13 Bizarre Animals That Could Totally Pass as Pokémon

A blue sea slug floats on the water

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The video game franchise of Pokémon is known for taking inspiration from animals in real life. It makes sense, because the animal kingdom includes its fair share of unique and bizarre creatures. The Sahara Desert, for example, is home to mammals that can live without drinking water. Islands support lifeforms that have evolved in isolation for millions of years. And in the deep sea, mysterious creatures rarely seen by humans can grow to gigantic proportions.

From moths that resemble hummingbirds to giant crabs that feed on coconuts, here are 13 bizarre animals that are just as strange as any found in fictional worlds.

Long-Eared Jerboa

A small, long-eared rodent hopping on its hind legs

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Though the long-eared jerboa is closely related to mice, this rodent species looks and behaves more like a miniature kangaroo. This native of Asian deserts evades predators by hopping on long hind legs. Its forelegs, in contrast, are much shorter and largely useless. Its tail, which can be twice as long as its body, ends in a furry "bobble" that helps the animal balance. Thanks to its powerful legs, the jerboa can travel at speeds of up to 15 mph and hop several feet in the air, even though its body measures only about three inches in length.

It's outsize ears, meanwhile, offer an acute sense of hearing. It hunts insects by night, leaping into the air to catch its prey.

Mantis Shrimp

A colorful shrimp with large, pink eyes

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Mantis shrimp is the name given to an order of more than 450 crustacean species with powerful forelimbs (similar to those of the praying mantis) that can move fast enough to cavitate — or vaporize — tiny pockets of water. It uses these forelimbs to punch, spear, and kill a wide range of prey, including snails, fish, and other mantis shrimp.

In addition to its violent predatory habits, the mantis shrimp is also distinguished by its impressive visual capabilities. Its eyes are equipped with 12 color receptors — humans and most other animals only have three. Scientists speculate this might enable it to process color information more quickly, aiding its abilities as a hunter.

Shoebill

A large grey bird with a thick beak

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Native to the freshwater swamps of tropical east Africa, the shoebill is a large bird known for its uniquely bulbous beak. Its specialized shape allows the shoebill to prey on large fish. It hunts by wading in swamps and marshes, often remaining motionless for hours on end as it waits for its prey to approach. Human disturbance and habitat loss threaten its wetland environment, and the shoebill is classified as a threatened species.

Gharial

A crocodile with a long, thin snout

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The gharial is a species of crocodile found in northern India and Nepal with a long, thin snout. Despite being one of the largest crocodile species (males can measure 20 feet long), it primarily eats fish. It spends the majority of its life in water and is rarely seen on land. Compared to other crocodiles, it has weak legs. On land, its movement is reduced to sliding across the ground on its belly. 

The gharial is considered critically endangered. During the 20th century, the animal's range was reduced by about 96 percent, and in 1976 there were only about 200 gharials left in the wild. The population is now slowly increasing due to conservation efforts. 

Fennec Fox

A small fox with giant ears looks at the camera

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The fennec fox is the smallest canid species, but it has the largest ears of any canid relative to its body size. Native to the Sahara Desert, it has many adaptations to survive the dry, arid climate. Its ears help it to dissipate heat by catching cool breezes that lower its blood temperature. The large ears also provide a keen sense of hearing, allowing fennec foxes to hunt insects and lizards at night rather than during the heat of the day. It is capable of getting all the water it needs from its diet alone, and can survive indefinitely without drinking water

Blue Dragon

Two blue sea slugs floating in a pool of water

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The blue dragon is a brightly colored species of sea slug that can be found floating upside down on the surface of the open ocean. To protect itself from predators, it displays a form of camouflage called countershading. Its bright blue underside blends in with the ocean, providing camouflage against airborne predators. Its silver-gray backside blends in with the sky, making it harder to be seen by underwater predators. 

