abgsedapmalam Publish time 23-1-2011 08:24 PM

Top 10 Fantastic and Surreal Creatures

This is a list of some of nature’s creations that simply defy humanimagination. Unlike the Little
Known Prehistoric Monster lists, this onedepicts only species that are alive today. They may not be as big orscary, but these creatures are certainly fantastic and deserve moreattention than they usually get.

Proteus anguinus


This amphibian, native to the deepest, darkest caves of Europe (mostfamously in Slovenia) and mistakenly identified in ancient times as a“baby dragon” has to be one of the most bizarre animals in the world.Completely blind, and lacking body pigmentation almost completely, theolm lives in a very alien sensory universe. Despite being blind, it canpick up both chemical and electricalsignals via receptors on itsentire body, which comes in handy to find the small invertebrates itfeeds upon. Completely aquatic, the olm has a soft, pale skin thatresembles somewhat that of a very pale human being, hence its localnickname of “human fish”. There’s a second subspecies of olm, the blackolm, which is just as interesting but a tad less bizarre, since it haseyes and lacks the pale complexion of its cousin.

Blanket octopus
Tremoctopus violaceus

There’s no such thing as a “normal octopus”. These extraordinaryanimals look like they came from another planet, took a dip in ouroceans and liked it enough to stay. Among the many strange traits ofoctopuses (octopi?) we could mention having three hearts, venomoussaliva, a hidden parrot-like beak, being able to change the color andtexture of their skin with incredible ease and speed (they are muchbetter at it than say, chameleons) and having “intelligent arms” thatdon’t seem to need instructions from the brain to perform certainactions.
That said, there are some octopi that are more bizarre than others.The blanket octopus is one of them; for a start, the female is 40.000times heavier than the male! The male is only 2.4 cms along and leads analmost planktonic lifestyle while the female is big, spectacular andover than 2 meters long. When it feels threatened, the female can alsoextend a cape-like membrane between its arms that makes her look biggerand badder than she really is. Finally, an interesting fact is that theblanket octopus is immune to the deadly Portuguese Man’O War“jellyfish”; as self defense, the clever octopus often tears off someMan’O War tentacles and uses them as a weapon.

Glass frog

What makes these little Tropical American frogs so surreal is thatthey have translucent skin, which basically makes them a living anatomylesson without even having to cut open the frog! Indeed, some of theirinternal organs such as the heart, intestines and liver are perfectlyvisible when you look at the frog’s underside. They are closely relatedand behave similarly to the better known tree frogs.

Psychrolutes marcidus

This gelatinous deep water fish has a face that only its mother wouldlove (although those who truly admire Nature’s boundless and sometimesmacabre creativity will certainly appreciate it too). Found in theoceans surrounding Australia and Tasmania, the blobfish leads a ratherpassive life, feeding on whatever piece of detritus floats within itsreach. It lacks the muscular power of other fish and practically doesn’tspend any energy while swimming thanks to its body being less densethan water. Rarely seen alive, the blobfish is occasionally captured asby-catch by fisherman’s nets. I strongly doubt it’s edible, though.

Assassin spider

Don’t worry, arachnophobic Listverse readers! The assassin spider isonly 2 mm long and despite its name and creepy appearance, it iscompletely harmless to humans. Its long “neck” has evolved specificallyto support the weight of its immense jaws, which are armed with venomousfangs and act as deadly traps for other, smaller spiders that are itsmain food.

Viewed from the front, the hatchetfish looks otherworldly, and in away, it does live in a different world from ours. This deep water fishis found in all the oceans except for the coldest regions, and, like theolm and blobfish, spends its entire life in almost complete darkness.The only life it sees is produced by living creatures, including itself,via special “photophores” or light-producing organs on its sides, whichallow it to lure prey and to escape predators. As scary as it may look,the hatchetfish poses no threat for humans, being only a fewcentimeters long.

Hairy crab
Kiwa hirsuta

Also known as the “Yeti crab”, this crustacean is covered on what, atfirst glance, appears to be fur, but is actually a dense covering ofsetae, like those found in the legs of some shrimps. These setae seem tofunction as a filter, detoxifying the water in which the creaturelives. This is very useful when your habitat is a deadly hydrothermalvent that is constantly throwing poisonous minerals into the water. TheYeti crab is blind and colorless and lives its entire life in darkness,just like the olm, blobfish and hatchetfish. It seems that Nature sendsmany of its most surreal creations to the places where humans are mostunlikely to see or reach them. Maybe because they will last longer thatway?

Leafy Sea Dragon
Phycodurus eques

This fish, closely related to the sea horse, survives by pretendingto be a floating bunch of sea weed. It swims very slowly, which adds tothe effect, and besides, its dorsal and pectoral fins (which do all theswimming), are transparent and practically invisible. I strongly suspectmost predators don’t even know the leafy sea dragon exists at all!These amazing little creatures have weird reproductive habits; thefemale lays the eggs into the male’s body via a long tube, and the malecarries the brood until the baby dragons hatch. This fish is found inthe southern and western coasts of Australia.

Satanic leaf-tailed gecko
Uroplatus phantasticus

Evolution made this lizard looks so much like a decaying, dry leaf,that it is seldom seen, let alone eaten, by any predators. It is foundonly in Madagascar, where it shares the forests with other fantasticreptiles. It is an insect eater and despite its infernal name, scaryeyes and defensive threat display (which it uses only when camouflagedoesn’t work, which is very rarely), it is completely harmless tohumans. Unfortunately, this incredible species is endangered due toover-collecting for the pet trade, and the devastation of its naturalhabitat (Madagascar’s forests have been reduced in a 90% and most of itsiconic species are either gone or in the edge of extinction).

Hemeroplanes caterpillar

Yes, a humble caterpillar is number one in this list and I think itreally deserves it. This is, in my opinion, a living masterpiece ofnature and although all animals are amazing, this has to be one of themost awe-inspiring. Incredibly rare to see and found only in the rainforests of Mexico and Central America, this little creature is usuallynormal-looking and has rather drab colors, but if threatened by apotential predator, it undergoes an incredible transformation; it hangsfrom a branch with its hind legs, and inflates the front part of itsbody, until it looks just like a small pitviper ready to inject itsdeadly venom.
Not only does it mimic the triangular “head”, fierce eyes and shinyscales perfectly, but it also pretends to “strike” at enemies (it’s justa bluff, since it is not venomous or dangerous in any way). Surely,many of its potential enemies (including some humans!) fall for thisincredibly accurate imitation and leave the caterpillar alone. As anadult, the Hemeroplanes is a rather non-descript moth that hasabsolutely nothing viper-ish about it. The Hemeroplanes caterpillar ispoorly known, and sadly endangered due to deforestation.

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