Mother Nature has an amazing capacity for diversity and seems to constantly amaze us. Sometimes new species are discovered that just seem completely unbelievable in their appearance. This can include the Pinocchio Frog, the Red-Lipped Batfish, and the Saiga Antelope. Each of these animals has an astounding physical feature that makes it hard to believe that they exist.
Every year, scientists discover anywhere between 15,000 and 18,000 new animal species. Simple algebra tells us, then, that there are countless thousands, perhaps millions, left to discover. And, of the approximately 8.7 million species already discovered, there are those that one might call “critters”—you know, the small, often creepy, animals that we’d rather not acknowledge at all.
So, for your viewing pleasure, we’ve gathered the most terrifying, strange, and out-of-this-world critters on the planet. From nocturnal sloths with panic-inducing talons to a little terrifying fella called the promachoteuthis sulcus, these are the animals that will make you check under the bed a second (and third, and fourth) time tonight. (Oh, and you’ll also find a few cuties throughout—to help abate the nightmares.)
Also known as a “mouse deer,” the Chevrotain originates in Southeast Asia and are the smallest hoofed animals in the world, weighing, at their lightest, only around 2 pounds. The Telugu name for this animal is jarinipandi, which translates to “a deer and a pig.” And this whole time you thought the Island of Doctor Moreau was complete fiction.
This Madagascar-native lemur is the world’s largest nocturnal animal—and most missable, visible in the trees by a simple flash of yellow eyes. Though they were believed to be extinct in the early part of the 20th-century, the species was rediscovered in 1957. However, since folklore has the locals believing that these animals are the harbingers of evil and death (even going so far as to believe that if the animals point one of their long fingers in their direction, that they are then marked for death), they are endangered again due to the number of killings by locals believing in these legends.
#3 English Angora Rabbit
Image via Wikimedia Commons
The Angora Rabbit, one of the oldest types of domesticated rabbits, is also known for having one of the most high maintenance grooming routines, requiring trims at least twice a week. For those who choose not to keep up with this challenging routine, the Angora Rabbit’s fur can grow to extreme lengths (similar to the one pictured above). Since the 16th century, these rabbits have been valued by royals and pet breeders alike as they possess qualities that make them more docile and easy to train.
#4 Elephant Shrew
This is one elephant that, were it in a room with you, you might actually miss it. These small insectivorous mammals, native to Africa, get their name from the resemblance between their long noses and that of the trunk of an elephant. However, while they do possess many qualities typical of shrews, a 1997 phylogenetic genetic analysis (a study of the evolutionary history of the animal) of the Elephant Shrew found that it was actually more similar to an elephant. Put another way, elephant shrews are the smallest species of elephant in the animal kingdom.
#5 Star-Nosed Mole
This incredibly unique mole, endemic to parts of Eastern Canada and the United States, is easily identifiable by its star-shaped nose, which is covered in receptors, known as Elmer’s organs. Because the Star-Nosed Mole is blind, it uses its receptors to “see” the world—even the ability to see and smell underwater. In fact, many engineers have taken notice of the special qualities of the Star-Nosed Mole, and have begun to analyze how the mole’s transfer from sight to smell works, and how we can learn from this process to help blind humans interact with the world.
#6 Goliath birdeater
Found in northern South America, this spider is the second-biggest spider in the world, with the Giant Huntsman Spider coming out to be just a few centimeters longer in leg span (but more on that later). While the tarantula was first named for its supposed tendency to prey on hummingbirds, centuries later, it has become apparent that this is a rare occurrence for the Goliath birdeater, who normally consumes frogs, lizards, other insects, and occasionally snakes.
When they sense danger or are facing an imminent threat, these spiders can actually use their fangs (yes, fangs) to kill predators. While the hairs on their body, when used as a defense, can be harmful to humans, they aren’t life-threatening and can be compared to a wasp sting. And, despite the alarming appearance of the Goliath birdeater, locals actually enjoying eating them—roasting its body (minus the harmful hairs) and sandwiching it between banana leaves. The taste of the South American predator is described as “shrimplike.”
