Animals you rarely knew that they exist
#9: Lowland Streaked Tenrec
Growing only to be about 5 and a half inches long, this little guy makes its home in the tropical rainforests of Madagascar. Sure, it may resemble a hedgehog or maybe even a porcupine, but with its long, pointy snout and brightly colored streaks, it’s definitely a species all its own. Plus, See all those quills? They’re not just for poking: in some scenarios, they rub together to produce a high-frequency sound, either as communication or to ward off predators. And in fact, as far as we know, the streaked tenrec is the only mammal that rubs body parts together to produce sound – kinda like a cricket.
Most of us know crocodiles have longer snouts than alligators, but a particularly long, thin snout is what makes these reptiles stand out, even amongst their fellow crocs. Native to the Indian subcontinent, gharials are named after a type of clay pot commonly used in the region that bears a resemblance to the bulbous nubs found on the ends of the males’ snouts. Gharials are some of the most aquatic of all crocodilians, as they don’t maneuver well on land and survive mostly on a diet of fish. Critically endangered, only a few hundred gharials are left in the wild.
This hooved mammal may be colloquially known as the giraffe gazelle due to its long neck, but it’s actually an antelope. Found in eastern Africa, gerenuk have the unusual ability to rear up on their hind legs, allowing them to better reach food that may be out of reach to other similarly sized herbivores. Besides its distinctive neck and feeding habit, gerenuk also stand out with the reddish fur pattern on their backs, which resembles a saddle of sorts, as well as the pair of striking, ridged horns sported by males of the species.
This elusive creature is so difficult to find in the wild that its nickname is the “African unicorn”. When seen from behind, this mammal can easily be mistaken for a zebra. However, these unusual animals are actually closely related to another African herbivore – giraffes. Okapis share their cousins’ slanted neck, although theirs are significantly shorter. Furthermore, while giraffes can be found in savannahs and woodlands, okapis are better suited to the shrinking rainforest environments of their native Congo. The most bizarre feature of the okapi may be its tongue, which can grow over a foot long; long enough to clean its own eyes with!
#5: Spiny Orb-Weaver Spider
This genus of spiders are very much as their name suggests, as they weave webs that are circular, and have spines on their flat, crab-like abdomens, which are often brightly colored. Though they are sometimes called crab spiders, this moniker is confusingly shared by several other kinds of spiders too. Their namesake spines are larger on females than males and are thought to act as a deterrent for predators. While their garish colors and spines may suggest that they’re dangerous, spiny orb weavers are normally harmless to humans and can be found in gardens and forests all over the western hemisphere.
#4: Markhor [aka Screw Horn Goat]
This large, wild goat is native to central Asia, and is the official animal of Pakistan. Its name is Persian for “snake eater,” which refers to either its ability in folklore to eat snakes, or else to the distinctive spiral shaped horns seen on males. Female markhor have horns too, though they lack the corkscrew shape seen in the males. Speaking of differences between the sexes, males also have long, shaggy manes and emit a rather strong odor. Once listed as endangered, recent efforts to conserve it have allowed the markhor population make a recovery.
This mammal, which is distantly related to the anteater, looks like a cross between that animal and an armadillo, due to its long snout and scaly body. These scales are actually made from keratin, the same protein that forms parts of other animals, such as horns or hooves. Native to Africa and Asia, pangolins are, despite their obscurity in the west, the most heavily trafficked animals in the world, with trading of their meat and scales accounting for a significant portion of all exotic animal trade, which, given their dwindling numbers, remains a worrying statistic.
#2: Blue Glaucus
Properly named glaucus atlanticus, this odd animal is also known as the blue dragon, blue angel, sea swallow, and blue sea slug. They are found in oceans around the world and spend most of their time floating on the surface, where their coloring acts as useful camouflage. Like many colorful animals, these creatures have a potent sting. In fact, these sea slugs feed on other venomous, aquatic animals, since they’re immune to venom themselves, even in cases where their prey is larger than they are.
#1: Pink Fairy Armadillo
We saved the cutest for last. With their white fur and pink shell, these adorable armadillos look like living sushi rolls. Their habitat is a long way from Japan though, as they’re native to Argentina. Using their large claws, fairy armadillos spend most of their time burrowing underground in search of insects and other grubs, which are the primary source of their food. Because of their elusiveness in the wild, compiling accurate numbers on their population has been difficult for scientists, but it’s clear that human and pet-driven predation have made these little guys much rarer than they once were