13 of the Ugliest Animals on the Planet

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The ugly stick of evolution

Photo: Benson Kua/flickr

Not every animal is as cuddly as a giant panda or as extravagant as a peacock, but every animal has its role to play and every organism is important.

As they say, beauty is only skin deep. Let's hope — for the sake of these 13 unsightly animals — that the same can be said for ugliness.

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California condor

Photo: Steve Cukrov/Shutterstock

One of the world's rarest birds and North America's largest flying land bird, the California condor is a graceful animal when it is gliding high above the canyons and deserts of the American West Coast.

But up close, this bird isn't so photogenic. Its bald head is an adaptation for its lifestyle as a scavenger, since a feathered head would become clotted with blood while the bird feeds on large carrion. The birds gorge themselves so much that they often have to rest for several days after a big meal.

Condors neared the point of extinction in the late 1970s when only a few dozen of the birds survived, according to National Geographic. Scientists started a captive breeding program and as of February 2012, about 213 California condors live in the wild.

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Photo: NOAA [public domain]/Wikimedia Commons

Perhaps it's unfair to judge a fish out of water, but the blobfish looks more like a ball of slime than a living creature.

Blobfish live deep in the ocean, where pressures are exceedingly high. In fact, the blobfish's gelatinous appearance is actually a brilliant adaptation — its gooey, pudding-like flesh allows it to stay buoyant at depths where gaseous bladders can't function.

The aesthetically challenged blobfish was once voted the world's ugliest animal in an online poll conducted by the British-based Ugly Animal Preservation Society, which made the fish the group's official mascot.

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Naked mole rat

Photo: belizar/Shutterstock

It must be difficult to maintain a vibrant self-image if you're a bald rodent, but it's not an issue for the naked mole rat. These animals live underground in insect-like colonies, and they have little need for good eyesight. Their hairless bodies are also an adaptation for their underground environment.

The San Diego Zoo points out that naked mole rats are more closely related to porcupines, chinchillas and guinea pigs than they are to moles or rats. They actually do have some hair: about 100 fine hairs on their body that act like whiskers to help them feel what's around them and hairs between their toes to help them move soil behind them when they are making tunnels.

Interestingly, naked mole rats are also among the longest living of all rodents given their size (they can live for nearly 30 years), and they have a remarkable resistance to cancer.

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Proboscis monkey

Photo: shankar s./flickr

A human might run for cover with this nose, but for the proboscis monkey, the bigger the nose the better! It turns out that nothing turns on a female proboscis monkey more than a big, bulbous schnoz. According to National Geographic, "Scientists think these outsize organs create an echo chamber that amplifies the monkey’s call, impressing females and intimidating rival males."

These curious-looking monkeys are also amazing swimmers, thanks to their webbed feet and hands. They leap from trees into the water, often hitting with a belly flop. They're so talented in the water that they can often swim faster than crocodiles.

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Photo: Bernard Dupont/Wikimedia Commons

These wild members of the pig family have the characteristic pig nose, tusks protruding from their mouths, a wart-like curvature to their faces and a nappy mane of hair that cascades down their backside. They have two pairs of tusks: The upper tusks emerge from their snouts making a semi-circle and their lower tusks are situated at the base of the other set. Their bodies are covered in bristles and they're distinguished by disproportionately large heads and those wart-like pads that offer protection, says the American Wildlife Foundation.

They aren't an image of beauty, but they are remarkably well-adapted to their harsh environment.

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Star-nosed mole

Photo: Agnieszka Bacal/Shutterstock

These moles might have the most bizarre noses in the animal kingdom. Their weird whiffers are defined by 22 fleshy appendages that act more like ultra-sensitive fingers than a nose.

The snouts are lined with more than 25,000 minute sensory receptors that help the mole feel its way through its underground lair.

Saying it looks like a cross between a rat and an octopus, National Geographic says the most impressive nose in the animal kingdom also makes this strange-looking creature a lethal hunter. The outer tentacles probe for a potential meal, then the inner sensors decide if the prey is edible.

