If Google had a zoo, what do you think would be its inhabitants?
Google gave users a hint on Tuesday with an interactive Doodle that features six unique creatures from all corners of the animal kingdom to celebrate Earth Day. From the snowy mountains of Japan to the depths of the ocean, here is a look at Google’s favorite animals and the incredible biodiversity they represent.
Aside from having a delightfully whimsical name that wouldn’t be out of place in a children’s book, the Rufous Hummingbird is an impressive display of nature. The 3-inch bird, which is native to North America, can fly up to 2,000 miles in a migration period and flap their wings 3,600 times per minute. Engineers have studied this hummingbird’s wing movement to gain inspiration for future airplane innovations: unlike a normal bird which gets pretty much all of its propulsion from flapping down, this hummingbird gets 75 percent of its lift from the down stroke of its wing, and 25 percent from the upstroke, which makes its flight more insect-like.
Before you hold your nose and take a step back, consider this about the dung beetle: The American Institute of Biological Sciences reports that dung beetles save the United States cattle industry over $380 million annually by cleaning up livestock feces. Aside from saving farmers a chunk of change, by collecting feces these beetles redistribute nutrients to the ground, which makes them a very important part of the ecosystem. In fact dung beetles are rife with interesting facts: they can roll a ball of dung up to ten times their weight, they are found on every continent except Antarctica, they orient their navigation with the Milky Way, and ancient Egyptians considered the beetles (specifically, the Scarabaeus sacer variety or "scarab") sacred.
What looks like a see-through sand dollar, seemingly drifts listlessly but actually is one of the ocean’s most efficient swimmers, and has the ability to clog nuclear power plants? The gelatinous, translucent, “tortoise of the sea”: the moon jellyfish. Though it is made of 98 percent water and generally doesn’t have a lifespan of longer than six months, the moon jellyfish has made a notable impression in human life with its visually stunning body rolls that have captured aquarium audiences and by wandering into a Swedish nuclear reactor’s pipes last fall. It uses remarkably little energy to move, which make it an extremely efficient creature.
Sometimes when people get embarrassed their cheeks will flush red. When the Veiled chameleon gets over-emotional, its body will flash a rainbow of colors from bright green to a dull red (it shows off yellow spots when relaxed). This is advantageous for the bush and tree-dwelling reptile, which needs to blend in and defend itself in its mountainous Yemen and Saudi Arabia native home (or in your terranium, as the chameleon is widely sold at local pet shops).
While most people think of monkeys as jungle inhabitants, in the snowy mountains of Japan another type of primate wears a furry coat year round. Also sometimes referred to as the “snow monkey,” the Japanese macaque lives between trees and the ground, and is known for superior swimming ability. These snow monkeys are also known to display unusually human behavior, such as bathing in hot springs and rolling snowballs for fun.
Despite a quirky reputation as nature’s balloon animal, the puffer fish’s ability to swell its body to several times its original size actually makes it a decently defended member of the oceanic community. Though the fish is a relatively clumsy swimmer, when a predator is nearby the puffer ingests huge amounts of water and air and puffs itself into an unpalatable (and often spiky) ball. Its body is also laced with tetrodotoxin, which makes it a foul tasting, and sometimes lethal, dish to fish as well as humans – there is enough poison in one fish to kill 30 adults. However, its dangerous nature has actually made puffer fish a delicacy, only prepared by specially trained chefs (though there are deaths every year from people taking the culinary risk).