Genetics are a field we're continuing to learn more and more about, and as a culture our knowledge of the subject spans from elementary school Punnet squares to the human genome project to inconsistent science in X-Men and other blockbusters. And while these sources may differ in credibility, they show our culture's fascination with the understanding of what makes us... well, us.
Perhaps the most intriguing component of genetics is the side that made the X-Men so enthralling, that of genetic mutation. While this facet has been studied deeply, there are still discoveries that seem incomprehensible at first. In this list we've compiled fifteen animals that defy genetic expectations. Two faces, extra legs, inexplicable skin, strange markings or coloring, you'll find it all here. While maybe they don't have the abilities of the X-Men, they are nearly as remarkable, and visually pack quite the punch.
15 We, The Two-Headed Snake
Named like some sort of horror film monster, We has a countenance to match. This two-headed rat snake not only has two distinct heads, but also has both male and female reproductive organs. We don't want to think too much about the possibilities involved here, but we will say that it isn't unheard of for this mutation to occur in snakes. It's also not uncommon for one head to try to eat the other. Scared yet? Imagine running into this guy on the trail on a hike.
We was purchased for $15,000 by World Aquarium in St. Louis, which, eight years later, tried to auction off We for ten times that price. While the auction was ultimately unsuccessful, the snake was scooped up by a biotech company.
Perhaps the most notable thing about the duo is that they survived for much longer than most snakes (or other animals, for that matter) with a mutation like this. Adulthood is rarely seen by animals with such severe physical disfigurements.
14 Vitiligo Rottweiler
This pup has vitiligo, a genetic disease which results in the loss of color in skin. While not incredibly uncommon in dogs (or other animals), the markings of the rottweiler (a particularly susceptible breed) look all the more striking when depigmented. There is still a lot to be learned about vitiligo, but the disease is a genetic one, although not altogether a mutation, per se. Basically, the dog's immune system attacks the melanin which would have controlled skin color. Stress and other factors may also play into how a vitiligo shows itself.
Thankfully, vitiligo is one of the less threatening conditions you'll find on this list. While no known surefire treatments exist, besides skin depigmentation only occasional lesions or higher dander output might occur. All in all, it just gives dogs a striking appearance.
13 Scaleless Rattlesnake
The only thing that could make snakes creepier, it seems, is de-scaling them and crossing them with a naked mole rat. At least, that's what this naked rattlesnake looks like. The first scaleless snake popped up in the early 1900s. While becoming more commonly found recently, this mutation occurs when snakes are inbred too closely for too long of a time. That's why it happens in captivity way more than out in the wild - scientists are trying to selectively breed for certain traits, but it can go too far.
Despite looking like a hideous sea monster wrapped in Grandma's panty hose, being born scale-less doesn't affect a snake's survivability too much. They've become sought after pets, which simply blows our minds. Have these people seen them?
12 Little Mister Piggy
A number of discoveries of giant pigs have been labelled 'Pigzilla'. Some have had more ironic dubbings, such as the farmer who named his half-ton pig Tinkerbelle. The Pigzilla pictured above was allegedly a wild pig shot and shown off by a family back in 2007. Afterward, they received some skepticism about the validity of their claim that the hog was wild, and not merely an overfed domestic pig. Either way, this pig is an insane display of girth and weight, and it seems impossible that its growth didn't involve some kind of genetic disease or at least predisposition to growth at a genetic level.
Pigzilla is probably one of the most dangerous animals on this list, just because of the sheer weight it could throw around. Imagine running into Little Mister Piggy on a dark hike through the woods.
11 The Faux Chimera Cat
With a massive current following on her Instagram account and Facebook page, Venus the cat has benefited from her strange condition, achieving a celebrity status rivalled by no other animals on this list. Called a chimera by many, she appears to be split exactly down the middle, with totally different color patterns (including eye color!) on either side of the split. She appears to be a perfectly photoshopped image of two cats spliced together. But she's all natural! While scientists have replicated this strange occurrence with embryos in their labs, to find an example so perfect that occurred naturally is quite rare.
