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Changing the world, one word at a time.

I have been thinking about evolution and change a lot lately. That may have to do slightly with the shapeshifting lizard people I have created for the Comyenti Series. They are on my mind as I’m about to embark writing the sci-fi prequel to the series. It crossed my mind how some creatures here on Earth have, more or less, stayed the same over a hundred million years (as they had no cause to change) and others had to adapt quicker and change drastically to fit in with their new environment.

We are unmistakably still subject to evolution ourselves in appearance and intellect.

Scientists have confirmed humans have not escaped nature’s clutches and put a halt on natural selection. Of course. A halt in evolution simply wouldn’t be possible. As long as people have offspring natural selection continues to happen. For example, over time, Dutch people have grown taller because of a natural preference for tall partners who then have taller children and so on. Our intestines can digest baby food (milk) better than we could four thousand years ago when people first started to make cow’s cheese, although it is still unnatural and hostile to our adult bodies and most people are therefore lactose intolerant (not to mention the fact it’s cruel to those mammals such as cows and goats as the dairy industry is a nightmare on earth). Our teeth and jaws have stopped growing to become more powerful because we started to cook our food so it’s softer and easier to chew. And my personal favourite: our eyes apparently are still changing slowly since we emerged out of the water millions of years ago! Our vision is not as clear as it should be! That explains a lot!

Evolution can in some cases take a long time, in other cases more rapidly.

We, as a species I believe, still have a long way to go. In body and spirit. Imagine if we could do what some other mammals or birds can such as dolphins, elephants, geese or bats for example. Communicate over great distances with no device other than their own bodies, have an inbuilt magnet to always find your way home, have x-ray eyes to spot diseases etc. Instead, we rely heavily on machines for these things. It is clever we have invented devices to do so, but it is only through mimicking what other animals already naturally did. The sad part is that we people tend to rely on these devices ever since. So much so, I believe, it stands true evolution in the way. Computers, GPS, mobile phones have a dark side with the radiation they emit. Oh, but I digress.

Evolution. Change. I sometimes get confronted, as we all do, how some people seem so stuck in their ways and thinking they have stopped using their brain and their own judgement. Evolution does not only happen to bodies over thousands of years, it also happens within. Other than non-human animals who had to change due to their ever evolving environment and have certainly bypassed us in many ways, most humans seem simply unwilling to if given a chance. If given the choice, and they are every day, people rather stick to what they know, what they have been taught, despite the consequences and thus continue to act like it. Even if it means the destruction of our planet for example to name just one light subject . . . Or is it something more than that? Perhaps it’s more due to old habits, pride and tradition than reluctance. Remember, humans only need a push sometimes, especially if others are “doing it” and if something is popular (even if it’s wrong, tests have shown people are followers and feel safer in groups rather than think for themselves). Trends are an example of this and how most people feel they need to have whatever other people have.

By reading fiction one gets exposed to other ways of thinking, of change in a different way, especially speculative fiction. It can be educational and refreshing to read what comes from other minds in the form of fantastic stories. Stories we can relate to, open our eyes, and which protagonist say what we think or want to say, or sometimes we are surprised how a story can change our way of thinking. It can even contribute to our growth. One of my readers even admitted how after reading ‘Quarterling’ had made him think more about his food choices from now on. That is good enough for me. Authors can certainly change people’s way of thinking, how hard it initially may seem. But not unless the reader is already willing and on a certain path.

One other way is through movies or series. Since Netflix came into my life a whole new world has opened up to me. I am pleasantly surprised of what it has to offer. Apart from some great movies there are some brilliant series on there that are worth watching. My tendency goes towards the speculative so series and documentaries such as Black Mirror, 12 Monkeys, Touch, Sense8, Star Trek Discovery, Travelers, Dark, Erased, Innsaei, Cosmos, Saimdang, Secret Healer and Anne with an E just to name a few are among my top 20. I would definitely recommended those series.

To stay with the theme of change especially two series come to mind straight away and what they had to say about change.

One of my favourite series is Anne with an E by Emmy-winning writer-producer Moira Walley-Becket. With themes such as search for identity, bullying, prejudice, diversity, being an outsider, to belong and to be accepted, every episode has much to offer a wide audience. The Canadian drama is loosely based on the 1908 novel “Anne of Green Gables” by L.M Montgomery, featuring a young, complex orphan with deep passions for life and people. With her fresh view of the world and eagerness to share it in fanciful language at every opportunity, she affects the hearts and minds of everyone she meets. In the small village of Avonlea, unmarried, aging siblings, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, expected a boy who could help them on their farm, but what they got instead was Anne Shirley. Their lonely lives from then on are forever changed. A world where anything is possible, calamities are most likely, and the biggest adventure is being yourself.

Some quotes from the last episode:

“Change is uncomfortable because the future is unknown. Yet, the future is riding in fast, like a train.”

“Dreamers change the world. Curious minds propel us forward.”

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

“Different isn’t bad. It’s just not the same.”

“There is always another way to look at things.”

“Change is the only way to grow and learn.”

Another great series is Sense8 which is full of diversity and food for thought. It’s an American sci-fi/lgbt drama created by Lana and Lilly Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski. Though I skip through the violent parts, I love the dialogues and how these eight people in different parts of the world are mentally and emotionally linked which can lead to intense situations.

Some quotes on change and diversity from the last episode:

“No one thing is one thing only. How people endow what is familiar with new, ever evolving meaning and by doing so, release us from the unexpected, the familiar, into something unforeseeable. It is in this unfamiliar realm, we find new possibilities. It is in the unknown we find hope.”

“For all the differences between us and all the forces that try to divide us they will never exceed the power of love to unite us.”

“I’m afraid of things permanent because nothing is permanent. Things change, people change.”

“We live in a world that distrusts feelings. Over and over we are reminded that feelings are not as important as reason. That feelings are childish, irresponsible, dangerous. We are taught to ignore them, control them, or deny them. We barely understand what they are, where they come from or how they seem to understand us better than we understand ourselves. But I know that feelings matter. Sometimes they’re little and sometimes they’re huge. However, if you’re lucky a feeling comes along that will change everything.”

