Animals Wildlife 20 Animals With Completely Ridiculous Names These unusual monikers reveal scientists' sense of humor. By Jaymi Heimbuch Jaymi Heimbuch Twitter Writer California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer specializing in wildlife conservation, technology, and food. She is the author of "The Ethiopian Wolf: Hope at the Edge of Extinction." Learn about our editorial process Updated February 17, 2022 Share Twitter Pinterest Email Treehugger / Hilary Allison Animals Wildlife Pets Animal Rights Endangered Species When it comes to naming animal species, scientists love to show their sense of humor. Whether it's their common name or their Latin name, certain species are bestowed with names that are simply silly. Sometimes these names are descriptive, such as in the case of the red-lipped batfish, highlighting these animals' unique appearance or behavior. Sometimes, however, the origins of these names are far more convoluted. Why This Matters to Treehugger We hope that creating more awareness about amazing species like the ones on this list will motivate us all to protect these animals and their habitats. 1 of 20 Wunderpus photogenicus AndamanSE / Getty Images The wunderpus octopus's scientific name, Wunderpus photogenicus, alludes to its fantastical appearance. "Wunderpus" is a combination of the German word "Wunder" (meaning "miracle" or "wonder") and the English "octopus." "Photogenicus" refers to the octopus's photogenic nature. These octopuses have rusty brown skin covered in white blotches, which form patterns that are unique to each individual. As the wunderpus octopus ages, these patterns become more elaborate. Wunderpus photogenicus is also known for its ability to change its skin patterns and shape to evade predators, either by blending in with its surroundings or by mimicking a venomous animal, such as "a lethal lionfish with poisonous spines or a sea snake." It lives in coastal waters around Indonesia, Malaysia, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea. The small eyes protruding from the top of its head give it a quirky Y-shaped appearance. 2 of 20 Spiny Lumpsucker RLSPHOTO / Getty Images Members of the fish family Cyclopteridae are known as "lumpsuckers" because they are spherical in shape, resembling a lump of flesh. They have modified pelvic fins that act as adhesive discs, allowing them to "suck" on surfaces such as rocks and remain attached. These solitary fish like to stay in habitats with eelgrass, kelp, and other kinds of algae growth. They use underwater plants and grasses to hide because they are inefficient swimmers. Some species of lumpsucker are also covered in spines, leading to some pretty funny names such as the Atlantic and Pacific spiny lumpsuckers (Eumicrotremus spinosus and Eumicrotremus orbis, respectively) and even the Andriashev's spicular-spiny pimpled lumpsucker (Eumicrotremus andriashevi aculeatus). 3 of 20 Pleasing Fungus Beetle Dr. Morley Read / Shutterstock The beetle family Erotylidae, whose members are known as the pleasing fungus beetles, contains over 150 genera and over 2,000 different species. The "fungus" part of their name derives from their tendency to feed on fungus, though some species also eat plant matter. Most of these reddish-orange and black species are "pleasing" because they are generally harmless to humans and may even act as pollinators. However, not all species live up to this aspect of their name, as some pleasing fungus beetles have become notorious and not-so-pleasing pests. 4 of 20 Pink Fairy Armadillo Cliff / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0 The pink fairy armadillo (Chlamyphorus truncatus), also known as pichiciego, is the smallest armadillo species in the world, with a length of 3.5 to 4.5 inches and a weight of around 4.2 ounces. Their small stature might explain the "fairy" part of their name, and the "pink" part is derived from their pinkish shell and the lightly colored, yellowish fur underneath. They need the fur to keep warm, as armadillos have low body temperature as a result of their low basal metabolic rate. Endemic to the sandy and grassy plains of central Argentina, the pink fairy armadillo is rarely observed by humans. Due to the lack of data on population numbers, scientists are unsure of the armadillo's conservation status, but the species is threatened by climate change, poaching, and attacks from domestic animals like dogs. As very little is known about their reproductive habits, their lifespan, or behaviors, these animals remain an enigma. 