Grizzly bears are awesome. Lions are majestic. Koalas are cute and cuddly. But have you ever heard of a Screaming Hairy Armadillo, a Legless Lizard, or a Shingleback Skink? If you’re anything like us, whenever you’re at the zoo, you head for the weirdest, wildest, slimiest, and silliest creatures on exhibit. We don’t play it safe in the kiddie petting zoo. So, we decided to take America’s 50 Best Zoos, as determined by Ranker.com, and find the wackiest animals each zoo has on display. We then listed the fascinating facts, odd superpowers, and gross-out characteristics each creature is known for. The human imagination can’t conjure the oddities that exist in Mother Nature. Did you know a Hissing Cockroach can scale a wall of sheer glass? Take that, Spiderman. So next time you’re in the area of any of these zoos, drop in and see for yourself the unusual animals we can’t wait to tell you about. Or plan your next road trip and see them all. Either way, you never know what you’ll find during your next visit to the zoo. How We Assigned the Weirdness Score After considering all their one-of-a-kind traits, we assigned each animal a “Weirdness Score” on a scale of 1 to 10, based on scarcity, special abilities, and general eww quotient. 1 being your dog Rover, and 10 being, like, Cthulhu or something. Read on and see if you agree with our selections. San Diego Zoo Location: San Diego, CaliforniaWeirdest Animal: Secretary BirdIf you need a kicker on your fantasy football team, consider the Secretary Bird. Native to Africa, the Secretary Bird, a cousin of raptors such as kites, hawks, vultures, and harriers, lives in the open grasslands and savannahs of the sub-Saharan region. The species is known for unusually long legs—nearly twice as long as other ground birds of the same body mass. This is thought to be an adaptation for the bird’s unique stomping method of hunting. The Secretary Bird stomps their prey (mainly lizards and snakes) until the prey is killed or immobilized. Adult males strike with a force equal to 5 times its own body weight, with a contact period of only 10–15 milliseconds. Secretary Birds are also thought to have superior binocular vision, allowing these birds to determine the precise location of the head of its prey. Weirdness Score: 6.5 If only we could see a fight between Bruce Lee and a Secretary Bird. Henry Doorly ZooLocation: Omaha, NebraskaWeirdest Animal: Blind Cave FishNative to Mexico, Blind Cave Fish find their way around by means of lateral lines running along the lengths their bodies. The lines are highly sensitive to fluctuating water pressure. However, not all forms of Cave Fish are truly blind: some have degenerated sight and some are totally blind, while still others have lost their eyes completely. About 30 populations of Blind Cave Fish are known, dispersed over three geographically distinct areas of Mexico. At least three have full cave forms—blind and without pigment. Another eleven known species have cave, “normal,” and intermediate forms. At least one species has both cave and “normal” forms but no intermediates. Different forms can interbreed, making this species ideal for studying convergent and parallel evolution, regressive evolution in cave animals, and the genetic basis of regressive traits. This, combined with the ease of maintaining the species in captivity, has made it the most studied cavefish and likely also the most studied cave organism in the world. Weirdness Score: 8.5 I mean, some of them don’t even have eyes. How weird is that? Columbus ZooLocation: Columbus, OhioWeirdest Animal: Pallas CatNative to the steppe regions of Central Asia, the Pallas Cat is only about the size of a house cat. Nevertheless, it’s one of the most rare, secretive, and highly-threatened cat species on the planet. Pallas Cats lead solitary lifestyles in harsh environments, contributing to their scarcity in the wild. They live in caves, rock crevices, and marmot burrows, emerging in the late afternoon to hunt. Fluffy your house pet is probably a faster runner than a Pallas Cat, which hunts primarily by ambush or stalking, using low vegetation and rocky terrain for cover. They feed primarily on gerbils, pikas, voles, birds and sometimes they catch young marmots. The extreme environment of the Pallas Cat also contributes to a short breeding season, but they can have litters of up to 6 kittens. Such large litters compensate for a high infant mortality rate. Weirdness Score: 2.5 Okay, the Pallas Cat is mostly just kind of cute. But the fact they live in such harsh environments makes them worthy of mention as badass survivors. Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical GardenLocation: Cincinnati, OhioWeirdest Animal: Domino RoachWhile small, the Domino Roach, found in southern India, packs an effective defense system. The Domino Roach can spray a chemical irritant when threatened. The black and white spotted pattern is thought to have evolved to mimic other more aggressive beetles. The species has simple eyes that only sense light, living mostly in burrows under leaf litter and in soil. After copulating, female Domino Roaches have no time for romance: she kicks the males away with her hind legs. Don’t text me, I’ll text you. Weirdness Score: 5 Any kind of roach deserves at least a 5 on the gross-out scale. Saint Louis Zoological ParkLocation: Saint Louis, MissouriWeirdest Animal: Carmine Bee EaterThe sub-equatorial African Carmine Bee Eater is a strikingly-colored bird with an interesting diet: bees. The birds hunt bees as well as other flying insects from perches — perches which occasionally include the backs of large animals such as the Kori Bustard, the largest flying bird native to Africa. Most animals flee at the sight