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 Spanish ribbed newt doesn’t use its ribs just for the support of its abdomen. According to Matt Walker, an editor at Earth News, when it is under attack, the newt “pushes out its ribs until they pierce through its body, exposing a row of bones that act like poisonous barbs.” Astonishingly, the newt is none the worse for having adopted this bizarre defense maneuver.
Thanks to photographic and X-ray imaging technology, scientists have determined how the aquatic salamander accomplishes this incredible feat. By “swinging its ribs forward” so that they are at an angle of 50 degrees relative to its spine but keeping still otherwise, the newt stretches its skin until it is penetrated by the ribs, says Egon Heiss of the University of Vienna in Austria.
At the same time, the newt “secretes a poisonous milky substance,” Heiss adds. The combination of the poison and the spikes formed by the protruding ribs is “highly effective,” he declares, causing either the predator’s death or the attacker’s experience of agonizing pain. It helps considerably that the newt is immune to its own poison.