This is my first attempt at creating an animal alphabet. I’ve tried to make sure everything on the list is somewhat obscure, but also somewhat notable! You probably know about some of these creatures, but did you know about all of them? Let me know!
Some descriptions are shorter than others because either there isn’t that much information on them, or just because I might have forgot to put more information in. I’ll probably augment some of these descriptions later. I was kind of anxious to post this!
The axolotl is a neotenic species of salamander, a salamander that does not go through metamorphosis. While it resembles the texas cave salamander that the BBC’s Planet Earth made famous, the two are not closely related, the texas cave salamander coming from a lungless family of salamanders. The axolotl does have lungs, but part of the resemblance between the two species comes from their external gills that they retain as adults.
Axolotls are critically endangered in the wild, being only native to two lakes, one of which has been drained by humans to prevent flooding. Despite their status as a critically endangered, they are kept as pets and used by scientists, largely because they are easy to breed.
The bongo is a large forest antelope native to Central and Western Africa.
Pictured is an eastern bongo, an endangered species only found in Kenya, with more animals in captivity than believed to be in the wild.
The Coati is a relative of the raccoon that are native to Southern North America, Central America, and Northern South America. They are omnivores, eating mostly insects and fruit, but are noted as being one of the few animals that can eat large tarantulas.
The dik-dik are a small antelope native to eastern and southern Africa. They weigh 3 to 6 kilograms (about 6.5 to 13 pounds). Female dik-diks tend to be larger than males.
The black spots at the corners of their eyes carry a gland that produces a dark and sticky secretion that the animals use to scent-mark their territories.
Electric catfish appear in freshwater systems in tropical Africa.
As their name would have you to believe, electric catfish are capable of electrical shocks. The 350 volt shocks are used to incapacitate their prey.
Fiddler crabs are a small kind of crab found in mangroves and on the beaches of much of the world. The male fiddler crab is recognizable by its asymmetrical claws.
The greater sage-grouse is North America’s largest grouse.
You should watch the courting ritual of the male greater sage-grouse. I’m not sure which is greater, the bizarre yellow sacs that inflate, or the sound they make. It reminds me of the hooded seal.
The hoatzin is a species of bird found in the Amazon of still debated origins. The species is unique in several ways, including the presence of two claws at the end of each wing as a chick, and a digestive system based on fermentation.
The species is also known by the name “stinkbird,” a name that I also had as a child.
The Iriomote cat is a critically endangered species of cat only found on the Japanese island of Iriomote. It is one of four species of cat that can not sheath their claws, the others being the fishing cat, the flat-headed cat, and the cheetah.
An estimated 100 animals are believed to be alive, their decline due to habitat destruction and over hunting. A third of the Iriomote’s 289 square kilometers (about 111.5 square miles) of land was declared a natural reserve, but most of their preferred habitats remain outside of this region. The species is also threatened by their ability to breed with feral cats on the island.
Javelinas are the wild suinans native to the Americas. While they appear similar to Afro-Eurasian pigs and hogs, javelinas are placed in their own order. One way to tell the difference is that Afro-Eurasian hogs have curved tusks, while javelinas have straight tusks.
Javelinas can not [yet] be domesticated.
The Kanchil is the world’s smallest hoofed animal. It is native to southern Asia.
The lamprey is a jawless fish with a terrifying mouth (pictured) found in both saltwater and freshwater systems in most temperate regions of our planet. They begin their lives as toothless larvae that feed on microbes, but go through metamorphosis to become these creatures that vaguely resemble eels or hagfish.
The adult lamprey feeds by attaching itself to a fish, digging into it, and sucking its blood. JUST SHOWING YOU SHOULD NOT JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER.
The marsupial mole is a burrowing marsupial native to Western Australia.
Marsupial moles only have vestige eyes covered in skin, and lack external ears, giving it the appearance of being a bag of hair with a nose, mouth, and feet.
The golden mole, found in southern Africa, was once considered to be a relative of the marsupial mole, as it appears similar, despite it not being a marsupial.
