11 cheap gifts guaranteed to impress science geeks

Science comes up with a lot of awesome stuff, and you don't need a Ph.D, a secret lab, or government funding to get your hands on some of the coolest discoveries. We've got a list of 11 mostly affordable gifts that are guaranteed to blow your mind, whether or not you're a science geek.

1. Aerogel

Also known as frozen smoke, Aerogel is the world's lowest density solid, clocking in at 96% air. It's basically just a gel made from silicon, except all the liquid has been taken out and replaced with gas instead. If you hold a small piece in your hand, it's practically impossible to either see or feel, but if you poke it, it's like styrofoam.

Aerogel isn't just neat, it's useful. It supports up to 4,000 times its own weight and can apparently withstand a direct blast from two pounds of dynamite. It's also the best insulator in existence, which is why we don't have Aerogel jackets: it works so well that people were complaining about overheating on Mt. Everest.

Price: $35

2. EcoSphere

Inside these sealed glass balls live shrimp, algae, and bacteria, all swimming around in filtered seawater. Put it somewhere with some light, and this little ecosystem will chug along happily for years, no feeding or cleaning necessary, totally oblivious to the fact that the rest of the world exists outside.

EcoSpheres came out of research looking at ways to develop self-contained ecosystems for long duration space travel. They're like little microcosms for the entire world, man. But ask yourself: are we the shrimp, or the algae?

Price: $80

3. Mars Rock

NASA has been trying to figure out how to get a sample of rock back from Mars for a while now. You can beat them to the punch and pick up a little piece of the red planet without having to travel a hundred million miles, by just taking advantage of all the rocks Mars sends our way.

Every once in a while, a meteorite smashes into Mars hard enough to eject some rocks out into orbit around the sun. And every once in a while, one of these rocks lands on Earth. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen, and whoever finds the meteorite is allowed to cut it up into bits and sell it to people who want to have their very own piece of another planet.

Price: $70+

4. Gömböc

The Gömböc is a self-righting object, which means that no matter which way you put it down, it stands itself back up. It's like a Weeble, except it doesn't cheat by having a weight at the bottom, and it's the only shape that can do this.

The existence of a shape with these properties was conjectured in 1995, but it took ten years for someone to figure out how to actually make one that worked. And then everyone was embarrassed when it turned out that turtles had evolved this same basic shape in their shells a long time ago, to make it easier for them to roll themselves back over if they get flipped.

Price: $150

5. Violet Laser Pointer

It's no longer geeky enough to have a red laser pointer, or a green laser pointer, or even a blue laser pointer. Keep moving up the spectrum until you get to violet, and you'll find the new hotness at 405 nanometers.

So what's next year's new color going to be? It's looking like orange, but they're not quite what I'd call affordable yet. Something to look forward to for next year, especially if you're going for your own personal laser rainbow.

Price: $110

6. Gallium

Gallium is a silvery metal with atomic number 31. It's used in semiconductors and LEDs, but the cool thing about it is its melting point, which is only about 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If you hold a solid gallium crystal in your hand, your body heat will cause it to slowly melt into a silvery metallic puddle. Pour it into a dish, and it freezes back into a solid.

While you probably shouldn't lick your fingers after playing with it, gallium isn't toxic and won't make you crazy like mercury does. And if you get tired of it, you can melt it onto glass and make yourself a mirror.

Price: $80

7. Miracle Berries

By themselves, Miracle berries don't taste like much. The reason to eat them is that they contain a chemical called miraculin that binds to the sweet taste receptors on your tongue, changing their shape and making them respond to sour and acidic foods.

The upshot of this effect is that some things you eat taste spectacularly different. Straight Tabasco sauce tastes like donut glaze. Guinness tastes like a chocolate malt. Goat cheese tastes like cheesecake. After about an hour of craziness, your taste buds go back to normal, no harm done.

