World's weirdest animals: new creatures discovered

By Tom Levitt/Hugh Wilson/PA, MSN UK News REUTERS/Bunzow Corgosinho
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This tiny creature was collected from the Atlantic abyss. Also recovered from the same area was an "indescribable" catch of multi-coloured invertebrates, including corals, sea cucumbers and sea urchins living a kilometre below the surface.

REUTERS/Larry Madin
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Sea cucumber

A transparent sea cucumber, identified as Enypniastes, was photographed at a depth of 2,750 meters (9,200) in the northern Gulf of Mexico. In the same spot a "wildcat" tubeworm was caught in the act of dining on crude oil. When the worm was extracted by a robot arm from the sea bed, oil gushed both from the animal's body and the hole in which it was found.

REUTERS/David Shale
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'Dumbo' octopod

Another of the bizarre creatures encountered by the researchers was a six foot long cirrate octopod, nicknamed "Dumbo" because of the large ear-like fins it uses to swim. It was found more than a mile deep on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

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The axolotl is a Mexican mole salamander, about 15-45cm in length, and one of the cleverest critters you're ever likely to meet. If the axolotl loses a limb, it will grow another. If it loses a certain part of its brain, it will grow that back as well. Tests have shown that it will happily accept transplants from other axolotls, including eyes and portions of brain, and rewire them to work perfectly. Because of these amazing powers of regeneration, some axolotls swim about with several more limbs than are strictly necessary.

NOAA's Alaska Fisheries Science Center
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The blobfish looks likes something out of a cartoon. Or it would, if there was a cartoon about the unfortunate adventures of the grumpiest, ugliest fish on earth. Don't blame the blobfish, though. To survive the intense pressure at depths of 1,000m and more, its body is largely made up of a jelly-like substance slightly less dense than water. The jelly allows it to float just above the sea floor without having to expend energy on swimming. So lazy as well as ugly, then.

Kenneth Catania/PA/PA Archive/PA Photos
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Star-nosed mole

The star-nosed mole best resembles a strange sci-fi amalgamation of two different creatures. It is, for the most part, a common or garden mole, with thick, dark fur and a long thick tail. But its nose seems to belong to another animal altogether. The ring of 22 fleshy pink tentacles that wave around at the end of its snout should really be living on its own at the bottom of the sea. The tentacles may be invaluable for identifying food in murky conditions, but aesthetically speaking, only the star-nosed mole's mother could love it.

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We all know about sloths. You may have been called one yourself once or twice, by an irate boss or a fuming parent. But sloths really are a bit weird. Up to two thirds of their weight at any given time can be attributed to the contents of their stomachs. The leaves they eat are so difficult to digest that the digestion process can take up to a month. They sleep for as long as the average human teenager because the same leaves also provide very little nutrition. Oh, and they hang upside down in trees. All in all, one of oddest mammals on the planet (along with the average human teenager).

Bristol Zoo/PA Archive/PA Photos
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The aye-aye is the largest nocturnal primate in the world, and the only one to look like a cross between Gollum from the Lord of the Rings and a large, bug-eyed rodent. But what the aye-aye lacks in good looks, it more than makes up for with its remarkable talent. The aye-aye has evolved a large and bony middle finger that it uses to tap on wood, listening for the hollow spaces that indicate the presence of wood-boring larvae. The claw at the end of this skeletal appendage then scoops out any tasty morsels it finds.

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If there's a sea creature more repellent than the blobfish, it's this ghastly specimen, which even scientists have labelled the most "disgusting" fish on the planet. To escape predators, the hagfish exudes copious quantities of a viscous slime. That's the nice bit. To feed, it enters its victim through the mouth, gills or anus, and devours it from the inside out. Yep, the hagfish has absolutely no redeeming features whatsoever.

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Praying mantis

The praying mantis is remarkable for all sorts of reasons. It's a master of camouflage and a lethal predator that utilises speed and surprise to deadly effect. It eats flies and aphids, and in the case of the larger mantis species, small lizards, frogs, birds and snakes too. And during the act of copulation, female mantises often bite the heads off their mates. This is not thought to be a comment on male performance. In fact, one theory is that headless males copulate more vigorously, thanks to the instinctive actions of the nervous systems. But it's not good. If you're a male. 

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Leafy sea dragon

From stick insects to stonefish, nature's capacity for camouflage is almost limitless. Perhaps the very best example is the leafy sea dragon which, to any passing predator, resembles nothing more than a thoroughly unappetising clump of seaweed floating through the ocean. Everything about the sea dragon has been designed to achieve this deception, from the long, leaf-like protrusions that cover its body, to the almost transparent fins that undulate slowly enough to mimic the gentle motion of leaves in the ocean current. More remarkable still, the male leafy sea dragon cares for the eggs.