40 Surprising Facts About Animals

By: Samantha Parker | Published: Oct 09, 2021

In today’s world, the internet serves as our one-stop shop for information. Perhaps you’re one of those people who use it as their main source for learning. If so, and if you’re looking to add to your knowledge, then you stumbled upon the right place.

This article will uncover some surprising facts and quirks about wild and domestic animals that might surprise you. You will be amazed at just how much there is to know, and even more amazed by what you don’t know yet. Alongside all the common facts are a whole host of surprising and uncommon ones. We gathered 40 of these awesome facts to help spark curiosity about the animals who share the world with us.

1. Dolphins Call Each Other by Name

Dolphins are one of the most brilliant animals in the world, and they have a complex language system. They’re very friendly creatures that interact with other dolphins on a regular basis. Dolphins give each other names that take the form of different sounds, such as whistles or clicks.

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In the 1960s, scientists began to understand that dolphins had their own names. When dolphins heard their own signature whistle, they reacted in a way that made it apparent that they were being called. Further studies have shown that dolphins are the geniuses of the ocean. There are still so many interesting things we don’t know about them.

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2. Reindeer Eyes Can Change Color with the Season

Did you know that the color of reindeer eyes changes depending on the season? If not, here’s a fact: when it’s cloudy, snowy, or foggy out, reindeer have blue-gray eyes. When there is sunlight and clear skies, their eyes turn bright yellow. Wow!

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So, the next time you are outside in cold or warm weather, look closely at the eyes of the nearest reindeer. You will see that their eye color changes depending on what season it is. The change in eye color might also be related to an increase in blood vessels near the surface of the eyes.

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3. A Chicken Can Live Without a Head

Many years ago, a chicken survived decapitation. It not only survived but also remained conscious for 18 months afterward. This headless chicken, known as “Mike,” fascinated scientists. After studying Mike, they found that although his head had been chopped off, the brainstem had remained intact. This meant that Mike could still control his body.

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Since many of us couldn’t imagine life without a head, this information can be a bit disturbing. It turns out Mike was quite a special chicken. Although it’s true that most chickens can still breathe and move after decapitation, their lives usually don’t last too long.

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4. Snails Can Regenerate Their Eyes

One of the most fascinating animals in the world is the snail. Did you know that if a snail’s eye gets cut off, it will grow another one? Yes, it’s true. Snails can undergo regeneration to replace an eye lost to injury or predation. The question is, how?

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Here’s a quick science lesson: snails have an epithelial cell that produces a shallow cleft in the snail’s antenna. This process, called the invagination of epithelium cells, will go on to create a retina lens in about 14 days or so. 

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5. Oysters Can Change Their Gender

Can oysters really change their gender? In a word, yes. Although most oysters begin their lives as males, not all of them end it that way. When there aren’t enough females around to reproduce the species, the males will change into females to give birth to newborn oysters.

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Due to the oyster’s ability to change its gender in times of need, many people say that they’re an aphrodisiac. Although this belief might be common, science doesn’t support it. Yes, oysters contain some special minerals, but no, they won’t increase people’s libido.

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6. Cats Only Meow to Humans

Cats are pretty incredible pets that can be both loving and manipulative. They’ve developed a wide range of sounds to communicate with other cats, animals, and humans. One of their sounds, in particular, the meow, has been developed just for us.

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It’s a way to get our attention and, for some, to get our love. However, cats don’t meow at other cats or other animals. It’s their communication sound reserved just for humans.

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7. Starfish Have 5 Eyes

The starfish is a sea creature whose life provides an ocean of interesting facts. One of these is the fact that they have five eyes. You read that right, five eyes! Since most animals have two eyes, this makes the starfish quite a rare and unique creature.

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Starfish eyes aren’t in the spot we assume they would be. Many people would go about looking for a face or head and then search for the eyes somewhere nearby. For starfish, however, their five eyes are located on their five arms. One with more arms would have more eyes. Pretty cool, huh?

