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Published on September 29th, 2017 | by voxx


Cleverly Adapted Animals

Just when you think things can’t get stranger, nature proves you wrong. I personally love the quirky evolution of nature that allows us to see how intricate certain adaptations are.

With the need to brace harsh winters, treeless tundras, and water deprived deserts, it’s actually no surprise with this wide variety of conditions that wildlife has had to become a little strange every now and again. There are even conditions in areas of the world such as ‘Atacama Desert’ where organisms on a microscopic level cannot survive. I found this to my surprise out after watching a Top Gear Bolivia special episode in which Jeremy Clarkson insinuates that Richard Hammond was ‘the smallest living organism for miles’.

The Mediterranean waters are home to two feats of nature that are truly astounding. As examples of creatures with super-hero-esque abilities, this is definitely one for the comic book fans. Thealpheidae family of shrimps are typically referred to as ‘pistol shrimps’. They may sound a bit underwhelming on the surface but they actually have a rather brilliant ability.

They are small creatures, typically ranging from 1-2 inches in body length, but they are equipped with one claw that is unusually large in comparison to its small body frame. It is only equipped with one claw of this type, where the other is ‘normal-sized. As you have probably guessed, the larger claw is not your typical pincer, and is essential to the shrimp’s lifestyle. If this claw is broken, it regenerates on its other side.

what is the purpose of this claw? It is designed to snap in a particular fashion that allows the shrimp to create a stream of cavitation bubbles which target foes and can stun unfortunate victims. It is therefore a large advantage in the life of survival on the ocean bed (It’s a basically a real life version of the hunger games down there). The enormous pressure created from the snap causes a sound that is reportedly louder than a bullet firing from a gun. The resulting shockwave momentarily makes the surrounding waters reach exceedingly high temperatures above 4,500 degree Celsius, which is the approximate surface temperature of the sun. When two pistol shrimps meet toe to toe they compete with one another to see who can make the loudest popping noise from the claw snap.

They are consequently crowned as being both one of the loudest marine creatures and one of the most fearsome.

While the pistol shrimp seems to have great offensive capabilities, the ‘Turritopsis dohrnii’, more commonly known as the ‘immortal jellyfish’, has the ability to, as the name suggests, self-sustain itself for a great period. First discovered in the 1880’s, it has been found that upon reaching its adult form, once it has reproduced, it will revert back to a state of sexual immaturity, which appears to be its secret to its extensive longevity. This occurs on a cellular level in a process called transdifferentiation, and it’s only once it has reproduced that it changes back to its ‘polyp’, or its initial state, taking a confusing back step in its development, which is highly different to any other creature.

Their physical condition also changes during this process as their tentacles shrink and their bodies decrease in size. They then embed themselves into the ocean floorin order to start the cycle again. The species have been observed to regularly go through this course of change in a continuous ‘to and fro’ motion of transformation which allows them to practically live immortal lives. The only known conditions in which this cycle is broken is either through disease or if a predator decides to strike and consume the jellyfish.

It is amazing to think that as creatures that don’t tend to exceed an adult width of a mere 4.5mm, have such a profound mechanism. Of course, this find has intrigued scientists the world over but there has been no breakthrough in regard to harnessing the principle of immortality on a meaningful level. Nature can be beautiful, but also alarmingly strange and downright weird.

- By Steven Keane

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