Amazing Animal Finds of 2014: Photos
Discovery News, 14 December 2014.

This year the animal kingdom did not disappoint - giving people yet more reasons to marvel at nature's stunning diversity. Here we revisit some of the amazing creatures DNews covered this year.

1. South American Goliath Birdeater


For starters, how about a spider the size of a puppy? Headlines flew around the globe this fall when word came that entomologist Piotr Naskrecki had encountered something he had seen only three times in 10 to 15 years: the South American Goliath birdeater (Theraphosa blondi) - the world's largest spider, according to Guinness World Records.

Its legs can reach up to 1 foot (30 centimetres) and it can weight up to 6 ounces (170 grams). And with a body the size of a large fist, the spider can look like the stuff of nightmares.

The "puppy" spider isn't lethal to humans, luckily for Naskrecki. He snapped this picture, one that must have given nightmares to arachnophobes far and wide.

1. Giant Dobsonfly


If you're made of the kind of steely stuff that isn't unnerved by spiders as big as puppies, maybe this winged behemoth will give you a scare. It's a giant dobsonfly, the largest aquatic insect ever recorded.

Found in China's Sichuan province, the dobsonfly measured 8 inches in wingspan. Dobsonflies are not uncommon, but what made this find stand out was its sheer size. It was previously unheard of to imagine this bug could be this big.

3. 18-Inch Shrimp


To paraphrase the great philosopher Forrest Gump, you never know what you're going to find on the end of a fishing line. A dockside in Florida was the site of this enormous haul - an 18-inch shrimp that wildlife officials thought was probably a mantis shrimp.

The gargantuan crustacean reportedly struck at its own tail and had to be handled verrrrry carefully. The shrimp endured this photo shoot and then was set back into the water.

4. Basket Star


This "mini-kraken" caused a mighty viral stir when footage of one of its kind being captured made the Internet think, "Whaaaat??"

Rational heads prevailed, however, and it turned out the gangly mystery creature was a basket star, a multi-armed invertebrate that can grow up to 3 feet long. They don't swallow people or read minds, but they do enjoy a serving of zooplankton and can grow back broken limbs.

5. Kashmir Musk Deer


Something not seen in 60 years was spotted in Afghanistan this fall, the Kashmir musk deer, whose male of the species has fanged teeth. A solitary male, solitary female, and a female with a juvenile deer were spotted by conservationists, who were unable to photograph the jumpy creatures, an example of which is pictured.

The Kashmir musk deer is endangered, thanks to habitat loss and the crime of poaching. Researchers hope better chances arise to assess the conservation needs of the little-seen deer.

6. Rare Megamouth Shark


Japanese fishermen hauled in a rare megamouth shark, like the one pictured, last spring, a 1,500-pound female caught from a depth of about 2,600 feet.

Unlike some of their fiercer shark brethren, megamouths are considered docile creatures that filter-feed mostly on krill. They are thought to be among the rarest fish in the world.

7. Colossal Squid


Someone's nightmare dentist appointment? Nope. These are the tentacles of a colossal squid as they were being defrosted in a laboratory. The owner of the tentacles, a 770-pound female colossal squid, was found by a fishing vessel in the Antarctic.

Extremely rare to find, it was only the second intact colossal squid specimen ever studied. The creatures can extend to 16 feet long, and this one had eyes that were 14 inches across.

Sadly, the squid was later found to be carrying eggs.

8. Giant Squid


The colossal squid may be huge but, in sheer spindly length, the giant squid outdoes it. It's the world's largest invertebrate, and the biggest of its kind ever measured was 59 feet long.

Off the Texas Gulf Coast city of Matagorda, fishermen thought they were seeing floating trash bags, but on closer inspection it turned out they were looking at the remains of a dead giant squid that was about 10 feet long and weighed 200 pounds. It was estimated that about half of its body was missing.

9. Oarfish


Lucky kayaking tourists in Baja, Mexico last spring got a close encounter with a very hard-to-see creature: the oarfish. Luckily for us, they caught the enormous swimmer on video, as it swam right alongside a kayak and looked completely at ease among the gawking crowd in the surf.

Even though oarfish live all over the globe, they generally prefer deep-sea life, up to 3,000 feet down, which makes them hard to observe. Usually they're only witnessed dead after washing up on a beach or sick and swimming near the shore. (This oarfish's health was not known.)

Top image: The South American Goliath bird-eater (Theraphosa blondi). Credit: Ltshears/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Discovery News. Edited. Top image and some links added.]

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