Though it only measures about an inch in length, the blue dragon is a capable predator. It feeds on Portuguese man o' war and other stinging hydrozoans, and stores the venomous nematocysts after it feeds. It then uses the venom as its own deterrent against predators.  

Okapi

A grazing animal with striped legs and small antlers

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The okapi is a large, grazing mammal that looks like a bizarre cross between a giraffe and a zebra. It has a long neck, a brown coat on its body, and striped legs and hindquarters. Males have two hornlike protuberances on their heads called ossicones, which are permanent and covered by skin. 

The okapi is found only in protected forested areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo in central Africa. The okapi is considered endangered, and its population numbers are thought to be on the decline. 

Spiny Bush Viper

A green snake with pronounced scales

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Found in the tropical rainforests of Subsaharan Africa, the spiny bush viper is a venomous snake known for its distinct, keeled scales. Its strong, prehensile tail can support its weight by wrapping around tree branches, and it spends most of its life among the trees, waiting to ambush prey. 

The spiny bush viper delivers a powerful neurotoxin with its bite. Its toxin kills its prey of small mammals and reptiles, and can cause organ bleeding in humans. Cases of bites in humans are rare, though, due to the bush viper's remote habitat far from population centers.

Proboscis Monkey

A close-up profile shot of a monkey with a drooping snout and golden fur

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The proboscis monkey is known for its unusually large nose, especially among males. The bulbous nose of a mature male can exceed four inches in length, and researchers have found that nose size correlates to higher social standing and an increase in mating partners. The enlarged proboscis also serves to amplify vocalizations, which males employ to call for mates and warn of impending danger. 

The proboscis monkey is found only on the island of Borneo, and is most prevalent along coastlines and near rivers. It is considered an endangered species, and its habitat is threatened by deforestation, mainly due to palm oil plantations

Lowland Streaked Tenrec

A black-and yellow striped creature with spikes on its body and an elongated snout

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The lowland streaked tenrec is a small mammal with stripes and quills that seems closely related to the hedgehog. However, tenrecs only exist in the wild in Madagascar, and have evolved in isolation for at least 30 million years. 

The lowland streaked tenrec is equipped with two sets of quills — barbed and nonbarbed. Like with porcupines, the barbed quills are detachable and function as defensive mechanism against predators. The nonbarbed quills, on the other hand, can vibrate and emit a high-pitched sound, which some researchers believe might be used as a form of communication

Coconut Crab

A large orange crab climbing a coconut tree at sunset

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Measuring up to three feet from leg to leg, the coconut crab is the largest terrestrial arthropod. It lives on islands in the Indian Ocean, with a distribution similar to that of the coconut palm tree. Coconuts and other fruits and nuts make up the bulk of its diet, though it is omnivorous and will eat tortoise hatchlings and smaller crabs. It is so well-adapted to life on land that it will drown in water. With a decreasing population, it's considered a vulnerable species threatened by habitat loss and overharvesting

Hummingbird Hawk-moth

A large moth resembling a hummingbird hovering near pink flowers

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The hummingbird hawk-moth is a large moth with a stout body that hovers and feeds on flower nectar, just like a hummingbird. This resemblance is the result of convergent evolution — when two distinct species evolve in similar ways to compete for the same resources. However, the hawk-moth is much smaller than its avian counterpart. Its inch-long body is about half the size of most hummingbirds. 

The hawk-moth's agility and precision in flight a source of wonder among scientists. Some researchers are attempting to build drones that mimic its incredible flight patterns

Giant Isopod

A massive crustacean bathed in reflected blue light

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The eerie-looking giant isopod is a deep-sea crustacean that can grow to over a foot in length. It shares an appearance, and a common ancestor, with the pill bug (also known as the roly-poly). Both species can curl into a ball to protect themselves from predators. 

The giant isopod's extreme size is an example of deep-sea gigantism. There are several different theories about why some deep-sea creatures tend to grow so large. Researchers believe it could be due to scarcity of predators or delayed reproductive cycles