Animal characters in fiction run the gamut. Just a look at the listing in Animal Stereotypes shows that there are plenty of common enough animals that are used for their distinctive traits (presumed or real).
Then there's the Seldom Seen Species — that is, a species that, once you see it, makes you think, "Hey, you don't usually see that animal!" In some cases, this may be a forced attempt to avoid the countless existing Animal Stereotypes.
Some animals, such as monkeys, songbirds, and frogs, are usually represented by a generic or nondescript variant of the type of animal as opposed to an actual species of that type of animal. In that case, portraying an actual species of that type of animal would count if that actual species isn't commonly used in fiction.
This trope is a Cyclic Trope because some species are more seldom seen in the media of some cultures, in certain forms of media, and in some time periods and than others. For example, red pandas are common in Furry Fandom artwork, but are seldom seen in other fictional works and media.
Many of the older examples of this trope look and act little (if not nothing) like theirReal Lifeequivalents.
Examples of this trope should be species that are still seldom seen in media these days. Examples of older works that show species that were seldom seen in media at the time of the work's release, but not that seldom seen now are also allowed.
Contrast Small Taxonomy Pools.
Meerkats are related to mongooses, which have enjoyed moderate fame in Western culture over the past century and a half thanks to Rudyard Kipling's short story "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi." If a mongoose shows up, expect it to be creepy or even "evil" - even though Rikki himself was a good example of Dark Is Not Evil.
Anime and Manga
Four of the five main characters of Tokyo Mew Mew are actually infused with the DNA of an Irimotecat◊, an UltramarineLorikeet◊, a FinlessPorpoise◊, and a Golden LionTamarin◊ respectively. The idea is that, as these are all endangered species, their desire to continue living is what gives the girls their powers. The fifth is the somewhat more common wolf.note However, both species of wolf that were native to Japan are extinct. Also, a character introduced for the video game gets her powers from the DNA of a Humboldt Penguin.
Hyenas◊ gained quite a bit of fame after this movie, thanks to the memorable star turns by Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed. Prior to that, they had only been seen with any frequency as the pets◊ of The Joker and Harley Quinn on Batman: The Animated Series (due to their "laughing", which, as every zoologist has confirmed, is not laughter at all).
Averted in The Sword in the Stone. This is significant because Merlin and Mad Madame Mim spend the climax of the film taking turns transforming into very generic animals, except for when Madame Mim turns into a purple dragon.
Although not exactly cute in the ordinary sense (think Ugly Cute), the animals in Rango are not the typical animals you find in an animated movie about desert animals. Cases include Priscilla the oddly adorable, yet misplaced aye-aye (according to Word of God, although some people think she's a cactus mouse), Beans the Love Interest and desert iguana, and the burrowing owl mariachi band.
The different species of owls from Legend Of The Guardians The Owls Of Gahoole. You have Gylfie the timid yet intelligent tiny Elf Owl, Twilight the street-smart Great Grey Owl, and Digger the fast-talking Burrowing Owl. In fact, the movie's plot is kick-started by the barn owls called the "Pure Ones" (in a not-so very subtle call to Nazi Aryanism) starting a race war against the other owls. An echidna and a Tasmanian devil also show up.
In Happy Feet, one can count several different types of penguins beyond the generic black and white ones seen in typical media. Mumble and Gloria are emperor penguins, the Latino-accented Plucky Comic Reliefs are Adelie penguins, and the guru voiced by Robin Williams is a Rockhopper penguin. Chinstrap Penguins and African Jackass Penguins are also seen briefly during Mumble's imprisonment in the marine animal exhibit. In addition to the penguins, there's the Nightmare Fuel-laden leopard seal, a herd of elephant seals, and a gang of skuas.
The sequel features two krill, one named Bill and one named Will.