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See you next time!

Natasja Hellenthal, author of  Lesfic Fantasy novels

 

 

 

 

           

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Filed under quarterling, Quotes, The Comyenti Series, Uncategorized, Vegan Fiction Books

The Mega September Lesfic Sale is here!

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Hi Everyone!

Xmas is early this year! I’m pleased to announce that The Mega September Lesfic Sale, organized by I Heart Lesfic is here! It runs from September 10th to September 14th. More than 100 lesfic books from 60 authors are either free or heavily discounted in many sub genres, so plenty to choose from including 3 of my own!

‘The Queen’s Curse’ is $1.99 (normally $5.99), ‘SkyWhisperers’ is $1.99 (normally $5.99) and ‘Quarterling’ is only $0.99 (normally $3.99).

And many other good novels by prolific lefic authors such as Caren J. Wellinger, Beth Lyons and Emma Sterner Radley

So, grab your chance and get your one-click finger out https://iheartlesfic.com/mega-lesfic-sale-2/

Happy reading!

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Vegan Fiction Book List

When you are vegan for compassionate reasons like I am and enjoy reading it’s often a question when buying a book whether it is going to be animal friendly, or not.

I more than often start a book, only to be disappointed how non-human animals are being portrayed and treated.

A book description doesn’t always prepare or warn us and I have come across too many, especially fantasy books, whereby violence against other creatures is accepted and tolerated. Even riding on horses, or how they are used for war, can bug me. And don’t get me started on the subject of dragons! When is someone ever going to save a dragon instead of treating them like monsters and slaying the poor mythical creatures in the fantasy genre? I think I might devote an entire article on that, or better yet, write my own dragon story!

Also, the story line may be good enough in many a book, but what if our characters gorge on the flesh of other animals or have hunting and fishing as their hobbies? Can, or should we, see past this? After all, we pick up a book to be entertained, to escape, or to even fight the good cause with the main character, not to be exposed like we already are in real life to the cruelties of human kind.

How then and where can we find vegan friendly fiction books?

When doing a search on Amazon for ‘Vegan Fiction’ you’ll get over a 10.000 results. That’s great you think, right? Wrong. Most of these are vegan cook books. . . That’s not fiction. Don’t get me wrong, it’s positive there are so many vegan cook books at the moment, but those books should really fall under non-fiction to make it easier for the reader to find. Sadly it’s all been thrown in one pile. You can, of course, also find vegan fiction books there. I know, as I have gone through most of the list.

I have also typed in Vegan Fiction in Google and found a vegan publisher: Ashland Creek Press. Their Website has tons of eco-friendly and vegan fiction books (VegLit).

And if you’re patient enough I’ll give you even more books! The list is at the bottom of the article.

First, let’s try to break vegan fiction down into two types: the entertainment side and the educational side. Vegan fiction can cover both types of fiction, but that is easily enough to determine from the book blurb.

  1. Entertainment and escapism. To not be confronted with the habits of the meat-eating and animal abusing world. To simply relax and enjoy a good story. To be entertained, and to forget. These books in any genre have a normal plotline with main characters that just happen to be vegan.
  2. Education and activism. The author has a clear vegan or eco-message wrapped up in the story with vegan or non-human characters. The author’s intention is to speak up for the animals, for the planet, and ultimately, for us all. For the reader to find a connection with the characters whom we as a vegan can easier relate to. To be faced with the current problems, future ones, or possible struggles. To help us think about our own situation, and what we could, or would do, to solve them. These novels can be dark, but they can also give us hope. They are often speculative and written to challenge us, vegan or not, to make us think hard about our values and questions our unquestioned morals. These books can even be life-changers for those who are not vegan yet.veganfantasy1

 

So, I have created a list of vegan fiction books that are currently available for all ages and covers most genres (although I do favour fantasy and lesfic for obvious reasons). It is not a complete list of course and I haven’t read all of them, but it gives a good idea of what is out there. I have also created a Top10 list of my favourite vegan books with short reviews which will be published on The Vegan Society’s website soon. I’ll post the link once it’s life.

On Amazon you can also read the blurbs of every book and samples by clicking on the “Look Inside” feature.

Also, if you have read a vegan fiction book that is not yet included in the list below, let me know: CONTACT ME as my aim is to compile a complete list to share with the vegan and literary communities world-wide!

Vegan Fiction (A-Z) with vegan characters or an animal rights’ plot:

 

A Report to the Academy – Franz Kafka (literary)

Amanda the Teen Activist – Feathers & Freedom (children’s fiction)

Among Animals 1 & 2 (a collection of stories) – several authors

Among Animals (Tiergeschichten) –  Manfred Kyber

Animals: A Novel – Don LePan (sci-fi)

Animal Lex talionis – Sunny Augustine

Balance of Fragile Things – Olivia Chadha

Beasts – Ana Levley (dystopian, lesfic)

Beef – Mat Blackwell (dystopian, humor)

Best Vegan Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2016

Best Vegan Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2017

Bestiary: Three Weird Tales – Nicholas P. Oakley

Chained Freedom – Natasja Hellenthal (fantasy, lesfic)

Diary of a Dieting Madhouse – Paige Singleton

Don’t Bang the Barista! – Leigh Matthews

Escape (Diamond Song Book 1) – E.D.E Bell (fantasy)

Elizabeth Costello – J.M. Coetzee

Falling into Green: An Eco-Mystery – Cher Fisher

Fire Bringer – David Clement Davies (fantasy)

Float – JoeAnn Hart eco/romance

Forgetting English – Midge Raymond

Hackenfeller’s Ape – Brigid Brophy

Holy Cow – Ruth Hawe

Kings of the Jungle – Daniel S. Fletcher

Love & Ordinary Creatures – Gwyn Hyman Rubio

Lithia Trilogy: Out of Breath (1), The Ghost Runner (2), The Last Mile (3) – Blair Richmond (YA)

