Meet the Strange Little Cutie With a Snorkel Snout (Video)

Screen capture. Joel Sartore via National Geographic

The Pyrenean desman is an insect-eating aquatic mammal that uses its impressive proboscis as a snorkel while hunting for prey.

What a planet we live on! It is so packed with weird and wonderful creatures big and small, though many of us are mostly only familiar with the ones that inhabit our neck of the woods. Which I suppose means that if you happen to inhabit the waters of the Iberian peninsula and other parts of Western Europe, you might know these little guys: The Pyrenean desmans. National Geographic describes the mammal as a small, aquatic ball of fur that has a snorkel-like nose, webbed feet, and a scaly tail. Adding to its odd charm? It lives on insects and slinks through the water at night to find them.

The little cutie also has another honor: It is the 8,000th animal photographed by Joel Sartore for the National Geographic Photo Ark. Sartore began his ambitious quest 13 years ago, and plans to take portraits of all species in captivity, to support conservation of all creatures, great and small. He has been to 40 countries to photograph animals in zoos and aquariums, using a signature black or white background that serves to bring more elegance and dignity to the animals.

“A tiger is no more important than a tiger beetle. And a mouse matters just as much as a polar bear,” Sartore said in 2016, after photographing his 6,000th animal. “I hope to get the public to pay attention to the extinction crisis and get them to care, while there’s still time to save these species."

Hopefully, his portrait of the Pyrenean desmond will bring some awareness to the species. Water pollution and habitat destruction over the past 20 years have led to a population decline of 60 percent. And it seems to me like a world without this delightful oddball would be a lot less delightful.

See more in the video below.