal welfare across the globe.
With that in mind, we thought we’d shed some light on some of the strangest and most interesting facts about animals that we could find. From furry creatures you never realised held hands, to those that could contaminate crime scenes, these remarkable facts will be sure to wow even the most clued-up of animal lovers…
1. Some jellyfish are immortal
Turritopsis dohrnii – also known as the immortal jellyfish – is a species of tiny, biologically immortal jellyfish. They can be found across the world’s oceans in all kinds of tropic waters. And they’re one of the few known animals that are capable of completely ageing backwards through their life cycle – kind of like a butterfly turning back into a caterpillar, or a frog turning back into a tadpole. Basically, the Benjamin Button of the deep.
This means that they don’t have a definitive lifespan, and – in theory – could live forever if they keep reverting back to their previous states. Having said that, it only happens if the jellyfish is put under immense stress, like starvation or serious injury.
2. A dog’s sense of smell is 40 times stronger than ours
The area of a dog’s brain that detects different smells is around 40 times larger than in humans. This means that they pick up on way more scents than we do. That’s why they make such good sniffer dogs!
Some dogs have such a keen sense of smell they can even sniff out medical problems. There have been many cases where a dog has smelt an impending seizure or when their owners need more medication!
3. A koala's fingerprints are incredibly similar to our own
At first glance, it might not seem that koalas have a lot in common with us. But if you inspect their hands, they actually have fingerprints that are just like ours. In fact, they're so similar that in Australia there are concerns that koalas can contaminate crime scenes. So, all koalas, take note: don’t forget to don some gloves before you rob that bank!
4. Elephants are the only land mammals that can’t jump
The reason why is quite simple, really. They don’t need to. Most animals that have evolved to jump – think kangaroos, frogs or monkeys – have only learnt to do so to evade predators. Whereas elephants can keep themselves safe in other ways, namely their huge size, strong tusks and protection from their large social groups.
And, not so shockingly, it would be quite hard for an elephant to get off the ground. In fact, it’s completely impossible for them to do so. This is because their bones and joints all face downwards, which means they can’t ‘spring’ off the ground.
5. It takes sloths up to a month to digest a single leaf
As you might have guessed, everything sloths do is slow. Eating is no exception. Humans take between 12 to 14 hours to digest and eliminate waste. But when it comes to sloths, the whole process can take up to a leisurely 30 days!
6. Some crabs have teeth inside their stomachs
A crab’s claw can be quite intimidating to predators, rivals and their prey. But for the ghost crab, that’s not enough. That’s why they often growl at their enemies. When you think of growling, you probably think of dogs, lions or other ferocious beasts. Either way, you probably wouldn’t associate it with crabs that have teeth in their tummies! These teeth aren’t just used for growling, though. They’re located in the stomach, and they rub against each other to grind up food.
7. Flamingos are actually pale grey or white, not pink
The phrase ‘you are what you eat’ couldn’t be more true for flamingos. Their vibrant pink colour come from the algae and shrimp they eat. In reality, their feathers are actually light grey or white.
It's a similar story with polar bears. Their fur is translucent, and only appears white because it reflects the snow and ice around them. Beneath it all, they actually have jet black skin.
8. A tiger’s skin is striped – not just their fur!
Speaking of skin, a tiger’s one is striped in the same way their fur is. And just like our fingertips, a tiger’s stripes are unique to each one. The same is true for domesticated cats. Some patterned cats like tabbies, tortoiseshells and calicos have skin that’s just a lighter shade of their hair colour.
9. Otters have the world's thickest coat
Animal experts believe that otters have a whopping one million hairs on every square inch of skin. What’s more, their fur is made up of two layers and is perfectly designed to trap air against their skin, just like a waterproof jacket!
While we’re on the subject of otters, have you ever seen a photo of them holding hands? It’s otterly adorable! Holding hands protects them from predators and stops them drifting apart. Otters have a high social function, and they also have a fear of losing family members and partners while they’re asleep.
10. An octopus has three hearts
We all know that octopuses have eight tentacles. But did you know that they also have three hearts? Two of them are used to carry blood to the gills, and the third brings blood to the rest of their body. If that wasn’t enough, they also have nine brains. That’s probably why they’re so intelligent!