Rainforests are so densely packed with trees that it can be difficult to hear or see through the foliage. The sheer amount of moisture in the air creates a very habitable area for hundreds of creatures. Animals of all sorts have made homes within the rainforest, and some of them are rather bizarre creatures.
Some of these animals are rather flashy versions of an animal in the same family including pink dolphins, brightly colored frogs, and turtles like you’ve never seen before.
It is amazing what sort of adaptation animals need in the rainforest—many creatures have taken to camouflage or disguises while others have insane amounts of toxins, poisons, and venoms to ward off or kill predators of any kind.
Of course, many of these animals are endangered species thanks to human hunting practices, myths about mysterious creatures, and more. Conservation efforts are in place to protect a majority of the endangered animals now, however, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other animals in the rainforest that are in need of protection. Many animals residing in the rainforest are ones that we have yet to discover. Perhaps by preserving the rainforests in general, hopefully researchers will have the opportunity to get out there and find new species.
25 Glass Frog
No one would have had to perform frog dissections on the glass frog in high school because all of its organs are visible through its skin. Its beating heart is visible through its glass-like, translucent skin. This frog is no more than an inch long and resides rather far from the ground. The glass frog lives up in the canopy of rainforests and is active at night—mostly in search of food, water, and mates. Unlike tree frogs, the glass frog’s eyes face forward like a predator rather than to the side, like a prey animal.
24 Jesus Lizard
This lizard has many names including the green basilisk lizard and a double-crested basilisk. Its green-fringed back and long tail, though, aren’t what make this lizard strange. They can walk on water. To escape predators, the lizard falls from trees and skitters across water on its hind legs. While it seems to defy the laws of physics, the green basilisk can only run across the top of the water for around 20 feet before they start to sink into the water.
The capybara is a massive rodent weighing up to 150 pounds. It can be rather cute, but that doesn’t stop it from being bizarre. The capybara is a semiaquatic large rodent closely related to guinea pigs. A capybara’s feet are webbed, which allows them to easily move through the water. It is the largest rodent in the entire world—some of them standing at a foot and a half tall. Its rabbit-like teeth never stop growing, so capybara must wear them down by chewing on the bark of trees.
One of the largest freshwater fish in the world, the arapaima measures in around 10 feet long and weighs close to 400 pounds. Its round, scaly body is a strange contrast to its thin, screw-driver-like head. The arapaima doesn’t have gills, so it still has to come up for air. It can remain underwater between 10 and 20 minutes without breathing at one time. Unfortunately, due to the arapaima’s size and its necessity of staying in the shallow water, it has become overhunted and a rare sight.
This animal looks like some strange cross between a boar and an anteater. It also appears as if the tapir was pulled out of a history book—which is fairly correct considering that they have lived since the Eocene period between 56 and 34 million years ago. This creature is considered to be a living fossil. Its snout is similar to an elephant’s trunk and is excellent at foraging through dirt for leaves and fruit. When a tapir is newly born, it has white stripes and stripes that fade when it reaches the first half-year of its life.
This particularly adorable creature is also known as a honey bear. It uses its long, thin tongue to retrieve honey from beehives. Kinkajou also has a monkey-like tail that allows it to hang from tree branches and it offers support and balance. While the kinkajou seems like it could be related to a monkey, it is actually a close cousin of a raccoon. It’s not often that one is spotted, but it is frequently heard. It makes a noise between a screech and a bark.
19 Poison Dart Frog
This tiny frog carries enough poison to end the life of 10 fully-grown adult males. While it might be only an inch in length, it is an amphibious carnivore that can live up to 15 years in the wild. The poison dart frog can be any range of colors from yellow to gold to red to green to blue to black. Its intense colors are a warning sign of its poisonous nature meant to fend off predators. It’s also possible that the poison dart frog gets its poisons from poisonous prey such as ants, termites, and beetles.
