6 Unbelievable Animals

Weird and wonderful wildlife

Photo: Rachel Caauwe [CC BY-SA 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons

With all the bizarre and crazy creatures humans have invented, it's easy to forget that for every unicorn there is a bizarre creature that actually exists. Evolution and niche specialization can create some crazy-looking forms of life. Here are six strange examples.

Frilled shark

Photo: © Citron / CC BY-SA 3.0/Wikimedia Commons

The frilled shark is straight out of central casting for prehistoric sharks and has been called a "living fossil" due to its unique and seemingly evolutionarily stunted features. It's not clear just how much direct lineage the frilled shark shares with ancient sharks, but even the possibility of a connection is exciting.

Whatever its origins, the frilled shark is one of the stranger things swimming in the ocean. The frilled shark has been found all over the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and seems to prefer feeding near biologically rich upwellings.

Aye-Aye

Photo: Tom Junek [CC BY-SA 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons

The aye-aye is a small lemur that lives in Madagascar. This creature would be hard-pressed to win a primate beauty pageant. The average aye-aye has large bulbous eyes — not unlike Gollum from "Lord of the Rings" — huge ears that are more creepy than adorable and nightmarishly long fingers. There is no evolutionary benefit to good looks in the aye-aye line.

To complete this strange package, the aye-aye feeds more like a woodpecker than a primate. The aye-aye taps on trees to find grubs, gnaws a hole into the wood, and uses its freakishly long middle finger — which looks like something Tim Burton might have created — to pull out its dinner.

Dumbo octopus

Photo: Ed Bowlby, NOAA/Olympic Coast NMS; NOAA/OAR/Office of Ocean Exploration/Wikimedia Commons

The Dumbo octopus was so named because the fins that grow out of the side of its head resemble the floppy ears of Disney's flying elephant. The Dumbo octopus lives in extremely deep waters (up to three miles down) and looks as if it might be an anime caricature of an octopus.

It has huge eyes that are kind of adorable, and cute little tentacles that seem far too short for its bulbous little body. The Dumbo octopus uses both its tentacles and its Dumbo ears to move around, feeding off small worms, bivalves and crustaceans found on the sea floor.

Blobfish

Photo: NOAA [public domain]/Wikimedia Commons

The blobfish is a rare native of deep waters off Australia and Tasmania. Its choice of living quarters in the deep makes sense ... because this is one strange-looking creature.

The blobfish doesn't have the gas bladder that most other fish have to regulate buoyancy. Instead, it relies on its gelatinous flesh, which is slightly less dense than seawater, allowing it to easily swim around the ocean floor in search of food.

Giant coconut crab

Photo: Drew Avery [CC BY 2.0]/Wikimedia Commons

The coconut crab is the stuff of nightmares. With a leg span that can be more than three feet, it's the largest land arthropod in the world. The coconut crab is officially a type of hermit crab, but only the young coconut crab has to use scavenged shells for protection. As it grows, its exoskeleton hardens up and it steps out naked to face the world.

The coconut crab lives on islands scattered from the eastern coast of Africa to southeast Asia and into the South Pacific. Though this crab enjoys eating a coconut when it comes across one — and has been known to climb coconut trees to get to them — its diet consists mostly of fruits, nuts and the pith of fallen trees.

Shoebill

Photo: Kate Connes/Shutterstock

This bird looks like something you might see in a TV commercial — it has a wide, exaggerated beak that makes it look like a creature dreamed up to be the spokesperson for an insurance company.

Though this cartoonish bird looks like it should talk with a Brooklyn accent and bust your chops all day, the shoebill lives in swamps in east Africa and can grow to be nearly five feet tall. With a remaining population of only 5,000 to 8,000 birds, the shoebill is listed as a vulnerable species by BirdLife International.