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Mystery Orbs, Tree-Dwelling Shrimp, And Moon-Worshiping Hammerhead Sharks: The Rich Tapestry Of 2023’s Animal News

Just when you thought the bingo card couldn't get any weirder, Burning Man was gate-crashed by three-eyed dinosaur shrimp.

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Rachael Funnell

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Rachael Funnell

Writer & Senior Digital Producer

Rachael is a writer and digital content producer at IFLScience with a Zoology degree from the University of Southampton, UK, and a nose for novelty animal stories.

Writer & Senior Digital Producer

Edited by Laura Simmons
Laura Simmons - Editor and Staff Writer

Laura Simmons

Editor and Staff Writer

Laura is an editor and staff writer at IFLScience. She obtained her Master's in Experimental Neuroscience from Imperial College London.

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mystery golden orb, feather sea star, hammerhead shark photo montage

We didn’t see any of this coming.

Image credit: NOAA Ocean Exploration / Gregory Rouse / wildestanimal / Shutterstock.com / IFLScience

2023 was a big year for bizarre animal news. As one town in England welcomed in the New Year by canceling their fireworks display for a masturbating walrus, scientists in India revealed the first known case of a dinosaur egg-in-egg, something that was thought to be unique to birds.

You never know what’s going to turn up in the IFLScience daily pitch meeting, and 2023 delivered some doozies for zoological updates. Here are a few of our favorites from Earth’s most peculiar species, young and very, very old.

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Sea Spiders Can Grow New Anuses In Unprecedented Regeneration

No anus? No problem! That’s according to the the sea spider Pycnogonum littorale, which can regrow complex reproductive organs, musculature, and even an anus following a traumatic injury. Regrowing limbs is a well-reported talent among arthropods, but complex body parts? Well that was a curious surprise.

Deep-Sea Octagon Mystery Solved

Mysterious octagons stamped across the seabed of the Fram Strait between Greenland and Svalbard had scientists scratching their heads. Some were mini while others were bigger than a basketball, but what was causing them? Remote-operated vehicles (ROV) were able to get to the bottom of the peculiar prints, discovering that they appear to be the witness marks of Dumbo octopus feeding events.

Cartwheeling Snakes May Be Trying To Bamboozle Predators

Yes, there are snakes that can cartwheel, and a paper that came out in April suggested it may be a way of deterring predators. The gymnastic reptile in question is the dwarf reed snake, Pseudorabdion longiceps, that’s been observed going tail-over-tongue to cartwheel away by repeatedly launching its coiled body into the air.

New Species Of Alien-Like 20-Armed Antarctic Feather Star Found

The 20-armed Antarctic strawberry feather star, Promachocrinus fragarius, was one of four new-to-science species described in a paper that explored the cryptic diversity of a genus of free-swimming stemless crinoids. Looking a little like a face hugger that got a leggy upgrade, these alien-like organisms are related to starfish, sea cucumbers, and other echinoderms.

Hammerhead Sharks Are Gathering In Enormous Numbers Under The Full Moon

Some of the rarest and most endangered sharks on Earth appear to be influenced by lunar cycles, as they have been observed gathering in enormous numbers during the full Moon. Exactly why these Moon hangouts are taking place is something science has yet to pin down, but it could be linked to Matari’i i ni’a.

Strange "Golden Egg" Found On The Seabed Off Alaska

Researchers exploring the deep ocean off the coast of Alaska stumbled upon a perplexing find while piloting an ROV. As part of the Seascape Alaska 5 expedition, they found a mysterious golden orb with a puncture on the seabed, and nobody was quite sure what it was. “Something tried to get in... or to get out,” said the researchers.

Three-Eyed "Dinosaur Shrimp" Wake Up At Burning Man

Burning Man was a literal washout in 2023 as extreme weather returned the usually desert-like terrain to its riverbed roots, signaling to a group of extremophiles that it was time to hatch and live it up topside. Triops, also known as fairy shrimp, can remain dormant in dried-out sediments for decades, but as the humans fled the soggy festival, they were having a great time.

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Tree-Dwelling Shrimp Discovered In The Cyclops Mountains

Strange critters were popping up all over the place in 2023, with a group of shrimp surprising scientists on an expedition in Indonesia’s Cyclops Mountain after they were found thriving in a terrestrial habitat. The expedition was one for the history books, reanimating a species that was thought to have been extinct since the 1960s: Attenborough’s long-beaked echidna, Zaglossus attenboroughi.

Golden Mole "Lost" Since 1936 Found Swimming Through Sand Dunes In South Africa

The echidna wasn’t alone in returning from the dead in 2023, as a species of mole that was believed to be lost for the last 80 years was rediscovered alive and well in South Africa. The De Winton’s golden mole was last seen in 1936, but became the 11th of Re:wild’s “most wanted lost species list” to be rediscovered since the Search For Lost Species launched in 2017.

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You can catch more of our latest and strangest animal stories here, or stay tuned for all the wildlife weirdness that's sure to arrive in 2024.


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