From rare mammals and amphibians … to the world’s largest lizard … Here are 20 strange and mysterious creatures from Southeast Asia
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#9 Giant Clams
A couple of things about this mollusk. They’re heavy, at more than 400 pounds … and they can live for a long time in the wild — more than 100 years, on average. After they’re born, the clams grow so large that they pretty much have to stay wherever they set down. That could be anywhere off the Philippine coast to coral reefs of Malaysian Borneo. Experts say that this clam genus represents the largest extant bivalve mollusks in the world. That massive size has inspired stories of these creatures being killer clams, and attacking divers. But we’re told that the animals are neither aggressive nor dangerous toward humans.
#8 Yin Yang Frog
An international team of scientists found this strange amphibian in a national park of Vietnam at an altitude exceeding 6,000 feet. Measuring just under 2 inches, these frogs are noted for their striped limbs and for the ridges on their skin. But their most distinctive physical attribute has to be their unusual eyes. The pupils are black and white, and have a shape that roughly resemble the yin-yang symbol from Chinese philosophy, hence their common name. Can you see it?
#7 Binturong– Found in the jungle regions of Southeast asia, including Vietnam and Malaysia, this animal is also known as the Asian bearcat … but it’s neither. Growing up to 3 feet long (not counting the tail) and weighing up to 50 pounds, it’s actually most closely related to the civets, a diverse family of carnivores. While they do eat meat, the Binturong they’re very fond of fruit, especially grapes. Because they live high in the trees, they’re not often spotted in the wild. Did you know the Binturong marks its territory with a scent reminiscent of buttered popcorn … to human nostrils, anyway.
#6 Draco Lizards
If its name gives you a Harry Potter vibe, that’s okay. Thanks to their appearance, the creatures are often referred to as flying dragons … although it’s more accurate to say they glide through the rainforests of Southeast Asia. And measuring less than 8 inches long, they be much smaller than the mythical creatures. What appear like wings are actually membranes attached to their ribs. When extended, the membranes allow the critter to glide distances of more than 200 feet.
Native to the rainforests of Southeast Asia, this animal is all pretty much all eyes. The nocturnal primate has eyes that are the largest found in any mammal — relative to body size, anyway. Their eyeballs can be larger than their entire brain, although they are actually fixed in their sockets. However, the Philippine Tarsier can rotate its head 180 degrees as compensation. Did you know these squirrel sized beasts are the only extant primates that are strictly carnivorous?
#4 Komodo Dragon
Did you know that this is the world’s largest extant species of lizard? They can measure around 10 feet long and weigh upwards of 150 pounds. Although specimens in the wild have been documented to exceed 360 pounds. Native to Indonesia, it’s named after the island of Komodo. Experts say their enormous size is the result of island gigantism, due to the lack of other carnivorous animals appearing within their range. The lizards are fearsome killing machines, dominating ecosystems and ambushing prey including birds, invertebrates and mammals — which has occasionally included humans. Interesting to note that inhabitants of Komodo island refer to this critter as a ‘land crocodile’.
#3 Proboscis Monkey
That big nose might seem comical … but it turns out that the male’s enormous beak is attractive to the females! While both genders exhibit large noses, scientists think that the male’s bulbous schnoz serves to attract a mate, and repel would-be rivals. These monkeys are native to the island of Borneo, and are a large species … with males weighing up to 50 pounds. Would you guess these critters are good swimmers? They have webbed hands and feet that sometimes allow them to swim faster than crocodiles!
#2 Shocking Pink Dragon Millipede
Researchers found it in a limestone cave of Thailand, and it was formally described in 2007. Growing more than an inch long, it’s one of the largest members of its genus. Along with that vivid pink coloration, experts say the creature has a deadly defense mechanism — it can produce hydrogen cyanide to keep predators away … in fact, the shocking pink color is the millipede’s way of advertising its toxicity.