WTF Fun Fact 12825 – Cows With Names Are More Productive

Well, it may not be a big difference, but it is one worth mentioning. It turns out cows with names produce more milk. But they need more than a name – they also like a little one-on-one attention.

Researching cows with names

According to LiveScience (cited below), a UK study of 516 dairy cows conducted by researchers Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University found that “on farms where each cow was called by her name the overall milk yield was higher than on farms where the cattle were herded as a group.” But it was just 3.4% higher.

We don’t really know how cows feel about their names, but it’s the personal touch that seems to do the trick.

Happy cows

LiveScience quotes one of the researchers (Douglas) as saying: “Just as people respond better to the personal touch, cows also feel happier and more relaxed if they are given a bit more one-to-one attention. By placing more importance on the individual, such as calling a cow by her name or interacting with the animal more as it grows up, we can not only improve the animal’s welfare and her perception of humans, but also increase milk production.”

Frankly, we think that makes perfect sense. Animals seem to know when their well-being is a priority. And it may even be the case that the farmers who name their cows tend to spend more time caring for them or even value them more (though the study didn’t explore that).

Other things to know about the study include:

  • 46% of farmers in the study called their cows by name.
  • 66% said they “knew all the cows in the herd.”
  • 48% said they believed human contact was more likely to produce cows with a “good milking temperament.”
  • Fewer than 10% of farmers felt that cows who fear humans had poor milking temperaments.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Cows with Names Make More Milk” — LiveScience

WTF Fun Fact 12824 – Teen Invents Tool To Catch Elephant Poachers

A teen named Anika Puri has invented a new way to catch elephant poachers.

“I was quite taken aback,” the 17-year-old Chappaqua, New York student told Smithsonian Magazine. “Because I always thought, ‘well, poaching is illegal, how come it really is still such a big issue?’”

Learning more about elephant poachers

Puri and her family visited India a few years ago and saw ivory lined up at a Bombay market. The ivory trade has been illegal for decades in India.

After some research, Puri realized African elephants are still being hunted and that the “forest elephant population had declined by about 62 percent between 2002 and 2011.” Those numbers continue to drop today.

As a wildlife lover who is gifted in science and technology, Puri invented a system to help catch poachers.

According to Smithsonian: “Drones are currently used to detect and capture images of poachers, and they aren’t that accurate, the teenager explains. But after watching videos of elephants and humans, she saw how the two differed vastly in the way they move—their speed, their turning patterns and other motions.”

Tracking and stopping elephant poachers

Once she saw the difference in movements between humans and elephants, she realized she could build a piece of technology to track their movements.

As a result, she spent 2 years creating ElSa (short for “elephant savior”). Still in the prototype stage, the machine-learning driven device “analyzes movement patterns in thermal infrared videos of humans and elephants.”

Better yet, Puri says the accuracy is 4 times that of other tools. Her tool also costs a mere $250 to make whereas others run into the thousands of dollars due to their use of high-resolution cameras.

However: “ElSa uses a $250 FLIR ONE Pro thermal camera with 206×156 pixel resolution that plugs into an off-the-shelf iPhone 6. The camera and iPhone are then attached to a drone, and the system produces real-time inferences as it flies over parks as to whether objects below are human or elephant.”  WTF fun facts

Source: “This Teenager Invented a Low-Cost Tool to Spot Elephant Poachers in Real Time” — Smithsonian Magazine

WTF Fun Fact 12822 – How Do Lobsters Communicate?

Apparently, thousands of people look up “how to lobsters communicate” – and we’re guessing it’s because they’ve heard the truth and it’s hard to believe.

When we heard that lobsters communicate with their bladders and that they can make things known to other lobsters by urinating at them, we thought it was a grossly creative form of expression. But it gets even better.

While it might not be the most exact description of what’s happening, no less an institution than the New England Aquarium has informed lobster learners that the creatures actually “pee out of their faces.”

Say what?

Ok, so let’s break this down a bit. First of all, lobsters use scent to communicate (as do humans, to be fair). You’ve heard of pheromones, right? The scented hormone we secrete?

Because this factoid ran rampant around the internet with such gusto, Snopes to it upon themselves to get the details (gotta love those professional fact-checkers!). They describe the scented face-peeing this way:

“Found within a lobster’s pee are a fair number of pheromones, which they disperse through their nephropore rosette glands. The bladder of a lobster is located under its brain, and the rosette glands are connected to the urinary tract.”

Ok, so the key here seems to be the anatomy – the bladder is right under their brain. There’s only so much room in a lobster, and those of us who have eaten them should probably be grateful that we don’t have to pick their bladders out of their tails.