Other than two of the main heroes (mammoth and saber-toothed cat or Smilodon), Ice Age and its two sequels were filled to the brim with prehistoric animals that went beyond the stock animals that is so nauseatingly typical in any other movie. You had Sid the Megalonyx or ground sloth, glyptodonts (salesman Fast Tony's sidekick who got eaten by the marine reptiles, Cretaceous the Metriorhynchus and Maelstrom the Globidens), the sad and farting chalicothere, gray trunked Palaeotherium, the rhino-looking Brontops brothers who were harassing Sid in the first movie, long-necked and trunked Macrauchenia, a bulky Homotherium or scimitar-toothed cat as a member of Soto's pack, shovel-tusker Platybelodon, some hesperornithes, and giant Gastornis birds. In the third movie, 'Dawn of the Dinosaurs', it went beyond Stock Dinosaurs to include small stegosaurid Kentrosaurus, a pack of Troodon, Roger the Harpactognathus who served as an airborne mount for Buck and the possum brothers, a predatory flock of Pterodactylus, ravenous wolfish Guanlong, and a white Baryonyx named Rudy — Buck's eternal enemy and threat to the T. rex family.
The fourth film further contributes to this trope by featuring a colony of hyraxes, Big Bad Gutt the Gigantopithecus, Flynn the elephant seal, Silas the petrel, Pirate Girl Raz the Procoptodon (a short-faced kangaroo), a pod of narwhals, and Precious — Sid's grandmother's pet Livyatan melvillei.
The concept art showed more obscure animals that did not make it to the cut. Such species include an axolotl, Mamenchisaurus, Hyracotheriumthat were to be steeds for the hyraxes, and Paraceratherium.
The game app Ice Age Village brings several more, such as Pterodaustro and Cacops.
Jungle Cubs featured geladas (referred to as baboons), Indian rhinos, a babirusa, dholes, Asiatic cheetahs, a pangolin, striped hyenas, mugger crocodiles, and four-horned antelopes.
"Jungle Book 2" features mongoose, macaques, and ocelots.
The Three Caballeros featured umbrellabirds, boat-billed herons, fork-tailed flycatchers, curve-billed scythebills, yellow-chinned spinetails, horneros, and Andean condors.
And yes Disney fans, the Aracua or Speckled Chachalaca (called the Aracuan Bird in the film) is real... though like many of the older examples on this page, the real bird looks and acts nothing like its more famous animated equivalent.
In the most recent film of The Time Machine, one of the Eloi men is seen carrying a live black-furred animal over his shoulder, which appears to be a binturong.
Shifu the Red Panda and Tai Lung the snow leopard from Kung Fu Panda
Monkey is a golden langur as opposed to the familiar generic monkey.
The rhino prison guards look refreshingly more like Asian rhinos than the African white or black rhinos more often seen.
The tv series takes it and runs with it. Half the villains and several new good guys are all obscure chinese creatures.
The Big Bad of the second film is an indian peacock, and an albino one at that.
The Rescuers Down Under features a giant wedge-tailed eagle named Marahute.
As well as a goanna named Joanna. ("Goanna" is sort of a generic word for monitor lizards in Australia, since several species of monitor lizard do live there, but based on her size she's most likely a Perentie.)
Rio has a number of more obscure bird species, most prominently, the Spix's Macaw.
For bonus points, Spix's Macaw is a critically endangered species (fewer than 100 remain), meaning that it's literally seldom seen.
Besides obscure birds, there's also marmosets and a white-shouldered bat.
The sequel features capybaras, a tamandua anteater, a poison dart frog, tapirs, squirrel monkeys, rheas, tamarins, hoatzins, tree porcupines, Boto dolphins, and caimans.
The owls in Harry Potter include some commonly-mentioned species, but also the lesser-known eagle owl and Scops owl. Similarly, lesser-known mythological creatures such as basilisks and Hippogriffs appear.
Redwall is known for focusing on the seldom used ends of the mustelid spectrum, such as stoats.
Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, the Rudyard Kipling book about a mongoose. The story also features such seldom-seen Indian fauna as the krait, the chuchunder (Asian musk shrew)note Kipling for some reason called it a muskrat, a species not native to India, and the tailorbird.
