7 Freaky Animal Organs That Would Give You Superpowers


If fuzzy action movie science worked in real life, becoming a brand-new superhero would—with a little help from the animal kingdom—just be a quick organ transplant away.

1. Slime Your Enemies with Special Hagfish Skin Glands.

Getting bitten by a shark would scare the feces out of most people, but it doesn’t even faze these cryptic scavengers. That’s because, within half a second of being attacked, hagfish secrete a cloud of thick, fibrous mucous that clogs the mouth and gills of any predator foolish enough to bother them.

2. Use Avian Air Sacs to Breathe at Superhuman Altitudes.

Breathe out. Congratulations, you’ve just wasted a load of perfectly good oxygen! Our feathered friends, meanwhile, don’t have this problem. When birds respire, air is pushed through a complicated series of air sacs which feed into the lungs, allowing them to collect and absorb oxygen far more effectively than we can. This system also allows them to merrily flutter about at heights that would suffocate even the toughest human mountain-climbers.

Sadly, however, birds have their own version of kryptonite, and its name is air pollution. At times, avians breathe a bit too efficiently for their own good, making them particularly vulnerable to atmospheric toxins.

3. Wood Frog Livers Could Help You Survive Being Frozen.


Each winter, as much as 60 percent of a wood frog’s body becomes completely frozen. Still more mind-boggling is the fact that their hearts actually stop beating during the colder months. How could any creature survive this? Copious quantities of glucose—which acts as a natural antifreeze—are mass-produced by the amphibian’s liver and sent into the veins to help prevent ice from forming there. 

4. Taste Your Opponents from Several Yards Away with a Serpentine Vomeronasal Organ.


Have you ever wondered why snakes have forked tongues? Strange as it might sound, all animals (including us) leave trails of microscopic taste particles lingering in the air. Flicking serpent tongues have evolved to intercept them: Upon being retracted, both prongs are inserted into the mouth’s vomeronasal organ, where this data is analyzed. Tracking rodents over great distances, therefore, becomes child’s play.

5. Detect Electrical Fields with Platypus Snouts.

Wikimedia Commons

It’s hard to imagine how platypuses could get any weirder, what with their egg-laying, beaver tails, and poisonous feet. But even those duck-like mouths are stranger than you might expect. While hunting underwater, a platypus uses sensitive glands on its bill to help locate the minor electrical fields generated by moving invertebrates.

6. Get HD Vision with Mantis Shrimp Eyes.


You, like many creatures, have binocular vision, meaning that you perceive depth when both of your eyes work together to focus on the same object. Yet, helpful as they are, our visual organs can’t compete with this Pacific crustacean’s. For starters, mantis shrimps can use not one, not two, but three separate regions of their eyes to stare at a given subject, giving them amazing “tri-nocular” vision. 

But that’s not all! They’re also able to see circularly-polarized light (the sort with which 3D films are made), an ability the vast majority of animals lack. In fact, scientists believe that the mantis shrimp’s spectacular eyesight could help us develop higher-definition CDs, DVDs, and holographic images.

7. Use a Bombardier Beetle’s Rear End to Fire Off a Blast of Scalding Liquid.

Those bad guys don’t stand a chance. Bombardier beetles greet would-be predators with a face-full of boiling, corrosive liquid that’s sprayed from their abdomens at a frightening speed. Amazingly, though the insects depend on specialized internal glands to produce this frightening reaction, they’re left completely unscathed afterwards.

NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Watch the First-Ever Footage of a Baby Dumbo Octopus
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Dumbo octopuses are named for the elephant-ear-like fins they use to navigate the deep sea, but until recently, when and how they developed those floppy appendages were a mystery. Now, for the first time, researchers have caught a newborn Dumbo octopus on tape. As reported in the journal Current Biology, they discovered that the creatures are equipped with the fins from the moment they hatch.

Study co-author Tim Shank, a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, spotted the octopus in 2005. During a research expedition in the North Atlantic, one of the remotely operated vehicles he was working with collected several coral branches with something strange attached to them. It looked like a bunch of sandy-colored golf balls at first, but then he realized it was an egg sac.

He and his fellow researchers eventually classified the hatchling that emerged as a member of the genus Grimpoteuthis. In other words, it was a Dumbo octopus, though they couldn't determine the exact species. But you wouldn't need a biology degree to spot its resemblance to Disney's famous elephant, as you can see in the video below.

The octopus hatched with a set of functional fins that allowed it to swim around and hunt right away, and an MRI scan revealed fully-developed internal organs and a complex nervous system. As the researchers wrote in their study, Dumbo octopuses enter the world as "competent juveniles" ready to jump straight into adult life.

