Science - Nature
By: - at June 20, 2013

15 Unique Forest Creatures Less Known To Man

Many people look to science fiction movies to find weird and fascinating creatures, when they really could look right here on Earth. There are dozens of weird creatures to be seen, from the horned unicorn of the sea, the Narwhal, or the strange beast of the African plains, the Striped Cheetah. These creatures fascinate and enthrall people, and sometimes even tempt people into poaching the animals for money. For this reason, there are many forest creatures that are either almost extinct or so elusive that most people don't even know they exist.


15)  The Smelly Musk Deer
If you've ever had any type of perfume or cologne, you have used musk. Musk is a strong-smelling secretion produced by the glands of the Asian musk deer. Musk from this odd looking deer has been used in not only perfumes, but also in traditional Chinese medicines for more than 5,000 years. Musk is used in approximately 400 Chinese and Korean traditional remedies, which makes it one of the most used and most valuable animal related medicinal products. The online Encyclopedia says the Moschidae (or musk-deer) are characterized by skeletal specializations for jumping like they are on a pogo stick, the male deer's inguinal scent pouches and the large, curved and slightly movable canine teeth. They do not have antlers. There are currently only six living species of the deer. A unique quality of the deer is that they have very long legs and rather large, thick ears. The deer is found in China, Siberia, and the Himalayas. Recent studies suggest that the deer is almost extinct because of over poaching for the deer's musk. 17,000 to 20,000 musk deer stags are killed each year, according to the World Wildlife Federation.

14)  The Small Fairy Armadillo
The Pink Fairy Armadillo (also known as Pichiciego) is the smallest of the armadillos. Its body, excluding tail, is roughly three to four inches long. It is pale red or even pink in colors, and is generally found in central Argentina. It inhabits forests at times, but mostly is found in dry grassy areas and on sandy stretches. One of the most unique features of this creature is that it will bury itself in the sand in just a few moments if it is scared or feels threatened by another animal. It feeds mainly on ants, so it burrows holes near colonies to eat them. It has also been known to feed on snails, plants, insects, root material and worms.

Fairy Armadillo

The shell is held in place by two large, rough features in the bone above the eyes and a narrow ridge of flesh along the spine. Like all armadillos, the flesh on the belly, the legs, and the parts of the body not protected by the shell are covered in white hairs and soft. The bands of the shell move individually. The tail, which can be one to two inches in length, cannot be raised and must drag the ground. Other than when burrowing, the Fairy Armadillo is quite slow and sluggish. If in captivity, the animal dies quickly, with the longest known captive armadillo only living four years. The Fairy Armadillo is classified as endangered, and its number one predator is domestic dogs.

13)  The Raccoon Dog
The Raccoon Dog is a small species of canine with markings that resemble that of a raccoon. It is native to Eastern Asia and lives in the forest. It has been known to even act like a raccoon, and washes its food before eating it. The dog is now found in Japan and Europe, where it was introduced to expand its habitat because over hunting and deforestation in Asian countries has made it extinct in certain parts. These dogs are rare in that they are the only dog-like mammal that hibernates through the winter, like a bear. Their hibernation is not fully like bears, in that they do not sleep through the whole winter, but they can sleep through a snow storm to survive the winter when food is scarce.

Raccoon Dog
By Jukka A. Lång, via Wikimedia Commons

A-Z Animals says there are five different species of raccoon dog and all are known to have dexterous front paws that allow them to catch slippery food in the water and climb trees. These dogs are carnivorous and spend most of their time close to water, which means their diet is made up from frogs, fish, small birds, eggs, insects, and even spiders. The main predator for this dog is the wolf, but foxes, wildcats, and humans all come in a close second. A small island in Japan has been designated a protected area for raccoon dogs. These dogs can live for about 10 years in captivity, and they live in a family of about five to eight other dogs. They can have litters of six to eight pups, which are totally blind when they are born.

