Really Weird Mammals
Unusual mammals from around the world
There are 5,400 known species of mammals today. They fly, hop, burrow, swim, climb trees, use two feet, use four feet or use no feet at all. The largest land mammal to ever live was 15 feet tall and the smallest just 1.6 inches. This makes for some pretty amazing variation and some pretty strange adaptations.
The picture you see here is just one example - the naked mole rat which is well adapted to a low oxygen, harsh underground environment. It is also the only known mammal to have an eusocial organization in which there is one queenand several breeding males,much like that of bees.
photo source: http://www.gelbetasse.de/wp-content/uploads/2006/11/nacktmull.jpg
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The Spiny Echidna
Perhaps the strangest of them all.....
Talk about bizarre - The unpredictable and elusive short beaked echidna looks a bit like a walking sea urchin with a beak. It also has a pouch like that of a marsupial and lays eggs like a reptile. Even more amazing is the fact that is has the lifespan of an elephant!
Along with the platypus, the echidna is the world's only living momotreme or egg laying mammal. It is found exclusively throughout Australasia from the rain forest to the desert. Echidnas are not considered endangered though it is unknown just how many of them there are. They are hard to catch as they are small and silent and even in plain sight can resemble a small nondescript bush. In addition they lack permanent dens, forage over vast distances and are active day or night regardless of weather.
Echidnas are born anything but helpless. They have short heavy backward pointing rear claws and powerful shoulder which allow them to be masters at digging. In fact, they are the only mammal that can dig straight down, disappearing in minutes. They can even dig though heavy plastic and wood. As an adult, echidnas have no teeth but a beak (which is an extension of the skull) that they use to root around vegetation, plow through soil and pry up rocks in search of their favorite foods - worms, termites, ants and grubs. It's got a long sticky tongue that shoots in and out of its beak at rapid speed gobbling up its prey. The females produce milk not through teats, but through a hairy patch on the belly from which milk is lapped up by the young. Unlike other mammals (but like birds), they have a single hole for excretion, sex, and egg-laying: the cloaca.
Echidnas have little in common with porcupines. Their spines lack barbs and they can use their spines to climb a rock crevice or right themselves when upended. Porcupines cannot use their quills for such feats. The echidnas spines are actually modified hairs that have a long root that goes into a special muscle layer that no other mammal has. They can therefore move their spines individually or in small groups. If you pick one up for example, the spines on its head will stand straight up while those on its back will lie flat. During courtship, the male will stroke the spines on a female and her spines will undulate.
Another interesting fact about the echidna is that they have no sweat pores, nor do they pant. Excessive heat can kill them but they are not bothered by cold and can go into torpor if necessary to conserve energy. And the last final oddity - The echidna's neocortex, associated with reasoning and personality in humans, accounts for nearly half its brain's volume, compared to about 30 percent in so-called higher mammals. Exactly what are they thinking?
photo source: http://whyevolutionistrue.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/chid10.jpg echidna 1
Although it kind of looks like a scaly reptile, the pangolin is indeed a mammal. There are eight different species of pangolins found in the tropical regions of Africa and Asia. The most common species of pangolin are the giant pangolin (most threatened), the tree pangolin and the most widespread, the ground pangolin.
Pangolins are toothless and have no external ears, though their hearing is reportedly very good. Since they have no teeth, they have a gizzard like stomach and swallow small stones and sand to help with the digestive process. Pangolins have very long tongues - up to 16 inches in length - which they use to slurp up their favorite foods - termites and ants. In a resting position the tongue is coiled back into a sheath that retracts into the chest cavity. Large salivary glands coat the long tongue with a gummy mucus to which ants and termites stick.
They have a good sense of smell and a poor sense of sight. Their scales, made out of keratin, (same material that makes up human fingernails) make up 20% of their total body weight. These scales are used for defense. If threatened, the pangolin will roll itself up into a tight ball which is very difficult to unroll. The scales are razor sharp and combined with powerful muscles can inflict serious wounds. As a last defensive resort, pangolins also have anal scent glands that emit strong, foul smelling secretions, reminiscent of the skunk.