of a forest fire, but not the Carmine Bee Eater: Its first thought is “lunch.” Insects group together as they try to escape the inferno, making easy pickings for the birds as they circle high in the air over the blaze. They’ve even been known to catch insects attempting to escape oncoming vehicles. Weirdness Score: 4.5 As far as we’re concerned, any animal that eats bees earns at least a little of our respect. Fort Worth Zoological ParkLocation: Fort Worth, TexasWeirdest Animal: Goliath BirdeaterTrigger warning: This spider is huge. Found in northern South America, the 8-legged behemoth is the largest spider in the world by mass and size. (The Giant Hunstman spider has a longer leg-span.) The Goliath Birdeater Tarantula is nocturnal, living in deep burrows in swampy or marshy areas. Unlike some other spiders, females don’t kill and eat the males after mating. Females can live as long as 25 years. Cuisine isn’t what we usually think about when we think of spiders, but people in some parts of South America do eat the Goliath Birdeater. It is prepared by singeing off its body hairs and roasting it in banana leaves. The spider is said to taste shrimp-like. And to answer your question, it’s pretty rare for a Goliath Birdeater to actually eat a bird. Weirdness Score: 9 They taste like shrimp. Toledo ZooLocation: Toledo, OhioWeirdest Animal: Emperor TamarinBoasting truly impressive facial hair, the Emperor Tamarin is allegedly named for its resemblance to German emperor Wilhelm II. It lives in the southwest Amazon Basin, east Peru, north Bolivia, and west Brazil. With predominantly gray fur and yellowish chest speckles, what’s most distinctive about the creature’s appearance is that long, white mustache, often extending beyond its shoulders. Emperor Tamarins have a varied daily diet, including fruits, flowers, gums, and saps. Some consume animal prey, such as insects and frogs, depending on their habitat. Once thought to be monogamous, the Emperor Tamarin flips the script on much of the natural world by having a dominant female mate with several males. Weirdness score: 3.5 Mad respect for that mustache though. Bronx ZooLocation: New York, New YorkWeirdest Animal: Poison Dart FrogSay it with me now: aposematic. It’s just a big word meaning that when it comes to the natural world, bright colors often signal danger. This is the case with the Poison Dart Frog, Native to tropical Central and South America, these species are diurnal with brightly colored bodies. These mostly small amphibians are often called “dart frogs,” due to indigenous peoples’ use of their toxic secretions to poison the tips of blowdarts (though this practice is much rarer than popularly believed). Poison Dart Frogs are dedicated parents, raising their young in secluded, watery nurseries. They mate much like fish: Females deposit the eggs and the males fertilize them. While they’re occasionally seen clutching one another, these are usually territorial wrestling matches between 2 males. Weirdness Score: 4.5 While they are kind of cute, the poison dart frog is a formidable enemy. Brookfield ZooLocation: Chicago, IllinoisWeirdest Animal: Sloth BearsNative to the Indian subcontinent, the Sloth Bear has long, shaggy fur, a mane around the face, and long, sickle-shaped claws. It is thought that the Sloth Bear evolved from the ancestral Brown Bear during the Pleistocene period. Sloth Bears breed during spring and early summer, giving birth near the beginning of winter. Their diet consists of termites, honeybee colonies, and fruits. These bears have been known to attack humans encroaching on their territories. But this isn’t much of a surprise, considering that humans have drastically diminished Sloth Bear populations by reducing their habitat and hunting them for food as well as for their claws and bacula (a penis bone common among mammals — and no, you don’t have one). Sloth Bears have even been tamed and used as performing pets. Weirdness Score: 6 This animal earns at least 1 full point for being hunted for their penis bone. Milwaukee County ZooLocation: Milwaukee, WisconsinWeirdest Animal: SpringhaasLooks can be deceiving. Case in point: The Springhaas is not actually a hare, but a rodent. Native to southern Africa, Springhaas are mostly nocturnal, spending their day in tunnels. The Springhaas jumps on its hind legs like a kangaroo, retreating to its burrow when frightened. A pair of Springhaas may occupy many different burrows on different days. They tend to make three burrows together in a circular shape. These burrows are mostly found near the largest tree or bush within their home range. Unlike other rodents, which are typically born blind and hairless, Springhaas are born furred and are active within a very short time of birth. If the burrow is left unoccupied, the Springhaas occasionally comes home to a surprise: a black-footed cat hidden in its home. Given the small size of the Springhaas, let’s hope its house guest isn’t hungry. Weirdness Score: 7 At least 2 points for being some kind of rabbit-kangaroo-mouse…thing. North Carolina ZooLocation: Asheboro, North CarolinaWeirdest Animal: Common Vampire BatIf you’re anything like us, there’s nothing particularly common about a vampire bat. Found all over the Americas, the Common Vampire Bat is rare among bat species because it has maintained the ability to run on land and has relatively good eyesight. They have a unique, bounding gait when they do run. The forelimbs are used instead of the hindlimbs to propel forward, as the wings are much more powerful than the legs. Feeding mostly at night, Common Vampire Bats eat primarily mammalian blood. Their most common food sources are cattle and horses, but they’re also known to go after wild prey