As for the urine stream comes out of their face, Snopes explains further:

“Once these pheromones are produced, they are introduced into the urine stream. In the case of the American lobster, scientific name Homarus americanus, this pheromone-rich pee is released from nephropores at the base of the lobster’s large antennae and then injected into its gill current. According to the NEAQ, it has been determined that this urine stream can reach a length of seven times the lobster’s body.”

Wait, so how do lobsters communicate this way?

You probably still have some questions. Like, what’s a gill current? Well, according to The American Lobster:

Water passes up through openings between the lobster’s legs, over the gills, and up towards the head.  Every few minutes this current of water is reversed the other way so that debris can be flushed out of the chambers. An important part of this “gill current” is that when it is flowing forward towards the head, it can project urine forward. It is thought that the urine of the lobster contains important information about the sex of the lobster and its physiological state.”

Now that we know how lobsters pee out of their faces, we still need to know how and why it works this way. So, back to Snopes (which is cited below and which also has further reading at the bottom of the page for all your legit lobster urine research needs).

When male lobsters want to attract a mate, the females tend to come to him. But he needs to be in a defensive position. As Snopes says: “Their claws are located at the front, which enables the lobster to back into a shelter and face outward toward the entrance, setting up a first line of defense — and attracting a mate.”

Territorial lobster communication

Snopes also cites the conservation organization Oceana, which reports that a male lobster tends to dominate one piece of territory and females wait outside the den to mate with him. To let him know they’re out there, they pee in his direction out of the nozzles on their face.

Hey, who are we to judge?

Of course, the urine contains the pheromones that signal she’s ready to reproduce. So – and here’s another fun fact – she takes off her exoskeleton (basically stripping naked) once she gets into his den to mate. We are seriously not making this up.

Other lobster communication-by-urine tactics

Ok, so there’s one mating ritual out of the way. But females aren’t the only ones who urinate out of their faces to send a message. When males fight, the winner will do the same to signal to any nearby females that he’s the winner and ready to pass on his superior genes to any females nearby. “It’s thought that the winner of a match will also contain more serotonin and happy hormones, making him even more attractive to a would-be match.”

Snopes caps us off with yet another fun fact:

“How does a female return the favor? By peeing in his face, of course. Pheromones released in a female’s urine are thought to reduce the aggression of an embattled male and he’ll often allow the female to enter his burrow, where she might stay for up to two weeks. While the two shack up, the cohabitating female will also be urinating to ward off other ladies in the area — until it’s their turn.”

Lobsters – they’re just like us!  WTF fun facts

Source: “Lobsters ‘Pee’ Out of Their Faces. Here’s Why …” — Snopes

WTF Fun Fact 12821 – Lemmings Don’t Commit Mass Suicide

We often use “lemming” as an insult towards people who seem to just go with the flow, even if that means following everyone off the edge of a cliff. It comes from the myth that lemmings commit mass suicide in some unthinking way.

And that’s a load of bunk.

Why do we think lemmings jump off cliffs?

There are a lot of weird myths about lemmings (such as the myth that they explode when angry). But the most popular myth is the one that lemmings will follow each other off the side of a cliff.

And we tend to believe this because it comes with the explanation that people have seen piles of dead lemming bodies.

But it’s just not true.

The lemming legend

According to Britannica (and science, in general): “…one myth that has held on tenaciously: Every few years, herds of lemmings commit mass suicide by jumping off seaside cliffs. Instinct, it is said, drives them to kill themselves whenever their population becomes unsustainably large.”

Why we believe, Part 1 – The behavior of some lemmings

Ok, so lemmings do not have any suicidal behavior, They do not follow each other off cliffs or commit any other act of mass suicide. But it may be the case that the myth originates with a few dead lemmings.

The creatures often have population booms. This is bad because too many lemmings in one place means there’s less food and other resources for everyone. As a result, lemmings tend to separate, with a large group heading off to find a better environment.

Of course, they don’t always make it. And while they can swim, crossing bodies of water can be deadly for any group of animals. Seeing some dead lemmings in the water (just because a handful out of hundreds drown) may have led people to believe in the suicide myth.

Why we believe, Part 2

We know a lot about animal behavior, so that raises the question: why do we still believe this even though we could easily look it up and find out it’s not true?

Well, that’s because we find it too believable to question. Or, as Britannica notes: “…it provides an irresistible metaphor for human behavior. Someone who blindly follows a crowd—maybe even toward catastrophe—is called a lemming. Over the past century, the myth has been invoked to express modern anxieties about how individuality could be submerged and destroyed by mass phenomena, such as political movements or consumer culture.”

In other words, we want to believe. It’s too good of an insult to pass up.

Why we believe, Part 3 – The lemming lie

Let’s give ourselves some credit here though. If this myth hadn’t been repeated as fact so many times in so many places, more of us may have questioned it. It’s not a great excuse, but there is some truth to it.

