The animal kingdom is full of surprises, from the majestic lions and elephants we all know to a plethora of bizarre and wonderful creatures that seem like they could be figments of our imagination. Here are 30 unusual animals that are truly real.

1. Axolotl

  • These adorable, permanently larval salamanders are found in the canals of Xochimilco in Mexico City.
  • The axolotl’s larval features include feathery gills and a permanently youthful appearance.
  • They can regenerate limbs and even parts of their brain and spinal cord!
  • They are critically endangered due to habitat loss and water pollution.
purple tropical axolotl
Photo by Raphael Brasileiro on

2. Goblin Shark

  • This deep-sea dweller lives in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans at depths of up to 1,300 meters (4,300 ft).
  • Nicknamed the “living fossil” due to its resemblance to prehistoric sharks, the goblin shark has a long, flattened snout with protruding jaws lined with sharp teeth.
  • These jaws can lunge forward to snag prey, such as fish and squid.
  • It lures prey in with a bioluminescent lure on its chin.

3. Pangolin

  • Pangolins are covered in tough, overlapping scales and are the only mammals with scales.
  • They are also the most trafficked mammal in the world, hunted for their scales, which are used in traditional medicine in some cultures.
  • They are shy, solitary creatures that eat ants and termites.

4. Tardigrade

  • Also known as water bears, these microscopic invertebrates are nearly indestructible.
  • Tardigrades can be found in almost every habitat on Earth, from mountaintops to the ocean floor.
  • They can survive in extreme temperatures, radiation, and even the vacuum of space!

5. Blobfish

  • Found at depths of up to 2,800 meters (9,200 ft) in the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans, the blobfish is a deep-sea fish with a gelatinous body that can withstand the immense pressure of the deep sea.
  • Despite its rather unflattering appearance, the blobfish is well-adapted to its environment.

6. Saiga Antelope

  • Saiga antelopes are found in the Central Asian steppes.
  • They have unusually large, bulbous noses that are thought to help them regulate temperature and humidity, as well as filter dust from the dry air.
  • Sadly, they are critically endangered due to poaching for their horns, which are mistakenly believed to have medicinal properties.
Wild saiga antelope, Saiga tatarica tatarica visiting a waterhole at the Stepnoi Sanctuary, Astrakhan Oblast, Russia.

7. Star-Nosed Mole

  • Found in eastern North America, the star-nosed mole has a unique pink, fleshy nose with 22 fleshy tentacles.
  • These tentacles are highly sensitive and help the star-nosed mole to navigate its underground environment and find food.

8. Komondor

  • This Hungarian herding dog looks like a giant mop come to life.
  • This giant Hungarian sheepdog’s long, white coat forms into dreadlocks.
  • Komondors were bred to protect sheep from predators and their thick hair not only provides insulation but also protects them from predators.
By Nikki68, CC BY 2.5 Wiki Commons

9. Mandarin Duck

  • The Mandarin Duck, a stunner among waterfowl, boasts vibrant plumage with a dazzling display of colors.
  • Males are particularly eye-catching, sporting a chestnut chest, green head patch, and a prominent crest that resembles a crown.
  • Despite their beauty, these ducks are classified as vulnerable due to habitat loss and the illegal pet trade.
Pair of Mandarins (Aix galericulata), at Martin Mere, Lancashire, UK

10. Hoatzin

  • Found in the swamps and forests of the Amazon Basin, the hoatzin is a strange-looking bird with a long, spiky crest and a pungent odor.
  • Hoatzins have claws on two of their toes, which they use to climb trees.
  • They are also the only birds known to have a rumen, a fermenting chamber in their digestive system similar to that of a cow, to help it digest leaves.
Hoatzin at Manu National Park, Peru; by Francesco Veronesi

11. Glass Frog

  • The aptly named glass frog lives up to its moniker with translucent skin on its underside, revealing its internal organs!
  • These tiny rainforest dwellers primarily live in trees near streams, utilizing their incredible camouflage to blend in with green leaves.
  • Despite their fascinating transparency, glass frogs are sadly threatened by habitat loss and the illegal wildlife trade.
Underside of a Reticulated Glass Frog

