Animals are an essential part of the ecosystem. They come in all sizes and adaptations. From the big five of the sea and land to the tiny insects, they complete our ecosystem. However, other animals look completely weird and unreal. Some of these weird-looking animals are believed to have evolved after the mass extinction that wiped out the entire living things about 65 million years ago. From a glass-like a caterpillar to a leafy sea dragon, here are ten weird-looking animals you never knew existed.
1. The panda ant is a black-and-white-colored ant that was first discovered in 1938 in Chile. They use the colors to warn their enemies – a condition called “aposematic.”
If you look at panda ant from a distance, you would think it is just a regular ant. Its body shape resembles those of ants, but it is a type of wingless wasp. The panda ant was first discovered in Chile in 1938, and it is mostly found in the sclerophyll forests. This unique type of wasp has a white coloring covering its whole body with dotted black spots. This is where the name panda ant comes from because it is colored just like pandas. The female panda ant has thicker fur than their male counterparts, and that distinguishes them as the females. This characteristic is referred to as “sexual dimorphism.” The female panda ants also have no wings, but the males have wings.
The white and black colors are not only for decoration but also give the ant aposematic features. This means the colors serve as a warning to predators and enemies. Other powerful defense mechanisms the panda ant possess are a painful sting, audible squeaking, and a sturdy exoskeleton.
Differentiating between a male and female panda ant is possible because they possess different and unique characteristics. The male panda ant is larger than the female panda ant and has wings. The female panda ant, on the other hand, is wingless with thick fur and are smaller. The ants have a life span of two years, and every year, on average, the female lays about 2,000 eggs. Despite the massive number of eggs laid, the survival rate of these ants is low and they are at risk of extinction. (source)
2. The leafy seadragon is a seaweed-looking marine fish found only in southern Australian waters.
Here is another creature that looks unreal. You might be thinking that it is seaweed. Uncanny, but the truth is this is a type of fish found mainly in western and southern Australian waters. The leaf-like protrusions on its body are not for swimming, either. They give the dragon fish camouflage characteristics that blend in perfectly with seaweed.
They move in the water using the invisible pectoral fins near their neck and have a dorsal fin on their tail. The ridges are undetectable, making the fish in the water look like floating seaweed. Unlike other creatures, the male leafy seadragons carry eggs to full term and hatch them. The female leafy seadragon will deposit up to two hundred and fifty bright, pink eggs onto the male’s tail. The male will then carry the eggs for nine weeks, and then the little leafy seadragons will pop out. Research shows that only five percent of the eggs survive.
Leafy seadragons’ inability to move faster put them at risk of threats. Sea storms sweep these unique creatures up onto the shores because of their failure to hold onto something like seahorses do. Also, divers often pluck them from the sea and keep them as pets. This action led to a massive reduction of their population in the early 90s. The Australian government had to put in place an act to protect the endangered species. Ever since then, acquiring/possessing a leafy seadragon is a costly affair with prices ranging from $10,000 to $15,000 per leafy seadragon. (1, 2)
3. The jeweled caterpillar is found mostly in the mangrove forests of Southern and Central America. Their near-transparent body with red spikes makes them look like jewels.
This is the world’s most stunning and living-diamond-like creature. Jeweled caterpillars look so beautiful, stunning, and unreal because of their near-transparent body. However, the glass-like body is not wet it looks to be. It is a sticky goop that acts as the caterpillar’s protective gear against its enemies. Daceridae, as it is scientifically known, belongs to the family of moths called zygaenoid. They are mostly found in the mangrove forests of the South and Central America, especially in Costa Rica, Mexico, and the Caribean Islands.
These caterpillars are small in size and travel quickly. The size of this eye-popping creature is only half an inch. The red, spiky-like protrusions serve as a warning to its predators. Any insect trying to devour this jeweled caterpillar will get their mandibles stuck, and they will have a tough time removing them. This technique allows this vulnerable caterpillar to escape quickly. Despite its effective defensive mechanisms, jeweled caterpillars are susceptible to predation by the tachinid fly. The fly’s maggot attacks the caterpillar from its underside. It drills into the caterpillar and consumes it from the inside. So far, scientists are unable to establish the caterpillars’ stages in life, and what they are in adulthood. (1, 2)
4. The monitor lizard is a type of lizard that can stand upright on their hind limbs and appear to monitor their environment. They are mostly found in Africa, Asia, and Australia.
Monitor lizards are a type of reptile with the ability to stand on their hind limbs and inspect their surroundings. This is the origin of their name – monitor. Believed to have originated from Asia about sixty-five million years ago, these unreal-looking monitor lizards are mostly found in Africa, Asia, and Australia. The reptile’s diet is comprised of fish, birds, smaller reptiles, insects, mammals, amphibians, arachnids, and crustaceans. They use their fork-like tongues to detect smells.
Another interesting fact about the monitor lizard is that it is a delicacy to some communities around the world. In Asia and India, the locals consume monitor lizards for medicinal purposes only. Allegedly, the flesh is a rheumatic pain reliever while the abdominal fat relieves skin infections. Monitor lizards’ oil, on the other hand, is a perfect medicine for hemorrhoids and to relieve chronic pains.
In West Africa, Australia, Thailand, and the Philippines, the monitor lizard is eaten to complement the meat diet. On average, monitor lizards can grow to a length of three meters. Also, they have long necks, powerful limbs, and sharp claws that aid them in their predation. (source)
5. Mandarin ducks are native to East Asia and have relatives called the “wood duck” in North America. The males are red-billed with a white color above their eyes running to its back. The female mandarin is pale-billed with a slight, white color above its eye.
The mandarin duck is another creature that seems to be too beautiful and colorful to be a real animal. These ducks are mostly found in East Asia but have cousins in North America known as a “wood duck.” The male and female mandarin ducks differ significantly in characteristics. The male mandarin features the red bill, a red face, a largely white color above its eye, and a purple breast. The female, on the other hand, has a slight, white color running from its eye to the back and a pale bill.
After mating, the male mandarin duck will undergo molting and looks similar to the female mandarin except for its red bill. These beautified birds live in forested areas near rivers and lakes and feed mainly on insects, small fish, grains, and plants. Surprisingly, these unique birds have helped shape the cultures of communities from around the world. In the Chinese, Korean, and Japanese culture, they are regarded as a symbol of love and fidelity and are presented at weddings as gifts. (source)