The ship carrying cannibal rats that was rumored to be heading for Britain
In 2013, it was a real possibility—the Lyubov Orlova, which had been
drifting in the Atlantic Ocean for almost a year and was filled with
rodents who had been eating each other to stay alive, was headed for
A fully grown man from the Congo, grabbed a live shrew, put it on the ground, and stood on top of it on one foot for 5 full minutes. When he stepped off of it, the animal walked away. “Anything else would have just been crushed flat,” said Bill Stanley, previously the Director of Collections, Gantz Family Collections Center and Negaunee Collection Manager, Mammals.
Though scientists brought a specimen back to the United States, they wouldn’t discover the truly incredible thing about the animal until 1917: Its vertebral column, which has double the number of lumbar vertebrae of typical mammals. For example, typical mammals may have five or six compared to 11 in Scutisorex. The profuse development of interlocking spines—especially on the lumbar vertebrae (from 20 to 28) is a situation unrecorded for any other mammal. The spines are fixed so that the horizontal spines interlock with those of the next adjoining vertebra. “This is the most bizarre spine of any animal in the world,” Stanley said.
On the island of Hispaniola, which houses Haiti and the
Dominican Republic, lives a small, rodent-like mammal that packs a lot
more survivability than its size may suggest. Not only are they
venomous, but a new discovery suggests they’re also asteroid-surviving. But after 78 million years, they’re in trouble.