Pangolins are nocturnal. Tree dwelling pangolins live in hollow trees, whereas the ground dwelling species dig tunnels underground, up to a depth of 11 feet (3.5 m) They are also very good swimmers.
Man takes his toll on the pangolin, which is in high demand in China as a delicacy. some Chinese believe pangolin scales reduce swelling, promote blood circulation and help breast-feeding women produce milk. Because of this, illegial trafficing has caused the pangolin population to suffer. In Africa, pangolins have tratitionally been thought of as purveyors of magic and charms. When mixed with bark from certain trees, the scales are said to neutralize witchcraft and evil spirits. If buried near a man's door, they are said to give an interested woman power over him. Sometimes the scales are burned to keep lions and other wild animals away. In some areas pangolins are sacrificed for rainmaking ceremonies, and in others they are simply hunted for meat.
photo source: http://www.wildlifesafari.info/images/pangolin.jpg
Check The Pangolin Out In This Video
A bat's heart beats 12,000 beats per minute!
Kids love all things soft, furry and weird
Introduce them to the strangest mammals on earth with these great books.
Some fun facts about unusual mammals from every letter of the alphabet.
From the shaggy musk-ox to the star-nosed mole to the incredibly slow three-toed sloth, this delightful addition to the popular Extremely Weird series introduces readers to some of the most unusual mammals found on the planet today.
Read about the strangest, funniest, woolliest mammals that scamper, swing, or hop across our globe.
My 3 year old loves this book and series, awesome pictures and just the right amount of text, perfect for bed time reading
The Star Nosed Mole
The star nosed mole is one of the most distinctive looking mammals due to its hairless nose that is ringed with 22 fleshy tentacles. There are 11 tentacles on each side and they vary in length between 1 and 4 cm. Each tentacle is covered with around 25,000 Eimer's organs which are minute touch receptors. Other mole species also possess Eimer's organs, though they are not as specialized or numerous as in the star-nosed mole.
Since the star nosed mole is basically blind, the tentacles on its nose are used in a number of different activities. When they burrow, the tentacles are held forward over their nostrils to prevent dirt from going up their nose. They also bring the tentacles forward while consuming their prey. The tentacles are very sensitive and are constantly being used when they forage, moving so fast that they appear as a blur of motion and can touch as many as 12 objects per second. Using these supersensitive tentacles, the mole can tell what a potential prey item is and consume it within 8 miliseconds (around half a second). This makes the star nosed mole the fastest eating mammal, able to detect and consume a prey item at the speed which is the limit of the speed of a brain cell, or neuron, firing.
Like other moles, the star nosed mole is fossorial, which means it digs and burrows underground. Unlike other North American moles though, the star nosed mole is semiaquatic. Often it has tunnels that will open up under the surface of a stream or lake. It can paddle well with its strong forelimbs and swims in a zig zag manner due to the way it alternates strokes of its hind limbs and fore limbs. They also possess the ability to smell underwater. This is done by exhaling air bubbles onto objects or scent trails and then inhaling the bubbles to carry the smell back through the nose.
(the above picture is of the star nosed mole breathing underwater)
The star nosed mole is also more active on the surface than other moles and It uses runways often made by other mammals (such as field mice and voles) to get through the vegetation. It is active year round and will burrow through snow and even swim under ice in frozen ponds in the wintertime.
The Slender Loris
The slender loris is a small arboreal (tree dwelling) mammal about the size of a chipmunk. They are found only in the tropical rainforests of Southern India and Sri Lanka. They are easy to identify as their large striking brown eyes are surrounded by dark brown to black circles of fur and the bridge of its nose is white. The slender loris has small finger nails on all of its digits. The second digit on the hand and foot are very short and move on the same plane as the thumb, which helps them grasp branches and twigs.
Like the sloth, the slender loris moves in a slow and deliberate manner and travels along the tops of branches. They hunt for insects in pairs or alone at night and then come together to share food. As social mammals, they Sleep with up to seven other lorises in hollow trees or sitting up on branches. They also play, wrestle, groom each other.
Mating occurs twice a year with one or two infants born per mating pair. During the first few weeks the infant will grasp its mother around the waist with both its front and hind legs and the mother carries it around constantly. The slender loris has a life span of 12 to 15 years.
