13 of the Ugliest Animals on the Planet (2024)

Not every animal can look as cuddly as a giant panda or as extravagant as a peaco*ck, but every animal has its role to play, and every organism is important. Unattractive traits allow some species to survive in harsh environments, and studying them can help us better understand ecosystems. uncovering the reasons why creatures look a certain way might even be key to conservation efforts.

As they say, beauty is only skin deep. Let's hope—for the sake of these 13 unsightly animals—that the same can be said for ugliness.

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California Condor

13 of the Ugliest Animals on the Planet (1)

One of the world's rarest birds and North America's largest flying land bird, the California condor is graceful when it is gliding high above the canyons and deserts of the American West Coast.

Up close, however, this bird isn't so photogenic. Its bald head is an adaptation for its lifestyle as a scavenger since a feathered head would become clotted with blood while the bird feeds on large carrion.

Human activities, lead poisoning, and the use of pesticides such as DDT almost decimated the California condor population in the 19th and 20th centuries. The birds neared the point of extinction in the late 1970s and only 22 of them remained by 1981.

Scientists started an intensive captive breeding program and gradually reintroduced them in the wild. Although the condor population is slowly increasing, the species is still considered Critically Endangered by the IUCN, and the total world population is estimated at 518, including both captive and wild bids.

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Blobfish

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Perhaps it's unfair to judge a fish out of water, but the blobfish looks more like a ball of slime than a living creature.

Blobfish live deep in the ocean where pressures are exceedingly high. In fact, the blobfish's gelatinous appearance is actually a brilliant adaptation—its gooey, pudding-like flesh allows it to stay buoyant at depths where gaseous bladders can't function.

The aesthetically challenged blobfish was once voted the world's ugliest animal in an online poll conducted by the British-based Ugly Animal Preservation Society, making it the group's official mascot.

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Naked Mole-Rat

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It must be difficult to maintain a vibrant self-image if you're a bald rodent, but it's not an issue for the naked mole-rat. It's certainly helpful that they are nearly blind. These animals live underground in intricate burrow systems and have little need for good eyesight. Their nearly hairless bodies are also an adaptation for their underground environment.

Surprisingly, naked mole-rats are more closely related to porcupines, chinchillas, and guinea pigs than they are to either moles or rats. Also, contrary to their name, they actually do have some hair. There are about 100 fine hairs on their bodies that act like whiskers to help them feel what's around them, plus hairs between their toes to help them move soil behind them when they are making tunnels.

These wrinkly rodents live in large groups (average 70 members, but up to 295 have been recorded) and have been known to communicate in colony-specific dialects. Their highly social behavior might serve multiple purposes, as they need to huddle together to stay warm—their fur-less, paper-thin skin doesn't exactly help them retain body heat.

Interestingly, naked mole-rats are also among the longest living of all rodents given their size—they can live for nearly 30 years.

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Proboscis Monkey

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A human might run for cover with this nose, but for the proboscis monkey, the bigger the nose, the better. It turns out that nothing turns on a female proboscis monkey more than a big, bulbous nose. Scientists believe that the large nose has an effect on a male proboscis monkey's vocalizations that both attracts females and intimidates competitor males.

These curious-looking monkeys are also amazing swimmers thanks to their webbed feet and hands. In fact, they love the water and live in trees close to rivers (they are never more than 600 meters, or 0.37 miles, from a river) and sleep in large groups called bands right on the water's edge.

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Warthog

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As wild members of the pig family, warthogs have the characteristic pig nose, tusks protruding from their mouths, a wart-like curvature to their faces, and a nappy mane of hair that cascades down their backside. They actually have two pairs of tusks: the upper tusks emerge from their snouts making a semi-circle, and their lower tusks are situated at the base of the other set.

Warthogs' bodies are covered in bristles, and they're distinguished by their disproportionately large heads and those wart-like pads that offer protection.

They don't create an image of beauty, but these physical characteristics make warthogs well-adapted to their savanna and grassland habitats and the burrows they like to occupy.

10 Wild Warthog Facts

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Star-Nosed Mole

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The star-nosed mole might have the most bizarre nose in the animal kingdom. Their weird whiffers are defined by 22 fleshy appendages that act more like ultra-sensitive fingers than a nose. These snouts are lined with more than 25,000 minute sensory receptors that help the mole feel its way through its underground lair.

