Weird and wonderful

Bizarre animals

An insight into some of the world’s most bizarre and intriguing animals. Be it the frilled lizard, the short-beaked echidna or the wonderfully quirky fiddler crab, our planet is undoubtedly home to an array of unusual creatures. 

Written by Bradt Travel Guides


Shoebill, Balaeniceps rex 

Shoebill by Hjalmar Gislason, Wikimedia Commons

©Hjalmar Gislason, Wikimedia Commons

‘King whale-head’, the translation of this bird’s scientific name, hardly suggests small or discreet. And indeed the shoebill sports a quite outrageous conk. Its common name is derived from the Arabic Abu markub – literally ‘father of the shoe’. Imagine a size-ten clog on the face of an outsized heron and you’ll get the picture.


Frilled lizard, Chlamydosaurus kingii

Frilled lizard by Abraxis112, Wikimedia Commons

©Abraxis112, Wikimedia Commons

It’s a shocking experience for any predator: one minute you’re casually investigating an old stick; the next you’re being rushed by a hissing, gaping lunatic brandishing a bright yellow umbrella. Before you can recover, the madman is off again, bounding for the horizon then veering off suddenly up a tree trunk. Time for a stiff drink, perhaps.


Proboscis monkey, Nasalis larvatus

Proboscis monkey by Frank Wouters, Wikimedia Commons

©Frank Wouters, Wikimedia Commons

The Malay word for this primate is orang belanda, or ‘Dutchman’, its potbelly and big nose having reminded locals of Borneo’s first European settlers. Regardless of stereotypes, this monkey certainly boasts one of the most comical faces in the animal kingdom.


Short-beaked echidna, Tachyglossus aculeatus 

Short-beaked echidna by Fir0002, Wikimedia Commons

©Fir0002, Wikimedia Commons

This outlandish mammal, also known as spiny anteater, would surely make any bizarre animal top ten. Not only does it look extremely odd, combining a hedgehog’s spines with an anteater’s snout; it also has several surprising party tricks – not least of which is the ability to lay an egg.


Leafy seadragon, Phycodurus eques

Leafy seadragon by Sage Ross, Wikimedia Commons

©Sage Ross, Wikimedia Commons

It’s just seaweed, surely: a delicate sprig, embellished with tiny leaves, swaying gently like an underwater spray of mistletoe. And yet this ‘seaweed’ appears to be moving away as you approach. Could your eyes be playing tricks on you?


Fiddler crabs, Uca spp

Fiddler crab by The Photographer, Wikimedia Commons

©The Photographer, Wikimedia Commons

If natural selection generally favours symmetry, then these bizarre crabs are the exception that proves the rule.Waving their one grossly outsized pincer like a baseball catcher’s mitt, it’s a wonder they don’t tumble over.


Siamang, Symphalangus syndactylus

Siamang by Suneko, Wikimedia Commons

©Suneko, Wikimedia Commons

If gibbons are indeed ‘funky’, then this one must be the James Brown of the primate world. Not only does it hurtle across its treetop stage with the abandon of a trapeze artist, but it also possesses one of the most histrionic singing voices in the animal kingdom – and has the throat to show for it.

To read more about these and other weird and wonderful creatures, buy our guide:

100 Bizarre Animals, Bradt Travel Guides

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