Memoirs of a Fighting Dog – Kaida Ashia

Mort (e) (War with No Name #1) – Robert Repino

Mother Nature’s Secret – Marian Hailey-Moss (children’s fiction)

My Year of Meats – Ruth Ozeki

My Last Continent – Midge Raymond

Minny’s Dream – Clare Druce

Outside Inside – Anne Grange

Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood (sci-fi)

Off the Reservation – Glen Merzer

Persimmon Takes on Humanity (The Enlightment Adventures: Book 1) – Christopher Locke (YA)

Popco – Scarlett Thomas (contemporary, adventure, science)

Quarterling – Natasja Hellenthal (YA lesfic fantasy)

Salazar – Seth Lynch (noir mystery)

Something in the Water – Ben Starling

Spireseeker – E.D.E Bell (fantasy)

Survival Skills – Jean Ryan

Strays – Jennifer Caloyeras (contemporary, YA)

Skinny Bitch in Love – Kim Barnouin

SkyWhisperers – Natasja Hellenthal (YA lesfic fantasy)

The Soul Thief – Beth Lyons (lesfic fantasy)

The Adventures of Vivian Sharpe, Vegan Superhero – Marla Rose (children’s fiction)

The Awareness – Gene Stone

The Banished Craft – E.D.E Bell (fantasy)

The Bees – Laline Paull

The BFG – Roald Dahl (children’s fiction)

The Boy from Tomorrow – Camille DeAngelis historical/timetravel/paranormal/children’s fiction

The Cha-Cha Babes of Pelican Way – Frances Metzman

The Trap and the Chain (The Kinship Series) – Robin Lamont

The Comyenti Series (Call Off The Search (1), Children of The Sun (2) – Natasja Hellenthal (Supernatural Fantasy)

The Crows of Beara – Julie Christine Johnson

The Dragon Keeper – Mindy Mejia (thriller)

The Earthling Rebellions – Andi Hayes

The Echo of Others – S.D. Rowell

The Exile of Elindel – Carol Browne (fantasy)

The Fettered Flame – E.D.E Bell (fantasy)

The Green and the Red – Armand Chauvel (romance, eco)

The Gift that Time forgot – T.M. Dewfall (children’s fiction)

The Humans – Matt Haig (sci-fi, eco)

The Plague Dogs – Richard Adams (YA)

The Promised Land – Manfred Kyber

The Stone Gods – Jeanette Winterson – (sci-fi lesfic)

The Three Candles of Little Veronika – Manfred Kyber

The Tourist Trail – John Yunker

The Names of Things – John Colman Wood

The Lives of Animals – J.M. Coetzee

The Longing – Bridget Essex (lesfic)

The Ugly Princess: The Legend of the Winnowwood – Henderson Smith

The World of Wickham Mossrite – J.L. Morse

The Year of the Flood, (MaddAddam #2), MaddAddam (#3) – Margaret Atwood

Thornfruit – Felicia Davin (lesfic fantasy)

Vincent and the Dissidents (The Enlightment Adventures Book 2) – Christopher Locke (YA)

Watership Down – Richard Adams (YA)

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves -Karen Joy Fowler (contemporary)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under My Books, Uncategorized, Vegan Fiction Books

Why did I write ‘Quarterling’?

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You may or may not know that The Comyenti Series, from which ‘Quarterling’ is a part of being a spin-off novel, is a fantasy series that as a whole is really close to my heart. It always has been, more so than all my other books. Being a huge animal lover, vegan, and empath myself writing about an alien humanoid species, who are all mind-speaking empaths, and have all these amazing animal abilities, but with their own weaknesses comes almost natural to me. That probably shouldn’t come as a surprise for those that know me. Especially since most of my life I have almost felt like an alien on this world myself! Being sensitive to noise, bright lights, strong smells, fainting in crowds, wanting different things in life than others my age, reading different books, being vegan, and lesbian! I am also quite a private person, so I guess not many people know much about me at all, hence why I started this newsletter in the first place.

But, I digress. All of the main characters certainly feel like different parts of me I wanted to explore. Especially Sula Comyenti who started it all in book 1: Call Off the Search’ which was originally called ‘Small Sacrifice’, and who has been with me from the start shaping the story and series with me, always insisted in getting heard. For a writer it is almost impossible not to listen to those voices in your head! They won’t leave you alone until you write their stories down. No, you are not insane, you are a writer. That is our excuse, at least.
Still, I just love writing every book that is either part of the series or a spin-off story such as Quarterling is, so I really don’t mind. Besides, Sula is always great company.It became clear to me though that after writing the first two books the characters had much more to say and to do before I started writing book three. I knew I just couldn’t fit it all in without losing the main thread of the book and for the readers to lose the plot. These characters, once an adult, deserved each their own story, their own novel. And that is what I am doing. That is the plan at least. Sula has five children so they all get their own book, some even more than one. There are three so far and a fourth is in the making!

There is ‘Chained Freedom’ (Free download here: https://www.amazon.com/Chained-Freedom-Comyenti-Natasja-Hellenthal-ebook/dp/B00IK4OWXE/ ) in which Fay had a brief appearance, but she was only really a side-character like in book 1 and 2, not a main one. So she kept insisting on telling her own story! Her voice grew stronger and louder. I had already told Aigle’s story in ‘City of Dreams’, or at least one of his stories, and I felt it was time for Sula’s first born Fay to really tell hers.
Beside it being a coming of age story and one of unrequited love, and just about being young leaving home for the first time, I have been toying with the idea of writing some of my own experiences down. The things I have witnessed whilst living in Norway, Wales, and the South of France especially have always stayed with me. The animal cruelty and accidents whilst I was out hiking mostly. I wanted to share these experiences with my readers and what better way than through a story? They say, write what you know, and that is what I have always done. I have changed the facts around slightly as in my case I was mostly too late, but not always. Once I did save a nearly drowned sheep from a freezing, roaring river, and one bird out of a football net, but found another sheep dead with her head stuck in a fence and other sheep washed ashore. These images never left me. The rat I saved two years ago still lives with me as I couldn’t find a surrogate mother. Fay reminds me slightly of myself when I was seventeen. Full of big ideas, hopes and dreams, and that life isn’t always how we plan it to be. Love isn’t either. It can come in various forms and may not be what we imagined it to be.
Fay started to tell me her story from the time she left home. It was easy to let her live some of my own experiences and see what she would have done, with or without her super powers. And how I would wish I had those powers often! But then again, she is restricted in some ways. How? Well, you will just have to read the story. 

