Freaks of Nature

By Matt Seek | June 1, 2014
From Xplor: June/July 2014

Some of nature’s creatures are just plain... freaky. But, the features we think look weird are often what help animals survive.

Prairie Mole Cricket

With their freakish feet, prairie mole crickets can’t jump like their cricket cousins. But, boy can they dig. They spend most of their lives tunneling underground, except during mating season. That’s when females fly around to mate and lay eggs. Males can’t fly. Their wings are made to sing. By rubbing their wings together, males make chirping sounds that females find irresistible. Males also dig special, trumpet-shaped tunnels. The tunnels make their love chirps sound louder, which helps attract more females.

Slender Glass Lizard

This lizard lacks legs. But make no mistake, it’s not a snake. It can blink and wink, which snakes can’t do — they don’t have eyelids. Glass lizards have ear holes. Snakes don’t. And, when attacked, glass lizards shed their long tails, a freaky feat no snake could do. The tail breaks into pieces — that’s why they’re called glass lizards — and squirms around. This distracts predators, giving the now-shorter lizard time to wiggle away.

Nine-Banded Armadillo

What has ears like a rabbit, a shell like a turtle, and is about the size of a chubby house cat? It’s the nine-banded armadillo, one of Missouri’s freakiest mammals. An armadillo’s back is covered with tough, leatherlike skin. This armor is perfect for predator protection, but it’s heavy. To cross narrow streams, armadillos hold their breath and walk along the bottom. To cross wide rivers, an armadillo gulps air until its stomach blows up like a balloon. Then it floats across.


Some folks call bowfins “dogfish.” That’s because their mouths are packed to the gills with sharp teeth that look like a dog’s canines. But that’s not the only thing that makes this fish freaky. Bowfins can breath air! In fact, they can survive out of the water for quite some time. Farmers have found live bowfins buried in plowed fields that had been flooded a few weeks earlier.

And More...

This Issue's Staff

Brett Dufur
Les Fortenberry
Karen Hudson
Regina Knauer
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
Tim Smith
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White