15 Awesome Animals that Start With N
Remember that game we all used to play on road trips? The one where you take turns naming animals with each letter of the alphabet? This year, you're going to play it again. But this time, you're going to win.
If N is the letter you usually get stumped on, this list of animals that start with N will help you defeat the competition.
Naked Mole Rat
If you thought naked mole rats were cute based on the one from Kim Possible, surprise! You were wrong. Naked mole rats resemble hairless moles with teeth longer than their legs. They're small, only about 3-inches long, although the queen of the naked mole rat colony can be larger.
They are virtually blind, relying on smell and vibrations to navigate their underground tunnels in search of tasty tubers. Somehow, naked mole rats live much longer than ordinary rats. Instead of living two or three years, they live two or three decades.
Arguably the coolest animal that starts with N, the narwhal isn't just something out of a storybook. This aquatic unicorn is very real, with a population of over 80,000 in the wild. While they spend most of their life underwater, narwhals are mammals and periodically surface for air.
They have massive tusks that can reach up to 17-feet long, and their bodies resemble that of a small whale or porpoise. A narwhal's tusk isn't just for looks either. It's a tooth with millions of nerve endings that are used to detect changes in temperature, pressure and motion. They can move their tusks about a foot in every direction, too!
The natterjack is a rare toad that lives exclusively in the United Kingdom, specifically sites in North Wales, parts of Scotland, southeast England and northwest England. It's very similar to the common toad in appearance but more olive-green in color.
The most noteworthy part of the natterjack's behavior is that it doesn't hop: It runs. Imagine a toad running down the road. We can't decide if it would be cool or creepy.
The next animal starting with the letter N is actually an entire family of animals. Needlefish include a number of marine and freshwater species, all with thin, needle-like bodies. Regardless of their habitat, needlefish are fast, aggressive predators that rely on sharp teeth rather than size to bring down prey.
Since they swim near the surface and have weak bones, they're easy prey for birds, dolphins and sharks.
Newfoundlands are likely the most practical animal that starts with N to keep as a pet, although that's not saying much. Bringing home a Newfie means bringing home a 100- to 150-pound love monster with enough fur to make a shag rug — which Newfoundlands basically do all over your wood floor. Consider it a favor.
Newfoundlands are giant sweethearts. They're affectionate with everyone, including small children and other dogs. Just keep in mind their size before you adopt one.
A newt is always a salamander, but a salamander isn't always a newt. Newts are just one type of salamander. Salamanders are recognizable by their moist, smooth skin, similar to that of a frog but with the body shape of a lizard.
The term "newt" is usually given to salamanders that spend most of their time living on land, and their skin is typically drier and rougher than that of a salamander. Most of them are less than 6-inches long, and none of them can hear or produce sound.
The title of most spine-chilling animal that starts with N goes to the night adder. The common night adder, also known as the rhombic night adder, is native to southern Africa. Oddly, the night adder is more active during the day. It's not the largest snake around, rarely topping 3 feet in length, but its toxic venom causes pain and swelling.
Fortunately, it's not the strongest venom by a long shot. Most adults just experience intense discomfort, but it's still important to seek emergency medical care just in case. The smaller the bite victim is, the more serious the reaction. If a small child or dog is bitten, go to a hospital, stat.
To take a break from terrifying creatures starting with N, we have the sweetly singing nightingale. Both sexes of the common nightingale are brown in color with a reddish tail, and their singing voice is virtually unmatched. It has inspired poems, operas, fairy tales and books for centuries, and some consider it the most beautiful sound in nature.
Every year, nightingales migrate to Africa in the winter and Europe in the summer. In the U.K, its habitat has decreased in the northern reach of its range, but the nightingale, fortunately, remains a widespread species with a stable population.
Remember how we said we were taking a break from scary N animals? Break's over. Here, have something even scarier than a night adder. The Nile crocodile is an average of 16-feet long, with some reaching lengths of 20 feet. Seventy percent of their diet consists of fish, but they're plenty big enough to take down large prey like hippos, zebras, wildebeest and occasionally people. About 1,000 people are killed by crocodiles every year.
As disturbing as that may be, Nile crocodiles are an important part of the food chain that prevents their environment from being overrun by barbel catfish. Without them, the overgrown catfish population would demolish other local fish species, which would, in turn, leave over 40 species of birds without food. We guess the cranky old croc can stay.
Ever heard of a nilgai? It's something between an ox, a goat and a camel. Each nilgai weighs up to 500 pounds and measures between 4 and 5 feet at the shoulder. They're gentle herbivores, eating grasses, succulents and leaves from small shrubs.
All nilgai start out a yellowish brown color, but males turn blue-gray over time. Males also have short, sharp horns, which they use to compete over mates. Nilgai are considered the largest Asian antelope, and while they're generally a quiet species, once in awhile they've been caught roaring. Maybe the lions will be confused and leave them alone.
This animal starting with N looks more like an alien than a terrestrial creature. Unsurprisingly, it comes from under the sea, where all the weirdest-looking animals reside. Nudibranchs, also called sea slugs, are marine mollusks that lack shells. They breathe through "naked gills," which are placed on the exterior of their squishy, brightly colored bodies.
Some of them eat sea anemones and jellyfish, stealing their stinging cells to use as a defense. They develop into tentacle-like spikes along their back, adding to the nudibranch's outlandish appearance.
No, you can't keep this one as a pet. We know, it's cute, but numbats are an endangered species with less than 1,000 individuals in the wild. The numbat is a small mammal with a delicate pointed face, a long tail and stripes down its back. They only reach about 11 inches in length, so they look more like a refined squirrel with highlights.
Its long, sticky tongue is used to search in hollow logs and holes in the ground for its favorite food: termites. Thanks for dealing with those pests for us, numbats!
Ginglymostoma cirratum, better known as the nurse shark, is one of the least aggressive shark species in the sea. They can still hurt people, but they're much less likely to cause serious injury than more aggressive species like great whites or tiger sharks.
Unlike some of the bigger, badder species, nurse sharks don't have to be moving to breathe. They can perch peacefully on the ocean floor and often crawl along it to catch fish along coral reefs and coastal shelves. They don't really bite their food at all, instead sucking it up and crushing it with rows of tiny teeth.
Back to birds that start with N we have the humble nuthatch. There are several types of nuthatch, like the pygmy nuthatch and the red-breasted nuthatch. All nuthatches are small birds with short tails and strong, sharp beaks. There are so many different nuthatch species that it's challenging to tell them all apart, and it's likely that they interbreed only to confuse matters further.
Regardless, they all get their name from the same habit. To eat large pieces of food, they wedge it into a crevice and peck at it until it breaks into more manageable bites. Pretty clever for something with a brain the size of a pea.
The nyala, like the nilgai, is a type of antelope. This one, however, is almost fluffy. Shaggy is more like it. They have a long, cool-brown coat with vertical white stripes. Male nilgai are more grey in color, with a thick ridge of black hair trailing along their spines. Like all antelopes, they're herbivores, feasting on leaves, flowers and fruit. They're found throughout South Africa, with the highest population density in Kruger National Park.
Fun fact: Young males look exactly like females. They evolved this way as a defense against the aggression of competitive adult bulls, allowing young males to grow up safely while camouflaged as females.