Planet Earth is a weird and wonderful place that’s chock-full of all kinds of different wildlife. All over the world roam creatures big and small, each of them with their own special purpose in the animal kingdom.
But among the wild animals we usually think of—like lions, tigers, and bears—are living things that simply defy explanation. Some of these animals are beautiful, some are mesmerizing, and some are just plain creepy, but all of them have one thing in common: they’re some of the most unusual beasts around!
When you see these animals, you might have a hard time believing that they’re even real. But the truth is that they’re about as real as it gets! Get ready to add some more creatures to your favorite animal list.
1. Pangolin: Though many may believe that the pangolin is related to anteaters, sloths, and armadillos, the truth is that this scale-covered insect-eater literally is in a category all its own! There are only four types of them in the world, too.
This unique creature is also known as a “scaly anteater.” Look at that tongue go! The pangolin uses his extremely long tongue to lap up entire colonies of ants that it finds hanging out in the underbrush. Yum!
2. Fossa: While this unique-looking creature might bear a passing resemblance to our feline friends, that’s not the case. And even though he also looks a little bit like a bear, that’s not what he is either!
Fossas may not be members of the cat family, but they sure do look like they do. After all, cats love drinking from spray bottles this way, too. While the fossa is in a class all its own, they are the most closely related to—wait for it—the mongoose.
3. Lilac-breasted roller: While other birds are born with feathers that help them blend into their environment, the lilac-breasted roller can’t help but stand out from the crowd. It might look like a drawing, but it’s the real deal.
4. Glaucus atlanticus: This adorable (and pretty gooey-looking) little guy is a species of sea slug found off the coasts of South Africa, Europe, Australia, and Mozambique. Keep your eyes peeled and maybe you’ll see one!
5. Prickly bush viper: Snakes can be pretty intimidating to behold, and that goes double for this dragon-like serpent. Its uniquely shaped scales give it the appearance of being covered in a layer of feathers.
But just because he looks a little bit more fluffy than the average snake, that’s no reason to let your guard down. He is still a viper after all, and he does what vipers do best: strike when provoked. Look out!
6. Jerboa: This little guy looks like he can’t decide if he is a bird, a mouse, or a teeny tiny kangaroo. He is definitely a part of the rodent family, but his athletic prowess certainly distinguishes him from the pack!
This little cutie has some Olympic-level jumping skills. Look at that guy go! Doesn’t he remind you of a wind-up toy? One little tap and he’s off to the races. Can you imagine having one as a pet?
7. Dumbo octopus: When you think of the word “octopus,” you probably imagine a couple different things. For some people it means “dinner” (grilled octopus, anyone?), while for others it conjures up images of horror films. But have you ever thought of them as being adorable?
You can probably guess how this undersea creature got its name. Thankfully, as far as we know, no dumbo octopuses have yet to be captured and forced into labor at the circus. Instead they spend their days floating adorably around the ocean.
8. Goblin shark: For some people, there is nothing scarier about the open ocean than the prospect of coming into contact with a shark. Those people should turn away from their screens now because the goblin shark will only make it worse…
This poor fish didn’t stand a chance against the goblin shark’s terrifying unhinge-able jaw. Can you imagine anything more scary than being a fish, just minding your own business in the ocean, and seeing this guy approaching?
9. Indian purple frog: If you were to stumble upon this frog in the wild you might be a little confused. What is it, exactly? It kind of looks like a turtle that crawled out of his shell, but in reality, he’s just a special-looking frog.
The Indian purple frog enjoys leaping around in the water and playing with his friends the way that all frogs do. Oops, he didn’t quite make that leap! He’s not the most graceful creature on the planet, is he?
10. Hummingbird hawk moth: Is there anything cooler than watching a hummingbird take flight? Actually, there is… and that’s watching a hummingbird hawk moth take flight! They might seem large enough to be birds, but they are all moth, baby!
It’s a bird… it’s a bug… it’s a hummingbird hawk moth! Look at that massive proboscis and that thoughtful eye! You would be hard-pressed to figure out that you were looking at an insect and not a bird.
11. Desert rain frog: Frogs, toads, and other animals that live in the water or in jungles tend to be born with coloring that makes them hard to see in their natural environment. This desert rain frog has a bonus trait, too…
…He’s so small that he’s almost impossible to find! That makes it much more difficult for predators to spot this cute guy and snatch him up for their next meal. Look at how precious he is below. So tiny!
12. Maned wolf: Doesn’t this guy look just like a fox who got a hold of some stilts? Seriously, look at daddy long-legs over there! The maned wolf is characterized by his long coat, russet coloring, and (of course) his long limbs.
