So, you now know that the mountain gorilla and the komodo dragon were once kind of like "myths." Want some more? Check out these "once-imaginary" creatures (AKA cryptids), that are now accepted as being real...
Early explorers to Australia described bizarre creatures never before seen by Europeans. They wrote of creatures with heads like deer that stood upright like men and hopped like frogs. The creatures sometimes sported two heads – one on their shoulders, and one on the stomach. Such accounts were understandably disregarded and ridiculed by fellow colleagues. That changed in the 1770s, when a dead specimen of this odd beast was exhibited in England as a public curiosity. Today, this creature is known as the kangaroo, a widespread marsupial endemic to Australia. Well-known for their leaping abilities and the female pouch for carrying young, kangaroos are a nationally recognized icon of Australia.
When European naturalists first encountered this bizarre creature, they were understandably baffled. Accounts described it as a venomous, egg-laying mammal with a duck bill and beaver tail. Many prominent British scientists deemed it a hoax when presented with a sketch and pelt, in 1798. Even when offered a corpse, scholars suspected that it was an elaborate, sewn-together fraud. Today, this bizarre but fascinating creature is known as the platypus, one of only five egg-laying mammals. This semi-aquatic creature also comes from Australia (like the kangaroo). It swims with webbed feet, uses electrolocation to hunt, and possesses an ankle spur that, in males, can deliver a powerful injection of venom. While non-lethal to humans, this venom is excruciatingly painful and is not responsive to most pain-killers.
The Giant Squid?
Tales of enormous squids have circulated throughout the world since ancient times. Legends all describe a bizarre, often dangerous nautical creature. Perhaps the most famous legendary squid is the Norse Kraken, a monstrous, tentacled beast as large as an island that devoured ships whole. Prior to the 1870s, scientific opinion held such creatures as nothing more than ridiculous myths, on par with mermaids or sea serpents.
In the 1870s, the skepticism stopped as several dead bodies were beached in Labrador and Newfoundland. Tentacles and complete corpses revealed to the scientific world that the giant squid was indeed real. Today, this creature remains just as mysterious and rare. Typically living at great depths, giant squid sightings are uncommon. For a century, scientists attempted to observe it in its natural habitat, but failed. Only in 2004 (just 10 years ago!) were a group of Japanese scientists able to capture a live giant squid on camera, taking 500 automatic photographs before the creature swam back into the blackness.