The earth has over 8.7 animal species. From deep-sea fish to poisonous insects, there are many bizarre animals out there. How many of these weird, unexpected, and unbelievable species do you know?
If you learn enough about the animal kingdom, you may find a mole with 22 tentacles, a panda ant that's neither a panda nor an ant, or a spider called sparklemuffin. Want to be blown away by nature? Here are some exciting facts about the strangest, almost alien-like animal species ever discovered.
Is This A Bird Or A Bug?
The hummingbird hawk-moth may look like a hummingbird; it's the same size as one. But it's a moth. Instead of a beak, it uses a long tongue-like proboscis to drink nectar from flowers. Its wings make the distinct hum sound that you hear from hummingbirds.
They have larger eyes than the average moth, which warn some predators to stay away. Hummingbird hawk-moths are also more active than butterflies; they can fly up to 12 mph and soar through harsh wind and rain. You can find them in North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.
This Mouse Leaps Like A Gazelle
The jerboa is no ordinary rodent. Their hind legs are four times longer than their front legs, and they travel by hopping around. Despite being the size of your fist, jerboas can leap up to ten feet. They jump in zigzags to escape predators.
Jerboas prance through the deserts of Northern Africa and Arabia. They have skin flaps in their nose and ears, which protect their orifices from the sand. When threatened, they ran up to 15 miles per hour, and they'll hide in burrows.
The Panda Ant Is Neither A Panda Nor An Ant
Panda ants look like furry ants with a black-and-white pattern. But they actually aren't ants at all; they are cow-killing wasps. Since 1938, farmers in Chile and Argentina have watched out for theses wasps in order to save their livestock.
Unlike other insects, male and female panda ants look entirely different. Females have stingers but no wings; males have wings and no stinger. They are solitary insects, and their larvae are parasitic. They lay eggs in host insects, and the babies grow inside of them, eating them from the inside.
The Only Mammal That Has Scales
When many people see a pangolin--a 15-inch-long animal covered in scales with large claws--they may think that it's a reptile. But it's actually the only mammal on earth that has armor. Eight species of pangolins cover Asia and Africa, and they look more like Pokémon than a real animal.
Like anteaters, pangolins have a long, sticky tongue that they use to eat insects. Their scales are made of keratin, the same protein that creates human fingernails. Although many people haven't heard of pangolins, they are the most illegally trafficked mammal in the world, more than elephants or rhinos.
The Superb Bird-Of-Paradise Has Two Faces
Birds-of-paradise are famous for their colorful feathers and unique mating dances. But the greater superb bird-of-paradise outdoes its cousins. It moves its black-and-blue feathers to create a "face" with two eyes and a mouth. Males hop around females during their mating dances.
In 2017, scientists discovered that the superb bird-of-paradise is not one genus, but three. The birds live in New Guinea, and each male genus has his own "smiley face" dance. Some varieties have different expressions; for instance, the Vogelkop superb bird-of-paradise has a frowning face.
The Sea Slug That's A Blue Dragon
In 2016, aquatic "blue dragons" washed up on the shores of Australia. Although they are beautiful, you should back away if you see one. Blue dragons are a sea slug called Glaucus Atlanticus and are incredibly toxic.
Glaucus Atlanticus stores poison in its tentacles, which can grow up to 30 feet long. Unlike other sea slugs, they float along the ocean currents. They eat venomous jellyfish, ripping out chunks with their razor-sharp teeth. If they can't find any food, they will even turn to cannibalism.
The Deep Sea Fish With A Transparent Head
In 1939, scientists discovered a deep-sea fish that looks like an alien. The barreleye (macropinna microstoma) has a transparent head that shows its tubular eyes. You can only find them between 2,000 and 2,600 feet underwater off the coast of California.
Their transparent heads are filled with fluid that protects its internal organs. Its eyes are very good at collecting light, which the fish needs in the deep ocean. Barreleyes will sit motionless in the water, waiting for a jellyfish to float overhead. When it spots prey, it will swim upward to catch it.
The Mole With Tentacles
Star-nosed moles are so bizarre that neurologist Kenneth Catania calls them "the weirdest looking creatures on the planet." Instead of a snout, these moles have 22 tentacles on their face. Each tentacle has 100,000 nerve fibers, making it more sensitive than any mammal organ on earth.
Star-nosed moles have advanced brains; they can discern food in two-tenths of a second and decide if it's edible in eight milliseconds. While underwater, they will blow bubbles and then suck them up to smell what is in the water.
The Microscopic, Indestructible Water Bear
When you hear "water bear," what do you imagine? A large mammal? Well, water bears (officially named tardigrades) are actually microscopic animals that have been around for 530 million years. Scientists first discovered water bears in a puddle in a Japanese parking lot.
When researchers studied these micro-animals under a microscope, they saw that water bears are nearly indestructible. They can survive burning temperatures, total dissection, radiation, and the frozen vacuum of space. Scientists believe that water bears have a genome that suppresses damage and keeps them alive.
You Can See Through This Frog
Glass frogs are aptly named--you can see right through them, including their internal organs. These frogs dot the forests of Central and South America, and their undersides are completely transparent. You can see their heart, veins, and intestines.
For years, scientists scratched their heads over why these frogs have glass skin. But in May 2020, researchers came up with an explanation. Since leaves come in different shades of green, the transparent skin helps the frogs to camouflage. The legs are more translucent than the torso, which allows their body to blend into the leaf.
