Some are impossibly cute, looking like cartoon characters, while others are such bizarre combinations of animal features they were thought to be frauds at first glance. These seven mammals are among the world’s weirdest, with highly unusual looks, bodily features more commonly found in reptiles or birds, and surprising defense mechanisms.
The Incredibly Adorable Loris
(images via: wikimedia commons)
This creature is so cute it doesn’t seem real. The Slender Loris is a nocturnal primate with long, thin limbs and opposable thumbs found in the rainforests of Sri Lanka and Southern India. They curl up in little balls to sleep in groups of two to four, high in the treetops. A close relative, the Slow Loris, is just as cute: watch these two videos and you’ll understand. But be careful, because the Slow Loris possesses a trait that’s highly rare in mammals: a toxic bite.
As tempting as it may be to get one of these adorable, cartoon character-like animals as a pet, the international pet trade has resulted in a disturbing threat to their species. They don’t breed well in captivity, so they’re poached from the wild as babies, and the mothers are usually killed. Leave these precious animals in the wild, where they belong.
Suit of Armor: The Pangolin
(images via: project pangolin)
Pangolins look like anteaters, but they’re covered in overlapping scales made of keratin, with fur on their undersides. They have long, pointed snouts, and roll into balls as a defense mechanism, with the sharp-edged scales acting as armor. They can also spray a foul acid from glands near the anus, similar to a skunk. The long claws on its front legs enable climbing but make it difficult to walk, so they tuck them under when on all fours. They have extremely long tongues for lapping nectar, which retract deep into their abdominal cavities when not in use.
One of the most endangered mammals in the world, pangolins are threatened by habitat loss as well as poaching for the illegal wildlife trade. Their meat is considered a delicacy, and some people in China believe that their scales have medicinal qualities.
Sunda Colugo Lemur
(images via: psu, wikimedia commons)
Flying lemurs look like a bizarre mix of bats and squirrels, but they’re actually the closest relatives of primates. The Sunda Colugo lemur is equipped with ‘skin wings’ that enables it to glide from tree to tree in its forest habitats of Southeast Asia including Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula, Borneo and Java. This membrane is much larger than those of similar ‘flying’ mammals, like flying squirrels. It makes it possible for them to travel over 100 meters (328 feet) in a single glide.
(images via: encyclopedia of life)
The strange, complex wrinkled faces of this particular bat species (Centurio senex) have a number of functions you might not expect. The flaps of skin, which are more pronounced on males than females, contain storage pouches to hold fruit. The males have extra flaps containing scent glands that help them attract mates. The unusual shape of their skulls produces bite forces up to 20% higher than other bats of a similar size, so they can eat tougher fruit. The wrinkle-faced bat is technically classed as a leaf-nose bat, but doesn’t have a leaf nose.
(images via: mark herpel, eol)
Critically endangered, the saga antelope once inhabited a vast area of the Eurasian steppe zone, but is now found only in one location in Russia. It bears a highly distinctive face with an oversized, flexible tube-shaped nose that hangs down over its mouth. Less than 20 years ago, its population was over one million, so wildlife groups like World Wildlife Federation actually encouraged hunters to target them rather than rhinos for their horns. Intense poaching paired with the collapse of the Soviet Union caused their numbers to drop drastically in a very short period of time.
Weirdest of Them All: The Platypus
(images via: eol, wikimedia commons)
Often deemed the weirdest animal of them all, the platypus is a semi-aquatic mammal endemic to eastern Australia. It’s one of five species of ‘monotremes’, which are the only mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth. It almost seems like the creation of a crazed taxidermist putting together a Frankenstein’s monster: the bill of a duck, the tail of a beaver and the feet of an otter. It’s so weird, in fact, that it was once considered an elaborate fraud.
The male platypus has a spur on the hind foot containing venom that can cause severe pain in humans, making it one of the few venomous mammals. The pain is said to be so excruciating, victims are incapacitated. It can result in a heightened sensitivity to pain lasting anywhere from a few days to months.
Another fascinating fact about the platypus is the fact that it’s the only mammals aside from dolphins known to have a sense of electroreception, meaning they can detect electric fields generated by the muscular movement of prey. It closes its eyes, ears and nose each time it dives into the water, digs into the bottom of streams with its bill and uses its electroreceptors to find food like shrimp.