6 examples of incredible survivability despite all the laws of nature

6 examples of incredible survivability despite all the laws of nature

When we talk about survivability, we usually operate with general concepts from which we conclude whether the environment is favorable or unfavorable for individual or animal.

But not everything really depends on the environment. There are organisms on our planet that should not exist, because they violate the laws of physics and biology. Nevertheless, they exist (and are doing just fine). How do they manage it?

Giraffe

6 examples of incredible survivability despite all the laws of nature

What’s wrong?

The existence of the giraffe is nonsense, because even their ten-kilogram heart is not able to lift a column of blood to a height of three meters to the head because of too high pressure, which at the same time must rupture the vessels of the neck.

The giraffe cannot bend over: because of the rush of blood to the head, fainting is inevitable. The pressure in the legs of the giraffe is about 400 mm Hg. For humans, much lower values are fatal, and the pressure in the vessels of our legs does not exceed 90 mm Hg.

In fact

Although giraffes have a huge heart, it appears to be quite average relative to body size. Only in 2016, scientists found out that the force required to lift blood is created by the unusual structure of the ventricles and their reinforced wall. A little earlier, it was shown that the vessels in the neck do not rupture due to extreme elasticity, and the vessels in the legs, on the contrary, resemble a fortress – so thickened are their walls.

In addition, the vessels in giraffes are able to squeeze very tightly to resist external pressure. And blood does not rush to the head when the giraffe bends over, because it accumulates in the veins that run along the neck.

Tardigrada

6 examples of incredible survivability despite all the laws of nature

What’s wrong?

Having been aboard the ISS, in outer space with its deep vacuum and space cold, targigradas have not only survived, but produced after the prolific offspring. These creatures withstand a wide range of radiation, with doses a thousand times higher than lethal for humans, heat up to 150 °C and pressure of 6000 atmospheres (normal pressure at the surface is 1 atmosphere).

You may ask: How is this possible?

In fact

When faced with extreme conditions, targigradas go into anabiosis: their metabolism slows down to 0.01% of normal, and their tissue water content drops to 1% of normal.

Targigradas’ cells withstand dehydration thanks to special sugars and proteins that take on adverse effects. Their DNA is protected from radiation by unique proteins that “envelop” the nucleic acids, preventing radiation from reaching the genes. The same proteins save the DNA of this animals from damage by strong oxidants like hydrogen peroxide.

Bumblebee

6 examples of incredible survivability despite all the laws of nature

What’s wrong?

Relatively small wings cannot develop enough lift to hold a heavy bumblebee.

This fact was first pointed out in 1934 by French entomologist Antoine Magnan. The researcher was preparing for the publication of his textbook entitled “The Flight of Insects,” and he needed to calculate the flight characteristics of the bumblebee. Magnan assigned the calculations to his assistant, engineer André Saint-Laguy. The latter, applying the then known principles of aerodynamics, unequivocally concluded that the bumblebee could not fly.

In fact

The laws of physics do not prevent bumblebees from flying, just the principles of insect flight are quite different from those used in the construction of airplanes. Unlike airplane wings, bumblebee wings curve at wingbeat, creating mini-vortices that lift the insects up both at wingbeat and when the wings are lowered.

Kangaroo

6 examples of incredible survivability despite all the laws of nature

What’s wrong?

Kangaroos can cover a distance of up to 9 meters in one jump, and they can jump for hours. Calculations show that such jumping requires at least 10 times more energy than the animals get from food.

In fact

The elastic tendons in the hind limbs store up to 70% of the energy for the jump. In addition, the task of pushing the body off the ground is greatly facilitated by the compensatory movements of different parts of the kangaroo’s body, primarily the tail and head. Simple calculations implying that a kangaroo is something like a sack of potatoes that has to be lifted and lowered to the ground do not include all these factors.

Thermococcus gammatolerans

6 examples of incredible survivability despite all the laws of nature

What’s wrong?

These bacteria-like creatures can tolerate a radiation dose of 30,000 grays!!! That’s incredible survivability. By comparison, humans die after receiving only 5 grays (radiation of this intensity simply tears DNA to shreds). In addition, T. gammatolerans thrive in boiling water: in hydrothermal springs, where they were discovered in 2003, the temperature reaches 100 °C.

In fact

How Thermococcus gammatolerans withstand killer radiation is not entirely clear to scientists. The microorganisms repair DNA thanks to very active nucleic acid “repair” systems. But these are not enough to withstand a dose of 30,000 grays, so researchers are actively studying T. gammatolerans: perhaps their defenses can be used to “repair” DNA damage in humans.

Hummingbird

6 examples of incredible survivability despite all the laws of nature

What’s wrong?

If a car drove at the speed of a hummingbird (relative to its size), it would reach an insane 2090 km/h – 1.7 times faster than the speed of sound! The hummingbird travels a distance of 380 times its body length in a second. For comparison, a fighter jet covers a distance 38 times its own length in the same time.

This birds have to make up to 80 strokes per second to gain such speed. The “flight efficiency” of wing muscles does not exceed 20%, and the rest of the energy is dissipated as heat. Considering that hummingbirds live in a hot climate and their feathers prevent heat from escaping into the environment, the birds must heat up to temperatures incompatible with life.

In fact

Hummingbirds’ heat dissipation has long been a mystery to scientists. But in 2016, they were able to use highly sensitive infrared video cameras to record exactly how the birds cool themselves in flight.

It turned out that these birds waste heat through several special areas: around their eyes, on their legs, under their wings, and on their stomachs. The temperature of these areas is on average 8 °C higher than the ambient air temperature, and depending on the speed of flight, the hummingbird organism “chooses” through which areas and with what intensity to get rid of extra degrees. In other words, the hummingbird’s secret is in the jewel-like distribution of heat-removal zones and their subtle regulation.


No more posts
No more posts