Price: $15

8. DNA Genotyping

There's nothing more personal than someone's own DNA. And there are ways to give the gift DNA that won't get you children or arrested. With just a little bit of spit, you can get an genotype analysis that will reveal fun insights about longevity, intelligence, susceptibility to diseases, and even food preferences.

While the technology hasn't reached the point where you can affordably get a complete sequence of an entire genome, looking at specific markers is still good enough to suggest some things worth looking out for while spurring a lively nature versus nurture debate.

Price: $100

9. Klein Bottle

If you want to give a mathematician something to try to wrap their head around, a Klein bottle is a good place to start. A real Klein bottle is an object with no inside and no outside that can only exist in four dimensions. These glass models exist in three, which means that unlike the real thing, they can actually hold liquid.

The difference between the models and the real thing is that by adding an extra dimension, you can make it so that the neck of the bottle doesn't actually intersect the side of the bottle. Take a couple aspirin and try to picture that in your head.

Price: $35

10. Giant Plush Microbes

They're cute! They're fuzzy! They're potentially deadly! All of the microbes, bacteria, and viruses that you know and love (or maybe not) are available in huggable forms about a million times larger than real life. In the picture are gonorrhea, syphilis, mono, and herpes.

These giant plushes are the perfect way to make the holidays even more awkward, when you present your friends with a variety of adorable STDs. Microbiologists, at least, will appreciate that they're more or less anatomically correct, too.

Price: $9

11. Ferrofluid

Magnetic particles suspended in oil never looked so sexy. That's all a ferrofluid is, and it looks pretty gross until you put it in close proximity to a magnet, at which point it grows spikes all over the place as the fluid flows out along magnetic force lines.

Ferrofluids are found in everything from speakers to hard drives, but it's much more fun to play with when when you've got a puddle of it naked and out in the open.

Price: $40



Top 10 Civilizations That Mysteriously Disappeared

Throughout our history, most civilizations have either met a slow demise or were wiped out by natural disasters or invasion. But there are a few societies whose disappearance has scholars truly stumped:

10. The Olmec

One of the first Mesoamerican societies, the Olmec inhabited the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico. The first signs of the Olmec are around 1400 BC in the city of San Lorenzo, the main Olmec settlement which was supported by two other centers, Tenochtitlan and Potrero Nuevo. The Olmec were master builders with each of the major sites containing ceremonial courts, house mounds, large conical pyramids and stone monuments including the colossal head that they are most known for. The Olmec civilization relied heavily on trade, both between different Olmec regions and with other Mesoamerican societies. Because they were one of the earliest and most advanced Mesoamerican cultures at the time, they are often considered the mother culture of many other Mesoamerican cultures.
Where did they go?
Around 400 BC the eastern half of the Olmec’s lands was depopulated- possibly due to environmental changes. They may have also relocated after volcanic activity in the area. Another popular theory is that they were invaded, but no one knows whom the invaders might be.

9. The Nabateans

The Nabateans were a Semitic culture that inhabited parts of Jordan, Canaan and Arabia from around the sixth century BC. They are most widely known as the builders of the city of Petra, which served as their capital. Petra is an impressive city carved out of the cliff side with the crown jewel being the Khazneh, or Treasury, a giant Greek inspired building. The Nabateans’ wealth was gained by being a major stop on a complex trading network, through which they traded ivory, silk, spices, precious metals, gems, incense, sugar perfume and medicine. Because of the extent of the trade route, the Nabatean culture was highly influenced by Hellenistic Greece, Rome, Arabia and Assyria. Unlike other societies of their time, there was no slavery and every member of society contributed in the work duties.
Where did they go?
During the fourth century AD, the Nabateans abandoned Petra and no one really knows why. Archeological evidence proves that their exodus was an organized one that was unrushed, which leads us to believe that they were not driven out of Petra by another culture. The most likely explanation is that when the trade routes they relied on moved north they could no longer sustain their civilization and left Petra behind.

