The World’s Strangest Animals That Scientists Are Still Struggling To Explain

Everyone is so gung-ho about exploring other planets, but the really mysterious creatures are right here on Earth. We’re talking spikes, scales, hair, horns, wings, and claws where none of these things should be, making for some incredibly weird-looking animals. But, hey, at least these creatures live somewhere far, far away…right?

Not always, animal-lovers! Though some of these creatures are rare finds outside of certain continents, others could be located right under your very feet or perched just above your head. All you need is an eagle-eye to see them — and as soon as you do, you’ll probably run for the hills.

1. If you’re lacking in the flirting department, then just look to the Greater Sage-Grouse for tips. This bird has two huge air sacs on its chest that make a distinct “popping” noise in order to attract females from far and wide. 

Bureau of Land Management – Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation

2. The Mola-Mola, also called the ocean sunfish, can weigh up to 5,000 pounds and grow to be 14 feet — and we don’t mean in length. It’s weirdly tall, which helps give it the distinction of the largest bony fish in the sea. 

3. Male birds will go to the most unique lengths to impress a female. In a split second, the Vogelkop Superb Bird-Of-Paradise lifts a cape of black feathers over its head and dances, hoping to entice a female into mating with him.

Tim Laman/Macaulay Library

4. Imagine seeing these glowing red eyes in the dead of night! The Aye-Aye primate definitely looks strange, and its opposable big toes and spindly fingers don’t help. It’s even considered to be “bad luck” in some cultures.


5. The Japanese Spider Crab is just as horrifying as you imagined: Hard-shelled body the size of a cat? Check. Covered in sharp edges? Check. Monster legs that span 12 feet? CHECK. Believe it or not, they’re considered a delicacy in Japan!

Dave Thompson/PA Images

6. The Pink Fairy Armadillo is just as cute as it sounds, depending on who you ask. This creature is great at hiding, and the fact that it’s only 5 inches long means it spends a majority of its life underground.

7. The Purple Frog is large and gelatinous, so you’d think people would leave it alone — alas, the amphibian is endangered. Some turn it into an amulet for kids who are afraid of storms, and its tadpoles are often used for spices and medicines.

S. Jegath Janani

8. The ocean really is like another world, and the Blue Dragon, AKA sea slug, looks like it hails from Neptune. The way this 3-centimeter creature survives is by nibbling on deadly man-of-war jellyfish and stealing their stingers for protection!

S. Rohrlach

9. If you catch the Axolotl at the right angle, it looks like it’s smiling! Its youthful appearance gives it this friendly demeanor, since this salamander never really loses the gills, tail, and lifestyle habits of its childhood days. 

Jane Burton/Minden Pictures

10. The “casque” on the Helmeted Hornbill’s head makes it look super weird, and it’s actually the reason the bird is dying out. About 6,000 were killed in one year in China because the “casques,” which are turned into art, were in such high demand. 

Craig Ansibin/YouTube

11. No one really knows what’s in the ocean after a certain depth, and the Ctenophore is proof that we’ll continue to be surprised: These “comb jellies” don’t sting their prey, but use “sticky cells” to trap food, almost like a spider web.

NOAA Ocean Exploration & Research

12. The Heikegani Crab’s body looks like an angry samurai face, and Japanese folklore has some ideas why: It’s said that the face comes from the souls of the Heike clan, who died out in battle in 1185.

13. With its black stripes and yellow spikes, the Lowland Streaked Tenrec looks downright electrifying. Scientists have found 37 different tenrec species on Madagascar alone, so you’re bound to stumble upon one of these hedgehog-like creatures during your next jungle trek.

Frank Vassen

14. The majestic Saiga Antelope just can’t catch a break. Only 1,000 were left after they were mercilessly hunted, and though protective laws helped their population grow, an epidemic brought on by warmer temperatures wiped out 60% of the population in 2015.

Ben G. Thomas/YouTube

15. The Hammer-Headed Bat lives in Africa, but we’re still going to have nightmares of it flying into our bedrooms at night! Its wingspan is up to 3 feet wide, and they make haunting chirp-like honking noises to attract mates. 

