40+ Strange Things In Nature That Make Us Appreciate The World Even MoreBy Sachin P
In our day-to-day lives, we’re surrounded by man-made structures. From the beds we wake up in, to the vehicles that transport us to work, it’s easy to forget that there’s a world outside artificial structures. But nature is around us, both within our constructed bubbles and along the edges of our world. For some of us, we get to see this in our environment, while others rely on pictures shared online.
One Facebook group, The Fabulous Weird Trotters, has made it their mission to compile images that are gorgeous and perplexing. They post photographs of Mother Nature’s “often strange, more often than not fantastic, and always fantastic crazy” expressions regularly. From plants with faces to eerie ghost lights, the page regularly shared cool photographs with its 1.3 million followers. Here’s a sample of the cool stuff you can find on their page.
All images in this article are courtesy of The Fabulous Weird Trotters on Facebook.
The chrysalis of the Metallic Mechanitis Butterfly
Animals have some of the most creative defense mechanisms for avoiding predators, but hidden in the South American rainforests resides a caterpillar with a bizarre escape strategy. This creature creates a chrome chrysalis to survive its predators; Mechanitis, or the tigerwing butterfly, is the architect.
It lays eggs inside this reflective palace. While it may appear that such ostentatious living quarters would make this animal vulnerable to predation, the reverse is true. As the chrome housing reflects light at an unprecedented level, it’s really hard for predators to locate them.
Mary River Turtle
This odd turtle belongs to the cloaca-breathing turtle family, which breaths underwater using specialized ducts in its sex organs. Yeah, this turtle does breathe through its nether regions! This adaptation enables it to stay underwater for up to a whopping three days.
The Mary River turtle is a big freshwater turtle found only in Queensland, Australia, and is native to the Mary River — hence the name. Before the 1990s, they were almost exclusively found in pet shops in Australia. But in 1994, the Mary River turtle was finally officially classified as a new species.
The nest of a bald eagle
When bald eagle nests become too large, it can cause the host tree to fall over, particularly when snowfall or rains add to their burden. In addition, if the plant’s condition worsens, it may no longer be able to support a giant bald eagle nest, just like in this picture.
As a result, eagles may be driven to build a new nest in a larger tree. And this hefty home is built using their beak. If that doesn’t make birds seem to like the most remarkable things on this earth, we can’t be friends.
Thin-film interference on a lace bug wing
The patterns on a lace bug’s wings are perplexing, but science has the answer. They’re known as “structural colors.” They occur due to the microscopic architecture of the wings, not from any pigment. Most of the light that strikes the wings passes right through; however, about 20% snaps back.
After traveling through the thin layer, some bounces off the upper layer, while the remainder bounces off the bottom layer. The bug can refract a spectrum from its wings by altering the width of the membrane. This is referred to as “thin-film interference.”
Ents in love
It almost looks like the lovely embrace of a couple — if the couple happened to be Ents, the mythological tree shepherds of the forest of Fangorn. Finding an Entwoman is hard but it seems that this particular specimen was lucky.
The arrangement of branches conveys a barrage of emotions you can’t actually find outside the pages of a poem, book, or movie script. Who wouldn’t love to be embraced like this by their loved ones? It’s the best feeling in the world.
Through the ruins, rises a new life
Trees are among the hardiest organisms — especially when it comes to finding ways to thrive. In the most inhospitable places on this earth, you might find a tree trying to edge in. And we’re not just talking about extreme climates. Check out this determined tree…
The decay of this old tree provided enough nutrients for this new tree — possibly an Ash tree — to rise and thrive. This is one of the best examples one can give when it comes to how cyclic nature is.
For woodland explorers and botanists, fungi are a source of inspiration, excitement, and risk. Researchers have just shed light on how fungi glow in the darkness. On the planet, there are presently around 80 kinds of bioluminescent fungi. The mystical chemical oxyluciferin is the main culprit here.
Oxyluciferin is what makes these fungi glow like alien creatures. The luciferins present in bioluminescent fungi seem to be the same compound present in fireflies and other aquatic animals that are bioluminescent. Bioluminescence draws hordes of insects, which mushrooms need to distribute their spores.
