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Everyone’s talking about the hit fantasy film. But our planet holds some pretty magical creatures of its own . . .

Platypus

Perhaps the most-well known in this list of fantastic beasts, it isn’t only this mammal’s egg-laying ability or bizarre morphology that makes it quite the intriguing character.

Its beaver-like tail, furry body and flat bill meant that the first samples brought over from Australia were thought to be fake, created by tricksters sewing multiple animals together.

This intriguing appearance is probably due to its five pairs of sex chromosomes, the highest number found in mammals to date

We humans have just a single pair, and many other mammals have the same number. The large number of platypus chromosome pairs has been suggested to be the link between sex determination systems of birds and mammals. The hypothesis would certainly explain the webbed feet and egg-laying!

Breaking out of typical mammalian characteristics once more, the platypus is one of very few venomous mammals. Males have inwardly-directed hind limbs with hollow spurs full of venom strong enough to kill a dog.

WHERE TO FIND THEM: Freshwater areas in Eastern Australia

 

Red-lipped batfish

As their name might suggest, a fantastic feature of these strange-looking fish is their fluorescent lips. Thought to be an evolutionary trait used by males to attract a mate, even Kylie Jenner would be jealous of the intense lip colour these fish achieve.

With lips fixed into a permanent frown, their angry expression and long, sharp noses make this fish a front-runner for ugliest ocean-dweller. In fact, their lip shade isn’t even the most unusual fact about this bottomdwelling batfish.

Batfish, like many other anglerfish, are terrible swimmers and so must use alternative methods to get about the ocean floor. Altered pectoral fins act as “legs” to allow them to “walk” [as this video by PBS Nature shows].

Unlike many other unusual beasts, the red-lipped batfish has no major predators, probably due to its ability to walk along the ocean floor. As such, the ocean floor will remain fabulous for the foreseeable future!

WHERE TO FIND THEM: In the oceans of the Galapagos Islands and the coast of Peru

 

Ragworms

Though not outwardly attractive or interesting-looking in the slightest, these amazing invertebrates have an unprecedented love for horticulture.

Initially thought to just consume the seeds of cordgrass, a tough plant found in coastal habitats, scientists were puzzled how the worms could get through the tough exterior to the nutrients within.

In a study just last year researchers discovered that ragworms bury the husky seeds in the ground to wait for their germination.

This is the first time any animals other than humans have been seen cultivating food in this manner

The sprouts are far higher in nutrients than the seeds and so the change of behaviour is thought to be a sophisticated adaptation to improve survival.

Researchers think it might not just be ragworms who grow plants in this manner. Earthworms also supplement their diet with seeds and so may require extra nutrients during the summer months.

WHERE TO FIND THEM: Sand and mud in the north-east Atlantic

 

Blanket octopus

The most obviously striking feature of the blanket octopus is their long, transparent webbing that connects two long dorsal arms on either side of the octopus [as shown in this video].

Used as a defence mechanism, this extraordinary octopod can extend its blankets to appear larger to predators. It can even detach them to entangle predators.

This isn’t the only defence mechanism the octopus employs.

Immune to the deadly toxins of the Portugese Man O’ War jellyfish, the blanket octopus has been known to rip the arms and tentacles of the jellyfish to use as its very own octopus sword

Another fantastic feature of this octopod is its exhibition of sexual dimorphism. Blanket octopi exhibit the most extreme degree of sexual dimorphism in any non-microscopic animal. Females grow to over 6 foot, 10,000 times bigger than the males who only grow one inch long.

WHERE TO FIND THEM: Surface to mid-waters of subtropical and tropical oceans

 

Hispaniolan solenodon

Solenodons are nocturnal, burrowing mammals resembling large, long-nosed shrews.

They have often been dubbed “living fossils” as they have remained virtually unchanged for over 76 million years – a frankly fantastic feat.

They spend most of their time in bushy forest areas, seeking refuge in caves or burrows during daylight hours. They possess terrible eyesight and so use a combination of echolocation and a heightened sense of smell to seek out prey in the darkness.

Solenodon by Wikipedia.org
Solenodon by Wikipedia.org

Neither cute nor particularly ugly, these animals hide a deadly secret. Solenodons possess modified salivary glands that can inject venom into victims they bite. Their incisors possess saliva similar to the neurotoxic venom that many species of snake employ.

Extremely temperamental by nature, Solenodons will often fly into rages of biting and screaming when provoked.

While the poison is unlikely to have serious effects on humans, it has been shown to kill laboratory mice in large enough doses.

Not so cute now…

WHERE TO FIND THEM: Only found on Hispaniola, an island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic

 

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