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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Weird animals: 10 of the world’s strangest creatures

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Here are some of the strangest and most fascinating animals from around the world, ranging from an amphibian that looks like a penis to a newly discovered baby ghost shark.

The diversity of our planet is astounding. Environmental factors influence the traits of organisms of all forms and sizes. Some evolve for the dark, bleak depths of the oceans, while others struggle to survive in dry, harsh deserts.

Complete darkness, sediment-rich waterways, high-pressure settings, and near-freezing waters have all resulted in odd adaptations and animals. And there’s much more to uncover, particularly in the oceans.

In the depths of our oceans, scientists believe that there are anywhere from a few hundred thousand to over 10 million new species waiting to be discovered. Continue reading to learn about some of the world’s strangest animals!

1.Ghost shark

Credits: Dr Brit Finucci

When scientists discovered this recently hatched juvenile ghost shark off the shore of New Zealand’s South Island in February 2022, it rapidly went viral due to its strange appearance.

These elusive critters, also known as chimaeras, are rarely seen and nothing is known about them. Their young are much less well-known, having been discovered for the first time in 2002.

These deep-sea inhabitants live between 400 and 6,600 feet (122 – 2,011m) below the surface, where water temperatures are near freezing. Their ghastly name comes from their dead eyes and enormous wing-like fins, which are better suited to flight.

Despite their name, ghost sharks are not sharks; instead, they are a type of fish with a cartilage-based skeleton rather than a bone-based skeleton.

A low-density skeleton, like as cartilage, is essential for living at depth because it will not collapse under strain.

However, they do, like sharks, lay egg capsules (also known as mermaid purses) on the seafloor. The embryo is protected by the egg capsule while it develops and feeds on the yolk until it is ready to hatch.

“You can tell this ghost shark recently hatched because it has a full belly of egg yolk. It’s quite astonishing. Most deep-water ghost sharks are known adult specimens; neonates [newly born] are infrequently reported so we know very little about them,” explains NIWA Fisheries Scientist Dr Brit Finucci, who was part of the team that discovered the finding.

Scientists are eager to learn more about these enigmatic fish, which have a retractable penis-like appendage on their head, and to gain a sense of population numbers, because so little is known about them. Source

2. Penis snake

Credits: Marinus Steven Hoogmoed

This phallic-looking species is neither a snake nor a penis, despite its name. It’s a caecilian, a limbless amphibian with a striking similarity to a component of the male anatomy. As a result, this critter is also known as the’manaconda’ or the ‘floppy snake’; its Latin name is Atretochoana eiselti.

Little is known about the species, and just two preserved specimens existed between its discovery in the late 1800s and its rediscovery in 2011 from the same locality.

It’s the world’s second-biggest lungless tetrapod, breathing via its skin, and the world’s largest known caecilian, reaching a length of 81cm. It is estimated that they can survive for 5 to 10 years.

Unlike most caecilians, which burrow, most scientists agree that the penis snake, like other lungless tetrapods, is an aquatic creature.

It has weak vision (its eyes are scarcely visible beneath the skin), but a powerful sense of smell that it utilizes to navigate.

Given that they dwell in Amazonian waterways with poor sight, this combination is optimal.

3. Sea pig

Credits: MBARI research

The sea pig, or Scotoplanes globose, is a sea cucumber species named after its round body and pink coloring, and is unquestionably one of the strangest creatures on the planet.

These inflated, water-filled sausages can grow to be 15cm long and can be found in every ocean on the planet. There are a lot of them.

When there’s a nice meal to be had, such as a whale body that’s sunk to the seafloor, sea pigs will congregate in their hundreds to take advantage of the feast, shoveling food into their mouths with a ring of feeding tentacles. They’ll eat nearly everything, just like a real pig.

These deep-sea vacuum cleaners, like the blobfish, have adapted for living at depth, particularly on the abyssal plains of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. To keep themselves inflated, sea pigs pump water around their bodies, and bringing them too close to the surface causes them to shrivel up and die.

