5 Weirdest Rodent
A naked mole-rat, though generally undressed, is neither a mole nor a rat. It’s related to the guinea pig and porcupine, resemblances that would be more evident if it had more fur. Naked mole-rats are incredibly fast runners, but strangely, they can run backward just as fast as they can run forward. With about 25 percent of its muscle mass resting in its jaws, a naked mole-rat can chew through concrete. Oh, and it eats its own poop to help it absorb more nutrients from its food.
4 Weirdest Self-Defense Mechanism
You’ve heard of creatures that spit or spray their enemies to ward off attacks, but the Malaysian exploding ant takes that concept to an extreme. When one of these insects feels threatened, it contracts its core muscles so powerfully that its body explodes, it glands throwing poison in every direction. “It comes out of their mouth, it comes out of their behind, it breaks through the exoskeleton and it’s a mess. It’s like toothpaste and it’s sticky,” says the University of Utah’s Steve Cook. Timing is everything, of course. The ant waits until its enemy is close enough to die before blowing up.
3 Most Likely to Confuse
The word “platypus” is Greek for either “bird-snout,” “duck-like,” “flat” or “foot,” and that seems fitting, as many things about this animal induce head scratching. It has a bill like a duck’s, a tail like a beaver’s, feet like an otter’s and, although it’s a mammal, it lays eggs. It’s no wonder naturalists were baffled by the platypus when they first encountered it. Few mammals are poisonous, but this one is. A male platypus has a venomous spur on its hind foot, just in case its appearance doesn’t scare off potential enemies. Featured on the back of Australia’s 20-cent coin, this animal has made its mark in the minds of weird-creature enthusiasts.
2 Longest-Living Baby
If you’re ever wading in the waters near a cave in eastern Europe and bump into a long, skinny amphibian with human-like skin, don’t fret. The olm, which lives most of its life in dark underground caves, is completely blind and doesn’t have much of an appetite. This creature is a member of the proteids, an order of salamanders that just don’t want to grow up. Instead, an olm remains a larva–with skin covering its eyes, a tail fin and feathery gills–for its whopping 100-year life. It doesn’t adhere to the “three meals a day” rule, either. An olm can go 10 years without eating anything.
1 Weirdest Habitat
The pearlfish may have a lovely name, but its habitat doesn’t quite live up to it. When this fish reaches adulthood, it makes its permanent home inside the anus of a sea cucumber, peeking out intermittently to hunt for invertebrates or just to admire its underwater yard. Its finless, scale-free, eel-like body allows it to come and go as it pleases with ease. It isn’t the most gracious tenant, however. A pearlfish will occasionally take advantage of convenience and snack on its landlord’s gonads and other organs.