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13 Animal Facts You Need to Know (Including Why Prairie Dogs Kiss!)

These amazing animal facts are sure to surprise and fascinate you. Learn about koalas, sloths, prairie dogs, sea otters, and more.

Written by
Tehrene Firman
Published

We support all creatures, great and small, by taking small steps every day to better the planet. A 2020 study found one-third of all wildlife could be extinct by 2070 without our help, and what better way to get inspired to do our part than read some animal facts that show us the incredibly unique creatures we're protecting?

Just when you think you know everything about wildlife, there are still plenty of animal facts that will surprise you. For example, did you know pigeons are really good at math? Or that rats laugh when they're tickled?

These animal facts are sure to make you appreciate our furry, feathery, and slimy friends on a whole new level.

13 Amazing Animal Facts That Will Inspire You

1. Giraffes have black tongues.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THqkzQnfnlw

Giraffes have 20-inch-long tongues that are unique in that they're black, purple, or bluish in color. There's a reason for that: Scientists believe the extra melanin provides UV protection, which allows giraffes to safely eat without getting sunburnt. Because ouch—can you imagine having a sunburned tongue?

2. Sloths only poop once a week.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTu_YMR6Q60

In true sloth fashion, they digest their food incredibly slowly, with a single leaf taking up to a month to make its way through. They're also on a once-a-week pooping schedule. When it's time to relieve themselves, they slowly descend to the ground and get the job done.

Pooping is actually a stressful time for sloths: Being on the ground makes them an easy target for predators, so they're essentially risking their lives to go number two. Luckily, it all comes out in one push, so they're able to return to the safety of the trees in a "speedy" manner.

3. Some snails have hairy shells.

You've probably never seen a snail with a hairy shell, but they exist! Some species that live in humid places have hairy shells that help the snail hold onto wet plant leaves. Instead of slipping off the wet surface, it helps with grip.

There's also a couple of species in the United States and Canada, including the northwest hesperian, which is covered in small hairs that act as camouflage. When dirt particles attach to the hairs, it's really hard to see the snail, protecting it from predators.

4. Slow lorises are the cutest primates with the deadliest bites.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeWzlMLrS7I

The slow loris, a nocturnal primate, might be cute. Its big brown eyes make it reminiscent of a stuffed animal. But don't let its looks fool you; it can be deadly.

An article published in the Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins including Tropical Diseases says they're the only known venomous primate. When they're threatened, they raise their arms above their head, making them look like a cobra due to the markings on their face.

If needed, they'll suck the venom that's secreted from a gland in their armpit and strike. Bites from slow lorises can kill small animals and have even resulted in anaphylactic shock and death in humans.

Unfortunately, the slow loris is threatened not only by deforestation, but also by the wildlife trade. Because of its cuteness, it's commonly sold in the exotic pet trade, which is making the animal disappear from the forests it calls home.

5. Pigeons are secret brainiacs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDuWqjQGth4

Pigeons are smart. Like, super smart. When studying them, researchers realized they can match colors and abstract objects, as well as do math. A study published in the journal Science even found they can perform some tasks on par with primates.

6. Cows have close inner circles.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4jIAdAUjHc

Yep, even cows have an inner circle of besties. In a 2013 study from the University of Northamptom, researchers found dairy cows didn't like to be separated from their best friends.

They were found to form close bonds with the cows around them, and being separated from them stressed them out—so much so that their heart rates increased.

Cows also develop close friendships with humans and other animals, like dogs, pigs, and donkeys. They're gentle, affectionate, cuddly, and intelligent—what more could you want in a BFF?

7. Zebras' stripes help prevent bug bites.

Sure, Zebras' stripes look cool. But they also serve an important purpose. In a 2012 report published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, researchers found black and white stripes attract fewer horseflies than "either homogeneous black, brown, grey, or white equivalents."

Zebras' famous stripes keep them happy and bite-free, not to mention safe from the fatal diseases horseflies carry.

8. Rats laugh when they're tickled.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-84UJpYFRM

Ready for cuteness overload? In a paper that was published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research, researchers found rats laugh. Yes, really.

Unlike human laughter, rat laugher comes in "chirps"—a noise they specifically made when they were tickled. What's really special is that the rats loved being tickled; it was a bonding experience. During the experiment, they would seek out the humans that made them laugh because they saw them as playmates.

9. Sea otters use their own tools.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pFzgHTjuGQ

Sea otters are very handy. They even use tools to solve problems! In a 2017 study published in the journal Biology Letters, researchers note they've likely been using tools for millions of years.

They're known for using rocks to crack open shells. They do this while floating on their backs in the water (#seaotterlife), as well as with stationary rocks on the shoreline.

They've basically found a way to use a hammer, allowing them to eat mussels, clams, snails, and crabs whenever they please. Aka, they're truly living their best lives.

10. Koalas have human-like fingerprints.

Here's an animal fact you probably didn't expect: Koalas' fingerprints are nearly indistinguishable from human fingerprints. At one point, Australian police were afraid they would taint crime scenes!

Koalas' fingerprints are thought to help them eat. The tiny ridges make our fingertips more sensitive to touch. When koalas—which tend to be picky eaters—run their fingers over eucalyptus leaves, they're able to choose an option they know will taste good based on the texture. (For more interesting koala facts, click here!)

11. Octopuses use their arms to taste things.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfD0C0nH1pw

While octopuses have a tongue-like organ in their mouth, it isn't able to taste anything like ours is. Instead, the animal uses its arms to taste.

In a 2020 study published in the journal Cell, researchers found they have special cells embedded in their suckers that allow their arms to both touch and taste. This helps when they're looking for food: They're easily able to identify what's edible or not in record time.

12. Female lions are the breadwinners.

Move over, boys—female lions, or lionesses, are the breadwinners of their pride. Contrary to popular belief, the lioness does the majority of the hunting for her family.

Aside from being incredibly fast, being after to run up to 50 mph, they're also great at stalking prey. Basically, you really don't want to be on a lioness' bad side.

13. Prairie dogs kiss and cuddle.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9o8YIEFweY

Prairie dogs are hopeless romantics. They're very social animals, and greet each other the same way a lot of humans do: touching their mouths together in a loving kiss. Just like with humans, this releases oxytocin, the feel-good "love" or "bonding" hormone.

What's funny is that researchers found they tended to kiss and cuddle more when they had a large audience at the zoo. Why? Simple: they love the attention from the visitors.