Do bats do­nate blood? Can you get high from lick­ing a toad? Will an ear­wig lay an egg in your ear?

Two are true, one is false - as a mind-blow­ing new book on creepy an­i­mal trivia re­veals

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CAN lick­ing a toad’s back get you high? Do male sea­horses give birth? And can vam­pire bats do­nate blood? The an­i­mal king­dom is full of myths — and as­ton­ish­ing re­al­i­ties. In their new book, sci­en­tists Dani Rabaiotti and Nick Caruso sort out what’s true and what’s false...

CLAIM: Vam­pire bats do­nate blood to other bats TRUE

DE­SPITE their sin­is­ter rep­u­ta­tion, the three species of vam­pire bats in Cen­tral Amer­ica are sur­pris­ingly so­cial crea­tures, liv­ing along­side one an­other in large colonies.

If any bat hasn’t man­aged to find food on its nightly hunt­ing trips, an­other bat in the colony will share its meal — usu­ally bird blood — mouth-to-mouth.

CLAIM: Ear­wigs like to lay eggs in your ears FALSE

THE be­lief that ear­wigs like to bur­row into our ears dates back to the writ­ings of Ro­man au­thor and nat­u­ral­ist Pliny the el­der, who made the claim — but it is false none­the­less.

Ear­wigs do like moist, dark places, but they pre­fer nat­u­ral habi­tats, such as in soil and un­der tree bark, to ears.

Thank­fully, an ear­wig has never been re­ported to have laid an egg in­side a hu­man’s ear canal.

CLAIM: You can get high from lick­ing a toad TRUE

UN­DOUBT­EDLY one of the strangest things peo­ple have done to elicit a recre­ational high is to lick a toad — in par­tic­u­lar, the cane toad and Colorado River toad, which pro­duce the chem­i­cal 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyl­tryptamine.

While this chem­i­cal makes the toads un­palat­able to preda­tors, in hu­mans it trig­gers the re­lease of sero­tonin, a feel­good sub­stance in the brain, which can also pro­duce pow­er­ful hal­lu­ci­na­tions.

CLAIM: Cut­ting in half an earth­worm cre­ates two earth­worms FALSE

IF YOU’VE ever seen an earth­worm split in two by a shovel, you’ll have no­ticed that one wrig­gling body is re­placed by two. But they don’t both be­come a new worm. While earth­worms can re­gen­er­ate tis­sue, a tail will only grow back from the half that con­tains the head.

The other half may wrig­gle for a time due to nerves in the tis­sue still fir­ing, but it will not re­gen­er­ate into a new worm.

CLAIM: White sand is made of fish waste TRUE

YES, the white fa­mous beaches of the Mal­dives are one gi­ant ac­cu­mu­la­tion of fish ex­cre­ment. But not just any old fish — this sand is formed by the bump­head par­rot­fish, which feeds al­most en­tirely on co­ral that con­tains a tasty type of al­gae. the co­ral is chewed into dust and ex­creted as a fine sand. One fish can pro­duce 90kg of sand a year.

CLAIM: Wasps tar­get hu­man be­ings FALSE

IT MAY seem like wasps are out to sting you and ruin your pic­nic, but there’s an ex­pla­na­tion for their ac­tions. Worker wasps spend their lives seek­ing high­pro­tein foods, such as in­sects, to feed the colony’s young. But, when the last brood has been raised and the worker’s job is done, they look for sug­ary foods to sus­tain them­selves.

CLAIM: Flirty mon­keys soak their fur in urine TRUE

CA­PUCHIN mon­keys found in forests in Cen­tral and south Amer­ica go to great lengths to woo a mate. One method used by males is to uri­nate into their paws and rub it into their fur.

Fe­males can sniff out the testos­terone lev­els in urine to iden­tify sex­u­ally ma­ture males — as well as de­ter­min­ing the male’s sta­tus in their group’s hi­er­arch. High lev­els of testos­terone of­ten cor­re­spond to a high so­cial sta­tus.

CLAIM: An anteater uses its nose to suck up ants FALSE

THE anteater’s long snout in fact con­tains both its mouth and nose. if an anteater used its nose to in­hale ants, the in­sects would bite and sting the in­side of the nasal canals.

