Jerboa

This little guy can run up to 15 miles an hour. (Photo: reptiles4all/Shutterstock)

Jerboa

Jerboas are hopping rodents that thrive in the deserts of Northern Africa and Asia. Despite their status as prey animals, these adorable kangaroo-like creatures make do just fine thanks to their excellent hearing and ability to run up to 15 miles per hour.

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Mantis shrimp

Mantis shrimp have humans beat when it comes to processing color. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Mantis shrimp

Also known as "thumb splitters," these vibrant crustaceans are named in honor of their powerful claws, which can spear, stun and dismember prey with 200 pounds of force. In addition to their predatory tendencies, mantis shrimp are also distinguished for their impressive visual capabilities. The eyes of these psychedelic sea critters are equipped with 12 color receptors — meanwhile, humans and most other animals only have three. Scientists speculate this might enable them to process color information quickly within the eye instead going through the brain.

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Shoebill stork

Pop-quiz: Where does the shoebill stork get its name? (Photo: Shutterstock)

Shoebill stork

Native to the freshwater swamps of tropical east Africa, these large, cartoon-like avians are known for their uniquely bulbous beaks. They are classified as a "vulnerable" species due to human disturbances, habitat destruction and hunting.

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Blobfish

The blobfish doesn't look quite so sad in the wild. (Photo: ZUMA Press)

Blobfish

The frowning, gelatinous blobfish is considered one of the world's ugliest animals, but it actually looks quite different in its native deep sea environment. As a frequent victim of bycatch, the sad, slimy creature may soon be added to the growing list of endangered species.

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Gharial

The long snout of a gharial isn't easily forgotten. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Gharial

The long, thin jaw of the gharial may appear quite frightening to many folks, but have no fear — it's an adaptation developed in response to the creature's fish-heavy diet. Sadly, the global population numbers for this critically endangered Indian crocodile are currently estimated at less than 235 individuals, due to loss of river habitat, depletion of food sources and fishing nets.

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Fennec fox

Oh those ears! (Photo: Shutterstock)

Fennec fox

Hailing from the arid, scorching sands of the Sahara desert, these cute nocturnal canids are known for their extra large ears, which dissipate heat and are sensitive enough to allow them to hear prey from underground.

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Blue dragon

This beautiful blue dragon is a sea slug, but the first name seems so much more appropriate. (Photo: Imtorn/Wikimedia)

Glaucus Atlanticus

You might be surprised to learn that this beautiful sea critter (also known as a sea swallow or blue dragon) is actually a sea slug. The blue and silvery mollusk is known to feed off cnidarians like the venomous Portuguese Man o' War. What makes these gorgeous slugs even more fascinating is their practice of storing the cnidarians's stinging nematocysts within its own tissues — ensuring a painful sting to anyone who messes with it.

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Okapi

Is that an African unicorn? No, it's an okapi. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Okapi

These unusual creatures were once mistaken by early European explorers as "African unicorns" before being formally recognized and classified as Okapia johnstoni in 1901. Although they may bear zebra-like stripes, these endangered ungulates are more closely related to giraffes.

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Bush viper

This bush viper looks a little bit like a dragon, come to think of it. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Bush viper

Found in the tropical rain forests of subsaharan Africa, bush vipers are venomous snakes known for their distinctly keeled scales. Their strong prehensile tails are perfect for supporting their weight in trees, where they spend the majority of their lives hanging and ambushing their prey.

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Proboscis monkey

It's hard to be taken seriously when you have a really big nose, but the proboscis monkey does what he has to do. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Proboscis monkey

The clown-like, bulbous nose of this arboreal Old World monkey is hard to miss. Often exceeding 4 inches, the prominent proboscis is a result of sexual dimorphism; it is only found in males.

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Streaked tenrec

The tenrec has some similarities to a porcupine. (Photo: Frank Vassen/Wikimedia)

Lowland streaked tenrec

This quirky little guy is native to the tropical lowland forests of eastern Madagascar. The streaked tenrec is equipped with two sets of quills: barbed and nonbarbed. Similar to a porcupine, the barbed quills are used as a means of a defense against predators. The nonbarbed quills, on the other hand, are vibrated in order to emit a faint chattering that is used to communicate with family.

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Coconut crab

Coconut crabs like fleshy fruits, and of course, coconuts. (Photo: Brocken Inaglory/Wikimedia)

Coconut crab

Make no mistake — those tree trunks seen above are not saplings. That's right, those crabs are huge! Growing up to a meter in length from leg to leg, these terrestrial hermit crabs are the largest land-living arthropods in the world. Although they are omnivores that have been known to consume turtle hatchlings, they generally prefer to eat fleshy fruits and, you guessed it, coconuts!

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Hummingbird hawkmoth

Is that a moth or a hummingbird? (Photo: Jerzy Strzelecki/Wikimedia)

Hummingbird hawk-moth

With its humming, hovering and long, thin proboscis, it's no wonder this species is having an identity crisis. That said, Macroglossum stellatarum is most definitely a moth, and its resemblance to a hummingbird is the result of convergent evolution.

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Giant isopod

That isopod really is a giant. (Photo: Borgx/Wikimedia)

Giant isopod

Along with the giant squid and the Japanese spider crab, these squirm-inducing arthropods are a prime example of deep sea gigantism. If you're not familiar with the giant isopod, look no further than the common wood louse, which is its terrestrial cousin. Both species have the ability to curl up into a ball to protect themselves from predators.

Catie Leary ( @catieleary ) writes about science, travel, animals and the arts.