Meet Sparklemuffin, The Peacock Spider
Even if you don't like spiders, you may change your mind after meeting sparklemuffin. It is a species of peacock spider, a tiny arachnid that has a colorful abdomen. They only measure in at 10 millimeters, but they can jump up to 50 times that length.
Sparklemuffins, the Australian name for maratus jactatus, have unique courting rituals. Unlike other spiders, they perform courting dances for their mates. Researchers said that the males "exploded into a firework of activity." Since peacock spiders were just discovered recently, we may see more spiders like sparklemuffin soon.
This Mammal's Fur Can Stab You
Eighty percent of the animals in Madagascar are found nowhere else in the world. This includes the lowland streaked tenrec, a mammal that looks like a combination between a shrew and a hedgehog. If you think it seems fluffy, you'd be wrong--those are real spines.
In nature, black and yellow are standard warning colors on poisonous snakes and insects. For the lowland streaked tenrec, it warns predators about the needles. When it feels threatened, the tenrec rams its spines into attackers. Watch your step since they tend to burrow in the ground and sleep there.
The Ribbon Worm Spits Out A Tree
In 2015, a viral video showed a pink worm spitting out a white substance that looked like a tree. Over five million people shared the video of this strange animal, commonly called the ribbon worm. Its scientific name is Nemertea, and it lives in tropical areas.
Biologist Sebastian Kvist told Mental Floss that the mysterious milky material is the ribbon worm's hunting gear. When the worm spots prey, it spits out a proboscis to catch it. It hangs around the ocean and eats mollusks, snails, and other sea creatures.
The Mata Mata Is One Awkward-Looking Turtle
If you can find a mata mata in South America, you might not be able to tell that it's a turtle. These reptiles have a wedge-shaped head, tiny eyes, a large mouth, and a protruding nose. They lurk in river basins, where their armor plating camouflages them.
Although mata matas are an aquatic species, they struggle to swim in open water. Instead, they sit in slow-moving, shallow pools, waiting for prey to approach. Despite years of research, scientists still know very little about theses strange creatures.
This Cobra Spits Venom Into Peoples' Eyes
Most snakes bite people to distribute their venom, but spitting cobras have a different talent. They move muscles around their venom glands, which releases it as a spray. In other words, spitting cobras literally spit venom into your eyes.
And yes, they are aiming for the eyes. In 2014, morphologist Bruce Young discovered that spitting cobras could hit people's eyes with 90% accuracy. When they succeed, "it's basically instantly incapacitating." The venom hardly harms the skin, but it can cause permanent blindness. They can also spit up to five feet away.
Axolotl: Mexico's Giant Salamander
Axolotls have lived in Mexican lakes and canals since the time of the Aztecs. Axolotls are salamanders that can grow up to a foot long. Today, they make popular pets, but scientists are more interested in their limb regeneration abilities.
Axolotls can regrow any limb or organ in their body. This includes their brain, eyes, and even heart. Researchers are still studying how they can accomplish this; perhaps the discovery can improve human medicine. Unfortunately, axolotls are close to extinction in Mexico City, their only natural habitat.
One Of The Most Poisonous Caterpillars
The puss moth looks like a fuzzy, cuddly kitten with wings. But its caterpillar is the opposite. Puss moth caterpillars have a scary-looking red face and two long pincers on their abdomen. If you see one, beware--they are one of the most poisonous caterpillars in North America.
When a puss moth caterpillar feels threatened, it can spray formic acid from its pincers. This venom causes intense pain and rashes. However, many people won't notice these caterpillars because they camouflage with aspen and willow trees.
The Real-Life Werewolf
If someone saw a maned wolf at night, they might think it was a werewolf. Despite looking like a fox on stilts, this three-foot-tall animal is neither a wolf nor a fox. Genetic testing shows that they are a different genus called Chrysocyon. They are a canid with a potent smell, similar to skunks.
Maned wolves live in the grasslands of Brazil. Like foxes, they live alone. Conservation studies show that deforestation in Brazil is devastating to the maned wolf population. Although they are similar to wild dogs, maned wolves only eat fruit.
The Turtle With A Soft Shell
The Asian giant softshell turtle, also called Cantor's giant softshell turtle, is one of the largest freshwater turtles in the world. But most people know it for having a "soft" shell. There is no distinction between its shell and its body. It has a broad head with eyes close to the snout, appearing more like a frog than a turtle.
Giant softshell turtles live in slow-moving rivers in East Asia. Unfortunately, these chubby-looking turtles are currently endangered. Conservation groups have helped the population slowly ascend so that scientists can study them further.
A Pink Dolphin
This rare dolphin was spotted off the coast of Hong Kong. This species of dolphin is called a Chinese white dolphin, or Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin.
Scientists have sampled its DNA in an effort to save the species from extinction, as its very rare to spot one today, making it truly a once in a lifetime experience!
This Jellyfish Moves Like A Firework
In 2018, scientists traveled over 4,000 feet underwater off of the coast of Baja California. There, they spotted a jellyfish that looked like "deep sea fireworks." Its tendrils reflected the lights of the ROV (remotely operated vehicle) and seemed to spark underwater.
This is the Halitrephes Jelly, and it doesn't usually glow underwater. Without the ROV's lights, you would not see this jellyfish in the darkness. It sports beautiful pink, yellow, and purple designs. But other than brief video captured, scientists know virtually nothing about the Halitrephes Jelly.