60 Weird Animals Around the World originally appeared on Green Global Travel.
The world is a wild and wonderful place, filled with millions of different species most of us have never even heard of.
Growing up feeling like a bit of an odd Bird myself, I’ve always been fascinated by unusual animals and insects. The duck-billed Platypus was an early childhood favorite.
Getting to see freaky fauna such as the Baird’s Tapir, Bushbaby, Flightless Cormorant, and Hoatzin in the wild has been one of our favorite parts of traveling together.
If you’re attracted to the beautifully bizarre like we are, you’ll love our epic guide to 60 weird animals around the world!
Table of Contents:
1. Weird Amphibians & Reptiles
2. Weird Birds
3. Weird Insects
4. Weird Mammals
5. Weird Nocturnal Animals
6. Weird Sea Animals
WEIRD AMPHIBIANS & REPTILES
Also known as the Mexican Walking Fish, this amphibious salamander is critically endangered, and nearly went extinct in 2010. They’re weird because they don’t go into metamorphosis like other salamanders: Even adults remain aquatic and gilled. They’re frequently used for research by scientists due to their ability to regenerate limbs. Once a staple of the Aztec diet, they’re now the focus of conservation efforts in Mexico City, where local NGOs are building “Axolotl shelters.”
This odd amphibious species was first discovered on an expedition to the Brazilian rainforest in the late 1800s. But most people had never heard of them until workers found six of these bizarre, eyeless creatures in 2011 while draining a portion of the Madeira River (a tributary of the Amazon) for a controversial hydroelectric project. It’s also known as the “penis snake,” and it’s easy to see why. They’re limbless, with snake-like bodies marked with earthworm-like rings, and heads that look like a portion of the male anatomy.
Chinese Giant Salamander
The largest amphibian in the world, this critically endangered salamander can reach lengths of up to 5’9” and weigh up to 65 pounds. Fully aquatic, they’re primarily found in the rocky mountain streams and lakes of China, but have been introduced in Japan and Taiwan. They have crazy vocalizations– from barking and hissing to whining and crying– which has earned it the Chinese nickname “the infant fish.” Unfortunately the Chinese also consider it a delicacy, and use it in traditional medicine.
READ MORE: Amazing Animal Facts: A-to-Z
The Xenopus genus includes 20 species of aquatic frogs found in sub-Saharan Africa. What makes them weird is the fact that they cannot hop, so they have to crawl long distances in order to get from one pond to another. The frogs have eyes on top of their flattened heads, but no eyelids or eardrums. They also cannot move their tongue, so they use small fore limbs to help during feeding. When the lakes, ponds, and potholes they tend to favor dry up, the frogs may lie dormant for a year awaiting rain.
Eastern Long-Necked Turtle
Like a reptilian giraffe, this aptly-named turtle (commonly found in eastern Australia) has a snake-like neck that’s almost as long as its entire carapace. Rather than retracting its head back inside as you might expect, this “side-necked turtle” bends it sideways into its shell. When threatened, the Eastern Long-neck will emit a terribly noxious odor from its musk glands, which has also earned it the nickname “The Stinker.”
Commonly known as Glass Frogs, members of the amphibian family Centrolenidae all share a similar small size and lime green background colors. What makes them strange animals is the fact that certain species have translucent abdominal skin that allows you to see their insides, including heart, liver, gastrointestinal tract, and (in the case of females) eggs! It’s also a helpful feature for escaping predators, since the frogs are primarily active at night.
Mata Mata Turtle
This South American freshwater turtle is found in the Amazon and Orinoco basins, primarily in slow-moving streams and swamps where it can stand in shallow water and stretch its nose to the surface to breathe. It’s an unusual, ancient-looking creature that’s clearly made for camouflage. It has a horny snout and flattened, triangle-shaped head that looks like fallen leaves, and a brown/black shell said to resemble bark. Measuring up to 18 inches long and weighing some 30 pounds, it’s a large, triply-looking turtle!
READ MORE: A Rare Encounter An Amazon Manatee
Mexican Mole Lizard
This bizarre animal, which is also commonly known as the 5-Toed Worm Lizard, is endemic to Mexico’s Baja California region. Measuring up to 9.4 inches long, it looks like a freaky hybrid– part earthworm, part mole, part salamander. It’s got a blunt head; a slender, ribbed, pink body; and two tiny forelimbs that it uses to dig underground. They live there, close to the surface, and only emerge at night or after heavy rains.