Rainbow-hued spider web
No, rainbow spiderwebs don’t exist. Interaction of sunlight with arrays of small, adhesive drops on the web strands produces shimmering colors. Wave interference (light acts both as waves and as particles) expands the distributed sunlight, allowing the colors to coincide, creating this incredible explosion of colors.
A ray of sunlight traveling through the air and into a water drop suffers from refraction, which causes a direction change that is distinct for every electromagnetic wavelength. The colors are richer than the much more metallic colors linked with sunlight diffraction because there is little overlapping with big raindrops.
This colorful beauty is known as the “love tree,” “Mediterranean redbud,” or “Judas Tree.” The name “Judas Tree” originates from the legend that after betraying Jesus, Judas Iscariot strung himself by this species of tree. This can also be a misinterpretation of the French generic term Arbre de Judée.
Arbre de Judée translates to mean the “tree of Judea” and refers to the mountainous regions of that nation where the tree was once prevalent. Etymology and legends aside, one has to take some time aside to appreciate the raw beauty of this tree.
Glass Gem Corn
Like so many other hereditary marvels, Glass Gem corn has a backstory. Carl Barnes, a part-Cherokee farm owner in Oklahoma, is credited as the inventor. Barnes had an extraordinary ability to breed corn. He was particularly skilled at choosing and preserving seeds.
It’s hard to say how long Barnes toiled on Glass Gem, or even how many cycles he painstakingly selected, stored, and replanted these unique seedlings. All that work led to the end product being these beautiful, colorful, iridescent corn cobs.
The golden spiral anyone?
When you look at this fiddlehead fern, the famed Fibonacci Spiral comes to mind. If you don’t know what it is, the Fibonacci Spiral is a type of graph which is used to compute and communicate the Fibonacci numbers’ rhythms. And this isn’t some mathematical theory…
Fibonacci numbers and spirals can be found in nature — from the blossoming and architecture of a single flower to the cosmos. Mathematics has a bad rep because of bad teaching practices but it is truly the language of science.
Wispy rainbow clouds
The phenomenon of cloud iridescence can result in a rainbow cloud — altocumulus, cirrocumulus, lenticular, and cirrus clouds are the most common. Diffraction occurs whenever tiny water or ice particles in the atmosphere deflect the sun’s light, which causes iridescent clouds.
Cloud iridescence is a rare occurrence. The cloud has to be narrow and includes a large number of water particles or ice particles of similar size. When this occurs, the sun’s rays only come into contact with a few drops at a time.
Sauron’s Eye? No, just an heirloom black carrot nebula
With such an intense purple color, this carrot has become one of the darkest (and most antioxidant-rich) carrots currently available. Roots are delicious, beautifully textured, and have a trace of wild berry essence. It’s the kind of vegetable you would expect to do wonders!
This is liable to send you on a vision quest. Just look at the patterns inside! It’s like the breeder managed to condense an entire star cluster or a galaxy into it. As far as aesthetically pleasing vegetables go, this should be at least within the top five.
Helleborus black beauty flower
Now, this would be the apple of Hades’ eye; his most prized flower in his garden of doom. The Helleborus black beauty is the best parting gift for his beloved Persephone because this blooms before the start of the spring, right before she departs to the surface.
During late winter and early spring, a semi-evergreen cluster produces this pretty perennial. There are around 20 varieties of this genus, but we think the Black Beauty is the most stunning. We don’t usually see pure black flowers, which makes this special.
Nightmare before Fishmas
Skeleton Panda Sea Squirts are supposedly a species in the class Ascidians. We say “supposedly” because there is online debate about whether these are Photoshopped. Regardless of their veracity, sea squirts — which are real — are pretty cool creatures.
They are sessile, which means that one half of their bodies will always be securely anchored to a stable surface layer. Two apertures can be found on the animal’s “top half.” When the creature is taken out of the water, it often aggressively ejects water from either of these siphons, earning it the nickname “sea squirt.”
Rainbow in a rock
Fluorite, sometimes known as fluorspar, is a calcium fluoride mineral, meaning it is classified as a halide mineral. Fluorite is brightly colored and can be seen in both ultraviolet and visible light, and it is stunning both in its uncut and refined forms.
It also has industrial uses, such as a smelting flux in metallurgy and in the manufacturing of some glasses and enamels. But it’s not the mineral itself that’s useful; it’s the fluorine and fluoride trapped inside. But with a little sulfuric acid, usable fluorine/fluoride is released.
