16 min read

Strange-Looking Animals You Had No Idea Existed

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If there's one thing we know about nature, it's that it's really weird. Here are 38 animals you might not know about - but won't soon forget.

Tibetan sand fox

This little-known fox is native to parts of Tibet, China and a few other Asian countries. Their behavior is similar to that of other fox species, but they stand out for their unusual facial features.

Long-eared jerboa

This tiny rodent was first caught on film in 2007. They live in parts of China and Mongolia, and it's believed that their ears help them cool off in the desert.

Chevrotain

Also known as mouse-deer, chevrotains live in parts of Asia and Africa. There are several different species, but the smallest ones weigh as little as 4.4 pounds and are the tiniest known ungulates.

Babirusa

These wild pigs are native to Indonesia. Males have unusual upward-curving tusks that actually pierce through the top of their snout; if not worn down, the tusks can actually curve back and into their skull.

Panda ant

These furry creatures are actually wingless wasps - and despite their cute appearance, they pack quite a sting.

Glaucus atlanticus

Commonly known as blue dragons, these tiny sea slugs have been found in warm waters across the world. They float along on water currents and attack prey with a venomous sting.

Honduran white bat

At less than two inches long, these bats would be cute even if they weren't fuzzy. They make tents out of leaves to shelter themselves and their white fur helps them blend into the green glow of the leaves when the sun shines on them. They live in Honduras and other parts of South America.

Shoebill

These prehistoric (and angry) looking birds are found in the swamps of South Sudan and neighboring African countries. Reaching up to five feet in height, they're related to pelicans and use their notable beaks to go after fish, turtles and even small crocodiles.

Leaf-tailed gecko

This unusual gecko is endemic to Madagascar, where it uses its leafy shape to - of course - camouflage. Also known as the satanic leaf-tailed gecko, its scientific name, Uroplatus phantasticus, was chosen because of the creature's unbelievable appearance.

Gelada

Geladas live in the Ethiopian mountains and are the last living species of grass-eating primates. They're noteworthy for their impressive hair coats and the patch of hairless skin on their chests that can be a bright crimson color.

Glass frog

These unusual frogs look normal from the top, but their stomachs are highly translucent. There are several species of glass frogs, which can be found in Mexico and South America.

Golden snub-nosed monkey

This monkey's heavy coat helps it survive the cold mountain climate of central China. They're endangered due to habitat loss and poaching for fur, meat and use in traditional medicine.

Orange tortoise spider

While this rare spider is almost too cute to be real, very little is known about the species except that they live in South America.

Gerenuk

Gerenuk means "giraffe-necked" in Somali and it's easy to see why. These unusual antelope stand on their back legs to feed, allowing them to reach branches and vegetation their short-necked cousins can't get. They're found predominately in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania.

Proboscis monkey

These unusual monkeys are endemic to Borneo, where males use their prominent noses to attract mates. It's believed that their noses create an echo chamber to amplify their mating call. They're unfortunately endangered due to habitat loss from logging and human expansion and are hunted for meat and bezoars, stone-like objects found in their stomachs that are used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Waxy planthopper nymph

This nymph is just one of the thousands of the planthopper insect species, many of which exude colorful, artistic wax displays from special glands. The displays serve several purposes, including protecting them from predators. Species can be found worldwide.

Maned wolf

These long-legged canids (they're not actually wolves) look like a cross between a fox and a deer, and can be found in South America. The hair on their necks can stand erect when they're alert, giving them their namesake manes.

These rare, prehistoric-looking sharks live in deep seas around the world and can grow up to 20 feet long. They catch prey using an eerie extending jaw motion, which you can see in action below.

Blanket octopus

These animals are even stranger than they look. The six-foot-long females display a stunning webbing between their tentacles, which trails behind them like a cape. But the males are only a few centimeters long (yes, you read that right). When the male finds a female he likes, one of his arms breaks off and crawls inside her to deposit sperm. Then he probably dies.

