An extremely rare cyclops shark, recently confirmed in Mexico, is an editor's pick for one of the ten oddest life-forms found in 2011.
The 22-inch-long (56-centimeter-long) fetus has a single, functioning eye at the front of its head, scientists announced in October. The eye is a hallmark of a congenital condition called cyclopia, which occurs in several animal species, including humans. (See "Cyclops Myth Spurred by 'One-Eyed' Fossils?")
Scientists have documented cyclops shark embryos a few times before, said Jim Gelsleichter, a shark biologist at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.
The fact that none have been caught outside the womb suggests cyclops sharks don't survive long in the wild.
Speckled with what looks like glam rock makeup, the chameleon Furcifer timoni was recently discovered on the species-rich African island nation of Madagascar, according to a WWF report released in June. (See chameleon pictures.)
Finding the colorful new chameleon was "very surprising," since the northern rain forests where it was discovered have been repeatedly and intensively surveyed for reptiles, according to the conservation group.
Named for its diabolic coloration, the recently discovered bat has a black head and dark back fur, both of which contrast sharply with the flyer's whitish belly, scientists reported in a September study.
Despite the fiendish name, Beelzebub bats are typically shy creatures, doing their best to avoid humans in their remote rain forest habitat in Vietnam, scientists say.
If captured, however, the bats can turn fierce, said study co-author Neil Furey, a biologist with the conservation group Fauna & Flora International.
"Once in the hand, they will do their best to escape," he said.
"In essence, they exhibit a 'flight' first and 'fight' second response—the latter only when they have no other option."
Photograph courtesy Terry Gosliner, California Academy of Sciences
Vampire Flying Frog
The mountain jungles of Vietnam are home to a new breed of "vampire"—a "flying" tree frog dubbed Rhacophorus vampyrus.
First found in 2008, the two-inch-long (five-centimeter-long) amphibian is known to live only in southern Vietnamese cloud forests, where it uses webbed fingers and toes to glide from tree to tree, scientists said in January.
Tadpoles normally have mouthparts similar to beaks. Instead, vampire tree frog tadpoles each have a pair of hard black hooks sticking out from the undersides of their mouths—the first time such fangs have been seen in frog tadpoles.
Photograph courtesy Jodi Rowley, Australian Museum
A "devil worm" has been found miles under the Earth—the deepest-living animal yet found, according to a study published in June.
The discovery of the new nematode species—called Halicephalobus mephisto partly for Mephistopheles, the demon of Faustian legend—suggests there's a rich, largely unknown biosphere beneath our feet, scientists say.
Sporting a bright fuchsia hue, this new species of deep-sea acorn worm was recently found some 8,850 feet (2,700 meters) deep near the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
The colorful creature has extremely long "lips" that help it snag prey in a place where food is scarce, according to a November study.
See more pictures: "New Deep-Sea Worms Found—Have Big 'Lips.'"
Photograph courtesy David Shale
"Pink Meanie" Jellyfish
Off the Florida Keys (map), hundreds of stinging tentacles dangle from a "pink meanie"—a new species of jellyfish with a taste for other jellies that was discovered in January.
Like other species in the genus Drymonema, the new jelly has an appetite for moon jellyfish, which the predators feed on almost exclusively as adults.
Adult Drymonema do the majority of their digestion using specialized "oral arms" that dangle alongside their tentacles. The oral arms exude digestive juices, which break down the prey, scientists said in January.