8. The Aksumite Empire

The Aksumite Empire began in the first century AD in what is now Ethiopia and is believed to be the home of the Queen of Sheba. Aksum was a major trade center with exports of ivory, agricultural resources and gold being traded throughout the Red Sea trade network and onward to the Roman Empire and east towards India. Because of this, Aksum was a very wealthy society and was the first African culture to issue its own coinage, which in ancient times was a sign of great importance. The most recognizable monuments of Aksum are the stelae, giant carved obelisks that acted as the grave markers of kings and nobles. Early Aksumites worshipped several gods but their main god was called Astar. In 324 AD, King Ezana II was converted to Christianity and from then on Aksum was a zealously Christian culture, and is even allegedly the home of the Ark of the Covenant.
Where did they go?
According to local legend, a Jewish Queen named Yodit defeated the Aksumite Empire and burned its churches and literature. However, others believe that southern pagan queen Bani al-Hamwiyah led to the Aksumite decline. Other theories include climate change, trade isolation and over farming leading to starvation.

7.The Mycenaeans

Growing out of the Minoan civilization, the Myceanaeans merged around 1600 BC in southern Greece. Being spread out over two islands and the southern mainland, the Myceaneans built and invaded many major cities like Mycenae, Tiryns, Pylos, Athens, Thebes, Orchomenus, Iolkos and Knossos. Many Greek myths are centered around Mycenae including the legend of King Agamemnon, who led the Greek forces during the Trojan War. The Myceaneans were a dominant naval power and used their naval prowess for trade with other nations as well as for military endeavors. Because of a lack of natural resources, the Myceaneans imported many goods and turned them into sellable items and therefore became master craftsmen, known throughout the Aegean for their weapons and jewelry.
Where did they go?
No one knows for sure, but one theory is that unrest between the peasant class and the ruling class led to the end of the Myceaneans. Other point to disruptions in trade routes, or natural factors like earthquakes. But the most popular theory is that they were invaded by a civilization from the north like the Dorians (who settled in the area after the fall of the Myceaneans) or the Sea People (who at the time were migrating from the Balkans to the Middle East).

6. The Khmer Empire

The Khmer Empire grew out of the kingdom of Chenla in what is now Cambodia around the 9th century AD and became one of the most powerful empires in Southeast Asia. The empire is known to most people as the civilization that built Angkor, Cambodia’s capital city. The Khmer were an incredibly powerful and wealthy culture who were open to several belief systems including Hinduism, Mahayana Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism, which were the empire’s official religions. Their power also included military might as they fought many wars against the Annamese and Chams.
Where did they go?
The decline of the Khmer Empire can be attributed to any combination of several factors. The first being that the empire was ruled by a devarajo or god king, but with introduction of Theravada Buddhism, which teaches self enlightenment, the government was challenged. This led to a lack of a desire to work for the devarajo which impacted the amount of food being produced. During the reign of Jayavarman VII, an elaborate road network was built to make it easier to transport goods and troops throughout the Empire. But some scholars believe that these roads worked against them, making it easier for invaders like the Ayuthaya to get straight to Angkor.

5.The Cucuteni-Trypillian Culture


 In Romania they are the Cucuteni, in the Ukraine they are the Trypillians and in Russia they are the Tripolie: a late Neolithic culture that flourished between 5500 BC and 2750 BC. At their height, the Cucuteni-Trypillian society built the largest Neolithic settlements in Europe, with some housing up to 15,000 people. One of the biggest mysteries of this culture is that every 60 to 80 years they would burn their entire village and reconstruct it on top of the old one. The Cucuteni-Typillian culture was matriarchal, the women were the heads of the household and also did the agricultural work and made pottery, textiles and clothing. The men were hunters, tool makers and were responsible for looking after domestic animals. Their religion was centered around the Great Mother Goddess who was a symbol of motherhood and agricultural fertility. They also worshipped the bull (strength, fertility and the sky) and a snake (eternity and eternal movement).
Where did they go?
One of the main theories about the end of the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture is the Kurgan hypothesis, which states that they were conquered by the warlike Kurgan culture. However, more recent archeology points to a dramatic climate change which could have led to one of the worst droughts in European history- devastating for a culture that relied heavily on farming.

