Nature sure has given us some adorable animals to fawn over, but for every cute little bunny, there is a truly strange animal just trying to live its life. Check out our picks for some of the most bizarre animals on Earth!
1. Greater Sage-Grouse
This weird-looking bird is a male sage-grouse. His chest is adorned with large air sacs, which he uses to attract females by making them produce odd popping sounds. The males congregate in groups across the shrubland of western North America called “leks,” calling to females.
However, these fantastically bizarre birds are decreasing in number. One species is near-threatened, while the other is endangered and has only 1,700 adult birds left. Human use of their habitat has shrunk their population.
2. Ocean Sunfish
The magnificent Mola mola, or ocean sunfish, has the title of largest bony fish in the sea. It can weigh almost 5,000 pounds and grow to around 14 feet vertically and 10 feet horizontally. Up close, they kinda look like they’re made of Styrofoam.
Ocean sunfish bask in the sun by the water’s surface. Smaller fish and birds eat parasites off their giant round bodies. Sometimes, the huge fish will jump into the air and splash down to try and shake off parasites.
3. Vogelkop Superb Bird-Of-Paradise
Normally, this bird looks rather normal: mostly black with a blue chest section and blue spots on his head. However, once he lifts his cape feathers up behind his head, his visage transforms into a weird alien black hole with shimmering blue accents.
Only the males of this species look so unique. The whole thing is a show for females, to entice them into choosing the male as a mate. He dances around the female, making sure to only show her his weird alien side before she decides if he’s worthy or not.
These weird-looking primates only live in Madagascar, where they spend most of their lives in the rain forests’ trees. While you have a handy opposable thumb, aye-ayes have opposable big toes. They use them to hang from branches.
Aye-ayes are often considered bad luck, so between habitat destruction and superstitious killings, they’re now endangered. But aye-ayes are just trying to eat bugs and coconuts, not bring tragedy to your family. They’re now protected from hunting by law, so that’s good news.
5. Japanese Spider Crab
These massive crustaceans can grow to around 12 feet across when they spread their long, spindly legs out. Unsurprisingly, they’re the largest species of crab on Earth. However, even large animals need to protect themselves from predators.
These giant spider crabs will sometimes put sponges and other animals on their shells to help themselves blend in with the seafloor. In Japan, these crabs are considered a delicacy. It’s forbidden to fish for them in the spring, when they’re reproducing. According to the Tennessee Aquarium, their Japanese name, “taka-ashi-gani,” translates to “tall legs crab.”
6. Pink Fairy Armadillo
The pink fairy armadillo looks like a Photoshopped creature, but it’s real! The animal is only about 5 inches long and spends most of its life burrowing underground. To adjust its temperature, the pink fairy armadillo pumps blood in or out of its pink shell.
The blood, of course, is what gives the armadillo its strange pink color. As little and weird and adorable as this critter is, it’s incredibly elusive. They’re rarely seen. But don’t think they’re burrowing around just anywhere — they live in the deserts of Argentina.
7. Purple Frog
This awkward lump of an animal is certainly a unique sort of frog. It’s got an itty-bitty face — earning it the additional name of “pig-nosed frog” — and lives exclusively in India. Its tadpoles live on algae-covered rocks, using their sucker-like mouths.
The adults, however, live mostly underground. Local people eat the tadpoles and use the species in medicine. Some people turn the frog into an amulet and give it to children in an attempt to quell their fear of storms. Unfortunately, this use and deforestation have made the purple frog endangered.
8. Blue Dragon (Glaucus atlanticus)
This thing looks like it must be an alien. Actually, it’s a nudibranch, which are often called “sea slugs” (a lot of unrelated things are called sea slugs). But as miraculous and strange as this thing is, it’s only about 3 centimeters long.
The blue dragon keeps an air bubble in its stomach in order to float. And while they’re just floating around, these critters nibble on the horribly venomous Portuguese man-of-war. That may sound unwise, but the blue dragon actually steals the man-of-wars’ stingers and puts them in its own appendages to ward off predators!
This salamander is a strange one (in more ways than immediately meets the eye). It’s like a permanent teenager — as an adult, it retains most of the amphibious features of youth: external gills, a tail, and an aquatic lifestyle.
However, if you inject an axolotl with other salamander hormones, it turns into something like a normal salamander. While the axolotl is beloved by scientists for its ability to regenerate its limbs, that fancy trick hasn’t saved it from becoming critically endangered.
10. Helmeted Hornbill
This unreal-looking bird is actually critically endangered because people just can’t get enough of the horn on its bill. The weird part of this bird’s head is called a “casque”; people hunt the birds for their casques, which they then carve into art and jewelry.