Speaking of superpowers though, especially a female superhero, saving animals, not people this time, was needed, desperately I felt. I have researched but only found one or two other books with a vegan superhero, but they were all for children… Why, I wonder are animals always associated with children or children’s stories? Don’t adults love animals? Do we outgrow them and their cuteness? Don’t we want to read about their happy ending? Adults love their pets, but often can’t extend it to other animals. Most don’t want to think about the suffering, the exploited animals, at least not enough to want to save them. Vegans do. Luckily. Thus a story was born. Fay was going to be a superhero for the animals with an older audience, okay young adults more precisely as she herself is only seventeen when the story starts, but still, it’s a start. I do hope to reach a broad audience with Fay’s story. That is why there are many more subjects thrown in: coming of age, parents, adventure, romance and a touch of magic.

Well, I won’t ramble on too much as this should just be a little post about what made me want to write ‘Quarterling’. Whilst writing I did try to have an audience in mind. I can imagine other vegans want a hero they can relate to or look up to, so it is for them to have a story to feel at home in without too much violence or visual content. But is still is a story about animal activism and what we can all do, or can’t and about hoping to change people, but how? And if we can, should we and to what ends? There are many questions of a deeper nature. Of right and wrong, of grey areas, and that even if we have certain powers there are even more powerful forces at work we cannot always control, and we find ourselves powerless. It’s a story of wanting to save the world, of change both in and outside of us, of being different and finding our way in the world, of acceptance, of having responsibilities and what it means to be an adult. And I also hope to reach those hearts that haven’t quite made compassionate choices yet. For those who say they love animals. Who knows what changes they will make? One can always hope.

Read more about my inspiration and need for wanting to write this story in the Afterword in ‘Quarterling’now ready for pre-order here: 

Share the link on your social media to share the love, thanks (:

Excerpt

‘Fay, there is no need to lie to me, you know. I have observed you and seen what you can do. You are clearly not from Bhan. If you were, your kind would have surely taken over from the humans.’
‘Why would you say that and what exactly have you see me doing? Wait, it’s from around the time of the market day I have sensed your presence, isn’t it? What did you see me do?’
‘Enough to know that you act as if these animals are your responsibility, but they are not.’
Fay’s eyes widened and she was numb for a moment as if shocked to hear that. ‘Then whose? If it wasn’t for me they would all still be suffering or dead by now!’
‘It’s not for you to decide, to interfere.’
‘What? So, you’re saying that if you see an injustice done to another soul, or an injured creature, you walk away from it? What if it had been members of your own kind caged in that market?’
‘We’ve never been captured,’ Zemandu answered calmly, unaffected.
‘Perhaps you should be so you know what it’s like.’
‘And you do?’
‘Even if I didn’t I would still care. It’s called having a heart. Besides, all of us carry the painful memories of our ancestors in us. It’s enough for us to feel empathy for other species, because we were treated not too dissimilarly. My kind were trapped, not for food, but as curiosities, and when humans couldn’t get what they wanted from us, killed. We were seen as a threat and menace to humanity, not allowed to live side by side with them like you are.’
‘You can fly, you are immensely strong, you can make fires like I can, and you can communicate with all these anima—’ ‘Argh,’ Fay grunted. She had seen all that? How had she let this happen?
‘No need to be shy or worried. I won’t tell anybody. There is always one dominant species on any planet. What, you didn’t think this was the only habitable planet in the entire universe, did you?’

 

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The Supersenses Of Animals-List of geeky facts-ALL TRUE!

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Super Senses of Animals:

Eyesight: 

Birds of prey such as:

The Eagle and hawk can see details 4 times finer and in a broader vision. Some predator birds can see the ultraviolet range of colours. The hawk uses ultraviolet light to see urine tracks of mice and other animals– it glows in the UV range under sunlight. Also for navigation a hawk can still see the sun even if it’s behind a cloud. Bees can also do this!

Best mammal night vision – Cats

Cats have awesome night vision. This is because their pupils widen until they are large circles letting far more light into their eyes – nearly doubling their ability to see (and hunt) in darkness. Which is very bad news if you’re a mouse.  

Best all-round view – Grazing mammals

It pays grazing mammals, such as horses, gazelles and zebras, to remain vigilant at all times. Because if they don’t a predator will have a free meal ticket. When grazing with their heads down, if these animals had forward facing eyes like us, they would have a large blind spot which could cost them their life.  However eyes that face sideways give them an almost all-round view. And by feeding in herds and taking it in turns to look up, it makes it much harder for a predator to launch a surprise attack.

Goats and rabbits almost have 360 degree vision.

Mountain goats also can see about 8 times as far as humans so goats probably have the best overall vision

Best bird night vision – Owls

Despite their smaller size, owls have eyes almost as big as ours and their huge pupils capture lots of light. In fact, an owl could probably spot a mouse on a football pitch lit by a single candle. Secondly, like other birds, their brains can capture an ‘at a glance’ picture that a human eye would have to scan back and forth to understand. However because their forward-facing eyes are so big, they can’t move them. Which is why, like eagles, they can swivel their heads 270 degrees – allowing them a wide field of vision.

Best underwater vision – Sharks

Never play hide and seek with a shark because you’ll lose. They can detect a glow that is ten times dimmer than anything we are capable of seeing. But just in case that wasn’t good enough, sharks have special cells in their brains that detect electrical fields. These not only help them to navigate like a compass but allow them to detect the weak electrical fields given off by the merest twitch of a muscle. Meaning even a distant fish hiding deep underneath the sand will be found and eaten. Gulp!

