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Friday
Jan132012

Earth's Strangest Animals: Best of the Rest

It’s weird animal week here on Into the Wild. So far we’ve covered some of the most amazingly bizarre wildlife in our oceans, as well as picking our favourite freaks from the mammal family. So if you haven’t already checked those out, we advise you do so. However, if you’re ready for your next dose of the weird and the wonderful, please read on. To end this week of wacky wildlife, today we take a look at the best of the rest from the natural world.

Photo courtesy of Luc Viatour 

Orchid Praying Mantis

What: Hymenopus coronatus belongs to an order of insects containing over 2000 species, and is also known as the Malaysian orchid or pink orchid mantis.

Where: This particular species can be found in the southern rainforests of Asia such as those in Malaysia, Sumatra and Indonesia. As well as being found on orchids, they can also be found on papaya and frangipani trees, blending in perfectly to their surroundings.

Features: Like all praying mantises, the beautiful orchid mantis has evolved to camouflage itself amazingly well. Each of its legs looks incredibly similar to the leaf of an orchid petal. In addition to its appearance, the hunting ability of the praying mantis is one of nature’s truly amazing spectacles. An ambush predator, prey is caught with astonishing speed, usually using its spiked forelegs before devouring with its pincer-like mouth. Check out this amazing video of an orchid mantis being fed in captivity.

Platypus

What: Ornithorhynchus anatinus is a semi-aquatic mammal with such strange characteristics that it was considered an elaborate fraud when it was first discovered by scientists.

Where: It can be found in eastern Australia, including Tasmania.

Features: Where to begin? The platypus is one of only 5 mammals that lays eggs rather than giving birth to live offspring. Its physical appearance make it unmistakeable with its duck-billed head, beaver-like tail and otter-like feet. If this wasn’t crazy enough for you, the male of the species is also able to secrete venom from a spur in its hind legs. Lastly, the platypus is known to use electrolocation in finding its prey (small water animals such as shrimp).

Gharial

What: Gavialis gangeticus, also called the gavial is the only remaining member of the gavialidae family of crocodilians.

Where: Once found throughout the Indian subcontinent, gharials are now only present in a few areas on India and Nepal, such as the Chambal River.

Features: The gharial’s long and slender snout is its most recognisable characteristic and is excellent for catching fish, which is the gharials main food source. Its mouth is full of razor sharp teeth which interlock. It is the most aquatic of all the crocodilians and also one of the biggest, only exceeded in average length by the salt-water crocodile. Despite its great size, the gharial is not a threat to humans since its mouth is too narrow to swallow prey of this size. Have a look at Nick Baker talking about gharials.

Giant Chinese Salamander

What: This is the largest salamander, and amphibian in the world, growing up to an astonishing 6ft in length. Like many other amazing and critically endangered creatures, the giant Chinese salamander is considered a delicacy and used in traditional medicine by the Chinese.

Where: Unsurprisingly, the giant Chinese salamander is endemic to China, where it can be found in rocky streams and lakes.

Features: With a huge head and tiny eyes, the giant Chinese salamander hunts fish, frogs and insects. It finds prey using special sensory nodes running the length of its body, making up for its poor eyesight. As mentioned, it is the largest salamander, averaging slightly bigger than its close relative the giant Japanese salamander

Blobfish

What: This marine monster must have slipped our net the other day when we were looking at strange ocean dwellers…Not this time though! The blobfish is a deep sea fish that is currently endangered by the only means that it has ever been caught, bottom trawling fishing nets.

Where: Psychrolutes marcidus can be found in the deep seas around Australia and Tasmania living at depths of between 600m-1,200m.

Features: Due to the high level of pressure at the depths where the blobfish lives, its flesh has a density just below that of the water surrounding it enabling it to maintain buoyancy without the need for a gas bladder.

By Alex Prior

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