Sarah Olson

16. Like the Sage-Grouse, these birds rely on color and plumage to attract a mate, but their distinct look is all their own: The Guianan Cock-Of-The-Rock has a bright orange crest that obscures its beak in hopes of attracting the ladies.

17. The name “Hairy Frog” is scary enough, but this creature is also referred to as “horror frog” because of the off-putting hair that grows along the male frog’s thighs. It also breaks its bones in order to grow claws, so that’s fun.

Emoke Dénes

18. Luckily for us, the Mexican Mole Lizard much prefers the moist darkness of the underground to the hot daylight. This lizard is pale and creepy, especially since it only emerges from the soil once night falls.

19. You wouldn’t want to anger one of these cattle, and it’s clear to see why: The Ankole-Watusi Bulls’ enormous horns are unsurpassed. It uses these horns for things other than defense, though, such as for dispersing body heat.  

20. Found in deep, dark waters, the Casper Octopus is just as ghostly as it sounds. It lays about 30 eggs on dead sea sponges, wraps its body around them, and stays that way for years, an impressive feat for such a little creature!  

NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration

Many of these animals probably aren’t going to rear their slightly-ugly heads in your direction anytime soon, but your own pets are a different story. Even the animals we hold near and dear to our hearts can shock us with their weird instincts…

1. Everyone remembers Koko, the gorilla famous for learning sign language. So when The San Francisco Zoo gave Koko a kitten to play with, it wasn’t surprising when she immediately became her surrogate mother. Imagine the safety kitty felt in those powerful gorilla arms!

2. Pumpkin the raccoon was adopted by a mother and daughter in the Bahamas, where, because rabies is non-existent, domestication is legal. Pumpkin lived the good life alongside the family’s rescue dog, and she never lost her naturally-curious ways!

3. After a tiger in Thailand lost her cubs, she was so devastated she refused to eat. Desperate to save her, the zoo’s caretakers paired the heartbroken mother with some orphaned piglets wrapped in tiger suits, and they were instantly family.

4. A squirrel monkey named Fyodor was rejected by his mother at the Russian zoo. Worried about his ability to survive, the zoo director took him home — just for their cat Rosinka would step in as the surrogate mother. He even rode on her back!

5. When this baby hippo lost his mother in a tsunami, he was taken to a nearby wildlife preserve where, albeit slowly, a 130-year-old tortoise stepped in to adopt the hippo baby.

6. In Kenya, conservationists were shocked when they saw a lioness adopt an abandoned baby antelope. She could have made him her appetizer! These two formed a special bond, and that lucky antelope now has the best protection in all of Kenya!

7. Meet Milo the dachshund and Bonedigger the disabled lion! The two were raised together at an Oklahoma animal rescue and to this day maintain a close sibling-like bond. Oh, what a beautiful mornin’ Oklahoma!

8. In another episode of Who Wore It Best, we have this spotted duo. This Dalmatian lived on the same Australian farm where a lamb was born with a rare genetic spot pattern. The dog adopted the spotted little lamb and raised it like his own…because obviously.

9. This young cow lost her leg, and it had her feeling real down. So who else could give her some eternal motherly love and support but this tortoise? As they say, hard shell, soft heart.

10. It takes a village to raise a child, but in one British home, a “village” is just a dog and a hen. When Nettle had her litter of puppies, Mabel the Hen jumped right in and mimicked all of Nettle’s moves. Now that’s one cocky mom.

11. Speaking of flocking together, when some farmers in Ireland caught their cat with one of their missing ducklings in her mouth, they assumed the worst. But as they followed the cat they realized she had full-on adopted a few little ducklings, taking them under her “wing.”

12. Corgi! We all know there ain’t no butt waddle like a corgi butt waddle, but sometimes nature just goes waddle wild, like when this corgi adopted some floofy baby ducklings. They just waddled around making the world a better place. Thank you. Just, thank you.

13. After her mate left her, a goose mother that’d made her nest in a New York cemetery was distressed over how to care for her young alone. In strutted this deer, who guarded the little goose nest. Oh, what a dear!

14. There are plenty of fish in the sea, but not all of them with a heart as big as this sperm whale. Researchers discovered that a bottle-nose dolphin with a deformed spine was adopted by this whale in Portugal. Just keep swimming, little guy!

