You’re human, presumably. I’ll bet that makes you think you’re super cool. Certain rights and privileges come with it for sure. But, you know, our fellow animalians have cool stuff going on themselves. Sure, they have claws and sharp teeth and speed. But you’ve got intelligence and technology and can openers and whatnot. That wins out, right? That’s a matter of debate, but for now, here’s some animals you have surely been underestimating…
They’ve been around mostly unchanged for like 300 million years. They have cartilaginous skulls but no jaws or vertebrae. They look like a tube sock with teeth. Good thing, too. If a shark or other would be predator comes along, they wouldn’t sustain much injury in the scuffle. They’ll just tie themselves in knots and slither out of it. And, for good measure, blast the assailant with slime. While assailant is thrashing around and suffocating trying to get the slime off, hagfish gets away. Badass. Can you do that? Didn’t think so.
I met some of these guys at the Georgia Aquarium back in 2016. Archerfish sees a bug above the water, shoots a spectacularly precise water jet at it, and says “Do you want ants? Because that’s how you get ants!” Or whatever kind of bug. They shoot hard and don’t miss and this is from underwater so their eyesight is amazing and a physical marvel itself. Oh, and they totally remember faces. Can you spit a precise jet of water at something three meters away? Didn’t think so.
These bright little fish run coral reef cleaning stations. Bigger fish and other critters come by, and the little cleaner wrasses eat any ectoparasites bothering them or any unhealthy scales. This keeps their “clients” healthy, both physically and mentally, as not having parasites to worry about makes life so much easier. And the wrasses get a meal out of it. Not only do their clients stay smart, but they are pretty smart, too. They pass the mirror test! I’m going to assume you recognize the being in the mirror is your own reflection, so I’ll give you that. But the cleaning stations that keep reefs healthy and going? Your own space is probably a disaster and you’re likely doing something or other contributing to climate change which is bleaching and killing reefs. You’re no cleaner wrasse.
Malabar Giant Squirrel
Let’s step out of the water now and over to southern India. Up in the trees are large multicolored squirrels, with black, brown, beige, and seemingly even purple and red fur, and I swear they are totally real. This coloration acts as camouflage to protect them from predators. And to make them look totally fabulous! In fact, Teen Vogue had this to say:
Today, while exploring the Internet, we came across the most beautiful hair we’ve ever seen. Think ombre fade, velvety-soft finish, and glistening hues of midnight blue, burgundy, burnt sienna, tangerine, and yellow ochre. Oh, and did we mention that this was someone’s natural hair color? That’s right, we’re talking about a squirrel.
Is your hair naturally that fabulous? Didn’t think so.
African Painted Wolves
They’re also called African wild dogs. Painted dogs. Whatever you want to call them, they roam the savanna alongside lions and hyenas as a serious egalitarian pack. The monogamous breeding pair is in charge but everyone gets a say. No, seriously, they vote. By sneezing. Also, the pups come first. They feed the pups before the adults. They take care of any pack member who is sick or injured or otherwise can’t be productive. Humans, on the other hand, are always finding excuses to leave behind the young, old, and disabled, always hoarding things for ourselves, and finding ways to make it so certain people’s “sneezes” don’t count. African Painted Wolves have it figured out. What the hell is our excuse?