Jerboas are hopping rodents that thrive in the deserts
of Northern Africa and Asia. Despite their status as prey animals, these adorable kangaroo-like creatures make do just fine thanks to their excellent hearing and ability to run up to 15 miles per hour.
Also known as “thumb splitters,” these vibrant crustaceans are named in honor of their powerful claws, which can spear, stun and dismember prey with 200 pounds of force. In addition to their predatory tendencies, mantis shrimp are also distinguished for their impressive visual capabilities. The eyes of these psychedelic sea critters are equipped with 12 color receptors
— humans and most other animals only have three. Scientists speculate this might enable them to process color information quickly within the eye instead going through the brain.
Native to the freshwater swamps of tropical east Africa, these large, cartoon-like avians are known for their uniquely bulbous beaks
. They are classified as a “vulnerable” species due to human disturbances, habitat destruction and hunting.
Hailing from the arid, scorching sands of the Sahara desert, these cute nocturnal canids
are known for their extra large ears, which dissipate heat and are sensitive enough to allow them to hear prey from underground.
You might be surprised to learn that this beautiful sea critter (also known as a sea swallow or blue dragon) is actually a sea slug
. The blue and silvery mollusk is known to feed off cnidarians
like the venomous Portuguese Man o’ War
. What makes these gorgeous slugs even more fascinating is their practice of storing the cnidarians’s stinging nematocysts within its own tissues — ensuring a painful sting to anyone who messes with it.
These unusual creatures were once mistaken by early European explorers as “African unicorns
” before being formally recognized and classified as Okapia johnstoni
in 1901. Although they may bear zebra-like stripes, these endangered ungulates are more closely related to giraffes.
Found in the tropical rainforests of subsaharan Africa, bush vipers are venomous snakes
known for their distinctly keeled scales. Their strong prehensile tails
are perfect for supporting their weight in trees, where they spend the majority of their lives hanging and ambushing their prey.
The clown-like, bulbous nose of this arboreal Old World monkey is hard to miss. Often exceeding 4 inches, the prominent proboscis is a result of sexual dimorphism
; it is only found in males.
Lowland streaked tenrec
This quirky little guy is native to the tropical lowland forests of eastern Madagascar
. The streaked tenrec is equipped with two sets of quills: barbed and nonbarbed. Similar to a porcupine, the barbed quills are used as a means of a defense against predators. The nonbarbed quills, on the other hand, are vibrated in order to emit a faint chattering that is used to communicate with family.
Make no mistake — those tree trunks seen above are not saplings. That’s right, those crabs
are huge! Growing up to a meter in length from leg to leg, these terrestrial hermit crabs
are the largest land-living arthropods in the world. Although they are omnivores that have been known to consume turtle hatchlings, they generally prefer to eat fleshy fruits and, you guessed it, coconuts!
With its humming, hovering and long, thin proboscis, it’s no wonder this species is having an identity crisis. That said, Macroglossum stellatarum
is most definitely a moth, and its resemblance to a hummingbird
is the result of convergent evolution.
Along with the giant squid
and the Japanese spider crab, these squirm-inducing arthropods are a prime example of deep sea gigantism. If you’re not familiar with the giant isopod, look no further than the common wood louse, which is its terrestrial cousin. Both species have the ability to curl up into a ball to protect themselves from predators.
Catie Leary is a photo editor at Mother Nature Network.