Home Animals Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
Animals By Monica Gray -

With millions of animal species in the world, it may come as no surprise that you’ve never heard of some of them, let alone know they existed. We know about common animal species like lions, pandas, and cheetahs, but what about the rare animal species that most of us haven’t heard of? You might find it shocking to learn that these strange species, like the red-lipped batfish, blobfish, leaf deer, and maned wolf do exist.

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
Science Friday

Star-Nosed Mole

If you thought you were a fast eater, think again. The star-nosed mole is the fastest eater, and with 25,000 sensory receptors, this animal can detect seismic waves around its nose. It lives in swamps and marshes and can detect faint electrical signals from aquatic prey. The moles have poorly developed eyesight, so they rely on their tentacles, or rays, to guide them. They’re found in North America at low elevations with moist soil.

According to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, “They are constantly moving and touching to identify what’s good to eat and what isn’t. Sensitive whiskers on the head and front feet also act as “feelers,” whether looking for food or navigating their way through dark underground tunnels.” They consume more than 50% of their body weight every single day, and mainly feed on beetles, worms, grubs, and small fish (Carnegie MNH).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
Australian Museum

Leafy Sea-dragon

This animal is closely related to the seahorse and David Attenborough’s favorite species. They’re some of the most ornate camouflage creatures in the world. This is all thanks to the lobes of their skin, which keep them camouflaged. It gives them the appearance of seaweed, which protects them from prey. They can keep this illusion while swimming.

They’re very slow swimmers, so they rely on their camouflage so much. They have good vision, big heads, and small mouths. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot them in southern and western Australia (Oceana).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
World Wildlife

Axolotl

If you’ve ever wanted to interact with a real-life animal Pokémon or the Peter Pan of salamanders, it exists in Mexico and is called the axolotl. Just look at that cute smile! It’s also referred to as the “Mexican salamander.” They thrive in lakes and other places in Mexico and spend most of their lives strictly in the water. Axolotl feeds off of small worms, fish, and insects. Legend says the Axolotl is the Aztec god of fire and lightning.

These animals seem to be the most powerful of the animal kingdom, and according to World Wildlife, “In addition to being able to regrow body parts—including their hearts, spines, and brains—axolotls can accept organs and limbs transplanted from other axolotls without risk of rejection, a trait that makes them of interest for medical research.” Most of them are black or mottled brown, with a few feathery, external gills (World Wildlife).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
Ocean Conservancy

Red-Lipped Batfish

You’ll find these red-lipped batfish in only one place in the world, the Galápagos Islands. They waddle along the seafloor using their modified fins as legs. Scientists believe their lip adaptation is for the males to attract a mate, though they need to do more research. They’re one of the weirder animals of the animal kingdom, with their lipstick pout and frog-like legs. To blend into the sea floor, they prefer to hang out in sandy or rocky bottoms.

According to Ocean Conservancy, they’ve adapted to their strange body shape, and “They have a fleshy modified dorsal fin that can be extended and retracted to lure in their prey. The lure attracts small fish, shrimp, and crabs to the fish. This is helpful, as the batfish’s awkward swimming style doesn’t make it easy for it to chase down prey.” They’re not the only animals with strange red lips (Ocean Conservancy).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
Zoo Atlanta

Fossa

Located in Madagascar, this carnivorous animal shares similar traits to a cat, but is more closely related to the Mongoose. It’s only found in forest habitats, and hunts in either the daytime or nighttime. More than fifty percent of its diet consists of lemurs.

They tend to mate on horizontal tree limbs, and mating can last for hours, and they typically have a life expectancy of twenty years. When the animal is scared, they release a stinky smell. Oftentimes, you’ll find them sleeping since they tend to sleep for many hours each day (Zoo Atlanta).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
Snopes

Pacu Fish

The Pacu Fish love munching on fruit and decaying matter. And if you look closely at their teeth, they might look similar to human teeth. They’re also often mistaken for piranhas, and though they’re found in the waters of South America, they grow to be much larger than piranhas. They’re also known for eating snails, grains, and earthworms. But because of their teeth, they can cause some nasty, vicious injuries to other animals if they need to.

