The Weirdest Creatures on Earth

December 01, 2009
by findingDulcinea Staff
The weirdest creatures in the world are often the most endangered. FindingDulcinea pays tribute to these unusual animals with photos, videos, and information about flightless parrots, giant starfish, naked mole rats, barking monkeys and more.

A Survey of Strange Species

The environmental site TreeHugger has a feature on how important “weird” animals are to the environment, even if they aren’t as cute as, say, polar bear cubs. TreeHugger cites and links to a National Geographic story that reports that environmental groups like the London-based EDGE are specifically working to protect the weird guys in nature.

The BBC’s user-generated site h2g2 offers information about weird animals, covering all kinds of creatures. Learn about birds, “scaly things,” the sea squirt, and much more. The site provides some links to images and individual guides about these unusual but very necessary animals.
The kakapo is one very strange and very endangered creature. The h2g2 guide on the bird notes there are only 86 kakapos in the entire world. Nocturnal and indigenous to New Zealand, they are also the “heaviest parrots in the world” and cannot fly.

The New Zealand kakapo population has recently fallen below 100 after the outbreak of a deadly bacteria.
When it comes to creatures, videos and photos are always a treat. On YouTube you’ll find National Geographic's “Top 10 Weird Animals,” a slideshow that includes a big-eared bat, a colorful bird and a slimy reptile. Check out the related videos on the side for even more footage of weird creatures.
Sometimes discoveries of weird animals have a profound affect on people and the environment. In early 2008, a scientific survey of life in the Ross Sea near Antarctica yielded some surprising results: giant starfish, “large sea spiders, jellyfish with 12-foot tentacles, [and] huge sea snails.” The researchers even uncovered several new species. View pictures at MSNBC.

Benthic researchers Sadie Mills, left, and Niki Davey present giant Macroptychaster sea star (starfish), which were discovered during a survey of New Zealand's Antarctic seas.
Often, when new animals are discovered, they turn out to be endangered as well. In 2005, the London Times reported on the discovery of a species of monkey, the highland mangabey in the mountains of Tanzania. With a distinct call that can be described as a “honking bark,” this “striking” monkey has long whiskers and thick fur, which helps it withstand below-freezing nighttime temperatures. But illegal logging is threatening the species’ habitat, and at the time of the article, about 1,000 of the monkeys remained.
Endangered and unique animals seem to demonstrate that animals help us more than we help them. The naked mole rat, a frightening-looking but very sweet animal, is helping neurobiologists learn about pain sensitivity in the hopes of finding treatments for humans, LiveScience says. The naked mole rat is sensitive to touch but insensitive to substances like acid and chili powder. It’s also a cold-blooded mammal, which might account for its strange neurological makeup.
Another pink, fleshy and adorable creature is the Mexican axolotl salamander, profiled on National Geographic. It has the characteristics of a newborn animal, which it keeps throughout its life.

A naked mole-rat scurries about while awaiting its appearance in the Knoxville Zoo's "Naturally Naked Mole-Rats" exhibit.

Weird Creatures of the Past

Uncovering fossils—and even cave paintings—teaches us that the creatures of the past may have been even weirder than the modern ones. Scientists recently found a fossil of a scorpion claw that is so big it would put the scorpion’s full size at eight feet long. Other such findings have suggested that creatures like crabs and spiders used to be much bigger than previously thought.

How about an ancient “Sea Warrior” crocodile? All we get is an imaginative drawing on National Geographic, but there is scientific evidence that a sea-swimming croc actually did exist.

When Normal Animals Do Weird Things

Practitioners of various spiritual traditions have long seen animals as totems, symbolic of certain characteristics and strengths. An article in MysteryMag lists animals from alligator to zebra and the qualities associated with them. Learn, for example, that the crab is symbolic of good luck and the otter is a totem of sharing.

The London Times ran a touching if slightly morbid story about a dog that missed his feline companion so much that after she died and was buried in the backyard, he dug her up! The owners found the dog and cat lying side by side the next morning, and it appeared that the dog had licked his friend clean.

Most Recent Features