Natural History

Top 10 Craziest Animal Lifestyles in North America

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Mayflies
Nick Lyon/DCL

9. Mayflies

You’ve probably said it at one time or another: “Life is short.”

And that was never truer than in the story of the mayfly. The numbers are staggering … both in how large they are and how small they are.

Below the surface of the Mississippi River, an almost inconceivable number of microscopic mayfly nymphs squirm, waiting for the sun to warm the water.

Once the temperature climbs above 68 degrees Fahrenheit, a sudden transformation is triggered — mayflies take to the sky. From Minneapolis to New Orleans, clouds of them clog the air — a total of 18 trillion mayflies.

18 trillion.

(Just for comparison, that’s over 3,000 times the number of people on the planet.)

With that transformation, 475,000 tons of protein is released into the food chain over the course of a week or so.

Immediately, there is what you might call an intense sense of urgency.

That’s because mayflies must mate and lay their eggs within just 24 hours of taking flight &mdsah; nature’s own exercise in speed dating.

And here comes that small number we mentioned.

Mayflies die after only a single day of life.

It’s a feast for birds and other wildlife. Their carcasses clog the river from one bank to the other.

So it’s one day of dating and mating, followed by taking one for the ecological balance of the area.

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