There Are More Animals That Start With 'X' Than You'd Expect

Scientists have developed several methods for grouping different members of the animal kingdom by species or unique characteristics. However, there is arguably no better method for learning fun facts than by listing animal names alphabetically. These are just a few animals that start with X.

1. African Clawed Frog (Xenopus laevis)

These African frogs are endemic to ponds and shallow waterways in Sub-Saharan Africa. Although toothless, the African Clawed Frog is carnivorous, relying on its long fingers to snatch and consume its prey. This small species is also known to be cannibalistic, subsisting regularly on tadpoles and eggs.

2. Horseshoe crab (Xiphosura)

Horseshoe crabs appear to be strange, shelled sea spiders from ancient times, and that description would be pretty spot-on. The few species still living today can trace their lineage back to a common ancestor that swam in similar coastal rivers 135 million years ago during the early Cretaceous period.

Despite the name, horseshoe crabs only resemble crustaceans with their large protective shells. Instead, these living fossils belong to a subgroup of anthropods that are more closely related to arachnids. They are often found hunting on ocean floors but can also tolerate brackish water.

3. Mexican Hairless Dog (Xoloitzcuintle)

The Xoloitzcuintle, more commonly called Xolo, is an ancient domesticated canine breed endemic to Central America for thousands of years. Fossil records from the Western Mexican coast show that this pet played an important role in ancient Mayan society.

Similar to ancient Egyptian relationships with cats, these dogs were often sacrificed and buried along with their owners to guide their souls in the afterlife.

The Xolo breed was one of the first to be documented by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1887. However, in 1959, the AKC dropped it from publications because it was believed to be an extinct genus, even though the breed continues to survive today.

4. Night Lizard (Xantusiidae)

There are only three species of Xantusiidae living today. They're found in separate regions: Baja California, Cuba and Central America. Scientists originally speculated that night lizards were solely nocturnal but eventually found that many engage in diurnal (daytime) activities to thrive in niche natural habitats.

5. Sabine's Gull (Xema sabini)

This arctic gull, more commonly known as Xema, is a small gull species discovered in 1819 by the naturalist Joseph Sabine. These striking white-and-black birds typically prefer any natural habitat surrounding the Northern Pacific Ocean, although some sightings are common South of Baja California.

6. South African Ground Squirrel (Xerus inauris)

South African ground squirrels are also called Cape ground squirrels; however, their habitat extends into Botswana and Namibia. Ground squirrel features resemble prairie dogs, except they have flat, bushy tails like their tree-dwelling cousins.

South African ground squirrels also live in tight-knit social groups that seek shelter in deep burrows.

7. Streaked Xenops (Xenops rutilans)

This perching member of the ovenbird family, Furnariidae, is found in tropical forests of South America. Unlike many species of birds that migrate, the climate in these regions is suitable for year-round habitation.

8. Sunbeam Snake (Xenopeltis)

There are three different species of burrowing snakes that fall under the scientific name Xenopeltis, and they are extremely shy and rarely seen. If you can catch a glimpse of this reclusive snake, you'll quickly understand how it got its name, "Sunbeam." Its iridescent scales reflect light in dazzling rainbow colors.

9. Xantus' leaf-toed gecko (Phyllodactylus xanti)

This small Mexican reptile is another skittish animal that starts with the letter X. Many animals avoid human contact at all costs, but this little lizard leans more into the melodramatic. The Xantus' leaf-toed gecko will often squeak and lose its fragile tail when handled, so it's best to leave them alone.

10. Xanthogramma Sandperch (Parapercis ramsayi)

This leopard-spotted bony fish is found on rocky floors and coral reefs off the coasts of Fiji, Tonga and Western Samoa. It is not the fastest fish, but its intricate camouflage allows it to ambush its prey, consisting of small fish and invertebrates.

11. Xenarthrans

Xenarthra (roughly translated to "strange joints") encompasses several species of placental mammals endemic to the Americas. This group includes tree sloths, armadillos and anteaters — all animals that subsist on small insects found underground, in tree bark and in fallen tree trunks on the forest floor.

These members of the sloth family differ from other species of placental animals with unique spines, teeth, vision and metabolisms. Xenarthra animals actually have some of the slowest metabolisms in the animal kingdom.

12. Xenoceratops (Xenoceratops foremostensis)

This horned dinosaur roamed the far northern wilderness of modern-day Alberta, Canada, sometime during the late Cretaceous period. Similar to the more commonly known triceratops, this lumbering giant likely protected itself from would-be predators with several horns protruding from a shield-like skull.

13. Xinjiang Ground Jay (Podoces biddulphi)

The Xinjiang ground jay, also known as the Biddulph's ground jay, is a long-legged, hook-beaked member of the Corvidae family, which includes crows, magpies and ravens. Researchers of this bird found that, like its dark-feathered cousins, this corvid also prefers urban environments near humans.

14. Xingu River Ray (Potamotrygon leopoldi)

The Xingu river ray, also known as the white-blotched river stingray, is a member of the Potamotrygonidae family that is endemic to clear, fresh waterways in Brazil. This freshwater stingray has a venomous dentine spine that it uses to stun its victims.

15. X-ray Fish (Pristella maxillaris)

The X-ray fish, or X-ray tetra, is a small freshwater fish found in both acidic and alkaline waters near the Amazon Basin. Due to their resilience and eye-catching translucent bodies, X-ray tetras have become a popular aquarium fish that can bring any home tank to life.

16. Xucaneb Robber Frog (Craugastor xucanebi)

The Xucaneb robber frog is a montane forest amphibian endemic to the central highlands of Guatemala. This small frog's scientific name comes from its favorite habitat, the Sierra de Xucaneb. However, due to human expansion and deforestation in this region, it is quickly becoming a threatened species.

The History of Xantus in Central and South America

When researching animals that start with "X," you'll likely find several animal names that include Xantus in South and Central America. Many species are not closely related except for the fact they were discovered by the same person, a Hungarian zoologist named John Xantus de Vessey.

John Xantus was an exiled Hungarian diplomat who joined the United States Army as an assistant surgeon under the 19th-century Surgeon General and founder of the Army Medical Museum William Alexander Hammond.

Xantus exaggerated his experience as a medical professional to earn this position and was often ridiculed as a habitual liar by his colleagues.

However, under Hammond's tutelage, Xantus developed a love for natural history. Once transferred to California and Mexico, Xantus left his diplomatic station and failed medical practice to focus on his naturalist research. This resulted in several species bearing his name and acting as his legacy today.

Now That's Interesting

Scientists have long connected dinosaurs with birds, but only in the last few decades have they concluded that many ancient species were likely feathered instead of boasting the smooth reptilian skin depicted in Hollywood. The Xiaotingia, endemic to China in the late Jurassic period, is a key example of this revelation. This small carnivorous dinosaur was roughly the size of a modern chicken, and its hind limbs had long feathers that allowed it to make short-range flights — an important tool for catching large prehistoric insects and escaping the occasional T. rex.

Original article: There Are More Animals That Start With 'X' Than You'd Expect

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