Our planet is filled with amazing creatures. But the animals who let their freak flags fly really make me smile. So I decided to Gleek my freaky faves from Australia.
First up is the platypus. The platypus is Queen of the Freaks. They have fur like mammals, bills like ducks, tails like beavers, and webbed feet like my college roommate, Kyle. They also lay eggs like birds. But when those eggs hatch into little platypuses, the babies nurse from their mothers like mammals. Whaaa, you say?
That’s just the tip of the platypus’ weirdness iceberg. Platypus moms don’t even have nipples. They secrete milk from mammary glands in their abdomen, and the babies just slurp it up from the skin folds in mom’s belly. This makes me love the platypus, because — spoiler alert — I’ve totally slurped up food that’s fallen on my belly. Also, platypus babies are called “puggles.” So how can you not love them?
Ever tried breathing out of your butt? It’s a lot harder than you think. Unless you’re the Fitzroy River turtle.
These turtles are found in the Fitzroy Basin in south-eastern Queensland, and can stay submerged underwater for up to 72 hours. How, you ask? By breathing through their bums. That’s right, Fitzroy River turtles have special cells lining their poop chutes that function like the alveoli in our lungs do. These cells absorb oxygen into the turtle’s bloodstream, which allows them to breathe even though they’re not actively taking in air through their mouths or noses. You’ve heard of mouth-breathers? Well, these freaky little turtles are butt-breathers, and I love them for it.
Speaking of butts, ever heard of the Numbat?
Numbats are little marsupials that live in Western Australia, in burrows or hollowed-out logs. Because numbats are small, they’re easy pickings for predators like foxes and dingoes. But numbats have developed a uniquely freaky way of defending themselves. When they’re hiding from predators, they use their thick-skinned butts to block the entrance to their burrows. They’re literally using their ass to save their ass.
You fly that freak flag high, numbats!
My next freaky shout-out goes to the Bush-stone Curlew. This nocturnal bird is found throughout much of mainland Australia. They’re characterized by their stick-like legs, and they love to eat insects and small animals likes frogs and snakes.
But what makes them freaky is their unique bird call. When startled, a bush-stone curlew wails to warn others that danger is around. It sounds like a human screaming, which is why curlew wails have inadvertently prompted calls to the police to report someone being murdered in the bush. (Fun fact: “Murdered in the bush” is also my favorite search term on PornHub.)
Next we have the Painted Lady Butterfly. Sure, they’re beautiful, but did you know they have a foot fetish?
Painted Lady butterflies can taste food with their feet. Freaky, right? But also awesome! Who among us hasn’t wanted to dip our feet into some freshly-made brownies and taste that chocolatey goodness with our toes? There’s a good reason for a butterfly’s foodie feet. Female butterflies use their feet to make sure the plants they lay their eggs on will be good eats for their future baby caterpillars. Aww. That’s freaky and thoughtful.
Last but certainly not least, we have the Mistletoe bird.
Mistletoe birds aren’t just cute little balls of red-breasted fluff. They also perform a valuable public service to that beloved Christmas tradition of kissing someone under the mistletoe. Stick with me here… See, Mistletoe birds eat mistletoe berries. Then they poop out the seeds of those berries. But here’s where it gets freaky.
The mistletoe bird does a little poop dance where it wipes poop all over the branch it’s perched on. The now-sticky mistletoe seeds cling to the branches and begin to sprout. The mistletoe bird’s “helping hand” ensures that the mistletoe will have a new place to grow, and that the bird will have future food to eat. So the next time you’re puckering up under the mistletoe, remember to thank the Mistletoe bird and its mistletoe dookie.
Australia is filled with animals who love to let their freak flags fly. And I salute each and every one of them.
You may know that Australia has been recently devastated by wildfires. Those wildfires are still raging. And these freak-flag-waving animals need our help. So if you can, please donate to help these animals and the people who work to save them. Here are some suggestions:
WIRES: Australia’s largest wildlife rescue organization is accepting donations to fund the rescue and care of animals affected by the fires. Learn more at wires.org.au.
Koala Hospital Port Macquarie: This koala hospital in New South Wales is accepting donations to fund the rescue, treatment and release of koalas affected by the wildfires. Donate at koalahospital.org.au/shop/donation.