Pink fairy armadillo

These tiny armadillos, which look like furry beetles, are endemic to Argentina. They're less than five inches long and are excellent burrowers.

Narrow-headed softshell turtle

Growing up to 45 inches long, these unusual turtles are found in southern Asia. They bury themselves in sandy rivers and shoot their heads up to grab prey as it passes by.

Peacock mantis shrimp

These colorful shrimp are in a league of their own. Their protuberant eyes can see ten times more color than a human can, but the real punch is in their club-like attack arms, which they shoot at prey (or anyone they don't like) with the speed of a .22-caliber bullet. The water can actually boil in their wake. They're extremely belligerent and are difficult to keep in captivity because they can break right through an aquarium tank.

Patagonian mara

These cute rodents look like a cross between a deer and a rabbit. They live in Argentina and form monogamous pairs, and closely resemble their cousin the capybara.

Bush viper

These dragon-like snakes live in the tropics of sub-Saharan Africa and come in a stunning variety of colors. They're only around two feet in length but are quite venomous to humans.

Hooded seal

Male hooded seals have sacs on their faces that they can inflate into large red balloons and then flail around as a sign of aggression. They're found in the north Atlantic and males measure around 9 feet long.

Long-wattled umbrellabird

Found in Colombia and Ecuador, the males of this species have a long wattle - flesh hanging from their neck like those found on turkeys - that they can inflate for use in courtship.

Coconut crab

These three-foot wide hermit crabs are the largest terrestrial invertebrates and are found near the Indian Ocean and parts of the Pacific. While babies live in shells like normal hermit crabs, adults grow out of them and develop a protective shell of their own. They can live 60 years or longer and are named for their love of coconuts, which they can deftly break open. They're often killed for their meat and have become increasingly rare in human-populated areas.

Gharial

This crocodile looks like most others - except for his long, skinny snout. They're found in and around India and can grow to be 20 feet long.

Eastern long-necked turtle

These Australian turtles are half turtle, half snake. They use their necks, which they tuck sideways into their shells rather than withdrawing like most turtles, to quickly strike at passing prey.

Fossa

The fossa is the largest predator on Madagascar and is a strange mix between a weasel and a cat. Growing up to six feet in length, including their tails, they're believed to have descended from a mongoose-like animal.

This animal's colloquial name is - you guessed it - the penis snake. The first living specimen was only discovered in the wild a few years ago in the Amazon and they're actually amphibians, not snakes.

Seapig

These odd sea cucumbers may look rare but are actually extremely common. Just a few inches long, they're found on sea floors around the world.

Sunda colugo

Also known as the Sunda flying lemur, these big-eyed primates live in Southeast Asia and spend their time gliding between trees.

Purple Atelopus

Almost too bright to be real, these toads are a member of the colorful Atelopus family and were just recently discovered in 2007 in Suriname, a small country in South America.

Bald uakari

Perhaps the most shocking monkey out there, bald uakaris, also known as red uakaris, have a shaggy orange coat with a bright red bald head. They live near the Amazon River and their bright red appearance is due to capillaries beneath their skin.

Hairy frogfish

These odd fish look more like coral than frogs - which is excellent camouflage. They have a very wide territory and use their arm-like fins to "walk" across the sea floor and hunt prey.

Pygmy seahorse

At less than 2 centimeters long, the pygmy seahorses' tiny size and incredible coloring helps them blend in with the coral they live near. In fact, their camouflage is so skillful that even scientists fell for it - most species have only been documented since 2000.

Hispaniolan solenodon

This odd mammalian insectivore is in a class all its own and diverged from other mammals an incredible 76 million years ago. It lives in Haiti and the Dominican Republic and injects its prey with toxic saliva. One of two remaining members of the solenodon family, a nocturnal, burrowing species, the Hispaniolan solenodon is endangered due to habitat loss and being hunted by pet cats and dogs.

CORRECTION: An earlier photo of the Honduran white bat was of a model, not the actual bat. The photo has been updated.