The Strangest Animals on Earth

By Michael KasianLast Updated Apr 18, 2020 9:17:52 PM ET
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With over 8 million different species on Earth, the amount of diverse, beautiful creatures can be breathtaking. Other times, it can be completely strange.

It's impossible to collect every animal anomaly on the planet, so we've rounded up a list of our favorites that includes mammals, ocean oddities and even the strangest insects. Feast your eyes on this plethora of unique animals.

The Angora Rabbit

Hailing from Ankara, Turkey, these rabbits are too hairy for their own good. An adult Angora rabbit's wool will grow 1.2 inches a month, which is a lot of hair for such tiny critters. They're often bred for their silky, soft Angora wool coats that, if left unattended, can make them look like walking pillows.

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While they may look super cute with their unnaturally long hair, it's important to keep them groomed. If they're not regularly brushed and trimmed, their hair can get too long and matted together, causing pain and sometimes infection.

The Axolotl

These aquatic aliens are sometimes referred to as Mexican walking fish, but they’re actually amphibians. But unlike other amphibians, the axolotl remains in the water after reaching adulthood because they never develop lungs. Their wide heads, tiny arms and lidless eyes make for quite the awkward water dweller.

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While most axolotl are typically brown and tan in the wild, you'll most likely find captive swimmers in their more bizarre albino or leucistic (pale pink) states. That's because pet breeders know people like to adopt the weirder looking versions of these strange salamanders.

The Spectral Tarsier

These little primates with bulging eyes, giant hands and flapping ears are spectral tarsiers. This particular species of tarsier is native to the island of Selayar in Indonesia. If their appearance isn’t peculiar enough, wait until you learn about their eating habits.

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Spectral Tarsiers are the only entirely carnivorous primates and primarily dine on insects. That being said, they won't turn their nose away from a wayward bird, snake or lizard.

Don't worry, you won't spot these strange creatures out during the day, as tarsiers are nocturnal by nature.

The Hairy Bush Viper

No, it's not a real-life dragon. But hairy bush vipers are extremely dangerous. They're so poisonous that they can cause severe hemorrhaging of a victim's internal organs. They can grow to be over 2 feet long and use their protruding scales to climb small plants.

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These hunters live in Central Africa and mostly hunt at night. They feed on frogs, lizards, birds and sometimes small mammals. They tend to be bright in color and avoid camouflage, likely to warn attackers that they're very poisonous.

The Red-Lipped Batfish

The red-lipped batfish is native to the ocean floor surrounding the Galápagos Islands. By floor, we mean the very bottom, since the batfish aren't very good swimmers. Since they have such strong pectoral fins, they tend to walk along the ocean floor, rather than swim like other fish.

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Their other noticeable trait is their bright red lips. These are most likely meant to help other batfish find each other during mating season. When you live on the bottom of the ocean floor, it can be difficult to see other batfish, so the bright hue can help. Also, the brighter the lips, the more enticing they appear to potential suitors.

The Walking Stick

The walking stick bug is an accurately named insect. Their bodies resemble twigs and branches so predators can't spot them in the trees while they graze on leafy greens. If you thought their appearance wasn't strange enough, check out their mating habits.

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Walking sticks lay eggs for their young, just like other insects. However, many of the 3,000 types of walking sticks have female-only populations. This means they have to fertilize themselves without the involvement of any male walking sticks.

The Blobfish

Blobfish are, without a doubt, heinous looking deep sea dwellers. In fact, they were voted the world's ugliest animal in a 2013 online poll. That's likely thanks to their gelatinous bodies which allow them to float above the ocean floor.

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Of course, when they're at the bottom of the ocean floor, their bodies are fully inflated. They actually look like relatively normal fish underwater. When they're brought up into science labs to be studied, their squishy bodies deflate, giving them that gruesome, disgruntled appearance.

The Proboscis Monkey

These long-nosed monkeys live on the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia. Their bright, orange-red hair gives them a flaming hue, but it’s their pink, flapping noses that set them apart from other primates. Female proboscis monkeys have smaller noses that arch upwards, so only the males have the drooping, giant snouts.

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Scientists have studied proboscis monkeys to understand why the males have such strange noses. The leading theory suggests females prefer loud vocalizations from their suitors and large noses amplify a male's call. If that's the case, the male noses will continue to get larger as natural selection continues.

The Amazonian Giant Fishing Spider

At almost 5 inches across, the Amazonian giant fishing spider is a mega predator for land and river prey. These spiders can even swim underwater to snag their next catch. It isn't just guppies that the spiders hunt, either.

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The Amazonian giant fishing spider's victims can be more than twice as large as the spider itself and still fall prey to their attacks. While these tropical terrors are still being studied by scientists, it's best to keep away from them if you cross their path.

The Komondor

No, that's not a mop. That's a dog underneath those wooly, matted dreadlocks. And they weren't bred to clean your floors, they actually developed their fur as a form of camouflage. As sheepherders, their distinctive fur helped the komondor resemble the flock to surprise unsuspecting wolves on the hunt.

