So you think you are weird?
A pink-colored hippo seen sunbathing. Source: Flickr
Humans are not the only ones who need sunscreen and SPF. Turns out hippopotamus have skin that are very sensitive to drying and sunburn, which explains why it spends a large part of the day in water to keep it cool (and also because its legs won’t be strong enough to support its weight for prolonged of period). Unfortunately for them, they lack sweat glands to help release heat from their body. Instead they have a different gland that secretes a cream-like oily fluid that is red in colour. This has led many to believe that hippos have ‘bloody sweat’.
The red sweat appears pink in full sunlight and is crucial for its survival. It functions as a:
- Skin moisturiser for its sensitively dry skin
- Insect repellent.
- Antibiotic: some of the pigments identified in the secretion are highly acidic that it inhibits growth of disease-causing bacteria
Many have attempt to mimic hippos’ sweat to produce a 4 in 1 suncreen, the detailed chemical composition of their sweat remain a mystery. My opinion on this sunscreen? I don’t know, I wouldn’t want to smell like a hippo.
2. Catfish have taste buds all around their body
The average person has about 10,000 taste buds. This is nothing compared to how many a catfish has. In general they have more than 100,000 taste buds while the larger ones have about 175 thousand. Surely this many taste buds can’t fit inside their tongue, which is why they are spread all over its body but most concentrated on the 4 pairs of whiskers.
Why do they need so many taste buds anyway? This is because they live in extremely muddy murky water that is extremely dark. Hence the tastebuds function as a GPS to detect its exact location but also for hunting in low visibility waters. (In contrast chicken has only 24 taste buds) Electrophysiologist Dr J Caprio revealed the sensitivity of these tastebuds, able to detect proteins in water at concentration as low as 1-100micrograms per litre
3. The inside pouch of kangaroo is really smelly
Why does it smell? Blame the baby!
On top of being born blind, a newborn ‘joey’ (didn’t even know they have an actual term for baby marsupials) is as small as a jelly bean. Hence they need to be protected in its mother’s pouch for 120 to 400 days. Joeys do not ever get out of this pouch during their nursing period. So as you might have guessed, they feed, pee and poop in there. To us human, it is disgusting to know that we poop and eat at the same place. I really don’t know what they are thinking.
Due to their tiny size, they do not produce much waste. As joeys grow up and produce bigger waste, the pouch’s lining is able to absorb some of it. So it does get smelly and mom only cleans out their pouch once in a while.
Source : Commons Wiki
4. Flamingo’s mother milk is red
Like mammals, flamingo babies feed on milk. Interestingly both mom and dad produce the milk from glands that line a flamingo’s entire upper digestive track. Flamingo milk is of the same composition as mammal milk – 9% protein and 15% fat, which explains why it has a creamy texture. The distinction from mammal milk is that flamingo milk contains lots of red and white blood cells.
The red blood cells do not explain the red-coloured milk; instead the red colour is due to the pigment ‘canthaxanthin’. The greyish-white chick will store this pigment in the liver, to be utilized when adult feathers grow upon adulthood. Voila! Out comes a pink flamingo.
Unlike the adult flamingo, baby flamingo are white in colour. Source: Commons wiki.
5. An ostrich’s brain is smaller than its eyes
Ostrich may the largest and heaviest bird alive, but definitely not the smartest. Its eyes are the size of billiard balls and you would think that it has a big brain. But NO. Despite their large body size, their brains are merely the size of a walnut. Who is to blame? Their eyes are so huge that they take up so much room in the skull, so the brain size has to be smaller to compensate for the limited space. This is probably why it is bad at avoiding predators in spite of its running speed at 70km/h, enough to overrun a cheetah. Well they run in circles instead. I can only guess this is where the term ‘birdbrain’ comes from.
Source: Commons wiki
Still think humans are weirder than animals?
1. Scientific American: Do hippopotamuses actually have pink sweat? (2002), from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=do-hippopotamuses-actuall
2. Animal Planet: How does a hippo make its own sunscreen? (2013), from http://animal.discovery.com/mammals/hippo-sunscreen1.htm
3. Live Science: What animal has the best sense of taste? (2011), from http://www.livescience.com/32970-what-animal-has-the-best-sense-of-taste.html
4. Live Science: Fun Facts About Kangaroos (2013), from http://www.livescience.com/27400-kangaroos.html
5. Seaworld: Hatching and Care of Young (2002), from http://www.seaworld.org/infobooks/flamingos/fhatching.html
6. Animal Planet: Ostrich Facts (2013), from http://animal.discovery.com/birds/ostrich-facts.htm
Faustina Sari Setiawan is a Msc Biotech student in the University of Melbourne. If you still need a doze of weird facts, click here but please do not judge what I watch on youtube.