Thursday, 28 September 2017

Five mythical animals that turned out to be real

13 September 2017

Sometimes the tales travellers tell of strange creatures they have seen in a remote part of the world are true
By Michael Marshall
Biologists in Taiwan are discussing whether or not to re-introduce the Formosan clouded leopard, a creature so mysterious that some have claimed it may never have existed.
It’s not an entirely unusual state of affairs. Explorers have claimed to have seen bizarre animals over the centuries, only to be exposed as hoaxers. But not always. Sometimes the most outlandish creatures turn out to be extremely real.
It is perhaps no surprise that the platypus was once thought to be a hoax. It looks a bit like a mole but has a duck’s bill. Not only did this strange-looking mix of mammal and bird not fit with what was then known of biology, it was also immediately obvious how the hoax might have been achieved, with little more than scissors, thread and a sewing needle.
The platypus was scientifically described for the first time in 1799 by the British naturalist George Shaw, based on a skin sent by John Hunter, then the governor of Australia. Shaw admitted to being suspicious: “it naturally excites the idea of some deceptive preparation by artificial means,” he wrote.


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