15. When Bango the dog disappeared from home, her family began to worry. A few days later, Bango returned home with two baby bunnies. It turned out, the bunnies had been abandoned, and Bango nursed them as if they were her puppies. How cute!!

16. After a tragic car accident took the life of Poncho’s mother, the baby opossum was taken to a wildlife sanctuary where he was introduced to Hantu the German Shepherd. Years later, Poncho was still riding around on Hantu’s back!

17. When her mother fatally fell down a cliff, 6-month-old Themba the elephant was so depressed she couldn’t even eat. Then along came Albert the sheep, who filled in as Themba’s father figure. Even after Themba was grown, the two were inseparable!

18. Crows get a bad rep, what with the whole death/darkness/omens and all, but not all crows bring misfortune: This crow brought worms to feed an abandoned kitten. Even after the kitten was adopted, the crow still came looking for some kitty snuggle time.

19. They say a southern mama is subtle like a freight train, and Miss Kitty from South Carolina was no exception. After all her kittens died, Miss Kitty marched straight over to a neighbor and stole an entire litter of puppies. That’s one tough mama!

20. A snake in China was fed a chubby hamster for dinner, but he couldn’t bring himself to eat the critter. The odd couple lived together for a long time, shnooggling happily ever after. Everyone loves a good plot twist, especially when it’s this cute.

21. Bubbles the Elephant was rescued from ivory poachers and brought to a safari reserve in the United States where she met Bella, a friendly dog who was left at the reserve by one of the park’s contractors. Despite the size difference, the two became best buds!

22. These two live together at an endangered species reserve. Roscoe the Blue Tick Hound followed Suryia the Orangutan and her handlers home one afternoon, and since he didn’t have a family of his own, the two became inseparable!

23. After this Kumbali the Cheetah was abandoned by his family, workers at the Metro Richmond Zoo in Virginia introduced him to Kago, a rescue dog from a local shelter. Soon enough, they were completely smitten with each other!

24. Busch Gardens, an amusement park located in Virginia, houses plenty of animals, and one 65-acre enclosure is home to a giraffe named Bea and her unlikely best friend: an ostrich named Wilma!

25. Leo the Lion, Baloo the bear, and Shere Khan the tiger were rescued from an abusive human owner and they were inseparable because of what they went through. They now live in Georgia at the Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary.

26. Although emperor shrimp normally live inside sea cucumbers, they will occasionally hop a ride on the back of sea slugs for a scenic little trip around the ocean floor while they feast on the debris the slugs kick up.

27. After a hurricane separated this white tiger from his mother, he was adopted by an animal reserve and immediately became smitten with Anjana, a chimpanzee who also lived there. The two quickly became the best of buddies!

28. While walking through the Monkey Forest Park in Bali, Indonesia, a tourist captured amazing footage of a macaque monkey who had taken a kitten under its care! Macaque monkeys are highly social animals, and they frequently interact with species other than their own.

29. Gertjie the Rhino and Lammie the Goat were both abandoned by their families as babies, and they were brought to a South African animal sanctuary where they formed a special bond. What’s their favorite activity? Running around and bumping heads with each other!

30. Dennis the Duckling was left motherless after a fox attacked his mother, but when Fred and his owner found Dennis, they adopted him! The two animals became friends immediately.

31. A family from Germany found Manni, a wild boar piglet, alone and starving in a field by their home. While Manni recovered, he struck up a great friendship with the family’s Jack Russell terrier.

32. A sitka deer named Amy who lived at the Wild Heart Ranch in Oklahoma took a blind dog named Ransom under her care when he moved in. She helped groom him, and she kept him company for years!

33. When Kate the Great Dane came across abandoned baby deer Pippin, the loving canine adopted her! As Pippin matured, she eventually moved back into the forest, but she still visits Kate and Kate’s owner, Isobel.

34. Although tarantulas can be vicious killers, they don’t hurt tiny microhylid frogs. Instead, they keep them around as “pets” because the frogs help protect the spiders’ eggs from ants. Spiders apparently use frogs’ toxic skin to their advantage instead of consuming them.

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