A combination of adaptation and natural selection has produced some beautiful and elegant creatures. It also causes some animal body parts to be completely strange. Have sponges lost their brains? What’s so strange about the mantis shrimp’s seemingly telescopic eyes? Why do sheephead fish teeth look so weird? What made researchers think of origami when confronted with the mystery of salamander wings?
Yes, arachnid legs function “kind of like… tongue, nose and fingertips.” Of all the places where tentacles could grow, why would nature choose snakeheads? Skilled combatants claim that almost anything can be used as a weapon, but unlike aquatic salamanders, they may even draw a line across their ribs. Shoe stork is nothing if not an innovative hunter.
When mating season comes, male venomous platypuses don’t have to worry about being cuckolded for good reason. The proboscis monkey’s nose may strike one as plain, but the females of its species seem to appreciate it, and another of its appendages is — well, for now, let’s assume you’ve been warned. .
The mantis shrimp’s bulging compound eyes, set on stalks, are so incredible they seem unreal. Unlike human eyes (and those of most other animals, including those of other arthropods), the mantis shrimp’s eyes are not equipped with single lenses through which light funnels onto a retina. Instead, the light-sensitive receptor cells at the surface of the shrimp’s eyes enable them to detect wavelengths of light in the visible, the infrared, and the ultraviolet spectra.
This ability to see many colors allows mantis shrimp to communicate by using their brightly colored body parts. Their bright colors warn of the mantis shrimp’s lightning-fast punch, which delivers an enormous wallop. Some species also possess bioluminescence, which they can use to signal other shrimp that have invaded their space to back off.
Other color displays function as mating signals. Females prefer more colorful males, so, through natural selection, both sexes of the mantis shrimp become even more colorful generation after generation. In short, mantis shrimp are survivors because the eyes they have evolved are perfectly adapted to their environment, the colorful corals of the ocean’s depths.