10 Unique Biology Facts You Didn't Learn At School

10 Unique Biology Facts You Didn’t Learn At School

Biology is an interesting subject that focuses on the many aspects of living organisms. Biologists spend their life decoding interesting information that lets us better understand how our world works. During the process, they sometimes encounter things that can be really surprising. For instance, did you know that the biggest living organism on the planet is the mushroom? Or that kangaroos flex in front of females to make them look more attractive? Like these, we have collected some interesting information that proves just how cool biology really is. While most of us certainly found the school biology classes to be less than entertaining, these facts will surely not disappoint.

1. Cachalots sleep vertically.

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Image: YouTube

Humans, dogs, cats, and other animals lie down to sleep. Cachalots however, sleep vertically in the ocean. The discovery was accidentally made in 2008 when researchers studying the behavior of cachalots off the coast of Chile, happened to stumble upon them while they were sleeping. The pod of cachalots were sleeping soundly and were unaware of the boats approaching them, even though whales are unihemispheric sleepers (half of the brain stays awake while the other half sleeps).

According to the researchers, the cachalots take 10-15 minute naps every few hours and during these nap periods, they are immobile and don’t even breathe. The study published in the journal Current Biology also notes that the whales were unresponsive until one of the researchers boats accidentally bumped into one of them; to which they woke up and swam away. (source)

2. Male kangaroos flex their biceps at female kangaroos to show off, just like humans.

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Image: David Cook

Men often have the habit of showing their muscles to impress women. As it turns out, male kangaroos have the same habit to impress females and win them over. According to new research published in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, in order to impress females and to score a partner, male kangaroos strike poses and show off their arms. When there are kangaroos who are competing for the same partner, researchers observed that the females also preferred those with bigger biceps. Researchers studying the marsupials also observed that the male kangaroos were flexing as soon as there was a female within their vicinity. (source)

3. The largest living organism on the planet is actually a humungous fungus.

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Image: Pixabay

The world’s largest living thing is even bigger than a blue whale. Armillaria ostoyae, or as it’s nicknamed, the Humongous Fungus, is an organism that covers 2,385 acres (almost 4 square miles) of the Malheur National Forest in Oregon. According to Business Insider, the organism grows by feeding off of tree roots, eventually drying them out. According to the USDA, the fungus has a huge network of roots, called mycellia, that permeate below the ground of the forest. The mushrooms that pop up above the ground are produced about once a year, and usually pop up around the base of a newly-infected tree. (source)

4. Bananas are radioactive.

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Image: Tim Foster

Bananas are slightly radioactive because they contain potassium, and potassium decays, but that does not mean that you should stop eating them immediately. Potassium is a necessary substance for the healthy operation of your body and bananas can be a good source of potassium. In order for the radiation to become lethal, you would have to consume 10,000,000 bananas at once or 274 bananas a day for seven years. Other ‘radioactive’ potassium-rich foods include spinach, white beans, apricots, salmon, avocados, mushrooms, and yogurt. (source)

5. The heart of a shrimp is located in its head.

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Image: Elle Hughes

A shrimp’s heart is located in its head. Scientifically, the heart is located in the thorax but because the thorax of a shrimp is covered with a single exoskeleton only, it is appropriate to say that a shrimps heart is in its head. They are also capable of swimming backwards, which is achieved by quickly flexing their tails and abdomens. There are around 2,000 species of shrimp in the world. They live in the ocean in both deep and shallow water and they are also bountiful in some freshwater lakes and streams. (source)

6. A snail can sleep for three years.

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Image: Lalo

Snails are fascinating creatures that also have bizarre sleeping habits. They can sleep for hours at a time or up to three years. According to a 2011 study, researchers found that the sleep cycle of snails tends to follow a two to three day period, as opposed to the 24 hour cycle of humans. Another interesting discovery made by scientists is that within that two to three day period, snails will experience seven periods of sleep over the first 13 to 15 hours, followed by 30 hours of alertness and activity.

Not only do they have long sleep cycles, they are also capable of hibernating for three long years. A Toronto study that focused on the sleep patterns of various animals discovered that during hibernation, they’ll withdraw into their shells and secrete a layer of mucous. The process known as estivation, enables snails to hibernate for up to three years at a time—or until the conditions are right for them to flourish in nature. (source)

7. The fingerprints of a koala are so indistinguishable from humans that they have on occasion been confused at a crime scene.

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Image: David Clode

A koala roaming around a crime scene could be an investigators worst nightmare. For some unknown reason, koalas have human-like fingerprints, and even under careful microscopic analysis, it is hard to distinguish them. In fact, the prints can be used to identify individual koalas, just like humans. Koalas aren’t the only non-humans with fingerprints. Chimps and gorillas have them as well. (source)

8. Plankton, seaweed and other photosynthesizers are responsible for 70% of Earth’s oxygen production.

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Image: Peter Fogden

When we think of oxygen, the first thing that comes to our mind is the rainforest. According to scientists however, 70% of the world’s oxygen is produced by plankton, seaweed and other photosynthesizers in the oceans. Even though it is easy to determine the exact amount of oxygen a single phytoplankton cell produces, it is hard to estimate the total amount they produce together since the density of phytoplankton varies around the world. However, scientists estimate that more than 70% of the the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere is contributed by the tiny ocean plants and other minuscule photosynthesizer organisms. (source)

9. Black herons turn themselves into an umbrella to fool fish into thinking that they are providing them with shade and cold. When the fish swims towards the shade, it goes directly into the bird’s mouth.

black heron, umbrella, bird, fish, facts, shadow, weird
Image: Derek Keats

Black Herons look like your typical wading bird, but when it’s time to eat, they turn themselves into an umbrella. The behavior, known as canopy feeding, was observed by biologists studying the bird. According to Kenn Kaufman, a bird expert, one commonly accepted theory is that small fish looking for places to hide are attracted to the shade created by the heron’s wings. However, Bill Shields, a professor emeritus at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, who’s studied bird behavior for 45 years, says that the canopy feeding technique provides the bird with a better look at its prey during sunny days. (source)

10. Sea turtles use the Earth’s magnetic fields to navigate back to the area where they were born decades earlier.

biology, facts, science, animals, magnetic field, Earth
Image: Cédric Frixon

According to a new study, turtles are capable of navigating using the Earth’s magnetic field and finding their way back to the beach they were born. Scientists believe that the turtles learn their home beach’s distinctive magnetic signature, through what is called geomagnetic imprinting. “This is vital information if you want to restore sea turtles to areas where they once lived,” said Kenneth Lohmann, a professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Even in cases where turtles are rescued and released back into the ocean hundreds of miles away from their homes, they are capable of navigating the seas and finding their way back. (source)

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