Humans are a strange species, but even humans look normal compared to some of the bizarre animals in this list. Many come from the depths of the oceans, which is an entirely different and totally bizarre world in itself. But this beautiful and crazy planet has its fair share of land creatures that definitely look like they belong on a different planet. Here are some of the strangest:
Japanese Spider Crab (Macrocheira kaempferi)
This terrifying monster of the ocean lives on the seabed in the Pacific around Japan. Sometimes living as deep as 2,000 feet, it likes the areas surrounding hot vents. It looks too much like spider for comfort, especially since the biggest spider crabs grow to 12 feet tall and can weigh upwards of 40 pounds. That's a lot of crab meat, but I'll stick to cracking open those tiny legs at restaurants if it means I don't ever have to see one of these in real life.
Gobi Jerboa (Allactaga bullata)
For a cuter image, enjoy any video of the adorable Gobi Jerboa, a rodent that lives in North Africa and jumps around on (relatively) long hind legs like a kangaroo. About the size of your fist, jerboas can hop several feel vertically and horizontally in their search for food and to escape from predators. They're too good for water, instead hydrating solely from the moisture in food. The Gobi species of Jerboa has ears that are two-third the size of its body—picture a six-foot human with four-foot ears.
Goblin Shark (Mitsukurina owstoni)
Back to the ocean for this one. Records of this creepy shark date back to 1898 but scientists still know very little about it. That's because it lives 4,000 feet below the ocean's surface. It grows to 12 feet long and hunts in the pitch darkness with its unusual mouth: jaws that protrude far out of the mouth and create a miniature vacuum that pulls prey in. It has eyes that scientists think can rotate to see things directly overhead and a nose that looks like a unicorn with a flat horn.
Narwhal (Monodon monoceros)
Speaking of unicorns, the narwhal might be the best-known animal on this list, but is no less weird. Also called a narwhale, it is, in fact, a toothed whale that has the best unicorn horn out of anything in the animal kingdom. Its tusk is actually one long tooth (sometimes ten feet long) and stores 10 million nerve endings inside that the animal can use to sense its surroundings. Narwhals inhabit the Arctic waters and sometimes dive up to a mile and a half to catch fish.
Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus)
Imagine that a narwhal's tusk was a mouth and instead of a whale it was a crocodile and you have the gharial. Scientists estimate that there are about 2,000 of these animals alive, mostly living in the fast-moving rivers of India or in zoos worldwide. Growing up to 22 feet in length, gharials are the most aquatic of all crocodiles, rarely leaving the water. They are extremely endangered and their numbers are dropping fast by being trapped in fishing nets.
Diane's Bare-Hearted Glass Frog (Hyalinobatrachium dianae)
In Costa Rica in 2015, scientists discovered Kermit the Frog living in the mountain rain forest. Not exactly Kermit, but this muppet lookalike is called a glass frog because its stomach is transparent. Scientists still can't explain the purpose of the transparency—they do know that it's green color helps it blend into leaves—but it gives you a fascinating view of the tiny animal's organs. The frog's size is usually about an inch, so it might be the tiniest heart you ever see.
Pea Frog (Microhyla nepenthicola)
Discovered in 2010, this frog's name might even be a slight exaggeration. The minuscule amphibian sits comfortably on the rim of a penny and lives almost invisibly in the Andes mountains in Peru. Scientists say they can usually find it by its shockingly loud croak. Usually, higher elevations are better for larger animals. But the pea frog lives between 9,000 and 10,000 feet while adults only grow to about twelve millimeters.
You read that right. You're thinking: whales are weird? Not usually; everybody knows about whales and an entire tourist industry is centered on watching them from boats. But whales—the ocean's massive, gentle crooners and the planet's largest mammals—evolved from dogs. Well, a dog-like creature that lived in the time before the ice ages when the Arctic Circle was home to warm weather. Over fifty million years and cycles of global warming and cooling, the small dog-like animals transformed into the whales we know today. They are, after all, warm-blooded mammals, have fur and suckle their young like land creatures. But whales are certainly a type of animal with an evolutionary past that makes almost no sense.
Mantis Shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus)
I'll let the fantastic video above do most of the talking about this superpowered crustacean, but the facts are so impressive that they have to be appreciated in writing. The mantis shrimp is not technically a shrimp but it is by all accounts a badass. Some are less than an inch long, some close to a foot. All are deadly. These colorful sea creatures have one of the most powerful punches on Earth. Their incredibly fast strike superheats the water around its boxing-glove fist to a temperature almost exceeding that of the sun's surface. The punch creates a miniature sonic boom underwater that stuns its prey at the same time as the fist is crushing through the shell of a crab or a quarter-inch piece of glass.
Immortal jellyfish (Turritopsis dohrnii)
That can't be, right? An animal can't really be immortal, can it? Well, this jellyfish has an ability that's as close to immortality as an animal can be. When it's been injured by a predator, hurt by something in the ocean or even suffering starvation, it can revert itself back into a polyp. A jellyfish starts life as a larva and eventually becomes a polyp attached to the sea floor. The polyp spawns genetically identical, free swimming jellyfish. The so-called immortal jellyfish is basically reborn every time it reenters the polyp state and reaches adulthood in a few weeks. There doesn't seem to be a limit on the number of times this can happen, hence the name. Imagine transforming into a toddler any time you were seriously injured and healing yourself by growing up again. That's called a superpower.