Cotton candy flower
Geum reptans, also known as Creeping Avans, look like something concocted by Dr. Suess, but we assure you that these are real flowers. They are part of the rose family, but you’d never guess that just by looking at the mouth-watering cotton candy.
What you see here isn’t actually the flower. These puffy pink spindles are seedheads that are only produced after the flower has wilted. There are plenty of cool wildflowers all over the world, but you probably won’t stumble upon these unless you’re in Central Asia or Europe.
Pulled a sneaky on ya!
Orchids possess comprehensive flowers because they have each male and female component. However, with a huge family like this, deviations from the norms are inevitable. Take, for example, orchids from the Catasetum genus. The 166 species are unique because they aren’t hermaphroditic.
That’s right. There are male and female blooms. Furthermore, these orchids are sexually dimorphic, meaning that there is a visible difference between males and females. Of course, what we find stunning is the “face” smiling back from these flowers. Cool and creepy, huh?
Saturniidae moth catepillar
When it comes to showing amazing variations, moth caterpillars are in the top spots. Just look at this particular specimen right here. This caterpillar belongs to the family of Saturniidae moths. It’s like an artist went wild on these creatures.
All those colorful barbs aren’t for the aesthetic. They can deliver a powerful dose of chemicals that can leave you scratching like a madman for hours or, in rare cases, can lead to more severe conditions. So it is always better to exercise precautions around these caterpillars.
Flounders are born with normal eye placement — one eye on each side — and they swim upright, not sideways. However, as the larvae mature into adults, their bodies change their movement pattern to move laterally. One half of its body darkens, whereas the other will become the light underbelly of an adult fish.
They add muscle and tissue to the area below one of the eyes. The eyeball is pushed through by the growing muscle fibers, which move it over the cranium. This allows them a good POV for spotting predators. But that shocked face looks like this flounder was caught unawares.
Spot me if you can!
The satanic leaf-tailed gecko pushes the concept of concealment to ridiculous new heights. It has eyebrow spikes that resemble prickly sticks, for starters. It has artificial grooves on its body that resemble leaf veins, and there are blobs of green all over its back that mimic fungi and mosses.
Finally, it seems to have a tail that resembles a rotting leaf. If a predator manages to make a meal out of this guy, then it’s a true hunter. Talk about putting all your focus and skill points on camouflage!
Web design malfunction
So, NASA did a test documenting the effects of certain chemicals on spiders. One of the chemicals used was caffeine, which can be found in coffee, tea, and chocolate. Of course, they also used illicit substances in the experiment. But how do you track spiders’ reactions?
Their webs, of course! If we reel back to caffeine, it prevents spiders from weaving anything more complex beyond just a few strands put with each other at random. So that begs the question, what was this spider taking when it built this?
These magnificent oceanic beasts, which may measure up to 200 pounds and vary in length from six to eleven feet, are named “sailfish.” And for a good reason. They get their name from its large sail-like dorsal fin, which looks a lot like a ship’s sail.
The sail of these fish often stretches the whole length of the actual animal, making it an amazing spectacle to witness. This also enables them to attain unbelievable bouts of speed (clocking in at 68 mph), cutting through the salt water like a hot knife through butter.
“A sunflower by any other color…”
There is something unique about a flower that is pitch black like this. We are inadvertently invoking a bit of a goth vibe here, but you cannot deny the attraction it holds. Why? Well, mainly because you’re so used to seeing it yellow.
The same concept applies to animals, too. Leopards and jaguars are one of the best examples of melanistic creatures. They are impressive in their own right, but the moment they become a single dark color, they become even more alluring.
Free honey, anyone?
First, make absolutely sure it’s a hive of honeybees, not wasps. A colony of wasps could well be mistaken for honeybees from afar. Secondly, don’t damage or spray insecticides on the brood! Even pest management firms would not harm bee hives.
Why? Because bees are important pollinators! If it is a honeybee hive, call a beekeeping organization, and they’ll easily put you in touch with local beekeepers who might be able to assist you in relocating the hive, or at least counsel you about what to do.
Om nom nom nom!
So, what gives? How can a solid structure like a tree root do something like this? Well, did you know that there are delicate hairs surrounding the tree roots, which can determine whether or not such a tree can grow significantly in a specific direction?