4. Clovis

A prehistoric Native American people, the Clovis culture dates back to 10,000 BC. Centered in southern and central plains of North America they are archeologically recognized by chipped flint points called Clovis points. They used these points on the end of spears to hunt big game like mammoth and bison and small game like deer and rabbits. The Clovis people were the first human inhabitants of the New World and are considered the ancestors of all North and South American indigenous cultures. Many scholars believe that they crossed the Beringia land bridge from Siberia to Alaska during the ice age and then headed south to warmer climates.
Where did they go?
There are several theories around the disappearance of the Clovis culture. The first states that a decrease in megafauna along with less mobility in their culture led them to branch off and form new cultural groups, like the Folsom culture. Another theory is that the mammoth and other species became extinct due to over hunting, leaving the Clovis without a viable food source. The final theory revolves around a comet that crashed to the earth around the Great Lakes region and significantly affected the Clovis culture.

3.The Minoans

Named after the legendary King Minos, the Minoans inhabited what is now Crete from 3000 to 1000 BC. In Greek mythology, Minoa was the land of Cretan Bull and it’s son, the Minotaur- a mythical half-man-half-bull that lived in the labyrinth and killed anyone who entered. In reality, the Minoans were the first known civilization in Europe. Today all that is left of the Minoan civilization are their palaces and the artifacts found within. The Minoan civilization was one of social organization, art and commerce. Early Minoans spoke a language that we call Linear A, which during later periods was replaced by Linear B, both of which were based on pictographs. There is no evidence of any military culture found in the Minoan palaces and it seems their power was purely economical. Even though the Minoans fell, their culture was inherited first by the Myceaneans and from there by the Hellenistic Greeks.
Where did they go?
Many scholars believe that the Minoans were wiped out by a volcanic eruption on the island of Thera (now Santorini), but there is evidence that they survived. However, the eruption would have killed all plant life thus leading to starvation, and damaged their ships leading to economic decline. It is also believed that during this time they were invaded, possibly by the Myceaneans.

2.The Anasazi

The Anasazi or Ancestral Puebloans were a Native American culture that emerged in the Four Corners area of the United States (where New Mexico, Arizona, Colordo, and Utah meet) around 1200 BC. The early Puebloans were hunters and gatherers who lived in shallow pit houses. Later they developed horticulture and began farming maize, beans and squash. Also found at Anasazi archeological sites are greyware pottery, elaborate baskets, reed sandals, rabbit fur robes, grinding stones and bows and arrows. In the Pueblo II and Pueblo III eras the Anasazi carved whole towns out of nearby cliffs like those at Mesa Verde and Bandelier or they constructed them out of stone or adobe mud like Chaco Canyon. These towns hosted many cultural and civic events and were connected to each other by hundreds of miles of roadways.
Where did they go?
Around 1300 AD the Ancestral Puebloans abandoned their cliff houses and scattered. Many scholars believe that, after a population explosion, poor farming methods and a regional drought made it difficult to produce enough food. Due to this lack of food, the Anasazi moved either along the Rio Grande or on the Hopi mesas, and therefore many modern Pueblo Indians believe that they are the descendants of the Anasazi. Recent studies prove that this climate change could not explain the decline of the Anasazi alone and suggest that social and political factors like a violent conflict led to their end, instead.