12. Proboscis Monkey

  • The Proboscis monkey, a resident of Borneo’s rainforests, boasts the most impressive schnoz in the primate world – a large, pendulous nose.
  • This oversized feature is more prominent in males and may amplify their calls to attract mates.
  • Despite their impressive sniffers, Proboscis monkeys are primarily fruit eaters, favoring unripe options to avoid sugary fermentation in their stomachs.
  • Sadly, habitat loss due to deforestation threatens these unique monkeys, pushing them towards endangerment.
Proboscis Monkey in Borneo, Wiki Commons

13. Irrawaddy Dolphin

  • The Irrawaddy dolphin, a resident of Southeast Asian rivers, coastal waters, and even some lakes, is known for its short beak and bulging forehead.
  • While they are not exclusively freshwater dolphins, they can thrive in both freshwater and brackish (mix of saltwater and freshwater) environments.
  • Unlike most dolphins, they prefer shallow waters and are often seen swimming in small groups.
  • Sadly, due to habitat loss, pollution, and entanglement in fishing gear, these charismatic creatures are classified as endangered.
Irrawaddy dolphin – Whale & Dolphin Conservation USA

14. Maned Wolf

  • The maned wolf, the tallest wild canid in South America, resembles a long-legged fox with a striking mane of fur around its neck and shoulders.
  • Despite its appearance, it’s not closely related to wolves or foxes.
  • These solitary hunters with long, black legs excel at navigating the tall grasslands of their habitat, using their height to spot prey over the waving grasses.
  • Sadly, maned wolves are classified as endangered due to habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict.
Maned wolf | Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

15. Fennec Fox

  • The Fennec fox, a tiny desert dweller found in North Africa, boasts the largest ears relative to its body size of any canid.
  • These enormous ears help radiate heat, a crucial adaptation for surviving scorching desert temperatures.
  • Despite their diminutive stature – the smallest canids in the world – Fennec foxes are surprisingly skilled hunters, using their keen hearing to locate prey hidden beneath the sand.
three brown foxes lying on gray rock
Photo by Zetong Li on

16. Anglerfish

  • This deep-sea fish has a bioluminescent lure that it uses to attract prey.
  • The lure can be shaped like a worm, shrimp, or even another fish!
Deep sea anglerfish | Monterey Bay Aquarium

17. Tasmanian Devil

  • The Tasmanian devil, the largest surviving carnivorous marsupial, reigns supreme in the island state of Tasmania.
  • Despite their small stature, they boast the strongest bite force relative to their body size of any extant mammal, allowing them to crush bones and efficiently scavenge carcasses.
  • Tragically, Tasmanian devils are currently endangered due to the spread of a contagious facial tumor disease.
baby tasmanian devil
Photo by Chen Te on

18. Narwhal

  • Narwhals are medium-sized toothed whales found in the Arctic Ocean.
  • Males are known for their long, spiral tusk, which is actually a modified tooth.
  • The purpose of the tusk is not fully understood, but it may be used for display, fighting, or sensing changes in water pressure.
Male narwhals (Monodon monoceros) caress one another with their tusks in Admiralty Inlet, Nunavut, Canada. Paul Nicklen / National Geographic Creative / WWF-Canada

19. Okapi

  • Also known as the forest giraffe, the okapi is a relative of the giraffe that lives in the rainforests of Central Africa.
  • The okapi has a long neck, short legs, and sports a unique striped pattern on its rear and legs, resembling a zebra.
  • Despite its long neck for reaching leaves, the okapi’s shorter legs and dense forest habitat make it a master of camouflage, blending in with the dappled sunlight.
  • Sadly, these elusive herbivores are classified as endangered due to habitat loss in their native Central Africa.
Okapi, Wiki Commons, Jolivet Daniel

20. Aye-Aye

  • The aye-aye, with its rodent-like teeth and enormous ears, is a bizarre lemur clinging to survival in Madagascar.
  • This nocturnal primate uses its long, skeletal middle finger to tap on trees, listening for hidden insect larvae before scooping them out with the same finger, acting almost like a built-in woodpecker tool.
  • It also has large eyes and ears that help it to see and hear in the dark.
  • Sadly, due to habitat loss and superstition, the aye-aye is classified as endangered.
Aye-Aye, Wikipedia, Simon Murgatroyd

