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Ocean animals that have unique ways of coping with load shedding's annoying moments

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Ocean animals that have unique ways of coping with load shedding's annoying moments

Octopuses suck, but load shedding sucks way harder! South Africans are all feeling the brunt of load shedding right now, and whether you are a businessperson losing out, a commuter stuck in disrupted traffic, or parent unable to prepare a warm meal for your kids, we all have reasons to feel incredibly annoyed by the current situation.

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Cover image credit: Christain Gloor (CC BY 2.0)

Fortunately, we South Africans are a resilient bunch, and we know how to find humour in almost any situation - here are some interesting ocean animals that we think would be able to use their "superpowers" to overcome some of load shedding's annoyances:

No Airconditioning - African penguins

Sweaty offices aren't fun, and neither is a sweaty penguin colony. African penguins know how to beat the heat without air conditioning! When it's too warm, they will stand with their backs to the sun, so that their feet are in shadow on the cool rocks. They also have special patches of skin above their eyes that can absorb extra blood when the penguins get too hot, and cool the blood with the surrounding air. 

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Can't find a phone charger - Sharks

We've all been there, our phone battery icon is red, we desperately need to keep checking WhatsApp for messages from bae... But load shedding prevents you from charging your phone. You desperately try to find an old powerbank or "something" to help, but no luck.

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Sharks don't have this problem. All sharks, big or small, have sensors called ampullae of Lorenzini in their snouts that allow them to detect even the faintest electrical charge - a sense called electrolocation that they use to find prey!

Generate power - Sunfish

As great as solar panels are for beating load shedding, they are a bit pricey and out of reach of many of us. Mola mola, the ocean sunfish, has a simpler solution - when it's feeling cold from diving in the deap ocean and needs to recharge, it just comes to the surface to bask in the sun.

Sunfish can fly (with a bit of help).

Bonus: If you want to watch a person losing their mind the first time they see a sunfish, and don't mind explicit language, check out this video.

Defrosting freezer - Black swallowers

One of the worst load shedding experiences is coming home to discover that your fridge has packed up and that your bulk stock of boerewors and Makro mixed vegetables are all melting - destined for the bin unless you can somehow eat all of it immediately.

If you were a black swallower (Chiasmodon niger), a small fish that inhabits deep waters around the world, but is known to breed around South Africa, this wouldn't be a problem, because black swallowers are easily able to swallow other fish that are more than twice their size and ten times their weight! For a human, this would mean you could easily swallow a chest freezer load of defrosting food - and have space to spare to help your neighbours!

No lights - Crystal jellies

Waking up during the middle of load shedding and having to stumble your way in the dark to the bathroom is not a pleasant experience. Wouldn't it be great if you could make your own light so that you didn't need to rely on Eskom?

Crystal jellies are able to make their own light, producing a green fluorescent protein that they use to attract prey in dark waters. We suspect this may also be why we have never seen a jelly getting lost trying to find a bathroom. This protein is so efficient, that it is actually used as a marker in various scientific studies, and if you ever read a story about genetic engineers producing glowing mice or tomatoes, you can be certain that it is the humble crystal jelly's DNA that was used.

Crystal jelly

Pro tip: If you can't make your own light, you can always hijack another species to do it for you! Night-light jellies trap bioluminescent algae and bacteria to make light for them - a common source of the unusual lights we sometimes see in False Bay.

Traffic lights not working - Schooling fish

When the robots stop working, it's like motorists forget how to drive. We've all experienced this and know that just one intersection without working traffic lights is enough to ruin our morning commutes. If only there were animals that could teach us how to move quickly in huge numbers without bumping into each other (and without traffic lights)...

Turns out, fish have mastered this. If you've ever watched a school of fish swimming about in their elegant twists and turns, you may have wondered what stops them from swimming into each other. No superpower here - the system fish use is simple and, as T. Clarke of LexisNexis so beautifully put it, they "watch the trees, not the forest".

Simply put, no matter how big a school of fish is, fish only watch their immediate neighbours to ensure that they don't bump into each other, and they trust that the fish on the edges and in front of the school will steer them correctly. No traffic signals required!

Getting locked out - Mantis shrimp

This problem doesn't affect everyone, but we have all heard the story of a person or business that put a fancy electronic lock on a door or cabinet and found themselves trapped or locked out during load shedding. Certainly not a fun experience!

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Mantis shrimps have the answer to this - some species are equipped with "smashers", small clubs that can strike with the force of a .22 bullet and have been known to smash glass fish tanks! If we scaled up the speed of the peacock mantis shrimp's blow to a human's punch, the average human would have more than double the punching power of Ivan Drago from the Rocky movies. In other words, you could theoretically punch through bulletproof glass (but don't quote us on that - we're aquarists, not mathematicians).

Frustration - Sea cucumber

This is a frustrating time, and it's important that we all find ways to manage our frustrations - after all, stress isn't good for our health. We think that the sea cucumber has the most satisfying way of voicing its frustrations - one that we're sure South Africans wish they could use. When aggravated, sea cucumbers simply point their bums at the problem and expel their toxic insides in the general direction of whatever is troubling them, then continue about their business. Nature's beauty at work.

We hope you enjoyed this piece and can appreciate the underwater world's diversity a bit better (and we appreciate you for using your valuable battery charge to read this).

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