Kangaroos can leap 25 feet effortlessly and hop 40 miles per hour. Bear cubs climb trees without fear, not pausing to think about the height or the strength of the branches. Butterflies miraculously start out as caterpillars and retreat for as long as it takes to reenter the world as a beautiful creature that is able to take flight. Not only that but we all know the butterfly effect stories. Can the flapping of butterfly wings really cause hurricanes? Maybe not, but it is a great metaphor for cause and effect.
Many animals possess superpowers we don’t think about until we encounter them at a preserve, zoo or in the wild. The healing abilities of the axolotls takes my breath away. They can regrow limbs, as well as their spinal cord, jaw, tail, skin and even portions of their brain. Thanks to their pluripotent cells, they have incredible abilities to regenerate. Are we envious yet?
Not that I’d want to spurt blood from my eyes, but it’s a great defense mechanism for the horned lizard. No coyote or dingo is going to mess with them when they give them more than an evil eye. Then there are the electric eels who are very capable of fending off intruders. They are well known for having the ability to deliver an electric shock of up to 600-volts. The current causes an intense stinging pain, but I’m not sure I’d call this kind of violent attack a superpower.
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I’m more inclined to applaud the creatures who can camouflage themselves in the wild, like the leaf insect. I also admire the lyrebird who can imitate almost any sound. From barking dogs to chainsaws to car alarms, they repeat and they even teach each other new sounds. I’d say that was pretty amazing.
We often hear children say they wish they could fly, or become invisible, or run at the speed of light. Actually, I’ve heard adults wish for similar attributes when gathered together in celebratory mode.
If I were to point out that the dung beetle is among the strongest creatures on the planet, I’m sure they would challenge that. But stronger than the elephant, the dung beetle can propel a dung ball up to 75 yards, more than 40 times his weight. He does this while standing on his head, and uses his hind legs to fling it backwards. Their strength isn’t the contributory part of their superpower. This act of catapulting dung is a great help to the ecosystem as dung gets dispersed from one part of the forest to another, carrying seeds in the process.
It’s good to know each animal plays its part. Bats are natural pesticides, bees of course are pollinators, and fish excrement stores carbon, therefore helping climate change. Octopi are avid recyclers and rats help detect landmines. Narwhals — which I never knew were real until my later years — are deep divers and help NASA scientists track temperature changes in Greenland’s arctic.
Dogs and cats have their own versions of superpowers in their relationship to humans who need them for their well-being. From being service animals to loyal friends they have a positive effect on the well-being of the world at large.
If we could pick a superpower, we might consider the actual physical attribute, or the contribution aspect. Metaphorically, the kangaroo has much to offer. One skill we can learn from kangaroos is to never go backward. Only forward, no matter how slowly, always forward.
I think I really want to flap my wings enough to prevent a hurricane on the other side of this globe. But that’s just ego speaking. I once read about llamas being great guard animals. They bond with the herd animals, they instinctively protect against predators, and they even are known to have a taste for invasive species. And who doesn’t think they are adorable?
As for which superpower to choose, I saw a T-shirt at the Habitat for Humanity Restore that boldly stated “I’m a volunteer. What’s your superpower?” Even bees would admire that.
Stellpflug, of Beaver Dam, is an educator and trainer in communications: email@example.com.