Grimpoteuthis spends its life in the deep ocean, which makes it difficult to study. Scientists hope the newly-reported findings will make it easier to identify Grimpoteuthis eggs and hatchlings for future research.

Joe Raedle, Getty Images
10 Things You Might Not Know About Grizzly Bears
Joe Raedle, Getty Images
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Ursus arctos horribilis is better known by the more casual term of grizzly bear. These massive, brown-haired predators have a reputation as one of nature’s most formidable killing machines. Standing up to 8 feet tall and weighing 800 pounds, these fierce mammals have captivated—and frightened—humans for centuries. Keep your distance and read up on these facts about their love for munching moths, eating smaller bears, and being polar-curious.


Grizzlies—more accurately, North American brown bears—are strong enough to make a meal out of whatever they like, including moose, elk, and bison. Despite their reputation for having carnivorous appetites, their diet also consists of nuts, berries, fruits, and leaves. They’ll even eat mice. The gluttony doesn’t kick in until they begin to exhibit hyperphagia, preparing for winter hibernation by chomping down enough food to gain up to three pounds a day.


A grizzly bear eats fruit in Madrid, Spain
Dani Pozo, AFP/Getty Images

More than 700 grizzlies live in or near Yellowstone National Park, which forces officials to constantly monitor how park visitors and the bears can peacefully co-exist. Because bears rummaging in food containers can lead to unwanted encounters, the park’s Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center tests trash cans and coolers to see if they’re bear-resistant. (Nothing is truly bear-proof.) Often, a bear will use “CPR,” or jumping on a canister with its front legs, in order to make the lid pop off. Containers that can last at least 60 minutes before being opened can be advertised by their manufacturers as being appropriate for bear-inhabited environments.


It's a myth that grizzlies can't climb trees. Though their weight and long claws make climbing difficult [PDF], and they need support from evenly-spaced branches, grizzlies can travel vertically if they choose to.


Two grizzly bears play in a pool at a zoo in France
Jean-Francois Monier, AFP/Getty Images

In addition to being omnivorous, grizzlies can also be classified as cannibals. They’ve been spotted eating the carcasses of black bears in Canada. Calling it a “bear-eat-bear world,” officials at Banff National Park in Alberta said the grizzlies are “opportunistic” and more than willing to devour black bears—sometimes just one-fifth their size—if the occasion calls for it. And it’s not just black bears: One study on bear eating habits published in 2017 recorded a 10-year-old male eating a 6-year-old female brown bear.


Although grizzlies enjoy eating many insects, moths are at the top of the menu. Researchers have observed that bears are willing to climb to alpine heights at Montana’s Glacier National Park in order to feast on the flying appetizers. Grizzlies will turn over rocks and spend up to 14 hours in a day devouring in excess of 40,000 moths.


A grizzly bear appears at the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenseburg, Colorado
John Moore, Getty Images

In what would be considered an ill-advised decision, explorer Zebulon Pike decided to gift his friend President Thomas Jefferson with two grizzly cubs in 1807. Jefferson reluctantly accepted them and kept them in a cage near the north entrance to the White House, and later re-gifted the cubs to museum operator Charles Willson Peale. Sadly, one of them got shot after getting too aggressive with Peale’s family.


The bears we see in fiction or lazing about in the wild tend to look cumbersome and slow, as most anything weighing nearly a half-ton would. But in a land race, even Olympic champions would be on the losing end. Grizzlies can reportedly run 35 mph, and sustain speeds of up to 28 mph for two miles, faster than Usain Bolt’s 27.78 miles per hour stride (which he can only sustain for a few seconds).


A grizzly bear is shown swimming at a pool in an Illinois zoo
Scott Olson, Getty Images

In parts of Alaska and Canada where grizzlies and polar bears converge, there are sometimes rare sightings of what observers call “grolar bears” or “pizzlies.” With large heads and light-colored fur, they’re a hybrid superbear birthed from some interspecies mating. Typically, it’s male grizzlies who roam into those territories, finding female polar bears to cozy up with. Researchers believe climate change is one reason the two are getting together.


When it comes to intellect, grizzlies may not get all the same publicity that birds and whales do, but they’re still pretty clever. The bears can remember hotspots for food even if it’s been 10 years since they last visited the area; some have been observed covering tracks or obscuring themselves with rocks and trees to avoid detection by hunters.


A grizzly bear and her cub walk in Yellowstone National Park
Karen Bleier, AFP/Getty Images

For 42 years, grizzlies at Yellowstone occupied the endangered species list. That ended in 2017, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared that a rise in numbers—from 150 in the 1970s to more than 700 today—meant that conservation efforts had been successful. But overall, the grizzly population is still struggling: Fewer than 2000 remain in the lower 48 states, down from 50,000 two centuries ago.


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