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Freaky Facts!
Get your freak on, folks, cuz it’s time to take a peek at the creeps of the deep and the perps of the dirt. Are they WILD? You bet! Are they MEAN? Let’s see . .

The gentoo and macaroni penguins at Penguins’ Rock will sometimes race through the water popping in and out of the waves. This is called porpoising which is a very natural behavior for these aquatic birds. In the wild, penguins pop out of the water like porpoises to confuse predators like orcas or leopard seals that might be chasing them. As they porpoise in and out of the water they appear and disappear from a predator’s view. That might not seem scary until you consider being chased by a seal that’s more than 10 feet in length weighing close to 750 pounds. You can see video of a charging leopard seal with its sharp teeth inside the penguin gallery. At Penguins’ Rock visitors can see the gentoos and macaronis porpoising apparently just for fun.

American Alligator
Fortunately for us, humans are not on an alligator's preferred menu. Have you heard of the “death roll?” That’s when a gator preys on an animal that’s too big for it to swallow whole. It will roll in the water with the animal to drown it. The gator may then pin the carcass under a log, for example, until it starts to decay and is easily torn apart. A transparent third eyelid gives the gator underwater protection during the death roll.

Great Barracuda
Barracuda are curious fish, and often follow snorkelers or divers. Attacks on humans are rare and usually the result of both barracuda and diver going after the same fish.

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
This “pit viper” can grow to a length of 8 feet. Its venom attacks both the blood and nervous systems, but very rarely humans.

Smell is the keenest of a shark’s senses, and they can often detect the scent of prey from several hundred yards. Some sharks can smell components of blood and tissue at concentrations as small as one part per million. That’s the equivalent to as few as 10 drops of blood in the amount of water found in an average swimming pool! But shark attacks against humans are uncommon, and fatal attacks are very rare. In fact, many shark species are actually threatened.

Jellyfish tentacles are studded with stinging cells that behave like tiny harpoons armed with toxic chemicals. Be careful – even dead jellyfish can sting, but not on purpose. Jellyfish are brainless, eyeless, spineless wonders.

Southern Stingray
Stingrays are generally gentle, non-aggressive creatures that use their stinger only when threatened or stepped on.

Timber Rattlesnake
This shy viper has powerful venom that can cause extensive local tissue damage and may even have a neurotoxin component, but it’s not a man hunter.

Moray Eel
Generally nocturnal predators, eels often can be seen peering from rocky openings during the day. A baby eel is called an elver. It puts on a good show by baring its teeth, but in reality the eel is simply breathing.

Emerald Tree Boa
Unlike their green parents, young emerald tree boas are red or orange, but change to green in about a year. Again, not a hunter of humans.

Piranhas prefer veggies most of the year – also bugs, fruits and nuts. But during the dry season when food is scarce, piranhas become predatory. Moral to this story: Amazonians stay clear of the waterways during the dry season.

Resembling a hovering, hunting UFO, the cuttlefish stalks its prey then snatches the moving target, wraps its 10 arms around it, then crushes and devours it with its hardened beak. Mysterious? Yes. But far from dangerous. If attacked, cuttlefish can jet away, leaving behind clouds of toxic ink.

Giant Spider Crab
Deep in the dark waters off the coast of Japan live creatures that resemble giant, armored spiders – some 15 feet long! The spider crab is the world’s largest arthropod (invertebrate animals with segmented bodies and jointed appendages). The word arthropod means “jointed legs” and giant spider crabs have plenty of those – 10 legs in all. They make their homes in the vents and holes found in the ocean floor at depths of 100 to 165 feet – a cold and desolate part of the ocean. Spider crabs adorn their shells with sponges and other animals as camouflage.

Dwarf Crocodiles
A crocodile keeps 60 teeth in chomping shape. As it loses old teeth, it grows new ones. One croc can go through as many as 3,000 teeth in its lifetime. I wonder what the reptilian tooth fairy has to say about that!

Yellow Anaconda
Anacondas are some of the largest snakes in the world, reaching lengths of 30 feet. But they aren’t man eaters. However, they DO successfully eat things larger than they are by unhinging their jaws.

Alligator Snapping Turtle
A male snapper can weigh 250 pounds! Imagine this stealth monster patiently “fishing” on a river bottom. Nature provided it with a worm-like lure in its mouth, as well as crushing plates efficiently designed for mussels, crustaceans and acorns.

Blue Ridge Spring Salamander
A known cannibal, some salamander species will feed on smaller versions of its own species, as well as a variety of other salamanders.

Arapaima (fish)
A fierce and stealthy predator, the arapaima feeds on the water’s surface, and even will jump out of the water to grab birds, lizards and small primates from low-hanging branches. The arapaima is very unique among fish because it can breathe air! They have a very primitive lung and need to take a gulp of air every 5-20 minutes.

Spotted Gar
The ancestors of spotted gar swam with the dinosaurs! Gar are long and cylindrical with a snout-like mouth lined with strong, sharp teeth. Their body is covered with thick, diamond-shaped scales. The scales are so hard that Native Americans used them for arrowheads, but the scales were also used for breastplate armor, luggage and even to cover the blades of wooden plows. Gar move slowly unless trying to catch food, which it grabs in its jaws in a quick sideways lunge.

Giant Pacific Octopus
Many octopi have the ability to drastically change their color to blend into their environment or to attract a mate. The ship-crushing “Kraken” in the recent film “Pirates of the Caribbean” was the stuff of Hollywood and sailor lore.

Sand Tiger Shark
Sharks have a sixth sense that allows them to detect electrical signals generated by the muscle movement of prey – including the beating of their hearts. Sharks have pores filled with a gelatin-like substance that are located in their snouts. These receptors can help a shark find hidden fish. But sharks aren’t man eaters.

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