Scaly or feathered, adorably cute or shiver-inducingly fierce, startlingly large or barely-even-know-it’s-there, the planet’s most curious creatures draw eager wildlife-spotters to their countries of origin year after year. We’ve turned over every rock and peered into every damp cave, dived the depths of the ocean and rummaged through every bush to bring you a list of the world’s weirdest. From the prehistoric to the newly discovered, from all corners of the globe, here is our definitive who’s who of ‘what the hell is that??’
1. “Cantor’s Giant Softshell Turtle”
Scientific Name: Pelochelys Cantorii
Where to Find It: Southeast Asia, primarily the Mekong River
If you manage to catch a glimpse of the Cantor’s Turtle, consider yourself lucky. This water-dwelling reptile spends an astounding 95% of its life buried within the riverbed, only surfacing twice a day for a quick breather.
2. “Mexican Mole Lizard”
Scientific Name: Bipes Biporus
Where to Find It: Central America, particularly the Baja California Peninsula of Mexico
Amongst many other things about this curious creature, scientists are baffled by the gender politics of the Mexican Mole Lizard. It seems that although equal amounts of both sexes are born, there are twice as many adult females than males…
3. “Sea Pig”
Scientific Name: Scotoplane
Where to Find It: Deep within oceans worldwide
Pink, snouted and weirdly cute, Sea Pigs have much in common with their land-dwelling counterparts. One notable difference however, is the bunch of extra legs the scotoplane sports along its back. You know, just in case.
4. “Sorting Hat Spider”
Photo credit: Sumukha JN, Indian J. Arachnology 5:24 (2016)
Scientific Name: Eriovixia Gryffindori
Where to Find It: The Western Ghats Mountains, India
Discovered by a research team only last year, this oddly shaped critter was immediately named after the ‘sorting hat’ of Harry Potter fame. With members of the team professing to be huge fans, JK Rowling’s fictional creations even found their way into the spider’s scientific classification – Eriovixia Gryffindori!
5. “Ninja Lantern Shark”
Photo credit: Victoria Vasquez, Moss Landing Marine Labs
Scientific Name: Etmopterus Benchleyi
The ocean’s newest sinister predator, Jaws has nothing on these guys – what it lacks in size, the Ninja Lantern Shark more than makes up for in shiver-inducing appearance. Although discovered in 2015, with its ninja-like tendencies, who knows how long this shark has been hiding in the shadows…
6. “Sea Sheep”
Scientific Name: Costasiella Kuroshimae
Where to Find It: Off the coasts of Japan’s southern islands
This little guy could easily star in the next Pixar film, and has cute appeal in spades. However, the Sea Sheep is not as innocent as his appearance may lead you to believe – he maintains his green glow by stealing chloroplasts from passing algae!
7. “Pink Fairy Armadillo”
Scientific Name: Chlamyphorus Truncatus
Where to Find It: Only in Argentina
Although undeniably decorative, the Pink Fairy Armadillo’s shell actually functions as a portable radiator of sorts – cooling or heating depending on the temperature of the soil it burrows through.
8. “Solar-Powered Sea Slug”
Scientific Name: Elysia Chlorotica
Easily mistaken for a floating leaf, this day-glo sea creature harnesses the power of unsuspecting, passing algae cells to photosynthesise and produce its own food.
9. “Sea Mouse”
Scientific Name: Aphrodita Aculeata
Where to Find It: North Atlantic, Baltic and Mediterranean Seas
Resembling more a drowned rat than a cute, fluffy mouse, this diminutive sea dweller is distinguishable by its iridescent shimmer, caused by a specific pattern of light refraction.
10. “Lowland Streaked Tenrec”
Scientific Name: Hemicentetes Semispinosus
Where to Find It: Only in Madagascar
The Lowland Streaked Tenrec’s majestic spines have multiple functions – looking fabulous being the most obvious one. These spines are also crucial to a Tenrec’s social life, as they are rubbed together to create high-pitched, communicative noises.
11. “Dumbo Octopus”
Scientific Name: Grimpoteuthis
Where to Find It: Deep oceans worldwide
The adorable little sea-ears that propel this octopus through the water have led to it being named after everyone’s favourite Disney elephant. The inky critter has also been immortalised in Finding Nemo, as all hardcore fans of animation will no doubt remember.