10 Misidentified Fossils

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10 Misidentified Fossils


When we find common fossils of seashells at the beach, they are instantly and easily recognized. However, fossils of creatures less familiar to us can be harder to identify. To compound the problem, a great number of fossils are incomplete or broken. It is no surprise that until good samples are found, the fossils of extinct creatures are often mistaken for the wrong type of animal entirely. Here are ten such fossils.


10. Ammonites


Ammonites are fairly common fossils and have been misidentified for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks thought they were ram horns, and named them after the Egyptian god Ammon who sported such horns. The ancient Chinese called them horn stones for a similar reason. In Nepal they are seen as a holy relic left by the god Vishnu. The Vikings regarded them as the sacred petrified offspring of the world serpent, Jormungand. In the Middle Ages, they were known in Europe as snake stones, as they were thought to be the hardened bodies of coiled snakes turned to stone by various Christian saints. Some industrious traders would even carve snake heads onto the ends of ammonites and sell them. Today, however, we know that they are merely the remains of a shelled squid-like creature that lived from four hundred million years ago right up until the demise of the dinosaurs. More complete fossils, although not as common as those of just the shells, show the imprints of protruding tentacles and an amorphous head, much like those of the modern nautilus.


9.Fish Teeth

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Fossilized fish teeth have been interpreted in many ways. Some ancient fish had hard, flat molar teeth for crushing shellfish. In Greece, and later much of Europe, the fossilized remnants of these teeth were thought to be magic jewels, and were often called toadstones, as a reference to the gems that were thought to be embedded in the heads of large toads. They were used in jewelery and thought to cure epilepsy and poisoning. In Japan, the fossilized flat and sharp teeth of sharks were identified as the discarded fingernails of a terrible monster, the tengu. In Europe, shark teeth were seen to be hardened devil tongues. It was not until the insight of the seventeenth century anatomist Steno that the many tongue stones were finally shown at a public dissection to be identical to the teeth of sharks, and thus came the idea that fossils did not spontaneously appear in the ground, but instead came from the remains of long dead ancient animals.



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Lepidodendron is an ancient tree-like plant with bark rather like a pine cone – covered in large flat scales. These were merely diamond-shaped leaf scars. The leaves themselves were similar to blades of grass, and Lepidodendron was more closely related to a herb than a true tree. Much of Europe’s coal comes from their remains. Their fossils, however, can be spectacular. The long trunks of the trees were often fossilized whole, having grown up to thirty meters long and one meter wide. They were often exhibited at nineteenth century fairgrounds as the dead bodies of scaled serpents and dragons. People would pay a small fee to be shown the fossil and awed by an invented story of either the serpent’s life or a dramatic retelling of its fate. These often involved various Christian saints. More complete fossils show not only a tree trunk, but the branches, roots, leaves, and sometimes reproductive cone spores, confirming its true identity as a large plant and not proof of a mythical creature.


2085F Japon Hatoma

On the Pacific beaches of southern Japan, one might casually pause and look at the seemingly ordinary sand grains more closely. Many of them are shaped as tiny stars, less than a millimeter across. Local legends state that these are the remains of the unfortunate children of the heavenly union of two stars. These astral children died either by falling to earth or by being killed by a monstrous serpent in the sea near the Japanese island of Okinawa. Their delicate skeletons wash up along the shore and are all that is left of the poor creatures. Naturally, these tiny stars are actually the remains of a different type of life: amoeba-like creatures called foraminifera. These creatures and their modern descendants are single-celled, and build themselves a protective shell. When they die, the spiky shells remain behind, and upon inspection with a microscope, show many tiny chambers and detailed structures.


Carnegie Protoceratops Andrewsi

The dinosaur called protoceratops was a relative of the more famous triceratops. It walked on four legs and was comparable in size to a large dog, albeit much heavier. Most distinctively, it had a large skull with a bird-like beak and a bony frill sticking out from the back of the skull around its shoulders. Protoceratops lived in large herds which resulted in a large number of fossils being left behind. To people not acquainted with knowledge of dinosaurs, the many preserved skeletons resembled fantastical and bizarre creatures. Due to their size, they were mistaken for small lions. However, the distinctive skull lead to the idea of a lion with a hooked beak like that of an eagle. The front feet of protoceratops more closely resemble claws than lion paws, and so the skeleton was interpreted as that of a griffin: a mythical fusion of lion and eagle. According to legend, griffins were man-eating lions with the head and front legs of a giant eagle. Many believe that the legend itself was inspired by protoceratops fossils rather than merely reinforced by them.