1. The Indus Valley Civilization

Once inhabiting an area about the size of western Europe in what is now Pakistan and western India, the Indus Valley or Harappan Civilization thrived from 3300 to 1300 BC, although the area was settled all the way back to 7000 BC. Despite being one of the largest ancient civilizations, not much is known about the Harappan civilization, mostly because their language has never been deciphered. We do know that they built over one hundred towns and villages including the cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, each of which was built with an organized layout, and a complex plumbing system with indoor toilets. Evidence suggests that the Harappan had a unified government and that there were no social classes. There is also no evidence of military activity so it is likely that they lived in peace. They were skilled astronomers and were well versed in agriculture, growing wheat, barley, peas, melons, sesame and cotton (becoming the first civilization to produce cotton cloth) and domesticating several animals including cattle and elephants.
Where did they go?
There are several theories as to what happened to the Indus Valley civilization. Some people believe that they declined because of changes to their environment, such as a decrease in the size of the Ghaggar Hakra river system or the cooler, drier temperatures that are also evident throughout the Middle East. Another popular theory was that the Aryans invaded them around 1500 BC.



Deadliest Islands in the World

7. Gruinard Island
In the Second World War, the British government decided to test anthrax as a bioweapon and compulsorily purchased Gruinard Island from its owners for use as a testing site. The island, part of Scotland, remained contaminated with anthrax for decades – at least until 1986, when 280 tonnes of formaldehyde were sprayed on the island to kill the spores.

Gruinard Island was declared free of danger in 1990, but there may yet be some risk, for no one knows what the long-term effects of formaldehyde poisoning are.

6 Miyakejima
You have to be brave to live on this patch of land. Miyakejima Island, nestled in the Izu island group off Japan, is a volcanic island with an active volcano that erupts every few years, but much more deadly is the poisonous sulfuric gas that seeps from the mountain as well as from the ground.

In July 2000, Miyakejima’s Mount Oyama erupted (again) prompting evacuations that were completed by September of the same year. No one was allowed back for five years, but even now residents are said to have to carry gas masks with them at all times in case the alarm goes off warning of high sulfur levels in the air. Unbelievably, Miyakejima has become a tourist spot, with stores selling gas masks to holidaymakers as they explore the island or boat or swim off it. Sulfur is still being emitted, but some like a little danger with their vacation, it seems!

5. Runit Island
Enewetak Atoll is a part of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean. The island of note here is Runit Island. This is because the US conducted nuclear testing on the atoll for years – until the late 1970s, when some residents were allowed to return. Unfortunately, a massive cleanup operation was needed which the US undertook in 1977, taking 111,000 cubic yards of contaminated earth and other materials from nearby islands and burying it in a blast crater at the end of Runit Island.

The US military built an 18-inch, 100,000-square-foot cement cap comprising 358 concrete panels – known as the Cactus Dome – to cover the contaminated earth and debris. In 1980, the government decided Runit Island was safe for habitation. We wonder if they specified for whom? It seems to us that this island is safe for nothing on this planet, human or animal.

4. Vozrozhdeniya
The island of Vozrozhdeniya, also somewhat ironically known as Rebirth Island, and now shared by Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, is unique in that with the shrinking waters of the Aral Sea it has now effectively rejoined the mainland. However, though it may no longer technically be an island, we still don't think you will want to step foot on it! In 1948, the Soviets established a bioweapons lab here that tested some of the most dangerous disease agents known. Smallpox, anthrax and tularemia are just a few of them.

According to newly released documents, anthrax spores and bubonic plague bacteria were made into weapons and kept here. The island was abandoned in 1992. In 2000, the US helped decontaminate ten anthrax storage sites, and the Kazakhstanis say that was all of them. No one should be stepping foot on Vozrozhdeniya any time soon, though, as the disease-carrying containers stored here have been known to leak.

