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7 Demonic Creatures: Thorny Devil, Satanic Gecko, More

For some diabolical-looking animals, “you look like hell” may not be so much of an insult.

From birds to beetles to snakes, nature has a lot of devilishly creepy creatures—including the recently discovered “demon” ants named for gods of the Maya underworld. Here’s a roundup of animals that would likely be favorite pets of Gomez and Morticia.

Satanic Leaf-Tailed Gecko

With its piercing red eyes, tiny horns, and sinister smile, the satanic leaf-tailed gecko probably wouldn’t be a good mascot for anything but brimstone … except perhaps mimicry. The smallest member of the Uroplatus, or leaf-tailed gecko family, Uroplatus phantasticus blends in seamlessly in its Madagascar forest habitat.

Satanic Leaf-Tailed Gecko picture
A satanic leaf-tailed gecko clings to a twig in Madagascar. Photograph by Piotr Naskrecki / Minden Pictures/CORBIS

That didn’t stop it from getting discovered and becoming wildly popular as a pet. In 2011 National Geographic reported that all Uroplatus species made the World Wildlife Fund‘s 2004 list of “ten species most threatened by the illegal wildlife trade.” Currently, though, the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the geckos as a species of least concern.

Also in 2011, a satanic leaf-tailed gecko had the honor of being the first baby born at the San Diego Zoo that year. It was assigned a number.

That number was not 666.

Anglerfish

Everything about anglerfish is bizarre. There are more than 200 species—including blackdevils, deep-sea blackdevils, and humpback blackdevils—and some have only been recently documented. The females attract prey Alfalfa-style, via a lure sticking out of their heads that contains bioluminescent bacteria.

The deep-dwelling Murray's abyssal anglerfish has a bioluminescent lure used to attract prey. Photograph by Visuals Unlimited/Corbis
The deep-dwelling Murray’s abyssal anglerfish has a bioluminescent lure used to attract prey. Photograph by Visuals Unlimited/Corbis

As if its big mouth and bacteria-filled flashlight head weren’t enough, the deep-sea angler fish has some weird mating rituals. The tiny males will latch onto the much larger females with their teeth and eventually fuse into her body until there’s little more to him than his reproductive organs, which she’ll eventually use to fertilize her eggs. (Also see “Photos: Rare Deep-Sea Anglerfish Recorded.”)

You could say they really take this “two become one” thing literally—except that she can support up to six males at a time. You glow, girl.

Thorny Devil

The thorny devil goes by a few other monikers, including the thorny dragon and mountain devil. Its Latin name is Moloch horridus, which refers to the ancient god Moloch, who is associated with child sacrifice.

thorny devil picture
The thorny devil has a false head to trick predators. Photograph by Theo Allofs/Corbis

But in real life this Australian lizard preys only on ants. The reptile’s coolest camo trick is its false head: When threatened, it lowers its real head and lets a large scaly bump on its back pass for another head. That makes thorny devils look as hard to swallow (literally) as when you first see them. (See a video of the aye aye, also called the “demon primate.“)

Long-Horned Beetle

The long-horned beetle has a face only a coleopterist could love. But the coolest thing about this South American beetle isn’t its horny face.

Long-horned Beetle picture
A close-up of the long-horned beetle. Photograph by Mark Moffett, National Geographic

Its body is strikingly beautiful, looking more like a remarkable piece of tribal art or wood carving than a living thing. Unfortunately the long-horned beetle may well be more threatened than threatening: It’s deemed “vulnerable” by the IUCN.

California Condor

Soaring over the landscape with those black feathers and a ten-foot-wide (three-meter-wide) wingspan, the California condor might, at first glance, have all the menace and dark glamour (not to mention fashion sense) of a Disney villainess. Indeed, native peoples of ancient California associated the carrion-eating bird with the dead, incorporating it into mourning activities, for instance, archaeologist John Foster writes on the California Department of Parks and Recreation’s website.

California Condor picture
Ancient cultures associated the California condor with the dead. Photograph by ZSSD/Minden Pictures/Corbis

And North America’s largest bird almost joined the ranks of the dead itself, having nearly gone extinct in the 1980s due to loss of habitat, pollution, and other causes. Methods such as captive breeding programs were put in place, and when only a few were left in the wild all were brought into captivity. The plans worked: There are now at least 160 animals in the wild, according to the National Parks Conservation Association.

