Evolution is the process which over time created all the organisms on our planet. The fact that these species are still alive today is enough evidence that evolution did it’s job correctly, however, some of this species definitely got the short end of the stick.
Here are the unlucky animals that evolution screwed over the most.
1. Struggling single parent.
Kangaroos. The female has two uteri and three vaginas. Each uterus has it’s own vagina for ensemination, with a shared pseudo vagina in the middle for giving birth. When the baby comes out of the womb, he climbs into the pouch and attaches himself to the nipple. The joeys are born very premature, so they will remain in the pouch for a few months as they develop more. Mother kangaroos often have joeys at one time (plus a third on the way) one following behind her, and one in the pouch in addition to a fetus in one of the uteri.
2. Good thing they’re so cute.
Okay, they’re cute. They’re also stupid. They have tiny little brains, one of the smallest brain-to-body ratios.
Oh, and eucalyptus leaves are very coarse and provide little nutrition. Therefore, they need to eat a lot, and that damages their teeth. Unlike kangaroos or wallabies, which can regrow teeth infinitely, koalas have one set. When it’s gone, they starve to death.
They’re not adaptable. It would take only one environmental shakeup to leave them sitting there with nothing. It’s an evolutionary dead end.
Also they all have chlamydia.
3. Guess a dinner date is a no go.
Adult moths of the Saturniidae family (luna moths, etc.) have no mouths or digestive tracts and die of starvation. Their sole purpose after pupating is to reproduce and die.
4. Making themselves a target.
I know the Peacock has things pretty bad. That huge tail on the males make them very easy for predators to catch. They just grab hold and yank ’em down.
Our collie did that to our peacock and finally did him in. The dopey bird had it coming, though. He would hop down from the loft in the barn and spur the poor dog in the back whenever he slept in the barn. I knew that one day Jumpy would meet his end in the jaws of that dog, but I could never have blamed Duncan (our dog) for it, either.
5. Childbirth is already hard enough!
Spotted Hyenas. The females all have enlarged pseudo-penises, which are exactly what you’re imagining. They’re useful in the sense that it means it’s really really hard for the males to have sex with a female hyena who isn’t receptive to it. But there’s some drawbacks, also exactly where you’d imagine:
They give birth to live young who have to come through that long and not too stretchy pseudo-penis. It is not uncommon for the pseudo-penis to split during childbirth and for the mother to then bleed out.
6. Pandas in general. All pandas are screwed.
Red Pandas have the digestive system of a carnivore but eat primarily bamboo. Because they have a carnivorous digestive system, they can only manage to absorb 1/4 of the nutrients in a bamboo leaf. Because they can only absorb 1/4 of the nutrients in a bamboo leaf, they have a super slow metabolism to compensate. Because they have a super slow metabolism they don’t produce a lot of body heat. They live in the Himalayas and they don’t produce a lot of body heat. What the heck Red Pandas, why are you alive?
Also their mating season lasts 24 hours a year.
7. Don’t need to fly when you’re living on an island!
The kiwi bird, its a large round body with a massive beak, cant fly, cant climb, can’t defend itself from anything.
Apparently also it it has a mating call so low in frequency that females can’t discern where the male is calling from, so the females have to walk aimlessly until they find the male.
8. “Back in my day…”
The Meganeura from the Carboniferous period are related to modern-day dragonflies and had wingspans of up to 65 cm (25.6 in).
Modern-day dragonflies are like, “man, this blows.”
9. Big horns = big problems.
The Irish Elk mentioned. They evolved enormous horns through sexual selection and they went extinct because, according to one common theory, the horns made them ineffective at life overall.
10. At least it’s got one trick up it’s sleeve.
Blue tongue skink, stubby little legs can’t move its big fat long body easily at all.
It’s main self defense is trying to trick other animals with its blue tongue that it’s venemous/poisonous…. it is not.
It is just a hobbling fat slice of “WHY GOD, WHY ME?!
They are pretty cute though.
