Remember the first time you saw a platypus as a kid and for a moment refused to believe that nature would really create an animal that looks like a duck had sex with a beaver? Well guess what, the world is actually full of bizarre mashup creatures like that, some of them hilarious and some of them terrifying, all of them looking like the result of a very drunken night of interspecies animal sex.
This picture is almost like some sort of visual illusion: Cover the lower half of the photo with your hand and it looks like a perfectly normal squirrel-size rodent, but focus on its hoofed legs instead and it's hard not to imagine it being the size of a deer.
The truth is somewhere in between: The chevrotain, or mouse deer, is the world's smallest hoofed mammal. If they wanted to recreate the plot of Bambi with these things, the hunter could save himself a few bullets by just stepping on Bambi's mom.
Stanley Kaisa Breeden / Getty
Hunting season probably doesn't concern you too much when a stiff breeze can shatter your legs.
One might suspect that a creature that's the size of a rabbit and looks like a mashup of the two most timid animals on earth would be a pushover. Well, it just so happens that chevrotain males come equipped with, for no immediately apparent reason other than wild incongruity, a set of elongated, saber-like canine teeth. The males actually use these outsized fangs to fight with one another over territory and mouse deer ladies.
University of Aberdeen
"You know what this could use? More cobra." -Mother Nature, apparently.
Shit, we had no idea that animals did cosplay, too. Because this is clearly just a prairie dog that found the carcass of an armadillo and decided to try on the carapace and the claws, right?
Nope, but the real explanation is almost as silly: This is a pichiciego, or pink fairy armadillo, from Argentina. This nocturnal animal (would you come out during the day if your mother named you that?) is the smallest of all armadillos, and it's currently endangered due to human destruction of its habitat, domestic dogs and possibly homophobia. Pichiciegos tend to be pretty sluggish when they're wobbling around aboveground, but as you may have guessed from the size of those backhoes they call front feet, it's below ground where they really shine.
Although those nails make us think that they'd fit in well at the DMV.
Those gigantic claws, combined with the peculiar formation of its carapace, allow it to completely bury itself in seconds when it feels threatened. Pichiciegos use this ability to maneuver themselves next to ant colonies, where they can attack the ants (their primary food source) from an unexpected direction. Wait, it has armor plating on its back and it hunts ants?
National Education Network
"Keep in mind, I'm extremely lazy."
Depending on the orientation of this picture when you look at it, this seems like either some cartoony pig without legs or a tiny squid with an inverted snout growing on its forehead. Either way, the creators of Pokemon have clearly run out of ideas by now.
The truth, of course, is that it's a type of squid, just a really freaking weird one. The piglet squid, as it's commonly known, is rarely photographed, since it prefers to lurk far below the surface, and as a result little is known of its behavior, other than its penchant for looking huggable. For reasons inexplicable to all but a sarcastic god, its tentacles approximate a child's curly head of hair, and its skin patterns resemble an innocent smiling face, best seen on its semi-transparent younger form:
Like if Casper the Friendly Ghost had an awkward adolescence.
Also, those large anime-inspired eyes actually twinkle, since they possess light-emitting organs called photophores. Its cute appearance is nothing but an unfortunate cosmic coincidence, because these things actually swim upside down: That photo up there may look like a smiley face to you, but turn it around and suddenly it's Cthulhu as a baby.
Caters, The Telegraph
So this is what happened when you flushed away those Sea Monkeys.
Holy shit, that Wizard of Oz reboot looks terrifying. This looks like a vampire monkey in mid-transformation, but it can't possibly be a real thing, can it? Maybe it's some sort of kite made out of monkey flesh, or an ape in a trench coat flashing us in free fall. Because otherwise, if this is a thing that exists and there's the remotest possibility of it ever swooping down on us, then we're never setting foot in a forest ever again.
Unfortunately for our peace of mind, it's real. It's called the colugo, also known as the flying lemur of Southeast Asia, which is an inaccurate name because its closest relative isn't the lemur, or even the bat -- it's YOU. That's right -- it has recently been established that flying lemurs are our closest non-primate relatives.
National University of Singapore, via MSNBC
"Let's hug, cousin."
While colugos are very agile gliders, they're really too heavy to fly efficiently. Flying can take up nearly twice as much energy as simply running and jumping from tree to tree, especially since they can glide 230 feet at a time anyway. Scientists suspect that they glide simply to save time, and to creep us out.
Norman Lin, National University of Singapore
Gotta admit, this would make a pretty badass bathroom rug.
Quick, somebody hustle this thing out of the cantina before Boba Fett shows up. Seriously, that's some sci-fi shit right there. Whichever concept artist came up with this elephant/goat fusion probably got paid in illegal mushrooms.
But no, this is a real animal known as a saiga that lives in the Mongolian and Russian steppes. Its pink-ribbed, waxy horns have been used in Chinese medicine for centuries, but not in the way the word "horn" suggests. A trunk similar to an elephant's takes in grass and leaves, and highlights another weird thing about it: The saiga can eat plants that are poisonous to other animals.
