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Ten Weirdest Animal Stories of 2013

Nature pushed the boundaries on bizarre this year, offering up a Pinocchio lizard, a hot-pink slug, and even a sea cucumber that eats with its anus. Luckily for you, we’ve recapped the oddest of the odd: Here are our editor’s picks for 2013’s weirdest animal discoveries.  Tenth on our list of oddest animal stories is...

Nature pushed the boundaries on bizarre this year, offering up a Pinocchio lizard, a hot-pink slug, and even a sea cucumber that eats with its anus. Luckily for you, we’ve recapped the oddest of the odd: Here are our editor’s picks for 2013’s weirdest animal discoveries

Tenth on our list of oddest animal stories is a new species of Amazonian spider, a 0.2-inch-long (five-millimeter-long) arachnid that uses its web to create a decoy spider around five times its size to scare off potential predators.

10. New Spider Weaves Spider-Shaped Web

decoy spider picture
A new species of spider hides behind a giant decoy it built out of debris.
Photograph courtesy Phil Torres

The newfound spider is probably in the genus Cyclosa because they are also known to make structures in their webs. We also got over 150 comments in January when we asked readers to name the new arachnid—some suggested monikers included the puppeteer spider, shadow weaver, and David Copperweb. Full story>>

9. Giant Sea Cucumber Eats With Its Anus

California sea cucumber picture
A California sea cucumber (Parastichopus californicus) in California. Photograph by Gerald and Buff Corsi, Visuals Unlimited/Getty Images

Scientists discovered that the giant California sea cucumber (Parastichopus californicus) actually uses its anus as a second mouth, we reported in March. The discovery, some of our readers cleverly noted,  gives new meaning to the term “bottom feeder.” Full story>>

8. New Hot-Pink Slug Found in Australia

pink slug picture
The new hot-pink slug found in Australia. Photograph courtesy Michael Murphy/NPWS

He’s big. He’s slimy. And he’s … neon pink. Meet Triboniophorus aff. graeffeia new species of 8-inch-long (20-centimeter-long) slug that’s found only on one Australian mountain. The pink slug, we told you in June, had gone unstudied for so long because Australian slug and snail researchers—known as malacologists—are far outnumbered by their koala-investigating brethren. Readers were tickled pink by the story, which earned 30,000 Facebook likes. Full story>>

7. Hero Shrew Found, One of “Most Bizarre Animals on Earth”

hero shrew picture
The new shrew. Photograph by William Stanley, The Field Museum of Natural History

Watch out, Mighty Mouse: Scientists have found a new species of shrew that has incredible strength. Dubbed Thor’s hero shrew after the brawny god of strength in Norse mythology, Scutisorex thori is one of the most bizarre animals on Earth thanks to its supertough, interlocking spine, we reported in July. Full story>>

6. What’s the World’s Ugliest Animal?

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The blobfish was voted the ugliest animal. Photograph by Kerryn Parkinson, NORFANZ/Caters/Zuma Press

In September, the public chose the deep-sea blobfish to represent endangered ugly animals everywhere. The sagging, gelatinous creature became the new mascot of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, which draws attention to the need to conserve animals of all shapes and sizes. Other winners included the proboscis monkey and the axolotl—but many readers claimed these homely contestants are actually quite cute. Full story>>

5. Praying Mantis Mimics Flower to Trick Prey

orchid mantis picture
Orchid mantis (Hymenopus coronatus) camouflaged on flower in Borneo, Malaysia. Photograph by Thomas Marent, Minden Pictures/Corbis

It may look pretty, but this “orchid” actually has a trick under its, well, leaves—it’s actually a praying mantis trying to get a meal, according to a September post. Until recently, scientists weren’t sure if this flower mimic was accurate enough to deceive bugs. But a recent study says it is—and it’s the first scientific evidence of an animal imitating a flower to attract prey. Full story>>

4. “Extinct” Pinocchio Lizard Found in Ecuador

Pinocchio lizard picture
The long-nosed Pinocchio lizard. Photograph by Alejandro Arteaga,

It’s no lie—scientists spotted a lizard with a nose like Pinocchio in an Ecuadorian cloud forest, scientists announced in October. What’s more, the long-nosed reptile had been thought to be extinct, as it had been seen only a few times in the past 15 years.

“It’s hard to describe the feelings of finding this lizard. Finding the Pinocchio anole was like discovering a secret, a deeply held secret. We conceived it for years to be a mythological creature,” Alejandro Arteaga, a photographer and one of the lizard’s spotters, said in a statement. Full story>>

3. Baby Olinguito Found in Colombia

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A baby olinguito found in Colombia. Photograph by Juan Rendon

What’s better than discovering a rare, furry carnivore that resembles a teddy bear? Stumbling upon a baby version of the same creature. Scientists trekking deep in Colombia‘s La Mesenia Reserve Forest recently spotted a young olinguito, a mammal that was confirmed as a new species in August. Scientists say it is the first new carnivore found in the Western Hemisphere in more than three decades. Full story>>

2. Exclusive Video: World’s Biggest Pig Revealed

giant forest hog picture
A giant forest hog rests in Kibale National Park. The large cheeks may protect the animal’s eyes as it moves through dense brush. Photograph courtesy Rafael Reyna-Hurtado

Meet the giant forest hog, which at up to 600 pounds (275 kilograms) brings home the record-setting bacon as the world’s biggest pig.

Despite its imposing size, there’s relatively little known about the African species, a bristly black animal with prominent cheeks and sharp tusks, we reported in November. In fact, the hog was first scientifically described in 1904—making it one of the last big mammals to be identified on the continent. Full story>>

1. Troll-Haired Mystery Bug Found in Suriname

It may or may not be a new species, but this crazy-haired bug is an eye popper of a planthopper.

planthopper picture
The young planthopper’s crazy “hair.” Photograph by Trond Larsen

Trond Larsen was lucky enough to notice and photograph the tiny insect—about 0.2 inches (five millimeters) long—during an international expedition of field biologists to the mountainous region of southeastern Suriname in 2012, he told us in November. Full story>>

Here’s hoping for another wonderfully weird year in 2014!

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Meet the Author

Christine Dell'Amore
Christine Dell'Amore, environment writer/editor for National Geographic News, has reported from six continents, including Antarctica. She has also written for Smithsonian magazine and the Washington Post. Christine holds a masters degree in journalism with a specialty in environmental reporting from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her book, South Pole, was published in 2012.