Ogre-Faced Spider

Don’t tell Ron Weasley this, but there’s a spider out there that knows how to snatch up its victims into its net.

ogre-faced spider picture
An ogre-faced spider rears, well, its ugly head. Photograph by Nick Bay/Science Source (or ScienceSource.com)

The ogre-faced spider—or net-casting spider—makes a net, which it then holds by its front four legs while hanging upside down in order to snare hapless prey. (Watch a video of the spider snagging prey.)

Its long, slender body looks stick-like and might go unnoticed, but then you get to that horrifying face, which earned it a spot in the family Deinopidae, which means ”fearful appearance” in Greek.

Luckily, the only threat they are thought to pose to humans is nightmares. And actually, once you realize they look a little like a member of ZZ Top, that goes away, too.

Basking Shark

Since you’re looking forward to those last summer beach trips, check out this ocean denizen, the basking shark—unquestionably one of the scariest-looking creatures alive. At 32 feet (10 meters) long, the basking shark is the second-largest living fish after the whale shark. It has distinctive gill slits that go almost all the way around the head and a cavernous mouth that’s just about always open.

basking shark picture
A basking shark feeds in open water off England. Photograph by Alex Mustard

That’s because the basking shark is a filter-feeder in search of plankton. Unlike other filter-feeding sharks that move water through suction, the basking shark “relies solely on the passive flow of water through its pharynx by swimming,” according to the Florida Natural History Museum.

Found in coastal waters in many areas of the world, the basking shark gets its name because it likes to hover around the surface, evidently soaking up the sun. Fortunately for us, basking sharks aren’t considered dangerous.

But look at this video of how big it is and imagine you’re the guy in the kayak.

Happy summer!

Comments

  1. Calvin
    United States
    April 29, 1:09 pm

    Strange names for such beautiful creatures. The Satanic Leaf Tailed Gecko and Thorny devil are my favorites.

  2. TheFeralChild
    Namibia
    April 1, 3:34 am

    Animals Satan have created:
    1. Cat represents which craft
    2. Dog=adultery
    3. pig=greediness
    4. frog=anger
    5. peacock=pride
    6. cheetah and goat

  3. bonti
    CH
    March 24, 12:20 am

    Born this way!

  4. saadul malook maashwani
    Khyber PUKHTOONKHWA PESHAWAR PAKISTAN
    September 6, 2013, 7:15 am

    They are all our imaginations ,animals can neither be devils nor angels .

  5. Trejit
    September 2, 2013, 5:01 am

    Thorny devil reminds me of the Pokemon Rhydon

  6. Nini Yohana
    September 1, 2013, 2:52 pm

    Thorny Devil fascinante!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Lou Gar
    México
    August 31, 2013, 4:42 pm

    We have to take care of them

  8. Liz Langley
    August 31, 2013, 4:01 pm

    @Aimal khan Great observation! The animals are magnificent in their own right but the expertise (and patience) of a good photographer allows us to see it in a way we might never get to otherwise.

  9. Aimal khan
    Pakistan
    August 31, 2013, 4:21 am

    Is it the beauty of nature or the photographer’s expertise?

  10. Nicky Bay
    Singapore
    August 31, 2013, 12:54 am

    Thanks for the write up!

    The Deinopis featured is a female, you might be interested to see that the face of the male is slightly different! I have a collection of photos of these ogres other than the one above.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nickadel/sets/72157631657868691/

  11. Toby
    Australia
    August 30, 2013, 10:37 pm

    Thorny devils are the most gentle dragon you will ever come across. A true gentleman of the desert that guy.

  12. Pablo
    California (under the Condor)
    August 30, 2013, 5:25 pm

    If we don’t have pictures or images demonstrate what a demon looks like, why do you compare these creatures to them? For all I know, a demon is a skinned biped with skin like yours or mine. Some of these creatures just are highly adapted and specialized to survive in extreme (to them) conditions. That doesn’t make them Demonic.

  13. Lydia K
    Papua New Guinea
    August 30, 2013, 5:05 pm

    MAGNIFICENT CREATURES!!
    I just love the Long-horned Beetle!