like the tapir. However, they do seem to prefer domesticated animals, favoring horses over cattle, and female animals over males (particularly those in estrus). Weirdness Score: 10 Because, well, they’re vampires. Sedgwick County ZooLocation: Wichita, KansasWeirdest Animal: The Queensland Redclaw YabbyThe Queensland Redclaw Yabby is the largest of the freshwater crayfish, and native to New South Wales, Australia and southeastern Papua New Guinea. They have also been introduced as an invasive species in South Africa, Mexico, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. What makes them so pervasive is their ability to tolerate a variety of freshwater habitats such as creeks and other bodies of warm water. They do, however, prefer slow-moving water such as lakes or lagoons. Mainly active at night, they dig under rocks, enlarge existing holes, and use caves or plants as shelter. They are climbers as well. Don’t mess with a female Yabby with eggs: Maternal Yabbies are fiercely territorial. If they lose a limb, they can regenerate a new one within a month or so. Weirdness Score: 4.5 Because they can regrow their limbs! Memphis ZooLocation: Memphis, TennesseeWeirdest Animal: AxolotlAlso known as the Mexican Walking Fish, the Axolotl is actually a salamander. Native to Mexico, Axolotls are unusual among amphibians because instead of developing lungs and taking to the land, adults remain aquatic and gilled. Axolotls were sold as food in Mexican markets and were a staple in the Aztec diet. The coolest thing about Axolotls is their regenerative abilities. They are capable of regenerating lost appendages in a period of months. Some have even been found restoring less crucial parts of their own brain. They can also accept transplants from other Axolotls, including eyes and parts of the brain. Axolotls are used extensively in scientific research because of their unique healing abilities. Weirdness Score: 10 The Axolotl has the best regenerative ability next to Deadpool. Cleveland Metroparks ZooLocation: Cleveland, OhioWeirdest Animal: AgoutiFound in forested and wooded areas in Central and South America, Agouti habitat includes rainforests and savannas as well as farmland. Masters of concealment, at night Agoutis hide in hollow tree trunks or in burrows among roots. Agoutis are also expert swimmers and take readily to water. When feeding, Agoutis sit on their hind legs and hold fallen fruit, leaves, and roots between their forepaws. The like to eat in groups, gathering in numbers up to 100. Agoutis save food for later in small, buried stores. In a pinch, they have also been seen eating the eggs of ground-nesting birds and even shellfish on the seashore. They’re also unusually strong, regarded as one of the few species able to open Brazil nuts without tools, mainly thanks to their exceptionally sharp teeth. Weirdness Score: 2.5 Their exceptional strength is undeniably cool, but doesn’t score high in weirdness. Detroit ZooLocation: Detroit, MichiganWeirdest Animal: Matamata TurtleMatamatas inhabit slow-moving blackwater streams, stagnant pools, marshes, and swamps in northern Bolivia, eastern Peru, Ecuador, eastern Colombia, Venezuela, the Guianas, and northern and central Brazil. Strictly aquatic, Matamata Turtles are large with an oversized triangular head. The unusual head also has distinctive flaps of skin and a horn on its long snout. A Matamata’s shell resembles a piece of bark, and its head mimics fallen leaves. As it lays motionless in the water, skin flaps enable the turtle to blend into the surrounding vegetation until a fish comes close. Then the Matamata thrusts open its large mouth as wide as possible, creating a low-pressure vacuum that sucks prey into its mouth. This is known as suction feeding. After snapping shut its mouth, water is slowly expelled, and the fish is swallowed whole. Matamatas cannot chew. Weirdness Score: 9.5 Just look at that head! Disney’s Animal KingdomLocation: Orlando, FloridaWeirdest Animal: Komodo DragonThe Komodo Dragon, also known as the Komodo Monitor, is found in the islands of Indonesia. These predators truly look like relics from the age of dinosaurs. Komodos are the largest living species of lizard, growing to a maximum length of up to 10 feet. In rare cases, they can reach up to 150 lbs. A nightmare with scales! The unusually large size of the Komodo Dragon has been attributed to island gigantism, with little competition from any other carnivores. Komodo Dragons dominate their ecosystems. They’ve even been known to attack humans. They hunt by ambushing prey including invertebrates, birds, and mammals. They have glands in their lower jaw which secrete several toxic proteins, shown to contain anticoagulant properties. Komodo Dragons also hunt in groups, a rare behavior in the reptile world. Weirdness Score: 9.5 A carnivore that secretes a substance preventing the blood of its prey from coagulating. How badass is that? Smithsonian National Zoological ParkLocation: Washington, DCWeirdest Animal: Screaming Hairy ArmadilloOne of the smallest and most slender of its genus, the Screaming Hairy Armadillo is found in parts of the Gran Chaco and Pampas areas of Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay. Isolated populations have also been found in the eastern Buenos Aires Province of Argentina. When the Screaming Hairy Armadillo is not in its burrow, the animal spends most of its time foraging. The animal’s omnivorous diet consists of insects, vertebrates, and plant material. Strangely, this armadillo ingests a lot of sand while feeding. In fact, sand may occupy as much as 50% of the volume of its stomach at any given time. Weirdness Score: 8 Just listen to the sound this thing makes. Cheyenne Mountain ZooLocation: Cheyenne, WyomingWeirdest Animal: Blue Death-feigning BeetleThe Desert Ironclad Beetle, or Blue Death-Feigning Beetle, is native to the deserts of the southwestern United States. It has been known to feign death when threatened. They’re actually popular pets due to ease of care, hardiness, and longevity. The powdery blue coloring of these beetles comes from a wax secreted throughout their bodies that keeps them from losing moisture. They cannot climb on smooth surfaces (plastic or glass). As pets, these insects require little to no additional heat or humidity. They need dry sand, something to hide in, and not much else. They don’t drink water, sourcing hydration from foods such as apples. They can even eat dog and cat food. Weirdness Score: 7 This bug can play dead, which is more than your dog can do. It’ll even eat your dog’s food. Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical GardenLocation: Oklahoma City, OklahomaWeirdest Animal: Shingleback SkinkShingleback Skinks are a short-tailed, slow-moving relative of the Blue-Tongued Skink, a lizard species, found in Australia. Heavily armored, Shinglebacks can be found in various colors, ranging from dark brown to cream. Its tail is short and stumpy, resembling its head in order to confuse predators. The tail also contains fat reserves, which are drawn upon during lean winter months. This skink is an omnivore. It eats snails and plants, spending much of its time browsing through vegetation for food. It is often seen sunning on roadsides or other paved areas. Weirdness Score: 6 Because they eat their own tail. Minnesota ZooLocation: Apple Valley, MinnesotaWeirdest Animal: Visayan Warty PigLittle is known about the behavior of the critically endangered Visayan Warty Pig outside of captivity. The Visayan Warty Pig receives its name from the three pairs of fleshy warts on its face, acting as a natural defense against the tusks of rival pigs during a fight. These boars also grow stiff spiky hair. Living in groups of up to 6, the Warty Pig diet consists mainly of roots, tubers, and fruits that can be found in the forest as well as cultivated crops. Weirdness Score: 7 Warts and stiff spiky hair? Better features on a pig than your next dinner date. Dallas ZooLocation: Dallas, TexasWeirdest Animal: Giant AnteaterAlso known as the Ant Bear, Giant Anteaters are large insectivorous mammals native to Central and South America. It is one of four living species of anteaters and is related to the sloth. This species is mostly terrestrial, in contrast to other living anteaters and sloths, which mostly live in trees. Giant Anteaters live in a variety of regions, including grassland and rainforest. These animals, which can reach lengths of up to 7 feet and weight as much as 90 lbs, forage in open areas and rest in more forested habitats. The anteater feeds primarily on ants and termites, using its foreclaws to dig them up and its long, sticky tongue to collect them. Consider it from the point of view of an ant: the snout of a Giant Anteater invading your home, hungrily devouring your friends and family with a long, sticky tongue. With its distinctive appearance and habits, the threatened creature often appears in pre-Columbian myths and folktales, as well as modern popular culture. Weirdness Score: 6 Despite their odd appearance, we find Anteaters strangely cute. That tongue is pretty weird though. Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG AquariumLocation: Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaWeirdest Animal: Kunekune PigIn the 1980s, only an estimated fifty purebred Kunekune pigs remained. But as of 2010, thanks to breeding and extensive recovery efforts, Kunekunes no longer faces extinction. With a short, round body and two tassels under its chin, the Kunekune is covered in hair which can be long or short, straight or curly. They live in woodlands and open pastures. Kunekunes need little more than grass to sustain themselves. An acre of grass can support as many as 5 Kunekunes. Kunekune boars become fertile at 6 to 7 months. Females can become pregnant at 5 months. The sows are attentive mothers. Litters vary in size averaging around seven piglets. Weirdness Score: 1.5 Those tassels though. Riverbanks ZooLocation: Columbia, South CarolinaWeirdest Animal: BabirusaNative to the islands of Indonesia, Babirusas were once used as gifts to royalty. Their preferred habitats are tropical rainforests along riverbanks. While related to pigs, Babirusas do not dig with their snout like other pigs do (except in mud and swampy grounds). The diet of the Babirusa includes leaves, roots, fruits, and animal material. The strong jaws of a Babirusa are capable of easily cracking hard nuts. Male Babirusas tend to live solitarily while adult females and their young are found in groups, which can number up to about 80 individuals. The tusks of adult males are used to fight: Upper tusks are for defense while the lower are offensive weapons. If the tusks aren’t ground down regularly, they can eventually grow so long that they penetrate the animal’s own skull. Weirdness Score: 7 Any animal unique enough to be a gift to royalty deserves some respect. Fort Wayne Children’s ZooLocation: Fort Wayne, IndianaWeirdest Animal: Tassled Wobbegong SharkFound in waters around Australia, the Tasselled Wobbegong is known to reach up to 12 feet long. The shark’s body is very broad and flat, with a head wider than it is long. A distinctive fringe runs almost continuously from the snout tip to the origins of the pectoral fins. They even seem to have a little beard on their chins. The Tasselled Wobbegong’s unique appearance grants it excellent camouflage. A slower swimmer than related species, it is solitary and spends