When people ask me what I do, I usually make something up. A while back I met a woman and when she asked me what I did for a living, I told her I’m a dolphin waxer. She said she’d never heard of such a thing, which means she must not have read the recent bestseller, ‘Lone Survivor,’ which is where I stole that one.
So when someone asks my wife what I do, she usually tells them I’m a professional liar, which is not entirely accurate. Sometimes I tell the absolute truth, but even then people often don’t believe me, because of past misunderstandings, by which I mean conversations.
This makes it difficult to impart unusual facts to people who know me. Which is unfortunate, since I have recently come into possession of quite a few unusual facts about the animal kingdom, from a book called ‘The Book of Useless Information,’ which is my favorite kind of information, and I wish to reveal these facts in this column. Many of these facts sound very similar to lies, so in the interest of accuracy, I’ll put the facts in parentheses, to differentiate them from the useless comments I have to make about them. If this gets confusing, well, tough noogies.
(There are six animals that have become extinct because of humans.) Of course, it sounds bad when you say it like that. (These animals are the dodo bird – 17th century, the European lion – first or second century, the passenger pigeon – 1914, the blue antelope – 17th century, the Alaskan prehistoric horse – several thousand years B.C., and the great auk – about 1844.) The pretty good auk was not mentioned in the book.
Now, you’ll notice that all of these animals were gone before I was born, so I can’t be blamed for their demise. And it really is a shame that humans caused them to disappear, but when you consider that (99.9 percent of all the species that have ever existed on earth are now extinct), we really don’t have all that bad a track record.
(Ostrich eggs are the largest of all eggs, but are the smallest in relation to the size of the bird.) This fascinates me, for some reason. Is the ostrich a slacker? Just think, if the ostrich were to lay an egg that was as big, in relation to its size, as the kiwi, (15 to 20 percent of the mother bird’s size), the eggs would be bigger than watermelons. You could paint watermelons white and sell them to gullible Yankees as ostrich eggs. Well, I could.
(The torpedo ray builds up an electric charge in its head, then grabs a small fish and zaps it with 200 volts.) This is considered rude in the fish world, and is the main reason the torpedo ray is never invited to fish parties.
(Unborn crocodiles make noises inside their eggs to alert the mother that it’s time for them to hatch.) This sounds unbelievable even to me. Why wouldn’t they just go ahead and hatch? The Book of Useless Information doesn’t elaborate. But then, I was warned by the title, I guess.
(The alacran tartarus scorpion has been found in caves as far as 2,600 feet below ground.) That’s good news, I guess, being as how the alacran tartarus scorpion is unlikely to sting me from way down there. The question, though, is who was poking around that far underground, and said, “Well, looky here. An alacran tartarus scorpion. I didn’t expect to see one of THOSE down here!”
(The female sand tiger shark has two womb chambers, and several eggs hatch in each. The embryos eat each other until only one shark survives in each chamber, then those two are born.) I think I know some people like that.
Killer whales, or orcas, like to eat baby seals. Everyone knows that, as unpleasant as it is for the seal huggers to admit. What you may not realize is that (orcas will actually beach themselves to feast on baby seals, and then worm their way back into the water.) This gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘eating out.’
(As little as .002 ounce of venom from the Australian small-scaled snake can kill several adult humans.) They would have to be several impressively stupid humans, to share that little drop of venom around, but there you go.
(The skin of some toads contain poison, which keeps other animals from eating them. Except for skunks – they roll the toads in wet grass to wipe off the poison.) You wouldn’t think that would work. But then, if you’re a skunk, I guess it wouldn’t matter much. They don’t get invited to any more parties than torpedo rays do.
(The African honey badger will fight anything or anyone at any time.) That may not be news to you if you’ve seen the YouTube video about the honey badger. What the book doesn’t say is that the honey badger doesn’t care about any of these other strange animal facts.
But then, honey badger don’t care about anything . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who did not make any of this column up. Well, not the parts in parentheses, anyway. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org