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Top 25 Strangest Animals In The World

Published May 20, 2016
We love animals and always marvel at the weird forms live can take. Some animals are actually really odd, and that's why we have made a list of the strangest animals in the world. How about a soft turtle, a flying fish or a woodlouse the size of a newborn baby? Check out these unusual and unique animals!

25. Armadillo

The mammal order of armadillos all live in the Americas and are known for their hard, leatherly armour. Some species have the ability to roll up to hard balls and thus protect themselves against enemies. The armadillos' closest relatives are the almost as strange anteaters and sloths.

24. Cantor's Giant Softshell Turtle

Cantor's giant softshell turtle lives in freshwater rivers in Asia and spends around 95 % of its life buried in the sand hiding from enemies. It can grow to a length of 2 m (7 ft) and bites hard enough to crush bone. Cantor's giant softshell turtle is the largest of the so called softshell turtles and has an unusually flat body and a shell that feels like hard rubber. Unfortunately, it's endangered since it can be easily caught to be eaten or sold.

23. Gharial

The world's strangest crocodilian, the gharial or gavial, lives in Indian rivers and can grow to 6.5 m (21 ft) in length. It only eats fish and has through time evolved long and thin jaws perfect for cathing fish. The gharial is thanks to its one-sided diet and slim mouth pretty harmess to humans. It is unfortunately endangered because of hunting and habitats getting smaller.

22. Narwhal

Narwhals live in the Arctic Ocean and grow to 4-5 m (13-16 ft) in length. Almost as long as their bodies are the males' 2-3 m (7-10 ft) long "spears". The spear is one of the narwhal's canine teeth that grows straight forward and forms a helical and pointy fang. Sometimes two of the narwhal's canine teeth become tusks. The spear is of course used for fencing with other males during mating.

21. Stonefish

The genus of stonefishes live in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and are considered the most poisonous fish in the world. They have a spine in their dorsal fin with a poison strong enough to kill a human. The most astonishing thing about the stonefish is however its ability to camouflage itself as a rock. Thanks to its stone-like color and texture it can lurk among rocks on the sea floor and then devour an unsuspecting passer-by.

20. Thorny Dragon

The thorny dragon, or thorny devil, is a lizard that lives in Australia. The thorny lizard's top side is completely covered in hard spines that make the animal tough to swallow for predators. It also has an extra large lump on its neck that it shows to predators to make them believe it's the head. The thorny dragon is despite its terrifying looks with the spines and extra head, completely harmless to humans and mostly eats ants and plants.

19. Jerboa

The jerboas comprise most of the species in the family Dipodidae. They live mainly in North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The jerboas have unusually long hind legs and move by jumping like kangaroos. The photo shows a lesser Egyptian jerboa, who like most jerboas live in very dry areas. A similar animal that belongs to the same order (rodents) as jerboas is the just as weird - and just as cute - South African springhare.

18. Pufferfish

Pufferfish (or balloonfish or blowfish) live in warm waters around the world and has the ability - as the name suggests - to blow themselves up to balls. Pufferfish do this when threatened, and it works by making it hard for predatory fish to swallow them. Pufferfish contain a poison that is toxic to humans, but they are eaten in Japan as a delicacy called fugu after being prepared by specially trained chefs.

17. Proboscis Monkey

The rare and endangered proboscis monkey (or long-nosed monkey) lives only on the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia. Particularly the males of the species have an appearance dominated by large hanging noses. The proposcis monkey's magnificent nose is thought to have evolved through sexual selection, that is, females prefer to mate with males with large noses.

16. Glaucus Atlanticus

The strangest slug in the world is the colorful Glaucus atlanticus. It also goes by the names blue dragon, sea angel and sea swallow. The blue dragon is a sea slug that lives in many parts of the world's oceans, including outside Europe, South Africa and eastern Australia. The blue dragon floats upside down just by the surface and grows to a length of approximately 5 cm (2 in). In the tips of its many fingers is a poison used to kill its prey.

15. Basilisk

Basilisks are a genus of lizards who live in South and Central America, as well as introduced in Florida. Basilisks can thanks to their large feet and webbed toes run on water! When they feel threatened they take off over the water surface and run upto 5 m (5 yd) on just their hind legs before they sink down and start to swim instead. The basilisk's comical way of running upright on the water has earned it the nickname "Jesus Christ lizard".

14. Leafy Seadragon

The leafy seadragon lives in the ocean outside southern and eastern Australia och is part of the same family (Syngnathidae) as the almost as odd-looking seahorses. The leafy seadragon grows to 20 to 30 cm (8 to 12 in) in length and looks a lot like the mythological dragon. The "leaves" of skin makes enables it to camouflage itself as a floating patch of seaweed.

13. Platypus

The platypus is one of many strange animals living in Australia. It spends a large part of its life in the water and its body and movements look like an otter's. However, it has a big wide snout that looks almost attached and a tail that looks like the beaver's. Platypuses are together with echidnas the only mammals in the world that lay eggs.

12. Axolotl

The axolotl is an aquatic salamander that exists only in waters in Mexico City. The strange thing with an axolotl is that it never develops into a "finished" salamander and is therefore never able to live on land. It develops complete and functioning lungs, but retains gills that protrudes from behind the head. The axolotl is critically endangered due to pollution of the water and introduction of non-native predatory fish.

11. Macropinna Microstom

Macropinna microstom lives in the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean and some other places. It was first photographed alive in 2004. The unique thing about Macropinna microstom is that is has a transparent head! The eyes (the green domes in the photo) are placed inside the fluid-filled head and can for example be rotated straight ahead, but also straight up as in the photo. When the fish search for prey, it actually looks through its own head.

