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University of Houston Digital Library

12 Fantastic Drawings of Fictional Creatures from a 17th Century Book

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University of Houston Digital Library

Published in 1658, The History of Four-Footed Beasts, Serpents and Insects presents a catalog of the known animals at the time in several volumes (that link takes you to Volume 1). Compiled by English clergyman Edward Topsell, the collection is based largely on the earlier Latin work by Konrad Gesner. Interspersed among the imaginative depictions of all sorts of animals from the antelope to the wolf and many different kinds of goats are more fictional fauna like satyrs and dragons.

1. Aegopithecus

Aegopithecus looks more like our traditional understanding of a satyr than the entry for half-man half-goat later on. The name later got applied to an early anthropoid that lived around 33 million years ago.

2. Monster


At first you may think it's the eerily human-like profile on this unnamed monster that makes it especially frightening, but a second look reveals giant chicken feet only on the hind legs. Which should terrify anyone who's ever ticked off a rooster.

3. Dragon

These dragons don't have legs like modern interpretations; they are literally giant winged serpents.

4. Gulon

As you may notice in the picture, the artist has chosen to depict the gulon excreting amid a pile of bones. This was not some random slander against the mythical Scandinavian creature. The gulon, who is described as a cross between a cat and a dog, was best known for his bizarre eating habits. After violently gorging himself beyond the point of satiation,"he seeketh for some narrow passage betwixt two trees, and there drawth through his body, by pressing whereof, he driveth out the meat which he had eaten."

5. Hydra

By the time the catalog was collected, there were no living hydras, but rumors of a seven-headed serpent carcass in Venice seemed enough to corroborate the tale of Hercules and Hydra.

6. Lamia

The catalog admits that the term "lamia" has historically been applied to a range of beasts and even fish. Topsells explains that perhaps this stems from a myth about a beautiful young woman, Lamia, who caught the eye of Jupiter and bore several sons by the god. When Juno learned of her husband's infidelity, she cursed Lamia, killing her sons and condemning her to perpetual sleepless mourning. Jupiter, in turn, granted his ex-lover the ability to shape-shift—which still doesn't explain why she chose the image you see above.

7. Man Ape

Half man, half ape. Looks like a cross between a scarecrow and a wooden human model from art class.

8. Mantichora

With the head of a man, the body of a lion and the tail of a dragon, the mantichora was often used in medieval times as a symbol of the Devil.

9. Satyre

Topsell writes that, unlike the Aegopithecus above, real satyres do not have goat-like features but are rather a breed of ape, often thought to be the shape taken by the Devil on earth.

10. Sea Serpent

Looks like an eel to me.

11. Sphinga or Sphinx

"If a man do first of all perceive or discern these natural sphinges, before the beast perceive or discern the man, he shall be safe," Topsell writes, "but if the beast first decry the man, then it is mortal to the man."

12. Unicorn

Of all the creatures, Topsell dedicates perhaps the most time to the unicorn. Accounts of the curative properties of the horn are detailed and varied but, the author admits, it is precisely these almost unbelievable claims that call into question the existence of such a magical creature.

All photos courtesy of University of Houston Digital Library

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Animals
Fisherman Catches Rare Blue Lobster, Donates It to Science
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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

Live lobsters caught off the New England coast are typically brown, olive-green, or gray—which is why one New Hampshire fisherman was stunned when he snagged a blue one in mid-July.

As The Independent reports, Greg Ward, from Rye, New Hampshire, discovered the unusual lobster while examining his catch near the New Hampshire-Maine border. Ward initially thought the pale crustacean was an albino lobster, which some experts estimate to be a one-in-100-million discovery. However, a closer inspection revealed that the lobster's hard shell was blue and cream.

"This one was not all the way white and not all the way blue," Ward told The Portsmouth Herald. "I've never seen anything like it."

While not as rare as an albino lobster, blue lobsters are still a famously elusive catch: It's said that the odds of their occurrence are an estimated one in two million, although nobody knows the exact numbers.

Instead of eating the blue lobster, Ward decided to donate it to the Seacoast Science Center in Rye. There, it will be studied and displayed in a lobster tank with other unusually colored critters, including a second blue lobster, a bright orange lobster, and a calico-spotted lobster.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Animals
Australian Scientists Discover First New Species of Sunfish in 125 Years
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Courtesy Murdoch University

Scientists have pinpointed a whole new species of the largest bony fish in the world, the massive sunfish, as we learned from Smithsonian magazine. It's the first new species of sunfish proposed in more than 125 years.

As the researchers report in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, the genetic differences between the newly named hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) and its other sunfish brethren was confirmed by data on 27 different samples of the species collected over the course of three years. Since sunfish are so massive—the biggest can weigh as much as 5000 pounds—they pose a challenge to preserve and store, even for museums with large research collections. Lead author Marianne Nyegaard of Murdoch University in Australia traveled thousands of miles to find and collected genetic data on sunfish stranded on beaches. At one point, she was asked if she would be bringing her own crane to collect one.

Nyegaard also went back through scientific literature dating back to the 1500s, sorting through descriptions of sea monsters and mermen to see if any of the documentation sounded like observations of the hoodwinker. "We retraced the steps of early naturalists and taxonomists to understand how such a large fish could have evaded discovery all this time," she said in a press statement. "Overall, we felt science had been repeatedly tricked by this cheeky species, which is why we named it the 'hoodwinker.'"

Japanese researchers first detected genetic differences between previously known sunfish and a new, unknown species 10 years ago, and this confirms the existence of a whole different type from species like the Mola mola or Mola ramsayi.

Mola tecta looks a little different from other sunfish, with a more slender body. As it grows, it doesn't develop the protruding snout or bumps that other sunfish exhibit. Similarly to the others, though, it can reach a length of 8 feet or more. 

Based on the stomach contents of some of the specimens studied, the hoodwinker likely feeds on salps, a jellyfish-like creature that it probably chomps on (yes, sunfish have teeth) during deep dives. The species has been found near New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and southern Chile.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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