11. Poor little guys.
Tasmanian Devils have been devastated by an aggressive transmissible cancer that so disfigures their faces that they eventually starve to death or suffocate. They bite each other in the face so often that over 80% of wild Tasmanian Devils had the disease in 2010.
12. That can’t be very fun.
I think evolution put the snail in a funny spot. At some point during a snail’s life, its body will twist in a way such that it would allow the snail to retract its head into the shell, offering better protection. However, as a result, the snail’s anus will sit directly above its head, and the anus could empty into its mouth.
13. Sex machine.
I want to mention antechinuses, which are a kind of small marsupial that look similar to rodents. Antechinuses literally fornicate themselves to death. Like, physically, their body falls apart. They have sex until they physically disintegrate.
It’s a viable reproductive strategy, it’s just also kind of terrifying.
14. Well, that really sucks.
I wouldn’t strictly say the hardest, but I would nominate Giraffes for inheriting a bunch of weird coping mechanisms for the niche it’s carved itself.
A giraffe starts life by falling 2 meters (6ft) to the ground. Being the only mammal born with horns (ossicones), this is an unpleasant start for everyone involved. Then things get weird.
One of my favourites is the recurrent laryngeal nerve: In most mammals, this already is a pretty poor situation.
The nerve, instead of travelling directly from the brain to the larynx, it typically travels down the neck, around the aortic arch in the heart, then up to the larynx. In humans, this makes it ~5x longer than the ideal route. In giraffes, it extends the nerve to nearly 4.5 meters (~15 ft).
In addition to that, the distance between their feet and their brains, they have built in lag (about 100ms), meaning they need their spinal muscles to manage to process of finding footfall, rather than thinking about it.
Giraffes and nerves are kinda weird, circulation is a whole other level. Firstly, they need to get blood to their brains, as a result, their hearts are huge. Consequently, their blood pressure is extremely high, the highest of any animal and their heart rate rests at about 170bpm. This is fine for getting blood up to the brain, but is problematic for the lower body.
In order to prevent turning into a whirling dervish of blood spewing madness every time they get a leg injury, and to prevent blood simply pooling in their legs, they’ve adapted extremely tight skin on their legs, and a series of one way valves to keep blood running in the right direction.
So that’s not so bad, right? I mean, it’s weird, but it’s to be expected.
Problems start when it has to drink; when a giraffe lowers itself down to drink, it has to contend with the blood now rushing towards its head. Without compensation, it would die as soon as its head got below a certain threshold.
Firstly, when a giraffe bends its head down, valves in its neck shut down, preventing excessive blood flow to the brain. For the extra load from blood re-entering the brain, they need to distribute it in a spongy network of blood vessels. As they stand again, they use this system to maintain a steady blood pressure in their brain as they stand again. I suppose the upshot of this, is that throughout history, genetically weak giraffes have died in absolutely hilarious ways.
That’s all great, but it’s nothing on my favourite evolutionary arms race (barring ducks).
The Acacia tree vs giraffes:
The first line of defense for an acacia tree is the fact that it’s covered in huge spines.
Giraffes get around this with their massive prehensile tongues, which they can use to avoid spines and still strip leaves.
The next line of defense for the acacia is tannin. Tannin tastes terrible (it’s also toxic, and can kill other herbivores), when a tree senses it is under attack, it ramps up production of tannin in order to make it less attractive to eat.
The simple solution to this for the giraffes is just to rotate trees.
Now multiple trees are at risk, the acacia plays its next trick: it communicates with other trees in its vicinity by releasing chemicals into the air (fun fact, the lovely smell of fresh cut grass is also a distress marker). As the trees pick up these chemical markers they all ramp up production of tannin until the threat is gone.
It’s at a point where giraffes now need to stalk acacia trees, approaching them only from downwind to avoid the trees that have been alerted.
The acacia has one more trick up its sleeve: Some species have developed heavily modified spines which house aggressive ants. The acacia have developed a symbiotic relationship, feeding the ants on nectar and housing them, in return the ants aggressively defend the tree.