Between the roots and the soil, there’s a calcium absorption loop. Once the loop is interrupted when a barrier interrupts the hair’s route, expansion begins in a different area and direction. Tree roots may sense obstacles and navigate over them in such a way.
If blending in was an art…
Wait! Are we seeing things, or does this flower have limbs? Not only that, but it’s moving! Check out this female orchid praying mantis, a Southeast Asian bug that imitates the appearance of a blossom in order to lure food.
Females show little resemblance to males, noticeably in size and color, with petal-like limbs and a yellow or pale pink tint. Males are roughly half the size and have a drab, greenish-brown hue. Though they don’t stay that color for long as the females notoriously feast on their mates.
Like a sheet of beaten gold…
The golden tortoise beetle has quite a spherical body structure and is around the same size as ladybug beetles (which are about 5-6 mm in length). Their body appears hemispheric, featuring flattened portions at the borders, making them look like a bushy hat.
When disturbed, they can squeeze themselves closely to the leaf’s surface, protecting all limbs beneath them, similar to how a tortoise can retreat within its carapace. All that won’t mask the fact that this animal looks like a sheet of beaten gold. So beautiful!
Fishing for compliments
The bird-watching fans among you know the appeal and the burden kingfishers bring with them. These compact birds are among the most splendidly feathered birds in the avian kingdom when you consider their size. Even the two-toned pied kingfisher looks incredibly suave.
The thing with these birds is that the smaller they get, the more blinged up they look. For example, just look at this Blue-eared kingfisher. Look how pimped out it looks, with all those brilliant blues and oranges mixing in perfect harmony.
Behold! My bling!
Peacock spiders are little (ranging from 2-6 mm) jumping spiders that belong to the Maratus genus, which can only be found in the land down under. Males have brightly colored tummies and lengthened 3rd limbs that seem to be brown/black and frequently capped with white bristles.
These guys are one of the most beautiful arachnids you will ever come across. Their mating ritual is something that words cannot do justice to. Let’s just say that they don’t get the name “peacock spider” from their color alone.
A lovely leaning tower
The picture of a soaring, stunning, and distinctive Echium wildpretii, also known as the “tower-of-jewels,” just wouldn’t match the beauty of seeing one up close. The small, light pink blossoms on this plant, which rise about seven feet in height, are what make it appealing.
The Canary Islands, notably the island of Tenerife, are home to the tower of jewels. It must have been quite the rush of emotions when the person who discovered this first saw it bloom. Like most of the entries in this list, this is breathtaking.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a…squirrel?
The giant flying squirrel is prevalent in South Asia, with populations spread over the Himalayan mountains, China, Sri Lanka, India, and other Southeast Asian countries. They can also be found on the Malay Peninsula and in Taiwan. Though, we have an important disclaimer about the flying squirrel…
They do not fly, technically. They glide with the help of a stretched skin membrane that connects their limbs together. Kind of like that scene in The Batman where he glides down from the GCPD building? A giant gliding squirrel would be a more appropriate name.
When these three fallow deers were wandering along the trail, the click of the photographer’s equipment drew their interest. That’s when wildlife photographer Renatas Jakaitis caught this accidental encounter. The deer seemed to be one body with three remarkably similar heads as if it were an optical phenomenon.
Kind of like Cerberus, the three-headed guard dog of the underworld and Hades’ pet. Do you all remember Fluffy from Harry Potter? It’s the same mythical creature. Instead of guarding the entrance to the underworld, this creature seems to be protecting the secrets of the forest.
The Soft Monkey Tail cactus, formally known as the Hildewintera Colademononis, is a member of the cactus plant family. Its origins can all be found in the Bolivian region of Santa Cruz. It is epilithic, which means it grows either between sheer cliffs…
…or dangling above that of a forest below in its natural environment. The form and structure of the plant’s branches, which resemble a monkey’s tail, are most likely the source of its name. One look at a langur monkey’s tail, and you know it to be true.
How’re you doing?
When you think of an insect, what image comes to mind? Probably some tiny critter with wings, and maybe a pair of antennae. But there’s a whole other world of bugs that we can’t see with our eyes alone. So, what do our insect friends look like from their point of view?