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It shouldn't come as a surprise that these dogs need a lot of maintenance to stay clean. They don't need to be brushed, but they do require a lot of baths. Komondors pick up dirt very easily, so owners need to keep their dreadlocks separated and washed regularly.

The Gharial

There's a big, bulbous difference that separates the gharial from other gators. When males reach a decade in age, the bump behind their nose starts to grow. The bump attaches itself to a flap over the nostrils, so when it exhales, the flap buzzes.

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The buzzing sound is possibly meant to send calls to females during mating season. The males will also blow bubbles when they try to lure a female, so the flappy cartilage serves two purposes. The bigger the bulb, the better the chances for the male gharial to build their harem of female mates, which is a common practice for these peculiar creatures.

The Fossa

Is it a cat? Is it a mongoose? Is it a long meerkat? The answer is pretty complicated. The fossa, native to Madagascar, has been difficult for scientists to categorize because it has so much in common with cats and mongooses.

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These creatures can reach up to 6 feet in length thanks to their long, thick tails. Their tails help females keep balanced while they perch for days on end atop mating trees, while males battle for their affections down below. Even though the males battle, the female may choose several of the suitors to meet her for mating.

The Mata Mata Turtle

These peculiar turtles are only found in the wetlands of the Amazon forest. Unlike all other turtles, the mata mata can't retreat its long neck into its shell. Their giant necks allow them to stretch their nostrils above water for air while their bodies stay underwater on the stream floor.

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The mata mata turtles can't use their jaws to chew, so they have developed other means to trap unsuspecting swimmers. These lazy hunters remain still for most of their days and wait for their meals to approach them. When a tasty fish approaches, they'll open their mouths wide and create a vacuum, swallowing their prey whole.

The Shoebill

Shoebills are often referred to as the world's scariest birds. These native East Africans can grow 4 to 5 feet tall and can remain motionless for hours, staring at prey with their haunting, gold eyes. Their giant beak perches against their neck to support the weight.

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It's best that their beaks are at rest if you ever cross their path. An angry shoebill can pack a powerful bite. Their giant beaks can emit a loud, booming scream. Add that to their height, massive wingspan and tough beaks, and you'll find yourself faced with a very dangerous bird.

The Panda Ant

Before digging into the peculiar panda ant, it's important to note that they aren't actually ants. They're technically wasps, but the females are wingless, which gives them their ant-like appearance. While the females lack wings, they're the only panda ants to pack their own stingers.

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Trust us, you do not want to mess with an angry female panda ant. They're sometimes referred to as "cow killers," because the strength of their sting can take down large animals. It's unlikely that you'll ever be stung by one of these wasps, as they're considered endangered since anteaters gobble up most of their young.

The Long-Wattled Umbrellabird

The male long-wattled umbrellabird has some very bizarre features. Aside from their black, bushy, Elvis Presley-like pompadours, they also have gargantuan wattles. At rest, the feathered, drooping wattles can hang longer than the total length of the bird's entire body.

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The males have the ability to control the length of their wattle throughout their lives. When males are in combat, they'll retract their necks to keep them from harm's way. When they're attracting mates, they make foghorn-like calls that sway their extended wattles like pendulums.

The Hammer-Headed Bat

No, this is not photographic proof of the legendary Jersey Devil. The hammer-headed bat is one of the largest (and most evil-looking) bat species on the planet. Their bodies can reach close to 12 inches in length with wingspans reaching almost 40 inches! 

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They may look scary, but these Central African megabats are gentle, nocturnal fruit-eaters. By day, they rest in the trees to protect themselves from predators. At night, they're out on the hunt for fresh fruits. This may make them sound safe, but we still recommend keeping your distance: They are believed to carry the Ebola Virus.

The Goblin Shark

These demonic sharks stand out for their large, projectile snouts and extremely wide jaws. The combination makes for a very strange-looking shark. Scientists have yet to figure out why the shark has such a strange snout, but many believe it helps them poke for food in narrow areas.

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Their jaws have an elastic attachment which allows their mouths to launch forward in a style known as "slingshot feeding". They can launch their jaws forward at over 10 feet per second and open their mouths to an unbelievable 111-degree angle.

The Long-Eared Jerboa

These desert rodents look like mice but photoshopped to have longer tails, feet and ears. The little rodents get around by jumping on their hind legs like little kangaroos. These back limbs are four times as long as their tiny forelimbs.

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You may want to think twice before thinking these cute little critters would make good pets. They're nocturnal and are very good at hiding throughout the day. Jerboas can also hop upwards of 9.8 feet at 15 miles per hour, which is incredible for their size.

The Japanese Spider Crab

The Japanese spider crab is no ordinary crab. They can grow to be over 12 feet long and weigh upwards of 44 pounds. Their bodies are only a foot-and-a-half in length, which means the majority of their length is in the legs.

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Let that sink in for a second. That makes it pretty easy for these creatures to tower over you. If that doesn't make them creepy enough, their diet consists of dead carcasses that float in their direction. Don't worry about an invasion, these crabs stick to ocean depths of a thousand feet.

The Aye-Aye

These bright-eyed, lemur relatives are native to the island of Madagascar. Although they're categorized as primates, they have bizarre characteristics that separate them from their relatives. They have rodent-like teeth that never stop growing, and an especially long, thin, middle finger.

