Nature

Top 10 amazing weird and wonderful animals and natural phenomena

This weekend we bring you some enlightening reading after your hard week’s work, we tracked down some of the weirdest animals, astounding facts and phenomena from the natural world to bring you the top 10.

Atretochoana Eiselti – (Penis Snake)

 Atretochoana Eiselti  - Penis Snake from Brazil.
The extremely rare Atretochoana Eiselti (Penis Snake) from Brazil

Whilst it looks like both, the Penis Snake is clearly not a penis, but it’s not a snake either. The legless amphibian is the largest known lungless tetrapod, breathing through it’s skin and was, until 2011, believed to be extinct. Atretochoana Eiselti is in the Caecilian family, snake-like amphibians that closely resemble a snake but also have rings on their body like garden earthworms do. They are excellent swimmers

The Magnificent Frigatebird of Galapagos (Ecuador)

Magnificent Frigatebird
close up of a male and female magnificent frigatebird on isla genovesa in the Galapagos islands, Ecuador

Of the bird world, the Magnificent Frigatebird tops the list for us as being one of the weirdest wingers. It thrives over tropical and subtropical waters off America, between northern Mexico and Perú, on the Pacific coast and between Florida and southern Brazil along the Atlantic coast. With a wingspan of between 2.17 and 2.44 metres its the largest of the frigatebird family, feeding exclusively on fish. The males have the striking red gular sac, which he inflates to attract a mate. Many even inflate during mid flight, an impressive display.

Pangolin

Pangolin - Top 10 weird and wonderful animals
Baby Pangolin takes a ride on mum’s back

Native to Southeast Asia, the name “pangolin” originates from the Malay word, pengguling, meaning “one who rolls up”, for when they are threatened, they roll into a ball, protected by their armor plating. Like the Skunk, Pangolins also omit a noxious-smelling chemical from glands near the anus to ward off predators. Pangolins are nocturnal, living solitary lives only pairing up to mate, nesting in hollow trees or burrows, feeding on ants and termites, which they capture using their long tongues and sharp claws for digging. They produce a litter of one to three offspring, which they raise for about two years. As pictures, the young usually ride on the backs of their mothers.

Narwhal

Narwhal - Monodon monoceros - top 10 amazing, weird and wonderful natural phenomena
Narwhal, male monodon monoceros in the ocean

The unicorn of the sea has to top the list for amazingly weird sea creatures. The Narwhal, a medium sized whale, growing up to 5.5 metres long with a huge mono tusk lives year-round in the freezing Arctic waters of Greenland, Russia and Canada. A sophisticated toothed Arctic predator, it feeds on flatfish, under dense pack ice during the winter whilst in the summer they feed off Arctic cod and Greenland halibut. Like all whales, they must surface for air about every 20 – 25 minutes, they often meet their fate after suffocating by getting trapped under icebergs.

Saiga Antelope

Saiga Antelope
An adult male Saiga Antelope grazes in the steppe

The Saiga is a critically endangered antelope confined to Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and southwestern Mongolia with only around 50,000 remaining worldwide. On the remote steppes of central Kazakhstan, the species encountered tragedy in May 2015. When the females gathered in large numbers to give birth, around 200,000 died in just over a fortnight.

After studies carried out into the deaths by experts at the Royal Veterinary College, London, it was found that the die-offs were as a result of hemorrhagic septicemia caused by the bacterium, Pasteurella multocida serotype B that built up and multiplied in the Saiga’s characteristic long noses during the exceptionally warm and humid conditions

Those must surely be in the top five weirdest animals mammals and birds, now onto natural phenomenon.

Lake Natron – Tanzania

Aerial view of Lake Natron, in the Great Rift Valley, between Kenya and Tanzania. In the dry season the red algae soda lake attracts huge flocks of pink flamingos

Fed by the Ewaso Ng’iro River, which rises in central Kenya, and by mineral-rich hot springs, the lake is 35 miles (57km) long and 14 miles (22km) wide and is no deeper than 3 metres. High levels of evaporation have left behind natron (sodium carbonate decahydrate) and trona (sodium sesquicarbonate dihydrate). The lake has an alkalinity (PH) of more and temperatures are often above 40 degrees.