A "sea cow" — most likely Steller's Sea Cow — appears in Kipling's The White Seal (and the Chuck JonesAnimated Adaptation). In real life they were hunted to extinction 27 years after their discovery in 1741, but in The White Seal they found a safe place and still thrive around 1900s.
A mongoose also appears in the Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Crooked Man."
Andre Norton's Beast Master novels included meerkats: Hing in The Beast Master and Lord of Thunder, and Ho in The Beast Master.
Bears are common enough in fiction, but how many times have you seen a sloth bear? Probably just in Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book, and the Disney cartoons it inspired.
Velociraptors (along with a few other genera) were obscure back when Jurassic Park was written. But then the book and movie popularized them so that they are inescapable in dinosaur media these days, though they almost always get depicted like the ones in Jurassic Park when in reality they were only 2-3 feet tall and covered in feathers. Dilophosaurus is an example that never caught on quite as much.
Spinosaurus is a case similar to Velociraptor.
A few genera that are still rather obscure to this day also make appearances in the franchise: such as Procompsognathus, Cearadactylus, Mamenchisaurus, Corythosaurus, Herrerasaurus, and Troodon. Metriacanthosaurus, Proceratosaurus, Baryonyx, Segisaurus, and Euoplocephalus are also implied to have been among the species present in the park of the first book/film.
The second book also includes Pachycephalosaurus and Maiasaura, which are among the better-known species but aren't nearly as prolific as the likes of Tyrannosaurus and Stegosaurus, as well as Carnotaurus, which have chameleon-like color-changing abilities. The carnotaur and it's color-changing wasn't adapted into the film version, but was included in the arcade game, of all things.
The Immortals quartet (Tortall) featured pygmy marmosets in the third book.
The Spellsinger series includes increasingly-exotic species among its Funny Animal cast in its later books, including the likes of the pangolin, javelina, silky anteater, viscacha, and aye-aye.
Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs has Sid the Scelidosaurus. There was also an Anchisaurus character that was absent from the animated adaptation; similarly, one episode of the series had a Nanosaurus character.
The Earth's Children series goes into intricate detail about the wildlife, including such animals as the saiga antelope, the chamois, and the cave bear. Flipped, a 'dirk-toothed tiger' gets barely a mention.
Astrosaurs features numerous obscure dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures.
Little Maya's maternal grandmother on Six Feet Under gives her a stuffed okapi, to prove how much more sophisticated she is compared to her paternal grandmother, who gave her a monkey.
The titular character of the PBS children's show Zoboomafoo is a Sifaka lemur, who for some reason is actually anthropomorphosized by being fed.
Sesame Street's South African co-production, Takalani Sesame has a giant meerkat named Moshe.
When Super Sentai and Power Rangers does an animal theme (which is often), usually have some stock badass animals they like to use — but then there's usually also an oddball choice. Some of these aren't obscure in general, but they evoke a similar reaction in the show's action-superhero context; for instance, one common reaction to late Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers stuff was "WTF Frog?"
Kakuranger/Mighty Morphin Season 3 infamously had the aforementioned frog, as well as a crane.
Gingaman/Lost Galaxy had a condor and a wild cat.
Gaoranger/Wild Force included a giraffe, a deer, an armadillo, and a hammerhead shark.
Gekiranger/Jungle Fury had an antelope and a penguin.
Shinkenger/Samurai has a marlin/swordfish, lobster, and squid/octopus.
Goseiger/Megaforce gives the Black Ranger a snake motif — not uncommon on its own, but so associated with villainous characters that a heroic use is worth mentioning. There's also an ostrich or some other flightless bird.
Even the dinosaur-themed Abaranger/Dino Thunder got in on the act with the Sixth Ranger having a Tupuxuara zord (ie, a pterosaur that isn't a pteranodon), as well as a Chasmosaurus zord.
Geo Kids had Bobby the Bushbaby and Sunny the honey possum.
