Have you ever heard of a snub-nosed monkey or a pangolin? What about a maned wolf or a platypus? There are some truly bizarre and fascinating mammals out there that you’ve probably never heard of! In this blog post, we’ll explore 10 of the weirdest mammals on planet Earth. Get ready to meet some crazy critters!
Snub-Nosed Monkeys Have Hilariously Squished Faces
The snub-nosed monkeys of China and Myanmar have super squished faces that look like someone smushed them with a frying pan! They have almost no nose at all, just tiny nostrils that are pointed upward. Their mouths also protrude outward, making them look like grumpy old men.
There are 5 species of snub-nosed monkeys, including the golden snub-nosed monkey, black snub-nosed monkey, and gray snub-nosed monkey. They live high up in the mountain forests of Asia. Their unique adaption helps them survive the thin, cold air of high elevations. The squished nose warms up the air before it enters their lungs.
These monkeys are seriously goofy looking. You can’t help but laugh when you see their grumpy mugs! But don’t let the funny faces fool you. Snub-nosed monkeys are highly intelligent and great problem solvers. They even use rocks as tools to crack open nuts and seeds. Who knew such a silly face could belong to such a smart primate?
Pangolins Are Covered in Crazy Scales
You might think pangolins look more like pinecones than mammals! Found in Africa and Asia, these odd anteaters are covered from head to tail in large, overlapping scales made of keratin (the same material in our fingernails). When pangolins feel threatened, they can actually roll up into a tight ball like a pinecone, with the scales acting as armor.
There are 8 species of pangolin, including the giant ground pangolin, Chinese pangolin, and Sunda pangolin. They use their long, sticky tongues to slurp up ants and termites. The scales come in handy to protect them from the angry ants as they raid nests! Sadly, pangolin scales are highly valued in traditional Chinese medicine, making them the most trafficked mammals on Earth. Let’s hope we can protect these walking pinecones!
The Maned Wolf Looks Like a Fox on Stilts
The maned wolf is definitely a weird one. Native to South America, it looks like a fox hopped up on a pair of stilts! They have very long, slender legs and small chests. Their reddish-colored fur also resembles a fox. But despite the looks, the maned wolf is not actually related to foxes. They are the only species in the genus Chrysocyon.
The maned wolf uses its long legs to spot prey over the tall grasses of the savanna. Their diet is omnivorous, consisting of small mammals, birds, and fruit. They are solitary animals and scent mark their territory. You may hear their distinctive roar-bark calls echoing across the grasslands at night. Their long legs helped earn them the nickname “stilt-legged fox.” Very appropriate for these oddball canids!
Platypuses Are Duck-Billed, Egg-Laying Mammals
One of the weirdest mammals is undeniably the platypus. Found in Australia, this animal looks like a mad scientist smashed together a duck bill, a beaver tail, and an otter body. Oh, and they also lay eggs despite being mammals!
Platypuses have thick waterproof fur, webbed feet great for swimming, and flat duck-like bills that they use to detect electrical signals from prey. While the females do lay eggs, they still produce milk and have no belly button.
These duck-billed, egg-laying, electro-sensing creatures are truly one of a kind. Early European scientists thought the first platypus specimen sent back home was an elaborate prank! Who can blame them? The platypus continues to baffle biologists. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, the platypus shows up looking like something out of a cartoon.
Bat-Eared Foxes Have Massive Satellite Dishes for Ears
Found in Africa, the adorable bat-eared fox has ears that would put satellite dishes to shame! Their ears make up a third of their entire body length. And they serve a valuable purpose beyond hearing.
The large ears of the bat-eared fox are filled with blood vessels that help dissipate heat. This allows them to tolerate the sweltering daytime temperatures on the African savanna. Their ears also communicate mood, with back-folded ears signaling aggression.
In addition to massive ears, bat-eared foxes have bushy black-tipped tails and sandy-colored fur. They feed mostly on insects like termites and dine in pairs or small family groups. You’ll know them when you see them thanks to those enormous ears fanned out on each side of their head. The bat-eared fox proves big ears can be beautiful!
Echidnas Are Spiky Mammals That Lay Eggs
Along with their cousin the platypus, echidnas have the distinction of being egg-laying mammals. There are four living species, all found in Australia and New Guinea. Echidnas are covered head to toe in long, sharp spines made of keratin. Talk about the ultimate defense against predators!
Echidnas use their long snout and sticky tongue to feast on ants, termites, and other insects. The short-beaked echidna has tiny spikes on the tip of its tongue to spear prey! They use their beak to break into nests and expose all that delicious insect larvae.
Beyond the spines, egg laying, and insect-eating, echidnas are weird for another reason. They reproduce by sweating milk. Female echidnas have a milk patch with no nipple. Their young lap up the milk that oozes from the patch. With all these quirks, echidnas are truly one of the strangest mammals around.
Babirusas Have Impressively Bizarre Tusks
The babirusa, also called a deer-pig, is a strange-looking pig from the islands of Indonesia. The males are distinguished by their long, upward curving tusks that protrude through their snout. These tusks can grow so dramatically that they actually puncture the skull and curl back towards the forehead! Ouch.
In addition to the funky tusks, babirusas also have sparse, bristly hair and thick grey to brown skin. They feast on roots, berries, mushrooms and other forest fare. Unfortunately their numbers are declining due to hunting and deforestation. Let’s hope we don’t lose these goofy pigs with the funky fangs.
Narwhals Are Beloved for Their Unicorn-Like Tusks
If you crossed a whale with a unicorn you’d get a narwhal! These Arctic-dwelling whales are known and loved for their long, twisted tusks that protrude from their heads. While the tusk resembles a majestic unicorn horn, it is actually an enlarged canine tooth. Male narwhals typically have tusks, while females have a smaller tusk or no tusk at all.
In additional to the impressive tusk, narwhals have torpedo-shaped bodies, mottled black and white coloration, and a lack of dorsal fin. Their diet consists of fish, squid, and shrimp which they eat by sucking up prey in ocean waters. Narwhals are skilled divers and can swim up to 1.5 miles below the ocean surface!
With their magical tusks and elusive nature, it’s no wonder narwhals have captured human imagination for centuries. These whales demonstrate that sometimes reality is as enchanting as fantasy!
Hammerhead Bats Have Freaky Wide-Set Eyes and Ears
Take one look at a hammerhead bat and you’ll see how they got their name. Their eyes and ears are positioned at the edges of a unique hammer-shaped head. This gives them a field of vision and hearing wider than any other bat species.
There are approximately 20 species of hammerhead bat including the big-lipped bat, southeast Asian tailless leaf-nosed bat, and greater hammerhead bat. They use their specialized head shape to hunt insects at night. By scanning their wide set eyes and ears back and forth, they can detect more insects in the dark.
Binturongs Smell Like Buttery Popcorn
You may not have heard of the binturong, but you’d certainly smell one coming! These shaggy jungle mammals smell strongly of buttery popcorn or corn chips. They release the scent from glands near their tail. Why do they smell this way? It marks territory and lets potential mates know they are ready for breeding.
Beyond the buttery aroma, binturongs have long bodies, dense fur, and prehensile tails great for gripping tree branches. They are found in the jungle treetops of Southeast Asia where they hunt birds, insects, small mammals, and fruit. Their facultative bipedalism allows them to stand on two legs and balance using their tail.