AS HUMANS, WE OFTEN SEE OURSELVES AS THE FOREFRONT OF EVOLUTIONARY DEVELOPMENT. After all, we have consciousness, global communication, and pizza with cheese in the crust. But there are some animals with abilities so amazing you have to wonder if we aren’t the ones who are a bit behind in the evolutionary race.
1. The Naked Mole Rat
The naked mole rat is a burrowing creature from East Africa. These critters are the only known mammals who can’t contract the big C. The stark naked mole rat has a life expectancy of several decades, yet scientists who study them have never seen them catch cancer.
To study the effects, scientists injected buck naked mole rats with cancer. That’s an important thing to remember: Don’t screw with scientists, they can give you cancer. The point is, they discovered that party naked mole rats have two special genes which inhibit the growth of cancerous cells. These creatures are wired to stop cancer.
From the looks of it, another danger they won’t have to worry about is over-adoption.
What makes this extra-bizarre is the fact that humans share one of these two genes, but the human version of the gene does nothing to inhibit cancer. Other animals probably look at humans as genetically lazy freeloaders.
That’s not the only freaky thing about the naked mole rat. According to research, it can’t feel pain from acid burns. So the idea of a naked mole rat falling into a vat of acid, then becoming Batman’s arch-enemy, is totally viable.
2. Mandrill Monkeys
Mandrill monkeys are baboon-like creatures that enjoy African rainforests. We assume they also have massive monkey orgies, because these monkeys don’t get A.I.D.S.
No doubt she is confused about the meaning of the musical, Rent.
To test the resiliency of Mandrills, scientists gave them simian immunodeficiency virus, which is the monkey form of H.I.V. We hope that the scientist involved gave the monkeys S.I.V. with an injection and not, you know, with his penis.
After studying the infected Mandrill, researchers concluded that, not only was the monkey immune to A.I.D.S., but also the S.I.V. didn’t make it noticeably sick. You’d think that something called an “infected man drill” would be more sexually dangerous, but no.
IMMUNITY: BACTERIAL INFECTION
Studying crocodiles in the wild, naturalists repeatedly observed a weird phenomenon. First of all, they noticed crocodiles getting into vicious territory battles. This, in itself, wasn’t phenomenal: Crocodiles are mean, huge predators whose bodies are like two-thirds weaponized. What was interesting to researchers is that, after getting torn up in a fight, crocodiles would waddle back into the bacteria-infested swamp.
They’re fighting over who gets spotlighted in a nature documentary.
If your regular human animal were to enter an average swamp with huge gashes over their skin, they would be extremely susceptible to infection. In fact, if they didn’t die within days, their skin would develop huge sores and infected patches, making them look a bit like a swamp monster. Yeah. We’d rather be the bottom in a nightclub restroom full of Mandrill monkeys.
But crocodiles can apparently get away with hanging out in infected water with huge flesh wounds just fine. This is because crocodiles have immune systems which send chemicals to attach to bacteria and burst. Both useful and, we imagine, gross-looking.
But that’s not all of the ninja skills possessed by a croc’s immune system. Scientists have also discovered that crocodiles can actually kill the H.I.V. virus. In hope of finding a cure, scientists have been sticking needles into the sinuses of wild crocodiles, which makes Steve Irwin’s feats pale in comparison.
Perhaps no animal has a greater superpower than the Turritopsis nutricula, a relative of the jellyfish. According to scientists, it can regenerate cells throughout its entire body, the net result? Immortality.
This hydrozoan, when it starts to get old or threatened, pretty much reverts back to its infant stage. We think this is pretty cool, but are horrified at the ramifications of humans having this power. Baby boomers, after having drained all of our resources for the elderly, will all become helpless babies and drain all of those resources, too.
So. Many. Diapers.
IMMUNITY: SNAKE VENOM
We could just say, “snakes,” because the mongoose has a bunch of crazy snake-killing superpowers. Technically, it’s not totally immune to snake venom: Sometimes it even needs to go take a nap before going back to eat the snake it killed. Scientists say this is because mongooses have unique muscle receptors that repel venom.
But, like we said, that’s just one of the mongoose’s magic snake-catching tricks. It has a thick, snakebite-resistant coat, and is quite nimble at hunting even ten-foot king cobras. It’s even been rumored that the beady red eyes of the mongoose can stare down a snake, even freezing it.
This is about as badass as nature gets.
IMMUNITY: A LOT OF THINGS
It’s been claimed that sharks are immune to every known disease. While this is ultimately a myth, it is grounded in the reality that shark’s have a uniquely amazing resistance to ailments. For humans, our immunities are frequently developed through adaptation. If we are exposed to a small sickness or virus, we generally develop immunities to larger ones. That’s why people only have chicken pox once, and such. Sharks, however, don’t seem to have this adaptability at all. They are just naturally immune to many viruses and infections.
It’s only worry? Severe overbite.
After extensive study, scientists speculate that this is due to a chemical called squalamine that is produced in a shark’s liver. This chemical is believed to have anti-viral properties that allow a shark to be so naturally resistant and (we assume) carefree.
Animal superpowers are exciting, but it’s even more exciting to think that one day we could develop these powers, too. After all, these are all evolutionary, and we all evolved from the same one-celled organisms. Maybe in a few dozen million years we’ll all be immortal, disease-proof beings capable of miracles with our bare hands (and we will have have twenty of them). Or, maybe we’ll evolve the ability to auto-fellate. And then humanity will die out, blissfully exhausted.