most of the day lying motionless inside caves or under ledges with its tail curled up. Individual sharks have a small home range, which will include several preferred resting spots that are used on a consistent basis. This species becomes more active at night, swimming onto the reef to hunt. They’re almost impossible to spot when lying still in sandy areas. Weirdness Score: 10 Just look at these guys! Audubon ZooLocation: New Orleans, LouisianaWeirdest Animal: Dung BeetleFound on all continents except Antarctica, the Dung Beetle feeds on feces and can bury dung 250 times heavier than itself in one night. Many Dung Beetles, known as rollers, roll dung into round balls, which are used as a food source or breeding area. Other beetles, known as tunnelers, bury the dung. A third group, the dwellers, simply live in manure. These insects are often attracted by the dung that is collected by Burrowing Owls (who then eat the Dung Beetles). Many Dung Beetles also feed on mushrooms and decaying leaves and fruits. One type that lives in Central America preys upon millipedes. But those that eat dung do not need to eat or drink anything else, because the dung provides all the necessary nutrients. Weirdness Score: 10 Because, well, they eat poop. And the nocturnal African Dung Beetle is the only known non-human animal to navigate and orient itself using the Milky Way. Los Angeles ZooLocation: Los Angeles, CaliforniaWeirdest Animal: Madagascar Hissing CockroachIt’s appropriate the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach is featured at the Los Angeles Zoo, since its ability to scale a sheer pane of glass is worthy of a Hollywood special effect. One of the largest species of cockroach, the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach can reach up to 3 inches long. Many are kept as pets. Unlike most cockroaches, Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches are wingless. Males can be distinguished from females by their thicker, hairier antennae and the pronounced “horns.” These insects feed primarily on vegetable material. In captivity, they’ve been known to live up to 5 years. As the common name suggests, the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach is characterized by their hissing sound, which is produced when they forcefully expel air through specially-adapted respiratory openings. They hiss to create a disturbance, attracts mates, and to show aggression. Weirdness Score: 8.5 You try hissing to pick up your next date. Indianapolis ZooLocation: Indianapolis, IndianaWeirdest Animal: Vlaming’s UnicornfishFound in the waters of the Indo-Pacific oceans off the coasts of East Africa, Vlaming’s Unicornfish can reach lengths of up to a foot long. The adult Unicornfish has vertical blue lines on its sides and small blue spots dorsally and ventrally. A broad blue band extends from the eyes to the prominent snout. Although mostly herbivorous, Vlaming’s Unicornfish also eats small crustaceans. In captivity, they eat brine shrimp and mysid shrimp. But the majority of its natural diet is simple algae. The fish turns mud-brown while sleeping or when frightened as a form of camouflage. Weirdness Score: 3 Any creature that can change colors earns at least a few points for special abilities. San Francisco ZooLocation: San Francisco, CaliforniaWeirdest Animal: Fishing CatLike most cats, our house cats hate water. Yours probably do too. But not the Fishing Cat. Found around Southeast Asia, the Fishing Cat is very much at home near water. It can even swim long distances underwater. This feline is the official state animal of West Bengal. Like house cats, the Fishing Cat marks its territory using head rubbing and urine spraying to leave scent marks. Fishing Cats hunt along the edges of lakes, wetlands, and mangroves, where they grab prey from the water and sometimes even dive in. Their main prey is fish, birds, insects, and small rodents. They’ve also been known to eat mollusks, snakes, and amphibians. Weirdness Score: 6 A majestic beast, the Swimming Cat is the Michael Phelps of the feline world. Lincoln Park ZooLocation: Chicago, IllinoisWeirdest Animal: White-blotched River StingrayNative to Brazil, the White-blotched River Stingray has a distinctive pattern consisting of white dots on a black background. It is believed that these blotches are meant to resemble the sun hitting the bottom of the rivers in which these rays live, providing the animals with excellent camouflage. Not much is known about this type of ray, including its population size. We do know that White-blotched River Stingrays can have litters of up to 12 pups, making it unique among stingray species. They eat small invertebrates and fish, as well as freshwater snails and crabs, and can reach lengths of up to 2 feet. They appear to dwell most commonly in rocky river bottoms, where they find most of their food. Weirdness Score: 4.5 Cool camo, bro. Santa Barbara ZooLocation: Santa Barbara, CaliforniaWeirdest Animal: White-handed GibbonA small, tailless ape with soft, thick fur, the White-handed Gibbon is a highly threatened species. Among the fastest of all primates, White-handed Gibbons live high up in the canopy of trees, with very long arms allowing them to swing from branch to branch. They can change direction in a split second and they’re able to catch birds in midair. They even sleep in trees. White-handed Gibbons have been known to “fly” up to 40 feet through the air. These acrobatics help the gibbons cross rivers and large openings in the forest canopy. White-handed Gibbon mates sing “duets,” in which the partners complement each other. These duets help the mates bond and mark their territory. Weirdness Score: 6.5 Mostly for those mad aerial skills, but the duets