Sorry, it turns out I'm not good at witty titles. This thread is about animals that are weird, horrifying, fascinating or just irresistibly cute. Share interesting animal facts, dispel myths, or just tell us what your favorite animals are and why.
Most of the animals I'm interested in seem to be a mix of all four attributes mentioned above. For example, I love ants and other social insects (cuteness is in the eye of the beholder in this case, I suppose), and my interest in insects was what got me into biology in the first place. But there are two types of animals, very different from each other, that have become my enduring favorites.
Near the top of my list of favorites are the various birds of paradise
. I became interested in them when I was reading about the evolution of sexual dimorphism for a course. This is a pretty diverse group of bird genera, but what most of these species have in common is the complex mating behavior of the males. It can involve physics-defying displays of plumage, "singing" that may or may not sound beautiful, cleaning and decorating their territory with colorful objects, and usually some kind of a wacky dance. Generally, the more plain-looking the bird, the more they invest in dancing and decorating. It's the dancing types I like the most, and if you watch this video you'll know why:
must be my all-time favorite group of animals. They're a pretty succesful order of insects: you can find them on every continent except the Antarctica. Their behavior may seem a bit dull, as most of them just pretend to be twigs or flowers until food wanders close, but they do engage in impressive mating dances, although the motive behind their dance is less about attracting attention and more about not being eaten by the wife. The name "praying mantis" comes from their characteristic stance and swaying movement. Apparently the swaying helps the mantis separate the relative movement of its prey from the background. Large mantids can eat small birds, lizards and snakes.
I just love how these insects look. They're big enough to be easily observed, some species are strikingly beautiful, and they often combine real badassery with an endearing comedy villain look. Their threatening and defensive stances are impressive. Their body language can be pretty entertaining, thanks to their mobile "pupils" and arm-like raptorial legs.
For example, they can pull of a decent Dr Evil expression, like this orchid mantis:
And here's my favorite, the Devil's Flower mantis, in all its dark glory: