From a genitalia-headed fish to a two-faced cat—it’s been a weird and wild year at National Geographic. And for our weird fans, we’ve rounded up our editor’s picks for the ten oddest stories of 2012.
Coming in as tenth weirdest is the housefly-size frog Paedophryne amauensis (below), the world’s smallest known vertebrate.
10. World’s Smallest Frog Found
Photograph courtesy Christopher Austin, Louisiana State University
At an average of 7.7 millimeters long, the frog is a hair smaller than the previous record holder, the Southeast Asian fish species Paedocypris progenetica, whose females measure about 7.9 millimeters, scientists said in January. Full story>>
9. Slime Has Memory But No Brain
Photograph courtesy Audrey Dussutour
The living slime that may have been the muse for the 1958 science-fiction film The Blob just got creepier: In October, scientists reported that slime mold, a brainless single-celled organism, has a form of memory. Full story>>
8. Two-Faced Cat a Mystery
Photograph courtesy TODAY Show/NBC
In August, Venus the two-faced cat became a feline hit: The three-year-old tortoiseshell debuted her own Facebook page, was featured in a YouTube video, and appeared on the Today Show. (Watch National Geographic cat videos.)
One look at this cat and you can understand why: One half is solid black with a green eye, and the other half has typical orange tabby stripes and a blue eye. The coloration may be a genetic mashup that one scientist called “absolute luck.” Full story>>
7. White Killer Whale Spotted
Photograph courtesy E. Lazareva, Far East Russia Orca Project
Nicknamed Iceberg, the 22-foot-long (7-meter-long) whale is probably not a true albino, since he has color on his saddle—the area behind his dorsal fin, scientists say. (See pictures of albino animals.) The male appeared healthy and accepted by his pod, suggesting his odd coloration doesn’t affect him. Full story>>
6. World’s Leggiest Animal Found
Photograph by Paul Marek
The leggiest creature on Earth lives in California, but it’s not a movie star or a model—it’s a 3-centimeter-long (1.2-inch) millipede with 750 legs, scientists said in November.
First seen by government scientists in 1928, Illacme plenipes—”the acme of plentiful legs”—keeps such a low profile that for the rest of the 20th century the species was thought to be extinct. Then University of Arizona entomologist Paul Marek spied one near Silicon Valley. Full story>>
5. Turtles Urinate Via Their Mouths—a First
Photograph from FLPA/Alamy
When a species of soft-shelled turtle in China piddles in puddles, it does so through its mouth—the first evidence of an animal doing so, scientists reported in October.
The findings could also have stomach-churning implications for humans with kidney failure, scientists say. Full story>>
4. Rare Maned Lionesses Explained
Photograph courtesy Deon De Villiers
If it looks like a male lion and is perceived as a male lion—well, sometimes it isn’t. That’s the case of Africa’s unusual maned lionesses, which sport a male’s luxurious locks and may even fool competitors.
Though uncommon, maned lionesses have been regularly sighted in the Mombo area of Botswana‘s Okavango Delta (including the individual pictured above), where the lion population may carry a genetic disposition toward the phenomenon, experts say. Full story>>
3. Genitalia-Headed Fish is Evolutionary Mystery
Photograph courtesy Magnolia Press, reproduced with permission
Phallostethus cuulong is only the 22nd known species of its family, Phallostethidae, all of which bear their copulatory organs just behind their mouths. Full story>>
2. World’s Weirdest Penis Studied
Photograph by Lucy Cooke
When National Geographic Emerging Explorer Lucy Cooke headed to Tasmania, Australia, this year, she on the lookout for the echidna, an ancient termite-eating hedgehog with a four-headed penis. (Read more about Cooke’s National Geographic Channel show Freaks & Creeps.)
As Cooke wrote on her blog in July, “This extraordinary member has four distinct heads and looks like a stumpy hand with no thumb waving at me. Or some sort of weird sea anemone. It definitely doesn’t look like any penis I have ever seen before. Thankfully.”
1. Giant Mysterious Eyeball Found on Florida Beach
Photograph by Carli Segelson/Fla. FWCC
Perhaps reminiscent of the infamous Montauk monster, a softball-size eyeball washed up in Florida in October (as if Florida needed anything else weird). The Internet was buzzing with questions: whose eye is it? What is it? A few days later, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported that the “mystery eyeball” appears to belong to a swordfish. Full story>>
For being justifiably weird, gross, and mysterious all at the same time, the giant eyeball is our weirdest story of 2012.