And, apparently, the big lie about lemmings comes from a Disney nature film.

The worst part is that a giant lemming suicide was staged in order to provide fodder for the 1958 Disney film White Wilderness, when “filmmakers eager for dramatic footage staged a lemming death plunge, pushing dozens of lemmings off a cliff while cameras were rolling.”

This fraud led thousands of people who saw the film to say they had seen such a moment in what they thought was a documentary. But it was all a lie.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Do Lemmings Really Commit Mass Suicide?” — Britannica

WTF Fun Fact 12819 – Jonathan the Tortoise

Jonathan the tortoise is the oldest known land animal. And in order to fact-check that (since we feel like it would be an easy claim for people to make without much proof), we turned to Snopes.

An 1886 photo of Jonathan the Tortoise

The rumors about a 100+-year-old tortoise actually started in early 2022 when a website called posted a photo from what they said was the early 1900s claiming to show a tortoise named Jonathan who is still alive.

The photo was credited to the director of an NGO on Saint Helena Island where old tortoises are known to live.

Says Snopes: “Jonathan has been misidentified in viral photographs before. We have reached out to the government of Saint Helena Island, where the tortoise lives, to confirm the authenticity of the image.”

The image is real – but the site got one thing wrong. It’s actually OLDER than they claimed, and therefore so is Jonathan!

Jonathan is pushing 200!

One of the photos is from 1886! And Jonathan is already full grown. He’s been on Saint Helena for a very long time, and his age is estimated to be somewhere around 190 years old!

As you might imagine, he’s quite a tourist attraction. So if you’re ever in the South Atlantic, off the coast of Namibia, you can visit Jonathan at the governor’s residence “where he gets hand-fed fruit and vegetables and ‘frolics’ with female tortoises, according to an AFP News Agency video profile, even though he has lost his sight due to cataracts.”

It’s doubtful Jonathan would still be alive without human intervention at this point since a blind tortoise wouldn’t fare well out in the wild.

And the latest rumor about Jonathan is that he is also gay and has a male lover. Apparently, he was partnered with a tortoise named Fredrica back in 1991, and when the caretakers wondered why they weren’t producing any offspring despite their frequent mating, they realized she was a he.

Want one more fun fact to top you off? Saint Helena is the island where Napoleon died after his exile. His body is now in Paris, but you can still visit his original grave after you go to see Jonathan.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Yes, Jonathan the Tortoise Is the Oldest Known Land Animal” — Snopes

WTF Fun Fact 12818 – Does Viagra Make Flowers Last Longer?

It might not be the most cost-efficient use of the medication, but the answer to “does viagra make flowers last longer?” is yes. It also makes the stand up straight.

How does viagra make flowers last longer?

According to a study in the British Medical Journal (cited below): “Viagra (sildenafil citrate) is good not only for treating male impotence. Israeli and Australian researchers have discovered that small concentrations of the drug dissolved in a vase of water can also double the shelf life of cut flowers, making them stand up straight for as long as a week beyond their natural life span.”

In fact, “1 mg of the drug (compared with 50 mg in one pill taken by impotent men) in a solution was enough to prevent two vases of cut flowers from wilting for as much as a week longer than might be expected.”

How does it work? Well, according to the study “Viagra increases the vase life of flowers by retarding the breakdown of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) (the production of which is mediated by nitric oxide).”

Basically, that means flower wilting and erectile dysfunction involve the same enzyme, and Viagra helps slow down the breakdown of that enzyme. In men, this allows blood vessels to stay open longer, and in plants, it does the same to their vascular tissues.

No more flaccid flowers

Of course, you may not want to go through the trouble of getting a Viagra prescription (or raid anyone’s medicine cabinet) for the sake of your centerpieces. There are other ways of getting some flowers to spring to attention. For example, putting a few old pennies (that still have some copper component) in a vase of tulips will also make them stand up straight.

While all of this news came out in 1999, the Viagra method of flower preservation started trending again on TikTok in 2021.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Viagra makes flowers stand up straight” — BMJ

WTF Fun Fact 12812 – The Mating Calls of Female Sloths

One thing we all know about sloths is that they’re slow. In fact, it’s pretty rare to witness a sloth moving at all, much less making the effort to mate. But female sloths have found a solution that allows them to find a partner with relatively little effort – screaming.

The sex of sloths

Three-fingered sloths, in particular, are hard to tell apart when it comes to determining their sex. According to Sloth Conservation (cited below) “Both sexes have a shaggy black mane around their necks. The appearance of the mane is unique to each individual, and it is not currently obvious if there is any sexual dimorphism in regards to its appearance.”

