Let’s face it, the world can be an ugly place for weird animals… humans included. From flame wars on social media to heartbreaking stories on the nightly news, humanity’s awfulness can occasionally be overwhelming.
Every once in a while we like to take breaks from stories about poaching, habitat loss, and the effects of global warming to marvel at the incredible array of beauty that still exists on this planet we call home.
And so it is that we present to you 26 Weird Animals (from A to Z)– many of which are endangered– that we believe make this world a more interesting place…
AYE-AYE– These endangered nocturnal lemurs from Madagascar have furry gremlin faces, rodent-like teeth and long Crypt Keeper-style fingers used to dig grubs out of wood. Superstitious locals believe these weird animals to be harbingers of evil or death, and will often kill them on sight.
BAIRD’S TAPIR– Looking like a bizarre cross between a pig, a donkey and a rhinoceros, this cow-sized mammal is an endangered species endemic to Central and South America. One famously attacked the Costa Rican Minister of Environment in 2006.
CHINESE WATER DEER– Water deer are proficient swimmers who live along rivers and islands in China and Korea. But the Chinese subspecies is particularly unusual, with no antlers and prominent tusks that have led to its English nickname, the Vampire Deer.
DUMBO OCTOPUS– Found only at extreme ocean depths of 10,000 to 13,000 feet, Grimpoteuthis is a genus of umbrella octopus known for prominent ear-like fins that jut out from the top of its body… much like a certain flying elephant from the Walt Disney stable.
EASTERN LONG-NECKED TURTLE– Like a reptilian giraffe, this aptly-named turtle (found in Australia) has a neck as long as its entire carapace. When threatened, it emits a noxious odor from its musk glands, which has also earned it the nickname “The Stinker.”
FRILLED SHARK– One of the most rarely seen weird animals, the Frilled Shark crosses the line into horrific, WTF territory. Found at depths of up to 5,000 feet, this rare “living fossil” is positively prehistoric, with an eel-like bod, six frilly pairs of gill slits, and 300 trident-shaped teeth in 25 rows that allow it to rip through prey like a knife through hot butter. Cute, huh?
GLAUCUS ATLANTICUS– Commonly known as the blue dragon or blue angel, this inch-long nudibranch is as lethal as it is beautiful. The sea slug preys on the Portuguese Man o’ War and stores venom in its finger-like cerata, producing a sting that causes fever, shock and even death.
HONDURAN WHITE BAT– Also known as the Ghost bat, this tiny (1.5-inch) cutie is one of only two white bat species in the world. They’re found only in the jungles of Central America, often hanging in colonies of up to 6 from the leaves of heliconia plants.
IRRAWADDY DOLPHIN– With their formidable foreheads; short, round faces; and broad, rounded flippers, this Southeast Asian species look like some anime artist’s cartoonish rendering of a dolphin. Interestingly, their genetic make-up is closely related to the killer whale.
JAPANESE SPIDER CRAB– Speaking of Japanese art, this crazy creature– whose legs can span 12 feet in length, weight up to 42 pounds, and crawl like a creepy oceanic spider– looks like something that might attack Tokyo in the next Godzilla movie.
KAKAPO– One of the world’s most critically endangered species (with a known population of 126), New Zealand’s “Owl Parrot” is an undeniable oddity– large, flightless, nocturnal and ground-dwelling, weighing up to 9 pounds at maturity.
LOWLAND STREAKED TENREC– Genetically, the Tenrec is like a cross between a shrew, an opossum and an otter, with a 5-6 inch body, long snout and vestigial tail. Found only in the rainforests of Madagascar, its bright yellow stripes and barbed quills signal danger for predators, especially when the Tenrec vibrates them.
MANTIS SHRIMP– It may look like a cross between a crayfish, a praying mantis and a colorful parrot, but the Mantis Shrimp is not to be trifled with: Its raptorial appendages move so quickly, they literally boil the water around them, producing shockwaves strong enough to kill prey.
NUTRIA– A large semi-aquatic rodent also known as the coypu or river rat, the nutria has front legs for excavating roots, rhizomes and burrows, and webbed hind feet to aid in swimming. to me they look like the R.O.U.S. from The Princess Bride.
OLINGUITO– This teddy bear-looking cutie is actually from the raccoon family, discovered in the Andes of Colombia and Ecuador in 2013. It was the first new carnivorous mammal seen in the Western Hemisphere in 35 years.
PINOCCHIO FROG– Discovered by a Conservation International team in Indonesian New Guinea in 2008, this tree frog’s elongated nose grows rigid and erect when he’s calling to prospective mates, but otherwise remains limp and deflated.
QUOKKA- Primarily found on small islands off the coast of Western Australia, this adorable marsupial was originally confused for a wild cat or a giant rat, but actually looks more like a tiny kangaroo (approximately 20-30 inches long).
RED-LIPPED BATFISH- Also known as the Galapagos batfish, this freaky-faced fish is found in the Galapagos at depths of around 30 feet. In addition to its red lips, the batfish (a terrible swimmer) is distinguished by its ability to walk on the ocean floor using its pectoral fins.
SOLENODON– Found in Cuba and Haiti, these venomous, nocturnal, burrowing insectivores are fascinating to phylogenetic researchers because they closely resemble a species that went extinct near the end of the dinosaur era.
TARSIER– With a longer fossil record than any other primate genus, fossils suggest the enormous-eyed tarsiers of Southeast Asia haven’t evolved much in 45 million years. The only thing that has changed is their size: Their bodies measure 4-6 inches, with tails twice as long.
UGLY SALAMANDER– One of many new species discovered in 2009 by a Conservational International team in Ecuador, this aptly-named amphibian has a face only a mother could love… if the mother was E.T.
VENEZUELAN POODLE MOTH– Discovered in Venezuela’s Gran Sabana region by Kyrgyzstan’s Dr. Arthur Anken in 2009, this fuzzy flier looks like a cross between a poodle and an angora sweater. Its status as a new species has yet to be confirmed.
WOMBAT- Once common in Australia, the Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat is now critically endangered, found in Queensland’s Epping Forest National Park. With a backwards-opening pouch and teeth that never stop growing, it’s the world’s largest (90 pounds) burrowing mammal. As weird animals go, we think this one’s a cutie!
XENOPUS- Known as the Clawed Frog, this amphibian genus cannot hop, so it crawls long distances to get from one pond to another. It has eyes on top of its head, but no eyelids and cannot move its tongue. When ponds dry up, it may lie dormant for a year.
YAPOK- This Latin American opossum is the only animal species in the world in which both sexes have a pouch. The males place their genitalia inside their pouch while swimming (kind of like a banana hammock), which helps streamline their bodies.
ZEBRA DUIKER– Found in the lowland primary rain forests of West Africa, this tiny (around 30 inches long, weighing 40 pounds) antelope has short, sharp horns and zebra-like stripes that help them hide from the many predators that eat them (including humans). –Bret Love
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