Volcanic bedrock surrounding the lake is alkaline, with sodium-dominated trachyte lavas containing high levels of carbonate, causing the lake to turn into a caustic alkaline brine. Toxic cyanobacteria thrives in the lake, whilst little else does. It’s the red photosynthesising pigment in the cyanobacteria that produces the vivid red and orange colours giving the lake it’s blood like appearance.

Giant’s Causeway – Northern Ireland

Giant's Causeway Northern Ireland
Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim, Northern Ireland on beautiful summer day

According to Irish mythology, the Giant’s Causeway was built by the Irish giant, Finn MacCool, made as a crossing over the sea to face his rival in Scotland. There is however, a scientific explanation.

Located on the beautiful Antrim coastline and formed round 60 million years ago during what is known as the Paleogene Period, Giant’s Causeway’s elaborate effect of around 40,000 near perfect hexagonal columns occurred as a result of molten lava flows coming off the land and rapidly cooling when they met with the sea.

 

Northern Lights – Aurora Borealis

Aurora Borealis - Northern Lights in Norway
An insane Aurora Borealis display over the fishing village of Henningsvaer, Lofoten Islands, Arctic Norway.

Ghostly looking swathes of greenish blue color painting the night’s sky from end of September to late March every year is bizarre, but most know about it. Norway is one of the best places to experience the extraordinary aurora borealis, AKA Northern Lights.

The lights illuminating the night sky are caused by activity on the surface of the Sun, with solar storms emitting clouds of electrically charged particles that can travel for thousands of miles. As the particles approach our planet, the Earth’s magnetic field draws them in, towards the north and south poles. This is why aurora activity is concentrated at the magnetic poles. When the molten particles enter Earth’s atmosphere natural gasses are burned, with the green tinge cased by the particles burning oxygen, whilst blue, purple, red or pink are caused by nitrogen.

Self propelled rocks / sailing stones

Racetrack Playa, Death Valley National Park, California. The Racetrack Playa is a scenic dry lake feature with “sailing stones” that leave linear “racetrack” imprints.

Sailing stones, also described as walking rocks, rolling stones or moving rocks result when often large bounders leave tracks on the grounds of the valley without intervention. The phenomena is said to occur when large sheets of ice floating on floodwater break up and are driven by high winds that can move rocks on the ground by sometimes up to 5 metres a minute, or when “ice rafts” are created when water freezes around the rock and then breaks up when the ice begins to melt, with the thick ice lending buoyancy rocks floating just above the bed of the body of water. Since this effect depends on reducing friction, and not on increasing the wind drag, the minimal friction allows the rocks to be moved quite substantial distances even in light winds.

Trails of sliding rocks have been observed and studied in various locations, including Little Bonnie Claire Playa, in Nevada, Racetrack Playa, Death Valley National Park, California, where the number and length of tracks are notable. Whilst the ice theory provides some potential explanation, the phenomenon leaves still leaves many scientists baffled.

Old Faithful – Geothermal geyser

Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park erupting

Located in the world famous Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, USA the powerful geothermal geyser lives up to it’s name, predictably erupting every 45 minutes to two hours, around 20-times a day, spouting sometimes as much as 31,000 litres of water hotter than boiling, up to 16 metres into the air. An impressive sight that usually lasts between 90 seconds and five-minutes each time.

Do you know of any animal or natural phenomena weirder than these? If so, please get in touch with your suggestions, we will consider following up with an article as we bring you “weekends weird and wonderful” over the next four-weeks.

Our team of international journalists working relentlessly to bring you the latest compelling, factually accurate news as it happens, as it should be told, not how the governments want it to be told.

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