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Photo: James Joel/flickr

This gremlin-looking creature, called an Aye-aye, is actually a primate found in Madagascar.

Aye-ayes have a number of unusual traits, including a long, bony, witch-like middle finger that they use to pry insects and grubs from tree trunks. This allows them to fill a biological niche much like a woodpecker might. They are nocturnal, only coming out at night.

Aye-ayes also have incisors that continually grow (which is unusual for primates, according to the Duke Lemur Center) and extremely large ears. As it walks along a branch, the aye-aye taps it with its skeletal middle finger. It cups its huge ear forward, listening for the echoes coming from the tree. When it knows it is above an insect tunnel, it tears off chunks of the tree with its massive teeth so it can uncover the tunnel and feast on the insects within.

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Photo: cynoclub/Shutterstock

These unappetizing, freaky-looking fish are a commonly eaten delicacy, but for years, people didn't want to eat the fish because it was so ugly. Chefs realized that its looks were deceiving and now it shows up on the menus of all sorts of fine restaurants.

"A monkfish isn't just ugly, it's mean," writes Laurie Ochoa in the Los Angeles Times, describing the fish's mottled skin, unsightly overbite and bizarre figure. Monkfish have huge heads and their heads are filled with tons of razor-like teeth.

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Marabou stork

Photo: Nadia Leskovskaya/Shutterstock

Would you want your newborn delivered by one of these sickly looking storks? Standing over 5 feet tall with a wingspan of more than 10 feet, these African birds are scavengers of large carrion, which is why they have featherless heads. They also eat other birds, and have even been known to consume flamingos.

These birds also have some unattractive habits. They defecate all over their legs and feet, giving their appendages a lovely white appearance, reports Kruger National Park. This helps them regulate their body temperature. Marabou storks aren't particularly active; in fact, they are relatively lazy. They stand around much of the time and often pant excessively when they are hot.

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Elephant seal

Photo: Jared Cohn/Shutterstock

Baby elephant seals and female elephant seals are pleasant looking. But males begin developing a large nose when they reach sexual maturity, somewhere around three to five years, reports The Marine Mammal Center. The huge proboscis is fully developed by seven to nine, giving the seal the look of its namesake elephant with a massive, floppy trunk.

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Horseshoe bat

Photo: Doug Beckers/flickr

Like most insect-eating bats — which use echolocation to catch their prey — horseshoe bats have a warped appearance that looks more like an ear than a face. This adaptation makes them more receptive to sound waves, which allows them to swiftly navigate through the air.

The bat gets its name from the shape of its "noseleaves," the fleshy structure surrounding the bat's nose. The upper part is pointed and the lower part is shaped like a horseshoe. The BBC explains that this complex fold of skin is used to send out echolocational calls and help focus the sound.

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Red-lipped batfish

Photo: Rein Ketelaars/flickr

The red-lipped batfish gives the impression that it tried to compensate for an unusual body by caking on the lipstick. These odd fish are mostly found around the Galapagos Islands and near Peru. Scientists believe that the purpose of the bright red pucker if for the male of the species to attract the female.

Interestingly, they are better suited for "walking" along the ocean floor than swimming. They aren't the most graceful swimming. When they reach adulthood, they use their dorsal fin as a fishing lure to attract prey instead of for swimming.

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Photo: Stig Nygaard/flickr

With a hunching, bear-like gait, these beasts of the savannah aren't the prettiest animals on the planet, but at least they have a sense of humor. Occasionally referred to as "laughing hyenas," their calls are often described as haunting and witch-like. Although known for being scavengers, the Smithsonian reports that they actually kill 95 percent of what they eat. A group of hyenas can "dismantle and devour a 400-pound zebra in 25 minutes. An adult spotted hyena can tear off and swallow 30 or 40 pounds of meat per feeding."

Though they look like wild dogs, they are more closely related to civets, mongooses and meerkats.