David Attenborough's The Life of Mammals prominently featured echidnas, possums, yapoks, shrews, pangolins, pika, marmots, ground squirrels, mole rats, maras, fennec foxes, african wild dogs, harbour seals, right whales, sun bears, fruit bats, lorises, gibbons, uakaris, tamarins, guenons, macaques, and geladas.
This trope goes for all of Attenborough's Life on Earth series.
Likewise, meerkats were essentially unknown in Britain until the 1987 Wildlife on One episode Meerkats United. Overnight they became a national fascination that's never really let up since.
This trope is the whole point of the documentary series Mutant Planet.
Combatants on Monster Bug Wars include such oddities as spitting spiders, assassin bugs, carnivorous katydids, whip scorpions and velvet worms.
Primeval has prominently featured quite a few more obscure prehistoric animals: including Coelurosauravus, Inostrancevia (simply called a gorgonopsid on the show), Scutosaurus, Arthropleura, Tylosaurus, Hesperornis, Anurognathus, a Columbian Mammoth, Pristichampsus, Diictodon, Giganotosaurus, Titanis, Dracorex, Embolotherium, Australopithecus, Kaprosuchus, Euchambersia (simply identified as a therocephalian in the show), Koolasuchus (simply referred to as a labyrinthodont in the show), Hyaenodon, and Liopleurodon.
The spin-off Primeval: New World continues the trend with Albertosaurus, Utahraptor, Titanoboa, Lycaenops, Daemonosaurus, Ornitholestes, and Brontoscorpio.
Jessie has Mr(s). Kipling the Asian water monitor.
Dinosaurs has Earl Sinclair the Megalosaurus and Spike the Polacanthus, as well as Troodon and Psittacosaurus as background characters.
The Schoolhouse Rock song "Four-Legged Zoo" prominently mentioned ibex (a type of goat with large, curved horns) and kudu (a large antelope with corkscrew-shaped horns).
B.C. has the Apteryx, a "wingless bird with hairy feathers," as he invariably introduces himself.
Apteryx is the generic name for kiwis.
Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes has a fairly encyclopedic knowledge of animals, primarily dinosaurs. He also once asked if Hobbes could draw anything other than tigers, to which Hobbes replied, yes, he could also draw ocelots (slender, spotted wild cats from the jungles of Central and South America).
They also averted Stock Dinosaurs with Centrosaurus and Supersaurus (although it is referred to as "Ultrasaurus" and is depicted as a brachiosaurid).
Pogo was the only ever possum leading man in an American comic.
Aside from the title character's species, the series also includes a potaroo (Pinstripe), a thylacine (Tiny) and two Komodo dragons (Joe and Moe), along with the usual stock Australian critters that may apply, such as dingos and koalas.
Besides thylacines, there's also a cassowary as the Big Bad, a Tasmanian devil, a green tree frog, a thorny devil, wallabies, goannas, bilbies, weedy sea dragons, giant groupers, wombats, blue-tongued skinks, a lyrebird, Sydney funnel-web spiders, a ghost bat, an echidna, cane toads, Muttaburrasaurus, and marsupial lions.
Similarly, the third game features an obscure mythical creature: the Quinkan.
MANY Pokémon are actually based on obscure animal species. We have Pangolins note the Sandshrew line, Hermit Crabs note the Dwebble line, Tapirs note the Drowzee and Munna lines, Dugongs note the Seel line, Mongooses note Zangoose, Weedy Sea Dragons note Kingdra and Skrelp, Angler Fish note the Chinchou line, Porcupine Fish note Qwilfish, Mudskippers note so i herd u liek Mudkipz, Cicadas note the Paras and Nincada lines, Bagworms note the Pineco and Burmy lines, Sea Slugs note the Shellos line, Manaphy and Phione, Meerkats note Watchog, Leaf Insects note the Sewaddle line, Chinchillas note the Minccino line, Lampreys note the Tynamo line, etc. And that's not including the fossil Pokemon or plants!
