This bedazzling wasp will happily take on creatures much larger than itself; in the picture above it’s eyeing up a cockroach (for this reason, it’s also known as the emerald cockroach wasp). After injecting the brains of their prey with a stupefying venom, they bury it alive and lay their eggs in the grave with the now-zombie prey. The larvae will then feed on the creature until they are fully grown. Last of Us, eat your heart out. Literally.
Pink river dolphin
This freshwater cetacean is the largest species of river dolphin. They are born grey and acquire their pink colour with age. The final hue is influenced by many things, including behaviour, diet and how close their capillaries are to the skin.
Renowned for its gelatinous, droopy appearance, the blobfish has adapted to the extreme pressures of the deep ocean. Its peculiar visage has earned it the title of ‘world’s ugliest animal’. Although that’s perhaps a little unfair given that name was derived thanks to its appearance outside of its natural habitat. But despite its seemingly unusual form, the blobfish is a fascinating example of how weird animals thrive in diverse and challenging environments.
This baby shark was found off the coast of New Zealand’s South Island, in February 2022, it quickly went viral for its bizarre looks. More formally known as chimaeras, these elusive creatures are rarely sighted and very little is known about them. Even less are known about their young, and they were only discovered for the first time in 2002.
These deep-sea denizens reside at depths of between 400 and 6,600 feet (122 – 2,011m) where water temperatures are near freezing. Their dead eyes and large wing-like fins, a characteristic better suited to flying, gives rise to their ghoulish name.
Despite the name, ghost sharks are not actually part of the shark family, rather they are a species of fish and have a skeleton made from cartilage, instead of bone. Having a low-density skeleton, like cartilage, is crucial for life at depth, as it won’t collapse under increased pressure. That said, they do lay egg capsules (also known as mermaid purses) on the seafloor – just like sharks do. The egg capsule protects the embryo as it develops, where they feed off a yolk, until they are ready to hatch.
“You can tell this ghost shark recently hatched because it has a full belly of egg yolk. It’s quite astonishing. Most deep-water ghost sharks are known adult specimens; neonates [newly born] are infrequently reported so we know very little about them,” says NIWA Fisheries Scientist Dr. Brit Finnuci who was part of the team that made the discovery.
With a retractable penis-like appendage on its head, scientists are keen to learn more about these weird animals, and get a sense of population numbers, as so little is known about these elusive fish.
Despite the name, this phallic-looking creature is neither a snake… nor a penis. This weird animal is actually a type of caecilian: a limbless amphibian that bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain part of the male anatomy. So naturally, this creature also goes by names such as the ‘manaconda’ or ‘floppy snake’ – its Latin designation is Atretochoana eiselti.
Little is known about the species, and from its discovery in the late 1800s to its rediscovery in 2011 from the same region, there were only two preserved specimens. It’s the second-largest lungless tetrapod, breathing instead through its skin, and is the largest-known caecilian, growing up to 81cm in length. It is thought they can live between 5 to 10 years.
Unlike most caecilians, which are burrowers, most scientists agree that the penis snake is actually aquatic, like other lung-less tetrapods. It has poor eyesight – their eyes are barely visible under the skin – but has a keen sense of smell, which it uses to navigate. This combination is ideal, given they tend to live in Amazonian rivers where visibility is poor.