The Strangest Animal Found in Each State
Whether they look funny, act weird, adapted awkwardly, sound strange, or just seem out of place (or from the pages of a science-fiction novel), these bizarre beasts earned their state’s spot on the unusual list.
Alabama: Red Hills salamander
Jason Patrick Ross/Shutterstock
This official state amphibian is a long lean mean burrowing machine. Much larger than its other lung-less salamander peers at 11 inches, the Red Hills salamander breathes through its moist skin. It’s on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife endangered species list because much of the 60,000 acres of suitable habitat (i.e., the steep slopes and moist ravines of hardwood forests) are threatened by logging and deforestation. Here are 14 other endangered animals that may surprise you.
Alaska: Ice worm
Courtesy Tom Iraci, Chugach National Forest
This relative of common earthworms and leeches makes its home inside glaciers and adjacent snowfields, moving through densely packed ice crystals with ease thanks to small bristles on the outside of their bodies. Its Latin name, Solifugus, meaning sun avoider, is basically a warning to the annelids who thrive best at zero degrees Celsius. According to the Alaska Centers public lands guide, when heated to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, an ice worm’s insides liquefy until it literally melts to death. Ouch!
Dennis W Donohue/Shutterstock
Javelinas, also known as a collared peccary, are often confused for wild pigs thanks to their stumpy legs, porcine-like snouts, and tendency to communicate in snorts. But according to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, these “new world” herbivores/frugivores (fruit eaters) are distinguished from their “old world” lookalikes by numerous physical features including a scent gland in their rump that they rub on rocks and stumps to mark territory and on each other for identification. Pigs, on the other hand, lack scent glands. Now that you know the difference between javelinas and pigs, challenge yourself with this quiz on nearly identical animals.
Arkansas: Ozark cavefish
These endangered and nearly translucent cave dwellers live most or all of their lives in total darkness. But they’re blind because they lack eyes altogether and therefore use sense organs to detect movement in the water and find food. Very little is know about their reproductive habits, but the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Missouri Department of Conservation suspect that spring floods get them in the mood for making whoopee.
California: Banana slug
The sex life of these gooey, yellow mollusks is even more bizarre than their coloring or the fact that they inch down from high tree branches on thin strands of slime in much the same way as spiders utilize their webbing. For starters, according to a 1916 paper by Stanford University zoology professor Harold Heath, they are hermaphrodites. Two, a slug penis, which emerges from its head, can be as long as its entire body. That makes for some of the largest male genitalia of any species in proportion to its overall size. Three, reproductive sessions last hours and sometimes end in apophallation, which is when a banana slug gnaws off and eats its partner’s privates. They do not grow back.
Colorado: Sage grouse
Although the low fast fliers have poor eyesight themselves, they are quite the spectacle to watch during the spring breeding season. Defenders of Wildlife explains that males develop white chest feathers and specialized head plumage and that is just the beginning of their fascinating mating ritual. At dawn or dusk, birds in the mood for love assemble on leks—ancestral strutting grounds returned to annually that can be as far as 50 miles from their winter habitats—and strut, fan tail feathers, and puff their chests until bright yellow air sacs are revealed and hens are smitten.
Connecticut: Star-nosed mole
Star-nosed moles, according to National Geographic, eat faster than any other mammal on Earth. They decide if something is edible in 8 milliseconds and devour their meal (mostly bugs) in less than two-tenths of a second. They owe part of their ability to the extremely efficient operation of their nervous system and partly to their hideous “noses.” The star, which contains 100,000 nerve fibers contained into a space smaller than your fingertip, is the most sensitive touch organ in any mammal. They are also the only mammal known to smell underwater and again they have their grotesque snouts to thank. Moles blow bubbles into the water and then re-inhale them to catch a whiff of potential prey. If you think that’s fascinating, meet the 10 animals with real superpowers.
Deleware: Common grackle
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These birds may be labeled “common,” but their foraging techniques are anything but. Grackles follow plows to catch invertebrates and mice, snatch leeches from the legs of turtles, raid nests and steal worms from other birds, wade in shallow water to fish, and use the hard keel on the inside of their upper mandible to saw open acorns. They also practice the strange habit of anting, in which they get low to the ground, wings spread, and let ants crawl all over them. It is postulated that the formic acid deposited by the insects gets rid of parasites. When they can’t find ants, grackles have been known to use walnut juice, marigolds, lemons, limes, and mothballs to achieve the same results.
Although manatees are born underwater and never go ashore in their lives, the mammals with egg-shaped heads are related to elephants, not dolphins or whales according to National Geographic. The blubbery gentle giants known as sea cows congregate near Florida power plant discharge pipes because the water is warmer there. Smithsonian.com reports that they eat for almost half the day, consuming 10 percent of their 1,200-pound body weight in plants.
Georgia: One-toed amphiuma
At first glance, it is easy to confuse the one-toed amphiuma for a water snake or an eel. In fact, one of its common names is the ditch eel. But, according to the Wildlife Resources Division of Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources, it is a very rare elongated salamander with a unique two pairs of tiny seemingly useless limbs (common to salamanders) with a single toe on each (unique to this species). It lacks external gills, and although it has gill slits, it breathes by periodically lifting its nose out of the mud or water.