17 Surprisingly Real Animals

Let these fascinating creatures bewilder and bedazzle you.

jackalope rabbit with antlers taxidermy in front of mountain backdrop
Well, all except this one.

Mark Freeman / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

When you take all the living creatures in the world and mix in a healthy dose of time (measured in millennia), along with a strong shot of evolution, you get some bizarre life forms. Of course, even strange things take on the air of the familiar with enough exposure, which is why the genuinely peculiar types of life that remain we never see.

There aren't many creatures left on the planet that we can't see in photos. We pored over the vast catalog of life and pulled out 17 animals that you possibly didn't know existed.

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Red-Lipped Batfish

Red-lipped Bat fish in the water of the Galapagos

Rein Ketelaars / Flickr

The red-lipped batfish didn't get those red lips via a bloody meal or even grabbing a lipstick. Scientists believe the lips play a role in attracting a mate. As for attracting dinner, this anglerfish uses its modified dorsal fin to lure in prey. It doesn't stand much of a chance otherwise, as the red-lipped batfish is a terrible swimmer. Instead, it uses its fins to walk on the seafloor. It's found near the Galapagos Islands and off the coast of Peru.

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Lowland Streaked Tenrec

Lowland Streaked Tenrec with black and gold spines and a very pointy nose on forest floor

Frank Vassen / Wikimedia Commons

The lowland streaked tenrec, found in the tropical lowland rainforests of Madagascar, has an appearance that looks like a shrew crossed with a hedgehog. An adult averages 5.5 inches long, though scientists have noted some tenrecs are as big as 6.8 inches. This variety communicates through vibrating one dorsal section of quills called sounding quills. These differ from the hard spines that the tenrec uses for protection from predators. They are insectivores, subsisting mainly on a diet of earthworms.

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Japanese Spider Crab

Close-Up Of Spider Crab with very long legs In Aquarium

Urs Flueeler / EyeEm / Getty Images

The Japanese spider crab can reach 12 feet long if you count the leg span. The body itself is only about 15 inches. Those eight long legs and body top out at around 45 pounds. It is the largest arthropod (animals with exoskeletons, a segmented body, and jointed limbs) in the world.

As the name would suggest, this animal is found mostly in the waters surrounding Japan, where they are considered a delicacy. This has diminished populations, and there are efforts to protect spider crabs from overfishing.

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Tufted Deer

male tufted deer with small horns and and protruding fangs

Heush / Wikimedia Commons

The male tufted deer, found in China and Myanmar, sports a pair of terrifying fangs that seem ready for a vampire movie. Not only that, but they also have pointy little horns. These herbivores won't suck anyone's blood, however. The males use the fangs and horns for fighting during mating season. Animalia reports that when tufted deer run, they do so in an S pattern, making it harder to get caught.

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Blue Glaucus

Blue Dragon, Glaucus Atlanticus floating on the ocean

S.Rohrlach / Getty Images

The Blue Glaucus, also known as the blue dragon or Glaucus atlanticus, is a sea slug that spends its days floating upside down in the water and feeding on prey like the Portuguese man o' war. The little sea slug can absorb the stings of the tentacles and store the toxins to use for its own protection. This has resulted in many people getting a nasty sting.

While they appear to be blue and white through and through, the sea slug often floats on its backside to improve its camouflage. When it does this, its silvery-gray backside blends in with the sea's bright surface, concealing it from predators below, and its blue back hides it amid the ocean waves from predators above. This is a phenomenon known as countershading.

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Giant Isopod

The giant isopod Bathynomus giganteus looks like a giant pillbug

NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, Gulf of Mexico 2012 Expedition / Flickr

The giant isopod looks like an overgrown pillbug or woodlice. The largest known individual was a whopping 19.7 inches long. This giant crustacean occupies the floors of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans at depths ranging from 560 to 7,020 feet. Giant isopods feed primarily on carrion that finds its way to the cold, deep ocean floor, but they don't spend much time eating; one giant isopod in captivity didn't eat for over five years.

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Aye-aye lemur with dark hair, big ears, big golden yellow eyes and pointy snout in tree

Danita Delimont / Getty Images

With a tail like a squirrel, eyes like an owl, and a face reminiscent of a raccoon, the aye-aye has quite the motley appearance. The aye-aye is a species of long-fingered lemur found on the island of Madagascar, and it lives more like a woodpecker. To find food, the aye-aye taps on trees to locate buried insects and then gnaws a hole in the wood so it can reach in with its long, skinny fingers to grab the tasty treat.

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Star-Nosed Mole

star nosed mole standing on a rock with claws and star shaped nose appendage

Agnieszka Bacal / Shutterstock

Looking something like a boss from an old school Nintendo video game, the star-nosed mole lives in eastern North America and makes use of its strange flanged face to feel its away around the tunnels it digs. The star-shaped nose is hairless, with 22 tentacles that are packed with nerve cells; it is believed capable of detecting even subtle seismic waves traveling through the Earth.