Helmeted hornbills use their casques to fight each other midair over fig trees and territories in the forests of Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, it’s made them a target for poachers. Starting in 2011, 6,000 birds were killed per year to feed the demand in China.
While this may look like your alien overlord coming to Earth and conquering the human race, it’s actually a ctenophore. They’re sort of related to jellyfish and are commonly called “comb jellies.” However, they don’t sting their prey, but instead have sticky cells like flypaper.
Many things in the ocean look like aliens, with their strange body plans, bulging eyes, and weird dangly bits. Perhaps this is because so much of the vast watery expanse is still unexplored — only about 5% of the seafloor has been mapped.
12. Heikegani Crab
This little 4-centimeter crab has a carapace that looks strikingly like an angry samurai face. According to Amusing Planet, Japanese folklore says they got that face from the souls of the Heike clan (who died in a big battle in 1185).
The heikegani crab is just another example of pareidolia — the instinct for people to see faces (or other patterns and meanings) where they don’t actually exist. The man in the moon, animals in the clouds, and faces in tree trunks are all examples of this.
13. Lowland Streaked Tenrec
Each Pokémon generation has a new electric-type small rodent thing, and the lowland streaked tenrec would fit right in with the rest of them. You could probably just draw this thing exactly as it is and drop it in a Pokémon game.
Lowland streaked tenrecs only live in Madagascar (as Madagascan animals tend to do). In fact, scientists have found 37 different tenrec species on the island. About five of them have hedgehog-like spines that may have evolved as a protection against predators.
14. Saiga Antelope
As delightfully weird and Star Wars-like as these antelope are, they have a bit of a sad story. Once upon a time, millions of saiga roamed central Asia until they were hunted to a mere 1,000 about 100 years ago.
Laws protected them and they grew to hundreds of thousands until the Soviet Union fell, and they’ve since been hunted relentlessly. Then, in 2015, 60% of all saiga died suddenly. A bacterial infection brought upon them by unusually warm weather has pushed this critically endangered species to the brink.
15. Hammer-Headed Bat
This wild-looking bat is actually real, although the photo makes it look larger than it really is (their bodies are only about 10 inches long). However, its wingspan can be about 3 feet wide! Hammer-headed bat males have large heads so they can make loud honks to call females.
Some scientists believe these bats are infected with the Ebola virus, but show no symptoms of it. It’s unclear if they pass the virus on to humans or not. They live in Africa and eat fruit, much to the chagrin of local farmers.
16. Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock
At first glance, this bird is truly bizarre. Its feathery crest obscures its beak, making it appear mouthless. They live in the humid forests of South America and use boulders or rocky caves for breeding (hence their name).
Like the sage-grouse, these birds breed with a lek system. The males all group up, each with his own area, called a “court.” When a female visits a court, the male shows off his plumage for her in the hope that she’ll choose him as a mate.
17. Hairy Frog
Hilariously, this weird frog actually belongs to a group called the “squeakers.” This silly description is in direct contrast with the hairy frog’s other name — “horror frog.” Only the males develop the hair-like feature along their thighs.
But their “hair” isn’t even their weirdest feature; they also have Wolverine-like claws on their back feet. They break their own bones and skin to make these claws! It’s possible these claws and hair-like structures are used in battles between males, but scientists are still researching this hypothesis.
18. Star-Nosed Mole
This obscure animal has a delightfully weird nose that looks like a starburst made of worms. It’s basically blind, but is sometimes called the world’s fastest eater — it can find and eat a tasty bug in less than a second.
The star-nosed mole bops its nose against the soil around it as much as possible, collecting information with five times as many sensors as the human hand. Also, it can smell underwater. It simply blows bubbles and then sucks them into its nose.
19. Mexican Mole Lizard
The enigmatic Mexican mole lizard burrows underground, completely unaware of the terrifying tales told of it above ground. Some people believe it will enter a person’s body if they squat down to relieve themselves, but this isn’t true.
With only two front legs and no melanin to protect their skin from the sun, Mexican mole lizards only emerge from the soil in the late evening. They have trouble getting around when above ground. As much as people may be freaked out by them, they’re perfectly happy in the ground and out of sight.
20. Ankole-Watusi Bull
This breed of bull has huge horns and originated in Africa. It’s a wonder they can keep their heads up with their massive, sometimes bulbous, horns. However, in the hot and cold climates they live in, the horns help disperse body heat.
Due to their interesting appearance, some European and American zoos kept Ankole-Watusi bulls in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, as many zoos moved their focus to conservation, many of them were sold to private owners.
The little tarsier is quite an odd-looking primate. Unlike most primates, its giant eyes actually have good night vision, which it uses to hunt in the dark. The tarsier’s eyes are so big it can’t actually move them, so instead it just rotates its head like an owl, or that scene from The Exorcist.