Some experts have said that Venus is not a true chimera, and just an example of truly remarkable calico mosaicism. A true chimera comes from two distinct embryos that almost fused together, and Venus seems to simply express patterns determined in a unique way. Either way, Venus is a truly remarkable feline.
10 The Montauk Monster
Washed up on the shore of New York Beach in 2008, this terrifying beast struck fear in the hearts of many. A bloated, now hairless body, long teeth, blue and gray blotched skin, shortened ears, and powerful legs give this animal the appearance it just braved the depths of hell and now seeks to terrorize folks on earth. The ocean just got in his way this time. Maybe this is where author Suzanne Collins got her inspiration for the vicious mutts in her Hunger Games series.
While the photo of the Montauk Monster, as it was dubbed, went viral, spreading terror to any that frequented NY Beach, scientists have since guessed that it was a more common animal such as a raccoon, bloated and distorted by the water. We certainly hope another Montauk demon won't pop up again.
While mutations occur naturally, breeding practices can influence the likelihood of the manifestation of certain mutations in some species. Such is the case for white tigers, which are only born to related mates after generations of incestuous breeding. Actually, some experts have guessed that only 1 in 10,000 wild tigers is born with this genetic anomaly. Unsurprisingly, the gorgeous white coats come along with a multitude of health complications. Kenny, the white tiger pictured, is evidence of some of these problems. Unable to close his mouth and with abnormal brain development, Kenny died of cancer in 2008, almost a decade after he was rescued by a wildlife reserve.
While Kenny's complications were serious, other white tigers can have it even worse. Clubbed feet, cleft palate, additional deformities, and immune system issues often accompany a tiger's snowy coat. And logically, the white coat is a detriment to the tiger's survival. Stalking prey is way more difficult with a regal, shining coat, after all.
8 El Chupacabra, The Goat Sucker
El Chupacabra occupies a strange corner of this list, in that it has achieved a mythological status in Mexico, combined with actual discoveries of bodies of animals that Mexicans have claimed are members of the species. This makes it a bit different from legends like Bigfoot, in that there are many Chupacabras around to study and examine. Chupacabra means 'goat-sucker', and is a description of one of the mystical qualities of the Chupacabra: the desire to suck blood. Most findings of the creatures have been debunked by scientists. Sightings of El Chupacabra are probably just mange-ridden coyotes, so hungry and pathetic that they turn to livestock for food.
That said, there are odd pictures circulating of dead Chupacabra bodies that defy easy explanation, such as the one above. Spines on the back, a longish rat-like tail, and odd proportions don't fit with the coyote theory. There are other theories about escaped monkeys in Mexico which could have bred with other animals to produce these terrifying creatures. Whatever the actual explanation is, we're glad we're not goats in Mexico, while these guys are running around.
7 Color Split
Peacocks are some of the most-represented birds in art, mainly due to the incredible coloring and shape of their tail feathers. Shimmering golds, blues, and greens are on full display when the feathers are fanned out. The peacock pictured above takes it to the next level though, with a mix of normal peacock coloring and also a stunning pure white. While it would be easy to call this peacock half-albino, that doesn't quite seem to be the case. It's just a mystifying combination of colors. Pure white peacocks or peafowl aren't unheard of, and basically show the bird is missing pigment in feathers. It looks like our friend above is displaying multiple pigment and structural reflection in its feathers.
It almost seems unfair that a fowl that already draws such massive attention to itself is also the one with stunning markings. Why not give the white feathers to a more homely friend, like a robin or chicken?
6 Frank And Louie
In a decade defined by cat memes and hilarious videos of clumsily adorable feline friends, Frank and Louie are two cats (er... one cat?) who have gotten lost beneath all the cloying cuteness. Frank and Louie have three eyes, two mouths, two noses and two ears. Whiskers seem to sprout all over their befuddling face. Called Janus cats (after a Roman god who was depicted with two faces), these guys have a mutation named craneoplastia, which occurs whenever an animal has two faces on a single skull. While it may not be super common, it happens often enough to have a fancy name.
While it seems there would be benefits to the added facial features (despite the obvious struggles), even hopes of these positives are nullified by the fact that of the cats' two mouths, only one works (the other lacks a bottom jaw), and of the three eyes, only two work (the big one in the middle doesn't do a thing). So what could have been an X-Cat mouse-killer extraordinaire turns out to just be a sad story.
