Learning about incredible wildlife isn’t just important for expanding our horizons and appreciating the world’s wonders – but for conservation efforts too. The more we understand about our planet’s weird and wonderful creatures, the more likely we are to take steps to celebrate and protect them.

And, while it’s impossible to mention every remarkable animal, we’ve pulled together a small selection of fantastic beasts to help satisfy your curiosity.

From the naked mole rat to the sun bear, here are six of nature’s most incredible animals.

1. Green anaconda

Green anaconda

Due to its colossal size, the green anaconda takes the title of the largest snake in the world. It can weigh as much as 227kg and grow up to nine metres long – which is as hefty as a heavyweight boxer and almost as long as a squash court!

Found in the South American countries of the Andes (including Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil), these huge snakes tend to make their homes in damp, warm places, such as swamps, marshes, or streams in or near tropical rainforests. With eyes set high on top of their heads, they can submerge themselves in water for up to an hour while silently stalking their prey – and, amazingly, can also swim at speeds of up to 16km/h.

Although non-venomous, green anacondas are a type of boa. They restrict and suffocate their prey, before swallowing the body whole without chewing (their jaw unhinges to allow them to do this!). As you might expect, this can mean that digestion takes an incredibly long time, so a large meal can keep a snake full for weeks. Though, green anacondas are anything but picky; chowing down on birds, fish, reptiles, mammals, and sometimes even other anacondas!

When it comes to breeding, green anacondas lay eggs. But, unusually, these stay inside the mother until they’re ready to hatch – at which point, she gives birth to 20-30 live babies, which are up to 90cm long.

2. Platypus


Playful and comical-looking yet deadly, the platypus is one of Australia’s most iconic animals – and it has a fascinating profile.

Platypuses were first discovered in 1798 – though British scientists thought that someone had put lots of different parts of animals together (the tail of a beaver, the bill and feet of a duck, and the body of an otter) to create a hoax. But they’re definitely real! They’re just more tricky to spot than they used to be, with climate change, bushfires, droughts, and land clearing decreasing their population.

Despite looking fairly cuddly, platypuses (like sharks) can use electronic impulses to detect underwater prey, such as freshwater shrimps, worms, and yabbies, which they bring to the surface to eat. The males have sharp stingers on the heels of their hind feet too, which will deliver a poisonous sting to approaching foes.

Platypuses are also monotremes (mammals that lay eggs) – and they’re are only five monotreme species left in existence. And if you thought the adults looked cute, wait until you see the babies – which are called puggles and measure a tiny 3cm at birth!

But the trivia doesn’t stop there. These intriguing creatures spend 12 hours a day underwater looking for food. And they have two layers of hair to help with this: a woolly one that keeps them warm by trapping air close to the skin and a coarse, waterproof one which keeps the underlayer dry. Scientists have also discovered that platypuses are biofluorescent, meaning their fur glows a bluish-green hue under ultraviolet (UV) light.

Though the reason for this biofluorescence isn’t fully understood, some scientists believe that it may be to help them spot one another in the dark.

3. Naked mole rat

Naked mole rat

The naked mole rat, also known as the sand puppy, is a remarkable burrowing rodent native to the Horn of Africa and parts of Kenya, particularly Somali regions. Despite its name, naked mole rats aren’t rats; they’re close relatives of porcupines and guinea pigs. They live in underground burrows in arid savannas – and though colonies are large, one female breed, while the rest raise their siblings.

While these peculiar creatures appear naked because of the startling appearance of their wrinkled pink or greyish skin, they have around 100 fine hairs on their bodies. These act like whiskers, helping them feel what’s around them, which is especially helpful because they have small eyes and don’t see well.

Naked mole rats also have powerful jaws and large incisors, which they use to tunnel underground. And tiny hairs on their toes help sweep soil behind them as they go.

Naked mole rats live for around 30 years, making them the longest-living rodents in the world. Despite being naked(ish), they stay warm by huddling together. And if they weren’t weird and wonderful enough, naked mole rats also eat their poop to maximise nutrient uptake, and don’t drink water – instead getting their hydration from eating the underground parts of plants.

With 17 different communication sounds from chirps to hisses, naked mole rats are also a noisy bunch with a strong sense of smell. And at birth, they each weigh less than a penny!

