13 Of Earth’s Weirdest Animals Prove That Our World Is A Strange And Beautiful Place

The world is filled with strange, wonderful, and beautiful creatures. Anyone who’s watched enough Animal Planet can tell you that. But there are some animals now roaming the Earth that are a little stranger than most. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t wonderful — or even beautiful. In their own way.

Looking down this list, maybe “beautiful” isn’t the right word, at least for a few of these creatures. Maybe “special” would be better. Because while not every one of these animals is exactly pleasing to the eye — we’re looking at you, naked mole rat — every one of them has a special and important place on this beautiful planet called Earth.

Too many of these odd and different species are currently endangered or under threat. Like our pal the Aye-Aye, pictured above (and again below), which is listed as “Near Threatened” and was actually thought to have become extinct in 1933.

Check out these photos of the weirdest animals on the planet and while they might not all appear as adorable as a baby panda bear or a basket full of puppies, remember that each one is a unique and special being.

———

The Irrawaddy dolphin. Seriously, this guy may be a little funny-looking, but how can you say anything bad about an animal that has a permanent smile on its face. Not exactly a river dolphin, the Irrawaddy lives in estuaries and along coastlines around New Guinea, the Philippines and surrounding areas. Certain groups are listed as critically endangered, and the Irrawaddy has the highest level of international protection.

Irrawaddy Dolphin

———

You’ll find the Elephant Shrew scattered throughout forests in central and eastern Africa. They don’t grow more than a foot long, but we think you can figure out why they’re called “elephant” shrews. This long-nosed little guy is classified as “Near Threatened.”

Elephant Shrew

———

The Jeroba is kind of jumping rodent. This particular variety is known by the name, “Long-Eared Jeroba.” Hmm. Wonder why? It’s ears are only about three times longer than the rest of its head. This funny but cute little creature lives throughout southern Mongolia and northwest China.

Long Eared Jerboa

———

The Patagonian Cavy, or Mara, can hop like a kangaroo or run like a dog. The species lives in the grasslands of central and south Argentina and their population is rapidly declining, mainly due to the ongoing human colonization and destruction of their natural living space.

Patagonian Cavy

———

Even without his alien-looking schnoz, the Star Nosed Mole, native to the eastern and northern U.S and parts of Canada, would be one of nature’s weirdest looking creatures, at least among the mammals. Check out those bizarre claws. Here’s another bit of weirdness: during mating season, in the springtime, the male’s testicles swell up to be so large they temporarily take up almost 10 percent of his body weight. Contemplate that.

Star Nosed Mole

———

This creature may look strange, but it has a lovely-sounding name. The Pink Fairy Armadillo is also one of the most elusive critters in nature, spending most of its time underground. Native to Argentina, they emerge into the sunlight mainly when they hit an underground rock or other obstacle they can’t get around. They then burrow their way to the surface where they are often seen attempting to cross roads, usually with unfortunate results.

Pink Fairy Armadillo

———

The Matamata turtle lives mainly in South America and is sometimes called the “Pancake tortoise,” for obvious reasons. Like many species, its natural environment is threatened by development, so the future of the Matamata could be in doubt.

Matamata Turtle

———

The Gerenuk lives mainly in Eastern Africa. A gentle creature who dines on plants that it often picks from on high, this creature’s habitat, like so many, is threatened by human expansion.

Gerenuk

———

Here’s our pal the Naked Mole Rat. He’s native to Eastern Africa and unlike other species of mole rats, who are pretty much loners, these charming little rodents live in insect-like colonies, with a queen who bears the young, while the rest of the worker naked mole rats dig the tunnels and bring her food. The naked mole rat may prove an incredibly useful creature. They can live between 30 and 40 years — 10 times longer than most other rodents — so scientists are trying to figure out if somewhere in their genes lies the Fountain of Youth.

Naked Mole Rat

———

Living exclusively in Papua New Guinea, the Long Beaked Echidna is another highly elusive animal, rarely spotted by humans. Unfortunately, when they are seen, they are considered a local delicacy and end up being eaten, even though they are considered a threatened species. They are also one of the few species of mammal that lays eggs.

Long Beaked Echidna

———

Cantor’s Giant Soft Shelled Turtle can grow up to 100 pounds, but residing mainly in Southeast Asia, population in Laos and Thailand are dying out and in Vietnam this big guy is believed to be extinct. Cambodia is still home to a healthy population, but an illegal trade in these turtles is threatening that group as well. The status of this turtle is listed as “endangered.”

Cantors Giant Soft Shelled Turtle

———

Native to central Asia and southeastern Europe, the Saiga Antelope is now facing extinction thanks mainly to unregulated hunting, which became widespread after the end of the Soviet Union more than two decades ago. At that time, there were more than a million known to exist throughout the Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan part of Russia and surrounding countries. Now, there are only about 50,000 left.

Saiga Antelope

———

Last but most definitely not least, here is the amazing little Aye Aye, a species of lemur that lives only in the rainforests of Madagascar. And even though we find this little guy quite adorable, there is a local superstition that they are evil, so anytime they’re spotted, they are usually killed. That makes this wide-eyed wonder one of Madagascar’s most endangered species. Those long fingers may look like claws, but they’re really just good for swinging on tree branches. There’s nothing evil about this critter. So don’t let them go away. Hug an Aye Aye today.

Aye Aye