10 Rare Oddities Found on Islands

10 Rare Oddities Found on Islands

Did you know that there are about 900,000 official islands in the world? These islands can be continental or oceanic, and the number varies by country.

Did you know that there are approximately 900,000 official islands in the world? These land masses, often full of rare oddities found on islands, can be either continental or oceanic, and they vary in number from country to country. For example, the Philippines boasts an impressive count of over 7,000 islands and islets. While most islands are ordinary, there are some that stand out for their unique and fascinating characteristics. From a mysterious rock that baffles scientists to an island where a species is in the process of rebuilding itself, here are 10 islands with intriguing claims to fame, each one a testament to the rare oddities found on islands.

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10. Biggest Number of Unique Mammals

Did you know that Australia or Madagascar aren’t the places with the highest concentration of unique mammal species? Surprisingly, a 15-year study concluded in 2016 revealed the true location of this extraordinary menagerie. It turns out, the largest island in the Philippines, Luzon, is home to this special collection of animals.

Excluding bats, a recent study revealed that Luzon is home to 56 mammal species, with an astonishing 52 of them being unique to the island. Moreover, a staggering 93% of these species are found exclusively on Luzon, making it a true treasure trove of biodiversity.

But how did the island outperform all other locations and give rise to numerous distinct mammals? Luzon is quite spacious, comparable in size to Iceland or Cuba. In addition to offering ample room, it boasts diverse habitats that minimize competition among evolving species.[1]

9. The First Laguna Moai

The Moai of Easter Island are iconic statues that require no introduction. These colossal human figures are globally recognized. In 2023, the small island unveiled another hidden Moai, but this particular one had a unique story to tell.

Certainly! This Moai statue was just like any other, with its distinctive elongated facial features and lack of legs. However, what set it apart was its remarkable discovery location. Measuring 5 feet and 3 inches (1.6 meters) in height, it was found lying on its side within a dry laguna bed, nestled in the Rano Raraku crater. Surprisingly, no other Moai had ever been found in a laguna in this particular region.

The newly discovered statue comes with an intriguing mystery. Experts believe that it had been underwater for 200 to 300 years until the lagoon started drying up in 2018. Remarkably, the statue was found at a depth of almost 10 feet (3 meters), making it unlikely for anyone to have intentionally placed it there. The question of how the Maoi ended up at the bottom of the lagoon remains unanswered, adding to the fascination surrounding this enigmatic discovery.[2]

3. A Hospital Superbug

In 2009, a mysterious fungus known as Candida auris emerged in multiple hospitals worldwide. This deadly and highly drug-resistant fungus posed a significant challenge for healthcare facilities, as it proved extremely difficult to eradicate. By 2019, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) labeled this fungus as an “urgent threat” to public health, intensifying concerns about its impact.

C. auris, a superbug that had never been discovered in the natural world, is believed by scientists to have originated from the “wild” and to have been harmless in the past. Unlike most fungi that cannot harm humans due to our high body temperature, what if climate change has led to the evolution of C. auris into an organism that thrives in heat and poses a threat to humans? This raises intriguing questions about the impact of climate change on the emergence of new health risks.

Scientists from the University of Delhi made a groundbreaking discovery. They stumbled upon C. auris, a superbug, in both a marsh and on a beach in the secluded Andaman Islands, near India. What’s even more alarming is that this beach-dwelling bug showed resistance to multiple drugs and thrived in high temperatures. It appears to be a newer strain, adapted to the heat. This finding supports a chilling theory: global warming may be transforming harmless organisms into deadly threats for humans.[3]

7. “Dead” Ant Colonies

During the devastating bushfires that engulfed Australia in 2020, Kangaroo Island also faced significant impact. Tragically, two lives were lost, and more than 40% of the island’s land was ravaged by the flames.

In a bid to support animal populations affected by the fire, wildlife experts placed 901 breeding boxes across 13 different landscapes. During a recent inspection of the nests, scientists made a surprising discovery – inside one of the boxes meant for bats and pygmy possums, they found a Polyrhachis femorata ant colony. However, what shocked them even more was that the entire ant colony had perished. Stay tuned to learn more about this intriguing phenomenon and its potential implications.

The ants were playing a clever trick by pretending to be dead, but one ant accidentally revealed their secret by moving slightly. While it’s not uncommon for individual ants to fake death to deceive predators, this is the first instance where an entire colony of ants dramatically collapsed in self-defense. This fascinating behavior was likely triggered by the noise and movements made when the scientists opened the box.[4]

6. An Infant-Sized Rat

The island of Lupa Vanguna is part of the Solomon Island chain. Locals have long claimed that the Zaira forest in Vanguna is home to a giant rat known as “vika.” Surprisingly, despite its size, scientists have been unable to locate a single specimen of this elusive creature.

In 2017, while cutting down a tree on the island, loggers made a remarkable discovery. They stumbled upon the lifeless body of an animal that had met its fate during the felling. This animal turned out to be a vika, a species whose existence had long been debated. The finding of the vika’s carcass provided undeniable proof, igniting a new quest to locate a living vika.

Scientists from multiple institutions strategically positioned camera traps across the forest. Disappointingly, several years elapsed without any significant findings. However, out of the blue, the camera traps captured captivating images of vika rats, revealing these elusive creatures to the world for the very first time.

Around 95 photos revealed intriguing evidence of four distinct individuals. With a size comparable to that of a newborn child, the vika has earned its status as one of the largest and most uncommon rats known to exist.[5]

5. The Hollywood Herd

Islands are often associated with palm trees, coconuts, and sandy beaches. However, did you know that Santa Catalina Island, located off the coast of Los Angeles, is home to a herd of wild American bison since 1924? It’s a unique and fascinating fact about this beautiful island!

