Halloween is just around the corner with its bewildering assortment of man-made monsters, of vampires and mummies and their ilk. But for something truly scary, you need look no further than nature. What follows is a small collection of the most unsettling products of animal evolution — just remember, even the most freakish adaptation is there for a reason!
No photo manipulation here — a mouthful of very human-looking teeth actually adorn the gums of the sheepshead fish (Archosargus probatocephalus). And just as in human mouths, a variety of teeth with different roles helps the sheepshead efficiently consume a variety of food, from plant material to other marine vertebrates.
The bizarre schnoz of the star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata) is the perfect organ for its underground lifestyle. Every tentacle in the “star” contains thousands of touch receptors, including ones that can sense electrical fields and microscopic textures, compensating for the mole’s almost complete lack of sight.
Lampreys, such as this example of Petromyzon marinus, are an early example of extreme efficiency: a mouth to feed and a body to move the mouth around. The fish have remained much like their ancestors of 360 million years ago, making them valuable to scientists studying evolution and primitive behavior.
The spider genus Cyclocosmia carries around a massive, hardened abdomen, which ends in a disc covered with a series of intricate grooves. This armor literally serves to cover the spider’s rear, as it uses the disc to prevent predators from entering its narrow burrows.
This mug looks like it belongs on a pig or a pitbull, but it’s actually found on the Central American wrinkle-faced bat (Centurio senex). The folds are thought to help direct sound waves for the bat’s echolocation abilities.
Another marine animal with apparently human dentition, the “teeth” of Promachoteuthis sulcus (which has no common name) are an illusion of the covering over its conventional beak. Why these teeth are present, no one is entirely sure; only one specimen of the species has been discovered to date.
The Venezuelan poodle moth doesn’t yet have a scientific name, but it’s an example of the tremendous amount of diversity in the South American rainforest that has yet to be discovered. Zoologist Arthur Anker was only able to capture photographic evidence of this alien-looking species.