Check out these amazingly unique animals.
Photo credit: Vladimir Yu. Arkhipov, Arkhivov/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
The saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica) are recognizable by their oversized, flexible snout structure, the proboscis, that work like an air filtration system.
The antelope are currently considered critically endangered, due to poaching and smuggling, since their horns are in demand for traditional Chinese medicine. This has completed wiped out the species in China and only 50,000 are estimated to be left in world.
Their situation has been made even worse by a mysterious epidemic that causes massive herd die-offs. Once a herd is infected, all the antelope in the group are guaranteed to die.
Photo credit: National Institute of Standards and Technology (CC0)
Narwhals (Monodon monoceros) are actually not whales at all — they are porpoises with an ivory tusk tooth that sticks out of their upper lip, resembling a horn. The tooth can grow up to nine feet in males and it is used for mating rituals and fighting, and even has sensory capabilities, with millions of nerve endings, possibly used to find food.
They are considered near threatened, with an estimated 80,000 remaining in the wild. Narwhals live year-round in the Arctic waters around Greenland, Canada, and Russia.
Photo credit: Frank Vassen/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
How cute is this little guy? Known as the streaked tenrec (Hemicentetes semispinosus), this tiny, hedgehog-like animal is the only known mammal to communicate through stridulation. Stridulation is the act of producing sound by rubbing together certain body parts, and the tenrecs use a set of quills to communicate in the dark. In fact, these mammals communicate constantly, but do it at such a high pitch that human ears can’t hear them.
Superb Bird of Paradise
Male superb birds of paradise (Lophorina superba) have a bright blue breast shield and nape feathers that can also be used as a cape. When a male bird is searching for a mate, first he will clear a “dance floor” and then fan out his nape feathers, creating a disc-shape appearance that resembles a neon blue and black smiley face. You have to see it to believe it!
Photo credit: Christopher Watson/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
This little guy would be terrifying if he were big, but at this size… adorable! The thorny devil (Moloch horridus), is a tiny lizard covered in uncalcified conical spines and feeds entirely on ants. Native to Australia, the devil also has a spiny “false head” made of soft tissue located at the back of its neck that acts as a decoy for predators.
Not only do the spikes protect them from predators, they also have the ability to change color with the weather — yellow and red when it’s warm, and darker shades of brown and black when it’s cool.
Photo credit: ErikAdamsson/Wikimedia Commons (CC0)
I want to suck your blood! is not something this deer would ever say. The term “vampire deer” is actually a nickname for different varieties of the musk deer (Moschus). Only male deers have long canine teeth which protrude from the upper jaw and they use them to compete for mates, not for sucking blood.
Musk deer live mainly in forested and alpine habitats in the mountains of southern Asia, like the Himalayas.
Photo credit: Imtorn/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)
The blue dragon (Glaucus atlanticus) is not actually a dragon. It is a small, blue sea slug that is pelagic (floats upside down in the open sea using the surface tension of the water to stay afloat, where it is carried along by wind and ocean currents). Floating upside-down camouflages the slugs, with the blue side of their bodies facing upwards, blending in with the blue of the water and the silver/grey side of the slugs facing downwards, blending in with the surface of the ocean.
They feed on a venomous cnidarian, also known as the Portuguese man o' war. To protect themselves from predators, the blue slug stores stinging nematocysts, taken from its cnidarian prey, in its own finger-like appendages, which produce a very painful and potentially dangerous sting — even to humans!
Hat-tip: Business Insider