Creatures with human faces – whether the result of evolution or the inventive efforts of mankind – have fascinated us from time immemorial. Here are five creatures that display amusing human features.
1. Samurai Beetle
This beetle from Japan is doubly interesting in that it shows a different face depending on which direction it's viewed from. Look from behind and you're reminded of a bearded sage. From the front, the image is even more remarkable – a samurai's face, right down to the distinctive traditional hairstyle!
Of course, evolution didn't set out to give the beetle markings that resemble a human face – after all, the beetle was probably around long before human beings were. Many creatures – and insects especially – have evolved complex and elaborate recognition patterns that are intended to ward off predators. Often these patterns include contrasting eye spots… then our imaginative minds do the rest by using other features around the eye-spots to approximate a human face. Tis colorful Japanese beetle is a prime example!
2. Death's Head Hawk Moth
Look familiar? No? C'mon, “Silence of the Lambs”? Yep, that's it – the image of the aptly named Death's Head Hawk Moth over Jodie Foster's precious lips on the movie poster is a uniquely disturbing image.
Once again, nature has devised a fear-inducing pattern to deter bigger critters from making a meal of this moth. The more effective the pattern, the more moths survive to beget the next generation. Given enough time (time being nature's greatest tool), the moths will sport scarier and scarier faces on their backs.
3. Heike Crab
These curious crabs are found in Japan, near where one of the greatest sea battles of Japanese history occurred. In the year 1185, the forces of the warring Heike and Genji clans fought the Battle of Dannoura. The Heike were defeated, dozens of their ships were sunk and hundreds of heavily armored warriors lost their lives in the unforgiving sea.
People who found these distinctive little crabs on the shore reasoned that they embodied the souls of the lost Heike soldiers. As you can see, the markings and protuberances on the backs of the crabs look astonishingly like classic samurai faces! The late Carl Sagan suggested that humans have had a significant effect on both the look and the prevalence of these human-faced crabs. Sagan theorizes that local fisherman threw back the most prominently human-featured crabs, thus skewing natural selection towards that exact attribute. An early form of selective breeding, perhaps?
4. Human-faced Carp
Ornamental carp, also known as “koi”, are bred in both Japan and Korea for collectors. These koi, though, look like they were bred on the Island of Doctor Moreau! I wonder if Monty Python know about these weird human-faced fish when they were creating the famous fish tank scene from their classic film,“The Meaning of Life”?
The human-faced carp are definitely products of selective breeding by humans. Generations of fish were bred to emphasive their “human” features, most notably their forward-facing eyes. These features would likely be a disadvantage in the wild – but then, these particular fish aren't going anywhere near the wild anytime soon. The so-called “Human Face Fish” are hybrids of common carp and leather carp. The fish rather large – about 32 inches long – and it's said that their heads have begun to take on a more human look as time goes by! When will it end? You sure you want these guys in your garden pond, giving you dirty looks every time you walk by?
5. Skull Back Spider
Gee, aren't you glad this li'l critter is just a fraction of an inch long? Even so, you wouldn't want to be fly caught in THIS guy's web… what am I saying, you wouldn't want to be a fly caught in ANY spider's web!
Really now, this bug seriously creeps me out. The bloated abdomen of the sickly white (am I overdoing it?) crab spider bears an uncanny resemblance to a human skull. I don't know what it's called or where it's from, I just don't want to ever see it again – but I will, in my nightmares. And there you have it, straight from one over-active imagination to another, human-faced creatures… pleasant dreams!