18 Bullet Ant
The bullet ant packs a powerful punch. Its sting hurts more than a tarantula hawk wasp, and those who have been stung claim that it feels like being shot by a bullet. A native tribe in Brazil uses the bullet ant as an initiation rite—which is as horrifying as it sounds. The bullet ant might only 2 millimeters long, but it should be avoided at all costs. A bullet ant’s nest is often found in a variety of places like shrubbery as well as tall canopies of trees.
17 Peanut Head Bug
The peanut head bug has a bad rap. According to legend, it has a deadly bite if its wings are a certain color. In reality, it has no teeth and cannot bite, but only suck with its straw-like mouth. It is a rather harmless bug that hops from plant to plant. The peanut head bug’s main form of defense is a mask of sorts. It has fake eyes on its wings used to confuse predators. While 3 inches in length, it doesn’t have much else in the way of defense besides a foul-smelling spray.
16 Satanic Leaf Tailed Gecko
Perhaps the best magician in the rainforest, the satanic leaf-tailed gecko is exceptional at camouflage. Predators are much less likely to hunt this gecko when they can’t distinguish it from a leaf on a tree branch. It does have other means of defense, though, like shrill shrieks, biting, and its bright red tongue. It also has highly textured feet from hair-like structures that help it stick to branches. They are found only in Madagascar and hunt small insects at night.
15 Proboscis Monkey
Perhaps one of the more ugly creatures on this list, the proboscis monkey appears to have a male appendage on its face. More ironically, the monkey uses said appendage to attract mates. This section of their face helps echo their call, which both excites the female monkeys and daunts other males. The proboscis monkey lives in a group known as a harem with a dominant male and anywhere between two and seven females along with their children.
14 Aye-Aye Lemur
This 4-pound animal is a close relative of humans, chimpanzees, and apes. The aye-aye spends most of its time in trees. The aye-aye builds around nest with a single entryway. It has a long middle finger that it uses to find and retrieve insects from inside the bark of trees. Unfortunately, the aye-aye lives in Madagascar and is thought to be an omen of bad luck. So it has been hunted on sight for years but is now under the protection of the law.
Also known as a flying lemur, this creature is one of two species of gliding mammals in Southeast Asia and the Philippine Islands. Similar to the wings of bats, the colugo has webbing between its clawed feet and folds of skin between their limbs and tail. When leaping between trees, they can bridge gaps between 230 feet without losing much height. This is much farther than a sugar glider or flying squirrel can achieve. A mother colugo can be seen carrying her newborn from tree to tree.
The axolotl might look like a pokemon at first glance, but it is actually a carnivorous amphibian listed on the critically endangered species list. About the size of a teacup, the axolotl salamander lives full time in water unlike other salamanders. The axolotl spends most of its time at the bottom of lakes and rivers. It can live up to 15 years and grow up to a foot long. Its natural predator includes large birds like herons. Predators, combined with the water pollution in Mexico and fact that it is a delicacy in Mexico, contribute to the decline in the number of axolotl.
Affectionately nicknamed forest giraffes, this animal doesn’t look anything like a giraffe despite being closely related to them. On the contrary, the okapi looks like a cross between a horse and a zebra. It has a long tongue and males often have two horns. Unlike horses and zebras, which are herd animals, the okapi appreciates solitude and is rather territorial. Its feet have scent glands, so when it walks, it leaves a marking to ward off another okapi. Though, on occasion, okapi will band together for forage purposes.
10 Rhinoceros Hornbill
The appearance of the rhinoceros hornbill is bizarre enough with its giant horn above the heavy beak. Supposedly, the horn is meant to magnify the sound of its call, which can easily become lost in the thickly packed rainforest. Ancient people once thought of this bird as a deity of war. Now, though, it is known as the state symbol of Sarawak, Malaysian. It has round feathers, which make flying more difficult than flight in other birds, and can be rather noisy.
9 Decoy-Building Spider
The decoy-building spider doesn’t just build a web, but it also builds a decoy spider meant to distract or confuse predators. The fake spider can appear rather real with a head, abdomen, and legs. Upon closer inspection, scientists found the decoy spider looked flaky—possibly from the leaves the spider used to construct the decoy—and even appeared to be twitching as if it were in the middle of dying. The movement, however, comes from the real decoy-building spider that shakes its web on purpose.