The nautilus is the only shelled cephalopod. It’s regarded as a “living fossil” (I ordinarily do not like the term, but find it appropriate here), as hundreds of millions of years ago they were more varied and far more prosperous. Today there are only six species of nautilus, all limited to the Indo-Pacific.
The okapi is the closest living relative to the Giraffe, and is native to central Africa. It only became known to the European scientific tradition in the early 20th century.
One of our favorite features of the giraffe is their blue tongue, and okapis share this feature. It is also one of the few mammals that can lick their own ears. Zach VandeZande’s sister- in-law had the great fortunate of being licked by an okapi.
While the pangolin looks like a xenarthran (the cohort of animals that include anteaters, sloths, armadillos, and everyone’s favorite semi-obscure extinct mammal, the glyptodon, all of which are only found in the new world), sharing the long tongue of the anteater and having armor like an armadillo or glyptodon, it’s closest living relatives are actually the carnivorans (dogs, cats, bears, pinnipeds (seals, sea lions, walruses), etc). This seems especially strange because pangolins lack teeth.
The behavior of the pangolin is just as great as their appearance. They use their claws to dig for insects, burrow, and to climb. Some species can hang from tree branches with their tail. When sleeping or threatened, they roll into balls. They are pretty much a grade A animal.
A quoll is a carnivorous marsupial native to Australia and Papua New Guinea, related to the tasmanian devil.
The ringtail is a relative of the coati, posted earlier, and the raccoon. They are sometimes called “ringtailed cats,” but are actually caniformians (members of the dog-like half of carnivorans).
Ringtails are nocturnal, solitary, and omnivores, much like this poster.
The shoebill is a rare, large bird found over a wide area of Central Africa.
What taxon the shoebill fits into is still not widely agreed upon. It could be a relative of the stork, or the heron, or it could be an offshoot of the pelican.
The tapir is an odd-toed ungulate native to Central and South America, and Southern Asia
Pictured is a Malayan tapir, the largest of the four tapir species, and the only old world species. It is also the only tapir with that black and white pattern. However, despite their being a large difference in the coats of adult tapirs of different species, juvenile tapirs share a very similar brown body with white spots and stripes.
Uakaris are a group of monkeys found in the upper Amazon Basin.
Pictured is a bald uakari. In this species, more red the face, the more healthy the uakari.
The vaquita is the smallest marine cetacean (the order that includes whales, dolphins, and porpoises). It is native to the
Gulf of Mexico Sea of Cortez.
The vaquita is a critically endangered species. The number of surviving individuals could be as few as 100, none of which are in captivity. Only one photograph of a living vaquita has ever been taken.
One cause of decline is that vaquita have been accidently caught by humans fishing for other marine life. The damming of the Colorado River has also altered their habitat. In an effort to preserve the species, the Mexican government has created a nature preserve covering the Colorado River delta, and the upper part of the Gulf of Mexico, and a move to the use of fishing gear that will not hurt this species has been made.
The woylie is a small marsupial native to Australia. It has a prehensile tail. I love prehensility.
The xenopus are frogs native to Africa. They are probably most notable as being a model organism for study, the females producing large oocytes, and having easy to manipulate embryos.
The xenopus was used in the first well-documented pregnancy test, as it was discovered that urine from pregnant women induced the production of oocytes in xenopus females. I AM COMPLETELY UNSURE AS TO HOW THEY WOULD HAVE FIGURED THIS OUT.
The yellow-cheeked gibbon is a gibbon native to Southern Asia.
Zebus are a line of domestic cattle mostly found in South Asia and Africa. They are more suited for dry and warm climates than non-humped cattle, and have a distinctive hump on their shoulders, and large dewlaps.
This list (and I guess the little descriptions, even though they’re essentially poorly written summaries of Wikipedia articles) is (are) being released under a Creative Commons 3.0 license. None of the pictures are mine, details on each can be found by clicking them!
If I’ve made any mistakes in this post, please let me know! It’s kind of a long post, and I am not the greatest proof-reader of my own work.