12)  The Sun Bear
The Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus) is a bear found in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia. It stands approximately 4 feet in length and weighs less than 145 pounds, making it the smallest in the bear family. It is sometimes referred to as the dog bear because of its small size. Like most species the males tend to be somewhat larger than females. Another reason it is known as the dog bear is because its fur is short and sleek, unlike other members of the bear family. Scientists believe this difference in fur quality is likely due to the climates where sun bears generally live. Its coat is a dark black or brown-black with pale orange or yellow fur on the chest, like a sun patch in the shape of a horseshoe. This is where the bear's name is derived from. They have smaller ears than most bears, but they have excellent hearing. Their feet turn inward, giving them a pigeon-toed type walk.

Sun Bear

The Sun Bear is one of the rarest bears in the world, which makes it the least known. These rare creatures spend their days sunbathing and lazing on platforms they build in trees. Their habitats grow to only the size of the space that holds enough food for them. If food is plentiful, they won't roam much. If it is not, they'll spread their territory. Compared to other bears, the Sun Bear has flatter teeth and a longer tongue. This helps them get honey and insets from trees. Interestingly for these tree dwellers, the bear's age can be determined by the rings on their teeth like a tree's age is determined by the rings on its trunk. This little bear is extremely aggressive and will attack without provocation or warning. This may be a way to protect their young, who (at birth) are blind, hairless, and very tiny with almost transparent skin. The bears have been on the endangered species list since 1978.

The Sun Bear

11)  The Very Hairy Red Panda
Red PandaThe Ailurus fulgens, the shining cat, the red fox, is slightly larger than a domestic cat and herbivorous. It's known as the Red Panda, and it has semi-retractile claws and a "false thumb." The animal has thick fur on the soles of the feet to hide scent glands and protect the animal from the cold. This native of the Himalayas and southern China eats mostly bamboo, fruit, plants, and some insects, just like the Giant Panda. Unlike the Giant Panda, the Red Panda eats the whole bamboo plant, except the roots, and chews it slowly. Unfortunately for pandas, bamboo goes through the digestive tract quickly, so the animal must eat lots of it to sustain itself. These animals can spend up to 13 hours a day looking for food, even though their metabolism is low and they are covered in fur to conserve body heat.

The "lesser," smaller panda was actually discovered 50 years before the Giant Panda and gave the more known panda its name. This bear has been classified into two species, the bear and the raccoon. The head and body length averages 22 to 25 inches, and the tails are about 15 to 19 inches. Pandas have a home range of one to three miles, with females on the one-mile side and males on the three mile side. They mark their territory with urine, anal gland secretions, and scents from foot glands. These animals communicate through latrine sites, body language, and noises.

Red Panda in stream

10)  The Emperor Tamarin and His Majestic Beard
The Emperor Tamarin (Saguinus imperator) is supposedly named for its uncanny resemblance to the German emperor Wilhelm II. At first the name was to be a joke, but it has stuck and is now the official scientific name. This unique tamarin lives in the Amazon basin, Peru, Bolivia, and Brazilian states. The Emperor Tamarin has predominantly grey colored fur with specks of yellow on its chest. The hands and feet of the animal are black and its tail is brown. It's defining feature, though, is its long, white mustache, which falls below the shoulders on both sides of its face. They have non-grasping tails and long nails that help them climb. These animals are small, but feisty. They can live up to 20 years, with the mature females leading the group. They have family groups in 25-100 acre plots and are extremely aggressive and territorial. They sleep in tree holes and during the day they groom each other, communicating with eyelids and shrill screams.

The Emperor Tamarin

9)  The Long-Nosed Monkey
The Nasalis larvatus, or the Long-nosed Monkey, is quite funny to look at and definitely stands out. This "Old World monkey" is reddish-brown and the only species in monotypic genus Nasalis. Adults have pink faces, but younger monkeys have a blue face until around three years of age. The animal's feet are partially webbed. The monkey derives its name from its most astounding feature, the male's large protruding nose. Scientist have not been able to determine the purpose of the large nose, but some suggest it's a result of sexual selection. The female Proboscis Monkey prefers the big noses, and the bigger the better. Males can reach 28 inches in length and may weigh a little more than 50 pounds. Females generally are half that weight.

Another odd feature of this monkey is its large belly, found in both the males and females. This is a result of its diet and how its digestive tract handles so much plant intake. The process releases a lot of gas, which makes the monkey constantly bloated. This makes the creature unable to digest ripe fruits. They live in Bornea in the swamp forests, and often dine on insects, leaves, seeds, and rotten fruit. Sometimes they have small animals for food. These monkeys can live for 13 years. Typically they live in troops, with four to twenty members. They generally do not have more than one male in a group of females, but they can have all male groups. They are expert swimmers and will dive into water if frightened. They are not territorial. They are considered an endangered species.