They also have a formidable defense: poisonous compounds in their skin dissuade predators from consuming this forbidden sea bacon. Juvenile king crabs, on the other hand, do not appear to be bothered by this. In fact, they may be able to take advantage of this negative trait.

The newborn king crabs catch a ride on curious sea pigs on the flat, muddy plains of the seafloor, where it’s tough to burrow and hide from predators. The delicate newborn king crabs are safe from predators while they lose their shell and grow by clinging to the sea pigs’ ‘belly.’ Source

4. Pink fairy armadillo

Credits: Alamy

The pink fairy armadillo looks like a hybrid between a fuzzy caterpillar and a lobster. It’s the tiniest armadillo species, measuring roughly 13cm in length and small enough to squeeze in your hand.

It’s known as the sand swimmer because of its ability to quickly cross the subterranean sands. It lives in the sandy plains and dry scrublands of South America.

Blood is pumped into their shell for thermoregulation, which allows them to keep a constant core temperature in the hot, arid atmosphere. Source

5. Great potoo

Credits: Gettyimages

The great potoo is a carnivorous bird that lives primarily in tropical America and is a master of camouflage. The great potoo fits in with its surroundings by imitating a tree trunk or branch as it patiently waits for unexpected prey while remaining absolutely still.

And it doesn’t even open its eyes to reveal itself. This nocturnal bird can see even when its eyes are closed thanks to microscopic holes beneath its eyelids, allowing it to detect even the tiniest amount of movement. Source

6. Echidnas

Credits: Dr Jane Fenelon

Which species in the animal kingdom has the strangest penis? The echidna’s penis, on the other hand, has four heads and resembles a foot. It’s also quite large, accounting for one-third of the animal’s length.

The echidna, often known as the spiny anteater, is one of only two living egg-laying mammal species, the other being the platypus. Source

7. Star-nosed mole

Credits: Gettyimages

The star-nosed mole, which has 25,000 sensory receptors in its thick tentacles surrounding its nose, can detect seismic vibrations, according to animal geologists.

The star-nosed mole, as the only mole that lives in swamps and marshes, may be able to detect tiny electrical signals from aquatic prey.

It can also smell underwater by blowing air bubbles into its nose and sucking them back in, making it one of just two species capable of doing so (the other is the water shrew).

It also takes less than a quarter of a second to gulp down a meal, making it one of the world’s fastest eaters. Gulp! Source

8. Pacu

Credits: Pedro Luz Cunha / Alamy

Have you ever seen a fish with teeth like those of a human? The pacu, which is sometimes mistaken for a piranha, is an omnivore that eats both vegetation and meat. Their square, straight teeth are mostly utilized to break nuts and fruits that fall from the trees above into Amazonian rivers and streams.

However, swimmers beware! These nut-crackers have also been dubbed ‘testicle-eating fish’ or ‘ball-cutter fish’ because they are said to mistake human testicles for their favorite snacks. Ouch. Source

9. Tarsier

Credits: Gettyimages

The tarsier has the largest eyes in relation to its body size of any animal, with each eye as huge as its brain. They can’t move their eyes like we can, so they swivel their entire head 180 degrees like an owl.

This allows them to hunt for prey in silence, and they’re the only ape that eats exclusively meat – no vegetables.

And this technique has worked; tarsiers are among the world’s oldest extant primates, dating back at least 55 million years.

This could place them at the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), a period of abrupt and intense warming that is commonly linked to the emergence of animals on the planet. Source

10. Bird-dropping spider

Credits: Gettyimages

This isn’t a spider that drops birds; instead, it’s a spider that resembles a bird dropping. The bird dropping spider, which spends the day hunched on a leaf, utilizes mimicry to deceive would-be predators into believing they’re a new pile of feces.

The deception, however, does not end there. This cunning creature will stretch out its forelegs at night and release a pheromone that attracts unlucky male moths hunting for a mate.

The moth is instead captured, giving a good meal for the spider, who thinks they’re getting lucky. Source

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