Belemnites Paxillosus

Belemnites were ancient animals which resembled squid. Unlike squid, they had ten arms of equal length which were covered in tiny hooks, and, most distinctively, they had a skeleton. Belemnites coexisted with the dinosaurs, and filled the seas. The most frequently found fossilized part of their skeleton showed the cylindrical, pointed bodies, but lacked softer structures such as tentacles. The fossils are long and bullet-shaped. In Europe, people thought these were thunderbolts – that is, objects which were hurled down from the heavens and created the sound of thunder as they crashed. They were associated with various thunder gods and were called thunder arrows or thunderstones. Many people kept them in various parts of their homes to ward off lightning strikes. Other people thought belemnites came from elves rather than gods. They considered them to be elf fingers, fairy candles, or pixie bolts. People used them in various superstitious medicines, including treating snake bites and headaches by tying the fossil onto the afflicted part of the body and chanting various incantations.



Anchisaurus was a type of early dinosaur. It was herbivorous, had a long neck and tail, and was related to the more familiar apatosaurus and diplodocus. Anchisaurus was smaller than its more recent relatives, and grew to only slightly over 2m long. It evolved from bipedal ancestors, and was not fully quadrupedal – although its front legs were better designed for walking, it could rise up on its hind legs when needed and use its front legs as makeshift hands. Anchisaurus is of historical interest due to the misidentification in its discovery. Anchisaurus was mistaken for the animal we should be most familiar with: humans. Its long neck, longer tail, lizard-like pelvis, reptilian skull, and other features were all overlooked. The sole fact that it was very approximately human sized was enough to convince people that it was the remains of a human. After finding more such fossils over several decades, the word ‘dinosaur’ was coined and people began to come to the conclusion that the bones were reptilian. Nevertheless, the very fact that such obviously inhuman fossils could ever be thought to be human speaks volumes of our ability to delude ourselves.

3.Mastodons and Mammoths


Until several thousand years ago, gigantic mastodons and mammoths roamed the icy earth. They resembled elephants with a hairy coat and tusks many meters long. A mass extinction, climate change, and over-hunting caused their eventual demise. Like modern elephants, these animals had more muscles in their trunk than in the entirety of the rest of their body. The trunk itself is the closest thing any land creature has developed to a tentacle, and it is capable of incredibly fine, delicate movements as well as immense brute strength. The many sophisticated trunk muscles require a large space to be attached to, resulting in a hole at the front of the skull. Modern elephant skulls demonstrate the same phenomenon. Although people living in the range of elephants might be familiar with this, to others, finding such an enormous fossilized skull with a gigantic hole in the front of it conjures up the notion of a giant human with one huge eye socket. The legend of the Cyclops is thought to have come from the skulls of the mastodons and mammoths found outside Africa.

2.Sea Urchins

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Sea urchins are spiky, spherical creatures commonly found along the seashore. They are in a group of animals called echinodermata, meaning ‘spiny skin’ in ancient Greek. Sea urchins have been around for hundreds of millions of years, and their ancient ancestors have left plenty of fossils. Although similar in appearance to modern sea urchins, the fossils have a long history of being misidentified. In England, they were thought to be supernatural crowns, loaves of fairy bread, or magical snake eggs. In Denmark they were thought to be thunderstones, and were said to sweat before storms, helping people predict foul weather. The five lines found on many sea urchins were thought to be lucky, and they were kept as good luck charms in India. The magical powers attributed to sea urchins reflected the way each culture interpreted them, and they were variably thought to cure snake poison, help bread cook, protect households from storms, and improve providence.


Neanderthalis Cro-Magnon

Our many ancestors and cousins have left fossils all over the earth. Due to their obvious disparity with ourselves, before people had deduced human evolution they often had trouble interpreting the fossils. Those found in Europe and the Americas were sometimes said to be proof of the various human-like mythical creatures mentioned in the Bible, such as giants and demons. Others were said to be modern apes, despite their clear differences from any such living primate. It was even suggested that the hominid skeletons were those of modern men – albeit ‘lesser’ men, meaning all excepting those who made the claims. In more modern times, hominid fossils have been attributed to aliens rather than mythical monsters. It is thought that hominid fossils in Asia may have inspired the many legends of yeti creatures. Some even suggest that as many hominids coexisted with us in the past, the legends were not inspired by fossils but by the living creatures themselves.