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3 blob fish out of water laying on stainless steel counter

Wikimedia Commons

Another easily named animal, the blobfish lives in the deep waters around Australia and New Zealand and has adapted to its environment by evolving into a gelatinous mass of flesh with a density just above that of water. This form allows it to float just off the seafloor deep below the surface. When removed from its deep-water, high-pressure environment, where it looks more like a typical fish, it takes on the blob appearance.

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Goblin Shark

goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni) with jaws extended
A goblin shark with its jaws extended.

Dianne J. Bray / Museums Victoria / Wikimedia Commons

This shark's disconcerting appearance with its needle-like teeth, beady eyes, and long snout does make it appear more like a goblin than a shark. The goblin shark comes from an ancient line of sharks believed to have changed little in the last 125 million years. They can grow up to 13 feet in length and spend most of their time in deep waters near the seafloor looking for food.

Oceana reports, "Live goblin sharks have only rarely been observed and almost never filmed, so most of scientists’ knowledge of this species is a result of their accidental capture in fisheries targeting other species."

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Saiga Antelope

A mother saiga with brown and tan fur walks on a grassy patch, with a calf next to her

Igor Shpilenok / Wikimedia Commons

The saiga antelope looks like just another antelope if you start at the body. The nose and head quickly change that perception with a hooked snout, making it look more like a camel mixed with an elephant. Sadly, the saiga antelope is a critically endangered animal that one ranged over Eurasia but has since been confined to a single region in Russia and a few in Kazakhstan. They like to live in herd in treeless steppe regions. The antelope's rather large nose evolved to help it deal with filtering out dusty air in the summer and to warm cold air in the winter.

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Gerenuks (Litocranius walleri) feeding on bushes in a forest, Samburu National Reserve, Kenya

Martin Harvey / Getty Images

The gerenuk's name comes from a Somali word meaning "giraffe-necked." But that neck isn't the only thing it has in common with giraffes: the gerenuk also doesn't need to drink water. Instead, this antelope species gets all the hydration it needs from a diet of tree branches, brush, vines, and other plant matter. At only two weeks old, these animals learn to balance on their hind legs. They have been experiencing significant habitat loss, with their population reduced by 25% over just the past 14 years.

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Dumbo Octopus

An adult dumbo octopus swimming in the dark deep ocean
Dumbo octopuses use the fins on the side of their heads to swim, among other things.

NOAA Okeanos Explorer / Flickr

The dumbo octopus got its name from the fins that bring to mind the large ears of the cartoon elephant. It uses those fins for steering while swimming freely about the deep ocean areas it calls home. The dumbo octopus doesn't have ink because it wouldn't be helpful to blind a predator to escape in the darkness of the ocean depths. Instead, the octopus changes its color and size.

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Pink Fairy Armadillo

Pink fairy armadillo with pink armadillo shell over a rabbit like fur body
The pink fairy armadillo can swim the ground like its water.

cliff1066™ / Flickr

The pink fairy armadillo looks like a baby bunny wearing an armadillo shell. It reaches just 3.5 to 4 inches in length and lives in Argentina. It evolved to enjoy being in the desert. This little nocturnal creature digs burrows in the soil and uses the flat, rear part of its body to compact the soil, significantly reducing the chances of a tunnel collapse.

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Cantor's Giant Softshell Turtle

Cantor's Giant Soft Shelled Turtle - a flattened freshwater turtle on the shore

Wikimedia Commons

This turtle, also known as the Asian giant softshelled turtle, looks like a melted version of a turtle. The close-set eyes and broad, wedge-shaped head give rise to its more descriptive name—frog-faced softshell turtle. This freshwater species lives in ponds, lakes, and rivers throughout Asia. It can grow up to six feet in length and weigh more than 220 pounds.

Despite the wide range of habitats, it is listed on the IUCN Red List as critically endangered, due to local people harvesting them for meat, accidental killing, and becoming bycatch in fishermen's nets. There's hope that the species may recover based on growing numbers of nests and eggs found in surveys.

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Purple Frog

Purple Frog (Pig Nose Frog) from the family Sooglossidae found in the Western Ghats in India.

Unnikrishnan Nair P.K. / Wikimedia Commons

The purple frog can be found in the Western Ghats, a mountain range in India, and is known for its fat, bloated body. Spending most of its life underground, the purple frog only comes to the surface for roughly two weeks every year, during the monsoon season, to mate. It even eats underground, primarily ants and termites.

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okapi in profile with some of the zebra striped leg, dark body and giraffe like face.

Jiri Hrebicek / Shutterstock

You might think that the okapi was related to the zebra because of the stripes on its rear legs, or perhaps a horse because of its head and body shape. The okapi's large upright ears and prehensile blue-violet tongue spill the beans on the actual relative—the giraffe. The okapi was first brought to the attention of the Western world in the late 1800s when explorer Henry Morton Stanley mentioned it in one of his popular travelogues. You'll find the okapi in the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it is the national animal.