5 of 20 Rasberry Crazy Ant Insects Unlocked / Flickr / CC0 1.0 The Rasberry crazy ant (Nylanderia fulva) may be red like a raspberry, but that's not how it got its name. This ant species is named after the Texan exterminator Tom Rasberry, who first noticed the ant's increasing presence in Texas in 2002. Originally from South Africa, the Rasberry crazy ant has become an invasive species in America, slowly spreading across Texas and the Southeast United States. These ants are known to chew through electrical wires, causing short circuits, and are unaffected by most pesticides and ant baits, contributing to their invasive presence. According to Texas A&M University, these ants have a new common name. They're now called tawny crazy ants. 6 of 20 Satanic Leaf-Tailed Gecko Charles J Sharp / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0 The satanic leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus phantasticus) can only be found on the island of Madagascar. It has a flattened tail that really does look like a leaf, which explains why its called a "leaf-tailed gecko." The "satanic" part of its name is more ambiguous but may derive from the unsettling nature of its strange appearance, with spines protruding from its body, head, and trunk. This gecko's unique appearance, however, is valuable to its survival, serving as a form of camouflage that allows it to hang from the branches of trees and appear to be nothing more than a leaf. Satanic leaf-tailed geckos also hunt exclusively at night, feeding on insects like crickets and flies. 7 of 20 Tasselled Wobbegong Velvetfish / Getty Images The tasselled wobbegong (Eucrossorhinus dasypogon) is a species of carpet shark with an appearance that's almost as strange as its name. It can grow up to 6 feet long and has a flattened body covered in colorful blotches that act as camouflage when it rests against coral on the ocean floor. It's described by Oceana as "a sit and wait predator." However, the shark's most defining feature is the fringe of dermal lobes that surrounds its head. These lobes resemble a series of tassels, hence the first word in the name "tasselled wobbegong." The word "wobbegong," an Australian Aboriginal term that translates to "shaggy beard," also refers to the appearance of these lobes. 8 of 20 Hellbender JasonOndreicka / Getty Images The hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) is the largest amphibian in North America, growing up to 29 inches long. It is the fourth largest salamander in the world after the South China giant salamander (Andrias sligoi), the Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus), and the Japanese giant salamander (Andrias japonicus). Although it may not be the world's largest salamander, it certainly has the most intense name. While the origins of its name are unknown, herpetologists Tom R. Johnson and Jeff Briggler hypothesize that the name "hellbender" derived from the salamander's monstrous size and strange appearance, causing it to resemble "a creature from hell... bent on returning" with skin that evokes the "horrible tortures of the infernal regions." Curiously, it's sometimes also called a "snot otter." 9 of 20 Chicken Turtle ajmexico / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 The chicken turtle (Deirochelys reticularia), endemic to the southeastern United States, used to be a popular source of meat. It supposedly tasted like chicken, a trait that led to its name; or perhaps its egg-shaped shell played a role in that, too. The turtle is known for its long neck, which usually approaches the length of its shell and enables it to strike quickly at prey like insects, frogs, or fish. Chicken turtles are omnivores and will also eat plants. 10 of 20 Star-Nosed Mole Agnieszka Bacal / Shutterstock The star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata) gets its name from its bizarre-looking nose. The unusual star shape is specially adapted for speedy foraging. Since the star-nosed mole is blind, it relies on its nose to locate food. The nose, consisting of 22 appendages that are covered in almost 25,000 tiny sensory receptors called Eimer's organs, is five times more touch-sensitive than the human hand and more touch-sensitive than any other mammal's touch organs. In fact, the star-nosed mole's Eimer's organs are so effective at detecting food that the mole can determine if prey is edible in only 8 milliseconds and consume its prey in less than a quarter of a second, making it the fastest foraging mammal on earth. It is found throughout eastern Canada, as far north as James Bay. Of its average eight-inch length, one-third of that is tail. The star-nosed mole spends much of its time in water, even during the winter. 