Fun fact: this animal isn’t actually a wolf, and it isn’t a fox, either! It’s actually the only species in the genus Crysocyon. He is one of a kind and it looks like he knows it, too! Check out the grin on that guy.
13. Mantis shrimp: The mantis shrimp might just look like a colorful shrimp, but there’s so much more to this unique deep-sea creature. The mantis shrimp has powerful claws, and you wouldn’t want to get caught in its mitts.
These shrimp have four times the number of color receptors in their eyes as humans do, which is not surprising given their vibrant appearance. They aren’t just strong, they are beautiful, too! What a special fellow.
14. Okapi: If you feel confused about this animal, you aren’t alone. He seems a little confused himself! It’s probably because he looks so much like a cross between a deer and a zebra!
Hey, that antelope is wearing zebra-colored pants! This unique-looking animal is so special that it was actually made the national animal of the Congo. That calls for a celebratory dance—or head-shaking, if you’re the baby okapi below.
15. Patagonian mara: This fellow’s closest relative is the rabbit. You can kind of see it in the ears and in its passion for all things grass- or vegetable-related. He might look shy, but maras are actually quite social.
If you want to track down this jackrabbit-like mammal, good luck: it’s only found in Argentina. However, now that you know it exists and you’ve seen how cute it is, you might decide he’s worth the trip!
16. Gerenuk: Have you ever seen anything like this wonderful animal before? If they look a little familiar, that’s because you might be thinking of their other name: the giraffe gazelle! That explains the long neck and passion for leaping…
You don’t want to get stuck sitting behind this guy at the movie theater—and not just because his neck is long, either. The gerenuk has been known to spit back out the things it cannot digest. Look out!
17. Pink fairy armadillo: This little guy might be the smallest member of the armadillo family, but he comes in first place for total cuteness. His sweetly colored pink armor helps keep him safe from predators.
Believe it or not, this isn’t just a bunny wearing an armadillo coat! He might scurry like a bunny, and dig like a bunny, but he’s all armadillo. Look for him in sand-covered locations or in the high plains.
18. Red-lipped batfish: If you go looking for life near the Galapagos Islands you might see this sucker. This batfish is known for its brightly colored lips and its poor swimming ability. That’s right: a fish who is actually bad at swimming!
Instead of swimming like other fish, this guy relies on his lower pectoral fins to act as legs, pushing him along the ocean floor. He might not be great at the whole swimming thing, but this bottom-dweller is always ready for a night out on the town.
19. Saiga antelope: This distinct type of antelope hasn’t changed much since it first appeared during prehistoric times. However, its lack of change has also contributed to a dearth of this species left on the planet.
Why the long face? Perhaps it’s because the Saiga antelope is highly endangered, with only about 750 left in the world. Now more than ever it is important that the citizens of Earth take care of species like these!
20. Shoebill: Also known as the whalehead, this bird’s name comes from—you guessed it—his impressively large bill. This bird is commonly found in Africa, and while he might look a little intense, he’s totally harmless.
“Hey, what are you staring at?” He might seem like he’s got a chip on his shoulder, but the truth is that he’s just got a silly face! Chances are he’s perfectly content and just thinking about fishing for his next meal.
21. Tufted deer: Blink and you’ll swear that this next critter is some sort of vampire. But don’t worry—you don’t need to break out the garlic! This deer might look like she “vants to suck your blooood,” but that’s just the way her teeth have evolved over time.
This deer and her impressive mohawk are always in style. The males of the species tend to have antlers, while the females do not. And they all have those awesome fangs, regardless of gender.
22. Sunda flying lemur: How many times do you think this poor guy has been confused with a bat? While he might be able to glide through the air with the greatest of ease, this little fellow is actually a lemur!
Imagine looking up and seeing this thing gliding toward you through the air? If it was dark and you didn’t know what it was, you might panic, shriek, and run away. Once you’ve seen how cute this thing really is, however, you might want to greet it with open arms.
23. Chevrotain: You may have to travel to southeast Asia if you ever want to sneak a peek of this truly unusual-looking animal. This little guy is one of the last members of the primitive ruminant family, meaning he’s got four stomachs!
This little creature is hard to define… which is probably why it’s also known as a “mouse deer” or “little goat.” Whatever his true origins might be, there’s one thing everyone can agree on: he’s totally cool!
Wow! These bizarrely beautiful species show that our planet truly is an awe-inspiring place. Let’s be sure to take care of it so we can continue to marvel at all of its strange critters.
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