It's safe to say that Game Freak has Shown Their Work concerning a lot of species and other biological life. Even the ones that aren't based directly on specific animals are instead based on old myths note Dunsparce, Bronzor and Bronzong, for instance. You'd be hard-pressed to find one type of creature in real life that hasn't been made into a Pokémon yet. Aside from dolphins and flamingos, oddly enough.
Other unusual species represented by Mavericks found across the series are Armored Armadillo, Split Mushroom, Spike Rosered (a rose), Tornado Tonion (an Onion), Optic Sunflower, Volt Catfish, Crush Crawfish, and Wire Sponge (Who, despite his name, is actually a Luffa. The very same luffa you use to scrub yourself with in the shower.)
Dino Run's visible dinosaurs all belong to the typical stock clades, but the bonus eggs you can pick up include such specific and seldom-heard-of genera as Olorotitan, Rinchenia and Magnosaurus.
Impossible Creatures, a game about combining animals, has poison dart frogs, archerfish, and muskoxen, among others.
Most of the characters in the Animal Crossing games are fairly commonly-seen animals, but Dr. Shrunk◊ is an axolotl and New Leaf introduces Luna◊, a tapir. Also in that game, the player can dig up fossils of the brontothere Megacerops, and most of the collectible fish and arthropods fall into this trope.
Hatoful Boyfriend introduced many Japanese and American audiences to birds like the Luzon bleeding-heart dove and the Chukar partridge. The downside of that is that we're all going to think of Chukars as sinister violent Mad Scientists and bleeding-heart doves as drug-addled lunatics from now on.
The Dino Crisis series feature Therizinosaurus, Oviraptor, Mosasaurus, Inostrancevia, and Giganotosaurus.
The Japanese Xbox game Dinosaur Hunting features not only the Stock Dinosaurs but also more obscure types: Albertosaurus, Amargasaurus, Ampelosaurus, Baryonyx, Cave lion, Deinosuchus, Dromaeosaurus, Euoplocephalus, Gastonia, Gastornis, Hypsilophodon, Kentrosaurus, Maiasaura, Moa, Ouranosaurus, Pelecanimimus, Shunosaurus, Stygimoloch, Supersaurus, Therizinosaurus, Torosaurus, and Wuerhosaurus.
Far Cry 3 has Komodo dragons, cassowaries, tapirs, bull sharks, macaques, birds of paradise, and thylacines.
Dwarf Fortress has a pretty diverse array of ecosystems, each with some unusual fauna to be had, from macaques to olms to sponges. All of them can kill your dwarfs. At one point, players who donated more than a certain amount could pick a new creature to include in the next release.
Putt-Putt Enters the Race has an activity where you can read about obscure species, from aardvark to zorilla.
The Amazon Trail, naturally being an Edutainment game, is filled to the brim of obscure animals native to the Amazon such as ocelots, kinkajous, tapirs, night monkeys, bush dogs, tambaqui, piraracu (or arapaima), tucunare, potoos, hoatzins, collared trogons, jabiru storks, honeycreepers, tegu lizards, spectacled caimans, fer-de-lance snakes, Gulf Fritillary butterflies, giant Agrippa moths, goliath bird-eating spiders, etc.
Little Beeper, Concord Condor, Bookworm, and Dizzy Devil from Tiny Toon Adventures. Shirley McLoon would also count (not many loons in fiction), but she looks like a duck as opposed to the actual loon species.
Taz-Mania has Mr. Thickley the wallaby, Wendell T. Wolf (a thylacine), Willie Wombat, and of course Taz and his family.
It also has Margaret's cousin John, who may be based on an oriole, a rather obscure bird, which clearly shows the creators did their research.
The episode "Replaced" has Chad the Australian possum and Jeremy the ostrich, the former of which is rarely represented in fiction.
Rigby himself closely resembles the crab-eating raccoon of South America more than the common North American raccoon. It's never been confirmed which one he is supposed to be.
The commercial seen in "Every Meat Burrito" makes a list of several obscure animals (aside from bacon and long pig).
