[heroic music] For just about every superhero or villain
who’s graced the pages of a comic book or cineplex screen, nature has an answer. The
animal world is full of inspiration when it comes to awesome abilities and many of nature’s
super powers put their comic counterparts to shame. So strap on your utility belts,
and behold, the Avengers of evolution. Chitons are a family of pretty ancient looking
mollusks that haven’t changed much in about the past half billion years. Course,
if you had 17 regenerating rose iron magnetite covered teeth that could grind away algae-crusted
rocks, why would you change? Every budding young scientists have found themselves chasing
lizards in the backyard at some point, and like most of us, you probably just ended up
with a wriggling tail and no lizard. Not only can many lizards and geckos regrow their posterior,
but the mythical-looking axolotl salamander can regenerate entire limbs. Speaking of Wolverine, this Hairy Frog can
break its bones and shove them out its fingers to make claws. That has got to be the most
painful self-defense mechanism in the animal kingdom, but at least your enemies will know
you’re not messing around because you will stab them with your own bones.
Sometimes the best way to survive in nature is without being seen at all. The cuttlefish
is a master mimic, can not only take the shape of things around it, but it can camouflage
itself with even the most complicated furniture patterns. Some sharks have special luminescent
organs on their bellies. They give off a blue light that matches the color of the sunlight
above them, so the predator swimming below, they might as well be invisible. In the darkest
depths of the sea, all the red light has been filtered out by the water above, so red creatures
like this jellyfish reflect 0 lights. Down there, they’re as good as black. Pit vipers
like the rattlesnake might as well have 4 eyes, two regular and rather scary ones close
to specialized organs just in front that let them see a 3D thermal view of the world. If
you’re warm, you’re toast. [scream]
This next one is a truly super power. Meet the Lesser Water Boatman. It’s a tiny insect
that holds the title of the loudest animal on Earth by size. Just don’t tell him he’s
lesser. He makes a call as loud as a power tool despite being only two millimeters long.
How? By rubbing his penis along his abdomen. Elephants are able to speak without sound.
Instead they use something called infrasound, emitting low-frequency waves far below the
range of the human ear, that they can travel hundreds of kilometers through the ground.
It’s not quite telepathy, but it might be the closest thing that we’ve found
Without using Google Maps, or GPS, just their mere fishy brains, adult salmon are able to
swim thousands of miles across oceans and up rushing rapids, to return to the same mountain
streams they were hatched in years before. They can actually be guided home by Earth’s
magnetic field. Exactly how is still a mystery, but they’re imprinted from birth with a
compass bearing pointed right back home. Tardigrades. Those adorable, indestructible,
tiny teddy bears of the animal world can survive the complete vacuum in deadly radiation of
space, go without eating for as long as a decade, and just shrug off temperatures ranging
from minus 200 to 150 degrees Celsius. They might just be tough enough to set up the first
colony on Mars. Deinococcus Radiodurans. It’s a bacterium
that can withstand a radiation dose two thousand times higher than what would kill a human.
It’s thanks to the antioxidant properties of the element manganese.
You think doing a little bit of yoga makes you flexible? A sea cucumber’s body is made
of a special kind of collagen, that it can essentially liquefy on command in order to
squeeze itself into tight spaces. Hyenas have stomachs of steel, which makes
sense for something that eats rotting carcasses like they’re made of ice cream sundaes.
Their stomach acid’s so strong that they can eat anthrax infected corpses and laugh
about it when they’re done. Now, the dragon millipede is a curiously pink
insect, and in fact it’s one of the only pink creatures on Earth. Now nature, that’s
usually a sign that says, “Back off!” and for good reason. See, this toxic beauty
sprays clouds of almond smelling cyanide gas, but if you’re close enough to take a whiff,
it’s probably too late. You’d be forgiven for thinking the platypus
was a ridiculous prank played on biologists by Mother Nature. In fact, the first platypus
skins were discarded as fakes because researchers thought they’re made from duckbills sewn
on the beaver hides. Now these monotremes can hunt using electro-reception. No eyes,
no ears needed. You can try to run, but that’s just the nerve impulse there waiting for.
Electric eels are full of cells called electrocites that build up charge like a living battery.
When they choose to discharge it, they can release 500 volts of electric shock. Now that’s
more than enough to kill a human and certainly enough to make your heart skip a beat.
Dung beetles are known to push over 1,100 times their weight in poop. That’s like
an adult human tugging around a dozen buses. Not- not only are they super strong, they’re
master astronomers, navigating their stinky cargo by the light of the Milky Way.
A gecko’s foot pads are covered in microscopic hairs, almost as small as the wavelength of
light. They can stick to surfaces without suction,
or liquid. They’re held in place by Van Der Waals interactions that take place between
individual atoms in their feet and a wall or a window.
Wood frogs can hibernate by burying themselves underground near the frost line. Now while
sharp needles of ice would rip ourselves to shreds and leave us as dead as a freezer burn
hamburger patty, these frogs can cryo-preserve their bodies by filling their cells with glucose.
It’s like nature’s antifreeze. Some people call turritopsis the “immortal
jellyfish.” While it’s probably not immortal on a strict sense, it can revert fully differentiated
adult cells back into the form of an embryo, then send them off to continue a new life.
With the aid of gravity, a peregrine falcon can hit nearly 250 miles an hour in an attack
dive, and the sleek black marlin has been clocked at 80 miles per hour, but as far as
land animals go, no one can touch the cheetah, which can run
at sixty miles per hour for a full minute, and at full speed, actually spends more time
in the air than on the ground. A flea has the ability to leap two hundred
times its body length, in a single bound. And that’s thanks to special structures
in their hind legs that are shaped like coiled springs. That’s equivalent to six foot three
me jumping a quarter-mile in one hop! The bombardier beetle can shoot a stream of
caustic chemicals out its backside, thanks to an internal chemical reaction and some
careful aim. And that nearly boiling jet is hot enough to kill or blind small creatures.
It reminds me of Cyclops from X-Men… only backwards.
In addition to an expanded vision range that can even sense polarized lights, the mantis
shrimp can punch with as much force as a rifle bullet, hitting speeds of 50 miles per hour
with their club-like arms. Before you even know he’s swinging, you’re dead.
Pistol shrimp claws can snap with such immense force that they shoot a death bubble at their
prey at 60 miles per hour. That bubble is as loud as a supersonic jet, and because of
the phenomenon called cavitation, it’s almost as hot as the surface of the sun. I guess
they can kill and cook their dinner at the same time!
As you can see, nature’s full of some pretty super powers, and they’re all real. Reading
stories of far-off worlds, leotard-wearing heroes and evil villains is fun, but it’s
nice to know that some of the best stories have already been written by evolution.
Did I forget any cool animals? Well, let me know in the comments! Stay curious, and we’ll
see you next time. [superhero ending music]