Fun Facts About Animals You Probably Didn’t Know Before

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Think you know everything there is to know about these familiar animals? Think again!

Koalas

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These slow-moving, eucalyptus-eating marsupials native to Australia are beloved for their sweet demeanors and distinctly non-human adorableness. However, they do share one feature in common with homo sapiens: fingerprints. What’s more, their fingerprints, analyzed under a microscope, are virtually indistinguishable in the way they loop and whorl from our own. Researchers posit that koalas adapted this feature—which is also present in primates such as chimpanzees—in order to better grasp the branches they climb to forage for leaves. Check out these other fun facts about animals that live long.

Elephants

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According to Live Science, elephants have “many admirable qualities,” including a fantastic sense of smell, a seeming near-immunity to cancer, and “complex social lives.” Despite all this, here’s a crazy animal fact: elephants are unable to jump. That’s because they have what an evolutionary researcher at the Royal Veterinary College in London calls “wimpy lower-leg muscles” and inflexible ankles—conditions that also make it a challenge for them to run for more than a short distance.

Platypuses

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As silly as platypuses look, you certainly wouldn’t want to get on the bad side of one. One of the fun facts about animals that look innocent, like the platypus, are their strange defense mechanisms. The heels of their back feet have spurs that can release venom, making these wild animals one of the few types of poisonous mammals. While the venom isn’t strong enough to kill a human, it’s extremely painful and can cause swelling and even hyperventilation, and that’s definitely enough to make platypuses one of the innocent-looking animals that are actually dangerous.

Sloths

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You probably think of sloths as one of the slowest wild animals out there—and they are pretty slow, to be sure! But they actually have a neat talent that you may not know about. They’re skilled swimmers—and they swim about three to four times faster than they usually move! According to Live Science, they do the breaststroke just like humans do, and it’s a vital skill for them to survive in rainforests that have a tendency to flood. If you thought it wasn’t possible for sloths to get any cuter, just imagine one swimming! Or take a look at these adorable sloth pictures you need in your life.

Whales

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These massive aquatic mammals cannot actually breathe underwater—they have to periodically return to the surface to breathe. So that raises the question, how do they sleep? Do they sleep? Well, they do—but only half of their brains sleep at a time. Known as “unihemispheric slow-wave sleep,” this method allows the whales to get enough rest while also staying alert enough to consciously breathe and be on the lookout for any dangers.

Polar bears

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According to Polar Bears International, polar bears use an adorable, unique type of greeting—they touch noses with one another! This is also how they request to share food; a bear will approach another bear that’s feeding and touch its nose to ask permission to join in on snack time.

Kangaroos

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These large Australian marsupials are known for their ability to hop great distances, which is the primary way they get around. But an odd feature they have is that they can’t walk backward, partly because of the structure of their powerful rear feet and their large tails. This is the reason you’ll find a kangaroo on the Australian Coat of Arms—the designers wanted to symbolize the way the nation was only moving forward, so they picked an animal that physically can’t move backward. (The Coat of Arms also has an emu on it—emus can’t walk backwards either.)

Sharks

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“Just keep swimming…” sings Dory the blue tang in Finding Nemo. For some types of sharks, this is more than just a motivational saying—it’s life or death! Live Science reports that several types of sharks use a certain type of breathing that requires them to swim quickly with their mouths open, which allows oxygen to reach their gills. While some sharks can breathe even if they’re still, great white sharks, makos, and whale sharks (among others) must move constantly to take in oxygen. Check out some more fascinating (and reassuring!) facts about sharks.

Peacocks

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First of all, the idea that “peacock” is the correct name for all of these birds is one of the animal facts that you actually have all wrong. “Peacock” only describes the males; the females are technically called “peahens,” and both sexes are considered “peafowl.” Another interesting fact about peacocks is that they can be born with partially or completely white coloring due to a genetic mutation; this is known as leucism, and the birds are still stunning to look at!

Hyenas

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Hyenas are generally thought of and portrayed as dog-like creatures, but these wild animals are actually more closely related to cats, according to National Geographic! Their scientific classification puts them in the “Feliformia” suborder, one of two suborders in the order Carnivora. Feliformia is the “cat-like” carnivores; the other suborder, unsurprisingly, is “Caniformia.” But hyenas are still different enough from big cats to have their own separate family classification—entirely their own family, “Hyaenidae.”

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