Best thermal vision – Snakes

Temperature-sensitive organs located between the eyes and nostrils of pythons, boas and pit vipers allow these snakes to sense the body heat of their prey. There is one located on each side of the snakes’ head, so the animals can perceive depth and strike with deadly accuracy even in complete darkness.

THE X RAY MACHINE – THE MANTIS SHRIMP

Short of being able to see sounds, the aquatic mantis shrimp has an extraordinary wealth of vision that allows it to see pretty much everything that we can’t. It can see up to twelve primary colours (we have three), and can see both infa-red and ultraviolet light – types of light we as humans are only ever told about.  Even crazier, however, is the discovery that the shrimp can see light spirals that no other animal can – which may or may not give it a secret communicative device!

Best fire detector – The jewel beetle

Using an infra-red sensor under one its legs, this beetle can detect a fire over 50 miles away. Astonishingly, the beetle then chooses to fly towards it. This is because once the inferno has passed, the burnt tree trunks that remain offer a rare opportunity for the jewel beetle to mate and lay its eggs in a predator-free environment.

Best Smell:

On land: the bear (better than a dog)

In water: The shark (Two-thirds of a shark’s brain is dedicated to smell and it can detect the tiniest drop of blood from more than a mile away. Astonishingly even uninjured fish are not safe from a shark’s surveillance. A merely nervous fish emits chemicals to warn others. Unfortunately for them, these signals can be picked up by…yep, you’ve guessed it.)

Best ‘mate’ detection – The Moth

Imagine being able to sniff your future wife from 6-7 miles away. Well, that’s what a moth does using its feathery antennae.

Best detective – The dog (Bloodhound)

A bloodhound can stay on the trail of a person after several days, even if that person has walked through busy shopping centres and streets. Some dogs can even detect certain types of cancer and they do so with greater accuracy than state-of-the-art screening equipment.

Best bird sense of smell – The albatross. Most birds rely on keen eyesight and have a poor sense of smell. The albatross is one of the exceptions. This great bird spends its time hovering above the ocean on the look out for food. And to help it do this, it has an extra-large nose on top of its beak. This over-sized honk helps the albatross detect food floating on the sea, even when it is dark.

Aphrodisiacs: butterfly, musk deer musk ox, two-lined salamander who inserts a magical potion directly into the female’s bloodstream so that she surrenders herself. The male uses his head to nudge a potential mate, and encircles the female’s head with the front of his body. The male scratches the female’s skin with his teeth to possibly allow secretions from his mental glands to reach her bloodstream. It has been suggested that the secretions stimulate courtship behaviour in the female.

Taste:

Turbocharged taste buds – The catfish

A 6-inch catfish may have 250,000 taste buds. They cover its entire body inside and out including its fins, back, belly and tail – making it literally a swimming tongue. In comparison, we have around 10,000 taste buds. Understandably this makes them exceptional at detecting food. For instance, imagine being able to taste a single drop of coke in an Olympic size swimming pool. A catfish could. 

“I don’t like sweets” – The cat

They might be able to see, hear and smell better than us but when it comes to tasting sweetness – cats are left flummoxed. They have an inability to taste anything sweet which explains why they like more savoury treats such as meat.

Touch: 

On land:

Tapeworms: they use only touch to perceive the world.

 Most sensitive nose – The star nosed mole

This poor-sighted creature’s unique nose has almost six times more touch receptors than a human hand and it uses its nose more for feeling than smelling. As it makes its way down a tunnel, it sweeps its 22 fleshy tentacles back and forth with incredible speed touching 10-12 different objects per second. And as soon as a tasty worm is detected, it’s eaten within milliseconds.

Any animal that digs for a living or must live by night, such as the prairie dog or the Anteater, usually has a great sense of touch.

Woodpecker: uses its tongue to search for insects in the wood it has thrilled.

Penguins: must touch to survive. They love being touched by their parents but it’s also a way of bonding. Rats are the same, they are compulsive touchers.

In the water: Sea turtles enjoy having their shells lightly scratched, and they can feel an object as delicate as a twig moving across it.

Duck: its bill in the water is very sensitive to water vibrations.

Best earthquake detector – The catfish

Catfish are probably the most finely tuned creatures on earth. Unlike most fish, they don’t have scales and their smooth skin gives them a heightened sense of touch. In addition tiny hairs that run along the catfish’s side are very sensitive to vibrations. So much so, catfish are rumoured to be able to detect earthquakes days in advance. 

 Deadly vibrations – In the water: The crocodile & alligator

These deadly predators have 1000’s of tiny receptors – the size of the tip of a pencil -dotted mainly around their jaw line. These receptors enable them to sense the presence, movement and location of animals through vibrations in the water. For instance, they can pick up on the faintest change in their environment such as a when a wildebeest stops to take a drink.

 Vibrations on land: Crabs, ants, moles.

 Best ‘touch at a distance’ – The sea cow (Manatee)

This odd looking sea animal has the ability to ‘touch at a distance’ which means it can feel objects from relatively far away. It can do this because its entire body is covered in tactile hairs whereas most mammals only have facial whiskers. Collectively these hairs enable the manatee to detect a change in current, water temperature and even tidal forces.

 Best whiskers – Under water: The seal

On land: A Cat’s whiskers are incredibly sensitive and help it judge size and distance incredibly accurately. But a seal’s whiskers possess more nerve fibres per hair and are perhaps the most finely tuned whiskers in the animal kingdom. Using them, seals can track fish swimming 180 metres (591feet) away in even the murkiest of water.

Hearing:

Under water sounds can reach further than in air.

Dolphins can send out ultrasounds to ‘see’ past skin and muscles, the sound resonate in the bones, travelling up the spine. In water it’s 60 times more efficient than air (ultrasound resonance).

Whales, low pitched

On land: Bats: sending of sounds (echolocation).

Noctuid Moth, Owls. High pitched: Mice and low: Elephants

Sixth Sense:

THE PSYCHIC – THE PLATYPUS

While you might think of the dopey-looking platypus as something of an oddity and nothing more, it actually possesses a brilliant type of internal radar!  As it needs to shut down all of its main senses as it dives for food, its bizarre bill takes on an amazing power all of its own – an electro-sensory power that picks up on tiny electric movements.  This sixth-sense allows the Platypus to hunt with its eyes shut, and instead be led by its psychic beak!

