If fuzzy action movie science worked in real life, becoming a brand-new superhero would—with a little help from the animal kingdom—just be a quick organ transplant away.
1. Slime Your Enemies with Special Hagfish Skin Glands.
Getting bitten by a shark would scare the feces out of most people, but it doesn’t even faze these cryptic scavengers. That’s because, within half a second of being attacked, hagfish secrete a cloud of thick, fibrous mucous that clogs the mouth and gills of any predator foolish enough to bother them.
2. Use Avian Air Sacs to Breathe at Superhuman Altitudes.
Breathe out. Congratulations, you’ve just wasted a load of perfectly good oxygen! Our feathered friends, meanwhile, don’t have this problem. When birds respire, air is pushed through a complicated series of air sacs which feed into the lungs, allowing them to collect and absorb oxygen far more effectively than we can. This system also allows them to merrily flutter about at heights that would suffocate even the toughest human mountain-climbers.
Sadly, however, birds have their own version of kryptonite, and its name is air pollution. At times, avians breathe a bit too efficiently for their own good, making them particularly vulnerable to atmospheric toxins.
3. Wood Frog Livers Could Help You Survive Being Frozen.
Each winter, as much as 60 percent of a wood frog’s body becomes completely frozen. Still more mind-boggling is the fact that their hearts actually stop beating during the colder months. How could any creature survive this? Copious quantities of glucose—which acts as a natural antifreeze—are mass-produced by the amphibian’s liver and sent into the veins to help prevent ice from forming there.
4. Taste Your Opponents from Several Yards Away with a Serpentine Vomeronasal Organ.
Have you ever wondered why snakes have forked tongues? Strange as it might sound, all animals (including us) leave trails of microscopic taste particles lingering in the air. Flicking serpent tongues have evolved to intercept them: Upon being retracted, both prongs are inserted into the mouth’s vomeronasal organ, where this data is analyzed. Tracking rodents over great distances, therefore, becomes child’s play.
5. Detect Electrical Fields with Platypus Snouts.
It’s hard to imagine how platypuses could get any weirder, what with their egg-laying, beaver tails, and poisonous feet. But even those duck-like mouths are stranger than you might expect. While hunting underwater, a platypus uses sensitive glands on its bill to help locate the minor electrical fields generated by moving invertebrates.
6. Get HD Vision with Mantis Shrimp Eyes.
You, like many creatures, have binocular vision, meaning that you perceive depth when both of your eyes work together to focus on the same object. Yet, helpful as they are, our visual organs can’t compete with this Pacific crustacean’s. For starters, mantis shrimps can use not one, not two, but three separate regions of their eyes to stare at a given subject, giving them amazing “tri-nocular” vision.
But that’s not all! They’re also able to see circularly-polarized light (the sort with which 3D films are made), an ability the vast majority of animals lack. In fact, scientists believe that the mantis shrimp’s spectacular eyesight could help us develop higher-definition CDs, DVDs, and holographic images.
7. Use a Bombardier Beetle’s Rear End to Fire Off a Blast of Scalding Liquid.
Those bad guys don’t stand a chance. Bombardier beetles greet would-be predators with a face-full of boiling, corrosive liquid that’s sprayed from their abdomens at a frightening speed. Amazingly, though the insects depend on specialized internal glands to produce this frightening reaction, they’re left completely unscathed afterwards.