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Sunday, January 02, 2005

Strange headed creature

The Urban legends and Folkore blog questions the existence of a strange Maltese creature:

A reader writes: "I received this pic of an alleged strange-headed lizard found in Malta, Europe. Does such a strange-headed creature really exist?"

Not anymore. According to Maltese biologist Patrick J. Schembri, the creature depicted is a Diplocaulus, an early salamander-like amphibian that has been extinct for some 270 million years. The photo (see full-size version here) must therefore be a fake, perhaps created digitally or staged using a toy model. From the Museum of Hoaxes:

Diplocaulus Found

Professor Patrick Schembri, of The Sunday times, reports of a new photo that's been making the email rounds showing a very strange looking animal captured in a bucket. Versions of the email variously claim that the animal was found either at Il-Maghluq in Marsascala, or in Bahrija. Schembri identifies the animal as none other than a Diplocaulus, extinct for 270 million years, which means that the photo almost definitely must be a hoax (either that or it's a major scientific discovery). He writes of the Diplocaulus: "The very distinctive head may have been an adaptation against predators, since the wide head would make Diplocaulus difficult to swallow, or it may have aided the animal to swim by acting as a hydrofoil. Like most other early amphibians, Diplocaulus lived in or near water. It probably fed on insects or fish. It was also considerably larger than the image doing the rounds suggests, since fossils as large as 80 cm in length have been discovered." (via The Anomalist)

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