Posted by: Viktor Mar | 2013 August 30

7 Demonic Creatures: Thorny Devil, Satanic Gecko, More

 

Posted by Liz Langley in Weird & Wild on August 19, 2013

 

For some diabolical-looking animals, “you look like hell” may not be so much of an insult.

From birds to beetles to snakes, nature has a lot of devilishly creepy creatures—including the recently discovered “demon” ants named for gods of the Maya underworld. Here’s a roundup of animals that would likely be favorite pets of Gomez and Morticia.

Satanic Leaf-Tailed Gecko

With its piercing red eyes, tiny horns, and sinister smile, the satanic leaf-tailed gecko probably wouldn’t be a good mascot for anything but brimstone … except perhaps mimicry. The smallest member of the Uroplatus, or leaf-tailed gecko family, Uroplatus phantasticus blends in seamlessly in its Madagascar forest habitat.

Satanic Leaf-Tailed Gecko picture

A satanic leaf-tailed gecko clings to a twig in Madagascar. Photograph by Piotr Naskrecki / Minden Pictures/CORBIS

That didn’t stop it from getting discovered and becoming wildly popular as a pet. In 2011 National Geographic reported that all Uroplatus species made the World Wildlife Fund‘s 2004 list of “ten species most threatened by the illegal wildlife trade.” Currently, though, the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the geckos as a species of least concern.

Also in 2011, a satanic leaf-tailed gecko had the honor of being the first baby born at the San Diego Zoo that year. It was assigned a number.

That number was not 666.

Anglerfish

Everything about anglerfish is bizarre. There are more than 200 species—including blackdevils, deep-sea blackdevils, and humpback blackdevils—and some have only been recently documented. The females attract prey Alfalfa-style, via a lure sticking out of their heads that contains bioluminescent bacteria.

The deep-dwelling Murray's abyssal anglerfish has a bioluminescent lure used to attract prey. Photograph by Visuals Unlimited/Corbis

The deep-dwelling Murray’s abyssal anglerfish has a bioluminescent lure used to attract prey. Photograph by Visuals Unlimited/Corbis

As if its big mouth and bacteria-filled flashlight head weren’t enough, the deep-sea angler fish has some weird mating rituals. The tiny males will latch onto the much larger females with their teeth and eventually fuse into her body until there’s little more to him than his reproductive organs, which she’ll eventually use to fertilize her eggs. (Also see “Photos: Rare Deep-Sea Anglerfish Recorded.”)

You could say they really take this “two become one” thing literally—except that she can support up to six males at a time. You glow, girl.

Thorny Devil

The thorny devil goes by a few other monikers, including the thorny dragon and mountain devil. Its Latin name is Moloch horridus, which refers to the ancient god Moloch, who is associated with child sacrifice.

thorny devil picture

The thorny devil has a false head to trick predators. Photograph by Theo Allofs/Corbis

But in real life this Australian lizard preys only on ants. The reptile’s coolest camo trick is its false head: When threatened, it lowers its real head and lets a large scaly bump on its back pass for another head. That makes thorny devils look as hard to swallow (literally) as when you first see them. (See a video of the aye aye, also called the “demon primate.“)

Long-Horned Beetle

The long-horned beetle has a face only a coleopterist could love. But the coolest thing about this South American beetle isn’t its horny face.

Long-horned Beetle picture

A close-up of the long-horned beetle. Photograph by Mark Moffett, National Geographic

Its body is strikingly beautiful, looking more like a remarkable piece of tribal art or wood carving than a living thing. Unfortunately the long-horned beetle may well be more threatened than threatening: It’s deemed “vulnerable” by the IUCN.

California Condor

Soaring over the landscape with those black feathers and a ten-foot-wide (three-meter-wide) wingspan, the California condor might, at first glance, have all the menace and dark glamour (not to mention fashion sense) of a Disney villainess. Indeed, native peoples of ancient California associated the carrion-eating bird with the dead, incorporating it into mourning activities, for instance, archaeologist John Foster writes on the California Department of Parks and Recreation’s website.

California Condor picture

Ancient cultures associated the California condor with the dead. Photograph by ZSSD/Minden Pictures/Corbis

And North America’s largest bird almost joined the ranks of the dead itself, having nearly gone extinct in the 1980s due to loss of habitat, pollution, and other causes. Methods such as captive breeding programs were put in place, and when only a few were left in the wild all were brought into captivity. The plans worked: There are now at least 160 animals in the wild, according to the National Parks Conservation Association.

Ogre-Faced Spider

Don’t tell Ron Weasley this, but there’s a spider out there that knows how to snatch up its victims into its net.

ogre-faced spider picture

An ogre-faced spider rears, well, its ugly head. Photograph by Nicky Bay/Science Photo Library

The ogre-faced spider—or net-casting spider—makes a net, which it then holds by its front four legs while hanging upside down in order to snare hapless prey. (Watch a video of the spider snagging prey.)

Its long, slender body looks stick-like and might go unnoticed, but then you get to that horrifying face, which earned it a spot in the family Deinopidae, which means ”fearful appearance” in Greek.

Luckily, the only threat they are thought to pose to humans is nightmares. And actually, once you realize they look a little like a member of ZZ Top, that goes away, too.

Basking Shark

Since you’re looking forward to those last summer beach trips, check out this ocean denizen, the basking shark—unquestionably one of the scariest-looking creatures alive. At 32 feet (10 meters) long, the basking shark is the second-largest living fish after the whale shark. It has distinctive gill slits that go almost all the way around the head and a cavernous mouth that’s just about always open.

basking shark picture

A basking shark feeds in open water off England. Photograph by Alex Mustard

That’s because the basking shark is a filter-feeder in search of plankton. Unlike other filter-feeding sharks that move water through suction, the basking shark “relies solely on the passive flow of water through its pharynx by swimming,” according to the Florida Natural History Museum.

Found in coastal waters in many areas of the world, the basking shark gets its name because it likes to hover around the surface, evidently soaking up the sun. Fortunately for us, basking sharks aren’t considered dangerous.

But look at this video of how big it is and imagine you’re the guy in the kayak.


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