All of those sensory receptors make this mole's nose one of the most sensitive in the entire animal kingdom. That translates to the star-nosed mole being a highly effective hunter. The outer tentacles probe for a potential meal, and then the inner sensors decide if the prey is edible.

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Aye-Aye

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This gremlin-looking creature, called an aye-aye, is a primate found only in Madagascar.

Aye-ayes have a number of unusual traits, including long, bony, witch-like middle fingers that they use to pry insects and grubs from tree trunks. This allows them to fill a biological niche, much like a woodpecker might. They are also nocturnal, only coming out at night.

Additionally, aye-ayes have incisors that continually grow, which is unusual for primates, and extremely large ears.

This elusive primate uses percussive foraging to find its food. As it walks along a branch, the aye-aye taps it with its skeletal middle finger. It cups its huge ear forward, listening for the echoes coming from the tree. When it knows it is above an insect tunnel, it tears off chunks of the tree with its massive teeth so it can uncover the tunnel and feast on the insects within.

The aye-aye is considered endangered by the IUCN due to habitat loss and hunting. In fact, it has been part of the list of 25 most endangered primates since 2016.

8 Things You Didn't Know About the Creepy-Cute Aye-Aye

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Monkfish

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These unappetizing, freaky-looking fish are a common food delicacy, but for years, people didn't want to eat the fish because it was so ugly. Chefs eventually realized that its looks were deceiving, and now it shows up on the menus in all sorts of fine restaurants.

With mottled skin, an unsightly overbite, and a bizarre figure, monkfish are undeniably ugly. And because of their huge heads filled with razor-like teeth, they look awfully mean as well.

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Marabou Stork

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Standing over 5 feet tall with a wingspan of more than 10 feet, the marabou stork is a scavenger of large carrion, which is why it has a featherless head. These African birds also eat other birds and have even been known to consume flamingos.

The marabou stork does have some unattractive habits. They defecate all over their legs and feet, for instance. This gives their appendages a lovely white appearance and also helps them regulate their body temperature.

This stork species also stands out for its gular sac, a long, reddish pouch that hangs from its neck and is used to make grunts and other noises during courtship rituals—not for food storage.

Marabou storks aren't particularly active; in fact, they are relatively lazy. They stand around much of the time and often pant excessively when they are hot.

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Elephant Seal

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Baby elephant seals and female elephant seals are pleasant-looking. Males, however, begin developing a large nose when they reach sexual maturity, somewhere around three to five years.

The huge schnoz is fully developed by 7 to 9 years old, giving the seal the look of its namesake elephant with a massive, floppy trunk.

Much like the proboscis monkey, an elephant seal's large nose plays a role in mating, as it helps generate loud roars that fend off other males.

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Horseshoe Bat

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Like most insect-eating bats—which use echolocation to catch their prey—horseshoe bats have a warped appearance that looks more like an ear than a face. This adaptation makes them more receptive to sound waves, which allows them to swiftly navigate through the air.

The bat gets its name from the shape of its "noseleaves," the fleshy structure surrounding the bat's nose. The upper part is pointed and the lower part is shaped like a horseshoe. The bat uses this nose — with its particular size and shape — as a kind of sonar beam to help it detect its surroundings.

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Red-Lipped Batfish

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The red-lipped batfish gives the impression that it tried to compensate for an unusual body by caking on lipstick. Further research needs to be done to understand the function of the bright red lips, but some scientists think it relates to attracting mates. These odd fish are mostly found around the Galapagos Islands and near Peru.

Interestingly, red-lipped batfish are not the most graceful swimmers — they are better suited for "walking" along the ocean floor. When they reach adulthood, they use their dorsal fin as a fishing lure to attract prey instead of for swimming.

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Hyena

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With a hunching, bear-like gait, these beasts of the savannah aren't the prettiest animals on the planet, but at least they have a sense of humor. Occasionally referred to as "laughing hyenas," these animals have calls that are often described as haunting and witch-like.

Although known for being scavengers, hyenas reportedly kill 60% to 95% of what they eat. Though they look like wild dogs, they are more closely related to civets, mongooses, and meerkats.

12 Incredible Hyena Facts

13 of the Ugliest Animals on the Planet (2024)

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