Cold environment, staying warm: 

Something like 80 percent of the calories in food goes towards maintaining a mammal or bird’s body temperature at a constant level. (internally) so it pays off being in reptilemode (they can survive on 10 percent!) See survival skills.

The wood frog’s super abilities kick in without it even trying – and it still has scientists baffled to this day.  This minute Alaskan amphibian is able to withstand being frozen completely solid – and then thaw out again as if nothing had happened!  This unique ability sees the frog’s heart stop beating entirely – and to see it spring back to life from the deep freeze is nothing short of miraculous.  While other animals take time and effort to hibernate, this frog can sit back and let nature take its course.

Some fish have a special protein in their blood which acts like anti-freeze to help them survive very cold water temperatures. Arctic cod. 

Warm environment, keeping cool:

Sweating:

People do it, and so do horses. Sweating helps animals cool because drying sweat cools the skin. Some canines—members of the dog family—sweat from their feet as do cats, but that is not a large enough surface area to cool the whole animal.

Panting:

As we all know, our breath is hot—hot enough to make clouds in winter air. Many animals get rid of excess body heat by breathing rapidly—by panting. Almost everyone has seen dogs do this. Have you ever seen birds walking around in summer with their beaks open? They’re panting. Birds have an elaborate breathing system that includes air sacs in addition to lungs and that helps them get rid of excess heat by panting. Birds have a constant body temperature of 42 degrees, so they can be active in the winter also.

Radiating heat:

Elephants can radiate heat from their ears, which they hold out from their bodies; jackrabbits do the same thing with their long ears. Blood flow into the ears carries heat out of the body, and cooler blood re-enters the bloodstream, reducing the effects of heat.

Estivation:

This is the opposite of hibernation. Some animals, such as toads and snails of various species, will go into a state of dormancy (call it sleep, but it is much deeper than sleep) during hot weather, to avoid heat and drying; they may burrow underground, just like a hibernating ground squirrel (hibernation is a winter dormancy to escape cold and hunger). Probably the most famous estivators are the lungfish of Africa, Australia and South America, which burrow into the mud of drying lakes and create a cocoon of mucus for shelter; they revive when rains refill their lakes.

Sense of time, inner clock: most animals

Sense of direction/navigation, finding their way home through magnetic field of earth and build in magnet in brain: butterfly, turtles, tuna fish, mice and birds of migration. Pigeons use smell as guide to navigation.

Sense of temperature: Malleefowl (uses its bill to determine right temperature in its nest, constant 33 degrees)

Sense of weather: Bees they sense the electrical fields thunderstorms, lightning, build in barometer. Pressure in sky. Birds

Power of regeneration: Cats have another animal super power which is less well known. The power of regeneration and it’s all to do with their purr… A cat’s purr actually gives off a frequency of up to 150 hertz – jargon aside, this vibration has been proven to promote both healing and growth of bone matter!  It’s also said that purring can release endorphins, making a cat calm and content – though as a built-in self repair kit it’s amazing enough!

Octopus: can grow lost limbs back.

Run across water: green plumed basilisk  (a lizard).  The lizard will apply its feet to water with enough pressure and speed to create pockets of air between itself and the wet stuff – allowing it to speedily traverse across ponds and lakes.

 Survival techniques

*Long periods without water: Kangaroo for 3-5 years.

*Long periods without food: cold-blooded animals need less food.

Endothermic (warm-blooded) reptiles:The marine Iguana can survive on 10 percent of the nourishment that a mammal would require. Normal cold-blooded reptiles use the sun (external surroundings) to be active and are sluggish when it’s cold or at night.

Warm-blooded animals survive not only in waterless places, they manage to breed there too and can be active at night when the sun has disappeared and live of vegetation that would not keep a rabbit alive.

Lungfish can live without food for more than 4 years. Crocodile for 2 years.

Turbocharged taste buds to find food – The catfish

A 6-inch catfish may have 250,000 taste buds. They cover its entire body inside and out including its fins, back, belly and tail – making it literally a swimming tongue. In comparison, we have around 10,000 taste buds. Understandably this makes them exceptional at detecting food. For instance, imagine being able to taste a single drop of coke in an Olympic size swimming pool. A catfish could.

Staying warm: best insulating in the air: feathers(birds such as snow goose),

On land: polar bear (4,5 inches of fat under its skin and furcoat), muskus oxen(3-4 inches fur coat) sheep’s wool (hollow hair) which keeps them warm ad waterproof.

In water: fat called blubber seals and walrus( 2-3 inches of insulating fat)

Fish, Artic cod. Water and land: muskrat has a double layer of thick fur to stay warm in icy waters and cold air. The fluffy, inner coat traps warm air and keeps it close to the muskrat. The long, outer guard hairs are waterproof, so the muskrat stays warm and dry even when there’s ice in the water

Best Climber:

Leopard(trees and mountain), geckos, silky anteaters, big-horn sheep, mountain goats, koalas, black bears

Trees: Gibbon and Spider monkey are high level trapeze artists, moving through the rainforest treetops with consummate ease. It uses its tail as a fifth limb (?) so could a comyenti fool their bodies to do this?

Walls: Gecko‘s toes adhere to surfaces via dry adhesion, to allow them to stay firmly attached to a branch or even a flat wall.

Best Jumper: Bharal (blue sheep) live in the Himalayas and are one of the best jumpers among animals. They’re adapted to jump from cliff to cliff and hill to hill.

Chamois mountain goat. They climb and jump with great ease and have sharp eyes and a keen sense of smell. Jump 13 to 16 feet into the air. They seldom loose their footing or fall.

(Hares are one of fastest animals which have great ability to jump. They can run up to 72 km/hr, hard to get caught by predators.)

Tree Frogs can jump 150 times their own body length. They are 2nd longest jumping among animals compared to body size.