11 of 20 Red-Lipped Batfish Norbert Probst / Getty Images The red-lipped batfish (Ogcocephalus darwini) is one of the strangest looking fish in the sea with a face that looks eerily human, with bright red lips, and pectoral fins that resemble bat wings. The reason for this animal's distinctive red lips, which are absent in other batfish species, is unclear, but some scientists believe that these lips allow the fish to better identify each other during spawning. The red-lipped batfish, which lives around the Galapagos Islands, is also unique because it can use its fins as legs, allowing it to walk on the ocean floor or rest upon these fins as if it were standing. Furthermore, this batfish has a spine-like projection on the top of its head called an illicium, which is topped with a luminescent organ known as an esca that it uses to lure in its prey. 12 of 20 Goblin Shark Dianne J. Bray / Museums Victoria / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0 AU The goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni) is a shark known for its distinct snout, which is far longer and flatter than that of other sharks, and for its protrusible jaws filled with long, thin teeth that are visible even when its mouth is closed. Its snout has electrical sensing organs that enable it to detect prey in the deep, dark regions of the ocean it inhabits. The goblin shark's unique appearance is also connected to the origin of its name. Japanese fishermen who encountered the shark were reminded of a long-nosed, red-faced demon from Japanese folklore known as the tengu and thus began calling these sharks "tenguzame," which literally means "tengu shark." The shark's English name is a translation of this Japanese word, but since there is no English word that directly corresponds to the Japanese term "tengu," "goblin" was used instead, resulting in the name "goblin shark." 13 of 20 Hummingbird Hawk-Moth Mircea BEZERGHEANU / Shutterstock The hummingbird hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) is named after two different birds, but it's a moth that resembles a hummingbird far more than a hawk. The similarities between these moths and hummingbirds are an example of convergent evolution, where two distantly related organisms that occupy similar ecological niches independently evolve analogous structures that have similar functions and appearances. Hummingbird hawk-moths have long proboscises that resemble the long beaks of hummingbirds and, just like hummingbirds, use these proboscises to feed, sucking nectar from flowers while they hover in midair. Furthermore, hummingbird hawk-moths produce an audible humming sound just like hummingbirds. They can be found throughout the Mediterranean region and as far east as Japan. They migrate north in spring. 14 of 20 Leafy Seadragon Tom Applegate / Getty Images The leafy seadragon (Phycodurus eques), like its close relative the common seadragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus), is a strange fish that is known for its close resemblance to the mythical serpentine dragons described in legends from medieval Europe and ancient China. It can be found along the southern coast of Australia. Unlike other seadragons, however, the leafy seadragon is characterized by protrusions that jut out from various parts of its body and resemble leaves, hence its "leafy" qualifier. These leaf-like protrusions act as camouflage, allowing the swimming seadragon to appear to be nothing more than a floating piece of seaweed. Some leafy seadragons can even enhance this camouflage by changing the color of their skin to blend in with their surroundings. 15 of 20 Frilled-Necked Lizard TED MEAD / Getty Images The frilled-necked lizard (Chlamydosaurus kingii), found in Australia and New Guinea, is named after the large frill around its neck. This lizard keeps its neck frill folded down most of the time, using it as a form of camouflage that makes the lizard appear to be part of a tree or rock. When the lizard spreads out its frill, two large flaps covered in brightly colored red, orange, and yellow scales are displayed. This action is primarily defensive that occurs when the lizard is frightened. The wide, colorful frill makes the lizard seem larger and more dangerous to potential predators. However, male frilled-necked lizards will also spread out their frills to intimidate each other while fighting over mates or during territorial disputes. 