If they’re too cold, they will refuse to eat. According to Fact Animal, these species can have personalities. They say, “One example is Swish the Pacu, who lived for more than 30 years in Seattle, Washington (USA). Swish was known for swimming up to greet visitors in the hospital and, later, restaurant dining room aquarium where he lived. He even seemed to enjoy being pet by the people who cleaned his aquarium and loved grapes, which he was fed on special occasions.” The females release around 150,000 eggs, and in some cases, up to a million (Fact Animal).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
One Earth

Markhor

You’ll find this wild goat in the mountains of Central Asia, all the way to the West of the Himalayas. They’re mostly found in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Both the male and female have spiral-shaped horns that can be straight or flared, depending on the Markhor. They prefer living at altitudes, while in summer they live at higher altitudes, and in winter at lower altitudes.

According to One Earth, these animals come with a legend. It’s said, “Markhor is a Persian word meaning “snake-eater” or “snake-killer.” In folklore, the animal is allegedly able to kill snakes with its spiral horns and then consume the serpents. There, after a markhor has chewed its cud and spit it on the ground, the dried material is sought after by the local people, who believe it helps extract poison from snakebites.” Researchers believe the legend comes from the animal’s ability to step on snakes (One Earth).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
Science Focus

Blobfish

Get ready to meet the world’s ugliest animal! This animal is so ugly, that it’s cute. It’s another animal that’s like the real-life Pokémon. It lives deep in the waters of Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania. Its density is only slightly above that of water, and it primarily hunts by sitting there with its mouth open and letting creatures wander inside.

It gets its look thanks to the atmospheric pressure it’s usually found at. According to Science Focus, “Blobfish species live in some of the deepest pockets of the ocean, at depths between 600 and 1,200m. Down there, the pressure can be more than 100 times what the atmospheric pressure you feel right now. Blobfish have a variety of adaptations to live in high-pressure habitats, including a squishy body, with soft bones and very little muscle.” When you take that same blobfish out of the water, the decompression makes it expand and causes its skin to relax (Science Focus).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
ABC Birds

Great Potoo

This is a carnivorous bird that lives in tropical America. It easily blends in with its surroundings by staying completely still, and it does this by mimicking a tree trump or branch and waits for unsuspecting prey. It doesn’t open its eyes and is a master of disguise. They have unique slits on their eyes to keep tabs on their surroundings, and their crouching posture allows them to go unnoticed.

According to ABC Birds, “These nocturnal insectivores prefer to hunt from exposed perches, waiting for potential prey to approach before swooping out and seizing it in their gaping mouths. Potoos’ long wings and tails help them maneuver as they chase potential meals through the trees.” You’re more likely to find them thanks to their eerie sounds and unique calls, especially on moonlit nights (ABC Birds).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
SI

Olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina)

One of the cutest animals looks like a cross between a teddy bear and a house cat. This rare animal was only recently discovered in 2013 in the cloud forests of Colombia and Ecuador. The olinguito is a small mammal related to raccoons and is a new carnivore that scientists are studying.

According to researcher Kristofer Helgen, “The discovery of the olinguito shows us that the world is not yet completely explored, its most basic secrets not yet revealed. If new carnivores can still be found, what other surprises await us? So many of the world’s species are not yet known to science. Documenting them is the first step toward understanding the full richness and diversity of life on Earth.” The discovery of this animal took a decade to find. The species overall is smaller than the Olingo, hence its name (SI).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
Tree Hugger

Glaucus Atlanticus

Also known as the “Blue Dragon,” these rare animals are only about a few inches long. You can find them in the Indian Pacific Oceans, where they float upside down to blend into the water with their blue side, and the silver side of their body with the surface of the ocean. They can deliver a sting similar to the man o’war, which they also feed on.

When they’re in a group, they’re called Blue Fleets. When they’re caught in waves, they curl themselves into balls. Even after they die on the sand, their venom remains active so don’t pick one up if you see it washed ashore. They’re also hermaphrodites, meaning they have both male and female organs (Tree Hugger).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
Fact Animal

Lesula Monkey

Originally found in 2012 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, this monkey species is characterized by its distinctive appearance. The monkey is known for its eerie, human-looking eyes that give it a creepy appearance. It has a beautiful echoing call that ripples through the forest.

