Sure, we’d all love to
traipse over to Europa and go hunting for alien lifeforms. But in the meantime, we can enjoy the weirdos that already live right here on Earth. Here are 10 of our favorite Earth-dwelling aliens—organisms so strange they seem otherworldly.
The ocean is full of immortal beings
Well, biologically immortal at least.
Turritopsis dohrnii starts out as a little larvae but eventually settles down and forms a colony of identical polyps. Eventually, the polyps break up and form a horde of independent, sexually mature jellyfish that like to snack on other medusae. When those jellyfish get old or sick, they’re able to revert back into child-like polyps and breed entirely new colonies. This growth and regression can theoretically continue forever, making the species essentially immortal. Tell me that isn’t extraterrestrial.
You’re already doing their work, dummy
“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,” the genus
Corvus totally took advantage of me. Ok, so that’s not exactly how Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” actually goes, but it could be, because crows, ravens, rooks, and jackdaws are totally playing you. Considered some of the smartest animals of Earth— on par with many non-human primates—these black birds make tools like wire hooks and even set nuts in front of our tires so they can later retrieve the meat when our cars crack them. Admire all you want, but they never promised they came in peace.
You wish you were “blind” like this bat
Even the coolest vampire myths have got nothing on
real bats. Let’s just list out the basic facts: they’re the only mammal capable of flight; a brown bat can eat 1,000 mosquitoes in a single hour, and they don’t even need to be thanked for it; they can live in communities up to a million in number; the largest bats have wingspans of 6 feet, which is taller than the average American man; and, with lifespans up to 30 years, they live way longer than most mammals their size. And that doesn’t even cover their coolest feature— echolocation. By sending out sonar into the darkness they can effectively “see” through the night, because solid objects in their path send back echoes. Small echoes might be a bug, ready to eat, while larger echoes might indicate a tree these guys need to avoid. I’m just saying, that would be a great tool on another planet, maybe one that never sees sunlight.
Avoid eye contact and back away slowly
deep sea creepers get a bad rap—and I’m not here to absolve them. Anglerfish live in near total darkness, they have big heads and truly incredible underbites, and the females glow thanks to bioluminescent bacteria on the end of a tiny probe growing out of their foreheads. But the anglerfish’s strangest feature is its parasitic mating strategy. The male sinks his teeth into the female and in return, she slowly absorbs him. His eyes disappear into her abdominal wall, and then the rest of him follows, until all that is left are his testes, which the female wears like a statement necklace. Oh, and she wears as many as six of these testicular trophies at a time. Stay safe, my friends.
What’s the buzz
Bee’s knees are actually cooler than we originally thought, as
new research suggests they really can bend it like Beckham. Scientists trained bees to play soccer, and the bees who showed the most prowess were those that watched other bees play before trying it themselves, implying a capacity for social learning. And that’s not all, folks. They recognize human faces. They also somehow know how to determine the shortest flight path between flowers. And each bee is specially suited to its role in the hive community, while still sporting an individual identity. Of all the animals on this list, bees would likely make the most benevolent overlords. But there’s still the matter of those stingers…
The strangest thing
cute “water bears” are actually super strong. Enamored of their resilience, scientists have been pushing them to their limit for centuries—and though they are not limitless, they’re still pretty impressive. Tardigrades can survive a few minutes at over 300 degrees Fahrenheit and a few days at negative 300 degrees. They can survive the vacuum of open space for a week and a half as well as the pressure cooker of the Mariana Trench. Once, a tardigrade even bounced back to life after 30 years spent frozen. It promptly gave birth and lived to see many generations of its family prosper.
Do not take me to your leader
ants get stuff done. The colony is divided between blind—but terribly efficient—workers; big-jawed workers that move goods and protect the nest; a breeding class of males; and the queen around which they all revolve. These clear “careers” allow the unit to build a nest out of only their bodies, work together to kill and consume hundreds of thousands of individual prey (other ants, wasps, larvae) each day, and protect millions of the queen’s eggs. Imagine what humans could do with this kind of hive mind—for better or worse (but probably worse).
I ain’t afraid of no shrimp
When humans look at a
mantis shrimp, they see the tiny creature’s beautiful rainbow shell. What a mantis shrimp sees when it looks in the mirror is hard to determine, because where we have only three receiving cones in our eyes, the mantis shrimp has sixteen. They’re seeing colors we can’t even imagine. But for all their beauty, they’re total monsters, and boy, are they good at being bad. The shrimp can move so fast the water around their prey actually boils—so hot, when the bubbles collapse, they emit a blast of light—making it easy to pick apart the prey and feast. Hopefully, they won’t turn on us before we’ve learned to use their own skills against them, as researchers are currently working to translate their understanding of the mantis shrimp into the development of military technology.
The original desalination plant
Penguins are cute, sure, but they’re not typically lauded as innovators. But these flightless birds have a special supraorbital gland on their foreheads that gives them a power humans have been lusting over for decades: they can remove sodium chloride from the seawater they ingest. Penguins, it turns out, need freshwater, but they’re not likely to get it, as they tend to live in salty waters. So they’ve developed a super-kidney that takes the salt out of a penguin’s bloodstream and secretes it back into the ocean through its bill. It doesn’t turn saltwater into freshwater directly, as some urban legends have suggested, but it’s an impressive tool nonetheless.