We tend to love animals even from a very young age. Some of the first words we learn (and first things we recognize) are “dog,” “cat,” and other usual animals for our areas. We even learn the sounds animals make when we’re wee young things — cows go “moo” right?
Mother Nature didn’t stop with the family pet and animals on the local farm though. There are thousands, if not millions, of species out there in the world that seem rather odd to us, and we’re still discovering more! Let’s step away from the norm today and explore some of Mother Nature’s misfits through this collection of strange and unusual members of the animal world. Whether cute or kind of creepy, you’re sure to find something new.
As strange as the okapi might look (it appears to be some kind of cross between a zebra and chestnut horse, but with an unusually large neck), it sure is cute isn’t it? Not all strange animals have to be freaky or ugly or downright scary looking. That long neck we talked about is a reminder that the okapi isn’t actually tied to horses or zebras. It’s in the giraffe family!
Found in the dense forests of the Congo, this herbivore jungle giraffe can live to be over 30 years old and grow to over 500 pounds. Can’t make it to the jungle to see an okapi for yourself? They can also be found in numerous zoos around the world. Say it with me now: Awwwwww!
2. Mexican Walking Fish
Okay. While not all strange and unusual creatures are ugly or creepy this thing certainly is! Fish give me the willies to begin with, but at least they’re confined to the water. But a fish with legs! Uh oh. I sense nightmares of fish chasing me on land coming. Ewwww.
It’s time to be fair now. These little guys aren’t actually fish at all — they’re a type of salamander (which doesn’t make them any less cringe-worthy). The carnivorous little creatures are officially called axolotls, and as their common name implies they’re native to Mexico. Sadly they’re endangered (and as disgusting as I might think they are, I certainly don’t wish that on any species). You’d think that since they can regenerate their own body parts, they’d be better at this survival game. Apparently not — the introduction of non-native fish to their diminishing natural habitat is proving too much for them.
3. Proboscis Monkey
Let’s get back to the cute and cuddly side of things with the next of Mother Nature’s misfits — the proboscis monkey. How adorable are they? The interesting feature of the proboscis monkey is obviously the schnoz. Their noses almost make them look cartoonish — well, for the males at least. Apparently females are attracted by the huge protruding noses (oh if only big-nosed humans were as lucky, right?).
Unfortunately the proboscis monkey is another endangered species. Despite being natural climbers and swimmers and being smart enough to travel in groups to avoid being preyed upon by crocodiles when crossing rivers, Mother Nature just isn’t cutting these little cuties a break. As with many endangered species, the proboscis monkey is nearing extinction due to logging and other destruction of its native habitat.
4. Lithogenes Wahari
This interesting variety of catfish is both an armored catfish and a type of climbing catfish. Only recently were scientists able to find plentiful specimens of this Venezuelan native. Because these catfish live in rapidly flowing water, generally in rocky areas, they have an unusual feature. They not only have a suction-style mouth but also two fins in the pelvic area. These features help the catfish climb vertically up rocks. The adaptation allows the fish to move up streams despite heavy currents, and to climb when needed to adjust to changing water levels.
5. Female Angler Fish
If there was ever an oddball in the aquatic world, the female angler fish would be it. Not only does it look like something out of a child’s nightmare, but she lives up to her horrific look when it comes to how the fish reproduce. Here’s the gist: Eventually the male can’t feed without essentially becoming a parasite of a female. He finds one by picking up her scent. The male bites into one of these lovely ladies and they’re fused together (gross enough, right?). He then proceeds to die, leaving behind nothing more than his magnificent little “man parts.” She gets his sperm. She can reproduce. I’m not sure how happy she is with the arrangement, but hey, whatever works.
Do you know what I love most about the sloth? They look so happy and perky. Don’t they? They look like teddy bears mated with monkeys and got high. They live in South and Central America, where they spend much of their time hanging upside down in trees. In fact, they rarely come out of the trees at all. But if they did, wouldn’t you just want to hug them?
7. Pelochelys Cantorii
I like turtles. In fact the hill I grew up on was known as Turtle Hill because we had so many. These turtles aren’t ones I’d want to touch or take home though. The large soft-shell turtles live in fresh water, and spend most of their time buried. I don’t know about you, but to me a turtle just isn’t a turtle without a hard little shell and a gorgeous pattern. These ones are monotone. Just the thought of feeling a soft shell makes me cringe, but I guess if that’s all the protection they need, who am I to argue with Mother Nature?
Why is it that the freakiest of Mother Nature’s misfits seem to live in water? Here’s another creepy and odd-looking fish — the blobfish. Thankfully they’re only found around Australia, so I don’t have to worry about running into one of these squishy gelatinous-looking things when in the water. Whew! When you look at them head-on they almost have a human-like nose that makes them look all the creepier. I’m not sure what Mother Nature was thinking when she created the blobfish. Maybe she lost a bet.
9. Star-Nosed Mole
The star-nosed mole is a creature that looks like it almost wants to be cute and cuddly, but which still looks like something out of a horror flick. With a flared-open star-like nose that makes it look like it has an octopus mounted to its face and claws that look almost skeletal, I wouldn’t want to stumble across one of these oddball animals. Then again, if I were basically blind I probably wouldn’t mind a freakish nose (wouldn’t have to see it) as long as the sense of smell helped me to survive.
There’s something completely strange but still absolutely adorable about the aye-aye. Found in Madagascar, they have faces that look like a cross between a bat and a young bear. They’re actually Madagascar’s most endangered mammal (poor little things) due to deforestation. While they’re actually primates, they share something other than their face with bats — they use echolocation to help them find food.