Animal Earth: The Amazing Diversity of Living Creatures, a new book by zoologist Ross Piper, documents the bizarre and beautiful creatures that inhabit our world but are often too tiny or obscure for us humans to see.

In this floating colony of polyps (Porpita sp.), there are polyps for providing buoyancy, feeding, digestion and reproduction.

A jellyfish (Bougainvillia superciliris) with a hitchhiking amphipod (Hyperia galba).

Coelopleurus floridanus, a type of sea urchin.

Here, the compound eyes of a cynipid wasp (unidentified species). Some insects have simple eyes in addition to compound eyes--which are better at detecting fast movement than simple eyes--three of which can be seen on the top of this wasp’s head.

Much of the body of a brush-head is shielded by chitinous plates. The head has a mouth cone equipped with stylets and numerous scalids (Phiciloricus sp).

An unidentified tube-dwelling polychaete that resembles a frilly bugle.

Nudibranchs, together with a huge variety of other marine mulluscs, are commonly known as sea slugs (Coryphella polaris).

This sea angel (Clione limacine) is actually not so angelic: it has retractable tentacles and chitinous hooks for grasping its prey. They're retracted in this image.

A toxic sea slug (Chromodoris annulata) that resembles a cluster of fried eggs with purple horns.

A Photographic Tour Of Earth's Most Bizarre And Beautiful Creatures

From the sea angel to the whirligig beetle to the Priapulid (penis worm), a new book features 540 full-color photographs of creatures humans would otherwise never get to see.

Did you know that the most familiar categories of animals, like mammals, birds, and amphibians, account for just 4% of the roughly 1.5 million species on our planet? Animal Earth: The Amazing Diversity of Living Creatures, a new book by zoologist Ross Piper, focuses on that oft-forgotten 96% of species. In 540 full-color photographs, Piper documents the bizarre and beautiful creatures that inhabit our world but are often too tiny or obscure for us humans to see.

"The sea may as well be another planet, we know so little about it. It is home to a mind-boggling array of bizarre creatures," Piper tells Co.Design. From zombie worms and Christmas tree worms to whirligig beetles and sea angels, the creatures pictured in this volume are stranger and more exquisite than anything Dr. Seuss or Miyazaki or Terry Gilliam has yet invented. "Many animals look utterly alien, but, fundamentally, they are the same as you an I, just variations on a theme," Piper says.

There’s a toxic sea slug that resembles a cluster of fried eggs with purple horns. The eyes of whirligig beetles are divided into two, enabling them to see above and below the water simultaneously. Some varieties of the "Priapulids," or "penis worms," lie hidden in the sediment with spiny tentacles poking discreetly above the surface, which then snatch small prey animals to capture them. And the translucent sea angel is actually not so angelic: it has retractable tentacles and chitinous hooks for grasping its prey. Evolution is a designer with a twisted sense of humor.

"My own fascination with animals began with insects. They're the most diverse creatures on the planet--so far just over 1 million species have been identified and there are millions more species out there waiting to be discovered and described," Piper says. "We've only just scratched the surface of understanding the natural world and I hope this book inspires other people to take a better look at our planet and its amazing inhabitants."

The patterns, colors, and shapes found in the animal kingdom have influenced designers and artists for time immemorial, from Anton Gaudi’s seashell and skeleton-inspired architectural structures to Monet’s water lilies. The photographs here provide a fount of inspiration for both the creatively and scientifically inclined. Published by Thames and Hudson, Animal Earth is available for $45 here.

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