Spike-Nosed Tree Frog
Colloquially known as the “Pinocchio Frog,” this unusual animal was discovered during a Conservation International and National Geographic Society expedition to Indonesian New Guinea in 2008. It’s nickname comes from the fact that the tree frog’s elongated nose grows rigid and erect when he’s calling out to prospective mates, but otherwise remains limp and deflated. Not much else is known about the species, other than the fact that it lives in the rainforest of the Foja Mountains.
Also known as the Indian Purple Frog or Pignose Frog, this grape-colored goliath looks like Grimace (if he was a fat frog with a small head and a pointy snout). Endemic to India’s Western Ghats, the endangered frog’s proboscis is designed to help it feed on its favorite food, termites. They spend the majority of their time underground: They only surface to breed once a year, for two weeks during India’s monsoon. A breeding pair will lay up to 3,000 eggs annually in rocks along streams, then head back underground again.
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The largest land bird in North America, the odd-looking California Condor won’t be winning any beauty contests anytime soon. But what makes this critically endangered scavenger one of the world’s weirdest birds is its size. Ranging in length from 43 to 55 inches and weighing 15 to 31 pounds, their massive wingspan of 8 to 10 feet has had them confused with small airplanes on more than one occasion. They’ve also got some cool skills, such as soaring for more than three miles without flapping their wings.
Found only in the Galapagos Islands, this is one of the most rare bird species in the world, with around 1000 left. The Flightless Cormorant is an odd bird, with black and brown feathers, brilliant turquoise eyes, and low growling voices. Their stubby wings are about 1/3 the size they’d need to fly, but in the water they could give any sea lion a run for its money. They use their webbed feet and powerful legs to dive down to the bottom of the ocean in search of fish, eels, octopus and other small prey.
READ MORE: Flightless Cormorant Mating Dance (Video)
Also known as the Canje Pheasant (or punk-rock bird), Hoatzin are genetically enigmatic, and there’s been intense scientific debate about their evolutionary connections to other species. The pheasant-sized bird, whose chicks possess claws on two of their wing digits, is also called the Stinkbird due to the manure-like odor caused by its unique digestive system. Their noises are just as odd, including a bizarre variety of groans, croaks, hisses and grunts that are often associated with its body movements.
READ MORE: Punk-Rock Birds & Pimp Monkeys in the Peruvian Amazon
The Kakapo is one of the world’s most critically endangered species, with a known population of around 125. New Zealand’s “Owl Parrot” is an undeniable oddity– large, flightless, nocturnal and ground-dwelling, weighing up to 9 pounds at maturity. It’s the only parrot in the world that mates by lekking: Males line up to put on a mating display en masse, and the females pick their favorites. Unfortunately these lovebirds only breed an average of three times a decade, when the fruit of the Rimu tree is abundant.
READ MORE: Top 5 Ecotourism Attractions in New Zealand
Primarily found in the humid forests of Colombia and Ecuador, the Long-wattled Umbrellabird’s features are as bizarre as their name. The males have a magnificent coiff-like crest Elvis would kill for, with hair-like feathers that extend out over their bill. Their wattle is even weirder: It’s long, black, and hangs down 16 to 17 inches from the middle of their chest. They can inflate it during courtship rituals to draw attention, or retract it against their chest during flight.
Found in Africa south of the Sahara, the Marabou Stork has a face only a mother could love. With their long, skinny legs and feathers that look like a black jacket worn over a white dress shirt, it’s easy to see how they earned their nickname, “the undertaker bird.” And then there’s the massive bill, the bald pink head, and a featherless wattle hanging from their neck. Weighing up to 18 pounds, with a wingspan that can measure over nine feet, this is one of Africa’s most huge and hideous birds.
The Oilbird, known in northern South America as guácharo, is a striking beauty by contrast: Reddish-brown, with diamond-shaped white spots edged in black. What makes this cave-dwelling fruit-eater odd is the fact that it is nocturnal, and finds its food by using echolocation (much like bats and dolphins). And because its preferred food is the fruit of the oil palm, the aptly-named bird was once hunted and boiled down in order to extract their oil for use as fuel.