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8. Butterflies Taste Food Using Their Feet

Do you know how butterflies taste their food? It’s not with their tongues as we do. It’s with their feet! They use sensors on their feet to help them taste a flower. These special sensors pick up different chemicals and send flavor messages back to the butterfly brain.

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Butterflies also use these foot sensors to count how often they visit a flower to find nectar. Next time you see a butterfly walking around while enjoying some tasty nectar or fruit, you can rest assured that they’re tasting with their feet!

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9. Baby Horses Can Walk Hours after Birth

It takes human babies a few months to take their first steps. Horses, however, are much quicker. Only a few hours after being born, a baby horse can already stand up and head out for a run. They’re incredibly strong and resilient animals!

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The filly (or young female horse) pictured above is only an hour or so old. Yet despite her young age, she can already hold a steady pose and run along with her mother. As time goes on, she’ll grow even larger and run even faster.

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10. Rats Can Laugh

Have you ever considered tickling a rat? If you decide to go ahead with it, you might be surprised to learn that they laugh back at you. Yes, you read that right! Scientists have found that when rats are tickled on their belly and sides, they produce sounds much like laughter.

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It turns out that humans aren’t the only ones who can fall into a giggle fit when being tickled. Rats know how to share in the fun as well! After learning this, we feel like finding a rat ourselves and tickling their tummy to hear the little rat laughter that comes out.

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11. Grapes are Toxic to Dogs

I know what you’re thinking. Are all dogs allergic to grapes? Yes, they are. Grapes, unfortunately, are toxic to our four-legged friends. When dogs eat grapes, they can become very sick. In severe cases, they can even die.

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Although you might have watched your dog eat grapes without any severe symptoms, it’s most likely because they only ate a small amount that didn’t trigger their sensitivity to the fruit. To ensure your dogs’ safety, it’s best to avoid giving them the toxic fruit, or they might end up falling very ill.

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12. Bees Have Hair in Their Eyes

There are loads of interesting facts about bees. For example, bees see colors differently from us, they have five eyes, and they dance to communicate with others. Those are fairly well-known facts, but one that is a bit rarer is the fact that they have hair on their eyes.

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These little bits of eyeball hair are important to bees because they can lead them towards plants that need to be pollinated. Bees are immensely important in the process of plant growth. Sadly, however, many bee colonies are vanishing from the ecosystem.

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13. The Red Sweat of Hippos

Hippos don’t sweat in the same way humans do because they don’t have the same sweat glands as us. Instead, they have special glands that release a red oily fluid. As it rolls down their skin, it takes on a reddish color that’s often referred to as bloody sweat.

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This sticky fluid on the hippo’s body serves as a kind of skin protection against the intense heat. Sweat is a way for hippos to regulate their body temperature. Another way, which you commonly see, is for hippos to spend a lot of time hanging out in the water or mud to cool down.

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14. Cows Have Accents

Humans all over the world have been fascinated by cows for a very long time. Many people have wondered how these creatures manage to communicate with one another. The answer lies in the distinctive ways that they “moo.”

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Did you know that cows have different “moo accents”? A recent study from England found that the sound of the cow “moo” changed from north to south. In the north of England, the moo sounds a bit like “mow,” whereas in the south, it sounds like “maa.”

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15. Frogs Drink Water Through Their Skin

Frogs, like humans and plenty of other animals, love to drink water. This miraculous liquid helps keep our bodies functioning and healthy. However, frogs drink it in a far different way. Instead of sucking it up into their mouth, they absorb it through their skin.

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No wonder their skin is always moist! When they’re sitting out there by the stream, they’re also absorbing moisture directly into their bodies. It’s like a constant cool glass of H2O. Pretty impressive, huh? We kind of wish humans had that ability.