That doesn’t mean two-fingered sloths are any easier to tell apart. “In two-fingered sloths, distinguishing between males and females is notoriously difficult. This has led to some embarrassing mistakes at zoos and rescue centers, where two sloths thought to be of the same sex have been put into the same enclosure, only to produce a newborn baby some months later!”

The mating female sloth

One way you can tell male and female sloths apart is their mating behavior. It’s unknown if sloths have a specific mating season, but they’re fertile for about one week out of every month. And they let everyone know about it!

While their activity level increases during fertile periods, it’s mostly to produce vocalizations. Female sloths don’t walk around looking for mates – they sit in trees and scream incredibly loud to let males know they’re “available.”

The Sloth Conservation Foundation confirms: “These vocalizations, or “screams”, sound like bird calls or shrill whistles. She will do this for eight to ten days every single month, with the vocalizations increasing in frequency until she is screaming every 10 to 15 minutes. The male three-fingered sloths get very excited when they hear this call and will go in search of the female making it.”

Sound a lot easier than dating!  WTF fun facts

Source: “Sloth Mating: Not as slow as you think” — Sloth Conservation

WTF Fun Fact 12810 – The Platypus Has No Nipples

Platypus nipples are probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of interesting animal facts. But the fact that the creature has none is actually pretty wild.

We might think of nipples as something less than wholesome, but they serve a purpose – to feed the young.

How does a platypus feed their young without nipples?

In what may be one of nature’s strangest oversights, platypuses so have a milk duct, they do produce milk from their young, but there’s so central “outlet” from which to feed.

And while it’s bizarre to picture (but we swear this is how it works), the mothers secrete milk through their mammary glands, and it then rolls down their skin, collecting in the little grooves on their bodies. And that’s where their young find it to feed. In cases where there are patches of fur, the babies simply suck the milk out of those soaked fur patches.

It seems…less than efficient. But the platypus still exists, so it must work just fine for their species!

Platypus birth is also unique

The platypus is a monotreme – a creature in which reproduction takes place by females laying eggs. That might not seem like a big deal, but these are mammals. So it’s actually incredibly rare. Vertebrates (which are animals like birds, fish, reptiles, etc. all lay eggs), but the platypus and echidna (or spiny anteater) are the only common mammals that do it.  

When it’s born, the baby platypus cuts its way out of the egg using an “egg tooth” that grows on the end of its nose. This “tooth” is made of keratin (just like fingernails), and it falls off not long after.

Other fun facts about the platypus

According to the American Museum of Natural History (cited below), other fun facts about the platypus include:

“A female platypus usually lays only two eggs at a time and rarely leaves her stream-side den while nursing her young. When she does leave, she plugs the den opening with dirt.”


“A platypus’s bill can sense tiny electric currents produced by the bodies of small animals, helping it hunt in muddy water.”

To be honest, we never gave much thought to the platypus. They’re not much to look at (though some might say they’re cute), but they’re certainly interesting from a biological standpoint!

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Platypus” – The American Museum of Natural History

WTF Fun Fact 12808 – Mourning Geckos Are All Female

Nearly every mourning gecko ever born has been a female. In fact, the species does not need males at all since the females are parthenogenic, meaning they can reproduce on their own. The female geckos can basically produce semi-clones of themselves to keep the species going.

Characteristics of the mourning gecko

These small lizards look a bit “warty,” but they’re an incredible species. However, it’s pretty rare to see one outside an aquarium. They’re native to southeast Asia, and while they occur throughout the Americas, Australia, and the Pacific islands, they are nocturnal creatures (though they are drawn to walls near artificial lights).

Gecko reproduction

So, what’s parthenogenesis? It simply means females can reproduce on their own, and there are a few different species that can do it (some crabs, snails, and the komodo dragons, for example).

In the case of the mourning geckos, they lay one to two eggs every two to four weeks over the course of their five-year lifespans. The eggs are laid in communal nesting spots and hatch 50 – 75 days later. The baby geckos are able to lay their own eggs after about eight months.

Female geckos clone themselves, in a way. All of the genetic material in the egg comes from them, but they are able to recombine their DNA to produce some genetic variation.

That explains why occasionally males are born. But the males are infertile, so they don’t serve much of a purpose to the species.

The problem with cloning

The downside of cloning yourself is that you have a limited amount of genetic material to work with. If a gene mutation exists, all of the progeny will have it.

If one of those mutations turned out to be fatal, it could spread through a population quickly and threaten its future.

Other cool gecko facts

Females can display courtship-like behavior, despite the species having no need for mating. The little lizards bob their heads and use sounds to communicate.

Oh, and they clean out their eyes with their tongues and shed their tails if they’re being captured.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Mourning Gecko” — Georgia Aquarium