Justine Allen, Marine Biological Laboratory
Which one is the cuttlefish? Read the story below for the answer.

5 Amazing Superpowers Animals Use for Good and Evil

August 14, 2013

Summer may be about to wind down, but we’re still in the silly season, and in that spirit we showcase this select group of animals and their mighty superpowers.

Besides the salmon, whose magnetic relocation prowess is legendary and factors prominently into Native culture, there are a host of other creatures all over the world that could very well cast an incarnation of X-Men.

On a more serious note, there is no shortage of wonders in this world. Below is an array of superpowers and the animals that wield them.

1. Shapeshifting

Neither of these animals is what it seems. The cuttlefish can morph into an aquarium plant or just about anything else thanks to special pigment cells called chromatophores, the website io9 tells us. It can even simulate rough or smooth skin texture.

And the mimic octopus, well, it disguises itself as its very own predators. Those wriggly tentacles can streamline to the animal’s body as it stretches out, flattens and suddenly becomes a bottom-feeding flatfish, for instance.

“Scientists have documented the octopus pretending to be more than a dozen different species, including jellyfish, sea snakes, giant crabs and flatfish,” Smithsonian magazine reports.

This video shows the octopus’s uncanny transformation.

2. Lethal doses

Again, two animals each have their own brand of this superpower. The pink dragon millipede squirts out cyanide.

Its land-based mammalian counterpart, the striped polecat (Ictonyx striatus, a member of the weasel family that hails from Africa), “smell like skunks on steroids,” as Wired.com puts it. Moreover, the “noxious, smelly fluid” they launch at their would-be predators from anal stink glands is toxic enough to be blinding, albeit temporarily.

3. Atomic climbing

Lately geckos, at least a fictional animated one, have come to be known for selling car insurance. But even more remarkable is the way real-life geckos climb: With supernatural-seeming atomic powers much like the ones that keep Spiderman clinging to the wall. The gecko can even climb glass. The tiny lizards’ feet are covered with setae, which are tiny structures shaped like hairs that divide even further into hundreds more. These form a molecular bond strong enough to stick, and up the animals climb, Smithsonian says.

“Every square millimeter of a gecko’s footpads contains 14,000 tiny hairs, called setae, each of which branches into around 500 little tiny “spatulae” so small that they are below the wavelength of visible light,” reports Cracked.com, complete with astounded italics.

Axolotl (Photo: Thinkstock)

4. Regeneration

Mayan ruins are constantly rising out of the jungles of Mexico and Guatemala. In the animal kingdom is a creature that can regrow its limbs, not just its tail. The Axolotl is its name, and besides limbs it can also regrow its heart, spinal cord and brain, Smithsonian says. Flatworms are also masters of regeneration, according to io9.com.

5. Speed

In the air, it’s the hummingbird, and on the ground, the cheetah.

Hummingbirds’ hearts can pound up to 1,260 beats per minute, Cracked.com tells us, and their wings flap 70 times per second. It’s the only animal that can hover in midair like a chopper, and they can fly up to 500 miles without sleeping or eating.

Their ground-based speed-partners-in-crime, the cheetah, spends more time aloft than on the ground, as a matter of fact. The cheetah can run up to 75mph, according to Cracked.com. Able to go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds, the cheetah is the fastest land mammal on Earth, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) says. But its agility outmatches even its speed, a professor at the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London told The New York Times.

“Cheetahs don’t actually go very fast when they’re hunting,” Alan M. Wilson, a professor at the college, told The New York Times in June. “The hunt is much more about maneuvering, about acceleration, about ducking and diving to capture the prey.”

These animals and others are featured in this video from PBS.