Native to South Asia, the Gharial is a species of critically endangered crocodile, easily identified by its extra-long snout and row of 110 impressive (and incredibly sharp) teeth. These special features allow the Gharial to be an incredibly skilled predator in the water—through the steady decline of fish populations in the area has contributed to their endangered status.
#8 Mangalitsa Pig, a.k.a. ‘a pig in sheep’s clothing’
This wooly pig was discovered in the mid-19th century. Such a shame that it didn’t become a common pet like dogs or cats.
#9 Rhinopithecus, or golden snub-nosed monkey
#10 Emperor tamarin
#11 Blue Footed Booby
Their turquois legs never fail to catch attention. By the way, these birds have very amusing mating rituals.
#12 Malayan Colugo
These eyes probably see a lot, and they definitely find everything surprising.
#13 Venezuelan Poodle Moth
It was only discovered in 2009, and it really does look like a furry poodle!
#14 Cloud Antelope
This exotic creature is reputed to be a native of Nepal living high in the Himalayas. The antelope almost looks like it could be the lap dog of the Abominable Snowman. The question here is, is it a real animal?
The simple answer is no. But it isn’t really one of those classic internet hoaxes either. This is actually a piece of art by artist CMWyvern. The Cloud Antelope is essentially a sort of posable doll.
Apparently someone got hold of a picture of the Cloud Antelope that did not have a watermark and started trying to pass it off as a real animal.
#15 Venezuelan Poodle Moth
Discovered in Venezuela in 2009, this new species of alien-looking moth has poodle-like fur covering its head, thorax, abdomen, and even its wings.
#16 Glaucus Atlanticus
Also known as the blue dragon, this creature is a species of blue sea slug. You could find it in warm waters of the oceans, as it floats on the surface because of a gas-filled sack in its stomach.
#17 Macropinna Microstoma
Macropinna microstoma is a species of fish that lives at a depth of about 600 metres (2,000 ft) to 800 metres (2,600 ft), hanging nearly motionless in the water. It is quite unusual with a transparent, fluid-filled dome on its head, through which the lenses of its eyes can be seen.
#18 Glass Frog
Found in South America, the glass frog is a family of amphibians with some specimens exhibiting an outstanding feature — transparent abdomens. Because the internal viscera is visible through the skin, the common name they are given is glass frogs.
Fossa is a cat-like mammal that lives in Madagascar. Its classification has been controversial because physically it resembles a cat, while other traits suggest relation to viverrids. Genetic research has shown that they are actually their own separate species.
#20 Panda Ant
Despite looking like an ant and being referred as such, it is in fact a form of wingless wasp. This insect is also known as cow-killer. Females possess thicker fur but lack wings. The furry panda ant lives for about 2 years.
#21 Lilac-Breasted Roller
Widely distributed in sub-Saharan Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula, the lilac-breasted roller is a colorful bird that likes perching in hight trees and other vantage points where it can spot prey at ground level. Their bright plumage is unmistakable with deep lilac breast feathers.
#22 Satanic Leaf-Tailed Gecko
Satanic leaf-tailed gecko is a species of gecko that is found on the island of Madagascar. Their tail is flattened and appears to look like a leaf, helping the animal blend in within the environment.
#23 Halitrephes Jelly
Halitrephes is a type of deep-sea hydrozoan that lives at a depth of 4,000-5,000 feet.
#24 Pink Fairy Armadillo
Found in central Argentina, the pink fairy armadillo is the smallest species of armadillo. They have small eyes, silky yellowish white fur, and a flexible dorsal shell that is solely attached to its body by a thin dorsal membrane.
This mammal is native to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. Despite the zebra-like stripes, it is actually more closely related to giraffes. Okapi’s coat is a chocolate to reddish-brown, much in contrast with the white horizontal stripes and rings on the legs and white ankles.