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16. Jellyfish Evaporate When Exposed to the Sun

Like dolphins and sharks and whales, jellyfish are meant to be in the sea. Their entire bodies are basically made up of water. When they get too close to the sun or when they get stranded on a beach, it leads to disaster. The water inside of them can evaporate, the cells can burst, and they can die.

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Jellyfish don’t have any bones or muscles (just lots of gooey stuff), so they can’t adjust their own body temperature as we do. They also don’t have blood – just a bunch of seawater with nutrients floating around inside!

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17. Chameleons Have the Longest and Most Powerful Tongue on Earth

I bet you didn’t know that the chameleon’s tongue is longer than its whole body. In fact, it can reach up to twice its length! The tongue is attached at the bottom of the mouth and has a sticky tip that’s coated with tiny hairs. This allows them to catch prey.

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When the chameleon does catch prey – mostly insects, crickets, and grasshoppers – they wrap their tongues around them and pull them back in. But what’s more surprising is that this amazing creature has the most powerful tongue on Earth! It’s unbelievable how this tiny creature can do so well.

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18. Chickens Evolved From Dinosaurs

Although chickens and dinosaurs might not look alike, one came from the other. That’s right – chickens are descendants of dinosaurs. More specifically, theropods (the dinosaur family to which the T. Rex belongs). It seems like all animals are related to one another in the great family tree of life.

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Chickens can be traced back to a feathery creature with legs that lived some 150 million years ago. Next time you sit down to eat fried chicken or chicken salad for dinner, just remember that it’s a really old creature from the past.

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19. Dogs Can Tell If a Person Has Cancer

Dogs are more than just loyal friends. They can also aid in the early detection of cancer. Of the different types of cancers, dogs have the ability to detect lung, breast, and prostate cancers with up to 97% accuracy.

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Of course, this doesn’t mean your pup has psychic powers or anything – it’s because dogs can sense chemicals in particular areas with dying cells. So when you notice your dog sniffing beside you or around your mouth, don’t brush off his strange behavior. Your dog might just be telling you something important.

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20. Penguins Are Loyal to Their Mate

You may have heard that penguins are loyal to their mate, which is true. However, this might not be what you think it means. Most penguins mate for life with the same partner, making nests together to hatch their eggs. They also take care of their chicks together!

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What’s more interesting is that a penguin’s caring nature is similar to many human parents. In some species, females will stay at home while males go out to fish. Other species, like the emperor penguins, have the male staying at home to watch the babies.

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21. Pandas Spend Most Of Their Days Eating

Pandas are a kind of bear that spends up to half their day eating. They eat all the time, yet they never seem to get full! These adorable creatures can’t help themselves when it comes to food. They love to snack on ants, termites, and bamboo. Especially bamboo!

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Pandas have an insatiable appetite for food, so if you happen to see one around, be sure not to offer them anything tempting. Chances are that they’ll take it from you and then come back for more.

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22. Sheep Pupils are Rectangular

Some people may not believe it, but goats and sheep have rectangular pupils. That’s right, the insides of their eyes are not circular like humans, but more like an elongated box. Although it might seem odd at first, it’s true.

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The strange shape of sheep pupils is the result of bright light coming in from the front and sides. It aids animals like sheep who are awake day and night and are prone to predators. The expanded rectangular pupils allow them to see better at night and prepare themselves for danger.

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23. Camels Can Survive Without Water for Several Months

When there’s no water around, the only mammal species that can survive for long without it is the camel. For us humans, going without water for a few days will quickly lead to disaster. For camels, however, they can chug along for up to seven months.

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The question is, how? Well, camels can do this by storing fat in their humps for an energy source. They also produce concentrated urine, which reduces the amount of liquid lost from their body. Apparently, these animals are geniuses when it comes to survival!

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24. Giraffes Only Sleep for Half an Hour

Giraffes are beautiful creatures, and many people love them because of their long necks and spotted patterns. We often see them lounging around to pass the time. But what we didn’t know is that these animals rarely fall asleep.