Top 10 Plants That Will Kill You

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Top 10 Plants That Will Kill You


Ok, I know I wasn’t supposed to do any more plant lists, but I couldn’t help myself. By killer plants I do not mean as in Top 10 Carnivorous Plants, plants that kill little insects, and the occasional rat, but plants that are well known to kill people. All plants contain some toxins as protection against predators. We already know, from Top 10 Poisonous foods we love to eat, that even apple seeds contain traces of cyanide. In this list we are going to look at some plants that contain such high doses, of toxins to which humans are sensitive, that some can kill you in a matter of hours. In some cases, many animals have a much higher tolerance to the poison than humans, and all the plants on this list are known human killers. It’s shocking to read this and recognize some of the plants that you grew up playing around, knowing that just one bite could have killed you, and knowing just how curious children are. Many of these plants’ main victims are children, as they often have bright fruit that look rather appetizing, and children have an even lower tolerance to the poison, so it takes a lot less to do the job. Who knows, this information might come in handy someday.


White snakeroot


White snake root, also known as White Sanicle or Tall Boneset, is a highly poisonous plant, native to North America. Their flowers are white and, after blooming, small fluffy seeds blow away with the wind. This plant has a high % of the toxin tremetol, which is not known for killing humans directly, but indirectly. When the plant is eaten by cattle, the toxin is absorbed into their milk and meat. When humans then, in turn, eat the beef or drink the milk, the toxin enters the body and causes something called milk sickness, which is highly fatal. Thousands of ignorant European settlers died from milk sickness in America in the early 19th century. It is also believed that Abraham Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks, died from milk sickness.


Doll’s eyes

Actaea Pachypoda Older Seed Pods

Doll’s eye, also known as White Baneberry, is a flowering plant native to Eastern and Northern North America. The Doll’s eyes comes from the striking fruit of the plant, which is a 1cm in diameter white berry with a black stigma scar, which looks very eye like. Although the whole plant has been declared toxic for human consumption, the most poisonous part is the concentrated toxins in the fruit, which have sadly claimed a number of children’s lives, as they also have a sweet taste. The berries contain a carcinogenic toxin, which has an almost immediate, sedative effect on human cardiac muscles and can easily cause a quick death.


Angel’s trumpets


Angel’s trumpets are flowering plants, native to the tropical regions of South America, but found around the world. The name Angel’s trumpet comes from the pendulous trumpet shaped flowers, covered in fine hairs, that hang from the tree. Flowers come in a variety of sizes (14-50cm) and in a variety of colors, including white, yellow, orange and pink. All parts of the plant contain toxins, such as tropane alkaloids scopolamine and atropine. The plant is sometimes turned into a tea and ingested as a hallucinogenic, recreational drug. As levels of toxicity varies prom plant to plant, and part to part, it is almost impossible to know how much toxins you have ingested. As a result of this, many users have overdosed and died from it.


Strychnine tree


The Strychnine tree, better known as poison nut or Quaker Button, is a medium sized tree, native to India and South East Asia. The small seeds inside the trees’ green to orange fruit, is highly toxic, being filled with poisonous alkaloids’ Strychnine and Brucine. 30 mg of these toxins are enough to be fatal to an adult, and will lead to a painful death from violent convulsions due to simultaneous stimulation of sensory ganglia in the spine.


English Yew

Cis-Yew Berries

The English Yew is native to Europe, Northern Africa and South West Asia. It is a small to medium tree that has seeds enclosed in a soft, red, berry like armor. The berry armor is the only part of the fruit that is not poisonous and this allows birds to eat the fruit and spread the seeds without ill effect. It takes a dose of about 50g to be fatal to a human. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, muscle tremors, convulsion, collapse and finally cardiac arrest. In cases of severe poisoning, death can set in so fast that the other symptoms are missed.


Water hemlock


Water hemlock, or poison parsnip, is a group of highly poisonous plants that is native to the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. The plants all have very distinctive small white or green flowers, arranged in an umbrella shape. Water hemlock is considered to be North America’s most poisonous plant as it is incredibly poisonous to humans. The plants contain a toxin named cicutoxin which causes seizures. This poison is found in all parts of the plant but is most concentrated in the roots, which is most potent in the spring. Besides the almost immediate seizures, other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pains, tremors and confusion. Death is usually caused by respiratory failure or ventricular fibrillation and can occur just a few hours after ingestion.




Wolfsbane, also known as leopard’s bane, woman’s bane or devils helmet, is a plant belonging to the buttercup family. These perennial plants are native to mountainous regions of the northern hemisphere. The plant contains very large quantities of a poison called alkaloid pseudaconitine, which used to be used by the Ainu people of Japan as poison for hunting, on the tips of their arrow heads. In cases of ingestion, symptoms, which include burning in the limbs and abdomen, sets in immediately. In cases of large doses, death can occur within 2-6 hours and 20ml is enough to kill an adult human.

