The new hero shrew weighs less than 2 ounces but can lift heavy objects.William Stanley
As far as humans go, we don't have a lot of features that make us stand out. Sure, there's the large brain, upright gait and opposable thumbs. But otherwise there aren't many physiological features that call special attention to our species compared to others in the animal kingdom.
Take for example a new species of hero shrew, Scutisorex thori, a recently discovered shrew that hails from Africa. Though it may look cute and small -- and it is, weighing in at just under two ounces -- the little shrew is capable of "tremendous strength," as lead author William Stanley, of the Field Museum of Natural History told Discovery News' Jennifer Viegas. Thanks to its uniquely structured spine, the shrew is capable of lifting heavy logs and surviving being stepped on by a much larger animal.
This shrew isn't the only animal in nature with a special skill that sets it apart. And even the shrew's mighty strength doesn't compare with the abilities of other creatures on this list.
Does the immortal jellyfish really live up to the hype?YouTube
If there's one trait that binds every living species anywhere on Earth, it's that they all one day have to die -- all, except perhaps for a jellyfish known as Turritopsis dohrnii.
Earlier this year, a story about a death-defying jellyfish ran in the New York Times Sunday magazine. The jellyfish grows from a polyp to an adult, and then, at an advanced age, back to a polyp to repeat the cycle all over again.
The report was greeted with skepticism in the scientific community, with red flags in the original study on the jellyfish noted by critics.
The box jellyfish is a beautiful, but deadly animal.Corbis Images
T. dohrnii's ability to extend its own life indefinitely is about as impressive as killing potential of the box jellyfish, also Chironex fleckeri, as known as the sea wasp. If stung, its venom is powerful enough to kill a human in as little as two minutes.
And that would be an two agonizing minutes as venom exposure can induce the following symptoms, as documented in a PLoS One study published last year: "excruciating pain, rapid acute cutaneous inflammation, dermonecrosis, permanent scarring, hypertension, hypotension, shock, dyspnoea, impaired consciousness, cardiac dysfunction and pulmonary oedema."
California Gray Whale (Eschrichtius robustus), Mexico. Corbis.
Unlike fictional human zombies, real-life zombie worms haven't risen from the dead. And there's no need to be afraid of the bite of these worms either, seeing as how they don't have mouths.
What these worms can do, however, is produce large quantities of an acid through their skin that's capable of breaking down bone, specifically the bones of whales and other large marine animals. The zombie worms use the bones as both food and shelter, turning a skeleton into Swiss cheese, as LiveScience's Douglas Main describes.
The bombadier beetle isn't afraid to deal a near-boiling chemical blast to any potential predators.National Institute of Health
Like the zombie worm, the bombardier beetle is capable of producing a corrosive chemical mixture. When threatened by a predator, the beetle will blast the offending party with a toxic, boiling hot fluid from their abdomen.
Walking on water is an impressive feat, even when it's achieved by a large-footed lizard.Corbis Images
A South American lizard is capable of performing a effort considered a miracle if performed by a man: Basiliscus vittatus can walk on water. Or, more accurately, this reptile, more commonly known as the brown basilisk, can run on water.
The basilisk's Biblical feat is possible thanks to its large, webbed hind feet that allow it to run over a watery surface.
The axolotl can regrow its limbs, heart and even parts of its brain.Corbis Images
This native Mexican salamander has a regenerative ability that matches that of The Wolverine, though it bears absolutely no resemblance to an actual wolverine at all.
The axolotl is capable of regeneration to a greater extent than just about any other animal in nature. Not only can it regrow limbs, but also organs and parts of its brain. The animal's ability might even one day help scientists unlock the secret of tissue regeneration in humans.
The peacock mantis shrimp Odontodactylus scyllarus from the Indo-Pacific boasts strong, hammer-like claws. Corbis Images
The peacock mantis may be small, but pound-for-pound -- or ounce-for-ounce might be better given its size -- it throws the best punch of any animal on Earth.
This killer crustacean, Odontodactylus scyllarus, can strike prey literally as fast as a speeding bullet, using their hammerlike, four-inch long claws to deliver blows at speeds of 75 feet (23 meters) per second with 200 pounds (91 kilograms) of force, as LiveScience's Stephanie Pappas reports. The shrimp's strike is so impressive that materials engineers are studying the crustacean for military, aerospace and automobile applications.
Don't be deceived by this phony flounder; it's actually an octopus.Corbis Images
Monkey see; monkey do. And that's apparently true with an octopus too.
Regardless, the ability of this octopus, Macrotritopus defilippi, to mimic other sea creatures would give even the most skilled impressionist a run for his money. The octopus will imitate the appearance and behavior of other marine animals for reasons that are still unknown to biologists, though it's suspected that the eight-legged imitators do it to avoid predation.
The electric eel uses its unique abililty for both offense and defense.Corbis Images
It doesn't take much imagination to understand what the electric eel is capable of given its name.
The fish, which can grow up to more than six and a half feet in length, uses electric shocks produced by two organs in their bodies, the Hunter's organ and the Sach's organ, to discharge upwards of 600 volts of electricity at one time, enough to stun prey or detour a potential predator.
Tardigrades may be able to survive almost anything, but they're sure not winning any beauty pageants anytime soon.Corbis Images
Tardigrades, also known as the water bear, don't look like much. But these extremophiles are able to survive conditions that would kill most other living creatures.
Not only can the animal survive more than 100 years without food or water if it needed to; they're also able to withstand temperatures of up to 151 degrees Celsius (303.8 degrees Fahrenheit) and -200 degrees Celsius (-328 degrees Fahrenheit). Tardigrades can also endure extreme radiation and are thought to be the only animal that could survive in the vacuum of space.