Tarsiers are actually the only purely meat-eating primates. They feast on critters like insects and lizards. Unfortunately, some farmers who live near tarsiers believe they’re agricultural pests. Tarsiers are actually eating the real pests — insects.
22. Bigfin Squid
Imagine exploring underwater and seeing this chilling sight: the 20-some feet of a bigfin squid’s arms. The 90-degree bend of them is unusual and unnerving. This one was spotted by an ROV (remotely operated vehicle) near an oil drilling site.
Scientists know little about these bigfin squids, as they’re rarely spotted. Their alien-like presence is just another reminder of all the strange and bizarre creatures in the dark depths of the ocean. And while the bigfin squid is almost certainly harmless to humans, you can’t help the chill you get when you look at it.
23. Casper Octopus
This little ghostly octopus is rather strange, as it doesn’t have any of the camouflaging chromatophores most octopuses use to disguise themselves. Also, while it seems to live in deep waters, its body looks more like the shallow-water octopuses.
Amazingly, this little octopus lays about 30 eggs on a dead sponge, and then wraps its body around them, staying there for years. Unfortunately, interests in mining rocks and precious metals could remove the sponges these octopuses rely on for their eggs.
24. Red-Lipped Batfish
If you’ve ever wondered what a fish would look like with a pair of those large, waxy candy lips, well, here you go. As much as you might try to tell this bizarre animal to turn its frown upside down, it will continue to stare at you with droopy lips.
To add to its oddities, the red-lipped batfish stands on the ocean floor with its fins acting like legs. It isn’t the best swimmer, but it does use the strange protruding horn on its forehead to apparently attract prey.
25. Silkie Chicken
If you’ve ever wanted a pet chicken, the silkie may be the way to go. It’s super fluffy and apparently friendly. Surprisingly, under all the floofy white feathers is black or dark-blue skin. And under that, even their body tissues are black!
It seems that the Silkie breed originated somewhere in Asia, as Marco Polo wrote about them in the 13th century. Originally, they only had white feathers, but people have since bred them to come in other colors. There are now dark fluffy chickens, and even ones with a reddish-brown coloring.
26. Wrinkle-Faced Bat
These wrinkly-faced bats are bizarre-looking enough without the addition of their chin fold pulled over their face, like you can see in this picture. They pull this skin over their faces whenever roosting (the bat term for “resting”).
While many bats use their mouths for echolocation, some actually use their noses. Research suggests the wrinkles on bats’ faces like this one actually help them “see” the world around them. The wrinkles seem to add complexity to the bats’ sonar capabilities.
27. Stargazer Fish
The bizarre-looking stargazer fish spends its days buried in the sand, waiting for prey to swim by. As soon as a tasty morsel does, it opens its mouth and sucks the critter in via vacuum. The frills around its mouth keep sand from seeping in when it opens wide.
Burying itself in the sand is also useful for hiding from predators. However, some threats still have keen eyes, so the stargazer has additional protections. It has venomous spines, and some stargazer species even have electric organs on top of that.
28. Proboscis Monkey
When you think “proboscis monkey,” generally you think “monkey with a very large nose.” That’s certainly true of the adult males! However, this weird one here looks like a younger proboscis monkey. And while it’s lacking the signature nose, something about the monkey in this picture looks oddly and eerily human.
Out of the corner of your eye, this monkey could easily be a child playing in the water. But then you get a second look. Proboscis monkeys quite like swimming — they’ve even evolved webbed feet that are great for escaping crocodiles.
29. Giant African Land Snail
YouTuber Emzotic loves her pet giant African land snail, but these huge mollusks are invasive pests in Florida and Hawaii. They breed like crazy because they’re hermaphroditic (meaning each snail has male and female reproductive parts).
They’ve been eating the stucco off houses in Miami to get calcium for their shells. While some people may make these snails look like cool pets, you should remember that they’re an incredibly harmful invasive species. And how did they invade? People kept them as pets.
While this animal looks like it has a boot print for a head, the weird pattern is actually a suction cup. This is a remora (which means “hindrance”), and it likes to stick itself to other animals, like sharks, so it can slurp up their scraps. And any parasites that fall off. Yum.
Remoras seem to slow down their hosts and can rub their skin raw. This has the remora teetering on the edge of being labeled a parasite. It doesn’t really seem to do much in return for its hosts other than act like an attached vacuum cleaner.
31. Eastern Long-Necked Turtle
The Eastern long-necked turtle is a formidable foe. But it’s formidable for more than just its long neck. Why else is formidable. Well because, it lives in Eastern Australia! If you’ve ever been to the southern hemisphere country, or if you’ve ever read this piece we have on its dangerous creatures, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about.
