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R. Mickens // AMNH
R. Mickens // AMNH

10 Extreme Animal Facts from AMNH's New Exhibition

R. Mickens // AMNH
R. Mickens // AMNH

There are some incredible animals on this planet, and many of them have evolved incredible specializations to find food, attract mates, survive, and thrive—some of which aren’t too far off from superpowers. You can learn all about these awesome adaptations—and get up close and personal with live nautiluses, mantis shrimp, and axolotls—at the American Museum of Natural History’s latest exhibition, Life at the Limits, which opens Saturday, April 4. Here are a few things we learned from a preview.



Erin McCarthy

1. Black Swallower fish (Chiasmoden niger) are capable of swallowing prey up to 10 times their weight! Scientists aren’t really sure how they do it—the fish (modeled above) live at depths of 2300 feet, and not much is known about them—but this specialization doesn’t always work to the animal’s advantage. In the deep sea, where food can be hard to find, it's helpful to have an extendable stomach and the ability to unhinge the jaws “so [the fish] can eat whatever they come across, within reason,” John Sparks, co-curator of the exhibition and curator in the museum’s Department of Ichthyology, tells mental_floss. “But the downside is, most of these that have been collected have floated to the surface because the fish inside them has been so big that it decomposed before the Black Swallower could digest it, and the bacteria kills them.”

2. Any ants reading this should steer clear of the giant anteater, which can suck down up to 35,000 of the insects in a single day.



D. Finnin // AMNH

3. The tiny, eyeless waterfall climbing cave fish (Cryptotora thamicola), above, found in just two caves in Thailand, has enlarged fins for navigating rocks in fast moving streams.

4. If you're a predator, you might want to give the desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizzi) a wide berth: It pees when threatened! 

5. The pupils and lenses in the eyes of Anableps anableps fish are divided: The top half is for looking above water, while the bottom half is for looking below.



D. Finnin // AMNH

6. Elephant seals can descend nearly a mile and stay there for up to two hours to hunt, thanks to lots of hemoglobin—the molecule that carries oxygen around the body—in its blood.

7. The ocean sunfish (Mola mola) is the world’s heaviest bony fish, and it lays more eggs at one time—300 million!—than any other animal. The animals start life pinhead-small but can grow up to 10.5 feet high.

8. A brown kiwi’s egg weighs almost a pound—as much as six jumbo chicken eggs—which is pretty big for a bird that’s the size of a chicken!

9. Next time you see a fish, take a good look into its mouth. Does it have a tongue, or a Cymothoa exigua, the tongue-eating louse? In the only known case of a parasite replacing a host organ, these parasites enter a fish’s mouth through the gills then clamp onto its tongue, drinking the blood until the tongue falls off. Then the louse just hangs out there, right where the tongue used to be, feeding on its host’s blood and acting as its tongue.



Erin McCarthy

10. Unlike other salamanders, axolotls (Ambystona mexicanus), above, spend their entire lives underwater and retain many of their juvenile features—including those cute frilly gills. Scientists are studying the animal’s incredible ability to regenerate lost limbs and crushed spinal cords with hopes of applying that knowledge to human medicine. 

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Courtesy of The National Aviary
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Animals
Watch This Live Stream to See Two Rare Penguin Chicks Hatch From Their Eggs
Courtesy of The National Aviary
Courtesy of The National Aviary

Bringing an African penguin chick into the world is an involved process, with both penguin parents taking turns incubating the egg. Now, over a month since they were laid, two penguin eggs at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are ready to hatch. As Gizmodo reports, the baby birds will make their grand debut live for the world to see on the zoo's website.

The live stream follows couple Sidney and Bette in their nest, waiting for their young to emerge. The first egg was laid November 7 and is expected to hatch between December 14 and 18. The second, laid November 11, should hatch between December 18 and 22.

"We are thrilled to give the public this inside view of the arrival of these rare chicks," National Aviary executive director Cheryl Tracy said in a statement. "This is an important opportunity to raise awareness of a critically endangered species that is in rapid decline in the wild, and to learn about the work that the National Aviary is doing to care for and propagate African penguins."

African penguins are endangered, with less than 25,000 pairs left in the wild today. The National Aviary, the only independent indoor nonprofit aviary in the U.S., works to conserve threatened populations and raise awareness of them with bird breeding programs and educational campaigns.

After Sidney and Bette's new chicks are born, they will care for them in the nest for their first three weeks of life. The two penguins are parenting pros at this point: The monogamous couple has already hatched and raised three sets of chicks together.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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iStock

Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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