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These nocturnal hunters chew holes through trees to find nests of bugs. Once they have a large enough hole, they use their slender middle fingers to bring out their prey. The only other species in the animal kingdom to forage for food like this is the woodpecker, which is far less creepy looking.

The Sea Pig

Their pink, plump bodies give them a pig-like appearance, but these 6-inch long ocean dwellers are actually sea cucumbers. They're found at the very bottom of the ocean floor, almost 4 miles under the surface. The walk around using 5 to 7 sets of tube-like feet.

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Like pigs, these squishy pink blobs like to eat. They scour the ocean floor for any decaying animal carcass or plants. Their favorite dish? Whale corpses that fall from the ocean above. That's when hundreds of sea pigs will gather at once to feed.

The Saiga Antelope

This antelope subspecies has a snout like no other. The swollen snout of the saiga antelope is so heavy their nostrils face downwards like an elephant’s. These land mammals use their snouts for a heightened sense of smell and to collect warmer, wetter air.

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When you live in the dry desert areas of Russia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan, you need help finding water. The snouts have the capacity to make their inhaled oxygen wetter, making up for their drier climate. That all sounds great, but it also sounds like snorting water, which doesn't seem very pleasant.

The Cuttlefish

These marine mollusks are the strangest of the cephalopods, and not just because they're so weird looking. Their camouflage capabilities are top-notch, but cuttlefish have extra tricks up their sleeves. When it comes to mating, they're the ultimate shapeshifters.

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When a male cuttlefish is trying to find a mate, he'll often paint a female cuttlefish pattern on the side facing away from the female. That way, other males will see two female cuttlefish casually swimming about. Meanwhile, the sneaky cuttlefish gets to be close to the female to let her consider whether he's a reasonable mate. Clever.

The Pangolin

These little creatures are the only mammals that are completely covered in scales. The scales make up for 20% of their entire weight, while the rest of their body weighs the same as a domestic cat. But they keep themselves well-fed, chowing down on roughly 70 million insects a year.

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When they're on the hunt, pangolins will use their long, thin tongues to slurp up colonies of ants tucked away in anthills. When they're faced with danger, they curl up their scales into a ball to keep their bodies safe.

The Leafy Sea Dragon

No, that's not floating seaweed. It's a leafy sea dragon. A close relative to the seahorse, these little sea dwellers get their name from their many appendages. Each branchy appendage helps camouflage the sea dragon from predators, giving them a plant-like appearance.

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Like seahorses, the females produce the eggs and transfer them over to the males. Even though they have such peculiar camouflage, only 1 in 20 survives until adulthood. When they reach adulthood, many only live for 2 to 10 years.

The Sphynx Cat

These strange cats may look hairless, but give them a pet and you’ll realize that’s not the case. The Sphynx cat is actually covered with a tiny layer of downy fuzz. They won’t feel like a typical cat when you pet them, but they will have a suede-like touch.

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Even though they have a layer of fuzz, it's not enough to keep them from getting too greasy. All cats' skin produces oil, but because the Sphinx cat lacks fur, it requires weekly baths to stay clean. Sphinx cats also have sensitive skin, so they can't spend too much time outdoors for risk of sunburn.

The Blue Dragon

These inch-long blue creatures are commonly referred to as sea swallows and blue angels, but they're actually just sea slugs. Their blue hue camouflages them from predators above while they float on the ocean's surface. Their undersides are silver so predators below can't see them while looking up.

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These strange beauties should be admired from afar. After feeding on a poisonous jellyfish, they have the power to combine their poison with the poison of their prey. This gives them an even more powerful sting for unsuspecting beachgoers.

The Dik-Dik

Who knew they made antelopes so tiny? The dik-dik gets its name from the frail, squeaking sound it emits to alert other dik-diks and larger animals of danger. It's good to have a solid defense system, as these little critters have a lot of predators.

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Cheetahs, leopards and even lizards will make a meal out of them. But it’s a light meal. The dik-dik only grows upwards of 16 inches and weighs a maximum of 15 pounds. Their largest predators are humans, who use their hides to turn them into gloves. Well, one glove. Remember, they're very small.

The Lilac Breasted Roller

These little birds stand out for their colorful plumage and disproportionately large heads. Both male and female rollers have around 8 colors on their coats. These colorful birds are smart hunters, and will hunt near brush fires to snag fleeing insects.

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When they're not hunting near fires, they'll use their powerful wingspans to beat their prey into submission. Even though they only measure 15 inches long with a wingspan of 22 inches, they can still pack quite a punch. This allows their big heads to open their mouths wide and swallow their stunned prey whole.

The Muslin Moth

No, they aren't furry little ghosts, they're Siberian muslin moths. Muslin moths are furry little insects found in the Lake Baikal area in Southern Siberia. While the males are typically a darker, brownish color, the females have a haunting white exterior.

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The female's milky white hue and furry exterior gives it a larger, more haunting appearance than your typical moth. But in reality, they're only 3/4 of an inch long.

Caterpillars can be creepy enough, but when they turn into white, puffy moths, things can get strange.