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    Classic engraving from 1885, depicting large tree-like Lepidodendron lycophytes thriving throughout
    the Carboniferous Interval (public area)

    I’ve at all times been fascinated by zoological
    misidentifications, whether or not unintended or deliberate. So here’s a actually
    outrageous instance of the latter selection that I just lately investigated.

    Throughout early 1851, publicity broadsides
    had been being posted on partitions across the Welsh city of Neath to attract public consideration
    (and attendance) to an eyecatching object presently being exhibited within the city
    corridor throughout three consecutive days (30 and 31 January and 1 February). For
    in response to the broadside, the item was none aside from a really sizeable fossil
    serpent, 8 ft 3 in lengthy and seven in throughout.

    Broadside for exhibition of alleged fossil serpent at Neath’s city corridor, early 1851 (public area)

    As revealed by F.J. North within the second version
    of his ebook Coal, and the Coalfields in
    (1931), nevertheless, it was truly the trunk of an unlimited, superficially
    tree-like, however long-extinct lycophyte plant associated to membership mosses and (particularly)

    Often called Lepidodendron, it
    thrived through the Carboniferous Interval round 360 million years in the past, and
    attained a colossal peak of as much as 180 ft. Its fossils are discovered preserved in
    coal deposits, and it’s characterised by its trunk’s noticeably scaly outer
    floor (Lepidodendron truly
    interprets as ‘scale tree’), though its ‘scales’ are literally leaf scars,
    created when its leaves fell off.


    Portion of fossil Lepidodendron
    bark exhibited on the Houston Museum of Pure Science, Houston, Texas, USA (copyright free)

    Furthermore, the true botanical identification of Lepidodendron fossils had been recognized to
    scientists for a number of years earlier than this exhibition. So one can solely assume
    that the latter’s organiser didn’t intend to let a mere technicality just like the
    fact stand in the best way of constructing some simple cash from scientifically-naive guests
    anxious to see the mortal stays of an alleged prehistoric serpent!

    Certainly, newbie
    exhibitions at sideshows and festivals of comparable Lepidodendron specimens masquerading in finest Barnumesque vogue as
    large fossil snakes and even lizards had been in no way unusual again then. And for an additional monstrous misidentification that includes a supposed fossil snake, remember to click on right here to learn all concerning the bothersome Bothrodon.


    Pictured right here in 1851, the exact same 12 months because the Neath exhibition, the good(est)
    showman Phineas T. Barnum – he of the faux Feejee mermaids and different zoological frauds displayed by him through the 1800s – would little doubt have permitted! (public area)