Flea: It is usually claimed that the best jumper in the world is the Flea. They are longest and highest jumper among animals compared to body size. Fleas can jump 220 times their own body length and 150 times their own body height. If we were to scale up a flea to our size it would be like us jumping nearly 400m in distance whilst jumping over a 250m high building! Now that’s a big jump! We would however break our legs!

Fastest known animal:

THE HUMMINGBIRD

It’s said that, relatively speaking, the tiny hummingbird is the fastest known animal on the planet – and at a flight speed of up to 60 miles per hour, it’s a wonder it doesn’t tire itself out. This may not sound fast compared to a peregrine falcon but in terms of body lengths covered per minute, this tiny bird which could fit easily into your hand, is in a class of its own.  Indeed it can cover over 9,000 body lengths per minute which is comparable, if not faster relatively speaking, than most jet planes. Perhaps even more astounding is that it has been estimated it can cover 500 miles before needing to refuel!

Fastest land animal: Sprinting:Cheetah can reach up to 60 miles an hour in under three seconds and reach 70-75 miles an hour. Endurance is limited: they can run for 60 seconds at a time. When sprinting they spend more time in the air than on the ground.

Endurance and long distances: The Pronghorn (a type of antelope) is the fastest animal over long distances. 35 miles an hour for 4 miles. 42 miles an hour for 1 mile. 55 miles an hour for 5 miles.

Biggest leap: Jackrabbit: 20 feet in one leap.

Fastest water animal: Billfish

Sailfish  (billfishes family) and swordfish 68 mph over short distances.

Black marlin  (billfishes family) 50mph.

They can cover great distances at 50 mph.

Brown trout can swim nearly 20 mph or stay motionless against the current.

In the air:

Fastest bird (gravity assited) Peregrine Falcon: When in its hunting dive, they stoop, it soars to a great height, then dives steeply at speeds of over 200 mph. Steep power-dive, free falling for hundreds of feet. However, it does not hold first place when travelling in level flight.

Fastest Migratory Bird:

In 2011 The great snipe was tracked from Sweden to central Africa, and found to fly non-stop over a distance of around 6,760 km (4,200 miles) at a 97 km/hr (60 mph). There may be other birds who are quicker, but are yet to be accurately tracked.

Fastest Level Flying bird:

The top of this list, the Spine-tailed swift, obviously gets its name ‘swift’ for being so fast. (106 mph)

Flying soundlessly without flapping: Giant albatross use the ocean’s currents and wind to glide on for long periods of time without flapping.

Griffons, vultures, use the warm air currents (rising air) caused by the sun on clear days to glide. It can cover tens of miles without flapping its wings. It can glide up quite high, usually found at 13.000 ft. to search for a dead animal. It has been seen at 37.000 ft (airplane). A mammal could not survive this for too long but birds have a different respiratory system. Oxygen is used much more efficiently.

Fastest insect: Horse-fly 90 miles an hour

Strongest animal:

Strongest relatively speaking – The rhinocerous beetle

In absolute terms, the African elephant is by far the strongest living animal but it can only lift 25% of its bodyweight. Unlike the mighty rhinocerous beetle who thinks nothing of carrying 850 times its own weight. To put that into perspective that would be like one of us lifting a 65 ton armoured tank

Ants: If you double the length of something, its surface area and cross section increase FOUR times. However its volume and weight go up EIGHT times. Okay, why is this a big deal?

Well, imagine a giant who was ten times taller, wider and deeper than yourself. Because of this simple rule of maths, this giant would be 1,000 times heavier. But because the giant’s legs are a 100 times bigger than yours, they’re only a 100 times stronger – far too weak to take the giant’s huge weight. He would simply topple over. Basically, due to this rule of maths, the bigger we get, the comparatively weaker we become. And this is why insects appear to lift such astonishing weights relative to their size.

Strongest arm wrestler – The gorilla

Whereas we have stronger muscles in our legs, gorillas have much larger muscles in their arms. They use their tremendous arm strength for bending and gathering foliage and, when called upon, for defence.  Based on conservative estimates, an adult gorilla’s upper body strength is around 4-6 times more powerful than that of an adult human – giving them probably enough power to bench press a couple of cars. In our book, that qualifies the gorilla for the super hero alias of Mr. Muscle

Toughest skin – The whale shark

The skin on the back of a whale shark is the thickest and toughest in the world and can be up to 6 inches (15cm) in thickness. The outer layer is covered in tiny tooth-like denticles. These denticles combined with ridges that run along its back make its skin pretty much harpoon and bullet proof. However it is still vulnerable to injury from passing boats.

Strongest air lift – The eagle

Some eagles such as the African crowned eagle can carry around 4 times its weight during flight.

Smartest animal: Elephants:

Their brain is more complex than ours with just as many neurons (compared with dolphins who have very few neurons), they have a deep emotional life and will bury their dead and stand over a body for days and days, they have been known to even bury dead human bodies, they are highly altruistic, they have the lowest birth-to-adult brain ratio indicating they are the animal with the lowest amount of instinctive behaviour and the most learning, they understand syntax, they live in families, they have proven self awareness, they are complex problem solvers and are complex tool users.
They are said to be “the beast which passeth all others in wit and mind.”
And “The Indian Elephant is Said Sometimes to Weep.” Charles Darwin. 

MR. UNCRUSHABLE  – THE HERO SHREW

When you’ve got the word ‘hero’ in your name, you’ve got some living up to do – and this tiny, seemingly unassuming rodent goes above and beyond the call of duty.

It has the strongest spine in the animal kingdom and its intricate interlocking nature gives the hero shrew’s skeleton a protective mechanism so strong – a grown man can stand on it and it will not be crushed!  While not completely indestructible, some tribes have previously worn dead shrews about themselves to promote invincibility!

THE DUPLICATOR – THE PLANARIAN FLATWORM

While not exactly immortal, the flatworm is probably as close as you’ll get to finding an animal that can fraction itself off into miniature versions of itself.  While regenerating super-animals like cats and octopuses can re-grow parts of themselves, this weird worm can be split in two and survive as two completely new creatures!  It can then be split again, and again, and again – though this process can’t last forever due to inevitable cell decay, it’s able to seamlessly regenerate thanks to an incredibly basic organ system.