  14. kunal
    siliguri, india
    August 30, 2013, 4:11 pm

    The clicks r awesome…… hats of to those photographers ….creatures look dynamik…

  15. Liz Langley
    August 30, 2013, 1:16 pm

    @Allen said “The California condor reminds me of my ex boss.” I think we must have once worked in the same place! :)

  16. isaack
    Perth AU
    August 30, 2013, 10:04 am

    Thanks for ruining my night

  17. walter
    zimbabwe
    August 30, 2013, 5:42 am

    thorny devil is a bit scary but also awesome

  18. yongbonafos
    riyadh
    August 30, 2013, 5:14 am

    they are not demonic creatures, they are actually creatures of God, the formation of their appearances are based on how they exist in their nature, the way on how they hunt their food, and on how to defend themselves from other creatures,

  19. Lucy
    Netherlands
    August 30, 2013, 4:08 am

    I love them, I love them, I love them, I love them!!!
    All of them!!!
    They just look AWESOME!!!!!! :)

  20. Allen
    timbuktoo
    August 30, 2013, 2:50 am

    The california Condor reminds me of my ex boss.

  21. Trunkmonkey1980
    McCarthy Lodge
    August 30, 2013, 2:48 am

    Spiders are scary, but awesome at the same time!!!!!!!

  22. ANGELICA INURRETA
    August 30, 2013, 1:36 am

    Beautifully ugly…!

  23. dimitar
    makedonija
    August 30, 2013, 12:40 am

    you forgot the first places among thes creatures to put man

  24. Azy
    August 29, 2013, 11:02 pm

    Actually Condor is scary…because it eats fresh meat

  25. Cori Scisorek
    United States
    August 29, 2013, 10:54 pm

    Is it just me, or does the spider look like “Achmed the Dead Terrorist”?

  26. Liz Langley
    August 29, 2013, 10:32 pm

    @Mac in Michigan: Hi Mac! I’ve never read that inbreeding was an issue with anglerfish. When I wrote about the ‘tiny’ male attaching to the female, I meant only that the males are many, many times smaller than the females. I don’t know if it sounded like her offspring were attaching to her but that’s not the case (at least not that I’ve ever read about.) :)

  27. Marisol
    Panama
    August 29, 2013, 9:10 pm

    They all are a mother nature´s gift…specially the terrorificly pretty gecko.

  28. Yao Qk
    jiangsu,China
    August 26, 2013, 10:06 pm

    Do you know, people in China call Long-Horned Beetle ‘ sky bull’ .It is seemed amazing.

  29. MAC
    Michigan
    August 26, 2013, 9:12 pm

    Re: Anglerfish….how do they avoid the usual consequences of inbreeding i.e. the mom fish using the sperm of her male offspring?

  30. Nan
    August 26, 2013, 7:07 pm

    The California Condor is so scary and awesome at the same time, never seen anything like it!

  31. paola
    tucson az.
    August 26, 2013, 5:38 pm

    i only have one word to say: COOL!!! i love all those animals! even though they look really weird. especially the gecko!!!

  32. Roi'ikka-Ta
    August 26, 2013, 2:51 pm

    finally, some beasts!

  33. Paolo
    Italy
    August 26, 2013, 8:32 am

    The Gecko is awesome!

  34. Cindy
    August 26, 2013, 2:12 am

    Basking shark is always my favourite, there’s just something wonderful about such a giant, and the best part is he eats plankton. The angelfish has always (as a young girl) been something to be afraid off, but you got to admire her mating skills (6 fish at a time!)…thanks for the list, a fun read for sure.

  35. Team Yak
    Pittsburgh
    August 22, 2013, 8:11 pm

    I thought there were going to be pictures of the pope, Joel Osteen, Glenn Beck, Obama, Rick Warren, and Madonna.

  36. Liz Langley
    August 22, 2013, 11:40 am

    Sorry, I should have said ‘a few’ inches long, not a couple. :)

  37. Liz Langley
    August 22, 2013, 11:34 am

    Yes, the gecko’s camouflage is amazing! They’re only a couple of inches long – I can’t help look at them wonder “What if they were the size of an alligator…”

  38. N
    Texas
    August 22, 2013, 1:53 am

    That gecko is way cool, I love the leafy looking tail! He sure does look like he could spit fire too.

  39. Liz Langley
    August 20, 2013, 9:39 am

    Agreed! I think of them as creepy/beautiful…scary, but I can’t take my eyes off them.
    Don’t know if you clicked the link to see the body of the beetle but it really is a work of art (and no, it’s not as scary as the face!)
    :)

  40. PARTYGOD
    toronto
    August 20, 2013, 12:25 am

    Pretty cool but so scary and creepy