3. Bikini Atoll 
Operation Crossroads, which took place in 1946, consisted of a series of nuclear explosions at Bikini Atoll, in the Marshall Islands. One of these blasts was the Baker explosion (pictured top), which released highly radioactive water which contaminated numerous nearby vessels that subsequently needed to be decontaminated.
Then in March 1954, the United States also exploded the first hydrogen bomb at Bikini Atoll in Operation Castle Bravo – the biggest nuclear blast ever created by the US. Massive radiation fell out far beyond expectations, extensively contaminating nearby islands as well as the crew of at least one Japanese fishing boat on which 23 sailors became contaminated. The scandal was the basis for the movie Godzilla, in fact. In 1968 the US government decided that Bikini Atoll was fit for habitation again, but unfortunately they spoke too soon.

In 1978, French scientists found high levels of strontium-90 in indigenous people's bodies, and there have been many miscarriages and other health problems suffered by the islanders living on Bikini Atoll.

The indigenous population were thus moved again, with a large monetary settlement made for their survival. Most of the people refuse to move back until Bikini Atoll is scraped to remove any last contaminants.

2. Farallon Island
Farallon Island, situated off the coast of San Francisco, is absolutely beautiful. It is a Natural Wildlife Refuge with whales, seals and sharks, and a home to many seabirds. Divers visit to explore the area – but there is a major safety concern.

For many years, from 1946 to 1970, the sea in the area was used as a nuclear waste dump. The exact risk to the environment is unknown, but the belief is that trying to raise the containers from the area surrounding Farallon Island will cause more danger than leaving them where they are. In all there are 47,500 55-gallon drums. That's a whole lot of hazardous waste.

1. Okunoshima 
Sometimes known as Rabbit Island, Okunoshima was for years home to Japan's World War II poison gas factory. Because secrecy was so important to the Japanese – they had just signed the treaty banning poison gas in war – they wiped the island off their maps. Six kilotons of mustard gas were produced here, with rabbits used as the laboratory animals.

At the end of the war the Allies got rid of all the poison gas. The little children who had looked after the rabbits during the testing let them loose and now the bunnies are protected on the island. Okunoshima has been cleaned up, although it still has the remnants of its history as well as a poison gas museum. What's more, there may still be the question of the gas the Allies buried, which – who knows? – may yet come to light.
The actions of men in their quest to try to tap and control destructive forces has caused islands to become uninhabitable or at least of questionable safety. Even decisions made about the habitability of an island after a cleanup has occurred are of dubious value given that the long-term effects of what they use to carry out such operations are still unknown in some cases. These islands are all places that have killed or still have the capacity to kill, long after humans have stopped their activities. It seems that common sense has taken a back seat to risk. Hopefully one day we will think twice about trying to destroy the land and oceans that are our inheritance, and that of all the creatures on this planet.



The 3,000-Year-Old Plant that Looks Like an Alien Life Form

Crawling its way along barren rocks and cliffs where nothing should be growing, Yareta could be mistaken for an alien life form or a primordial green ooze. Actually, it is a flowering plant that grows up in the high altitudes of Peru, Chile and Bolivia.

Walking along the rocky, sandy area that Yareta grows in, you notice how it keeps close to the ground in order to retain as much heat in as possible.

The air temperature close to the ground is always one or two degree Celsius above ambient temperature due to the trapped heat that is radiated from it.

As stunning and otherworldly as these plants are, they are also incredibly old. It is estimated that these evergreen perennials grow one-and-a-half centimeters a year, which means some of them are over 3000 years old!



12 Amazing Living Animal Fossils

Living fossils are animals that have changed little over their lifetime as a species. The turnover of these species averages two to three million years, although this can vary a lot. Other living fossils are those that have only been seen in their fossil stage until discovered anew. The prerequisite for this classification is that they are the only examples left of an otherwise extinct line.

12. Koala

Most of us would never think of the koala bear as a living fossil. Yet giant koalas’ fossils have been found among 20 million-year-old skeletal remains. They fill the same ecological niche sloths do in South America. Of course, as one of the few marsupials (they raise their babies in pouches) in the world they fit into another special niche as well.

