10 Cool Animals That Stand Out in a Crowd

By: Marie Look  | 
If you're lucky enough to spot a whale shark while diving, there's no need for alarm; the enormous marine mammals are gentle giants. Tommi Kokkola Photography / Getty Images

The animal kingdom is filled with cool animals (and plenty of weird animals, too), each with its own unique adaptations and behaviors. From the depths of the ocean to the dense forests, these fascinating creatures remind us of the importance of protecting our planet's wildlife.

Here, we shine a spotlight on 10 of the coolest animals, showcasing their incredible traits and the challenges they face in their natural habitats.


Maned Wolf

Maned wolf
Maned wolf. Joe McDonald / Getty Images

Nope, that is not a photo of a fox! Native to South America, the maned wolf is one of the most unique animals in the animal kingdom. With long legs and reddish-brown fur, it resembles a fox on stilts.

The maned wolf is primarily active at night, using its excellent sense of smell to locate prey like small mammals and birds. Unfortunately, road collisions and habitat destruction in South America have led to a decline in their population, making conservation efforts crucial.


Goblin Shark

Goblin shark
Goblin shark.
9bdesign / Shutterstock

The goblin shark, often referred to as a living fossil, dwells in the deep waters of the world's oceans. These weird animals have elongated snouts and protruding jaws that are perfect for attacking their primary prey — small fish and cephalopods.

Despite being rarely seen by humans, the goblin shark fascinates scientists with its ancient lineage and bizarre appearance. They consider the goblin shark to be a living fossil due to the fact that it hasn't changed much over the last 100 million years.


Red Panda

Red panda
Red panda.

Residing in the dense forests of the Himalayas and southwestern China, the red panda is closely related to other members of the raccoon family. These small mammals have reddish-brown fur and long, bushy tails and a varied diet that includes bamboo, fruit and tree sap.

Habitat loss and poaching have placed red pandas on the endangered species list, prompting various conservation efforts.


Immortal Jellyfish

Immortal jellyfish
Immortal jellyfish. Yiming Chen / Getty Images

Among the most interesting animals in the ocean, the immortal jellyfish lives in temperate and tropical waters. Incredibly, this species of jellyfish can revert to its juvenile form after reaching adulthood, essentially resetting its life cycle indefinitely.

The unique ability to live so much longer than other animals makes it one of the coolest animals on the planet and a subject of scientific fascination.


Whale Shark

Whale sharks
Whale sharks. by wildestanimal / Getty Images

The whale shark holds the title of the largest fish in the sea, with some individuals growing up to 62 feet (19 meters) long. Despite their massive size, whale sharks are gentle giants, feeding primarily on plankton and small fish.

These endangered species live in warm coastal waters. Their immense size and gentle nature make them a favorite among divers and marine biologists.


Superb Bird-of-Paradise

superb bird of paradise
The superb bird-of-paradise creates optical illusions at different angles with its courtship presentation. (A) Edwin Scholes / (B) Tim Laman, CC BY 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Hailing from the rainforests of New Guinea, the superb bird-of-paradise is known for its extraordinary courtship dance. The male transforms into a black, oval-shaped figure with a bright blue breast shield to attract a mate of the same species.

This bird's elaborate display is one of the most impressive in the animal kingdom, making it one of the coolest animals in the world and highlighting how unique bird courtship behaviors can be. Like many other tropical birds, the superb bird-of-paradise is threatened by habitat destruction.


Bullet Ant

Bullet ant
Bullet ant. Dr Morley Read / Getty Images

The bullet ant, which lives in the rainforests of Central and South America, is infamous for its incredibly painful sting, which ranks at the top of the Schmidt Sting Pain Index. Moreover, the pain can last for up to 24 hours.

These ants are primarily ground-dwellers and use their intense sting as a defense mechanism against predators. Studies about the pain of stings from the bullet ant, tarantula hawk wasp and other insects can offer interesting facts about the impact of their defenses on other animals.


Southern Right Whale

Southern right whales
Southern right whales. by wildestanimal / Getty Images

Located in the Southern Hemisphere, these right whales are solitary animals, known for their long migrations and unique callosities on their heads. They feed on small prey like krill and plankton by filter-feeding near the water's surface, although they are able to to dive deep and stay underwater for an hour at a time, thanks to their low blood pressure and the ability to slow their heart rate.

The southern right whale is a critically endangered species. Conservation efforts are essential to protect these whales from threats like ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear.


Flying Squirrel

Flying squirrel
Flying squirrel. Joe McDonald / Getty Images

Flying squirrels, which are closely related to other squirrels, are capable of gliding between trees using their webbed feet and a membrane called the patagium.

These critters live in various parts of the world, including Southeast Asia and southern Europe. They're nocturnal, so they have excellent night vision, which aids them in navigating the boreal forests and catching prey. Another interesting feature? They glow hot pink in UV light.


Mexican Axolotl

Axolotl. kevin yulianto / Getty Images

The Mexican axolotl, which is native to the freshwater swamps and lakes around Mexico City, is a type of salamander that retains its larval features throughout its life, a phenomenon known as neoteny.

This rare species can regenerate lost body parts, making it one of the most unusual animals that scientists are studying today. Sadly, habitat loss and pollution have pushed the axolotl to the brink of extinction, highlighting the urgent need for conservation efforts.

We created this article in conjunction with AI technology, then made sure it was fact-checked and edited by a HowStuffWorks editor.