We have learned many strange, weird, and wonderful facts about the Earth, animals, and our solar system throughout history. Yet, some of those discoveries have opened up a can of fact-worms that even the biggest know-it-alls might not know. These trivia tidbits dive into some nitty-gritty truths that actually made us a little uneasy.
From sharks being older than trees, to the surprising origins of chain saws, some of these facts are super interesting, and almost cool - but they definitely confound our normal way of thinking. For instance, that nursery rhyme about Humpty Dumpty, the egg who fell off the wall? It turns out he was never an egg at all. Read on for more unsettling facts that made us question everything.
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Elephants Can Maneuver Their Nether Parts Like A Trunk
The animal kingdom can be a strange place with unusual body parts, such as the neck of a giraffe or the trunk of an elephant. But the trunk is actually not the elephant's only appendage it can move that way. Male elephants have prehensile penises they can use to prop themselves up, scratch their stomachs, or swat away pesky flies.
There’s a good reason for an elephant's prehensile (and massive) member. Since elephants are the world’s largest land animals at approximately 6 metric tons on average, it would be challenging to get into position to procreate, much less maneuver, without the aid of this large and freely moving body part.
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Chain Saws Were Invented To Assist In Childbirth
Today, chain saws are primarily used to cut wood, but this is not why they were invented. Before the first cesarean section in 1794, small medical knives and saws had to be used to birth babies that couldn’t exit the birth canal.
Doctors used a practice known as symphysiotomy, which involved removing parts of bone and cartilage to create more space for a baby to exit. These symphysiotomies were conducted without anesthesia and were notoriously painful for the mothers.
In 1780, medical chain saws were invented by doctors for childbirth to make the process of removing pelvic bone, and thus the baby, easier and less time-consuming. These chain saws were powered by a hand crank and might best be described as a modern-day kitchen knife with small teeth on an oval chain.
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Cloudy Oysters Are Filled With Reproductive Fluids
The majority of oysters don’t stay the same sex over the course of their entire lives. Instead, oysters are known as protandric animals, which means they can change their sex organs from male to female over time. Usually, oysters have reproductive organs containing eggs and sperm. Once an oyster reaches maturation after a year of life, it will release sperm, and a few years later, it will release eggs.
During spawning season, an oyster is filled with reproductive fluids that make it cloudy. If an oyster is not spawning, it will have an opaque appearance. People often don’t realize they are eating spawning oysters that are filled with reproductive fluid. Fortunately, if oysters have been handled correctly and refrigerated, it won't harm humans to eat them during this spawning process.
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Ants Can Recognize Themselves In The Mirror
In 1970, psychologist Gordon Gallup Jr. developed the mirror test, a test to determine which animals can recognize themselves in a mirror. Humans generally pass the mirror test around 18 months old. But since its development, only a few types of animals have successfully passed, one of them being ants.
The mirror test is conducted by placing a marker on an animal to see if an animal recognizes that a marker has been placed on their body when they are placed in front of a mirror. Usually, the animals that pass the mirror test will try to adjust their positions to try and look at the mark on their body. Often they will pay significantly more attention to the body part that bears the new marking.
In 2015, a group of scientists published a research study that suggested that ants can recognize themselves when they look in a mirror. During the experiment, ants would slowly move their heads back and forth, touch the mirror, and shake their antennae, behavior they didn't do when looking at another ant through glass.
The ants were then marked with blue dots on their clypeus. After being placed in front of a mirror, they would try to remove the markings placed on them. This research has shown that ants likely recognize themselves in mirrors.
In addition to self-recognition, the mirror test also suggests the possibility of self-awareness, though it doesn't prove it. Other animals that have passed include many great ape species, bottlenose dolphins, orca whales, Asian elephants, and Eurasian magpies. Other species may be capable of self-recognition but still don't pass the test. Dogs for instance, may use scent to recognize themselves rather than sight.
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Bowling Ball Holes Have Been Found To Contain Fecal Matter
Fair warning: This fact may ruin your idea of a fun afternoon at the bowling alley. According to Cary McNeal's book, 1001 Facts that Will Scare the S#*t Out of You, finger holes in bowling balls have been found to contain "substantial" amounts of fecal contamination.
This means that depending on the bowling ball, when a person places their fingers into the holes, they risk getting trace amounts of poop on their fingers. Unfortunately, many people may go on to eat after a bowling game without washing their hands.
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The Car JFK Was Assassinated In Was Used By Later Presidents
One of the most famous presidential assassinations was that of American President John F. Kennedy. Many people know that Kennedy was assassinated in his car while he rode in a motorcade through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, TX, on November 22, 1963. However, fewer know that other US presidents used the same car he was assassinated in.
The 1961 Lincoln Continental Presidential Limousine was a Ford Motor Company-assembled car leased to the Secret Service for $500 a year. The custom-built car cost nearly $200,000 (about $1.9 million in 2022) and had a range of unique features, including flashing red siren lights, interior floodlights, and a hydraulic rear seat that could be raised 10.5 inches to elevate the president.
After the passing of President Kennedy, the car was rebuilt at the cost of almost $500,000 to make it safer and repair damage. One of the key features in the fix was the addition of a permanent, non-removable top that contained transparent armor. It was later used regularly by US presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon despite its tragic history.