8)  The Ugly Aye-Aye
It's a creature that was surely used as the muse for the movie "Gremlins" and not for the cute fluffy animal... no, more so for the ugly creatures that are born from giving the fluffy one water after midnight. It's ugly, but it's fascinating. The Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) calls Madagascar its home, says Nat Geo, and it combines teeth like a rodent with a thin and long "finger" to dig bugs out of trees. Think about a woodpecker, but with a finger. This creature taps on trees to find grubs, gnaws holes in the wood to create an opening for its finger, then it uses that finger to pull the grubs out. The Aye-aye has the special distinction of being the world's largest nocturnal primate.

Daubentonia madagascariensis

Aye-ayes are the only primate thought to use echolocation in their feeding process. To mate, they hang upside down on a branch for roughly an hour. These creatures look like a lemur in structure, since it is closely related to the animal, but it has far less hair and much larger eyes. It's generally dark grey to black in color, and has tufts of white or grey hair around the ears. It's small, like a lemur, but it's ears and eyes are disproportionate to its head. Its eyes are a deep yellow or golden color.

7)  The Endangered Tarsier
Tarsiers have extremely large eyes and very long feet that boast elongated tarsus bones, which is how these primates got their name. These animals primarily feast on insects that they catch by jumping at them, much like a cat pouncing. They have been known to prey on birds and snakes, which they can catch in motion. These animals are nocturnal, but do not have a light reflecting area of the eye, like many other nocturnal animals do. These primates are only found in the islands of Southeast Asia. They are born with fur and their eyes fully open and operational, and they are able to climb trees within an hour of being born. They have different colored fur, depending on the type of Tarsier, and flat noses. They are an endangered species and do not do well in captivity, many times committing suicide when caught because of stress.

Great small climbers:
Endangered Tarsier

6)  The Kinkajou
KinkajouThe Kinkajou is a relative of the raccoon. It has golden fur and looks a bit like a monkey, but it's more closely related to the raccoon. It's a tree dweller that has a tail that can grip branches. This tail is used for snuggling and is almost as long as the animal's body. This animal is also called a honey bear. It has a five inch-long tongue that it uses to grasp fruit and lick nectar from flowers, as well as honey from hives and sap from trees. Sometimes they will eat eggs, insects, small vertebrates, and even hatchlings. The San Diego Zoo says the mammal is in rain forests in areas ranging from Mexico to Brazil. Like bees, these animals go from flower to flower for nectar and pollinate as they go.

Kinkajous are very loud and vocal animals, with high-pitched screeches that sound like a woman screaming. They also bark much like a small dog. The little creatures mark their territory with scent glands from their mouth, throat, and stomach. These animals are not considered endangered yet, and they are hard to find since they spend most of their time in the canopies of the forests, but there has been evidence of over poaching and capturing the animals for the exotic pet trade. Kinkajous are not good in captivity and have a painful bite, which they will use if cornered. They can also be very destructive to homes.

The Kinkajou Laying Down

5)  Poison Dart Frog
The poison Dart Frog is exactly what it sounds like - a poisonous dart frog! These brightly colored frogs are one of the most toxic creatures on the planet, according to National Geographic. Their bright colors (varying in red, orange, yellow, blue, green, and even purple and pink) are actually a way to warn predators that the frog is poisonous. Talk about being kind to potential enemies. There are many species of this frog and some are so potent that even touching it slightly can deliver a lethal amount of toxins. The frog derived its name from native tribes that dip the end of darts on the frog's skin or in its blood to extract its poison and use it for hunting or on enemy tribes. Scientists call these amphibians "poison frogs" simply because not all are used to tip darts in toxins by native tribes. Rain Forest Animals says the frog is native to South and Central America. They feed on crickets, fleas, termites, and ants. They live in forest streams, rivers, marshes, and swamps and can grow to be four inches long, depending on the species.

