8 of the World's Ugliest Animals for a Reminder That Earth Is Wonderfully Weird
Ugly animals need love too. In fact, paying extra attention to less appealing wildlife may be the key to protecting them.
Wildlife is a wondrous thing. The mammals—marine and land—birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish that comprise the animal kingdom are connected in a neverending web of ecological loops that support life on Earth, the planet's natural biodiversity making for a complex, and eye-catching, population.
That said, not all animals are pretty. In fact, there are some truly ugly animals out there. Born of adaptation, protection, or simply evolution, this alleged "ugliness" adds welcome visual variety to the world. Unfortunately, a lack of aesthetic appeal can actually result in a lack of conservation efforts.
One recent study focused on ugly animal memes and their potential to inspire social media users to care about the health and endangerment of wildlife deemed less-than-cute. It turns out that when it comes to donations and effort, for many, it really is a popularity contest—which is why we're here to share some of the ugliest animals around.
From the scruffy aye-aye to the bulbous-nosed proboscis monkey, these ugly animals are worthy of our attention—and, in some cases, our help.
8 of the Ugliest Animals in the World
The aye-aye is the largest nocturnal primate in the world. It's also ugly. Its rough shaggy coat, large eyes, and skeletal (and sensory) middle fingers team to make them, well, memorable looking. The primates feed on fruit, nuts, and fungi with their constantly growing incisors.
IUCN Status: Endangered
Conservation Efforts: Aye-ayes are native to Madagascar, where deforestation threatens their natural habitat. Hunting is also a concern. Donate to conservation organizations like Duke Lemur Center (which allows you to symbolically adopt an aye-aye, and make sure others are aware of this unique creature.
2. Star-Nosed Mole
The star-nosed mole is defined—for better or for worse—by a snout of fleshy tendrils that protrude in a star-like formation. Other than that, the rodent looks like a regular mole... but that nose is impossible to forget. Star-nosed moles are native to eastern North America and make their homes in moist soil.
IUCN Status: Stable
Conservation Efforts: Thanks to our live-and-let-live relationship with the star-nosed mole, its population is currently doing just fine. That said, the species rely on wetlands to thrive, offering yet another reason to promote more mindfulness around human development.
3. Goblin Shark
The goblin shark is basically an underwater monster. The species are often referred to as living fossils and have been swimming in Earth's oceans for more than one hundred million years.
Electroreceptors fill the shark's (very prominent) nose, helping it detect tiny fish in the dark, watery depths. Once prey is within reach, the goblin shark's jaw can thrust three inches outside of their mouths to catch it.
IUCN Status: Least concern
Conservation Efforts: The deep sea creature may be rare, but it has survived for millions (and millions, and millions) of years, a trend that will likely continue.
These slimy weirdos are known for their colorless fish flesh and frowny faces. The fish's discovery is relatively recent: it was first spotted in 2003 in New Zealand (they're also found in Australian and Tasmanian waters).
Blobfish float above the sea floor and have few muscles, soft bones, and no swim bladder. The creature's bizarre face (and existence) make it infinitely meme-worthy—which is likely why it looks so familiar.
IUCN Status: Unknown; not classified
Conservation Efforts: These fish dry out when exposed to air, making them unappealing to humans. Still, blobfish do get caught when fishermen drag the sea floor, making their population vulnerable. So... let's stop doing that.
5. Proboscis Monkey
This monkey and its large and dangly nose can be found in Borneo. Proboscis monkeys stick to coastal mangroves, rivers, and swamps, where they swing and swim in turn.
As for their iconic noses: Males' noses can grow to four inches or more in length, an adaptation that some scientists believe amplifies the sound of the monkey's mating call.
IUCN Status: Endangered
Conservation Efforts: This primate is deemed endangered due to external (aka human) threats to its habitat. The monkeys are protected from hunting, and educating locals is a part of this larger effort. Avoid products that include palm oil, a major contributor to the ruin of this primate's habitat.
6. Naked Mole Rat
These rats are, indeed, naked. Naked mole rats live underground, their pink bodies hairless save for some straggly sensory whiskers and hair on their feet used to sweep away soil. Naked mole rats can live to be 30 years old, making them the longest-living rodents in the world.
IUCN Status: Stable
Conservation Efforts: Naked mole rats are doing just fine, and face no major threats in the natural world. To honor them, just look at pictures and laugh from time to time.
Native to Africa, the hyena is a carnivore (a hunter and a scavenger) that can live for up to 20 years in the wild. The mammal's three subspecies include brown, striped, and spotted, all of which are known to wail, scream, and laugh.
They're also specific looking, with sloped backs, long necks, and myriad features combining for a bizarre appearance.
IUCN Status: Stable
Conservation Efforts: Though hyenas numbers are currently in a safe place, human development and killings by farmers in an effort to protect livestock are both threats to the animal. More research and enhanced livestock protection can serve to protect human and hyena interests.
8. Giant Anteater
At up to six to eight feet, giant anteaters are decidedly huge. Their (sticky) tongues alone can grow up to two feet long, emerging from toothless mouths to penetrate anthills and termite mounds at snack time.
This strange-looking animal may look like it would move slowly, but it can actually climb trees, swim, and run up to 30 miles per hour. You can find them in Central and South America in a variety of habitats.
IUCN Status: Vulnerable
Conservation Efforts: Giant anteaters are classified as vulnerable due to the usual threats: habitat destruction, hunting, and death by cars. Educate yourself and others, and should you find yourself driving through the anteater's countries of origin, pay extra attention!
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