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Giraffes only doze off for about half an hour, usually in the late afternoon or early evening after eating. Can you imagine that? Humans need at least 6-8 hours of sleep to function well, but these majestic mammals need a whole lot less to go about their day.

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25. Mother Dolphins Sing to Their Unborn Babies

Dolphins are well-known for being intelligent sea creatures. But that’s not all they are known for. Alongside their smarts, dolphins have also proven to be exceptional mothers. For instance, mother dolphins hum to their babies to help them learn their language.

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Scientists have found that mother dolphins teach their ‘signature whistle’ to their unborn babies in the womb. It seems that dolphins familiarize their babies with the kind of world they will be born into. Being able to recognize different whistle sounds can help with survival.

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26. Squirrels Adopt Orphaned Relatives

Who would have thought that squirrels are surprisingly empathetic and altruistic? If you’re in need of a heartwarming discovery, we’ve got you covered. In a recent study, researchers discovered that squirrels adopt their orphaned relatives.

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The scientists found that when one of these rodents was given a new litter of babies to feed, it would also take care of the young who lost their mothers at some point during the year. This research proves once again that we have so much more to learn about our furry friends.

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27. The Oldest Tortoise on Earth

The oldest tortoise on earth is 188 years old and still going strong. The Aldabra Giant Tortoise, named Jonathan, lives on the island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean. Its long life makes him one of the oldest living creatures in the world!

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Even though he’s so old, his owner says that “he moves around well.” We’re not sure how much longer he’ll be able to keep up with all his traveling adventures, but for now, it’s clear that this guy is just too cool.

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28. Baby Elephants Suck on Their Trunks

We’re all familiar with babies sucking on their pacifiers or their thumbs. If you’ve ever wondered if there were animals out there that did the same, then you’re not alone! This information will end your curiosity.

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Though elephants don’t have thumbs, baby elephants use their trunk and mouth to suckle. This is a fascinating and strange thing that we all thought was just a myth. But it turns out that it’s true. The photo above adds to the proof.

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29. A Newborn Koala Is the Size of a Jellybean

The Australian Koala is one of the most famous animals in the world. They are adorably cute, fuzzy, and love to eat eucalyptus leaves. But what you might not know about this amazing animal is what size they are at birth. They’re small, like, incredibly small.

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Newborn koalas weigh less than a jellybean and fit comfortably in your hand. These precious babies will eventually grow up to 2 feet long but will never get any bigger than 30 pounds (13 kilograms). During their development, baby koalas reside in their mother’s pouch.

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30. Horses Prefer to Sleep While Standing

Contrary to what one might believe, horses don’t lie down when they sleep. They prefer to take naps while standing so they can be ready for any predators that try to sneak in for an attack. If they were lying down, it would be more difficult to get away. 

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Although some people might walk in their sleep, it’s not something that all humans do. Lying down is just a lot more relaxing and safe – many of us would fall over if we tried to sleep while standing. Horses are built in a particular way where that isn’t a problem.

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31. From Gray To Pink Feathers

As the saying goes, “you are what you eat.” A dramatic example of that is the flamingo. The flamingo’s pink color comes from their diet rather than some strange ability to manage their own color. Flamingos eat shrimp, crabs, snails, and other crustaceans that contain a red pigment called carotenoid.

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These carotenoids give off a reddish-orange to pink color, which then gets absorbed by the feathers on the flamingo’s body. Newborn flamingos, however, don’t have that pinkish color yet. They’re born grey and then, through eating, take on that pink hue.

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32. The Hunting Lioness

Male lions have been historically perceived as masculine hunters, but it turns out that female lions do almost all of the hunting for their pride. Male lions may occasionally kill an animal, but they can’t bring it back to the group without help from the females.

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That’s because male lions spend most of their time on security detail, making sure the territory is safe. Lionesses, in turn, are the skilled, stealthy, and agile hunters able to bring home food to the cubs. Their fierce power is pretty impressive. Way to go!