In­stead, anteaters use their long tongues of up to 60cm, which can be flicked up to 160 times per minute, to lap up the ants be­fore swal­low­ing them.

CLAIM: Oc­to­puses have de­tach­able penises TRUE

WHEN a male arg­onaut oc­to­pus spots a mate, it launches its ‘pe­nis’ — a sperm-filled ten­ta­cle — in the di­rec­tion of the fe­male.

This ap­pendage ‘swims’ to­wards the fe­male, at­taches to a man­tle be­hind her head and is stored in a cav­ity. fe­males can store the sperm of mul­ti­ple males in these cav­i­ties to fer­tilise their eggs.

Un­for­tu­nately for the male arg­onauts, they die shortly af­ter de­tach­ing their ap­pendage.

CLAIM: Male sea­horses can give birth TRUE

MALE sea­horses are equipped with a stom­ach pouch re­sem­bling that of a kan­ga­roo. Af­ter a courtship dance, the fe­male will de­posit eggs in the pouch to be fer­tilised.

The male is able to reg­u­late the tem­per­a­ture of the pouch — as well as trans­fer nu­tri­ents through its skin to the eggs. While the male is in­cu­bat­ing the eggs, the fe­male pro­duces more to re­place those that will hatch from the pouch.

CLAIM: Camels store wa­ter in their humps FALSE

CAMELS can sur­vive for more than ten days with­out wa­ter, but it’s not be­cause they carry fluid in their humps. the hump is where the camel ac­cu­mu­lates fat. Dis­tribut­ing fat around the body would, in desert climes, raise the an­i­mal’s body tem­per­a­ture to dan­ger­ously high lev­els.

So how do camels stay hy­drated? In ad­di­tion to hav­ing coats and nos­trils that have evolved to limit sweat­ing, they drink very quickly, gulp­ing down 200 litres of wa­ter in just three min­utes.

CLAIM: All birds are monog­a­mous FALSE

AP­PROX­I­MATELY 92 per cent of the nearly 10,000 species of bird on our planet ex­hibit a form of monogamy — but a mi­nor­ity do not.

For in­stance, DNA anal­y­sis of blue tits sug­gests that up to half of eggs in a nest be­long to a male other than the one tend­ing them as part of the pair.

CLAIM: Po­lar bears eat pen­guins FALSE

PO­LAR bears eat seals, ro­dents and fish, but not pen­guins.

This is not be­cause po­lar bears don’t like the taste of them. It’s just that po­lar bears are found in the Arc­tic Cir­cle in the North­ern hemi­sphere, whereas pen­guins are al­most en­tirely na­tive to the south­ern hemi­sphere.

CLAIM: Vul­ture ex­cre­ment kills bac­te­ria FALSE

VULTURES defe­cate on to their legs. some or­nithol­o­gists claim this kills any bac­te­ria that the birds may have picked up from stand­ing and feed­ing among dead and de­cay­ing car­casses. how­ever, this is not true. Vultures don’t have sweat glands, so they need an­other way to cool off. Their legs are well­sup­plied with blood ves­sels ly­ing close to the sur­face of their skin and, as the liq­uid waste evap­o­rates, it helps them lose heat and re­main cool.

CLAIM: Horses are un­able to vomit TRUE

WHEN hu­man be­ings vomit, our stom­ach is squeezed be­tween the or­gans in our ab­domen and di­aphragm, there­fore ex­pelling its con­tents.

How­ever, horses can’t do this be­cause they have a pow­er­ful valve at the bot­tom of the oesophagus that pre­vents food ris­ing up through their gas­troin­testi­nal tract.

CLAIM: Some newts stab them­selves to de­ter preda­tors TRUE

IN 1879, franz Ley­dig, a Ger­man zo­ol­o­gist, ob­served an un­usual trait in the Ibe­rian ribbed newt. When star­tled, he noted, sharp spines sud­denly ap­peared along its sides. In fact, they are the newt’s ribs, which force their way through the skin to make it harder for preda­tors to swal­low them. For­tu­nately for the newt, it also has a re­mark­able abil­ity to re­pair the bro­ken skin af­ter­wards.

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