21. Platypus

  • The platypus, a unique Australian mammal, defies categorization with its duck-like bill, webbed feet, and beaver-like tail.
  • This bizarre creature electrolocates prey in the water using its bill and nurses its young with milk, even though it lays eggs!
  • One more surprising fact: the male platypus is one of the few venomous mammals, spurring venom through claws on their hind legs.
  • Sadly, habitat loss and pollution threaten the survival of this fascinating oddity.
Platypus, Wikimedia, Charles J Sharp Sharp Photography

22. Capybara

  • The capybara, South America’s largest rodent, is a chill giant.
  • These social creatures resemble oversized guinea pigs and spend their days lounging in or near water, munching on aquatic plants.
  • Despite their peaceful demeanor, capybaras are surprisingly agile swimmers and can even hold their breath underwater for several minutes.
Capybara and pups

23. Echidna

  • Echidnas, spiny mammals from Australia and New Guinea, share some traits with hedgehogs but are unrelated.
  • Unlike most mammals, echidnas lay leathery eggs and carry their young in pouches after hatching.
  • Unsurprisingly, they are related to the platypus (also egg-layers) and cousins to marsupials (with their pouches).
  • Their long snouts and sticky tongues help them slurp up ants and termites – earning them the alternate name of spiny anteaters – while their sharp claws excel at digging.
close up photo of echidna on grass
Photo by Gilberto Olimpio on

24. Marabou Stork

  • Towering scavengers of Africa, Marabou Storks are known for their bald heads and long, throat sacs.
  • Despite their ungainly appearance, they play a vital ecological role by cleaning up carcasses and preventing the spread of disease.
  • Sadly, these fascinating birds are classified as critically endangered due to habitat loss.

25. Thorny Devil

  • This small lizard is found in the deserts of Australia.
  • It is covered in sharp spines that help it to absorb water from the fog and dew.
  • The thorny devil also has a false head that it can present to predators as a distraction.
Thorny Devil by Christopher Watson

26. Chinese Water Deer

  • Water deer, found in Korea and China, are small deer known for their lack of antlers and prominent canine teeth resembling tusks.
  • These excellent swimmers can navigate rivers and islands in search of food and shelter.
  • Despite their adeptness in water, they are sadly classified as Vulnerable due to habitat loss.

27. Manatee

  • Manatees are large, gentle herbivores found in warm waters around the world.
  • They are often called “sea cows” because of their grazing habits and rounded bodies.
  • Many believe they are the source of mermaid legends due to their large size and rounded tails.
  • Manatees are endangered due to habitat loss and boat collisions.

28. Handfish

  • Nicknamed “living thumbs,” handfish are bizarre marine marvels found off the coast of southeastern Australia.
  • Their pectoral fins resemble miniature hands, complete with webbed “fingers” they use to “walk” along the seafloor and manipulate objects.
  • Sadly, these fascinating fish are critically endangered due to habitat destruction and accidental capture in fishing gear.
CSIRO ScienceImage

29. Amazon River Dolphin

  • The Amazon river dolphin – also known as the boto, bufeo, or pink river dolphin – defies expectations with its breathtaking rosy hue.
  • These playful creatures, the largest river dolphins in the world, navigate the murky Amazon waters with the help of exceptional echolocation.
  • Sadly, their playful nature and habitat within human-impacted areas make them vulnerable, with populations classified as vulnerable or endangered in certain regions.

30. Vampire Bat

  • Despite its fearsome name, the vampire bat isn’t bloodthirsty like Dracula.
  • These tiny nocturnal mammals feed exclusively on the blood of other animals, using razor-sharp teeth to make a small incision and then lapping up the freely flowing blood with their grooved tongues.
  • An anticoagulant in their saliva keeps the blood from clotting, ensuring a smooth meal.
  • The anti-clotting properties of vampire bat saliva have been studied and used to develop treatments for patients that suffer from strokes (no joke – it’s called Draculin).