The slender loris has the unique ability to stretch and twist their long arms and legs through the branches of the trees without alerting their prey, to capture their favorite foods - noxious and bad smelling insects. They particularly like the acacia ant whose bite can numb a human arm. They also like toxic beetles and roaches. To defend against the sting of some of these toxic insects, they engage in urine washing during which they rub urine all over their hands, feet and face which soothes the sting.
Native people have always believed that all parts of the slender loris have some medicinal or magical powers. This combined with destruction of their habitat has contributed greatly to the decline of the species. It is not know exactly how many are still in existence as they are small and difficult to locate and track. Protection for this unique mammal is increasing however slowly.
photo source: http://soa111.wordpress.com/2010/09/26/gray-slender-loris/
Watch The Slender Loris in This Video
Armadillos, opossums and sloths spend up to 80 percent of their lives sleeping
The Aardvark, native to subsaharan Africa, shares some characteristics and resemblance to the South American Anteater and the pig but it is not closley related to either. It is the sole member of the obscure mammalian order Tubulidenta.
The Body of the Aardvark is covered with black coarse hairs, it is pale yellowish gray in color and often stained reddish-brown by soil. The aardvark's coat is thin and the animal's primary protection is its tough skin. Its hind legs are shorted than its front legs and its front feet have only 4 toes whereas the back feet have 5. Each toe has a robust nail which is somewhat flattened and shovel like (sort of appears to be intermediate between a claw and a hoof). Its ears are disproportionatly long as is its head. Its mouth is tubular (like all species that feed on termites) and it has a long snakelike protruding tongue.
Most unique in its appearance it its teeth. Each tooth has a cluster of upright parallel tubes and no enamel coating. Thus they are worn down and have to be continuously regrown. Its canines and incisors fall out and are not regrown so adult aardvarks have only cheek teeth at the back of the jaw.
The aardvark forages for termites and ants in the late afternoon and evening over a large home range. Since it has poor eyesight, it swings its nose through the air from side to side to pick up the scent of food. When it locates a large termite mound or anthill, it digs into it with its powerful front legs, keeping its ears upright to listen for predators. It can take up to 50,000 insects in one night with its super sticky tongue.
The main predators of the aardvark aside from humans are lions, leopards, hunting dogs and pythons. Usually they will run in a zig zag pattern or furiously dig into the ground to escape but if this fails they will try to fight back using their claws, tails and shoulders, sometimes flipping over on to their backs to lash out with all fours. Their thick skin also protects them somwehat.
Tratitional African uses of the aardvark include eating it for meat and creating a charm by taking the heart, skin, forehead and nails of the animal and pounding them all together with the root of a certain tree. This is then wrapped in a piece of skin and worn on the chest. The charm is said to give the wearer the ability to pass through walls or roofs at night and is used by burglars and those wishing to visit young girls at night without their paretns consent. Africans admire the aardvark because of its diligent quest for food and its ability to eat the annoying and stinging soldier ants.
photo source: http://www.itsnature.org/ground/mammals-land/aardvark/
Take one of These Strange Mammals Home!
softer and more cuddly than the real thing!
why not add all the weird mammals to your collection?
Soft toy made from 100% Australian Sheepskin in the shape and colors of a Wombat. Wombat lambskin soft toy comes in a 100% cotton drawstring bag with a gift card, that has information about the Wombat.
The elephant is the only animal that cannot jump. Most elephants weigh less than the tongue of a blue whale.
The Duck BIlled Platypus
I wasn't going to include the duck billed platypus on my page of weird mammals as I already have the echidna, which lays eggs, but then I thought, it is REALLY weird, after all, when it was first discovered and brought back for British scientists to observe in 1798, they deemed it a hoax so I best include it.
The duck billed platypus is native to Australia and Tasmania and like the echidna is a monotreme (lays eggs.) It is also venomous, has a duck bill, a beaver tail, otter type feet and is semi aquatic. As mentioned it is venomous, the male Platypus has a spur on the hind foot that delivers a venom capable of causing severe, excruciating (though not lethal) pain to humans.
