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Mythological beasts inspired by now known animals?


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Really I never heard that one before,

How about the giant squid being the sea monsters of old


the manatee being what sailors thought were mermaids.


The manatee is thought to have been at least part of the basis for the mermaid myth but how sea sick and horny would those sailors have had to have been to mistake a manatee for a beautiful maiden that was half fish?!!! The giant squid was it's own mythical monster or just one of many other sea monsters. I think it was the ancient Greeks who thought that elephant skulls were proof of the cyclops existence. the huge hole in the middle of the skull there the elephants trunk was attached was thought to heve be where the eye was located. In myth cyclops were often portrayed as having huge tusks in their jaws as well.

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you were right. (not that I doubted you or anything) :)



In the 14th century' date=' Giovanni Boccaccio claimed he had discovered a mighty Cyclops skull inside a Sicilian cave. This one-eyed monster may have been nothing more than a docile elephant. The hole that resembles a central eye in the elephant’s skull is actually its nasal cavity – it is surrounded by plentiful muscle attachment space for the animal’s massive trunk. [/quote']

California Academy of Sciences - Skulls

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In the middle ages dragons were thought to be real and often things were blamed on dragons but we of course know there were no dragons but a well documented account of a dragon that killed livestock and a couple of people (I think, It's been a long time since i saw this show on the discovery channel) have been traced to a possible Nile crocodile that was brought to the English monarchy as a gift from some Mediterranean potentate for the royal zoo. It escaped and raised hell along a river where it took up residence until winter killed it. this "Dragon" resulted in many years of dragon reports even though the crocodile probably died after one winter.

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I've heard that the Roc was inspired by the ostrich. When travelers saw such a large flightless bird that resembled a chick, they could only wonder what the adult would be like.


I've not heard that one but I did read about the elephant bird of Madagascar being part of the inspiration for the Roc. Bones and eggs were thought to be those of the Roc.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Seeing a manatee as a mermaid is due to a projection affect the brain can generate. As an analogy, picture a movie projector, projecting through the forehead onto an object. What appears to enter the brain is sensory data fro, reality plus the movie overlay. This overlay is in the imagination at the same time sensory data is entering the eyes. The composite that enters awareness looks like a mermaid.


Here is a simple home experiment to simulate this affect. Go to a scary horror movie and then have a friend drop you off in the woods at night, alone. Then they drive off and leave you. What will often happen is the imagination will begin to act up. The shadow near the tree becomes a bear. The rustling in the bushes is now the ax murderer. The body may start to feel anxiety, as though this image is real. Sensory data says nothing of the sort. The movie overlay may get you to run. In the case of the mermaid, instead of a horror movie, the men were reacting to long days at sea without women. The imagination began to create a movie overlay. They were seeing a composite. The captain might have to dope slap them to wake them up and shut off the imagination.

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  • 3 months later...

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