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Also known as the Whalehead or Shoe-billed Stork, this strange bird is named for the shoe-like shape of its humongous bill, which allow it to catch surprisingly large prey. They’re found in east Africa, primarily in large tropical swamps from Sudan south to Zambia. Seeing them in the wild is… well, wild, because they tend to stand silent and motionless for long periods of time. With a height of 43 to 55 inches and a wingspan up to 8 feet 6 inches, these cartoonish blue-grey beauties are hard to miss.
Sri Lanka Frogmouth
Related to the Nightjars, this small Frogmouth is found in the Western Ghats mountain range of South India and Sri Lanka. They live in the dense undergrowth of tropical forests, where their grey-brown feathers make them very difficult to see. What makes them weird is their oversized head, which gives the nocturnal bird a wide field of binocular vision, and the gaping wide hooked bill for which they are named. The short, stiff bristles around their eyes are another attractive distinguishing feature.
Superb Bird of Paradise
If you’ve watched documentaries such as Planet Earth or BBC Earth, you’ve probably seen the dazzling mating dance that makes this iridescent New Guinea beauty so special. Their female population is unusually low and competition for mating privileges is fierce. So males will meticulously prepare their dance floor before loudly calling the object of their affection. The dance is spectacular: He spreads his black feather cape and blue-green breast shield widely, snapping a beat with his tail feathers while hopping around her. Most of the females will reject 15-20 suitors before giving consent!
READ MORE: Galapagos Birds Photo Gallery
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Amazon Giant Fishing Spider
Proving big can be beautiful, this spectacular spider can grow up to 8 inches, with a brilliant green, gold, and white body. Found in South America, they’re semi-aquatic and usually seen at the edge of pools or streams. There they wait for ripples that advertise prey (insects, tadpoles, and even small fish), then run across the surface to grab it and inject their venom. Some subspecies can even encase themselves in a silver air bubble and climb beneath the water.
These alien-looking predators are related to the plant-eating Shield Bug. But they’ve adapted a piercing proboscis with which they feed upon their victims (ants and bees are their favorites). The ninja-like skills for which they’re named include coating themselves with ant carcasses to disguise their pheromones and covering their legs with tree sap to grab bees out of mid-air with their sticky claws. They may not look like much, but these clever carnivores have some seriously deadly moves!
If you’ve ever seen a b-movie in which humans or animals are unexpectedly swarmed by hyper-aggressive ants, these merciless army ants (primarily found in central and east Africa) are likely the inspiration. Sometimes called safari ants, they attack en masse, which often proves deadly for small animals when their colonies number up to 20 million members. Their bite is painful, and their powerful jaws remain locked even if you kill the ant. Locals are known to use them to suture wounds in case of a medical emergency.
There are some 6,400 species of katydids in the Tettigoniidae family, which are closely related to crickets. But the Giant Long-legged Katydid, found in the montane forests of Malaysia, are easily the largest. They can grow up to 6 inches long– large enough to cover your hand– with antennae that can grow even longer. It’s leaf-life wings make great camouflage, but their long legs are relatively useless. They cannot jump well, and rarely fly. Their high-pitched mating call makes them one of the loudest insects in the world.
READ MORE: The Top 7 Things To Do in Malaysia For Nature Lovers
Hickory Horned Devil
The Regal Moth (a.k.a. Royal Walnut Moth) is as beautiful as any butterfly we’ve seen, with stunningly vivid colors. But in the larval stage they’re known as Hickory Horned Devils, and look like something out of a horror film director’s nightmares. They eventually turn green, with huge black-tipped red horns and what look like little black spikes all over their bodies. The nocturnal feeders don’t sting, but they do curl up into a j-shape during the day that makes them look like bird poop.
This skinny beanpole looks like a common Giant Walking Stick. But it’s more closely related to the Locust, and is named for its ability to jump and kick like a kung fu master. Its hind legs are 2.5 times as long as its front and middle legs, allowing it to propel its 2.6-inch body up to 3 feet in a single bound. They’re also known for their odd, elongated faces, with a grasshopper-like mouth and large eyes on a stalk that help it look for predators and attract mates.