 Weapons:

Stunning with electricity: Electric Eel is an electric fish, and the only species of the genus Electrophorus. It is capable of generating powerful electric shocks of up to 600 volts, which it uses for hunting and self-defense. Can kill a human being. When the eel locates its prey, the brain sends a signal through the nervous system to the electrocytes. This opens the ion channels, allowing sodium to flow through, reversing the polarity momentarily. By causing a sudden difference in electric potential, it generates an electric current in a manner similar to a battery, in which stacked plates each produce an electrical potential difference. In the electric eel, some 5,000 to 6,000 stacked electroplaques are capable of producing a shock at up to 500 volts and 1 ampere of current (500 watts). They need to recharge every 20-50 seconds. When agitated, they are capable of producing smaller voltages of 100 V, intermittent electrical shocks over a period of at least an hour without signs of fatigue.

Strongest bite: In water: Great White Shark

On and water: Saltwater Crocodile  

On land: Hyena great jaw strength

Most poisonous bite: Black Mamba snake with the most lethal bite and an alarming turn of speed (12mph so it could outrun a human). Can kill people.

Platypus has venom glands that feed poisonous spurs on its hind ankles. Its poison can paralyse a human.

Strongest claws: Tiger

Strongest arms: Gorilla

Best Defense: Tortoise their horny plates and below with bone to become a virtually impregnable box

Pangolin is an ant eater, no tooth, very long tongue. He’s got scales but soft belly so not as well protected as a turtle but it can shut its nostrils and ears with special muscles! It is now indifferent to insect bites.

 Tracking skills: wolf

 Longest living animal:

 Giant Tortoise: 255  years

 Best animal mind controllers:

 THE WALKING INCUBATOR – JEWEL WASPS AND COCKROACHES

The female jewel wasp is a true cowgirl – when she’s ready to lay her young she will hijack an innocent cockroach and inject poison into its brain to impair its thought processes and ability to move.  What then, you ask?  The wasp will lead the docile cockroach back by its antlers to her nest, where she will then lay an egg on the dawdling beast – before sealing the best away.  The egg will develop into a larvae that will eat the cockroach alive, eventually emerging from it as a developed wasp. Lovely.

THE PIED PIPER – TOXOPLASMA AND RATS

Like any good parasite, toxoplasma’s first host is never its ideal one.  This cunning mind-controller will infect a rat’s muscular system and its brain, where it will amazingly convince the whiskered host to go in search of cat urine – without knowing for why – and, naturally, the rat will be eaten, and the parasite will get new nutrients out of a new predatory host to start its life cycle!

Best animal memories

 FLIP A CARD – THE SEA LION

While many know sea lions as animals that can be taught balancing tricks, it’s only within the last few years that it’s been discovered that they have some of the strongest long-term memories in the animal kingdom.  One such creature, called Rio, was able to not only intelligently match a pair of picture cards, but also repeat the same trick ten years later – without having done the puzzle since!

 DEEP SEA SCHOLAR – THE OCTOPUS

The octopus is regarded as something of an aquatic Einstein – as it’s an expert problem solver.  This is mainly down to its incredible use of both short and long term memories (which the majority of animals aren’t blessed with), meaning that not only do they learn life skills and show great interest in learning new ones, but they are extremely gifted at getting out of a fix – they simply think logically about the situation, applying reason and previous experience!

BIG GREY MATTER – THE ELEPHANT

As the saying goes, an elephant never forgets – and believe it or not, there’s actually a fair bit of truth in that!  Research suggests that adult pachyderms are able to calculate and memorise the whereabouts of up to thirty of their family members purely by the smell of their urine!  This helps them stick together, and upholds their reputation for being animals that roam in large groups – as well as being amazing memory machines. They also recognise other elephants after having been apart for more than twenty years!

FOCUSED FELINE – THE CAT

Believe it or not, your pet cat is probably far better at focusing on short-term tasks than you’ll ever be.  Tests have proven that domesticated felines can perfectly recall their last ten minutes of history, even if they’re being distracted from something else.  Comparatively it’s unlikely any other animal can match this impressive span of self-awareness – it even outlasts a human’s.

PHOTOGRAPHIC PRIMATE – THE CHIMPANZEE

The chimpanzee in general is one of the world’s most intelligent creatures, and is one of the human race’s closest relatives.  Its brainy reputation stems from its innate ability to recall images from memory in very little time, which has been tested via number tests and counting puzzles run via computer screens.  Such photographic memory also allows chimps to be extraordinary quick at learning the visual cues in sign language – making them one of very few animals we can directly communicate with!

THE FLYING LIBRARIAN – CLARK’S NUTCRACKER

The Clark’s nutcracker is a common North American bird currently being studied due to its intensely powerful memory.  It stores nuts for the winter in thousands of places, and it is apparently able to exactly recall the location of up to 30,000 different nuts!  Evolution has allowed the nutcracker to depend on its flawless recall strategy to survive the harsher months, making it a popular resource in studying human memory diseases.

CLEVER COUSINS – THE RHESUS MONKEY

The rhesus monkey is a primate often used in different areas of scientific research and has been studied massively over the years – mainly due to both its incredible power of recall and emotional intelligence!  Unlike many animals that have to be conditioned or have to evolve to avoid repeating their mistakes, Rhesus Monkeys are among very few creatures in the world that can learn from past experiences, and as a result are amazingly self-aware – some having even shown suicidal tendencies.

MOTORMOUTH OR MOTORMIND?  – THE PARROT

Domesticated parrots are often stereotyped as being repeating machines, copying the speech of their owners and repeating it later on.  There’s actually a bit more to it than that – African grey parrots in particular have shown an amazing ability to not only remember and mimic speech and noise, but also to pick up on body language and use certain phrases to convey emotions!  It’s also possible to have a conversation with a parrot – but only if it’s been around people for a considerable amount of time.

 

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