8 The Puss Caterpillar
While this caterpillar lives in rainforests, it is also commonly found in Florida and southern Texas. The puss caterpillar is around an inch long and has a “fuzzy” look about it. Do not pet these insects, though, because each “hair” is actually a spine that injects venom when touched. While small, it can send people to the hospital. Those who have been stung in the hand say that the pain travels all the way up to their shoulder and remains for up to 12 hours.
7 Black Caiman
The black caiman is a freshwater alligator and is the largest species in the alligator family, the largest member of the Caiman family, and the largest predator in the Amazon. It can grow up to a whopping 20 feet long. Since it is such a gigantic predator, it doesn’t have a lot of animals above it in the food chain besides jaguars. Humans are actually the most imperative threat to a black caiman thanks to hunting for meat and leather. The black caiman eats a range of creatures from fish to birds to turtles to anacondas and tapirs. It doesn’t so much eat foot as swallow it whole.
6 Honduran White Bat
The Honduran white bat only weighs 0.2 ounces and isn’t even 2 inches long. Its fur is white and fuzzy, and it has yellow ears and a leaf-shaped nose. It creates shelter from Heliconia leaves that are both waterproof and can create a tent structure when two or more are placed together. The bat won’t leave the shelter even if a predator approaches because of how sturdy the tent can be. The bat only eats fruit and lives up to 20 years.
5 Mata Mata
Perhaps the strangest turtle of all time, the mata mata has a longer neck than it does vertebra. Many people have referred to this turtle by many names including needle nose and a leaf head. The literal translation of its real name in Spanish means “kill, kill.” Thanks to its leaf-shaped head, the mata mata mostly lives at the bottom of shallow streams where leaves tend to settle. It doesn’t move much other than to find food and lay eggs. It doesn’t swim, but rather walks slowly along the bottom of rivers and streams. Its mouth also acts as a vacuum for small fish.
4 Giant river otter
Otters are pretty ordinary, but not when they can grow up to six feet long, which is twice as long as river otters from North America. The giant river otter is born in an underground den with all of its furs. It takes around two months, though, for it to learn how to swim. It is the rarest of all otters and is considered endangered because of the human desire to wear fur. The giant river otter is a social critter and is known for being playing with wildlife photographers before swimming away.
3 Candiru Fish
While this fish is only an inch and a half long, it is a rather bizarre creature known for entering the human body through the urethra. Specifically, when a man or woman relieves himself or herself in Amazonian waters, the candiru swims upstream and attaches itself with barb, where it will stay until surgically removed. The candiru is a type of Amazonian catfish. Thanks to the Native people’s experience, German biologist C.F.P. von Martius documented the fish. There are few instances of such an infestation—natives have taken precautions for hundreds of years—yet it is still an unusual, fear-instilling creature of the rainforest.
So named for the sound that they make, “po-TOO,” this bird seems to be something out of a child’s imagination. Its wild squawk and eyes nearly larger than its head are just the start. Even with their eyes closed, a potoo can sense movement. A potoo’s mouth is even bigger than its giant eyes. While a potoo’s diet mostly consists of bugs such as moths, beetles, and mosquitos, it can occasionally swallow smaller birds whole. Historically, the potoo used to live beyond the Amazon in places as far away as France and Germany during prehistoric times.
1 Pink Amazon River Dolphin
Though pink is in its name, the pink Amazon river dolphin can come in a variety of pinks and grays. Some can be as brilliantly pink as flamingos. It can grow up to 9 feet in length and weight up to 400 pounds, which makes the Amazon river dolphin the largest of all freshwater dolphins. It also holds the award for the largest brain in the same category, which happens to be 40% larger than human brains. Many legends surround this dolphin—including one that depicts a dolphin becoming a male and luring women away.
References: foxsumo.com, allthatsinteresting.com, ranker.com, factzoo.com, mnn.com, nationalgeographic.com, britannica.com, smithsonianmag.com, mentalfloss.com, livescience.com