10. Giant Isopod

Giant isopods are a genus of the world's largest and strangest woodlouses. Giant isopods feed of dead animals and are actually quite common on the bottom of the deep, cold partas of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. The largest species of these giant woodlouses can grow to 75 cm (30 in) in length and weigh upto 1.7 kg (3.7 lb).

9. Phasmatidae

Phasmatidae are a family of stick insects, or walking sticks, that live in warm countries and look like dry twigs. Some of these stick insects have large beautiful wings and can fly, but most of them have very small or no wings att all (photo). Their peculiar appearance is a natural camouflage that makes it easier to hide in the trees from enemies.

8. Leaf Insects

Just as good a camouflage as the stick insects' are that of their relatives the leaf insects. Species from this insect family (Phylliidae) live in Australia and southern Asia and are extremely hard to see when they sit in leafy trees. Leaf insects, or walking sticks as they are also called, have wide and flat bodies with leaflike colors and patterns, and when they walk they waddle to mimic a leaf swaying in the wind.

7. Alpheidae

Alpheidae (to the right in the photo) are a family of shrimps who live across the Earth and are known for their punchy claw that is a lot bigger than the other one. They can slam their giant claw shut with a loud snap, which has earned the shrimp the nicknames snapping shrimp and pistol shrimp. When the claw is slammed shut it creates a bubble which reaches a speed of upto 100 km/h (62 mph) and makes a 218 dB loud noise. This forms a pressure wave that can kill a small fish, and the shrimp uses this pistol effect to kill prey and communicate with individuals of the same species. Alpheidae are some of the loudest aquatic animals and they can disturb sonars and other underwater communication when they live in colonies. Some Alpheidae live in symbiosis with gobies (photo), where the shrimp builds and maintains the burrow, while the goby protects the shrimp and looks out for danger.

6. Star-Nosed Mole

The strangest mole in the world, the star-nosed mole, lives in northeastern United States and eastern Canada and is completely blind. The handicap is compensated for with a spectacular nose, formed lika a star with 11 pairs of pink appendages. Besides giving the mole an extremely effecient sense of smell (it can even smell under water) the nose is also used to feel the surroundings.

5. Lungfish

Lungfish are a subclass of strange fish that live in Africa, South America and Australia. The African and South American lungfish breathe using gills when they are young, but then develop lungs that they start using instead. They can even live a whole year on land, which they sometimes have to because the waters they live in dry out. When that happens, they burrow in the sea bed and build a cocoon around themselves by excreting a slime. To survive without eating and drinking they enter into estivation - a state of dormancy - as the cocoon helps them maintain homeostasis and a breathing hole gives them air. Over 350 million years ago one species of lungfish stopped completely to live in water, and it is from this species all now living vertebrates originate.

4. Flying Fish

Flying fish are a family of fish who live in the warm parts of the Earth's oceans. Flying fish have unusually large pectoral fins which allows them to jump out of the water and glide in the air when they need to escape predatory fish. To jump out of the water they beat their tail fin 70 times per second to gain speed, and they can subsequently bounce on the water surface with the help of their tail fin to continue the flight. The video above was shot 2008 in Japan and shows a flying fish flying for a full 45 s.

3. Flying Fox

There are a number of mammals who are capable of gliding through the air, for example flying squirrels and colugos (two weird animals who almost makes this list), but bats are the only mammals who actually have evolved the ability of true flight. The largest and most peculiar bats are the flying foxes, of which some species have a wingspan of upto 1.7 m (5.6 ft) Exactly which species if the largest is uncertain, but a strong candidate is the kalong, also known as the large flying fox. Flying foxes live in the tropical areas of the world and look just like foxes with bat wings, hence their name. Unlike other bats, they have an extra long claw in front of each wing which helps them climb. Other names of these strange bats are megabats (because of their size) and fruit bats (because some species live off fruit). Due to their distinctive looks there are theories that they should be more closely related to primates than bats, which DNA-studies contradict of course.

2. Sea Cows

Sea cows, or sirens as they are also called, are an order of aquatic mammals containing three species of manatees and the dugong (one single species). Manatees (top photo) live in the waters outside the warmer coastal countries around the Atlantic and can weigh more than 1,000 kg (2,205 lbs) and become 4 m (13 ft) long. The slightly smaller dugong (bottom photo) lives along the coasts of the Indian Ocean, eastern Africa and northern Australia. Sea cows normally hang out in shallow waters and must regularly come up to the surface for air. The unusual animals are more closely related to elephants than seals, but they can not reside on land. Sirens eat plants and have no natural enemies, but are sadly threatened by water pollutions. Furthermore, many individuals die when they get caught in fishing nets or get hit by boats. Both the dugong and the manatees are intelligent and friendly animals who allow curious snorkelers to scratch them.

1. Mimic Octupus

Octopuses live in salt water and are by some considered the most intelligent invertebrates on Earth. They have a well-developed memory, can solve complex problems and distinguish between different colors and shapes. Thanks to their intelligence octopuses are also very good at defending themselves from predators using camouflage. The very best at this is the amazing mimic octopus, who lives in the waters outside Indonesia and Malaysia. The unusual octopus was only discovered in 1998 and completely baffled the scientists. Almost all species of octopuses can change their color and pattern to blend in with the environment, but the mimic octopus has taken the art of disguise to a whole new level. Thaumoctopus mimicus, as it's called in Latin, can besides changing color also adopt different body shapes to mimic other aquatic animals. It usually uses the technique when attacked by a predatory fish, where it adopts the body shape of an enemy to the predatory fish. The mimic octopus has so far been observed mimicking 15 different types of aquatic animals, among them flatfish, lionfish, sea snake and jellyfish. Sometimes, it takes on such a wierd body shape that you don't understand what it's trying to imitate. The cunning mimic octopus is undoubtedly the strangest animal in the world. Mayble also the most awesome.