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Home Animalia Do You Know these 12 Strange Facts About Endangered Species?

Do You Know these 12 Strange Facts About Endangered Species?

How much do you know about our incredible natural world and the species who live here? Here are 12 interesting facts about our endangered animal friends — from brainy and musical whales, to the highly evolved polar bear, to the odd quirks of tigers and orangutans…

Sumatran tiger. Photo: © Greenpeace / Tom Jefferson.

1. Polar bears aren’t really white.

It’s true. Polar bears actually have black skin (take a look at their noses) that’s covered in transparent, pigment-free hair. Each individual polar bear hair scatters and reflects visible light which makes polar bears appear white, even though they’re not – sneaky.

A young polar bear (Ursus maritimus) wanders on ice, seen from the Greenpeace ship during an expedition to document the lowest sea ice level on record. Photo: © Greenpeace.

2. Sperm whales sleep standing up.

It’s a bit hard to fathom, and doesn’t sound especially comfortable, but sperm whales sleep vertically, dangling tail downwards. In fact whales ‘sleep’ by switching only half of their brain off at a time (don’t try this at home) and this position makes it easiest for a dozing whale to breath out of its blowhole.

A sperm whale calf breaks the surface, Sri Lanka. Photo: © Greenpeace.

3. A turtle’s sex is determined by temperature.

Whether sea turtle hatchlings are born male or female depends on the temperature of where they happen to be located in the nest. If it’s warmer than the “pivotal temperature” (28 – 29 degrees Celsius), the turtle is born female, if it’s colder, male.

Sea turtles used to be a rare sight in the waters of Apo Island. Since it was declared a marine reserve, it is now common to see Hawksbill and Green Sea Turtles such as this one with remoras hitching a ride. Photo: © Greenpeace.

4. Tigers have the brightest eyes of any animal.

The eye of the tiger is backlit by a membrane that reflects light through the retina. Thanks to this, tigers have the brightest – and, in my opinion, the most beautiful – eyes in nature.

A semi-wild Sumatran tiger (Panthera Tigris Sumatrae) is seen at the Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation rescue center., which is part of the South Bukit Barisan National Park. Photo: © Greenpeace.

5. Orangutans are ticklish.

There are two kinds of ticklish. There’s the gentle kind that feels itchy, and the kind that makes you laugh uncontrollably. Many animals are the first kind of ticklish – it’s an evolutionary behavior that helps them ward off potentially dangerous animals and insects. But only very few animals are the second kind of ticklish. In fact, it seems to be just us humans and our very closest primate relatives, including the orangutans.

A baby orangutan at Orangutan Foundation International Care Center in Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan. Expansion of oil palm plantations is destroying their forest habitat. Photo: © Greenpeace.

6. Polar bears don’t need to drink water.

Obvious fact alert: most of the fresh water in the Arctic is frozen. For you and I that might cause some problems. But not for polar bears – they’ve evolved so that they no longer need to drink water. They can get all the H2O they need from the chemical reaction that breaks down fat.

Polar bear jumping on ice floe, Herald Island, Chukchi Sea. Photo: © Greenpeace.

7. Sperm whales have the biggest brain of any animal – ever.

Not only is it the biggest animal with teeth, it’s also got the smarts. The world’s largest true predator has a brain over 5 times as heavy as ours.

A pod of sperm whales moves into a defense line to stop a pod of orcas from getting to their calf off the coast of Sri Lanka. Photo: © Greenpeace.

8. Sea turtles talk to each other before they hatch.

People used to think that turtles didn’t make noises. But now we know that’s just not true. In fact, sea turtles talk to each other before they’ve even hatched. While still in their individual eggs, turtles communicate with each other by making sounds. Researchers believe they do this in order to coordinate their hatching times (now, if that’s not adorable).

Leatherback turtle eggs on Jamursba Medi Beach, Tambrau District, West Papua, Indonesia. Leatherback turtles are the largest marine turtle species. They are considered living dinosaurs because they have been virtually unchanged for the last 100 million years. Leatherbacks are critically endangered and may face extinction within the next three decades. Photo: © Greenpeace.

9. Orangutans love the taste of soap.

Not only do they love durian, the smelliest fruit I’ve ever come across, but they also happen to enjoy the taste of soap which, surprisingly, doesn’t upset their stomachs. Though in many ways we’re very similar to orangutans, I wouldn’t suggest trying either at home…

Orangutans at a feeding station run by Orangutan Foundation International. The area, near Tanjung Harapan village, Kumai District, Central Kalimantan, has recently been removed from the Tanjung Puting National Park and allocated to the oil palm company PT Andalan Sukses Makmur, a subsidiary of Bumitama Agri Ltd. Photo: © Greenpeace.

10. Polar bears have blue tongues.

The photo says it all really. ?

Polar bear. Photo: © Greenpeace.

11. Humpback whales follow & create musical trends.

Humpback whales love to sing. But they don’t just trot out the same old tune. Over time the songs change, and evolve, and if they like a bit of something they hear another whale singing – rather than just have that earworm stuck in their head – they will incorporate it into their own repertoire. Then, if it’s catchy enough it will spread to neighboring whales and then populations farther and farther across the sea – a bit like a karaoke Mexican wave!

Humpback whale with young. Photo: © Greenpeace.

12. Tiger urine smells like buttered popcorn.

There’s an interesting fact for you – use it wisely.

Sumatran tiger. Photo: © Greenpeace / Tom Jefferson.

You just can’t imagine a world without these amazing animals can you?

But they’re under serious threat. Their habitats are being destroyed by climate change, polluting corporations and greedy palm oil companies.

So our movement is fighting back. Will you help us get the word out? Share these 12 amazing facts now!

This article is reprinted with permission from Greenpeace. You can see the original story here.

You might be interested in these other stories on UniGuide:

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Meena Rajput is the diversity and inclusion lead and the creative facilitation network manager for Greenpeace UK.


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