But oddly enough, it's allergic to crucifixes.
Believe it or not, this thing used to be pretty common. Hundreds of years ago, saiga herds covered most of Europe and North America, but with a short lifespan of only six to 10 years, the herds thinned and were quickly headed the way of the buffalo/dodo hybrid, the buffalodo. For a while, the USSR made it illegal to hunt the saiga and their numbers surged ... but then the Soviet Union collapsed and they became endangered again. Perhaps its stalky bug eyes are due to their flabbergastedness at their hard-luck, see-sawing existence.
Or they've just looked at themselves in the mirror recently.
Martin Harvey / Getty
If, for some reason, you decided to take the hippity-hop stylings of a kangaroo, the big floppy ears of a bunny and the face of a possum, then you'd get this thing -- and before you ask, yes, like so many of God's experiments gone awry, it's from Australia.
These giant mutant rats are called bilbies, and they're members of the bandicoot family. Their large, bunny-like ears allow them to hear when the other animals make fun of them and are also used for thermoregulation in their arid home. Also, like actual kangaroos, bilbies like hopping around and have a pouch where they stash their young'uns.
The only purpose the possum face serves is making sure you'd never lend this thing money.
In the past 200 years, the number of bilbies has decreased drastically, thanks to such vicious enemies as rabbits and cats (yeah, it's not much of a badass). Conservationists have tried to raise awareness of the bilby's plight by lobbying to replace the Easter Bunny with an Eastern bilby in Australia, and are also training them to avoid felines ... by throwing dead, declawed cats on top of them and traumatizing them.
Qld Parks & Wildlife, via ABC
The sad part is, the dead cats still kick their asses.
Look at these adorable hamster-like critters cuddling together in their leafy home. Have you ever seen a pig nose on a little fuzzy creature before? Don't you just wanna grab a bunch of them and hug them?
Actually, you'd better not, because that thing is a freaking bat, and it is riddled with diseases. The Ectophylla alba or Honduran white bat is a unique species of fruit-eating "tent" bat, which refers to its ability to cut the leaf off the bush it lives in and fold it over on top of itself, forming a tent, while it clings to the underside. That's right: Rather than just crashing into caves, they actually build their own homes.
Leyo, Wikipedia Commons
They're no more reliable than the average contractor, but at least they're adorable.
One male and his harem of females will cling together until night falls, when they'll fly out like poofy ghosts to nom on fruit. But no matter how adorable they look, these things are still bats, and as such they tend to carry all sorts of deadly diseases, like rabies. They recently discovered a species of fruit bat in Africa that carries a close cousin of the Ebola virus. So, yeah, no winged Furbies for you.
Good thing Bruce Wayne doesn't live in Honduras, or he'd look a whole lot sillier.
As if regular ants weren't bad enough, someone had to go and genetically merge them with bees to create this atrocity. Good going, science. The upside is that it won't try to steal your sweets because it can make its own honey. The downside is that it exists.
This is the velvet ant, and it's actually a wasp, not a bee or an ant (we're also just going to assume that velvet isn't involved either). The females are wingless, so they spend their time crawling around, looking for nectar and water while waiting for the males to swoop down and mount them. We have no information on whether the male can at that point take them both flying while they're doing it, but you can go ahead and imagine it anyway.
David Brownell via What's That Bug?
Classified also as "Fuzzy enough to be pettable, but still too creepy."
But we know what you're wondering: Can this thing sting me? The answer is yes, it absolutely can, and in fact its sting is so painful that it has been nicknamed "the cow killer" -- the stinger itself is over an inch long, which in wasp terms is like John Holmes. By the way, there are over 150 species of velvet ant spread all the way across Mexico, the U.S. and southern Canada, so you're going to have to get on a plane if you want to feel safe about sitting on your ass in the sand ever again.
This is the kind of creature you only expect to see when you reach the end of the dungeon in a Zelda game. It looks like a snake that by some magic spell grew legs and a protective pine-comb-like shell -- you're probably gonna need a shitload of bombs to kill this thing.
But, no, this is a real animal called the pangolin, which wanders around sub-Saharan Asia and Africa looking like a wad of pasted-together fingernail clippings. The pangolin is considered to be magic by some cultures: Women looking for certain men will bury pangolins near the male's door. Also, it has a massive snake-like tongue that, when unfurled, can actually be longer than its entire body.
San Diego Zoo
Somehow, we feel like these two facts are related.
By the way, when we said it's like a wad of fingernails, we meant it literally: Its scales have the texture of a toenail and grow like one as well. Constant burrowing for termites and ants (its only diet, since it has no teeth) keeps the scale edges filed down and manageable. When threatened, pangolins curl up in a near-impenetrable shell and can even roll away from danger. So in reality, it's less Zelda villain, more Transformer.
Mark Sheridan-Johnson / Barcroft Media via The Telegraph
"Good luck, asshole!"