Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Nature Geek SMASH!

(Nature Geek disclaimer: I have no idea what's going on with the formatting in Blogger tonight, guys. So I apologize for large gaps between text blocks and pictures. Please forgive my messy appearance, as they say!)

Today I purchased a bathroom scale and after I removed it from the box, saw the familiar plastic "Pull" tab that allows the battery to make its connection and the device to turn on. I pulled the tab and instead of the tab coming out, it remained in place and the entire battery pack came out of the scale, breaking the wire connections in the process. In that moment I felt like I had unleashed some freakish strength, that I should dye my shorts purple, and yell "Nature Geek SMASH!" Turns out I'm not really that strong, it was just that the wires and soldering were that weak and the design of the thing that poor.

Still, it got me to thinking; who are the true hulks of the animal kingdom? 

Strongest Lifter (Tractor Pull Division): 
Oribatid Mite 

Bet I surprised you there, didn't I? When it comes to this division, we usually think of ants and rhinocerous beetles as being the ones to pull their weight around. While it's true that the leafcutter ant can lift 20 times its weight, and the rhinocerous beetle 850, even the runner up in this category, the Onthophagus taurus dung beetle, which can pull an immense 1140 times its own weight, can't compare to this tiny mite. This species of soil-dwelling oribatid mite which has a mass 1/30 that of a snowflake, can pull an item that is 1170 times heavier than itself. This would be the same as you dragging a full grown northern right whale behind you (on land) using the world's largest dogleash.

"Mommy, can I keep him?"

Strongest Lifter (Flight Division):
African Crowned Eagle

Flying with an object 4 times your own weight may not sound impressive next to the feats of the oribatid mite, but it's a lot harder to fly with an object than to simply drag it across the ground. The hardest part is just getting into the air. The African crowned eagle is able to take flight with prey as large as monkeys and small antelope. To put that into perspective, imagine one of these...

taking off with attached to its wheels one of these...
which inside are four of these.

(Er, the big one, not the small one)

Impressed yet? Yeah, me too.

Strongest Bite:
American Alligator

The current record for the strongest bite of an American alligator comes from a 13.5 foot wild gator known as "Hercules". Scientists measured his bite at 2,960 pounds of force. The strongest mammal bite, by comparison, belongs to the hyena and measures only as 1,000 pounds of force. Let's look at it another way, shall we? If Hercules bit onto your leg, it would be the same as dropping a stack of three of these...

onto your cherished appendage all at once. Ouch.

Strongest Punch:
Kool-Aid Man

Sorry beloved childhood icon, it's really this guy:

Mantis Shrimp

Don't let that pretty face fool you, this guy can deliver a punch with acceleration equal to that of a .22 caliber bullet. How the mantis shrimp does it is absolutely baffling, and involves a blunt force object (his club-like appendages), some of the fastest muscle movements known in the animal kingdom, and the instant creation of boiling water. As usual, the BBC does a great job of explaining it in this video.

The mantis shrimp's punch is so strong, that in captivity it has been known to break the glass of its aquarium. Perhaps this guy isn't so different from the Kool-Aid man after all!

Ok, so maybe I didn't posses super human strength when trying to remove that darned "Pull" tab earlier today. That's not so bad though, I don't like the idea of having to buy a new wardrobe every time I get angry. But the oribatid mite, African crowned eagle, American alligator, and mantis shrimp are the true hulks of the animal kingdom, and they accomplish their feats without the use of gamma rays.