The Eastern long-necked turtle likely evolved its long neck for two reasons. The first was likely to attract mates. A long neck in the animal kingdom is suggestive of a strong and robust genetic line. But second, it likely evolved it for battle. Okay, maybe not. But either way, if you see this guy, watch your back. It’s likely watching yours…
32. Clawed Frog
Amphibians are often overlooked by those taking a cursory glance at the tree of life. Maybe these people see reptiles like snakes, mammals like tigers and cheetahs — but rarely do they look to amphibians like the frog. This is an egregious offense to the beautiful creatures.
There are a number of things that make the frog a beautiful creature. Of these, include its beautiful variety. We have poison dart frogs, for instance. But here, we look at the clawed frog, which literally brandishes claws. While not the same as those wielded by the tiger, they are still formidable. Watch out.
33. Mata Mata Turtle
Another turtle to make this list is the mata mata turtle. This turtle, local to the islands of Indonesia, is formidable for an entirely different suite of reasons. For the most part, however, it is formidable for its brilliantly spiked shell.
The mata mata turtle, unlike its other brethren, evolved spikes to help protect it from predation. It didn’t feel that it should just stand by and get gnawed on. Passivity wasn’t on the menu for this guy. We should take note. An active defense is a strong thing in more than just the turtle life.
34. Spike-Nosed Tree Frog
Some animals in the animal kingdom have evolved traits so strange and bizarre that it’s difficult to even fathom their existence. Here, for instance, we have the spike-nosed frog. This crazy creature has such a bizarre looking nose that the biologists that first discovered its existence didn’t believe their eyes.
It took reassurance from his biologist peers to be certain that what he was seeing wasn’t a dream. And, once he realized, he balked. The frog is also known under its other alias as the “Pinocchio frog.” While the little creature likely finds this insulting, he likely couldn’t fight back. You’re safe on this one.
35. Portuguese Man O’ War
The Portuguese man o’ war is a bizarre creature. In fact, biologists know it as several creatures in one — it’s known as an aggregate animal that is made up of many smaller organisms working together. But other than its bizarre appearance and biological makeup, the thing is deadly.
While it might look like a jellyfish, the thing is most certainly not. However, it can sting like a jellyfish. Moreover, these stings have been known on occasion to kill. So if you’re swimming off the shores of Florida, where they sometimes wash ashore, you might want to watch out for this bad boy.
36. Indian Charial
The Indian Charial is an odd duck. Actually, it’s not a duck, but a species akin to an alligator. What’s most regrettable about this long-snouted creature, however, isn’t its slightly quirky disposition, but instead its ranking on the endangered species list.
This sad fact should earn the creature a spot in your hearts — and your wallets. If you have a conscience you’ll stop what you’re doing immediately and donate as much cash as you can to causes geared toward preserving this beautifully bizarre species.
The hoatzin is an interesting bird. It’s got a mohawk (like I did in the 7th grade), which is likely used to scare off its foes — that, or as a method to attract mates. Either way, the thing is used so effectively that the creature has survived and thrived for tens of thousands of years.
While scientists aren’t entirely certain of this bird’s kinship to other animals, there is something on which all scientists can agree: this bird should join a band. It could easily be called the birdbrains or the Stinkbird pheasants (another name it’s commonly called).
38. Marabou Stork
When parents want to avoid telling their kids about the processes that led to their birth (the mechanical interactions between a male and female), they tell them fairy tales of the stork. It’s not had to bet that this is not a stork they had in mind.
The marabou stork is an unseemly and bizarre creature. Just look at its weird throat-appendage! Anyways, they thing can be found in areas of Africa south of the Sahara. If you’re an avid bird watcher, you had best get out and try to find this thing. It should be too difficult with a neck like that.
39. Sri Lanka Frogmouth
The Sri Lanka frogmouth, much to your potential confusion, is not a frog. Instead, the thing merely holds a mouth like a frog. If you look at the thing (which is actually an owl), you can tell that it is quite frog-like. It’s almost as if the thing is smiling at you. Creepy…
Anyways, this bird species you can find capering about places in South India. In particular, you can find it in areas around the Western Ghats mountains. So, if you’re an outdoorsy type and are looking for some birds to check off the list, you might want to go out and find this guy. You won’t regret it.
40. Amazon Giant Fishing Spider
The amazon is an amazing place. But more than that, it is also a creepy place with so much biodiversity that you likely won’t ever be able to tell how many different species you are seeing. Here, however, you’ll have no problem identifying something different. Here we have the amazon giant fishing spider.
The spider, while it won’t help you or your local fishing village, will help kill a great deal of amazonian microfauna. In total, in can grow around eight inches. Yes, this is absolutely disturbing. But it is also bizarre. Either way, if you see this thing you should turn around and run immediately. Good luck.
This article was originally published on Science 101: Bizarre animals you never knew existed
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