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33. Prairie Dogs Greet Each Other With a Kiss

Prairie dogs, like humans, are very social animals. Whenever they pass by each other, they can’t help but stop for a greeting or two. But unlike some human cultures that go for a handshake or a hug, prairie dogs are more intimate. They go for a kiss.

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Their kiss is a bit different than most human kisses, though. Instead of mouth to mouth, prairie dogs like to rub their noses together and lock their teeth. This little ground squirrel found in North America and Mexico is just too cute.

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34. Bat’s Give Birth Upside Down

Bats are known to hang upside a lot, but do they do everything in that position? It seems so. When a female bat is about to give birth, she hangs upside down on a branch or cave ceiling. Shortly after, the baby bat is born, and the mom catches it before it falls to the ground.

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Afterward, the baby hangs onto its mother’s body until they’re strong enough to fly independently. Pretty remarkable, huh? You might be wondering what it would be like if humans could do that. Or you might not. Either way, we can’t and it’s best to leave it to the bats. 

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35. Nonstop Growing of Beaver’s Teeth

Beavers are known for their large front teeth. These teeth help them cut down trees and build up dams with sticks, branches, and mud. This process creates ponds on land where they can store water for the winter months. Genius!

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All that chewing can damage their teeth, but luckily, beaver teeth never stop growing.  What happens if they get too big? It rarely happens because the hard material that beavers are always chewing on slows down the growth.

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36. Hummingbirds Can Fly Backwards

Hummingbirds are amazing flyers that can flap their wings at incredibly fast speeds. Alongside that, they have a unique support joint that allows them to move in any direction – up, down, front, or back. They can also hover in place.

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How they feed off nectar from flowers is also fascinating. Using their long beaks like a plastic straw, hummingbirds manage to suck out the sweet liquid! Next time you come across this magnificent creature in a garden somewhere, spend some time admiring how great of a flyer it is.

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37. Porcupines Have 30,000 Quills for Defense

In the wild, porcupines are usually found in wooded areas and near bodies of water. The length of their body ranges 24 to 36 inches and weighs anywhere from 10 to 35 pounds. Their quills, one of their most unique features, helps to protect them from predators. When they’re threatened, the quills release!

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A porcupine has up to 30,000 quills with 5-inch barbs! That’s enough to make larger animals like a dog or a wolf think twice before attacking. If you’re thinking of getting up close and personal with one of these unique little creatures, it’s best to take some advice from the dogs and wolves and stay away.

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38. Ostrich Eyes Are As Big As Billiard Balls

The ostrich is the largest and fastest two-legged bird in the world, and its eyes are no exception. Its eyes have a diameter similar to that of the average billiard ball! That makes them nearly impossible to ignore.

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The large size of the ostrich eyeball allows it to live on land. These eyes have photoreceptor cells that help to spot predators that are approaching from a distance. So if you ever find yourself nearby, just be warned that this bird will see you coming from far away. 

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39. Sheep Outnumber People in New Zealand

New Zealand is well-known for its sheep-loving culture. Therefore, it shouldn’t be too big of a surprise to learn that there are more sheep than people. The country has just over 4 million people. How many sheep are in New Zealand? At least 26 million. Woah!

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The exact number of sheep changes from year to year. This is due to droughts and other factors that cause farmers to decide to butcher their livestock. It seems a bit creepy, though, to think just how much sheep outnumber humans on that small island.

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40. Great White Sharks Need to Move to Breathe

Although many people are scared of all sharks, not all sharks are made equal – especially when it comes to breathing. Nurse sharks and tiger sharks can stop moving or even bury themselves in the seafloor and still breathe. Other sharks aren’t so lucky.

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Great white sharks (as well as whale sharks and mako sharks) can’t stay still and breathe. They need to keep moving with their mouth open to allow water to pass through their gills. So although not all sharks need to move constantly, great whites certainly do.

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