Top ten weirdest animals (Part 1)

This post was orignally intented somewhere else but it was turned down on account of it not being interesting. I disagree so I’m sharing it here to prove them wrong :)

Animals, like humans, come in a variety of shapes and sizes. From a little furry hamster to a giant squid, all animals are different but some are more different than others. The list counts down the top 10 animals that have some very weird features.

10- The isopod

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Resembling an undersea louse, the majority of isopods are pretty trivial looking. One or two however have some slightly strange features. A species called Cymothoa excisa ambushes passing fish before eating the fish’s tongue and taking its place. This is done so that every time the fish eats, the parasite steals some food as it is living in the fish’s mouth. The fish suffer no real ill effects and behave normally, albeit without a tongue. Bizarrely, all the Cymothoa excisa are born as males and only turn female in the mouth of the fish. Along with turning female its legs grow, its eyes shrink and its body grows to fill the mouth of the fish.

To top off a bizarre tale, the giant isopod is a popular cuddly toy in Japan and is often given to small children.

9- The peacock mantis shrimp

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A weird animal that looks lovely at first glance. The mantis shrimp is so called due to it having both of its legs curled up together under it’s head, much like a praying mantis. Unlike a praying mantis though it punches its prey, and by punch we mean a knockout punch. The shrimp extends its legs so quickly that the force of the impact is equivalent to being shot with a 0.22 calibre bullet. Luckily the legs don’t go through you like a bullet but the shockwave does, which means that if it punches you it can easily break bones without breaking the skin. The punch is so fast that it could punch 50 times in the blink of an eye. They are not kept in aquariums as it is possible that they could smash the glass of any tank.

The shrimp is thought to have the best vision of any animal. Humans have quite good vision with receptors for red, blue and green as opposed to an animal like a dog, which can only see green and blue. The mantis has 16 receptors meaning it may be able to see types of light that are near impossible for humans to comprehend. They can also move each eye independently as their vision allows for depth perception using only 1 eye if necessary.

Currently the design of their eyes is being researched in order to produce better quality DVD’s due to the way the mantis eye handles polarised light. Scientists also used the eye design to make a cancer detecting camera.

8-The naked mole rat

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Naked mole rats are weird, there is no disputing that. With large teeth and hairless bodies they are not normally seen as “cute”. They are very interesting though. They are the only eusocial mammals. This means they operate similar to a bee colony with rats raising the young of others, finding food and generally helping out. They are also the only mammalian “thermoconformer”. This means that unlike humans, they don’t generate body heat and rely on the outside temperature like reptiles. The mole rats however prefer to live underground in warm burrows, which is why they are called mole rats. Burrows are not well ventilated however, meaning that carbon dioxide builds up. Much like when humans exercise, animals need oxygen to break down lactic acid in their muscles. Unlike humans who generally stop exercising and “feel the burn”, the mole rats have simply evolved not to feel pain. They are also resistant to cancer which is the focus of a lot of scientific study. Perhaps unsurprisingly, mole rats live much longer than other rodents and can survive up to 31 years.

7- The aye-aye

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One of the very few species of nocturnal primates, the aye-aye certainly looks like something you wouldn’t want to come across in the dark. The aye-aye has a unique method of finding food whereby it taps on trees to panic insects and bugs before biting through the bark and inserting a single extra-long bony finger into the tree to extract the tasty insects. Unfortunately the aye-aye is endangered in its native Madagascar, partly due to habitat loss and partly due to being hunted as it is seen as an omen of bad luck to native people. Aye-ayes are completely harmless and can spend their entire live without ever leaving the trees.

6- The pink fairy armadillo

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Sounding like something from a Disney film the pink fairy armadillo has to make the list. It is, in fact, every bit as adorable as it sounds. Its thin shell is thought to be used for thermoregulation (temperature control) as it pumps different amounts of blood through it depending on whether it is hot or cold. Much like in humans, when blood is pumped to the surface when we are warm making skin appear red. The opacity of the armadillo shell makes it appear pink however, and with white fur it is easy to see where the “fairy” part comes in.

Interestingly, the armadillo’s tail acts as a fifth leg. This is important as it digs for much of its time so with its front legs moving it needs extra stability. They also have what scientists term a “butt plate”. This is a flat rear end which is useful when burrowing as each scoop of earth gets moved behind the animal and then compressed by pushing back on it. The flat end allows better compaction and allows the armadillo to dig a very neat tunnel which it uses for shelter and to find food.

5-The Japanese spider crab

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Unsurprisingly an eight legged creature makes the list but probably not of the type most people expected. The Japanese spider crab is an eight legged crab which can have a leg span of 4 meters and weigh around 20kg. Although they can cause injuries if threatened, they are apparently quite gentle creatures when left to themselves.

They are fished in some regions of Japan but protection measures have been put in place to ensure their survival. A Japanese spider crab can live to be over 100 years old.

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Scott Thomson
Recent ecology and conservation graduate. My blog is here https://wildchatblog.wordpress.com/
Scott Thomson

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