9 Unique Animals That You Won’t Believe Exist

Discover nine of the Earth's most unique creatures that you won't believe exist. Some include the blue dragon, mara, and aye-aye.

Jun 15, 2024byDonna Hobson
unique animals that you wont believe exist

The Earth houses more than eight million species, and it’s no surprise that these creatures come in various shapes and sizes. Still, some animals are stranger than others and possess some truly unique characteristics and abilities.

From the rodent that can survive without water or oxygen to the fish that permanently wears bright red lipstick, here are some of the most unique creatures on Earth.

Mara: Not a Kangaroo or a Rabbit

patagonian mara
Image credit: Needpix.com

A mara is a large desert rodent that looks like a cross between a kangaroo and hare. Mara are often found in the Australian Bush; they are very shy and will try to avoid humans at all costs. They can be seen hopping around in the grasslands of Australia, but they tend to stay hidden from view.

The mara is impressively agile and can jump up to two meters off the ground with specialized leg bones designed for absorbing heavy impacts. In addition, they are the world’s fastest rodents and can reach speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. Like cheetahs, they’re among the fastest animals on Earth!

Blue Dragon, an Ocean-Dwelling Sea Slug

blue dragon fish
Image credit: CNN

The blue dragon is a venomous sea creature that lives in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. This sea slug is often noted for its colorful appearance, which it uses against camouflage against the aqua hue of the water. If this method of disguise fails, it carries a vicious sting as a unique defense mechanism.

This slug swallows air bubbles to allow it to float on the ocean’s surface; here, it floats upside down, exposing the blue and white color patterns on the bottom of its body. These vibrant creatures hunt highly toxic prey, so they possess a hard disc under the skin, making them immune to any stinger cells.

Aye-aye, the Largest Nocturnal Primate

aye aye madagascar
Image credit: RTHK

An aye-aye is a primate found in the forests of Madagascar, an island nation off the coast of Africa. Because of its isolation, many unique animal species have evolved there, including various types of lemurs.

Aye-ayes are the world’s largest nocturnal primate. They are also the only animal on Earth that uses echolocation to hunt for prey. They have large eyes, long fingers, and a bushy tail; the middle finger is a long, skeletal appendage that the aye-aye uses to tap on wood and listen for larvae. It also uses this digit to hook into trees and fish out the prey.

Red-Lipped Batfish: Makeup or More?

red lipped batfish
Image credit: The Verge

A red-lipped batfish is a fish that lives on seabeds off the coast of the Galapagos Islands and Peru. They grow up to 40cm but weigh less than 1kg and have light brown or grey coloration. Still, the most distinguishing feature of these fish is the bright red mouth that makes the creature look like it’s wearing lipstick.

Red-lipped batfish reside in deep ocean water zones, but they’re not good swimmers. If you observe one of these unique fish, you’ll see that they employ more of a walk than a swim as they traverse the ocean floor. The horn on the head of a red-lipped batfish is called an illicium and is used to emit light. This light is used to lure prey.

Saiga Antelope: Horns and a Hanging Nose

saiga antelope
Image credit: Reddit

Saiga antelopes are a critically endangered species of antelope that mainly live in the steppes of Central Asia. Their population dropped to around 165,000 following the collapse of the USSR when uncontrolled hunting increased, and there was a rise in Saiga horns for use in Chinese medicine. Between 1955 and 1989, more than five million of these unique antelopes were killed in Kazakhstan alone. Today, many efforts hope to bring this species back from the brink of extinction.

Saiga antelopes are unique creatures with distinctive appearances. Males have two horns on their heads, and both genders possess heavy wool-like fur. The most distinctive feature is the hanging nose, which looks like a cross between a camel mouth and an elephant trunk. This inflatable nose helps cool the animals down and also filters out dust kicked up by the rest of the herd.

Flying Fish: Fact, Not Fiction

flying fish in the ocean
Image credit: New Scientist

“Flying fish” might seem like an oxymoron, but these fascinating creatures really do exist, with some species that can remain in the air for more than 30 seconds.

The most distinguishing feature of this type of fish is its large, wing-like pectoral fins. These fins allow them to glide through the water for short distances and even fly out of the water for a short time before returning to their home in the sea. These fish don’t really “fly,” though; they glide on wings that they developed during the time of the dinosaurs.

Flying fish are often seen leaping out of water during daylight hours, which has led researchers to believe that they are trying to escape predators like dolphins or sharks.

Fossa: A Lemur-Eating Mammal

fossa madagascar
Image credit: Mongabay

The fossa is a carnivorous mammal unique to Africa that primarily eats lemurs. The fossa’s diet also includes small animals such as birds, rodents, and lizards. It has also been known to eat fruit and eggs from the nests of birds.

These agile creatures have long claws on their front paws, and they are one of the few mammals with semi-retractable claws and flexible ankles that allow them to climb up and down trees headfirst. They are Madagascar’s largest predator, with a body length of up to 31 inches, but they usually hunt alone unless it is breeding season.

The Naked Mole Rat: a Misleading Name

naked mole rat rodent
Image credit: AAAS

Naked mole rats are a species of rodent that lives in large colonies in underground burrows. Despite their name, they are neither a mole nor a rat; instead, they are most closely related to guinea pigs and porcupines. They are native to Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, where they inhabit dry and dark places.

Naked mole rats are characterized by their buck teeth, which they use for digging. These teeth can operate independently, working similarly to a pair of chopsticks, and a quarter of the mole rat’s entire mass is held in its powerful jaws. They have a low metabolic rate and can survive on very little oxygen. They also do not drink water as they get all the hydration they need from a plant-based diet.

These fascinating creatures are the longest-living rodents, with a lifespan of up to 30 years, and appear resistant to cancer.

Tanuki: a Japanese Canid

tanuki canine
Image credit: Qué es un tanuki

The tanuki is a Japanese animal with a raccoon-like face, an elongated body, and a short tail; hence, it is also known as the Japanese Raccoon Dog. But the tanuki is not related to the raccoon and is instead a member of the canid family related to wolves, dogs, and foxes.

The tanuki is a mythical animal in Japan, but it’s also very real. (You can find the tanuki in different shapes and sizes throughout Japan). They are often seen in folk tales as tricksters who use their shapeshifting abilities to take the form of other animals and objects to get what they want from humans or gods.

Donna Hobson
byDonna Hobson

Donna believes that keeping a pet is the key to a happy life. Over the years, many creatures have passed through her home - Sooty the cat, Millie the rabbit, Stuart (Little) the guinea pig, and Trixie the tortoise, alongside her pet goldfish, Zippy, who lived to the grand old age of 24 years! She currently resides with her black kitten Jinx and an aquarium full of fish and snails to entrance them both. When she is not looking after her pets, Donna enjoys researching and writing the answers to all your pet-related wonders.