READ MORE: Amazing Animal Facts 2: Animal Olympians
Don’t let the name fool you. This odd-looking Amazonian insect looks more like a moth than a fly, and their massive peanut-shaped heads don’t light up. They have vivid spots on their wings that some people believe help to scare off predators by mimicking the eyes of a much larger animal. There’s also a myth in certain local populations that if the bug bites someone (which it doesn’t), they’ll die if they don’t have sex within a day. I wonder how many young men have used that line?
READ MORE: Into The Amazon Jungle
This is arguably among the world’s most beautiful insects outside of the butterfly family. The Orchid Mantis is one of several species of flower mantises, which look like and mimic the flowers upon which they’re often found. Their brilliant colors can change, and range from white and yellow to pink and brown. Each of its four legs resembles flower petals, which they use to their advantage by swaying to lure insects, then eating them. They’ve also been known to eat larger vertebrates, such as lizards and frogs.
What fresh hell is this? Picture an ancient insect that dates back some 174 million years, with the long beak of a pterodactyl, the coloring of a wasp, and the stinger of a scorpion. Then imagine it’s closely related to a flea, and scavenges the bodies of dead invertebrates. Sounds horrifying, right? The fact that the stinger is actually enlarged genitals might make you feel a little better, but the fact that there 350+ species of them probably won’t.
Venezuelan Poodle Moth
Discovered in Venezuela’s Gran Sabana region by Kyrgyzstan’s Dr. Arthur Anker in 2009, this unusual insect looks like a cross between a poodle and an angora sweater. Ankara’s odd (some might say adorable) discovery went relatively unnoticed for several years, until someone posted his photo of the fuzzy white moth with bulging black eyes and bizarre antennae online. It quickly went viral, but the moth (which experts believe belongs to the Artace genus) has yet to be confirmed as a new species.
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Native to the Steppes of Central Asia, the Bactrian Camel is differentiated from its more familiar Arabian cousins by the fact that it has two humps. It has genetically adapted well to the region’s extreme climate. It has squishy foot pads that work like snowshoes to help it keep its footing in the desert sand, and a coat that is remarkably which in winter and nearly bald in summer. Unfortunately, though the domesticated species is plentiful, the wild ones are critically endangered.
Looking like a bizarre cross between a pig, a donkey and a rhinoceros, this cow-sized mammal is an endangered species endemic to Central and South America. Known as the Mountain Cow in Belize, it is celebrated as the national animal. Baird’s tapir is most active at night, but are frequently seen during the day. One famously attacked the Costa Rican Minister of Environment in 2006, and we were fortunate to catch one taking a catnap in Corcovado National Park.
READ MORE: Costa Rica Animals
Chinese Water Deer
More similar to a Musk Deer than a true Deer, Water Deer are proficient swimmers who live along the rivers and islands of China and Korea. But the Chinese subspecies is particularly unusual, with no antlers and prominent tusks (which are actually elongated canine teeth) that led to its English nickname, the Vampire Deer. Able to win for several miles, the Chinese Water Deer can also pull their canines tusks back by using their facial muscles.
Lowland Streaked Tenrec
Genetically, the Tenrec is like a cross between a shrew, an opossum and an otter, with a 5-6 inch body, long snout and vestigial tail. The streaked tenrec is the only mammal known to use stridulation for generating sound, a method more commonly associated with insects and snakes. Found only in the rainforests of Madagascar, its bright yellow stripes and barbed quills signal danger for predators, especially when the Tenrec vibrates them.
READ MORE: Madagascar Animals
This large wild goat grazes on grass and lives in mountain ranges from Afghanistan to northern India, but it’s the national animal of Pakistan. The male Markhor can grow to over 200 pounds, has a crazy amount of hair on their chin and chest, and boasts spectacular spiraling horns atop their heads. The world’s population got down to around 2,500, but has rebounded by 20% in the last decade. Its Persian name translates as “snake eater,” and locals believe the foam they release while chewing cud can extract snakebite venom.
READ MORE: Markhor – Endangered Species Spotlight
Also known as the Coypu or river rat, this large, semi-aquatic rodent is native to subtropical South America. It’s also been introduced on other continents by fur ranchers, but its destructive feeding and burrowing behavior has turned it into an an invasive persona non grata. The nutria has front legs for excavating roots, rhizomes, and burrows, and webbed hind feet to aid in swimming. Weighing up to 37 pounds, they look a lot like the R.O.U.S. from The Princess Bride.