These Poison Dart Frogs Represent Uniquely Gorgeous Colors:
Yellow Poison Dart Frog

Red Poison Frog

Blue Poison Dart Frog

4)  The Painful Bullet Ant
Nat Geo calls the bullet ant the world’s largest ant, and say it grows to the size of an adult human pinky finger. This ant not only has a very painful bite, but it also stings like a wasp. This horrifying creature is solitary in the daytime, but it lives in a colony (usually like a nest) at the base of trees. No one is certain where the name comes from, but the pain of the ant's bite is well-known. It takes 24 hours for the pain to begin to subside. Mother Nature Network says the Schmidt Sting Pain Index shows the bullet ant delivers the most painful sting in the insect world. Despite this knowledge, some tribes in South America require men to endure stings from these animals as a rite of passage- sometimes up to 20 times consecutively. Women do not have to undergo this torture, though. The stings are not deadly and leave no permanent damage, but they can cause soreness for weeks after.

Bullet Ant eating

3)  The Elusive and Enigmatic Kagu

Kagu Bird
By Pierre Fidenci.Medeis, from Wikimedia Commons

The Kagu, a rare bird found in New Zealand, has rather large wings, but it is flightless. The BBC says it lives in the forest, but it has light coloration, which does not help it blend well. It has nasal coms, one-third the red blood count of other birds, and is about the size of a chicken. The San Diego Zoo says the bird has "gray feathers, bright orange legs and bill, head crest like a cockatoo’s, and bold stripes on its wingtips." It has waterproof feathers that protect it from being soaked in its naturally wet habitat and the animal can run quickly, which helps make up for its lack of flight. They have a pointed, strong bill that is excellent for digging, and strong eyesight from dark red eyes. When hunting fish or insects, the bird can stand still for long periods of time on one leg, and it strikes quickly when food is found. Its wings are good for making the bird appear larger and more threatening so that it can protect its young chicks from predators. It will also let out a frightening shriek when it feels threatened. Other than that, not much is known about the birds, except that very few exist due to over poaching for its feathers to wear in ladies' hats in the 1800s.

2)  The Rare Striped Rabbit
Rare Striped RabbitIn the last decade, scientists made a great discovery and it's one that has left many people scrambling for pictures of the rare creature. The striped rabbit (also known as the Sumatran rabbit) is considered a scientific novelty thanks to its unusual appearance. Native to a certain region in Burma (Sumatra, where the miniature deer was also recently discovered), pictures of this animal are scarce. It's larger than most rabbits, Live Science and Nat Geo both say, and nocturnal. In 2011, night vision cameras caught several snapshots of one, showing the creature's signature short ears and wide, dark stripes that adorn its face and body. They were first photographed for the first time in 1998, but not many sightings of them have since been made. They were once on the endangered species list, but are not now. It is not known what prompted this change or if their population numbers have really improved.

1)  The Glass Frog
The glass Frog is not really made of glass. National Geographic and BBC say the frog gets its name from it translucent abdomen. This frog is mostly lime green, but it can come in other shades, rarely. Its belly and sometimes parts of the back are see-through, revealing their internal organs. They are forest creatures that live almost exclusively, so their coloration allows them to blend into the leaves. There are currently 134 species of glass frogs, and all range between 1.4 and 3 centimeters. Out of those, 60 species are considered threatened, even though it is the most common species in Central and South America. The Rain Forest Alliance said the frog has small, yellow suction pads on its fingers and toes, a short snout, and gold irises. The glass frog is nocturnal only venturing out at night to hunt and search for a mate. When mating, males will emit a very recognizable call that will increase in volume as they become older and surer of themselves. The frogs will lay 18-30 eggs at one time near water and the males will guard the eggs and keep them moist until the tadpoles hatch and drop into nearby water. They are found throughout Central and South America.

The Glass Frog

Final Words
Whether it is the fascinating or grotesque, the unique or the weird, there are some amazing animals in the world's forests. Most are endangered thanks to a number of reasons: climate change, poaching, and habitat erosion are some of the main issues killing out these amazing animals. The hideous looking Aye-aye, the regal looking Tamarin, the dangerous bullet ants and dart frogs, and even the cuddly Red Pandas are all on the endangered species lists. Although conservation efforts have begun for each of these, it may be too late to save some and future generations will have to learn about these unique forest creatures form science books.





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