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Fact and Fiction: Real World Cousins of Mythical CreaturesJuly 18, 2012


July 18th, 2012 By Nisha Vijayan in animals, Features

During our childhood, the stories of dragons, mermaids and sea serpents had fascinated us big time. But as we grew, our intellectual side tells us that these were just myths. Ever wondered how such myths originated? It is difficult to explain, but most of these myths actually have a basis in reality and sometimes the facts are stranger than fiction.Take a look at these animals and see how they are connected with the myths.

Giant Oarfish

Also known as the king of herrings, the giant oarfish is the world’s longest bony fish. Looking at this animal’s length, you could understand the reason behind the tales of sea serpents. This animal can reach a maximum length of at least 15.2 meters and it weighs 272 kilograms. They feed mainly on zooplankton, tiny shrimp and other crustaceans.

Dugongs and manatees

Manatees – also known as the sea cows – were suspected for being mermaids. Their face looks like humans and these marine mammals usually prefer estuarine or fresh water. They grow to 8 to 9 meters in length and have a mass of 400 to 550 kilograms. At birth, they have an average mass of 30 kilograms. The animals have a large, flexible, prehensile upper lip that is used to gather food, as well as using it for social interactions and communications.

Okapis

Okapis are believed to have triggered the mythical tales of the one horned unicorn. These mammals appear to be a combination of a giraffe, a zebra and an antelope. Living in the rain forests ofAfrica, they can also resemble zebras or horses and having two horns that appear as one when viewed from the side. They have reddish dark backs, with striking horizontal white stripes on the front and back legs that resemble zebras. The body shape is similar to that of the giraffe, except that they have shorter necks. Like the giraffe, the animal has very long (approximately 35 cm) flexible, blue tongues that they use to strip leaves and buds from trees. The animal can also wash its eyelids and clean its ears (inside and out) using this tongue.

Gigantopithecus

Ever heard of Yeti, the snowman? These gigantopithecus could lead to the myth of Bigfoot. These apes once lived in the forests of Asia. It was the largest ape ever lived that stands up to 10 feet tall and weighs over 1,000 pounds. Some anthropologists believe that Gigantopithecus were hominid ancestors. Some researchers still believe it’s possible the population of the creature may have persisted into recent years.

Colossal squid

The Colossal sea monster, also known as the Kraken, and resembles a mammoth cephalopod. Their limbs are equipped with sharp hooks: some swivelling, others three-pointed. Its body is wider and stouter, and therefore heavier, than that of the giant squid. Colossal squid are believed to have longer mantles than giant squid, although their tentacles are shorter. They prefer to dwell in deep ocean waters.

Protoceratops

They are a group of early horned dinosaurs. These sheep sized dinosaur were once roamed thelandofMongolia. This creature had an enormous head and a parrot-like beak, and they were four legged. Their fossils were considered as the remains of a griffin, a mythical beast said to have the head of an eagle and the body of a lion.

Flamingos

Many people believe that flamingoes are the phoenix birds due to their flaming hues of pink and red color. This mythical bird was first identified by ancient Egyptians as a heron-like bird with crimson feathers.Phoenixwas considered as the sacred firebird. The bird spends much of its time wading in salt flats, which can lead to swelling and flickering much like a flame.

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