15 Really Unreal Animals Explained
#15 … Predatory Tunicates (toon-i-cates) — They’re also known as the Venus Flytrap of the Sea, as will soon be apparent. These alien-looking creatures live in the deep-sea canyons off California. Staying rooted in place, they use their yawning, incandescent mouths as a lure, just waiting for some unsuspecting prey to swim by before snatching them up. What else can they do while staying in one place? Well, they can always mate with themselves if they can’t find a partner. There are worse ways to kill time.
#14 … Glasswing Butterfly — A butterfly with glass wings … must be some concoction dreamed up by a mad Photoshopper. But this is an actual insect, native to Central American rainforests from Mexico to Panama. The wings are actually translucent and it’s thought that they evolved this way in order to allow the insect hide from predators, not warn them off. Without the wings dark borders, the Glasswing Butterfly would be nearly invisible to the human eye.
#13 … Carpet Shark — That doesn’t sound as exotic as the creature’s other name … ‘tasseled wobbegong’, which sounds like a name from a Dr Seuss story. By the way, ‘wobbegong” means shaggy beard. While it looks more like a rug or blanket, this animal has jagged teeth and a mouth big enough to swallow animals nearly their own size. They’re mostly found in the shallow waters of Indonesia and Australia, and can grow over 10 feet long. Keep in mind that these beasts use their unique markings to stay camouflaged in the sand, and unwary people have stepped on them. Step on this carpet and it could give you a nasty bite in return!
#12 … Gulper Eel — It’s also known as the Pelican Eel, thanks to its massive jaws that enable it to swallow prey as big as itself … and sometimes bigger! They like deep, tropical waters, and can live nearly 2 miles below the ocean surface. A luminous organ on the tip of its tail helps light its way since sunlight doesn’t reach the deeper depths. That organ also serves as a lure to attract fish, plankton, shrimp and other prey.
#11 … Okapi — Kind of looks like nature threw some spare animal parts together to create this creature. Either that or someone got cute with Photoshop. The Okapi are native to Central Africa, and can stand up to 6 and a half feet tall and weigh close to 800 pounds. It looks sorta-kinda of like a horse, but has a neck shaped like a giraffe’s and those distinctive zebra-like markings on its legs. It’s real, no digital enhancement required. Did you guess that it’s actually most closely related to the giraffe?
#10 … Black Swallower — This is a relatively small fish that lives in the deep water. A 10 inches long, the animal can chow down on animals twice its length and ten times its mass pretty easily. It has a grisly way of making its presence known to humans, though. In 2007, fishermen found a dead swallower floating off the coast of the Cayman Islands. This creature had gulped down a 34-inch mackerel. The meal was so super-sized that the mackerel started decomposing in the Swallower’s gut before it could digest the whole thing. The dead fish floated like a balloon to the water’s surface. Scientists have received most Black Swallowers in the exact same manner.
#9 … Lowland Streaked Tenrec — If a big yellowjacket and a hedgehog mated, the result might be this animal, which has a defense mechanism reminiscent of a porcupine. Those sharp yellow bristles provide great camouflage in the forest, but the animal also has spiky spines that grow between their fur. If a predator tries to attack, they’ll get a mouthful of spines for their trouble. They’re unique to the island of Madagascar. Because of their small size, around 6 inches long and weighing about 7 ounces, some people think they’re very cute and would make great pets … Just don’t pet it … you might get a handful of spines!
#8 … Big Brown Blob — In 2012, a huge sea creature was captured on video by a remote operated vehicle, or ROV. The ROV was studying a pipe for a deep-sea drilling operation near the UK when the creature appeared. A lot of theories circulated, including that this was all a hoax … But it turns out it wasn’t a hoax after all. It was identified as a “Deepstaria Enigmatica Jellyfish”. A very thin and translucent species of jellyfish that grows to over 30 feet wide.
#7 … Umbonia Spinosa — Their name sounds like a spell Harry Potter would invoke. These insects are thought to be related to cicadas and are native to South America and are also called Treehoppers. That big dorsal fin serves the purpose of discouraging predators like birds from eating it. They also love feasting on tree sap and have a very sweet diet. This causes them to produce a sugary excrement which is favored by ants and is called honeydew — sorry for the visual. But the ants get so addicted to this stuff that they become protective of these Treehoppers and will actually attack anything that tries to take one away. In effect, Umbonia Spinosa has its own bodyguards!
#6 … Narwhal Whale — If you ever wondered what the whale-unicorn hybrid might look like, the Narwhal is about as close as you’re likely to get. That long tusk is usually found on males, sprouting from the head and grow as long as 10 feet. The tusk is actually an enlarged tooth with close to 10 million nerve endings inside. They prefer the Arctic waters of Greenland, Canada, Norway and Russia, and can grow as long as 17 feet and weigh over two tons!
#5 … Giraffe Weevil — Interesting-looking to say the least it would make for a great new alien species in the movies. Native to Madagascar, the Giraffe Weevil’s name stems from it’s long neck, which is often up to 3 times longer in the males. They use that elongated neck to to fight other males over the right to mate with the females. They’re one of the longer weevil species, growing to approximately 2.5 centimeters. Along with that size and extended neck, the insects are further distinguished by its bright red wing covers. You won’t forget that look anytime soon.
#4 … There aren’t many pictures of this on the Internet, although it’s been described as a sea creature that resembles a miniature dragon. But there’s some reason to doubt the the authenticity of the photo. The resolution seems to be a bit low, and the picture is closely cropped … why can’t we see the animal in its entirety? Then there are claims that the creature was found in California but other sources say it was found in Indonesia. Well, one website ran some tests and according to their results, the picture was in fact photoshopped … what do you think?
#3 … Tree Kangaroo — Sure, kangaroos are known for hopping about … but did you know there’s a species of kangaroo that can actually live in the trees? They’re found in rainforests of Australia and Papua New Guinea. They wrap their forelimbs around the back of a tree, then hop against it with their strong hind legs, which lets the forelimbs slide upwards. Like their better-known cousins, these guys have amazing leaping abilities. Tree Kangaroos have been recorded jumping from trees to the ground at distances as high as 60 feet.
#2 … Christmas Tree Worm — Quick, is this a picture of two Christmas trees or is it a worm? It’s a worm, but their name gives it away, right? Kind of a trick question. Anyway, these worms live on tropical coral reefs around the world, and grow to about one and a half inches long. As you can see, it has two tree like protrusions originating from its body. While decorative, the brightly colored crowns are appendages the creature uses to breath with, and to catch its food, which is usually microscopic plants. What kind of present would you put under this Christmas tree?
#1 Pangolin — Looks like an anteater threw on some armor and wants to get medieval. This is the prehistoric-looking Pangolin, the only mammal on earth that’s covered in scales. They grow to about 39 inches long and live in Asia and Africa. When threatened, they’ll roll up into a ball, using the scales for protection. And though they resemble anteaters, new evidence shows they’re more closely related to the Carnivora, which includes bears and wolves. Unfortunately, Pangolin are the most trafficked animal on earth with over 100,000 captured every year across Africa and Asia. That’s put them on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of animals facing extinction.