6 Animal Superpowers I Wish I Had

Notes From A Queer Engineer_Rory Midhani_640Header by Rory Midhani
Feature image via Shutterstock

My favorite science museum is the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. It’s huge and they have the most interesting rock collection I’ve ever seen. Neil deGrasse Tyson resides there as director of the Hayden Planetarium (as well as my heart). But the real reason it’s my favorite is their programming: fascinating lectures and tours for museum members, and the cream of the crop in terms of special exhibitions, both traveling and homegrown.

Among their current special exhibits, the AMNH is hosting Life at the Limits, showcasing the “incredible adaptations that allow life to thrive even in the most unlikely places on Earth.” I went a little while ago and found myself captivated. Biology is amazing, you guys. Animals are so weird. And I’m a weird animal too, so I made you this list based on the amazing things I saw at the exhibit.

6 Animal Superpowers I Wish I Had


Aye-aye. Via Shutterstock.

1. The Aye-Aye’s Middle Finger

The aye-aye is a primate native to Madagascar, which sleeps during the day and spends most of its life high in the trees. To eat, this unique species of lemur taps its extraordinarily long middle finger against trees to listen for hollow wood. When it finds some, the aye-aye scrapes the bark with its large front teeth, pokes its middle finger into the hole, and skewers a tasty snack of wood-boring grubs.

I don’t have much of an appetite for grubs, but I have been making good use of my middle finger this summer. Walking unaccompanied in the city, there’s only so far I can perambulate in any direction before creepy men feel the need to shout things at me on the street. lately when I get catcalled, my typical response is to scowl, bark out “don’t talk to me,” and/or give them the finger. But what if said finger then extended into a freakishly long, pointy skewer, which I brandished at my enemies with a maniacal gleam in my eye, then winkingly withdrew and skipped away as my harassers stood in stunned silence?! So. Much. Better.

Obviously this plan is excellent and would definitely not end in disaster.

Giant African land snail eating an apple.

Giant African land snail eating an apple. Via Shutterstock.

2. The Land Snail’s Hibernation Abilities

When land snails sense winter coming, they withdraw into their shells and build a mucus door between themselves and the outside. Their circulation slows, they stop eating, and use less than 1/50th of the oxygen they used when active.

Can you imagine being able to do this in the winter? Or for the entirety of presidential election season? Or like, a Wednesday where you just don’t feel like facing the world? As long as I had internet access within my mucus-sealed shell, I’d be all set.

The American Lobster.

American Lobster. Via Shutterstock.

3. The American Lobster’s Resistance To Age

Lobsters don’t experience a decrease in strength or slowing of metabolism as they age. They just get bigger and better their entire lives! The bigger female lobster’s bodies are, the more eggs they can carry – meaning the older a lady lobster is, the better she is at reproducing.

I’m 28, so I have about a decade left to spawn my own biologically related children, if I want to. Which I’m not sure I do. But if I could put off that decision-making need for another few decades, that would be great! Two people on two separate occasions have asked me if I want children in the past week. And it was fine, but like… yeah. Lobsters.

Black Swallower. Via AMNH/R. Mickens.

Black Swallower. Via AMNH/R. Mickens.

4. The Black Swallower’s Stomach

Black swallowers are deep sea fish that hunt 2,300+ feet below the surface. They’re known for their elastic stomachs and ambitious approach to food, swallowing fish up to twice their own length and 10 times their own mass. Nobody has seen these fish in action (they live too deep in the water!), but a popular theory is that they engulf their prey’s head and gills first to suffocate the fush, then gradually walk their teeth up the rest of the body to pull their prey inside.

Basically, I’d like to be able do that. But with Filipino food. And ice cream. And soup.

5. The Geobacter’s Energy Processing

Alternatively, I’d love it if I could get power from a nontraditional food source, such as white male tears. Or electricity.

Recently, scientists discovered bacteria that lives on nothing but electrons. In laboratory tests, colonies growing on electrodes were able to feed directly on flowing electrons. Which is so cool!

I’m picturing this superpower working like, I’d stick a pinkie in an electrical socket overnight, next to my charging cell phone. In the morning, I’d wake up fully energized and ready to take down the patriarchy. Meals would be centered fully on pleasure, not practicality, and I’d make decisions about my diet based on deliciousness alone. (Which is not so different from what I do now? But I bet I could commit even more fully if I had a superpower helping me out.)

Giant Anteater Baby

Giant anteater baby via Shutterstock.

6. The Giant Anteater’s Tongue

Did you know that the giant anteater has a tongue that can extend nearly two feet beyond the tip of its snout?

Hello, ladies.

Notes From A Queer Engineer is a recurring column with an expected periodicity of 14 days. The subject matter may not be explicitly queer, but the industrial engineer writing it sure is. This is a peek at the notes she’s been doodling in the margins.

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Laura Mandanas

Laura Mandanas is a Filipina American living in Boston. By day, she works as an industrial engineer. By night, she is beautiful and terrible as the morn, treacherous as the seas, stronger than the foundations of the Earth. All shall love her and despair. Follow her: @LauraMWrites.

Laura has written 210 articles for us.



    I saw that and had to come down here immediately to shout about it. Thank you for this list it is excellent so far.

  2. Aaahhhh, this article makes my brain so happy! I feel smarter and even more amazed by the world around me after reading that.

    We humans thinks we’re so highly evolved, but bacteria have us all beat by a long shot. They’re the true experts at survival on this planet.

    Also: mantis shrimps are the coolest!

  3. Sometimes I wonder why I am trying to go to graduate school when content like this exists on the internet that is so much more relevant.

    …I hope that came across as a compliment, lists about weird animals are super important to me.

  4. Whenever the question “what superpower would you want to have” comes up, the correct answer, the ONLY correct answer, is the power to turn into an animal. Any animal.

    Yes, that’s right, if I could choose to be a superhero, I would choose to be an Animorph. Why? Because of lists like these! If you could turn into any animal you wanted, you have EVERY super power COMBINED! Speed of a cheetah, strength of an elephant, fly like an eagle, become an insect so small you’re practically invisible. Or, yes, become a giant anteater with an incredibly long tongue, or be able to give the finer just like an Aye-Aye.

    I’d take the Animorphs over the Avengers any day.

    • Ah yes and when you’re had it with living, jumping a 49th floor window is so much more fun when you can turn into a whale and get all the emergency services involved in a conceptual art performance ironically referencing the Hitchhikers Guide.

  5. I absolutely agree with the fish with the huge stomach, but I think it would be even better if you could unhinge your jaw like a snake to put giant food in your mouth. Like, dozen-decker burgers? No problem.

  6. The potential damage from Aye-Aye’s middle finger totally cancels out any benefit from the Anteater’s tongue. That finger better have an off switch.

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