They’re peaceful animals and spend most of their days relaxing on the forest floor. The Guardian creatively describes their appearance as follows, “the photograph captures a sensitivity and intelligence that makes this monkey look like it is sitting for its portrait by Rembrandt. It reveals a staggeringly insightful, wise, and melancholy face. Like Rembrandt’s son Titus in the portrait of him by his father that hangs in London’s Wallace Collection, the lesula looks right back at its beholder, calm and pensive, examining you as you examine it. Its eyes have the depth and frankness of those seen in moving portraits on Roman-era mummies from the Fayoum, or in Antonello da Messina’s haunting portrait of a man gazing back out of a glassy oil panel.” The males are also known for their vivid blue genitalia. They’re known as being some of the most relaxed animals in the kingdom (Fact Animal).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
Fact Animal

Mantis Shrimp

With spring-loaded punches, the Mantis Shrimp can attack with he force of a .22 caliber bullet. It can reach speeds of up to 23m per second, which is the strongest known strike of any animal in the world. The force of the punch is up to 100 times its weight. If a human could do this, it would equate to them punching through steel. And even though they’re quite beautiful and vibrant in color, they’re one of the least friendly animals in the world.

They’re very solitary creatures and tend to spend most of their time burrowing under the sea bed and hiding under rocks. According to Fact Animal, “Their punch is so fast it results in ‘cavitation’ bubbles. This is a superheated bubble and a small flash of light, which for split seconds also generates temperates of 4,400c (which is nearly as hot as the sun) in the surrounding water. When the bubbles collapse they cause an intense shockwave which is like a double punch and can stun, dismember, or kill prey instantly – even if the mantis shrimp misses the target.” The Mantis Shrimp are older than dinosaurs, so they’ve had time to figure out their survival skills. These aren’t the type of critters you’d want to come across if you were wandering the ocean (Fact Animal).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
World Wildlife

Pink Fairy Armadillo

As the smallest and cutest species of armadillo, the Pink Fairy Armadillo is unfortunately on the list of threatened species. You can find it in the sandy plains, dunes, and grasslands in Argentina. It mostly survives on insects and plants and is nocturnal. It’s about the size of a dollar bill and spends most of its life underground. Spottings of this creature are so rare, that one researcher studying in its home habitat didn’t spot one for 13 years.

Its thin shell isn’t used for protection but for temperature regulation. It has its rosy hue thanks to blood vessels that either empty or fill to control its temperature. If the white fur gets wet, it can have a hard time regulating its body temperature. Scientists believe they are solitary creatures because they’re usually discovered by themselves (World Wildlife).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
Amazing Life

Leaf Deer

This animal is only found in dense forests in the northwest region of Putao. It only stands at about 20 inches high. The males and females are nearly identical, except for an inch-long horn on the males, which is barely noticeable. It received its name because hunters could wrap the deer in a single large leaf.

According to Amazing Life, “Their population appears to be decreasing though, they do not seem to be very picky when it comes to forests though, as they can be found in both tropical forests as well as cool ones.” Their markings help them blend into the environment to avoid the detection of predators (Amazing Life).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
Perefrine Fund

Bearded Vulture

The phoenix-like vulture, with its expansive habitat spanning from southern Europe to Tibet and the Indian subcontinent, showcases a unique adaptation in its feeding habits. Unlike other vultures, it occasionally targets live prey, demonstrating a remarkable versatility in its diet. The vulture’s preference for bone marrow and bones leads it to employ a fascinating method of breaking down large bones: soaring into the air and dropping them to create more manageable, edible fragments. This adaptive behavior extends to encounters with turtles, as the vulture employs the same strategy before indulging in its meal.

In the realm of family dynamics, both male and female vultures actively participate in nurturing their young. By the age of 15-16 weeks, the young vulture is poised to leave the nest, marking the culmination of a comprehensive parental care period. This remarkable bird not only captures attention with its phoenix-like appearance but also stands out through its diverse feeding tactics and family-oriented upbringing. (Peregrine Fund).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
Kate Conservation

Lyre

These distinctive tree-dwelling birds native to Australia come in two slightly varied species, both sharing common features. With short legs and tail feathers adorned with striking stripes that curl outward, their gray and brown bodies complemented by wings with a captivating reddish hue make them a sight to behold.