11. Elephant Shrew

This beautifully colored elephant shrew, with its long nose, has been classified as a fossil species as well. Its name is a misnomer though; it is not a shrew – and it has no elephant relatives! Elephant shrews are monogamous. Mom looks after the babies, first feeding them milk of course, and then carrying mashed up insects to them. The young leave home and become sexually active in about 41-46 days. Amazingly, their lineage goes back millions of years.

10. Okapi

With its giraffe-like body, the marvelous okapi is considered a living fossil as it is the only animal left that is close to prehistoric giraffes – even closer than regular giraffes are to their ancestors. When its ancestor the palaetragine was roaming the earth 15 million years ago, evolution seemed to favor the tall survivors who could reach trees, until finally down the line we had giraffes. Yet one set of palaetragine ancestors moved into the forest and never had to change much from the original: the okapi. Its striped rear legs made scientists originally think it was part zebra when it was classified in 1901.

9. Horseshoe Crab

The earliest horseshoe crabs were found 450 million years ago as fossils in strata. Many think of them as crabs and crustaceans when in fact they are more related to spiders and scorpions. Under their enormous shell, their bodies also look more like those of spiders.

8. Red Panda

This is not a close relative to the panda, or a bear. In fact, its closest relatives are skunks and weasels. It does have a distant relation to the panda though. Their common ancestor diverged tens of millions of years ago; its fossils have been found in China and as far away as Britain. Red pandas eat small mammals, flowers, berries and also a large amount of bamboo, as they are unable to digest cellulose. One interesting tidbit about them is that they are the only non-primate that can taste the artificial sweetener aspartame.

7. Monito del Monte

Another living fossil is the monito del monte, a tiny little marsupial that comes from South America. An extant (living) member of the order Microbiotheria, it eats mainly insects as well as fruit. It is believed that these creatures diverged from the Australian marsupials 46 million years ago. The little creature has a prehensile tail and lives mainly in trees, constructing its nests there.

6. Trapdoor Spider

Trapdoor spiders have been in existence for at least 85 million years. Ready to pop out and pounce on unsuspecting insects, these artists of ambush construct burrows with a trapdoor made from vegetation and silk. Some genera have a hardened plate on their opisthosoma (the posterior part of the bodies).

5. Nautilus

Nautiluses are cephalopods, like squid and octopus, and have changed little in 500 million years. They have up to 90 retractable tentacles in two circles and are also the only cephalopod whose bony skeleton is a shell rather than internal.

4. Sumatran Rhinoceros

Of all rhinos, the Sumatran rhinoceros is the one considered to have changed the least from its antecedents 23-16 million years ago. Scientists believe that it is related to the woolly rhinoceros – which became extinct 10,000 years ago after surviving the last ice age. The Sumatran rhino loves to wallow in mud puddles, and if one is not deep enough it will enlarge it with its horns and hooves.

3. Iriomote Cat

Iriomote cats are considered living fossils as they haven't changed much from their original primitive form. However, this gorgeous cat is on the edge of extinction. Only 100 or so survive on one island in Japan, the island of Iriomote.

2. Coelacanth

The coelacanth was believed to be extinct until one day in 1938 one was found in the catch of a fishing trawler by a museum curator. This makes it a Lazarus taxon, a species that has 'risen from the dead,' thought to be extinct only to be discovered alive. The oldest fossil is 360 million years old, and it seems the fish has hardly changed since then. Many thought they went extinct 80 million years ago.

1. Aardvark

The aardvark is a nocturnal animal that lives in Africa. It is the only living member of the order Tubulidentata. Amazingly, its closest living relatives include the elephant shrew (a tiny animal seen earlier) and the elephant itself, the largest mammal on earth. Even though aardvarks eat mostly ants and termites they bear no relation to true anteaters. Apart from little change from its ancestors, it has conserved its chromosomes in an arrangement that was seen before modern chromosome arrangements, which is another reason it is considered a living fossil.