Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis)
This little weirdo hails from Madagascar and is able to boast to being the largest nocturnal primate on record, which I suppose is saying something, considering the size of its cousins. Named after French naturalist Jean-Louis-Marie Daubenton – who, incidentally, also gives his name to the island on which this creature is found – the Aye-aye is characterised by the odd way that it searches for food. It knocks on the door and takes what it wants, though far be it for me to mislead you, what it actually does is rap its knuckles on tree limbs to find grubs. It then uses its elongated middle digit to extract the grubs for a fine meal indeed. Though all this is overshadowed by the fact that the Aye-aye is one of the ugliest primates to exist, possibly excepting certain members of the homo-sapien genus; it kindly tops our list of 7 Seriously Strange Animals.
Blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus)
In a world where the neigbours are some of the oddest creatures around, the blobfish takes the cake for the weirdest thing to come out of the ocean since our earliest ancestors. This deep sea fish get its name, quite obviously, from its gooey-gelatinous body, which, while certainly a hindrance with the ladies, is actually how it’s able to live out its life in the depths of the ocean and remain largely out of our reach. Where most fish use gas-bladders to regulate their depth, the blobfish lives at a depth that requires a little ingenuity, enter is silly putty like flesh. Blobfish flesh is only slightly more dense than the water it lives in, it is almost entirely without muscle tissue – I’m guessing that makes it the target of much ridicule amongst its social circle.
Yeti Crab (Kiwa hirsuta)
A relatively new addition to weird animal lists, the Yeti Crab was found in the South Pacific in 2005 by a group of marine biologists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Its name pays homage to a cryptid that is near and dear to my own heart and characterises the odd hair-like fur that covers all of its appendages. Researchers believe the fur serves to detoxify poisonous minerals from the water that are emitted by hydrothermal vents in its habitat. The Yeti Crab is also, among other things, a blind albino, which is an unusual characteristic to say the least.
Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus)
An oldie but a goodie, the platypus has long been one of the weirdest animals on the planet. For years it defied classification, this semi-aquatic, egg-laying, venomous, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed mammal confounded European naturalists upon its discovery in 1799, with some considering it to be an elaborate fraud. The “unique” features of the platypus make it an important subject in the study of evolutionary biology and a recognisable and iconic symbol of Australia.
Halibut (Pleuronectidae Hippoglossus)
Now, some of you may be wondering why I would include such a delicious and wildly popular menu item…err fish, but I’m going to bet that nearly all of you have no idea how weird this fish really is. Halibut is a flatfish, from the family of right-eye flounders, and that should give you a clue to my reason for including it. A bottom feeder, the halibut starts life like any other fish, hatched from an egg and swimming with a vertical body structure. Though what you might not expect is that this fish is a real life transformer. When this fish reaches the ripe old age of six months, one of its eyes spontaneously migrates around to the other side of its head (so that both eyes are on one side) and it simply…lies down. Spending its adult life laying on its side, halibut are farmed by housing them in underwater shelving units, literally stacking them on top of the other. I bet you’ll never look at fish & chips the same way again.
Dugong (Dugong dugon)
The Dugong, as mentioned in my recent piece titled A Mermaid’s Song, is both strange and wondrous. A member of the order sirenia, dugongs are basically…Sea Cows, mammoth and lumbering, it’s an odd thing that they’re famous for having been mistaken as mermaids by lonely fishermen. Their days consist of lazing about in the shallow coastal waters of 37 different nations, munching on kelp and other goodies found on the seabed and watching out for marine predators like sharks, killer whales and crocodiles. One look at the picture and you have to wonder how anyone could mistake that mug for beautiful woman.
Rock Climbing Catfish (Lithogenes wahari)
People were shocked to find the fish with “hands” – and now scientists are even more shocked to find a fish that happens to be a skilled rock climber. It would seem the march of evolution is indeed inexorable. The newfound catfish, Lithogenes wahari, shares traits with two different families of fish — Loricariidae (armoured catfishes) and Astroblepidae (climbing catfishes). It has bony armour that protects its head and tail, and a grasping pelvic fin that helps it to climb vertical surfaces such as rocks.