are also pretty sweet. Denver ZooLocation: Denver, ColoradoWeirdest Animal: Aye-AyeAye-Ayes redefine the meaning of flipping the bird. Native to Madagascar, the Aye-Aye has rodent-like teeth that perpetually grow. They also have a specially adapted, very weird middle finger. The nocturnal Aye-Aye has an unusual method of finding food, called percussive foraging. This technique is shared only with the woodpecker. Tapping on trees to find grubs, the Aye-Aye then gnaws a hole in the wood using its forward slanting incisors. The Aye-Aye creates a small hole in which it inserts its narrow middle finger to pull the grubs out. Aye-Ayes spend most of their life high in trees. Aye-Ayes sleep, eat, travel, and mate in the trees and are most commonly found close to the canopy. Male Aye-Ayes tend to share their territories with other males and are even known to share the same nests (although not at the same time). It seems that they can tolerate each other until they hear the call of a female that is looking for a mate. Typical. Weirdness Score: 8 Aye-Ayes are both very strange and somehow adorable, which is one of our favorite combinations. Living Desert Zoo and GardensLocation: Palm Desert, CaliforniaWeirdest Animal: New Guinea Singing DogAs their name suggests, New Guinea Singing Dogs are native to New Guinea. They are the closest known relative of the Australian Dingo. New Guinea Singing Dogs have a foxlike appearance and a bushy tail. They are extremely agile and graceful. They locate prey with their acute sense of hearing and exceptional eyesight. They’re also incredibly flexible—they can pass their bodies through openings wide enough to admit only their head. They are also very efficient diggers. These animals get their name from their vocalization. They have a distinctive and melodious howl, which is characterized by a sharp increase in pitch at the start and very high frequencies at the end. During chorus howling, one dog starts and others join in shortly afterward. In most cases, chorus howling is well synchronized, and the howls of the group end nearly simultaneously. Weirdness Score: 6.5 Well, can your dog sing? Kansas City Zoological ParkLocation: Kansas City, MissouriWeirdest Animal: Francois’ LangurA Francois’ Langur is a medium-sized primate with black, silky hair and distinctive white sideburns that grow from its ears to the corners of its cheeks. Francois’ Langurs have complex stomachs, made up of four separate chambers. This is a necessary adaptation for the primate’s diet, which is folivorous — a big word meaning the Francois’ Langur eats leaves. In the upper chamber of the stomach, bacteria help break down fibers. The lower chamber breaks down food with acid, similar to other mammals. Francois’ Langurs are diurnal and spend most of their day foraging. These animals live in groups of up to 27 individuals. They live in matriarchal societies where the females lead the group. Within the group, females share parenting responsibilities with one another. Weirdness Score: 4.5 Lots of respect for their progressive views on gender roles. More than can be said for Congress. Zoo MiamiLocation: Miami, FloridaWeirdest Animal: Matschie’s Tree-kangarooThe last place we expected to see a kangaroo is up a tree, but Matschie’s Tree-kangaroo live in trees in the mountainous rainforests of Papua New Guinea. The kangaroos tend to live either alone or with very small groups of just a female, a joey, and a male. They spend most of their time in the trees, coming down only occasionally to feed. Instead of sweating, Matschie’s Tree-Kangaroos lick their forearms, allowing the evaporation to help cool them off. In the wild, they’re known to feed on leaves, fruits, and mosses. When kept in zoos, they feed on a variety of fruits and vegetables as well as tofu and hardboiled eggs. Matschie’s are timid creatures, scared of humans and very difficult to find in the forests. They sleep most of the day but are known to aggressively defend their territories. Weirdness Score: 3.5 We’re just glad we don’t have to lick ourselves to cool off. Philadelphia ZooLocation: Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaWeirdest Animal: Giant Elephant ShrewTheir name feels like a contradiction: Giant Elephant Shrew. Found in parts of Africa, these are small, insectivorous mammals resembling a mouse or opossum, with a distinctive elongated snout and long legs for their size, which they use to hop like rabbits. Diurnal and very active, Giant Elephant Shrews are difficult to capture and very seldom seen. They are wary, well camouflaged, and move quickly. Elephant Shrews are not social animals, but they do live in monogamous pairs which share and defend their home territory. These pairs, however, don’t spend much time together. They often have separate nests and only interact for reproduction. Weirdness Score: 5.5 At least a half point for their ridiculous name. Oakland ZooLocation: Oakland, CaliforniaWeirdest Animal: Black Beauty Walking StickFound in northern Peru, Black Beauty Walking Sticks are only known to exist in nature in a region of less than 5 hectares, or less than 1 square mile. Due to their unusual coloration, however, they are popular pets and often bred in captivity. When disturbed, adult Black Beauty Walking Sticks spray a defensive liquid from glands at the rear of the head which can be irritating to the skin and eyes. Weirdness Score: 3 Will a pet walking stick will fetch itself at the park? Woodland Park ZooLocation: Seattle, WashingtonWeirdest Animal: Southern Three-banded ArmadilloFrom South America, the Southern Three-banded Armadillo is the only species of armadillo capable of rolling into a complete ball to defend themselves. The three bands covering the