Just when you think you’ve seen it all, life steps up and says “WRONG”. But when it comes to animals, being wrong isn’t always a bad thing. From weird, pokémon-esque dog-raccoons to super tough water bears, this list will make you feel very, very normal.
1. Tufted Deer
They’re not as small as the famous dik dik, but this vampiric-looking species of deer is found in the mountainous forests of central China 4500 metres above sea level. Despite their most standout feature being those protruding canines, they were named for the tuft of dark hair on their foreheads.
The Tanuki are racoon dogs found in Japan, and are surprisingly not related to raccoons. In Japanese folklore, they’re considered to be masters of shapeshifting, but that doesn’t explain why they look like two separate species.
This screw-horned sage is found in the northeastern regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and is also one of Pakistan’s national animal. Sadly, their wise demeanour does not match up with their behaviour. When they eat their cud, they foam at the mouth. Perhaps that’s the cost for enlightenment.
4. Naked Mole Rat
Wildlife photographers won’t win any competitions for pictures of these hairless rodents, but humanity might win the fight against cancer because of them. Naked mole rats live around 28 years. That might seem short to a human like you, but considering that similar species only live between 2 and 10 years on average, it’s pretty incredible. That, and naked mole rats are masters of survival. They have a super-resistance to cancer, and they can survive for 18 minutes without any oxygen whatsoever and come out unharmed.
Speaking of survival masters, the tardigrade is by far one of the most impressive and strangest animals. These microscopic alien caterpillars can range from 0.05 millimeters to 1.2 mm in length, but despite their size, they can survive almost anything. In a study published in Nature, scientists found that tardigrades would survive some of the worst astronomical events that could possibly affect Earth in the next billion years, be it giant asteroids, blasts from nearby supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, and more. While they would certainly get rid of humans, the space bears would be fine. Let’s see if they can really live up to that nickname when Earth is finally destroyed.
The pangolin is an armadillo-like mammal found across parts of Asia and Africa. Its keratin shell is the only known kind in mammals, and its tongue has evolved to scoop up ants and termites, similar to the anteater. Sadly, these special traits make it vulnerable to trafficking.
Also known as the Mexican Walking Fish, the axolotl is an amphibious salamander. Unlike other salamanders, however, axolotls don’t go into metamorphosis. Their adults keep their gills and stay aquatic. Like other salamanders, they have amazing regenerative abilities that make them subjects of intense research. In fact, limbs lost by axolotls can be transplanted to other axolotls without rejection.
8. Mata mata
This freshwater turtle is found in the Amazon and Orinoco basins of South America. The mata mata’s appearance makes it excellent at camouflage, which comes in handy when you’re as slow as them. Weighing up to 20 pounds and 18 inches long, this aquatic species uses suction-feeding on its prey, and prefers to stand in shallow streams where its snout can reach above the surface to breathe.
9. Long-wattled Umbrellabird
Alright, let’s be mature about this. Found in the humid forests of Colombia and Ecuador, the Long-wattled umbrellabird are a pretty weird species of bird. In addition to their extravagant hairstyles, the males’ wattles tend to inflate during courtship in order to attract potential mates.
Despite looking like a bipedal hamster, the quokka is actually a marsupial. Found on the islands off the coast of western Australia, they tend to measure 20-30 inches long and weigh around 6 to 11 pounds. A quick Google image search will show you they aren’t afraid of humans, but it is illegal to touch or feed them, usually because they’re vulnerable to diseases. Still, don’t tell me you wouldn’t want one as a pet.