EDITORIAL FEATURE

10 Animals with Superpowers

From false heads to killer eyes

Nature often has some marvelous - and downright terrifying - tricks up her sleeve. From false heads, to poison fins, to killer eyes, these animals all have some incredible superpowers. Read on to discover 10 crazy critters you wouldn’t want to meet alone on a dark night…

1. Two heads are better than one

The knob growing from the back of this ‘Thorny Devil’ dragon lizard acts as a 'false head' to confuse predators, while camouflage coloration and intimidating spiny body armor give this little guy further protection.

Fun fact: The way Thorny Devils drink water represents an amazing adaptation to life in the desert. Their body is covered in a system of tiny grooves or channels that run between their scales, and all the channels lead to the corners of their mouth. They essentially drink with their feet!

Thorny Devil - from Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) collection

2. They’ll give you the frill of your life

The Frilled Lizard’s name comes from the large frill around its neck, which usually stays folded against its body. When threatened, these little guys have a secret weapon - they stand upright, open their mouth and spread their dramatic frill, and can even leap at their predators.

Frilled Lizard from Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) collection

3. Licence to Quill

The quills on this cute porcupine’s head, neck and back can be raised to form a crest which makes it look larger, while the hollow quills of its tail can be moved to make a very distinctive rattling noise.

Crested Porcupine from collection of Accademia dei Fisiocritici

4. Sometimes we all wish we could just roll up into a ball...

Pangolins are unique among mammals as they are covered with scaled armor. When threatened they can curl up into a tight ball to protect themselves.

Sunda Pangolin - from collection of Australian Museum

5. A unique kind of body language

The Indian chameleon can change color rapidly. The primary purpose of this color change is to communicate with other chameleons, as well as controlling body temperature (changing to a darker color absorbs heat).That’s one cool customer.

Chameleon - from collection of Chhatrapati Museum

6. A prickly character

The porcupine fish can almost double its size, getting close to the size of a basketball! This reduces the range of its potential predators to those with much bigger mouths.

Porcupine Fish - from the collection of Museo Civico di Storia Naturale

7. The best defense is a good offense

The Red Lionfish has poison glands at the base of the spines of its dorsal, anal and pelvic fins. When faced with danger, the fish erects the dorsal fins and points the toxic spines toward the perceived or actual enemy. You wouldn’t want to meet him while swimming...

Lionfish - from the collection of Senckenberg Museum

8. Sometimes ugly is better

Although strange to look at, this frog’s body shape helps it burrow forwards through sand, unlike most burrowing frogs that dig backwards. Their muscular limbs also help them break into termite mounds for food.

Turtle Frog - from the collection of Australian Museum

9. It’s useful to have famous relatives

The False Coral Snake imitates the appearance of its poisonous relatives, even though it doesn’t actually produce any toxins of its own.

False Coral Snake - from the collection of Senckenberg Museum

10. Death stare

These flies have their eyes on stalks, which serve some very useful purposes. First, the eyes give the fly superior vision, even enabling the owner to peep around corners. Second, the stalk can be used as a weapon to push competitors away and, third, the longer the stalk and the more wide-set the eyes, the stronger the signal to female flies that this male is big and strong and genetically a good catch.

Stalk Eyed Signal -from the collection of Australian Museum

Discover more from the weird and wonderful natural world in How to Flirt Like a Bird.

Explore the Natural History project here.

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