Saturday, January 30, 2016

To add to your animal mimicry/totem list


The biggest problem with playing (or writing) a character who has the powers of the animal kingdom! is that you have to know some of the cool animal powers out there. Yes, you can go the Vixen route, and grab the cheetah, the rhino, a vulture, a killdeer, and an elephant, and you have speed, strength, and flight, which is good. (Not knocking those powers or animals at all.)

But sometimes you want the weird factoids that you used to get from reading comics in the sixties. You know, "Dung beetles can pull 1000 times their own weight!" and other factoids that Gardner Fox used to throw into stories.

I need a place to put them when I run across them, and that place is here.

The noise of the pistol shrimp. Quoting Wikipedia: "The snapping shrimp [also called a "pistol shrimp"] competes with much larger animals such as the sperm whale and beluga whale for the title of loudest animal in the sea. The animal snaps a specialized claw shut to create a cavitation bubble that generates acoustic pressures of up to 80 kPa at a distance of 4 cm from the claw. As it extends out from the claw, the bubble reaches speeds of 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) and releases a sound reaching 218 decibels. The pressure is strong enough to kill small fish. It corresponds to a zero to peak pressure level of 218 decibels relative to one micropascal (dB re 1 μPa), equivalent to a zero to peak source level of 190 dB re 1 μPa at the standard reference distance of 1 m. Au and Banks measured peak to peak source levels between 185 and 190 dB re 1 μPa at 1 m, depending on the size of the claw. Similar values are reported by Ferguson and Cleary. The duration of the click is less than 1 millisecond."

Elephants communicate subsonically. So if you want characters to communicate and they don't have telepathy, and don't want to be heard by BatHearingGuy....

Love darts of the ninja slug. The ninja slug shoots darts into its potential mate. The calcium carbonate darts are tipped with hormones intended to get the target in the mood for love. If you replace the aphrodisiac hormones with other abilities, suddenly you've got a whole theme for a character.

Oppossums are immune to most venoms. Yeah, well, you figure this for an animal whose other defense is lying very, very still. But yes, oppossums have a protein called LTNF (Lethal Toxin-Neutralizing Factor) that grants them (and rats injected with LTNF) a very high resistance to the venoms of snakes, bees, and scorpions...even snakes that are not native to the same continent.

Exploding ants. A species of ant in Malaysia has members that can tighten particular glands all along its body, causing the secretions to, this is gross, explode out of the ant's head. I do not know if this kills the ant, but it probably does. What's even better (worse?) is that the explosive substance is sticky and binds together the limbs of the predator (up to a certain size, of course). The secretion has other unpleasant chemicals in it...expect a rash.

The jellyfish that's its own child...and possibly immortal. One particular jellyfish, Turritopsis nutricula, can revert to its polyp stage after reaching sexual maturity. And after that polyp gets old and becomes a jellyfish, it can do the trick again...and again...and again. Now, jellyfish polyps are immobile and tasty to many things, so it's really unlikely that there are any immortal T. nutricula, but there could be....and that kid over there might be a supervillain who's nine hundred years old and just occasionally imitates a T. nutricula. That's the scarlet jellyfish, I think (but am not sure).

Wolverine? No, hairy frog. The hairy frog can break its own bones and push them out through its skin to make claws.

Sticky stuff The stickiest salamander is the northern slimy salamander, which produces a mucous so sticky that attacking predator gets its mouth glued shut.