What sets these avian residents apart is their exceptional ability to mimic an array of sounds. From the mechanical hum of chainsaws and the clicks of camera shutters to the shrill alarms, assorted ringtones, and the poignant cries of babies, these birds showcase an impressive vocal repertoire. Their mimicry extends beyond environmental sounds, as some individuals have been known to imitate words, adding an intriguing layer to their already fascinating behavior. In the diverse tapestry of Australia’s wildlife, these unique and vocally versatile birds carve out a distinctive niche. (Kate On Conservation).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
WWFINT

The Maned Wolf

The charming maned wolf, often inhabiting the grasslands of south, central-west, and southeastern Brazil, defies its name and appearance by not being closely related to wolves or foxes but rather to dogs. This solitary hunter boasts a diverse diet, with both meat and plants constituting roughly 50 percent of its food intake. Its distinctive features include perky ears that stand erect, immediately setting it apart in the wild.

Cloaked in long, reddish-brown hair, the maned wolf’s unique coloring includes a black mouth and the tail’s back, with a contrasting white throat. While commonly found in the grasslands of Brazil, its presence extends across South America, gracing countries such as Peru, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Argentina. The maned wolf, with its intriguing blend of canine and distinctive markings, adds a touch of enchantment to the rich biodiversity of the South American landscape. (WWF Panda).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
Species New to Science

Kerivoula Hardwickii Bat

Discovered in 2018 in Vietnam, this species of bat is known for its unique echolocation calls. It’s found all over Asia, including Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka. Its fur is typically smoky brown and nests in hollow trees or dead clusters of leaves.

Typically, they eat beetles, moths, small mammals, fruit, and other bat species. They hang from their branches and wait for their prey to pass by them so they can grab it and eat it (Thai National Parks).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
Bio Expedition

Birds of Paradise

The mating dance of the Bird of Paradise is one of the most unique ones in the animal kingdom. Typically, the female rejects 20 mates before they select one they want to mate with. Oftentimes, they’re found in New Guinea, although it’s unknown how many of these birds exist.

They can be scarlet, yellow, green, and blue colors. Sometimes, males have long feathers on the tail called streamers. These displays help them find a mate. Naturally, they’re isolated creatures that live by themselves. Often, they feed on fruits and berries. For mating, the males will engage in dance rituals to display their colorful feathers (Bio Expedition).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
Monterey Bay Aquarium

Japanese Spider Crab

This animal inhabits the water surrounding Japan. It’s considered a delicacy, but it’s difficult to catch. It can grow to 12 feet long from claw to claw. It easily launches itself over dead animals or scraps that fall from above. Their diet mainly consists of decaying fish, algae, and invertebrates.

When the crab molts, it can regrow its missing legs. The younger crabs live in shallower, warmer waters, and when they reach adulthood, they mitigate down to the deeper waters (Monterey Bay Aquarium).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
Fact Animal

Venezuelan Poodle Moth

While not necessarily a discovery, it’s certainly a rare one we didn’t know existed. This moth gained attention in 2012 due to its unusual appearance. This fluffy insect was only found once and was not sampled. It received its name thanks to its strange appearance and similarities to a poodle. If a poodle had wings and feathers instead of ears, it would look like this moth.

According to Fact Animal, this is a strange moth. They write, “That fluff you see on its body is made of chitin, which is the insect equivalent of cellulose; the material that makes up the cell walls in plants. Chitin and cellulose are both strong, mesh-forming polysaccharides, or sugars, and they’re used for rigidity, scales, and, in this case, sound-dampening fluff for protection against bat calls. The fluff absorbs the sound and muffles the return signal, making it harder for bats to ‘see’ it with their echolocation.” Some scientists believe this to be a mutant animal species (Fact Animal).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
Ocean

Ghost Shark

Residing in depths of 400 to 6,600 feet, ghost sharks live in nearly freezing temperatures. They get their name from their dead eyes and large wing-life fins, which is usually a characteristic better suited for flying. They’re not a part of the shark family, despite their name. They’re a species of fish that have a skeleton made from cartilage as opposed to bones.

