The distinct feature of the Lesula, a monkey native to the Congo, is its face. Particularly because it’s more handsome than your drunk uncle on Christmas – much more handsome. The Lesula was first seen by non-natives in 2007 and then confirmed in 2012 as a genetically distinct species. The monkey’s large, human-like face, big eyes, and booming dawn chorus all pale in comparison to the real selling point, it’s blue bottom. Animal lovers around the world were aghast at the news, but especially the portrait of this familiar animal. “Uncle Lesula? Is that you?”
When the Komodo Dragon was first discovered by Europeans on Komodo Island off the coast of Indonesia in 1910, few people believed the story. Two years later, a photo and a skin of the animal was presented to a zoologist, prompting further exploration. It wasn’t until two live dragons, along with 12 specimens, were collected and put on display in 1926 that the world went “komodo” crazy. So much so, that a movie inspired by the discovery was made – 1933’s King Kong. To this day, three of the original stuffed specimens are on display in the American Museum of Natural History.
When local anglers fishing off the east coast of South Africa saw the Coelacanth among their catch in 1938, it made headlines around the world. That’s because the Coelacanth was though to have been extinct for 66 million years. Since then, the skeletal fish had been caught off the coast of Kenya, Tanzania, and Madagascar. In 1997, a second species of the fish was discovered off the coast of Indonesia. Both species are now considered to be among the most endangered animals in the world.
When a sketch of the platypus was first sent back to Great Britain by Captain John Hunter in 1798, it was thought to be a hoax. Europeans could not believe that this egg-laying, duck-billed, water-dwelling creature was not only a mammal but a living breathing animal. By 1800, researchers had definitive proof that it was not only a real animal but was also nocturnal and venomous. It was even difficult to name the new species with early British settlers variously calling it a watermole, duckbill, and duckmole, before finally settling on playtpus – which is actually the name of a wood-boring ambrosia beetle. Some things just have a habit of sticking.
Victor of Aveyron
Not exactly an animal, Victor Aveyron was a French feral child who spent a majority of his childhood alone in the woods, hunting his own food and creating a life for himself. When he was discovered by local hunters in 1797, he was brought to a nearby town only to escape back into the wild shortly after. In 1800, he emerged from the woods (at 12 years old) and was taken in by a young physician who worked with him for five years. At the time, the Enlightenment caused many thinkers to debate about what separates man from animals.