4. Mantis shrimp

Mantis shrimp

The mantis shrimp is part alien, part underwater superhero. It lives in the warm, shallow waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans between Hawaii and Eastern Africa. Though bright and beautiful in colour, this small Crustacean is very aggressive and can use its sharp clubs to punch prey with the speed of a bullet – so fast that the movement boils the water around the shrimp and creates a flash of light.

Mantis shrimps’ strength means that they need to be kept in stronger aquariums, as they can crack and punch holes through aquarium glass; and have also been known to attack their reflection. Plus, to cope with the force of their strike, mantis shrimps have special layers of polysaccharide chitin beneath their clubs, which act as shock absorbers. These special layers keep minor cracks in the shrimp’s hard shell from becoming full breaks.

While there are around 450 species of mantis shrimp in all sorts of colours – from brown to bright red, green, and blue – the most well-known species is the peacock mantis shrimp. Larger and more colourful than some of the other mantis shrimps, this species ranges between four and 18 inches in length.

Mantis shrimps are solitary creatures that are often found at the base of coral reefs in U-shaped burrows. They tend to eat fish, clams, crabs, worms, shrimp, snails, and squid; and their strength means they can target animals much larger than themselves.

We also have to give mention to their incredible eyes, which allow them to see in 12 colours and distinguish various forms of polarised light. Scientists even believe mantis shrimps can use their eyes to detect cancer cells.

5. Sun bear

Sun bear

Sun bears (also known as honey bears) might be the smallest of the bear species, standing at just 70cm tall, with a stocky build and large paws – but what they lack in stature, they make up for in character (and tongue!). Their name comes from the sun-shaped patch on their chest, which some say looks like a rising sun.

Found in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia, the sun bear has the longest tongue of all bears, often reaching around 30cm. And while it might be 10 times smaller than polar bears, its teeth are the same size. Plus, sun bears’ strong curved claws and huge paws make them the strongest climbers in the bear world – and their sense of smell is 2000 times more powerful than ours!

So, what do they eat? Sun bears love to snack on insects, leaves, berries, and lizards – but their absolute favourite treat is honey. They use their climbing skills, sharp claws, sense of smell, and long tongue to seek out beehives, rip them open, and reach the honey inside – while their thick fur and skin protect them from angry bees!

It’s believed that sun bear numbers have declined by more than 30% over the last 30 years, classifying them as vulnerable. Sadly, they’re hunted for their gallbladders and other body parts for medicinal purposes – even though these have been scientifically proven to have no medical value at all. Sun bears are also threatened by habitat destruction caused by deforestation.

6. Dung beetle

Dung beetle

Dung beetles are the industrious recyclers of the insect world, and have a remarkable lifestyle that revolves around feces. Imagine this: under the moon’s watchful gaze, they toil tirelessly, rolling dung into perfect spheres which they later eat, lay eggs in, or live in. Though, not all dung beetles bother rolling the poo they find – some simply live in the dung they find or tunnel below it to make a burrow.

If they decide to roll the dung away, it’s usually taken to their nests to feed their young. Dung beetle nests are well supplied with poo and when the female lays each egg in a tiny dung sausage, so that when it hatches it has plenty to eat.

Unlike many other insects, dung beetles are good parents. Typically, the mother takes on child-rearing responsibilities by constructing the nest and provisioning it with food. However, in certain species, males and females work together to dig their nests.

But perhaps most interesting of all is that, dung beetles have remarkable strength – and can pull over 1,000 times their bodyweight, making them not only the strongest insects but the strongest animals.

Plus, by collecting and burying manure, dung beetles provide significant ecological benefits. They break down dung, which helps recycle nutrients and aerate the soil. It also reduces the breeding cycle of flies and other pests, potentially benefiting farmers and the environment. So, next time you spot a dung beetle, tip your hat – it’s a humble custodian of Earth’s hidden treasures!

Final thoughts…

In the grand tapestry of life, where every thread represents a unique creature, some animals stand out like dazzling gems. These remarkable beings defy convention, pushing the boundaries of what we thought possible, and weaving tales of resilience, intelligence, and adaptability.

We hope you enjoyed reading about these six incredible animals. For further reading, why not check out our article on 16 weird and wonderful animals you can find in the UK?

Which of these incredible animals stood out to you most? What’s your favourite animal and why? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.