The world is big and in it there are a lot of animals. And when there’s a lot of anything, there are always the weirdos. Here are 10 of the strangest animals known to man.
1. Naked Mole Rat
The Naked Mole Rat (Heterocephalus glaber), also known as the Sand Puppy, or Desert Mole Rat, is a burrowing rodent native to parts of East Africa. It is notable for a highly unusual set of physical traits that enables it to thrive in a harsh, underground environment; including a lack of pain sensation in its skin, and a nearly cold-blooded metabolism.
The naked mole rat is unique among mammals in that it is virtually cold-blooded; it cannot regulate its body temperature at all and requires an environment with a specific constant temperature in order to survive.
The skin of naked mole rats lacks a key neurotransmitter called Substance P that is responsible in mammals for sending pain signals to the central nervous system. Therefore, when naked mole rats are cut, scraped or burned, they feel no pain. When injected with Substance P, however, the pain signalling works as it does in other mammals.
2. The Pistol Shrimp
The pistol shrimp is so called because it snaps a specialized claw shut to create a cavitation wave that generates acoustic pressures of up to 80 kPa at a distance of 4 cm from the claw. The pressure wave is strong enough to kill small fish! The duration of the click is less than 1 millisecond.
The snap can also produce a collapsing bubble. As it collapses, the cavitation bubble reaches the surface temperature of the Sun, though the light is of lower intensity than the light produced by typical luminescence and is not visible to the naked eye.
3. Star Nosed Mole
The Star-nosed Mole (Condylura cristata) is a small North American mole found in eastern Canada and the north-eastern United States. It is the only member of the tribe Condylurini and the genus Condylura.
It is a good swimmer and can forage along the bottoms of streams and ponds. Like other moles, this animal digs shallow surface tunnels for foraging; often, these tunnels exit underwater. It is active day and night and remains active in winter, when it has been observed tunnelling through the snow and swimming in ice-covered streams.
The Star-nosed Mole is covered in thick blackish brown water-repellent fur and has large scaled feet and a long thick tail, which appears to function as a fat storage reserve for the spring breeding season. Adults are 15 to 20 cm in length, weigh about 55 g, and have 44 teeth. The mole’s most distinctive feature is a circle of 22 mobile, pink, fleshy tentacles at the end of the snout. These are used to identify food by touch, such as worms, insects and crustaceans.
4. Cone Snail
Some species of cone snails can grow up to 23 cm in length and are found in tropical or subtropical waters. There are about 500 different species. They are carnivorous, generally eating marine worms, small fish, molluscs, and even other cone snails. Because cone snails are slow-moving, they use a venomous harpoon (called a toxoglossan radula) to capture faster-moving prey such as fish. The venom of a few larger species is powerful enough to kill a human being.
The harpoon is loaded with venom and, still attached to the radula, is fired from the proboscis into the prey by a powerful muscular contraction. The venom paralyzes small fish almost instantly. The snail then retracts the radula, drawing the subdued prey into the mouth. After the prey is digested, the cone snail will regurgitate any indigestible material such as spines and scales, along with the disposable harpoon.
The blobfish, aka Psychrolutes marcidus, is a deep water fish that lives off the coasts of Australia and Tasmania. Due to the extreme deeps that Blobfish are found at, the pressure is several dozens of times higher than at sea level, enough to crush a man under his own body weight. As such, the flesh of the blobfish is primarily a gelatinous mass with a density slightly less than water. This unique feature allows the fish to float above the sea floor without expending energy on swimming. The relative lack of muscle is not a disadvantage as the blobfish primarily swallows edible matter that floats by in front it.
6. Jesus Christ Lizard
The Basiliscus goes by the more memorable name of the Jesus Christ Lizard and grows to an average size of about 70 to 75 cm. It’s so called because of its famous ability to both walk upright on its hind legs and walk across water. Only insects duplicate this ability and it allows the lizard to escape from virtually any land predator when close to water. The Jesus Christ Lizard can travel at about 1.5 meters per second for up to 20 meters across the surface of water, the younger or lighter lizards sometimes managing further.
7. The Axolotl
The Axolotl (or ajolote) is the best-known of the Mexican neotenic mole salamanders belonging to the Tiger Salamander complex. Larvae of this species fail to undergo metamorphosis, so the adults remain aquatic and gilled. The species originates from the lake underlying Mexico City. Axolotls are used extensively in scientific research due to their ability to regenerate most body parts, ease of breeding, and large embryos. They are commonly kept as pets in the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Japan (where they are sold under the name Wooper Rooper, and other countries.
Axolotls should not be confused with waterdogs, the larval stage of the closely related Tiger Salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum and Ambystoma mavortium), which is widespread in much of North America which also occasionally become neotenic, nor with mudpuppies (Necturus spp.), fully aquatic salamanders which are unrelated to the axolotl but which bear a superficial resemblance.
8. Sea Spider
Sea spiders have long legs in contrast to a small body size. The number of walking legs is usually eight (four pairs), but species have been found with 10 or even 12 legs. Because of their small size and slender body and legs, no respiratory system is necessary, with gases moving by diffusion. They have been found at depths of up to 7,000 metres.
Sea spiders do not swim but rather walk along the bottom with their stilt-like legs. Most are carnivorous and feed on cnidarians, sponges, polychaetes and bryozoans. Sea spiders are generally predators or scavengers. They crawl slowly along (although some do swim), feeding. They will often insert their proboscis, a long appendage used for digestion and sucking food into its gut, into a sea anemone and suck out nourishment. The sea anemone, relatively large in comparison to its predator, almost always survives this ordeal. Studies have shown that adult taste preferences depend on what the animals were fed as young.
The Aye-aye, or Daubentonia madagascariensis, is a native of Madagascar. Despite looking like some sort of deformed monkey with a hangover, it is weird because of its long, thin middle finger which fills the same ecological niche as a woodpecker. It uses its elongated fingers to find food; it taps on trees and fallen logs which grubs and insects respond to by moving. The AyeAye places its ear to the wood and listens for the tell tale sound of dinner. It then gnaws holes in the wood and inserts its elongated middle finger to pull the grubs out. Its also the world’s largest nocturnal primate.
10. The Madagascar Sucker-footed Bat
If you thought sucker cups only existed in cheesy spy movies, you were wrong. The sucker-footed bat is a species of bat in the Myzopodidae family. It’s another Madagascar native and is threatened by habitat loss. It uses its incredible suckers, of which it has 4, to climb up and attach to the underside of broad leafed plants which it roosts in.