A #CuteOff hashtag trending on twitter in September had scientists vying to post the cutest critter picture online. Researchers nominated champions for #TeamMammal, #TeamHerpetology, and more. Not all of these creatures are as big-eyed and fuzzy as you’d expect. So we’ve picked our own surprising cuties. Full story:
  1. Clowning Around
    These little sea slug cuties are one of 3000 known species of nudibranchs. Their crazy coloring comes from the food they eat. (Photo by David Doubilet, National Geographic Creative)
  2. Incognito
    This spicebush swallowtail caterpillar is in disguise as something much scarier: Birds pass it up as a snack because to them, these fake-eyed mimics look like snakes or treefrogs. (Photo by Darlene A. Murawski, National Geographic Creative)
  3. Turtle Power
    No one knew that this cutie, a Reimann’s snake-necked turtle (Chelodina reimanni), even existed in 1990. It prefers to swim in remote rivers in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. (Photo by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Creative)
  4. Run Away!
    This year-old Nile crocodile’s favorite snack, a frog, hangs in the balance between life and lunchtime. (Photo by Jonathan Blair, National Geographic Creative)
  5. Insect Cutie
    This long-horned beetle was photographed at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station, a field research station in Amazonian Ecuador. Nothing says cute like six legs. (Photo by David Liittschwager, National Geographic Creative)
  6. Flying Puffs
    These aww-worthy little honduran white bats (Ectophylla alba) snuggle together as they roost under a Heliconia leaf in the Braulio Carrillo National Park in Costa Rica. (Photo by Konrad Wothe, Minden Pictures)
  7. No Photos Please
    This map treefrog was photographed at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station in Ecuador. These little tree-dwellers are nocturnal. (Photo by David Liittschwager, National Geographic)
  8. Nom. Cockroaches.
    Any critter automatically becomes more adorable when it’s munching on a cockroach. This big-eyed, big-eared, furry little tarsier fits anyone’s definition of adorable. (Photo by Tim Laman, National Geographic Creative)
  9. Who’s There?
    This conger eel (Ariosoma balearicum) peers wide-eyed through its sandy burrow in the Caribbean sea. (Photo by David Doubilet, National Geographic Creative)
  10. No Place Like Home
    Spine-cheek clownfish (Prenas biaculeatus) like this one live in coral reefs in the eastern Indian and western Pacific oceans. This one nestles in the home it made in a bulb tentacle sea anemone. (Photo by David Doubilet, National Geographic Creative)