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Animals You've Never Heard Of - G Edition

Updated on April 19, 2013

DISCLAIMER: You may have heard of some of these animals.

The flight of these birds is described as being like "a kite in the sky."
The flight of these birds is described as being like "a kite in the sky."

Guira Cuckoo

Looking like something between a roadrunner and a hawk, the Guira cuckoo is a gregarious, raucous bird native to southern South America, where it has flourished in areas where forests have been cut down. Guiras live in flocks of around 20 individuals, which regularly forage together on the ground in search of insects, amphibians, and even the chicks of other birds.

Many species of cuckoo birds practice a behavior called brood parasitism, but despite the Guira's fearsome appearance, these birds take care of their own young like responsible adults. In fact, they take care of other birds' young, too! These cuckoos will lay their eggs in communal nests with multiple females of the same flock, and will all share the work of brood care together. A single nest can have over 10 eggs in it!

Guira cuckoos have a reputedly foul odor associated with them, due to their large anal glands which are unique to their subfamily Crotophaginae. It is unknown for sure why crotophagines possess such a smell, as most birds cannot ascertain scent like we can in the first place.

The large ears of the gerenuk lend it its most powerful sense: hearing.
The large ears of the gerenuk lend it its most powerful sense: hearing.
This pose is characteristic of the gerenuk's unusual feeding behavior.
This pose is characteristic of the gerenuk's unusual feeding behavior.

Gerenuk

Just taking one look at a gerenuk isn't enough. Sometimes even a second look begs the question, "is this real?" The strangely elongated limbs and neck seem disproportionate to the size of the animal's head, and in some cases the neck seems more like a snake than a neck at all! For a simple African antelope, the gerenuk has a strangely alien appearance.

Like the giraffe and okapi, the gerenuk has very long limbs which aid it in its quest for food, allowing it to browse on branches up to 8 feet above the ground. By raising itself up on its hind legs and stretching its neck up high, the gerenuk can reach plants that other animals could not even hope to get to. They fill a specific grazing niche, somewhere below giraffes and somewhere above most other herbivores.

Gerenuks are used to absorbing moisture through the hundreds of tender acacia leaves they consume, and therefore have little use for trips to the water pool. They are rarely, if ever, seen drinking, and can survive in some crazy dry conditions. For the most part, gerenuks travel in pairs or in small groups of 5 or 8. They are not a herd animal, and when a threat is nearby, they are more likely to freeze than to run. To them, it's smarter to wait it out than to bug out!

By the way, the word gerenuk means giraffe neck in Somali. But even though they may be tall and skinny, the gerenuk is not related to the giraffe. They are actually more closely related to cows!

Reportedly, Giant Ghana snails have reached 12 inches in shell length.
Reportedly, Giant Ghana snails have reached 12 inches in shell length.
These snails are being sold as dinner in an African market.
These snails are being sold as dinner in an African market.

Giant Ghana Snail

Achatina achatina, sometimes called the giant tiger land snail, is known in the United States as being a humungous gastropod from a far-away land, a significant agricultural pest, and a forbidden exotic pet. In its native home of Africa, it is known as "the other white meat."

They are collected all over in Africa and sold either live, cooked, boiled, or fried, to be eaten at home. But they are not considered a delicacy like in France. They are just a convenient source of protein.

In the Western world they are revered for their beautiful shells, unimposing captive requirements, and adorable snail-like behaviors. So cute!

In the wild, they live just as anyone would expect a snail to live. Eating vegetation and detritus, sliming around on the forest floors, and trying their best to hide from predators (which includes practically everything in Africa).

The smile of a gharial is made up of approximately 110 teeth.
The smile of a gharial is made up of approximately 110 teeth.
Hatching from eggs at a mere 15 inches long, gharials have the ability to grow over 15 feet!
Hatching from eggs at a mere 15 inches long, gharials have the ability to grow over 15 feet!

Gharial

The gharial, or gavial, is a critically endangered Indian crocodile known for its peculiar jaw structure. The long, skinny muzzle is typical of aquatic fish-eating predators (just like dolphins and alligator gars). Though the elongated snout and conical teeth are not unique to the gharial, these crocodiles possess the most distinctive example of them.

The Hindi word ghara means water pitcher, and it is the name given to the bulbous tip found on the male gharial's snout. Gharials may use their ghara as a resonating chamber for their rumbles and hisses, which may aid them in finding mates and warding off competitors. Since only the males possess the bulbed noses, gharials are the only crocodilians in the world to display visible sexual dimorphism.

Unlike other crocodilians, gharials are unable to lift their bodies up off the ground and stand on their feet. If they're caught out of the water, they just slide around on their bellies.

They aren't called "ornamentals" for nothing! Look, but don't touch, is the general rule when dealing with these spiders.
They aren't called "ornamentals" for nothing! Look, but don't touch, is the general rule when dealing with these spiders.
Though no deaths have occurred from tarantula bites, the Poecilotheria metallica's can be very painful.
Though no deaths have occurred from tarantula bites, the Poecilotheria metallica's can be very painful.

Gooty Sapphire Ornamental

Regarded as the most beautiful and sought after tarantula in the pet trade, Poecilotheria metallica is alluring even to spider haters. The striking colors of royal blue and contrasting yellow are almost unreal, but I assure you, this is not the work of Photoshop!

In the wild the Gooty is listed as Critically Endangered, and only exists in a single forest reserve in India. They live a strictly arboreal life, and make their homes in the holes of old trees. Pressures from the timber industry have resulted in habitat loss, and subsequently a severe drop in the numbers of these magnificent spiders.

As it is with most spiders, the males of this species are smaller and more drab in appearance. The females are the only ones that exhibit the revered metallic colors, and can be sold at prices of over $300 to enthusiasts.

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    • profile image

      AP 

      18 months ago

      No poll on this one? I would have voted gharial as a kid (I loved gharials as a kid), and gerenuks until fairly recently because of their neat dining habits, but then I actually met a guira at the San Antonio Zoo. They're just so inquisitive and charming and personable, I can't see how anyone who encounters them wouldn't love them.

    • Haj09 profile image

      Hajer 

      3 years ago from Tunisia

      This is really awesome! I like the Giant Ghana Snail, so strange :D

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Shaddie,

      I loved hubs like this. Any piece about animals, rare or common, gets my attention every time.

      As for your writing, This is an excellent piece of writing. Honestly, I can easily describe it as amazing.

      I loved every word. Graphics were superb. This hub was helpful, informative and I found it very interesting.

      Voted up and all the choices because you deserve it.

      You have such a gift for writing. Keep writing no matter what.

      Sincerely,

      Kenneth Avery, Hamilton, Alabama

    • Shaddie profile imageAUTHOR

      Shaddie 

      5 years ago from Washington state

      You're preaching to the choir, Hawk! I often wish more documentaries would seek out unique creatures that we all haven't seen before. It's why I fell in love with the Planet Earth mini series from a few years back.

    • Hawkstryker profile image

      Matt Dawes 

      5 years ago from England

      Why can't David Attenborough do documentaries with creatures like these? We all know what lions and zebras look like now! Nice article Shaddie.

    • Shaddie profile imageAUTHOR

      Shaddie 

      5 years ago from Washington state

      Learning about new critters is AWESOME, I'm glad you guys agree :)

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      5 years ago from sunny Florida

      O, my. I only knew one of these so I guess the title was spot on.

      Interesting to read from start to finish.

      Sending Angels to you this afternoon. :) ps

    • dilipchandra12 profile image

      Dilip Chandra 

      5 years ago from India

      This is awesome, informative hub.

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