When you think of the animal kingdom, you think about Noah’s Ark – we already know all of the animals on Earth, right? You couldn’t be more wrong, buddy. Science is continually discovering new life forms all over this wacky planet, and some of them are straight-up bizarre.
In this feature, we’ll shine a light on the ten weirdest creatures discovered in the 21st century.
Wandering Leg Sausage
Millipedes are notorious for their ability to grow to great sizes, but it took until 2012 for one of the largest to be discovered. Living in only one habitat – the Usambara Mountains of Tanzania – this massive insect is about a half inch wide and up to six inches long.
The scientific name, Crucifarmen, is derived from the Latin words for “foot” and “sausage,” as seeing one of these crawl past could give you the illusion that a hot dog has come alive and is making its way through the undergrowth.
Burmese Sneezing Monkey
Less than 300 of these monkeys, discovered in 2010, are known to survive in the Maw River region of Burma that they call home. They got their unusual name because of the evolutionary disadvantage bestowed upon them by their late-period Michael Jackson-ish nose.
The large nostrils and upturned tip cause them to be very sensitive to rainwater, so when the skies open up they sneeze uncontrollably. Unfortunately for the species, they are still being hunted by both local Burmese and Chinese tourists.
The act of mating in the animal kingdom is a wild one, with species doing all sorts of odd tricks to reproduce. One of the strangest newly-discovered animals is the Ninja Slug, a new species of long-tailed slug that calls the mountain forests of Borneo home.
The slug has a tail three times its body length, but that isn’t the weirdest part. When it comes time to seek a mate, the ninja slug secretes “darts” made of calcium carbonate that it shoots into females. The darts carry a powerful package of hormones that puts the lady slugs in the mood for love.
This curious amphibian doesn’t have a common name yet, having just been discovered in 2012, so may we suggest “micro-frog?” Paedophryne amanuensis holds the honor of being the world’s smallest vertebrate animal, measuring an adult length of less than a third of an inch.
Several of them can fit comfortably on a dime. The frogs live on land in Papua New Guinea and don’t go through a tadpole stage, hatching from eggs as miniature legged versions of their adult selves.
First discovered in the deep ocean off of California’s Monterey Bay, these bizarre-looking sponges are some of the sea’s most unique carnivores. They develop a framework of long, spindly vertical limbs that are covered with small barbed hooks. The sponges grip onto the ocean floor with root-like feet and then wait for crabs and other small animals to be blown through their limbs by ocean currents.
Once caught, a thin membrane is extruded to envelop and digest the luckless prey. The filaments are also used to capture packets of sperm released by the ball-like ends of the arms.
When you’re on the hunt for new species, sometimes you need to dig deep – literally. In 2011, scientists in South Africa were shocked when they spotted a black wormlike creature alive in soil samples taken from as deep as 2 miles underground – far deeper than any other known animal could live.
Halicephalobus mephisto, or the “Devil Worm,” is a type of nematode that can thrive in the intense heat and low oxygen levels deep in the earth, feeding on bacteria in drained groundwater that is centuries old.
The search for the legendary Abominable Snowman of the Himalayan mountains hasn’t found anything, but in 2006 scientists working in the deep seas south of Easter Island discovered the next best thing. Kiwa hirsuta is a blind deep-ocean crab that is covered with fine, silky blonde hair-like filaments.
It is thought to use them as a habitat for bacteria that detoxify the mineral-laden water that pumps out of deep-sea hydrothermal vents where it lives, but scientists still aren’t quite sure. It is a funny-looking bugger, though.
One of the most recent discoveries on this list is unusual simply because of its place in the food chain. Tons of new insects and invertebrates are discovered every year. A little fewer fish and reptiles.
But virtually no mammals, and especially no carnivorous mammals – until 2013, there hadn’t been a new carnivore found in over 30 years. That all changed when scientists found the olinguito, a small raccoon-like animal that lives in the cloudy alpine forests of Colombia and Ecuador.
Yellow dyer rain frog
Animals evolve all kinds of tricks to keep from being eaten, but the recently-discovered yellow dyer rain frog has a pretty weird one. The bright coloration of the amphibian, which lives in the mountains of western Panama, is a signal that it doesn’t taste good, but that coloration doesn’t just stick to the frog.
It actually comes off on the skin of animals that handle it. Scientists examined the golden secretions but couldn’t detect any toxic elements in it, so the purpose of the dye is still unknown.
Next: Animals Doing Human Things
Some of these new animals aren’t that new at all – scientists believe that the Atewa dinospider has existed virtually unchanged on this planet for something like 300 million years. That means they lived through the age of the dinosaurs and they’ll probably outlive us too.
The crablike arachnids live in the Atewa Range Forest Preserve in Ghana, where they grow to a maximum width of just under half an inch and feed on termites and ant larvae.