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The 10 weirdest animal discoveries of 2022

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Godfrey-Smith et al., 2022, PLOS ONE, CC-BY 4.0

Nature is full of surprises.

We might think we know a lot about animals, but some of their weirdest behaviors remain hidden under our noses.

In 2022, many peculiar and previously unknown animal behaviors came to light in scientific studies.

Faceplanting frogs, growling bats, and a vast deep sea fish nest were just some of the findings that made headlines this year.

Alfred Wegener Institute / PS124 AWI OFOBS team

Here are some of the weirdest animal discoveries of 2022:

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10. Wipeout

Leaping isn’t exactly a graceful activity for miniature Brachycephalus frogs, and scientists finally know why.

Richard L. Essner, Jr.

Luiz F. Ribeiro

The amphibians have some of the smallest inner ear canals among all vertebrates, which turns their landings into faceplants.

9. Target practice

Researchers discovered that octopuses use their siphons to blast silt, shells, and other debris into open water. They even appear to aim at targets, like other octopuses.

Godfrey-Smith et al., 2022, PLOS ONE, CC-BY 4.0

Godfrey-Smith et al., 2022, PLOS ONE, CC-BY 4.0

This throwing behavior is quite uncommon in the animal kingdom.

And it seems to serve a variety of purposes — such as helping octopuses clean out their dens and warding off unwelcome mates.

8. Ant milk

During their motionless pupal stage, ants don’t seem to be doing much — but they’re actually hard at work producing an elixir to feed the colony.

Snir, Orli et. al/Nature

Daniel Kronauer

The milk-like substance is loaded with hormones and neuroactive substances that likely influence colony behavior.

It went unnoticed for so long because ants slurp the milk up as soon as it’s excreted, leaving little for scientists to observe in the wild.

7. Breeding grounds

On a scientific expedition to the Weddell Sea, researchers found a network of ice fish nests spanning 92.5 square miles of seafloor.

Alfred Wegener Institute / PS124 AWI OFOBS team

Alfred Wegener Institute / PS124 AWI OFOBS team

The animals created the largest continuous fish nesting site ever observed by scientists.

In total, it contains about 60 million individual nests with about 1,700 eggs in each.

6. Joining the band

Bats may be known for their high-pitched echolocation calls, but they also make deep, guttural sounds — like the ones heard in death metal and Mongolian throat singing.

PATRICK PLEUL/DPA/Getty Images

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Researchers studied the larynxes of Daubenton’s bats to see how they do it.

The creatures can turn on different parts of the larynx for high and low sounds, which explains their incredible range.

5. Spring-loaded larvae

Boing! Young Laemophloeus biguttatus beetles can launch themselves into the air in an acrobatic feat.

Adrian Smith

Bertone et al/PLOS One

While they have legs to crawl, leaping might just be a more efficient strategy for larvae to get around, researchers say.

4. Bless you!

Stationary sea sponges need a way to filter out the junk from food. It turns out their method of choice is sneezing.

Current Biology/Kornder et al

Current Biology/Kornder et al

While scientists already knew about sponge sneezes, a 2022 study recorded the behavior in fresh detail.

They also captured footage of smaller sea creatures snacking on the mucus.

3. Swayed by moonlight

During a lunar eclipse in 2019, researchers watched nocturnal black swifts suddenly change their flight patterns.

inoc/Moment/Getty Images

Ashley Cooper/Corbis/Getty Images

When the Moon dimmed, the birds suddenly dropped in altitude — then rose again when the eclipse ended, as detailed in a 2022 report.

The eclipse could have allowed the swifts to hunt in low light, though researchers are not entirely sure what caused the collective behavior.

2. Butting heads

It’s uncommon to see animals from different species fight over resources, but a conflict between mountain goats and bighorn sheep could be a sign of things to come.

Berger et. al/Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution

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Researchers recorded a rare case of bighorn sheep and mountain goats competing for salt in the Rocky Mountains.

As climate change worsens, they argue that cross-species conflict could become more common as resources become scarce.

1. Spa day

Self-care for the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin means rubbing against corals, a practice that might actually have medicinal benefits.

Angela Ziltener

Gerhard Schulze / 500px/500px/Getty Images

Researchers studied the mucus oozing from the dolphin’s favorite corals, finding it rich in antioxidative and antibacterial properties.

The dolphin’s affinity for coral scrubs might help them fight off skin infections and maintain their natural glow.