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The Quick 10: 10 Creatures People Didn't Think Existed

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In the span of less than a week, there's been news that Bigfoot and el Chupacabra may have been discovered. At this rate, Nessie is going to pop up next week and the Mothman will knock on someone's door in West Virginia and ask to borrow a cup of sugar.

I wanted to do today's list on animals that were thought to be mythical but ended up being real; however, I couldn't find that many. So it's a combined list of that and animals that were thought to be extinct but were rediscovered at some point. Those types of animals are called Lazarus species, by the way: a rather fitting name.

1. The Okapi

The Okapi is the mascot of the International Society of Cryptozoology because it was thought to be a myth until 1902. It was even called the African unicorn, which goes to show you just how outrageous people thought this animal was. They're now found in most zoos, but don't let that fool you - not many of them exist in the wild. It was 2008 before a motion-triggered camera in the jungles of the Democratic Republic of Congo caught the first-ever photo of an okapi in the wild.

2. The Devil Bird

Until 2001, this diabolical bird was mere legend. The Devil Bird tale began in Sri Lanka, where the shrill, human-like shriek of a bird they called "Ulama" was said to predict the death of a loved one. When the Spot-bellied Eagle-owl was discovered 13 years ago, researchers quickly realized that it matched the description of the Devil Bird quite closely.

3. The Kraken

A lot of people believe that what sailors once referred to as the kraken was really just a giant squid. Well, not "just": One account said the kraken was the size of a floating island. According to some estimates, the female giant squid can grow to be up to 43 feet long, so the size of a small island wouldn't be unrealistic. After centuries of kraken tales, the only evidence we had that the giant squid even existed were carcasses that had washed up on shores. In 2004, scientists finally took the first pictures of a living, fully-grown giant squid. Just two years later, researchers were able to capture film of one moving.

4. The Coelacanth

This guy was thought to be extinct for about 65 million years until it was rediscovered near the east coast of South Africa in 1938. They weigh about 176 pounds on average and can be as long as 6.5 feet (though there's one account of a 15-footer). Coelacanth have since popped up in waters near Tanzania and Indonesia, among other places, proving that some species still exist, even when we've written them off for millions of years.

5. The Platypus

For a long time, people thought the idea of a platypus was laughable. And it kind of is - when you think about it, a semi-aquatic poisonous mammal that lays eggs and has the beak of the duck and the tail of a beaver does seem a little far-fetched. When a body of this odd animal was finally brought forth as proof, it was assumed by the entire academic community that a jokester taxidermist had sewed the body parts of various animals together for a laugh.

6. Giant Earthworms

You know, I think this guy could stay extinct - it's been said that the Giant Palouse Earthworm can grow up to three feet in length. Discovered in 1897, the worm was thought to be extinct by the 1980s. It has, however, been sighted several since then. The most recent was in 2010, and to the disappointment of Tremors fans everywhere, was only a foot long. If you want to go Giant Palouse Earthworm hunting, I suggest you start in eastern Washington and Idaho. Bring a shovel, because it can burrow up to 15 feet in the ground. 

7. The Takahe

Meet the takahe, a flightless bird from New Zealand that we thought went extinct in 1898. An expedition in 1948 revealed that a colony of them were still living on South Island. Only 224 birds are known to exist now - it was 225, but a Department of Conservation employee accidentally shot a Takahe when he mistook it for the Pukeko. (Happens to the best of us.)

8.Bermuda Petrel

Much like the Devil Bird, the Bermuda Petrel, also known as the cahow, has an incredibly creepy call. It's even said that early Spanish settlers avoided the Bermudan islands instead of inhabiting them because they thought the calls were demons, roaming from island to island. This national bird of Bermuda was thought to be extinct for 330 years, until an ornithologist discovered 18 nesting pairs of them in Castle Harbour in 1951. As of 2005, the global population of the birds was about 250. 

9. Komodo Dragons

Though they're a staple at many zoos these days, Komodo dragons were thought to be completely mythical for many centuries. Not because of the "dragon" moniker, but because people were describing it as a "land crocodile." It wasn't until 1912 that a photo and a preserved skin proved their existence. Zoologists set out on an expedition to find out more in 1926; the trip resulted in 12 carcasses and 2 live specimens. Three of these can still be found at the American Museum of Natural History.

10. The Thylacine

Our last example is one that doesn't quite fit the category of Lazarus species, because it hasn't officially been rediscovered yet. The Thylacine, AKA the Tasmanian Wolf, the Tasmanian Tiger or the Tassie Tiger, looks like a cross between, you guessed it - a wolf and a tiger. But it was actually a marsupial and had a pouch. It could also open its jaws up to 120 degrees. Tasmanian Tigers were present in Tasmania until the 1930s, when they were hunted to near extinction after the discovery that they were killing livestock. "Benjamin," the last one on the record books, was given a home at the Hobart Zoo in 1933. He died three years later. People claim to spot the Thylacine on a fairly regular basis in Tasmania, Australia, and Indonesia, and Ted Turner once offered $100,000 to anyone who could prove its existence. Still, one has yet to be caught or photographed, so it remains officially extinct.

All images courtesy of iStock unless otherwise stated. 

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Roadside Bear Statue in Wales is So Lifelike That Safety Officials Want It Removed
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Wooden bear statue.

There are no real bears in the British Isles for residents to worry about, but a statue of one in the small Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells has become a cause of concern. As The Telegraph reports, the statue is so convincing that it's scaring drivers, causing at least one motorist to crash her car. Now road safety officials are demanding it be removed.

The 10-foot wooden statue has been a fixture on the roadside for at least 15 years. It made headlines in May of 2018 when a woman driving her car saw the landmark and took it to be the real thing. She was so startled that she veered off the road and into a street sign.

