Weird Critters

The world is full of amazing animals, which are truly fascinating, and incredibly interesting. So come along with me, as we take a tour through the wacky wonderland of weird and strange animals throughout the world.


LyrebirdCredit: wikipedia

Lyrebirds are native to Australia and they are famous for their extraordinary powers of mimicry, and very interesting courtship displays.

The name lyrebird, came about when a taxidermist at the British Museum, who had never actually seen a live lyrebird, arranged the taxidermised specimen, with its tail resembling the instrument called a lyre. It was a nice idea. It just wasn't true. However the name stuck.

What is really amazing about the fascinating lyre bird, is that it can mimic the song of other birds and the sounds of things like: dogs, chainsaws, car engines, fire engines, babies crying and the human voice. One researcher studying lyre birds, even recorded these birds making sounds like a flute playing. It was later found, that a flute player lived in the vicinity and would play his flute to his pet lyre bird.

Lyrebirds are quite shy and if discovered in the bush, eating some worms, spiders or snails, they are likely to run off shrieking with alarm. They rarely fly. However when it is time for courtship, they make dirt mounds and spread their tail and begin prancing, dancing and singing, in order to attract a mate. The male bird then proceeds to mate with several females. But he takes no part in building nests or bringing up the young.

A Zonkey or Zedonk

ZedonkCredit: wikipedia

A hybrid animal between a donkey and a zebra, the zonkey, is the result of mating between a female donkey and a male zebra. A zedonk on the other hand, is the result of a coupling between a female zebra and male donkey.

Zebras and donkeys are often kept together, as donkeys have a calming effect on the more skittish zebras. A zedonk, born at Chestatee Wildlife Preserve at Dahlonega in Georgia USA, in 2010, acts more like a zebra than a donkey, as rather than laying on its side, it sits upright, alert for predators. These hybrids are generally sterile however.

Giant Squid

Giant SquidCredit: wikipedia

The habitat of the giant squid is very deep within the ocean. Only recently have these strange alien creatures been filmed alive in this habitat, when The University of Queensland teamed up with the Discovery Channel (and others).

The giant squid lives between 600m to 1km deep in the ocean and they can grow up to 18 metres in length, with two long tentacles being up to two thirds of that length.

Giant squid eyeCredit: wikipedia

Legendary stories about giant squid have been common since ancient times, with tall tales expounding the view, that these creatures can grow up to 75 metres long. An article published in Scientific American however, says that there has been no evidence of such sizes being found in giant squid, when examining the 677 or so specimens, which have been found or caught since the 16th century (journal Biological Conservation). The largest specimen ever found, was on a New Zealand beach in 1980. It was 20 metres long.

Giant squids however do have the biggest eyeballs on the planet, as they are about as big as a human head.

The Immortal Jellyfish

Imortal Jelly fishCredit: wikipedia

The imortal jelly fish (Turritopsis nutricula) is about as tall as it is wide. The most amazing thing about this animal, is that theoretically it is biologically immortal. This is due to the process of transdifferentiation, whereby the jelly fish "alters the differentiated state of the cell and transforms it into a new cell". However, predators and disease often kill off the jelly fish, before they revert to the polyp form.

Currently no jelly fish specimen, has been observed for a long enough period, to see if the potential for immortality is possible.

The Anglerfish

Angler fishCredit: Flickr garyrobson

When scientist started to study the anglerfish, they were puzzled as to why these fish had, what looked like parasites attached to them. Soon all was revealed.

Male anglerfish so it seems, have only one life aim and that is to find a female anglerfish, to attach themselves to. The male, which is much smaller than the female, also often has a stunted gut and can't eat. They can however, use their olfactory senses to find a female, and latch onto her side.

After the male bites into the females skin, an enzyme is released, which fuses the pair together. The male  however atrophies and all that is left of him is a pair of gonads (testes).

When the female is ready for reproduction, a hormone is released and the waiting gonads oblige, and sperm is released. Multiple males are usually attached to a single female.


KoalaCredit: wikipedia

Native to Australia, the koala is much more interesting than you may suppose.

Koalas descended from terrestrial wombat-like animals. Fossils however are quite rare. The oldest koala fossils which have been found, are dated as being about 20 million years old. About 50,000 years ago giant koalas existed, with other megafauna species. Giant koalas weighed about 29 lb (13 kg).

The fingerprints of a koala are similar to humans and are very difficult to tell apart; even using an electron microscope. The koala however, is quite different to humans, in that males have a bifurcated penis (two-pronged penis) and females have two lateral vaginas and two separate uteri.

Koalas pretty much only eat eucalyptus leaves, which is amazing considering that these leaves have very little protein and are toxic to most other animals. Koalas do however, have to spend up to five hours a day eating the 500 g (18 oz) or so leaves, that they must consume each day.

For some reason, female koalas kept in captivity often reject males and mate with same-sex partners. Often multiple females at a time mount one another. Scientists have noted and recorded, three homosexual interactions for every heterosexual one (journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science).

Prairie dog

Prairie dogCredit: wikipedia

Prairie dogs are burrowing rodents native to North America. One of the most interesting things about prairie dogs, is that they can 'talk' and according to scientists, they can even describe what humans look like.

Professor Con Slobodchikoff has been studying prairie dogs for 30 years and he claims that these animals have a sophisticated means of communication, with about 100 words in their vocabulary.

Prairie dogs can discriminate between different predator types. Such as if the predator is a dog or coyote, and even between different types of birds.

Professor Slobodchikoff and his students who recorded and deciphered the calls of the prairie dogs, even found that these animals would make different calls to discriminate between humans, who wore different shirt colours or who were of different heights.

Multi-Headed Animals

Two headed turtleCredit: Flickr Orin Zebest

All animals, like humans can be born with a range of deformities. Polycephaly however, is when an animal has more than one head. This is a relatively common occurrence in some animals. Two headed creatures are also a popular symbol in heraldry and mythology i.e. the double-headed eagle.

Two headed animals result from the failed separation of monozygotic twins. The most commonly observed examples are: two-headed turtles and snakes. Recently however, a two-headed kitten was born in Perth, Australia, which had both mouths meowing at the same time (how adorable!).

2 Headed calfCredit: Flickr Ryan Somma
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