16 of 20 Moustached Puffbird Julian Londono / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0 The moustached puffbird (Malacoptila mystacalis) is called a "puffbird" because it looks plump, round, and puffy thanks to its short tail and fluffy feathers. It also has small tufts of white feathers around its beak that resemble a mustache, hence the "moustached" qualifier. These tufts are more prominent in males than in females, and the species is closely related to the similarly named white-whiskered puffbird (Malacoptila panamensis), which also sports a white mustache. It lives in the Andes mountains of Venezuela and Colombia. 17 of 20 Ice Cream Cone Worm Hans Hillewaert / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0 Aquatic worms in the family Pectinariidae live inside tubes that they assemble from grains of sand and shell fragments. The worms secrete a glue-like substance from specialized glands that they then use to stick pieces of sand and shell together, forming a mosaic pattern that eventually becomes a tube large enough to house the worm. These tubes have a striking resemblance to ice cream cones, earning these worms the nickname of "ice cream cone worm." (You'll never look at an ice cream cone in the same way again.) Sometimes they are referred to as "trumpet worms," since their tubes are also shaped like trumpets. They live in European waters. 18 of 20 Strange-Tailed Tyrant Hector Bottai / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0 The reason that the strange-tailed tyrant (Alectrurus risora) is called "strange-tailed" is relatively straightforward. Its defining feature is its large and unusual tail consisting of feathers longer than the rest of its body. However, the reason it is called a "tyrant" is a little more convoluted. Strange-tailed tyrants belong to the bird family Tyrannidae, which is the largest bird family on Earth with over 400 species. In the 1730s, the English naturalist Mark Catesby described the eastern kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus) as a tyrant. Inspired by Catesby, Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish biologist that developed the system of taxonomy used today, gave the eastern kingbird the name Lanius tyrannus in 1758. In 1799, the genus name was changed to Tyrannus by the French naturalist Bernard Germain de Lacépède, who named the genus after the eastern kingbird's species name. Then, in 1825, the Irish zoologist Nicholas Aylward Vigors named the eastern kingbird's family "Tyrannidae" after its genus Tyrannus. Now, members of Tyrannidae are referred as "tyrants" because of their family name. The birds (which are also considered a type of flycatcher) live in Argentina and Paraguay in marshy areas with tall grasses. They are threatened by cattle grazing. 19 of 20 Fried Egg Jellyfish Rich Carey / Shutterstock The fried egg jellyfish (Cotylorhiza tuberculata) gets its name from a strong resemblance to a fried egg served sunny side up. Each jellyfish has a bright yellow or orange dome that looks like an egg yolk surrounded by a white or yellow ring that resembles an egg white. But this is where its similarity to fried eggs ends. While most fried egg jellyfish are less than 7 inches in diameter, they can grow to be up to 16 inches wide, far larger than any fried chicken egg. Fried egg jellyfish live in coastal temperate waters around the world, such as the Mediterranean Sea and the Pacific Ocean off the coast of British Columbia. Although they are considered a nuisance to swimmers and fishermen there, with a mild sting, they may have some benefits for humans. Research has shown that the cytotoxicity of these jellyfish could be useful in treating breast cancer. 20 of 20 Screaming Hairy Armadillo Arnaud Boucher / Wikimedia Commons / CC0 1.0 The screaming hairy armadillo (Chaetophractus vellerosus) is far hairier than most other armadillo species. It has thick, long bristly hairs all over its body, even on its shell, or "carapace", which is made from keratin, the same material as human hair and nails. That explains why it's called a "hairy armadillo," and the qualifier "screaming" refers to the armadillo's tendency to loudly squeal when handled by humans or threatened by other predators. Found in the central and southern parts of South America, these armadillos live in burrows and are often hunted by humans for their meat. They are considered a cultural symbol of the Bolivian highlands. View Article Sources "Wunderpus," Monterey Bay Aquarium. "Pacific Spiny Lumpsucker," Aquarium of the Pacific. "Chlamyphorus truncatus: Pink fairy armadillo," Animal Diversity Web. "Tawny (Rasberry) Crazy Ant, Nylanderia fulva," Urban and Structural Entomology Program at Texas A&M University. "Hellbender," National Wildlife Federation.