After the incident, she complained about the bear to highways officials who agreed that it poses a safety threat and should be removed. But the small town isn't giving in to the Welsh government's demands so quickly.

The bear statue was originally erected on the site of a now-defunct wool mill. Even though the mill has since closed, locals still see the statue as an important landmark. Llanwrtyd Wells councilor Peter James called it an "iconic gateway of the town," according to The Telegraph.

Another town resident, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Telegraph that the woman who crashed her car had been a tourist from Canada where bears are common. Bear were hunted to extinction in Britain about 1000 years ago, so local drivers have no reason to look out for the real animals on the side of the road.

The statue remains in its old spot, but Welsh government officials plan to remove it themselves if the town doesn't cooperate. For now, temporary traffic lights have been set up around the site of the accident to prevent any similar incidents.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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10 Scientific Benefits of Being a Dog Owner
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The bickering between cat people and dog people is ongoing and vicious, but in the end, we're all better off for loving a pet. But if anyone tries to poo-poo your pooch, know that there are some scientific reasons that they're man's best friend.

1. YOU GET SICK LESS OFTEN.

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If cleaning commercials are to be believed, humanity is in the midst of a war against germs—and we shouldn't stop until every single one is dead. In reality, the amount of disinfecting we do is making us sicker; since our bodies are exposed to a less diverse mix of germs, our entire microbiome is messed up. Fortunately, dogs are covered in germs! Having a dog in the house means more diverse bacteria enters the home and gets inside the occupants (one study found "dog-related biodiversity" is especially high on pillowcases). In turn, people with dogs seem to get ill less frequently and less severely than people—especially children—with cats or no pets.

2. YOU'RE MORE RESISTANT TO ALLERGIES.

Child and mother playing with a dog on a bed.
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While dog dander can be a trigger for people with allergies, growing up in a house with a dog makes children less likely to develop allergies over the course of their lives. And the benefits can start during gestation; a 2017 study published in the journal Microbiome found that a bacterial exchange happened between women who lived with pets (largely dogs) during pregnancy and their children, regardless of type of birth or whether the child was breastfed, and even if the pet was not in the home after the birth of the child. Those children tested had two bacteria, Ruminococcus and Oscillospira, that reduce the risk of common allergies, asthma, and obesity, and they were less likely to develop eczema.

3. YOU'LL HAVE BETTER HEART HEALTH.

Woman doing yoga with her dog.
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Everything about owning a dog seems to lend itself to better heart health. Just the act of petting a dog lowers heart rate and blood pressure. A 2017 Chinese study found a link between dog ownership and reduced risk of coronary artery disease, while other studies show pet owners have slightly lower cholesterol and are more likely to survive a heart attack.

4. YOU GET MORE EXERCISE.

Person running in field with a dog.
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While other pets have positive effects on your health as well, dogs have the added benefit of needing to be walked and played with numerous times a day. This means that many dog owners are getting 30 minutes of exercise a day, lowering their risk of cardiovascular disease.

5. YOU'LL BE HAPPIER.

Woman cuddling her dog.
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Dog owners are less likely to suffer from depression than non-pet owners. Even for those people who are clinically depressed, having a pet to take care of can help them out of a depressive episode. Since taking care of a dog requires a routine and forces you to stay at least a little active, dog owners are more likely to interact with others and have an increased sense of well-being while tending to their pet. The interaction with and love received from a dog can also help people stay positive. Even the mere act of looking at your pet increases the amount of oxytocin, the "feel good" chemical, in the brain.

6. YOU HAVE A MORE ACTIVE SOCIAL LIFE.

Large bulldog licking a laughing man.
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Not only does dog ownership indirectly tell others that you're trustworthy, your trusty companion can help facilitate friendships and social networks. A 2015 study published in PLOS One found that dogs can be both the catalyst for sparking new relationships and also the means for keeping social networks thriving. One study even showed that those with dogs also had closer and more supportive relationships with the people in their lives.

7. YOUR DOG MIGHT BE A CANCER DETECTOR.

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Your dog could save your life one day: It seems that our canine friends have the ability to smell cancer in the human body. Stories abound of owners whose dogs kept sniffing or licking a mole or lump on their body so they got it checked out, discovering it was cancerous. The anecdotal evidence has been backed up by scientific studies, and some dogs are now trained to detect cancer.

8. YOU'LL BE LESS STRESSED AT WORK.

Woman working on a computer while petting a dog.
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The benefits of bringing a dog to work are so increasingly obvious that more companies are catching on. Studies show that people who interact with a pet while working have lower stress levels throughout the day, while people who do not bring a pet see their stress levels increase over time. Dogs in the office also lead to people taking more breaks, to play with or walk the dog, which makes them more energized when they return to work. This, in turn, has been shown to lead to much greater productivity and job satisfaction.

9. YOU CAN FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOUR PERSONALITY.

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The kind of dog you have says a lot about your personality. A study in England found a very clear correlation between people's personalities and what type of dogs they owned; for example, people who owned toy dogs tended to be more intelligent, while owners of utility dogs like Dalmatians and bulldogs were the most conscientious. Other studies have found that dog owners in general are more outgoing and friendly than cat owners.

10. YOUR KIDS WILL BE MORE EMPATHETIC.

A young boy having fun with his dog.
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Though one 2003 study found that there was no link between pet ownership and empathy in a group of children, a 2017 study of 1000 7- to 12-year-olds found that pet attachment of any kind encouraged compassion and positive attitudes toward animals, which promoted better well-being for both the child and the pet. Children with dogs scored the highest for pet attachment, and the study notes that "dogs may help children to regulate their emotions because they can trigger and respond to a child's attachment related behavior." And, of course, only one pet will happily play fetch with a toddler.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

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