New species evolve from their predecessors, right? This lovely process isn’t new and is usually related to Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection.
Natural selection is when a species is better able to adapt to its environment, diet, predators, mating, etc. This ability to adapt makes a species have a better chance of survival and eventual reproduction. The same ability to adapt is passed from offspring to offspring, ultimately changing the original species to a new, more evolved creature. Unfortunately, those species that are unable to adapt die. So, the moral of the story, change is good!
While we can all agree that natural selection takes place, we may have different ideas on what’s considered normal or weird when it comes to evolution. Normal is boring, so let’s examine some of the weirdest products of evolution!
10 The Blobfish
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but in 2013, the environmentally adapted blobfish was voted ‘World’s Ugliest Animal,’ a title it still holds to this day! Sorry, blobfish. Despite its looks, the blobfish is a well-adapted deep-sea predator. It sits in wait for its dinner, snatching up any tasty-looking treats that happen to swim by.
As an opportunist, the blobfish will gobble down most anything. Its flabby body and sagging features deceive us as being weak. However, the animal’s jaws are extremely strong, and that less-than-beautiful exterior seems to be a good defense against predators such as the octopus.
David L. Stein, a former Ichthyologist at Oregon State University, recalls the 19 blobfish he’s had the dubious honor of dissecting. Stein recalls evidence of failed octopus attacks as shown by the sucker marks all over the blobfish skin.
Beautiful or ugly, weird and wonderful, the blobfish is for sure!
9 The Sea Cucumber
Sticking with the underwater theme for a moment more, we have another one of evolution’s weird creatures – the sea cucumber!
Imaginatively named for its shape and size, the sea cucumber will set you back a little more than its namesake. Having been eaten as a delicacy in Asia for centuries, it wasn’t until the 1980s that the West took a fancy for the strange-looking echinoderms.
Now, due to overfishing and its appeal for food and medicine ingredients, the sea cucumber is expensive and rarer than it was before. They aren’t exactly fish as we know them, but distant cousins of starfish and urchins. So please, let the sea cucumber be!
8 The Lungfish
They say that we mere mortals all began as creatures of the deep, eventually having crawled onto the surface of the Earth, developing limbs to walk and mouths to talk. A necessity of any land animal is, of course, the ability to take oxygen from the air into our bodies. Fish, too, require oxygen to live but take the oxygen from water.
Nature, however, has given the 300-million-year-old, aptly named lungfish the tools to take oxygen from both water and air to breathe. A lungfish has both lungs and gills!
The lungfish is a further example of how environmental factors cause species to evolve. Native to Africa, South America, and Australia, the lungfish live in swamps and rivers; but unfortunately, some dry out with drought. Droughts often mean death for many of the environment’s creatures. But not the lungfish! The lungfish is able to breathe on land and underwater. When needed, the lungfish burrows into the mud and, with its own mucus, makes itself a capsule in which it waits for the drought to end and water to return.
Who knows when or if the lungfish will evolve to become fully-fledged landlubbers like us humans, but 300-million years in the making suggests they’re happy just the way they are!
7 Water Bears
Water bears, or tardigrades, to give them their scientific name, are microscopic creatures found anywhere from volcanoes to mountain tops. They are seemingly indestructible, even able to survive in space!
Water bears were taken up by Elon Musk’s SpaceX shuttles. NASA thought it was worth their while to observe how the tiny creatures cope with life in space with the hope of learning something we can use to make our future extra-terrestrial adventures easier!
6 Venus Flytrap
When we think of nature’s predators, our first thoughts aren’t of a plant. There are, however, few more famous ‘jaws’ than those of the Venus flytrap. Despite its name, the Venus flytrap mainly preys on spiders, ants, and flies. Just don’t put your finger inside its “v” shaped leaves; it will clamp down on you quicker than you can say “Venus flytrap!”
Native to the Carolinas of the United States, the Venus flytrap can be found in its natural habitat of acidic, swampy wetlands. The plant, of course, also can photosynthesize, like all plants evolved with chlorophyll molecules. Still, the Carolina soil, lacking an abundance of nitrogen, means the Venus flytrap ‘tops up’ its nutrient levels by carnivorous means. Munch, munch.
5 The Naked Mole-Rat
The naked mole-rat is native to South Africa. This burrowing fella is often referred to as a sand puppy. You might be thinking, aww, how cute! Well, no. With a long white hairless body and massive front teeth, the naked mole-rate is far from cute, despite what millennials may remember about Rufus, the naked mole-rat sidekick from Disney Channels Kim Possible.
This cold-blooded mammal thrives in its underground environment feasting on what are called tubers. Tubers are parts of plants that store the plant’s nutrients. The naked mole-rat need only fear snakes and birds when they do come to the surface.
4 The Flying Fox
Named for their fox-like faces, the flying fox is the biggest bat species with a wingspan of over five feet! Bats make up one-quarter of all mammals on Earth, from the smallest weighing a few grams to the flying fox, which can weigh up to 2.6 pounds. The flying fox is native to the east coast of Australia and lives in large colonies. They flawlessly evolve to suit their environment and are vital in the native ecosystem, pollinating over 50 tree species.
Bats are unusual in that they are flighted mammals. Unlike the flying squirrel or the sugar glider, they can maintain their flight and increase altitude, unlike the aforementioned ‘gliders.’ On closer inspection, the wings of a bat appear more like hands with webbing between its digits; those digits are dextrous as it picks and eats the fruit from trees.
Humans have long written the bat into spooky stories and horror movies, probably because of their mysterious nature. They are dormant during daylight hours, awakening at night to feed. Though they are big, hairy creatures of the night, we need not fear the flying fox as they have no interest in humans, and they almost certainly won’t try to drink your blood!
3 The Goliath Tigerfish
Are you ready for this one? The goliath tigerfish can be bigger than an adult man! Yikes! There’s nothing immediately weird about this creature’s appearance, that is, until it shoots you a smile. You’ll quickly notice that it has a set of 32 razor-sharp teeth equal in size to those of the great white shark. Again, yikes!
Native to the Congo River systems and Lake Tanganyika, the goliath tigerfish is Africa’s answer to the famous Piranha, just a little bigger! If all that wasn’t scary enough, these fish hunt in groups and are known to be able to leap and catch birds in flight. If that isn’t reason enough to stay out of the water, I don’t know what is.
2 Poodle Moth
Discovered in Venezuela in 2009 by Dr. Arthur Anchor, the poodle moth is undoubtedly far from the most monstrous creature on our list. With six furry legs, four wings, and brush-like antennae, the poodle moth is as far from looking menacing and more cuddly. However, we don’t recommend them as a new snuggle buddy.
Native to South America, the diet of the poodle moth is made up of nectar, herbaceous plants, fruit juices, and even the more nutritious contents of animal dung!
Almost Pokémon-like in its appearance, this cute little bug is nothing to fear.
1 The Tarsier
Only 10 to 15cm and 150 grams when fully grown, the tarsier gets its name from its elongated tarsal bone or heel bone. Any one of the eight tarsier species can be found in the jungles of the Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand.
The tarsier’s eyes are half the size of its head (and the biggest in ratio to any mammal), and the smallest of the species is the Pygmy Tarsier, weighing only 57 grams and until recently thought to be extinct.
Despite its somewhat sloth-like appearance, the tarsier is anything but slow! The tarsier is able to jump over 40 times its body length and is a ruthless predator! It jumps from tree to tree, hunting anything from bats to lizards, and is the only entirely carnivorous primate – not so cute, right?