No. 12 - Ziphius
According to legend, ziphius had the body of a fish, the head of an owl, and a beak that could pierce the hulls of ships. Today, the inspiration for this creature is Cuvier's Beaked Whale. Capable of growing to 20 feet in length, Cuvier's Beaked Whale belongs to the genus ziphius. It is one of 20 species of beaked whales.
Despite its legendary reputation, according to Wikipedia, Cuvier's Beaked Whale actually avoids ships. It also prefers depths of more than 1,000 meters (or 3,300 feet), and can dive an astonishing 1.8 miles below the water's surface. Nevertheless, it is the most frequently spotted beaked whale.
No. 11 - Bondegezou
In the 1980's, a photograph of the Bondegezou was sent to an Australian research scientist who initially, and mistakenly, identified it as a young tree kangaroo. It was not until 1994 that the same scientist conducted survey of the area where the photograph was taken, determining the animal was an entirely new and different species of marsupial that spends most of its time on the ground and is capable of standing on two legs.
Unlike ziphius, spotting a bondegezou is a rare occurrence. None exist in captivity.
No. 10 - Platypus
Today, we know this creature as the platypus, a creature native to Australia. Its name is often preceded with the phrase "duck-billed," referring to one of its most unique characteristics. In addition, the spurs on its legs are capable of producing a powerful poison, lending credence to legend which referred to the platypus as being venomous.
No. 9 - Sea Serpents
Today, it is believed that these sightings can be attributed primarily to an animal known as an oarfish. Capable of growing to an astonishing 50 feet in length and bearing a mane-like crest, the oarfish, like ziphius, has an ill-deserved reputation. Docile by nature, the oarfish avoids contact with humans and does not attack ships.
No. 8 - Giant Turtles
Until recently, scientists considered giant turtles to be "cryptozoological." Cryptozoology is the study of animals whose existence is disputed or unsubstantiated, like the loch ness monster or yetis. However, in 1998, a six-foot long turtle was caught on film in a lake in Vietnam known as Hoan Kiem Lake. Interestingly, this same lake is the site of a Vietnamese legend about a giant turtle that dates to the 15th century. Surprisingly, the turtle had gone undetected by scientists despite the relatively small size and shallow depth of the lake.
No. 7 - Komodo Dragon
In 1926, however, an American expedition to Indonesia returned with 12 preserved specimens and 2 live giant lizards. Named the Komodo Dragon after one of the Indonesian islands where the animals are found, this giant species of monitor lizard can grow to an impressive 10 feet in length. According to Wikipedia, their bite also can deliver a type of anti-coagulant, leading some to refer to the Komodo dragon as having a venomous bite.
No. 6 - Kangaroo
In the 1770s, a dead specimen of what would come to be known as the kangaroo was displayed in England. Not related to deer at all, kangaroos are a species of marsupial well-known for their jumping ability. We also now know that they don't sprout two heads. Rather, they carry their young in pouches on their stomachs, accounting for this part of the legend.
No. 5 - Devil Bird
In 2001, however, the devil bird was recognized as a new species of owl, the spot-bellied eagle owl.
No. 4 - Okapi
The okapi is the only living relative of the giraffe, sharing its characteristic body structure and long tongue. However, the markings on its back legs more closely resemble zebra stripes.
No. 3 - Mountain Gorilla
In 1902, however, a German officer shot a "man ape" in Rwanda, and brought it back to Europe for display and study. This introduced the world to a never-before-recognized species of ape - the mountain gorilla. Despite legends to the contrary, mountain gorillas are docile and prefer that their activities go unseen. Threatened with extinction, no more than 400 live specimens remain in the world today.
No. 2 - Limbed Fish
In 1938, however, off the coast of East Africa, a peculiar fish was discovered - one with limbs. It was further determined that the fish had no evolved for 65 million years, proving that Darwin was correct.
No. 1 - Giant Squid
Moby Dick, for example, the crew of the Pequod encounter a "great live squid," which the narrator refers to as "the great Kraken." The kraken was also featured in Jules Verne's 1870 novel Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
More recently, the kraken has been portrayed (often inaccurately) in several films, including the 1981 film Clash of the Titans, a 2010 version of the same film, The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring in 2001, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest in 2006.
Investigations into the existence of giant squid began as early as the 1840's. Despite the work of a Danish zoologist who meticulously researched and cataloged sightings of giant squid, and even examined the corpse of one, other scientists remained skeptical. And so, the existence of giant squid remained relegated to the realm of fantasy.
In the 1870s, however, several, complete carcasses of giant squid washed ashore on the beaches of Labrador and Newfoundland. When this occurred, all skepticism about these creatures' existence ceased.
The biology of these creatures is of great interest to scientists for a number of reasons. For example, giant squid have the largest eyes of any creature in the world, allowing them to see at depths where the light is too dim for most other animals. Unfortunately, giant squid prefer to live at great depths under the sea. As a result, virtually all efforts to document them in their natural habitat have failed.
In 2004, however, a group of whale watching scientists were able to take 500 photographs of a living giant squid that surfaced. The same group obtained the first video evidence of giant squid in 2006. You can watch the video here, and it is definitely well worth seeing.
We hope you enjoyed this article. If you know of any other creatures that should have made the list, let us know in the comments.