Depending on the species, they can grow to be more than 6 feet long. They also only have one gill on either side of their body. Because of their eyes with reflective tissue, it gives them an eerie, ghostlike appearance (Ocean).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
BBC

Paedophryne amanuensis

Discovered in Papua New Guinea in 2012, this frog species holds the title of the world’s smallest vertebrate. It only measures .27 inches, and finding the frog was nearly impossible. According to researcher Chris Austin, “The New Guinea forests are incredibly loud at night; and we were trying to record frog calls in the forest, and we were curious as to what these other sounds were. So we triangulated to where these calls were coming from and looked through the leaf litter. It was night, these things are incredibly small; so what we did after several frustrating attempts was to grab a whole handful of leaf litter and throw it inside a clear plastic bag. When we did so, we saw these incredibly tiny frogs hopping around.”

Their predators might include scorpions and typically exist in the thick leaf litter in tropical forests. Until this frog was discovered, the smallest vertebrates were previously fish (BBC).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
Brittanica

Okapi

Hailing from the dense forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa, the Okapi, distinguished by its conspicuous stripes, often leads observers to mistakenly associate it with zebras. However, its true kinship lies with giraffes, showcasing an evolutionary connection that defies its striped exterior. Despite their apparent resemblance to their zebra counterparts, Okapis are more reclusive creatures, typically adopting a solitary lifestyle and congregating primarily for breeding purposes.

Feeding predominantly on a diet of grass, leaves, and various plants, the Okapi’s large, upright ears serve as adept receptors for even the faintest and quietest sounds, enhancing their awareness in their lush, wooded habitat. Although elusive and challenging to spot in the wild, scientific estimates suggest a potential population exceeding 35,000 Okapis in their native environment, emphasizing the importance of preserving the mysterious beauty of these unique and enigmatic creatures in the heart of Africa. (Animals).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
Oceana

Goblin Shark

They are also known as the Living Fossils because they’re the last shark representative that lived 125 million years ago. This deep sea shark can grow between 10-13 feet, or longer. It’s accidentally been caught in every major ocean around the world since it’s not a very fast swimmer. Usually, it relies on ambushing its prey to eat.

The goblin shark has an interesting appearance. According to Oceana, “The goblin shark’s most conspicuous physical features are the long snout (called a rostrum) and the teeth. The rostrum is covered with special organs that help these sharks locate prey in the low light of their preferred habitat by sensing the electric field created by other fishes. The teeth are long and scraggly, and the goblin shark is one of the very few species of shark whose teeth are visible when the mouth is fully closed. In other words, goblin sharks cannot fit all of their teeth in their mouths.” Their existence is thanks to scientist’s accidental capture (Oceana).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
Bio Lib

Javan ferret-badger

Discovered in the mountainous regions of Java, Indonesia, in 2011, this diminutive carnivore has since captivated researchers and enthusiasts alike. Thriving primarily in hilly landscapes, it boasts distinctive features, including long whiskers and large, expressive eyes. Notable white markings adorn its face, chest, abdomen, neck, and throat, enhancing its visual allure.

This elusive creature is predominantly nocturnal, navigating the darkness with adeptness. Its carnivorous diet encompasses a variety of prey, including eggs, amphibians, birds, and invertebrates. Despite its recent identification, this small carnivore has quickly become a subject of intrigue, its nocturnal habits and diverse diet reflecting the adaptability and resourcefulness required for survival in the rugged terrain of Java’s mountains. (Animalia).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
The Spruce Pets

Giant Angora Rabbit

As one of the hardiest breeds of rabbits, the angora rabbit originated in Turkey. They spread throughout Europe and were brought to the USA in the 20th Century. They’re bred for their soft wool, which is made into clothing. That being said, they can easily get rid of their coats every 3-4 months.

There are many different types of the Angora rabbit, including the English, French, and Satin Angora. But the Giant Angora can weigh up to 10 pounds and is a blend of German Angora and other breeds (The Spruce Pets).

Rare Animal Species We Didn’t Realize Existed Until Today
World Wildlife

Narwhals

Also known as the Unicorn of the Sea, this is a species of whale that lives in the water around Greenland, Russia, and Canada. Its diet changes depending on the time of year. In springtime, it eats cod, and during the wintertime, it eats flatfish. They can live up to a whopping 50 years, however, die of suffocation when they’re trapped under the ice.

The Narwhal tooth is simply an enlarged tooth with sensory capacity that has up to 10 million nerve endings inside. It can grow up to 10 feet long. Unfortunately, many oil and gas developments pose a huge threat to narwhals. This also includes more underwater noise that will pose a threat to underwater communication (World Wildlife).

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