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

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In the span of less than a week, there's 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 Q10 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

Picture 123.pngThe Okapi is the actually 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. Now you can find them pretty commonly in zoos, but don't let that fool you: there aren't that many of them.

2. The Devil Bird

Picture 135.pngThis diabolical ave wasn't thought to be real until 2001. In Sri Lanka, where the Devil Bird legend originated, the bird is known as Ulama. It has a shrill shriek that sounds eerily human-like and is said to predict the death of a loved one. But when the Spot-bellied Eagle-owl was discovered seven years ago, it was quickly realized that it matched the description of the Devil Bird quite closely.

3. The Kraken


A lot of people believe the giant squid is what sailors used to refer to as the kraken. You can find him in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, too. One account said the kraken was the size of a floating island. Some estimates say that the female giant squid can grow to be up to 43 feet, so the size of a small island wouldn't be unrealistic. It was many, many years before a giant squid was found alive "“ before that it was known to exist mostly because of carcasses washed up on shores. In 2004, scientists took the first pictures of a fully-grown giant squid alive, and in 2006, the first film was captured of a living, fully-grown giant squid.

4. The Coelacanth

Picture 143.pngThought to be extinct for, oh, 65 million years or so. However, 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 (one account says even up to 15 feet). They have since popped up in waters near Tanzania and Indonesia, among other places, proving that some species exist even when we think they couldn't possibly be alive.

5. The Platypus

Picture 164.pngFor a long time, people thought the idea of a platypus was laughable. And it kind of is - when you think about it, a mammal that lays eggs, has a duck beak, a beaver tail, is semi-aquatic and is poisonous does seem a little far-fetched. When the body of one was finally brought forth, 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

Picture 153.pngYou know, I think this guy could stay extinct and that would be OK. The Giant Palouse Earthworm can grow up to three FEET in length. A three-foot worm. The worm was discovered in 1897 and was thought to be extinct by the 1980s, but has been sighted three times since then. The most recent was in 2005. 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. Oh, also, bring a raincoat: it's thought that it spits to defend itself.

7. The Takahe

takaheThis one's actually kind of cute, at least in my opinion. It's a flightless bird from New Zealand that was thought to be extinct since 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 one.

8.Bermuda Petrel

Picture 184.pngMuch like the Devil Bird, the Bermuda Petrel has an incredibly creepy call. It was thought extinct for 330 years before 18 of them were found in 1951. There were about 250 Bermuda Petrels around in 2005, so the population is growing (albeit slowly).

9. Komodo Dragons

Picture 192.pngFor a long time, Komodo dragons were thought to be a myth. 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 skin proved their existence. An expedition to find out more was arranged and 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

Picture 202.pngOur 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 open its jaws up to 120 degrees, which is rather terrifying. It was around in Tasmania up until the 1930s, but they were soon suspected of killing livestock and were hunted pretty mercilessly, decreasing their numbers dramatically. "Benjamin", the last one ever documented alive, was given a home at the Hobart Zoo in 1933. It died in 1936. People claim to spot the Thylacine on a fairly regular basis in Tasmania, Australia and Indonesia. Still, one has yet to be caught or photographed, so it remains officially extinct.


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August 15, 2008 - 10:28am
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