We’ve evolved to love cute things because it helped keep babies alive through the stage where they only know how to puke, cry, and cause havoc. But our love of tiny heads, big eyes, and baby fat has gone beyond our own species, and we’re as likely to coo at a baby crocodile as we are at a baby human (let’s be honest: probably more likely).
Dogs and cats get the best press of the animal world, and everyone’s cooed over pictures of puppies or kittens.
But there’s a whole host of other critters out there that deserve the love just as much, from sweet little salmon sharks to delightful dik-diks! So buckle up for a speed tour through nature’s less-appreciated cuties!
1. Hyenas: In folklore (and Disney movies), hyenas get a bad rap for their strange appearance and eerie laughter. But it’s hard to be afraid of them looking at little baby hyenas, who look like little-naked lapdogs. The most important question – if adult hyenas laugh, do baby hyenas giggle?
2. Axolotls: Axolotls are technically babies throughout their lifespan; unlike most other amphibians, they keep their “juvenile” gills throughout their lives. But the babies, with their huge eyes and tiny head frills, are especially adorable.
3. Manatees: Baby manatees are adorable enough on their own; they look like wise, aquatic potatoes. But this one’s even more adorable than most because the photographer has caught a manatee pair nursing! Manatees nurse from under their armpit, so what looks like a gentle nip is actually a happy baby manatee enjoying its lunch. One thing’s for sure – no one’s gonna tell a 1,200-pound mama manatee that she shouldn’t breastfeed in public.
4. Marine Iguanas: When Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos, he called the marine iguanas he saw “Imps of Darkness,” and “disgusting, clumsy Lizards.” Shhhhh, don’t listen to the mean man!
5. Skates: Someone once called these fish “little ravioli stuffed with the souls of the damned,” but I prefer to call them “my beautiful sons.”
6. Salmon Sharks: Okay, I know he’s a shark, but look at those big eyes! Look at those tiny teeth! Tell me you wouldn’t want to pet him, the potential for lost fingers be damned.
7. Platypus: I’m not even going to bother coming up with weird facts about the platypus because the animal is essentially a whole lot of weird facts glued together. Just focus on how wrinkly these little babies are!
8. Armadillo: Fun fact: armadillos are the only animals other than humans capable of carrying leprosy, and if you touch one unprepared, you may actually contract the disease. I mean, I’m not saying it should actually stop you from petting it; I think petting this delightful little critter would be well-worth a fatal disease. I’m just saying, don’t come to me saying I didn’t warn you.
9. Griffon Vulture: I mean, some people might say that these carrion birds can’t be described as “cute,” but let’s be real, here. This little guy (Einstein, from Germany’s Hannover Zoo) is beautiful, and he knows it. Just look at his gorgeous model pose!
10. Common Murres: This little, penguin-like bird lives mostly over the sea, and it really only comes to land to breed. They grow up quickly, too; little murres leave the nest after only twenty days! But while they’re young, they’re adorable. This bird may be common, but it’s special in my heart!
11. Dik-Diks: This breed of miniature antelope is weird but cute. They grow less than 70 cm long, communicate with high little whistling noises, and mark their territories with tears (well, secretions from the subocular gland, but basically tears). Awww!
12. Weddell Seals: Not only are these little guys cute, they’re sociable! Of course, since they make their home on the coast of Antarctica, some of that sociability is probably for survival purposes, as a Weddell seal without another seal to cuddle is probably a very cold seal. But I don’t think that pragmatic explanation makes this little seal-kiss photo any less cute!
13. Aye-aye: Okay, I’ll admit, the aye-aye is a pretty weird-looking animal, and it’s even weirder-looking as a baby. But just look at its tender little eyes and its little clinging fingers! (Also, fun fact: the aye-aye has an extremely long, thin middle finger, presumably evolved to help it win fights on the freeway).
14. Possums: Possums get a bad rap as garbage-eating, weird-looking pests. And, I mean, they technically are garbage-eating, weird looking animals, but they’re certainly not pests; they reduce the threat of Lyme disease by killing ticks, and their natural antitoxins may be the clue to creating better antivenoms. Plus, they’re adorable.
15. Flying Foxes: Don’t worry, there’s a reason the bats are wrapped up so tightly! These little Australian flying foxes are being nursed back to health after being orphaned in a heat wave in Queensland. Volunteers at the Australian Bat Clinic & Wildlife Trauma Centre first massaged out their little wings and made sure they were comfortable in their little “bat burritos.”
16. Peafowl: Yes, you read right, this neutral little critter is a peacock-in-training! In the juvenile stages, they’re called peachicks (like peacocks and peahens) which is adorable. But am I the only one who thinks we missed out by not calling them chickpeas?
17. Caimans: This pint-sized crocodilian is practically toothless as a baby, but when it hits its full size, it’ll be almost as big as an alligator, with teeth to match. So if you’re tempted to stroke its little snout, make sure you get the petting in before it grows. And, uh, maybe take a look around for any angry caiman moms first…
18. Ligers: When this beautiful baby grows up, it’ll be one of the biggest cats in the world; the rare lion-tiger hybrid is bigger than both of its parents. But for now, it’ll have to settle for dazzling us with its baby blues and its distinctive, gorgeous markings.
19. Emus: Every third-grader knows that birds are the dinosaurs’ closest living relatives. and looking at the baby emu, it’s easy to see the resemblance. With its eager little mouth and tiny claws, this little fella looks like he could be in a (more realistically-feathered) reboot of Jurassic Park. And look at those adorable stripes!
20. Gorillas: They’re our closest relatives, so it makes sense that gorilla babies are ugly-cute in the same way as human babies. Seriously, this little gal looks like someone pasted an old man’s face onto a tiny, helpless body. But imagine her in a little yellow onesie. Adorable, no?
21. Fennec Fox: Not, it’s not an Eevee. The Fennec Fox, a desert-dwelling omnivore, is the smallest canid species and can live with almost no free water. And, before you ask, its ears are totally real.
22. Star-Nosed Moles: Adult star-nosed moles are cool enough: they can dig and swim, their “nose” is one of the most sensitive organs in the world, and it’s one of the fastest mamillian eaters. But the sensitive little guys are even cuter as babies when their little star noses are just tiny little starbursts and they’re completely hairless.
23. Coatimundis: These little raccoon-like critters live in female-dominated packs, with the males visiting mostly during the breeding season. And the adorable youngsters are called kittens!
24. Capybaras: They may be the world’s largest mammal, but capybara babies are adorably small. These social, vocal herbivores take good care of their young, which are around the size of hamsters. But, adorable or not, you probably wouldn’t want to keep a capybara for long; they grow to be around 5 feet long!