This photographer got up close and personal with a longhorn beetle. If it freaks you out, don’t worry. These insects are only harmful to plant matter. Fun fact: Cerambycidae, the family name of the longhorn beetle, comes from Greek mythology.
“Long it grows in the tombs of my forebears”
The Monotropa uniflora, also known as the ghost plant, can reach a height of 10 to 30 centimeters. Its scientific name comes from monotropa, meaning single twist, and uniflora, meaning one flowered. This makes sense given that the plant’s flowers grow as single stalks.
The etymology of its common name should be pretty obvious. The entirety of the flower is translucent, “ethereal” white, with black flecks, and can sometimes be light pinkish-white. We’d imagine finding a flower like this in desolate places associated with sorrow — like the Simbelmynë from The Lord of the Rings.
Buff Laced Polish chickens are a fairly unusual variety. These European chickens are recognized for having prominent crests, or “top hats.” Polish chickens are kind and gentle, but their crests restrict their sight, making them fearful and easy to spook.
It’s hard to take this bird seriously. It looks like a grumpy pillow that got its feathers ruffled — literally! As a predator, we wouldn’t be able to stop laughing, but we’re sure prey feel pretty intimidated by this poofy bird.
The Idalus herois moth
So, what we have here is a species of tiger moth. Now it is quite the striking specimen! But it’s not just the colors that make it fascinating. Have a look at its back and let pareidolia do its thing.
Yeah, you guessed it right! It’s a clown face! Wait, does this mean that this is some sort of a morph of the evil clown IT? Well, this totally figures if there is a phobia that targets people’s fear of moths.
This extraterrestrial-looking species is native to the southern hemisphere and it was originally identified in 1914 in the United Kingdom. The gooey, viscous ‘egg’ of the devil’s fingers fungus is from what it hatches. The tentacle-like appendages begin to emerge as it expands.
Even though it is relatively rare in the UK, the brilliant red color of this fungi makes it very easy to notice. It has a powerful and terrible odor, similar to stinkhorns. If this design was adapted to represent the xenomorph eggs, that would have been horrifying.
Penny for your thoughts?
Cyclocosmia latusicosta, sometimes referred to as the Chinese Hourglass Spider, is a trapdoor spider. They are predatory animals that wait patiently for their unwitting prey to scurry by their burrow before striking and devouring them as soon as movement is detected.
If they perceive a threat, they dig downwards and then close the opening with their belly. Because their back resembles a coin, Chinese farmers who came upon them frequently mistook them for loose change. Can’t blame anyone for mistaking this for currency, in this economy.
Titanoboa was a nightmarishly large snake that previously inhabited present-day Colombia, reaching approximately 50 feet in length and weighing up to 2,500 pounds. Titanoboa, the mythical giant serpent, the likes of Jormungandr from Norse mythology, survived five million years after the dinosaurs went extinct.
They thrived in the tropical forests of South America. The huge reptiles’ deaths left a void at the top of the pecking order, which Titanoboa readily filled. We’re just glad that there aren’t any big snakes like this around anymore. At least, none that we know of…
The spider, dubbed Number 16 by Australian biologists, seems to have been a female trapdoor spider that lived in the Central Wheatbelt region of Western Australia. The aged spider did not die of old age, but rather from a wasp bite.
The spider surpassed the former world record holder, a 28-year-old tarantula from Mexico. Imagine being almost immortal to find out that you’re really not and to have your life snuffed out by something as trivial as a wasp bite, is so demeaning.
Water monitors are interesting animals. Not only do they help us, humans, by scavenging on dead and decaying animals, but they sometimes act as natural-born pest controllers. All those services are rendered free and all they ask is that you leave them be.
But look at this chunky specimen right here. Must be living in an area where food is plenty otherwise they rarely get this big. If you think this guy is big, wait till you see a Komodo dragon up close and personal.
The Wrinkled Peach is indeed a good title contender for the ‘Most Gorgeous British Fungus’ when it is at its fullest. It was a scarce mushroom until the onset of Dutch elm disease in the latter part of the twentieth century.
However, its food source, rotting elm wood, has become more prevalent for a couple of decades, and so the Rhodotus palmatus colony mushroomed. In Europe and the UK, there are far fewer elm trees, and the lovely Rhodotus palmatus is becoming rarer than it was a century ago.