The Platypus uses its tail for storage of fat reserves and its thick brown fur to trap a layer of insulating air as it swims underwater. It has webbed feet and a large, rubbery snout which is also uses when swimming. The Platypus jaw is constructed differently from that of other mammals, and the jaw-opening muscle is different. It does have the same three tiny ear bones located within the skull that all other mammals possess, however, the external opening of the ear still lies at the base of the jaw. The platypus also have extra bones in its shoulder girdle and a waddling reptilian like gait as its legs are on the side of its body rather than underneath.
Like the echidna, the platypus is able to locate it's prey in part by detecting electric fields generated by muscular contractions. The electroreceptors and mechanoreceptors that allow it to do this are located on the top and bottom of its bill. The platypus finds and captures its prey by digging its bill into the bottom of stream beds and using the electroreceptors in its bill to detect minute movements such as muscle contractions in its prey. It does not see or smell underwater.
The platypus is an excellent swimmer and inhabits small streams and rivers over a fairly large range. When it swims, the hind feet are held against the body and do not assist in propulsion but rather for steering. All four feet are webbed. It can stay underwater for around 40 seconds and surfaces to eat its prey which includes shrimp, worms and insect larvae.
Living in a simple ground burrow, the femals makes a comfortable home using dead leaves she carries under her tail. She has only one functional ovary and will lay about 3 eggs. The eggs develop in utero for about 28 days and then have an extended growth period outside the body of 10 days. The newly hatched young are vulnerable, blind, and hairless, and are fed by the mother's milk released through pores in the skin much like the echidna. The male takes no part in helping to rear the young. The female cares for the young and after five weeks or so the young are able to more or less fend for themselves. Babies are born with teeth, but these drop out at a very early age, leaving the horny plates they grind their food with.
Most mammals have two sex chromosomes, and X and Y. The platypus is unique in that it has ten - a male is always XYXYXYXYXY. This is similar to the sex chromosomes found in birds. Its genome also has both reptilian and mammalian genes associated with egg fertalization. This means it does not have the SRY gene which is the gene that determines if an organism is going to become a male or not. The process of sex determination in the platypus therefore remains unknown. The rest of its genes - 80%, are common to other mammals.
All of its unique features make it an important subject in the study of evolutionary biology.
The platypus has been featured in songs, childrens shows and as the mascot for a few things including the olympic games in 2000 and for Apple Computer's BSD-based Darwin operating system. It is also found on the reverse side of the Australian 20 cent coin. It was once hunted for its fur but is now protected throughout its range.
photo source: http://gifts.worldwildlife.org/gift-center/gifts/Species-Adoptions/Duck-billed-Platypus.aspx
Interesting Video On Probing the Evolution Of the Platypus
A pig's orgasm lasts for 30 minutes
The Northern Hairy Nosed Wombat
The northern hairy nosed wombat is one of the rarest and most endangered mammals on Earth. A native to Australia, the one small population of 40 - 60 individuals is all that remains and can only be found in the Epping Forrest National Park in central Queensland.
The northern hairy nosed wombat is the largest burrowing herbivore in the world. It is covered with brownish grey soft, silky fur, has a wide head and pointed ears. It gets its name from its distinctive muzzle which is covered with short brown hairs. The northern hairy nosed wombat is strong and heavily built, with short, powerful legs and strong claws that are used to search for suitable plants and roots to eat or to dig burrows.
They also have long claws and strong legs which aide in digging burrows. The species is well adapted to hot and dry conditions and requires very little water. In fact, they have one of the lowest water requirements of any mammal, and very low energy expenditure. Despite their somewhat lumbering appearance, northern hairy-nosed wombats are capable of running at 40 kilometers per hour when threatened. They have very poor eyesight and rely on smell to forage for their favorite foods - native grasses, roots and other plants. (Part of the reason for their decline is their habitat being overtaken by non-indigenous grasses such as buffel grass.)
Like other marsupials, females carry their young in a front facing pouch for a period of 9 months.
Check Out These Great Finds
Emus and kangaroos cannot walk backwards, and are on the Australian coat of arms for that reason.