Nature never ceases to amaze. This year brought us shark-eating alligators, birds feeding goldfish, and a badger that buried a cow—all by itself.
So those of you who love the weird and wild around us, we’ve picked our favorite animal stories!!
NEW GECKO SHEDS SKIN ON DEMAND, LOOKS LIKE RAW CHICKEN
Tear-away pants may provide comic relief on the big screen, but for some geckos, shedding skin fast can mean life or death. Meet Geckolepis megalepis, a new species of fish-scaled gecko from Madagascar that can drop its scales on demand—all the way down to the muscle.
The tropical creature joins four other lizard species that lose their skin when threatened, similar to the well-known reptilian strategy of shedding tails to escape predators, according to a February study. (Read about an overachieving lizard that grew three tails.)
FIRST-EVER PHOTOS SHOW WILD LION NURSING LEOPARD CUB
A leopard suckles a leopard cub in an unusual sight.
African lions and leopards are not what you’d call friends. In fact, lions have a habit of killing leopards.
So it was quite surprising when a five-year-old lioness was seen nursing a weeks-old leopard cub in July in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
“It’s unprecedented,” says president and chief conservation officer for Panthera, a global wild cat nonprofit. “We never see this in the wild.”
NEW PURPLE PIG-NOSE FROG FOUND IN REMOTE MOUNTAINS
We reported that scientists had found a new and unusual species of frog in India’s Western Ghats mountain range. The frog has shiny, purple skin, a light blue ring around its eyes, and a pointy pig-nose.
Bhupathy’s purple frog is closely related to another purple frog (N. sahyadrensis) found in the region in 2003. Together, the two make up the only known members of their family. The find comes as part of an effort sponsored by the Indian government to sample the DNA of every frog and toad species in the nation.
ALLIGATORS ATTACK AND EAT SHARKS, STUDY CONFIRMS
An adult American alligator captures a nurse shark in the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Florida.
American alligators gobble up anything they can get their jaws around. A September study added new items to their menu: sharks and stingrays.
It’s particularly surprising, says study leader James Nifong, an ecologist at Kansas State University, because alligators are known as freshwater predators.
EXCLUSIVE PICTURE: FEMALE ANACONDA STRANGLES MALE AFTER SEX
A female anaconda kills a male after mating in Brazil.
While tracking down a particularly large snake in the swamps of Brazil, photographer Luciano Candisani got more than he’d hoped for: the first known image of a female green anaconda squeezing her mate to death.
The reason is simple: The male is good protein for an expecting mother, especially one who fasts the whole seven months of pregnancy.
GIANT RAT THAT FELL FROM SKY IS NEW SPECIES
The newfound rat is much bigger than your average city rodent
In November 2015, when loggers felled a 30-foot-tall tree on the island of Vangunu and a rodent of unusual size came crashing down with it.
“I immediately knew it was something new,” mammalogist Tyrone Lavery, a fellow at the Queensland Museum and Chicago’s Field Museum who’s been searching for the rat since 2010, said in September.
Weighing more than two pounds and growing up to 1.5 feet long, the Vangunu giant rat (Uromys vika) is about four times larger than city rats scurrying through alleys and dumpsters the world over.