armadillo’s back allow the animal enough flexibility to fit its tail and head together, protecting its underbelly, limbs, eyes, nose, and ears. The shell covering its body is armored and the outer layer is made out of keratin, the same protein that makes up human fingernails. The Three-banded Armadillo also has a long, sticky, straw-like pink tongue that allows it to gather up and eat many different species of insects, typically ants and termites. In captivity, armadillos also eat foods such as fruits and vegetables. The species is threatened by habitat destruction. Weirdness Score: 7 Rolling up in a ball to avoid predators? Sick move. Zoo AtlantaLocation: Atlanta, GeorgiaWeirdest Animal: Japanese Raccoon DogKnown in Japanese as the Tanuki, the Japanese Raccoon Dog is related to canines. However, the Racoon Dog is a species all on its own. The “Racoon” in its name comes only from its raccoon-like coloration. The animal has shown up in Japanese folklore since ancient times, characterized as a jolly master of disguise with the ability to shapeshift, but also very gullible and absentminded. The Tanuki’s, um, nether regions are the subject of a common schoolyard song in Japan which makes explicit reference to the animal’s testicles. Here’s a verse in English: Tan-tan-tanuki’s bollocks, Even without wind, They swiiing-swing! Weirdness Score: 6.5 Children sing songs about the Tanuki’s twig ‘n’ berries. That counts for something, doesn’t it? Oregon ZooLocation: Portland, OregonWeirdest Animal: Naked Mole RatIt’s a face only a mother could love. Also known as the Sand Puppy, the Naked Mole Rat is a burrowing rodent native to parts of East Africa. They have a highly unusual set of physical traits allowing them to thrive in harsh underground environments. The Naked Mole Rat is the only cold-blooded mammal. It also lacks pain sensitivity in its skin, and has very low metabolic and respiratory rates. The Naked Mole Rat is also remarkable for its longevity and its resistance to cancer and oxygen deprivation. Weirdness Score: 10 Cold-blooded, cancer-resistant, and unable to feel pain? The Naked Mole Rat proves you can’t judge an animal’s superpowers on appearance alone. San Antonio ZooLocation: San Antonio, TexasWeirdest Animal: CaracalThe Caracal is a medium-sized wild cat native to Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and India. They have a robust build, long legs, a short face, long tufted ears, and long canine teeth. Typically nocturnal, the Caracal is secretive which makes it difficult to observe. Living mainly alone or in pairs, the Caracal is a territorial carnivore preying mainly on small mammals, birds, and rodents. Caracals have been tamed and used for hunting since the time of ancient Egypt, and Chinese emperors used Caracals as gifts. Weirdness Score: 4.5 Cool ear tufts go a long way in our book. Santa Ana ZooLocation: Santa Ana, CaliforniaWeirdest Animal: BinturongThe Binturong, also known as the Bearcat, is native to South and Southeast Asia. Although called “Bearcat,” this omnivorous mammal is related to neither bears nor cats but to the Palm Civets of Asia. The body of the Binturong is long and heavy, with short, stout legs. Their tails are bushy and prehensile, thick at the root and thinner at the extremity, where it curls inwards. Their muzzles are short and pointed, turned up at the nose and covered with bristly hairs which lengthen as they diverge, forming a strange radiating pattern around the face. Their eyes are large and black. Binturongs typically live in tall forests, but they are not uncommon in forested plains and hills. Weirdness Score: 7 We wouldn’t want to encounter a Binturong digging through our garbage. Sacramento ZooLocation: Sacramento, CaliforniaWeirdest Animal: European Legless LizardLike us, you might assume a legless lizard is…well, a snake. But apparently, they’re not. The Legless Lizard, also commonly called Pallas’ Glass Lizard or the European Legless Lizard, is found from southern Europe to Central Asia. They can reach lengths of nearly 5 feet. They are tan colored, paler on the ventral surface and the head, with a segmented appearance that makes it look like a giant earthworm. They aren’t truly legless. Small rear legs are sometimes visible. Though the legs are barely discernible, the Legless Lizard can be quickly distinguished from a snake by its ears and eyelids. Weirdness Score: 8 Again, how is this not a snake? Louisville ZooLocation: Louisville, KentuckyWeirdest Animal: Albino AlligatorNot a species but a genetic anomaly, Albino Alligators are the offspring of two normal-looking alligators that carry the recessive gene for albinism. Albino Alligators have ivory-white skin and pinkish eyes. They are practically impossible to find in the wild. Female alligators are about 8 feet long on average, and males are about 11 feet long. The largest male alligators can weigh up to 1000 pounds. Alligators have long, broad snouts with upward facing nostrils on the end. They have sharp teeth protruding all along the length of their mouths. Their skins are covered with tough, bony plates. Weirdness Score: 8 There are few animals as rare as an Albino Alligator. Houston ZooLocation: Houston, TexasWeirdest Animal: Damara Mole-ratDamara Mole-rats live in parts of Africa. They have cylindrical bodies with stout limbs, large feet, a conical head, and no external ears. Damara Mole-rats have a unique adaptation to burrowing life. Their teeth are large and prominent. Flaps of skin behind their teeth prevent soil from falling into the throat while the animal digs the tunnels in which they live. Their fur is short and thick, varying from fawn to almost black, with shades of brown being most common. When it’s time to breed, a female