A gator will never stick out its tongue at you

By Judie Farnsworth

April Fools Day is near. Facts sometimes seem like foolishness, but then, fact is often stranger than fiction.

Through the years, I’ve come across bits of information that make me wonder, “Who figured this out and, more notably, why?” Some discoveries were probably inadvertently made while studying related subjects. Others, a praying mantis has only one ear, don’t take much figuring.

Want to impress your friends or maybe spend a lot of time alone? Join a group at the next party and exclaim, “Honeybees have hair on their eyeballs!” I expect this is quite important to a honeybee, although hardly a life-changing statement for you and me. Nifty little facts like this can and do spur interest to investigate further. That’s where the fascination starts.

I looked into several claims and found the basis for some a bit of a stretch. I also found some myths. A duck’s quack does echo, a mosquito does not have 47 teeth, a goldfish does have a memory longer than 3 seconds and a leech does not have 32 brains.

I took a quick, unscientific, glance at a few more. They seemed to have a basis in reality, although I admit I didn’t dig for flawless credentials. If you doubt chickens that lay brown eggs have red ear lobes, please feel free to check it out.

A crocodile cannot stick its tongue out. It’s firmly attached to the bottom of their mouth.

The scent membranes in a dog’s nose, if unfolded, can cover an area greater than the dog’s whole body. Dogs have about 900 square inches of nasal membrane – humans have 65.

A giraffe can clean its ears with its tongue. The tongue is 18 to 20 inches long.

Catfish are the only animals that naturally have an odd number of whiskers.

The average garden-variety caterpillar has 248 muscles in its head.

Pigs can cover a mile in 7.5 minutes when running at top speed.

Some ribbon worms will eat themselves if they can’t find any food. They can survive after eating 95 percent of their body weight.

Elephants are the only animals that can’t jump.

A flamingo can eat only when its head is upside down.

When a flea jumps, lift-off is so rapid that the flea reaches peak acceleration of 140 Gs – more than 30 times that of astronauts during the launch of the Saturn 5 moon rocket.

If a shark doesn’t continually swim, it will sink. It doesn’t have a swim bladder.

The longest verified recorded flight of a chicken is 13 seconds and 301.5 feet (disputed by someone with a lively puppy).

Beetles taste like apples, wasps like pine nuts, and worms like fried bacon. (Disputed – beetles taste like peanuts, according to some) Do your own homework!

One cow gives off 100 to 500 liters of methane gas in a single day. Question: “Do cows pollute more than cars?” I just read five pages on the subject – yes indeed I did. It’s actually quite fascinating and helped me understand why someone would study this.

Fact or fiction, April Fool or April Aha, the natural world is an amazing place and anything but dull!

Judie Farnsworth is a longtime volunteer at the Texas Zoo specializing in educational programs.

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