15. It takes guts.
Bees got stuck with a bad defence system when it comes to thick skinned animals like humans. “Get out of my house!… Oh I seem to have ripped my own guts out.”
16. It’s fainting time.
Not one of you give any thought to the fainting goat!
Oh yeah by the way when you’re threatened, distressed or surprised in anyway your legs seize up beneath you leaving you completely defenceless on the ground.
It allows the herd to escape predators fine if some individuals are easier to catch than others, but just sucks for the ones that have that trait.
17. That’s rough.
Female Argentine Blue-Bill Ducks.
Instead of a cloaca, the males reproductive organ can be longer than the length of its body.
18. We really screwed things up for them.
Peppered moths. They evolved to blend in with tree bark, then the industrial revolution covered all the trees with soot, so they stood out like a sore thumb and got eaten by birds. This created a selection pressure towards black pigment making them darker.
Then humans finally twigged that all this pollution isn’t a good idea and cleaned up their act, so the now black peppered moths stood out against the clean trees.
19. Just along for the ride.
Male angler fish are really just glorified sperm sacs. They attach their mouth onto the much larger female, eventually fusing with her body. She then provides the male with enough nutrients to survive and produce sperm for her.
20. Rare for a good reason.
A tiny frog that no longer has any lungs. They have to live in cold, fast-flowing fresh water that’s oxygenated enough so their skin can absorb enough.
They’re really rare for a very good reason they (almost) can’t survive to find another habitat if something happens to the little stream where they were born.
21. That has got to hurt.
Male praying mantises got it pretty bad.
During intercourse, the female praying mantis will bite off the head of the male in order to make him thrust more vigorously. She then consumes his body after copulation for a fun snack.
I would go into monasticism if were a praying mantis…
22. All it takes is one.
The Stephens Island Wren had no natural predators. Evolution rendered it unable to fly as it didn’t need to escape. Humans came to the island. The lighthouse keeper’s cat killed every one. The only species to be eradicated by a single, lone entity.
23. From top of the food chain to…
The chicken. Imagine being a gigantic terrifying dinosaur, then millions and millions of years pass and you’re this small fat delicious bird. Selective breeding is still a type of evolution by human intervention.
24. Biggest threat to the world as we know it.
Humans. Gave us just enough intelligence to have the power to ruin our planet, but not enough to decide not to.
25. Turtle trouble on the double.
Turtles, just because of how slow they eat. I work with Eastern box Turtles and every time they take a bite and swallow their tongue pushes out most the food. Then they also need to orient the food the right way in their mouth which they attempt to do by using their front legs to kick at it, usually dropping it again. When I need to feed them 4 meal worms each(there are 2) it takes about 30 minutes.
27. The human animal.
If human selection is on the table then dogs: Specifically pugs, French bulldogs, bulldogs, Japanese Chins, and any other pushed in face dogs (brachialsophalic, stonotic nares, narrowed birth canal). German Shepherds, golden retrievers, boxers (cancer, hip dysplasia). Dauschunds, basset hounds, corgis (prone to obesity, slip discs, and arthritis). The list goes on.
28. I just feel like I don’t fit in…
Platypus: this thing is completely aimless.
Duck, beaver, otter, egg-laying mammal, and venomous.
It’s an animal made of or parts from a lost-and-found bin.
29. Not much reach.
I think the slow loris, due to a specific and remarkably useless region of its brain, is incapable of adjusting its aim while reaching for something. This means that if, say, food is moving around even the slightest bit at the most leisurely pace, the slow loris is likely to miss.
30. 40 year old virgin is a good thing in this case.
The octopus. Intelligent animal that dies after mating. The male rips off its own genitals and throws em at the female. The female dies after her newborns hatch. I mean, seriously.
31. Be prepared to hold in your bodily fluids for long periods of time.
They live in trees but they need to climb down to take a crap, and this is when they get eaten by predators because they are super slow.