Gila monster, pigeon, marmot, dik-dik, baboon, bushpig, long pig, aardwolf, manatee, bat-eared fox, red bat, spotted bat, dog-faced bat, opossum, emu, hairy long-nosed armadillo, big hairy armadillo, screaming hairy armadillo, colocolo, spectacled bear, lowland tapir, red deer, shy albatross, komondor dog, hagfish, Sonoran sidewinder, snorkel viper, oak-leaf rattler, bacon, narwhal, kookaburra, aha ha, blobfish, bulldog stargazer, tufted titmouse, screaming cowbird, green jay, lady Amherst pheasant, Polish chicken, quetzal, Surinam toad, tomato frog, turtle frog, Christmas tree worm, vampire squid, coelacanth, mugger crocodile, aye-aye, dumbo octopus, platypus... and more!
The Secret Saturdays has a Komodo dragon and an Ornithocheirus as two of the main animal characters. Similarly, it has a wide variety of obscure cryptids like the Hibagon and the Owlman.
The Miscellaneous Disney Short, "Pigs is Pigs," features two guinea pigs the Westcote railroad station who reproduce countless offspring. Guinea pigs may not be that seldom seen these days, but they were seldom seen back in 1954, when this cartoon was released.
And as far as dog breeds go, there have so far been Zoe, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel; Sam U.L., a Griffon Bruxellois; and Philippe, a French Terrier. All three breeds are actually rather common in real life but are rarely represented in fiction, probably because they're difficult to recognize.
Overall, this series is not shy about picking from anywhere in the animal kingdom, such as with Steve, a water cobra; Bearded Lady, a bearded lizard; Desi, a myna bird; and Sweetcheeks, a sugar glider. Julie McNally Cahill and Tim Cahill have previously shown their expertise at animal identification with My Gym Partner's a Monkey (see below).
The Farm League shorts on DC Nation featuring a Funny AnimalJustice League of America include Supermanatee, Batmongoose, Wonder Wombat, Aquamandrill and Green Lamprey (who, despite his name, is a warthog). Their villains include Lex Liger. Yes, the lion/tiger crossbreed species.
Adventure Time had a Surinam toad in the episode "Five More Short Graybles".
In the episode "A Glitch is a Glitch", Jake mentions dreaming as a coelacanth.
"Apple Wedding" introduces Wyatt, an elephant seal.
Walking with Cavemen has Australopithecus, Ancylotherium, Deinotherium, Paranthropus, Homo habilis, Dinofelis, Deinotherium, Ancylotherium, Homo rudolfensis, Homo ergaster, Homo erectus, Gigantopithecus, Homo heidelbergensis, and Megaloceras.
The Arena Spectacular has Liliensternus, Ornithocheirus, Plateosaurus, Torosaurus, and Utahraptor.
Prehistoric Park has Nyctosaurus, cave bears, Elasmotherium, cave hyenas, Borealosaurus, Eosipterus, Incisivosaurus, Mei Long, Phorusrhacos, Toxodon, Arthropleura, Crassigyrinus, Meganeura, Pulmonoscorpius, Albertosaurus, Deinosuchus, and Nyctosaurus.
The 3D film has Pachyrhinosaurus, Alexornis, Gorgosaurus, Edmontonia, Chirostenotes, Parksosaurus, Hesperonychus, and Alphadon.
Weird n' Wild Creatures, a series of children's fact & trading cards that originally ran from 2003-2006, loved this trope. Eustreptospondylus, Dapedium, Budgett's frogs, genets, hooded pitohuis, hellbenders, predatory tunicates, stoplight loosejaws, toe-biters, red-backed shrikes, pichiciegos, Javan wart snakes… and that's not even scratching the surface.
A common way to get yourself noticed in the Furry Fandom is to have a fursona of an unusual species like a thylacine to counteract the countless animal stereotypes in the fandom.
The mascots for the Sydney 2000 Olympics were a kookaburra, echidna and platypus - chosen in part to provide a Land, Sea, Sky combination and in part because Australian organisers thought kangaroos and koalas were overused.