Damara Mole-rat initiates sexy time by calling and drumming with her hind feet. The pair then chases each other in a circle before mating. Weirdness Score: 4.5 Who chases their mate in a circle on a first date? Nashville ZooLocation: Nashville, TennesseeWeirdest Animal: Rhinoceros HornbillThe Rhinoceros Hornbill, one of 54 species of hornbill, can be distinguished by the banana-shaped “extra horn” on the top of its beak. It is thought that this is used to amplify the sound of its call. The horn is made out of keratin, just like our fingernails and hair. It is very strong and lightweight. Rhinoceros Hornbills choose a nesting site high in a tree cavity. The breeding pair works together to cover the opening with mud and scat, leaving only a small slit to pass food through. The female stays inside the nest for 3 months incubating and caring for the eggs. Weirdness Score: 7 That extra horn gives this bird one the Animal Kingdom’s most unique profiles. Phoenix, ZooLocation: Phoenix, ArizonaWeirdest Animal: Common Squirrel MonkeyFound primarily in the Amazon Basin, the Common Squirrel Monkey is both frugivorous and insectivorous. Squirrel Monkeys also look for small vertebrates, such as tree frogs. But they prefer berry-like fruit. When fruit is scarce, the Common Squirrel Monkey drinks nectar. When in captivity, Squirrel Monkeys are fed apples, oranges, grapes, and bananas. They also consume a variety of vegetables, such as lettuce, celery, and onions. They obtain most of the water they need from their food, and may also drink water from holes in trees and puddles on the ground. The Common Squirrel Monkey is polygamous with a multiple-male, multiple-female group structure. Weirdness Score: 3 Like your aunt from Jersey, Common Squirrel Monkeys are now considered invasive in parts of Florida. Riverside Park ZooLocation: Independence, KansasWeirdest Animal: KinkajouA rainforest mammal, the Kinkajou is sometimes mistaken for a ferret or a monkey, but it isn’t closely related to either. Sometimes known as the Honey Bear, the Kinkajou is actually related to raccoons. Native to Central America and South America, this mostly frugivorous, arboreal mammal is not an endangered species, though it is strictly nocturnal and seldom seen by people. The Kinkajou spends most of its life in trees, to which it is particularly well adapted. The Kinkajou’s ability to manipulate objects with its hands is rivaled only by that of primates and raccoons. Kinkajous also have short-haired, fully prehensile, monkey-like tails which they use as a “fifth hand” in climbing. Sometimes acting as a pollinator, the Kinkajou’s slender 5-inch extendable tongue helps the animal to obtain fruit and to lick nectar from flowers. Weirdness Score: 4 Furry pollinators have our respect. Jacksonville Zoo and GardensLocation: Jacksonville, FloridaWeirdest Animal: Giant River OtterWith a range across north-central South America, this giant lives mostly in and along the Amazon River. The carnivorous mammal is the largest member of the weasel family and can reach lengths of up to 6 feet. Giant River Otters are a social species, with family groups typically supporting 3 to 8 members. The groups, centered on a dominant breeding pair, are extremely cohesive and cooperative. Although generally peaceful, Giant River Otters are territorial. Aggression has been seen between groups. The Giant River Otter has no serious natural predators other than humans. However, they do compete with other species, including the neotropical otter and caiman species, for food resources. It is also the noisiest otter species. Distinct vocalizations have been documented that indicate alarm, aggression, and reassurance. It is one of the most endangered mammal species in the neotropics. Weirdness Score: 7.5 Earned mainly for their epic size. Buffalo ZooLocation: Buffalo, New YorkWeirdest Animal: Tentacled SnakeIsn’t a tentacled snake pretty much an octopus? We think so. But the Tentacled Snake is actually a small snake native to Southeast Asia. This snake lives its entire life in murky water. It is known to come in two colorations, striped or blotched, with both variations ranging from dark gray or brown to a light tan. The only species of snake to possess twin “tentacles” on the front of its head, the Tentacled Snake has venomous fangs, though it is not considered dangerous to humans. The fangs are small, only partially grooved, and positioned deep in the rear of the mouth. The venom is specific to the fish that the Tentacled Snake eats. Weirdness Score: 8.5 We can’t get over those creepy tentacles. Orange County ZooLocation: Orange County, CaliforniaWeirdest Animal: Tasmanian DevilThe Tasmanian Devil was once native to mainland Australia and is now found in the wild only on the island state of Tasmania. The size of a small dog, the animal is common in popular culture. It became the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world following the extinction of the thylacine in 1936. Related to quolls and distantly related to the thylacine, the Tasmanian Devil is characterized by a stocky and muscular build and black fur. A pungent odor, extremely loud and disturbing screech, keen sense of smell, and ferocity when feeding are also traits of the Tasmanian Devil. Despite its rotund appearance, this predator is capable of surprising speed and endurance. The animal can climb trees and swim across rivers. The Tasmanian Devil generates among the strongest bites per unit of body mass of any living mammal land predator. It hunts prey and scavenges carrion as well as eating household products if humans are living nearby. Weirdness Score: 8 If there’s anything Saturday morning cartoons taught us, it’s don’t mess with a Tasmanian Devil.