Monday, August 25, 2008

My Own (Borrowed) Menagerie

My last post got me thinking, so here is a nominal set of interesting and strange animals I might consider putting around my Baroque pavilion.

• The Aye-Aye, a "native to Madagascar that combines rodent-like teeth with a long, thin middle finger to fill the same ecological niche as a woodpecker. It is the world's largest nocturnal primate, and is characterized by its unique method of finding food; it taps on trees to find grubs, then gnaws holes in the wood and inserts its elongated middle finger to pull the grubs out."

• The yeti lobster, a very recently-discovered creature which lives, of course, in deep-sea hydrothermal vents, where all the really weird and interesting creatures come from nowadays.

• The cyclops kitten was an accident, and unfortunately didn't live very long. Not totally unheard-of, just less horrible than most.

Pill Bugs, or woodlice, or roly-polies, are weirder than you think: they are actually crustaceans, related more closely to lobsters and shrimp and so on than to insects or spiders. They are one of the world's old, (relatively) unchanged species, much, much older than the species I think of as old, like sharks and kauri trees, and they have some pretty interesting and strange habits.

• I thought the Liger was a joke when I first heard about it, along with its relative the Tigon. Or at least, some kind of hoax. But no, it's not - and they are enormous, I don't know why.

• My favorite creature: the Tarsier. I have a tiny picture clipped from a magazine of a tarsier staring with its trademark surprised look at the camera with a big bug sticking out of its mouth. For some reason, it's been a symbol for me of beloved dorks everywhere, and has inspired me to go on being silly despite everything.

• The Star-Nosed Mole is just odd. Always has been, always will be.

Leafy Sea Dragons are something I have always wanted to see. They are endangered because they are so particular about their environment and eager collectors are always trying to take them home (where they die). But in their home environment - unbeatable.

• I had to include a Komondor because, although they aren't particularly exotic, they have great hair. They do make you scratch your head and wonder how many other strange kinds of dogs you didn't know about? (And yes, they look like a tall version of Dougal, from the Magic Roundabout)

Grimpoteuthis, or Dumbo Octopi, are benthic creatures, living at extreme depths (up to 400 meters), and are some of the rarest octopi. Plus they use at least three different types of locomotion. Cool.

Blobfish. What can I say?

There are a few others who aren't quite weird enough, such as Cantor's Giant Soft-Shelled Turtle,

the Long-eared jerboa,

or Pink fairy Armadillos, but they're definitely strange. If I had space, I might consider them.

Come to think of it, many of the above creatures are a bit too attractive. I'd want to make my menagerie a bit more creepy, but the strangest and most disturbing creatures I know of are all parasites, which would make them difficult to display - except in jars, and that is really something more for a Cabinet.

Just for balance, though, perhaps I ought to include the Coconut Crab, a giant terrestrial hermit crab. I do find myself actually glad that I don't live where these creatures roam, cracking coconuts and garbage cans with their bare claws (thanks, Jeff!).

In any case, my beautifully-constructed, circular, conceptual menagerie needs only a beautiful (borrowed) pavilion to complete it, and I can go to sleep secure in the knowledge that I have expressed all the (borrowed) power and wealth I have to hand. Who needs royalty after all?

Thanks to World's Strangest Looking Animals for some of the pictures.


JJPR said...

A Liger named Hercules (his pic is also in the wiki article) makes regular appearances at King Richard's Faire in Massachusetts. That's our local turkey-leg-and-mead Ren Faire. In the flesh, he is absolutely astounding. He's huge.

Anonymous said...

It's so amazing that they named it the Yeti Lobster.

A Paperback Writer said...

I can definitely verify the Liger.
There was one in Salt Lake City's Hogle Zoo until I was 7 years old. I remember seeing it alive many times. They had it stuffed, and the result is still on display at the zoo -- in a large glass case (or at least it was the last time I visited the zoo!)

Jim Stewart said...

Great selection. The Monterey Bay Aquarium had some leafy sea dragons last time I was there. There are truly amazing. For your aquarium, you'd also want to include some basket stars.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I feel frightfully ordinary now.

Sarah MacLean said...

That coconut crab is the scariest animal i've ever seen. GAK!

Anonymous said...

Awesome collection!

Anonymous said...

The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a (small) tank with leafy sea dragons and seahorses. It's quite a wonderful aquarium, a must-see any time you're in northern California.

(I have to confess that I now have an urge to make up silly captions for all of those pictures and submit them to

Rima Staines said...

Just brilliant!!
To your excellent list I might add the naked mole rat and the axolotl :)
Your blog is a marvel!
All best wishes

Anonymous said...

One of the odd habits of the pill bug is stampeding across my brothers' floor in the middle of the night when it's been raining torrentially. Apparently. (Thus on one occasion causing a houseguest to spend a fitful night getting away from them.)

At a sanctuary I went to, they told us that the growth-capping gene gets messed up by the crossing, and that's why they are so huge.

Komondors! I just learned about those. The black kind show up less well in pictures but look just as crazy-cute.

What a beautiful picture of those "sea dragons". Wow.

Frumingelo said...

Im very fond of that Tarsier. With his cupping-glass-shaped fingertops and bright eyes it's so sweet!
I would suggest some nudibranches or a narwhal to add to your list. Or perhaps not. Every organism is exeptional in his one way. It's in the little things.

As you can see i’m having my one blog: Its about everything people wonder about, with a strong focus on the various catagories of items you can find in old cabinets. I’ts a bit like your blog but with a frumingelo-twist (and in Dutch) !

Quail said...

The mole rat is not a handsome creature but yet so ugly, it's ever so sligthly adorable.

secretleaves said...

This is such a cool and fascinating post! Thanks for collecting your wonderful "specimens" here. I will be back to read more.


Anonymous said...

ola, amigos. this is so weird/cool at the same time:)

zara said...


The Liger is that big because it is the offspring of a tiger and a lion. It takes the lion size and the tigers markings. The reason it's so big is that both lions and tigers have a gene to stop them growing to large, so with one vacant tiger or lion parent this gene is by passed and so it does not stop growing.
Ligars cant have cubs so they dont pass on their genes so can only be created with human help. They also have a shorter life span, which is a shame as they are lovely.

Unknown said...

I don't beleive that cyclops kitten animal because kittens don't open their eyes yill after three weeks and that looked a week old.