10 Animals With Shockingly Strange Noses

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Breathing and smelling is not the only things a nose is good for. In the animal world, they're used for much more: From tentacled protrusions that find food, tools for eating and drinking, grabbers, and mating signals, the nose is a major component of survival for these 10 creatures, ranging from fish to primates.

Star-Nosed Mole

The 22 tentacles that form the super-powered sniffer on the star-nosed mole make this mammal one of nature's fastest foragers. It uses the protrusions to quickly find food -- often small worms and fish -- in less than one-quarter of a second. But the reddish nose and human-like front paws land this creature on the ugly list more often than not -- and even earned it top billing in a New York Times article, where a neuroscientist said the unpopularity might stem from the fact that "it looks like the animal has no face." Photo: gordonramseysubmissions/Creative Commons

Proboscis Monkey

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When it comes to primates, the longest nose belongs to the Proboscis monkey, with a length of nearly 7 inches. The monkey, which lives only in Borneo, prefers forest areas -- including lowlands and swamps -- and is on the IUCN Red List as an endangered species. Photo: superwebdeveloper/Creative Commons

Elephant Nose Fish

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The elephant nose fish, which can grow as long as 9 inches, is most often found in the muddy waters of Africa -- where its long nose really comes in handy. A report in the Journal of Experimental Biology shows that the fish uses electrolocation to track down food: In lay terms, according to BlogFish, that means that the nose is "an electric food detector" that finds chow "the way people with metal detectors find coins on a beach." Another weird fact: the nose is actually a chin, and it comes with mechanisms that allow the fish to find its way in the dark. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Snub-Nosed Monkey

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We're not sure if nature went entirely right with the recently discovered Rhinopithecus strykeri, a kind of snub-nosed monkey. This guy is allergic to rainy days -- its upturned nose fills with water during storms, resulting in a barrage of sneezes. Unfortunately, the noisy sneezes make them easy for hunters to find on wet days -- Flora and Fauna International believes no more than 300 of them exist in their native Burma. While we don't know if this nose is also useful (little research is available), it's certainly shockingly strange. Dr. Thomas Geissmann created this Photoshop image of the animal based on another snub-nosed monkey. Check out this rare photo of the species on National Geographic. Image: Reconstructed photo of the monkey by Dr. Thomas Geissmann

Homing Pigeon

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The homing pigeon's ability to find its way home from just about anywhere seems nothing short of miraculous to those of us who still get lost in Manhattan, but the GPS-like trait comes from an unexpected source: the bird's beak. Research from the University of Frankfurt suggests that "iron-containing structures" in the pigeon's beak allow it to lock into the Earth's magnetic field, which helps them find their way back to their own personal nest from more than 1,000 miles away. Photo: ingridtaylar/Creative Commons

African Giant Pouched Rats

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In the war zones of Africa, bomb-sniffing duties no longer fall just to dogs: a group of African Giant Pouched rats goes out into the field, too, to track down and identify land mines. Though the rats have a sense of smell that's about as strong as a dog, they're much smaller -- about 2.5 feet, which is still pretty huge for a rat -- which lets them navigate more easily in tight spaces. Credit: AP Photo /George Mwangi

Hammerhead Shark

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Like other animals on this list, the hammerhead shark uses its protrusion for a lot more than just smelling: It's also able to hold down its prey of choice (stingrays) before eating them. That hammerhead protrusion includes the shark's nostrils, which are set farther apart on this fish than on other sharks; scientists think the wide-set nostrils could help the shark sense its pray with more accuracy than other sharks, because the distance between the nostrils helps the shark judge the direction of the scent. Photo: tzeca/Creative Commons

Elephant

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When you think of unusual noses, elephants are the first creatures that come to mind -- although their trunks do so much more than sniff. They can also touch, taste, breathe, and drink through it -- plus pick up branches, use the trunk as a hose on hot days, and reach far-away fruits. PBS points out that eating those fruits is important not just to the elephants' health but to the African ecosystem: as the elephants walk from one region to another and leave seeds in their dung along the way, they're creating new sprouts. The site reports that 90 different species thrive because of the elephants' eating habits. Photo: jenny downing/Creative Commons

Bear

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A bear's snout doesn't look like anything special, but we're including it on this list because beneath the average exterior is a sniffing mechanism that is seven times more powerful than that of a bloodhound, and 100 times better than a human's. This carnivore has a limited amount of time to stock up on food before they hibernate which means they'll use that sense of smell to its best advantage: Bears have reportedly walked more than three miles to find a dead dear based on its scent, and caught the scent of a human more than 12 hours after one walked past a trail. More Strange-Looking Endangered Species 7 Weird Endangered Species Only a Mother Could Love 10 Real Life Sea Monsters South America's Unusual Animals in Stunning Close-Ups Photo: chascar/Creative Commons