A movie studio brought these huge creatures to the island to feature in two films. While it’s uncertain whether they appeared in the second film, they didn’t make it into the first one. However, after the crew left Santa Catalina, the 14 animals were left behind, their fate unknown.

The bison successfully adjusted to island life and thrived. Fascinatingly, their legacy extends to the silver screen, as some of their descendants made their on-screen debut in 1971 when they were captured on film for Stanley Kramer’s cinematic masterpiece, Bless the Beasts & Children.

At present, there are approximately 100 animals which serve as the backbone for numerous families in Sana Catalina. These families rely on bison tourism, a thriving industry that draws hundreds of visitors to the island annually.[6]

4. Unknown Life Forms

In 2015, a volcanic eruption gave rise to a fresh island in the South Pacific. This extraordinary event provided scientists from various fields, such as biologists, ecologists, volcanologists, and geologists, with a truly rare chance to witness the fascinating process of ecosystem formation on newly formed islands, beginning with the growth of microbial life.

On a remote island called Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, scientists anticipated the arrival of the usual pioneers – cyanobacteria – organisms that thrive on newly exposed land after a glacier recedes. However, to their surprise, these bacteria were nowhere to be found. Instead, they discovered a fascinating array of previously unknown life forms: microbes with the remarkable ability to metabolize and decompose sulfur and atmospheric gases.

The microbes showed a striking resemblance to species found in vastly different habitats, such as deep-sea hydrothermal vents and hot springs. This discovery implies that these unique creatures likely originated from deep underground, defying the conventional expectation that bacteria on a new island originate from bird droppings or seawater. It’s a fascinating twist that challenges our understanding of how life evolves in diverse environments.

The island could have unveiled further evolutionary mysteries and solutions, if not for the subsequent cataclysm. Just seven years after its formation, another volcanic eruption shattered the island into fragments, leaving countless scientists disheartened and yearning for more answers. [7]

3. A Tortoise Lost for 100 Years

In the past, hunters greatly reduced the number of giant tortoises living on the Galápagos Islands. However, the disappearance of one particular species, the Fernandina Giant Tortoise on Fernandina Island, cannot be attributed to human actions. This incredible tortoise, last sighted in 1906, was believed to be extinct as a result of volcanic eruptions.

In 2019, Galápagos National Park rangers made an exciting discovery during their visit to the island – a gigantic tortoise! Believing that this female tortoise might be the long-lost Fernandina Giant Tortoise, they decided to transport her to Santa Cruz Island. Once there, she was given the name “Fernanda” and taken to the Galápagos National Park’s Giant Tortoise Breeding Center, where her story continues to captivate and intrigue.

Fernanda, despite being around a hundred years old, retains the ability to reproduce for many more decades. Once DNA tests confirmed her identity as a Fernandina Giant Tortoise, the next step was to embark on the quest to find her a suitable partner.

In the 2019 expedition when Fernanda was found, the rangers made an exciting discovery – signs of possibly two additional tortoises on the island. If one of them happens to be a male Fernandina Giant Tortoise, there’s hope that this incredible species could endure for several more centuries.[8]

2. A Species Rebuilding Itself

Caecilians, fascinating amphibians resembling worms or eels, can be found on São Tomé Island in the Gulf of Guinea. What makes them truly unique is that there are two types of caecilians found exclusively on this island. In the northern part, they exhibit a striking bright yellow coloration, while their southern counterparts have a captivating combination of yellow with intriguing brown markings.

For almost a century, scientists were puzzled by whether they belonged to the same species. However, a groundbreaking study in 2014 finally settled the debate and revealed that caecilians were not only two distinct species but also interbreeding. Moreover, the research delved into the fascinating genetic history of these animals, unearthing a remarkable story.

The fascinating data reveals that until 300,000 years ago, all São Tomé caecilians belonged to a single species. However, volcanic activity on the island caused lava flows that acted as barriers, dividing the creatures into two distinct groups. This separation forced them to undergo separate evolutionary paths, ultimately resulting in the emergence of different species. Isn’t it intriguing how environmental factors can shape the course of evolution?

The eroded flows have removed barriers, allowing the northern and southern caecilians to interbreed. Who knows, through continuous hybridization, these fascinating amphibians might eventually merge back into a single species once again.[9]

1. Horrifying Hybrid Rocks

Brazilian researchers find 'terrifying' plastic rocks on remote island | Reuters

In 2019, geologist Fernanda Santos embarked on a journey to Trinidade Island, an isolated gem nestled off the coast of Brazil. This captivating island, aside from hosting a modest research center and military base, boasts untouched natural beauty that will leave you in awe.

While Santos was exploring the beach, she stumbled upon peculiar blue-green rocks. Intrigued by their unfamiliarity, she decided to bring them back to her laboratory for analysis. Little did she know, the results would transform her curiosity into sheer horror.

These rocks were an intriguing blend of natural materials and plastic waste, not simply rocks covered in plastic. In fact, they were authentic rocks formed through the usual geological processes, but with a twist. Plastic managed to infiltrate the materials that Earth has been utilizing for billions of years to create rocks. The outcome? Several fascinating and unique hybrid formations.

Rocks that bear resemblance to sedimentary rocks are known as “plastiglomerates.” Some of these plastic formations, called “plastistones,” resemble rocks formed by flowing lava, while others, referred to as “pyroplastics,” have similarities to clastic rocks. Interestingly, this alarming phenomenon is not exclusive to Trinidade Island. It has been reported in various locations worldwide, including Britain, Hawaii, Japan, and Italy, indicating its widespread occurrence.[10]