One of the many perks of being a wildlife major is the opportunity to learn about amazing animals that you may have never know about before. In fact, throughout my three years at this university, I have been introduced to a large number of unique animals. This post is a homage to those animals. So without further ado, here is part one of my list of incredible animals:
Water Bear: This thing is just weird, but don’t let the name fool you. It looks nothing like a bear. It’s actually a microscopic organism that lives within mosses and other moist environments. I first learned of this little guy in my general biology course, so it wasn’t necessarily a result of me being a wildlife major. Nevertheless, these tiny tardigrades definitely deserved a spot on my unique animals list.
Sea Pig: These guys are very similar to the water bear, but are much larger. They live within the ocean and act very similar to land-dwelling pigs. They walk around on the sea floor nuzzling it with their noses in search of food. They’re kind of adorable in an odd way.
Dik-dik: The moment I first saw one of these tiny deer-like creatures, I fell in love. It’s the most perfect compact little baby deer imaginable. If you have ever wanted to own your very own real-life bambi that never grows up, a dik-dik is the pet for you. Unfortunately, for all of us who have that dream, they are native only to Eastern and Southern Africa and are probably illegal to own as pets.
Spectacled Eider: I learned about this gorgeous sea duck during my Management of Wild Game Birds class. First of all, I had no idea that there were even such things as sea ducks. I’m so used to seeing ducks on lakes, that I never even considered the possibility of ducks that live solely in oceans. That being said, I thought that the spectacled eider was one of the most beautiful birds I have ever seen. and remains one of my all time favorites.
Orchid Mantis: Words can not even begin to describe this gorgeous, little creature. I mean, it’s a praying mantis that looks more like a flower than a bug. It’s fantastic camouflage is an excellent defense mechanism, making it one of the most efficient predatory insects in the animal kingdom. Could you imagine leaning in to smell an orchid only to see two tiny little eyes glaring back at you?
Lampreys (in Tennessee): While I was in my ichthyology course, my professor mentioned that there were lampreys in the Powell River. Since this was a local river, I was extremely skeptical of his statement. I had learned about these disc-mouthed, blood-sucking fish years ago in grade school, but I always thought they were a deep-oceanic species. I had no clue that we had species in Tennessee. Even after reading about the local species in textbooks, I still didn’t believe it until I caught one of them on a fishing trip for class! My reaction was priceless.
Banded Sculpin: These little fish made my list for two reasons. The first reason being that I had never heard of them until my junior year of college, and the other reason is just because of how weird they look. They have these huge heads and stocky bodies. They are extremely common in Tennessee and other surrounding states’ waterways, so if you’re ever out fishing for minnows or bait fish, you just might happen upon one of these aquatic oddballs.
Mountain Madtom: I actually learned about this species of fish the hard, and painful way. Mountain madtoms are a tiny, local species of catfish. On another fishing trip for my ichthyology course last semester, I was using a dip net to catch some minnows for my collection, and I reached in my net to transfer my catch to a container, and felt a stinging sensation in my hand. It turns out I had caught a mountain madtom, and it had stung me. These fish have a tiny barb on their dorsal fin that, when agitated, it will use to deliver a wasp-like sting. Regardless of my unfortunate encounter with them, I think that madtoms are pretty fascinating and deserve a place on this list.
So there is just a taste of some of the animals I’ve encountered on my journey through college. Most of them I couldn’t believe they actually existed. If you know a particularly unique or just plain odd animal not mentioned in my list, I would love to hear about it. Leave its name or a picture of it in the comments.
As always, please follow my blog and be on the lookout for part two of my list of incredible animals!!