In a story remarkably similar to that of Frank and Louie, let us introduce to you Rudy, a two-faced pig (in the literal sense). While Rudy has had only one name at a time, when purchased by a shelter, his new owners gave him the name Ditto, which seems quite on-the-nose. Rudy had two snouts, three eyes and two ears, although he did have two more clearly defined skull shapes coming from the same neck, unlike his feline counterparts. Like Frank and Louie, only one of Rudy's snouts worked, and his central eye didn't operate correctly. With two skulls, this gave him a massive blind spot straight in front of him. His disfigurement also caused major balance issues, which is why his owners gave him a helmet to wear.
The shelter that purchased Rudy made the deal for a whopping $5000, in an attempt to keep him from being a spectacle for the public to leer and jeer at. Sadly, the pig's health declined quickly, and he passed away after a few too many falls.
4 One-Legged Snake
Wait a minute. We thought there was something especially definitive about snakes not having legs. Aren't there lizards that fit those other definitions? That said, this picture is definitely a snake with one leg, found by a Chinese woman during the night time. This guy makes an impression even in a photograph - we can't imagine finding him outside our door in the middle of the night. She immediately killed it and preserved it, which is a very controlled response, and not the jumping and screaming we may have been guilty of in the same situation.
Alright, we'll have to back up a bit: this isn't a mutation. It's not even the snake's leg, according to some scientists, but just a past lizard meal's leg that kicked through the side of the snake. While that, too, sounds like some sort of nightmare, at least we probably won't run into any snake legs anytime soon.
3 3 In 1 Frog Family
Alright, maybe you're over the two-faced bit by now. Just in time to be wowed by this frog, which is essentially three of the amphibians piled into one swollen body. At first glance, they seem to be just cuddling, until you see the seamless blend of skin to skin, and only six legs poking out from beneath the misshaped body. All in all, this mutant frog had three full heads (with faces) and six appendages.
Unfortunately enough, scientists had very little time to study the frog. When discovered in 2004 by a student, the frog was brought into a lab, but later escaped its tank and wasn't seen again. This alone seems impossible, as the cumbersome shape of the frog had to have impeded its escape at some level. And wouldn't a find of this nature merit a little higher care taken? Maybe released as some prank by an intern, we'll never know the big questions about this 3-in-1 bargain.
If you've ever felt like the black sheep of your family, just imagine what this cutie had to go through. While his two siblings, born at the same time, turned out completely as expected (and by that we mean four-legged), this little tyke came out with eight legs, much to the disbelief of Croatian farmer Zoran Paparic. Other than the doubled amount of legs, Octo-goat turned out totally normal, and, unlike some other animals on this list, survived its birth, which occurred back in 2014. While veterinarians doubted that it would survive past a week, they thought that if it got past that marker, the poor kid might make it several years longer. At a young age, the baby goat couldn't support itself with its weak legs, despite how many of them it had, and didn't show signs of surprising the professionals.
It's easy to brush this type of thing off as a rare occurrence, which of course it is. But it also challenges the assumptions we make about what a goat (or, by extension, any animal or human) is. What does it mean if some goats can have more than four legs and still be goats?
Discovered in a remote village assumed to be in Thailand (based on the original reports), this creature seems to be a scaly, tarry calf. Is it bad that it reminds us of a fun-sized version of Killer Croc, played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje in 2016's Suicide Squad? It seems to be about as large as a child, covered in blackened scales that appear to be almost matted with oil, based on the pictures. The baffling combination of reptilian and mammalian characteristics has stumped those who have come across the photo or news story, which first popped up in late 2015.
With hooves, longish legs, a crocodilian snout, and a dark gray coloring, this guy looks like something out of a nightmare. Strangely enough, despite dying soon after its birth, the animal (a buffigator?) was described by villagers as a sign of good luck to come. We're not sure we agree, but we're glad they saw the bright side of this befuddling creature.
Sources: mirror.co.uk, britannica.com, vetinfo.com, mnn.com, newsrepublic.com, treehugger.com, nationalgeographic.com
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