Interestingly, Wolfsbane is also mentioned in mythology and werewolf lore as being able to either repel the werewolves/lycanthropes, or to induce the wolf state regardless of the moon phase. Hence the name.


Rosary Pea

3. Rosary Pea

The Rosary Pea, also known as Crab’s eye or Jumbie bead, is a slender perennial climber that twines around trees, shrubs and hedges. The plant is native to Indonesia, but grows in most parts of the world. It is best known for its seeds, which are used as beads, and have a bright red to arrange color with a single black spot (not unlike an inverted black widow). The poison contained in the plant (abrin) is very similar to the poison ricin, found in some other poisonous plants. There is one main difference between these poisons, and that is that abrin is about 75 times stronger than ricin. This concludes that the lethal dose is much less, and in some cases as little as 3 micrograms can kill an adult human. Using seeds as beads even poses a huge threat, as people have been known to die, just from pricking their fingers on the drill bits used to drill the tiny holes in the seeds.




Belladonna, also known as Devils berries, death cherries or deadly nightshade, is native to Europe, North Africa and Western Asia. It is also one of the world’s most poisonous plants as it contains Tropane alkaloids, some of which cause delirium and hallucinations. Other symptoms of Belladonna poisoning include loss of voice, dry mouth, headaches, breathing difficulty and convulsions. The whole plant is poisonous, but berries usually play the greatest risk, as they are sweet and tend to attract children. 10 – 20 berries can kill an adult, but it only takes 1 leaf (in which the poisons are much more concentrated) to kill a full grown man.

Strangely, our very “intelligent” ancestors of the Elizabethan era (1500s) used Belladonna as part of their daily cosmetic routine. They used drops made from the plant as eye drops, to dilate their pupils, which was considered attractive and gave the user a dreamy look. Not being very knowledgeable at the time, the women also drank cyanide, or “bled” themselves to obtain a pale, translucent skin color, in addition to painting their faces white with a lead based paint called cerise.


Castor plants


Thinking back to the time your mother forced Castor oil down your throat, I bet you would never have guessed that it came from the most poisonous plant in the world (even if it did taste like it).

Castor plants are indigenous to the Mediterranean basin, eastern Africa and India, but are widely grown as an ornamental plant. A toxin called ricin is found throughout the plant, but is concentrated in the seeds/beans (which castor oil is made from). One raw seed is enough to kill a human in 2 days, which makes for a long, agonizing and unstoppable death. The first symptoms will be experienced within a few hours and will include a burning sensation in the throat & mouth, abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea and vomiting. The process is unstoppable and the final cause of death will be dehydration.

Strangely, humans are the most sensitive to these seeds, as it takes 1-4 to kill a full grown human, 11 to kill a dog and a whopping 80 seeds to kill a duck. The castor plant currently holds the Guinness World Record for most poisonous plant.

10 Amazing Discoveries From Beneath The Sea

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10 Amazing Discoveries From Beneath The Sea



From the depths of the oceans, discoveries throughout time have been kept preserved for us to find today. Because of the unique conditions of the sea, things are preserved which may otherwise have deteriorated if they were on land. Here are just a few examples of incredible discoveries from underwater.


10The Sea Monster Figurehead

1- Gribshunden

Photo credit: Orf3us

In 2015, the terrifying figurehead of the 15th-century Danish warshipGribshunden was brought back up to the surface. The Gribshunden, or “Grip Dog,” had been at the bottom of the Baltic Sea since 1495, and the figurehead adorning it displayed an image that no doubt struck fear in the hearts of other sailors. It appears to be a sea monster bearing a dragon face and lion ears with a person being eaten in its crocodile-like mouth.

It’s unclear what “Grip Dog” means, but “Gribshunden” was both the Danish word for a dog or hound and the mythical Greek griffon. The Gribshundenserved as the flagship of King Hans of Denmark’s royal fleet until it caught fire off the coast of Sweden while King Hans was trying to negotiate a political union between other Scandinavian countries. Since then, the wreckage has remained under the ocean, but its figurehead was brought back after divers managed to heave the massive artifact up from the depths.

9The Pantelleria Vecchia Bank Monolith

2- monolith

Photo credit: E. Lodolo

While mapping the sea floor near Sicily, researchers discovered an enormous monolith that was nearly 12 meters (39 ft) in length. According to archaeologists, the qualities of the monolith suggest that it was a man-made structure rather than naturally produced and that it was most likely constructed around 10,000 years ago. Discovered in the Pantelleria Vecchio Bank, the monolith serves as evidence that there was an archipelago in the area that no longer exists.

As to the purpose of the strange object, it is believed that it served as a lighthouse because a hole had been carved into it which may have held a light. Before the Last Glacial Maximum, which began around 19,000 years ago, Europe was about 40 percent bigger, so the monolith was on land at one time before it sank into the sea.

8America’s Earliest Inhabitants

3- pre-clovis site

Photo credit: Brendan Fenerty

When a sinkhole located near Florida’s Aucilla River was examined in the past few years, the divers made extraordinary discoveries: evidence of human occupation well over 1,000 years earlier than previously thought. The same sinkhole had been examined on a few other occasions from 1983 to 1997, but the findings—mainly, a mastodon tusk that had possible human-related cut marks—were too ambiguous to provide any real conclusions.

However, from 2012 to 2014, remarkable artifacts were found that were undeniably human: stone tools, bone, and a biface, which is a sort of primitive human knife. It seems that the ancient people may have tried to scavenge a mastodon at the site, which was just a small pond at the time. All of these findings date back around 14,550 years, a good 1,000 years older than the Clovis people, the earliest provable inhabitants of North America.


7USS Conestoga

4- Conestoga
In 1921, a navy tugboat, the USS Conestoga, disappeared without a traceafter setting sail from San Francisco. After an extensive search for the boat using air and sea resources, all that could be found was an overturned lifeboat marked “C” that had drifted hundreds of miles off course. In 2016, the 95-year-old mystery was finally solved.

In 2009, the N.O.A.A. Office of Coastal Survey discovered an unidentified shipwreck in the sharp rocks of the Farallon Islands, but it wasn’t until 2015 that underwater remotely operated cameras managed to get a good view of the wreckage. The distinctive propeller and deck-mounted gun matched only one other vessel: the USS Conestoga. It seems that the tugboat encountered rough waters and sank while the crew was trying to steer it to a cove in the Farallons.

6Thonis-Heracleion And Canopus

5- canopus

Photo credit: Christoph Gerigk

In the eighth century AD, the cities of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus were submerged underwater after a series of natural disasters like flooding and earthquakes. Since then, they gained near-legendary status and were considered lost until 2000, when they were rediscovered in Aboukir Bay near Alexandria. The site has since yielded almost perfectly preserved colossal structures, coins, and jewelry. The site still produces remarkable artifacts, and it seems that there could be even more to come, including a possible third city.

According to Franck Goddio, the French mariner who discovered the cities: “We’ve probably excavated only 1 percent or 2 percent of the site—possibly less.” Historically, Thonis-Heracleion was important enough to warrant a mention from the historian Herodotus in the fifth century, who described the city’s magnificent temple and said that Helen visited the city before the Trojan War to visit her lover Paris.

5The Ships Of The Fourni Archipelago

6- shipwreck
The Fourni archipelago is a small and relatively insignificant collection of Greek islands today, but in ancient times, it served as one of the most important places for maritime trade. There are so many historic shipwrecks in the Fourni archipelago that it has been referred to as the “ancient shipwreck capital of the world.”

Since 2015, 22 shipwrecks from Greek antiquity have been discovered in the Fourni archipelago. The wrecks range from as early as 480–700 BC to as late as the 16th century. These wrecks have yielded many artifacts and shed light on the life of a sailor hundreds of years ago. Going back in time, however, no important settlements existed in the area which means that the archipelago most likely served as a sort of shipping hub between Greece and other countries. Since so many ships went through the area, many shipwrecks must have occurred, but it is estimated that only one shipwreck occurred every 100 years.

4The Bald Cypress Forest

7- underwater cypress forest
After Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf region of North America, a surprising find was made at the bottom of the ocean. Uncovered by the hurricane was a 50,000-year-old perfectly preserved forest known as the Bald Cypress Forest. It had been covered by ocean sediments in an oxygen-free environment, allowing the forest to remain intact.

The primeval trees were so well preserved that when they were cut, they stillsmelled of fresh cypress. The forest, located off the coast of Alabama, was originally discovered by a diver soon after the hurricane, but the location wasn’t disclosed by the finder until 2012. By then, the forest was still pristine but had become a flourishing artificial reef for various aquatic species. The forest was last above water during the Wisconsin Glacial period, when sea levels were much lower than they are now.

3Madagascar’s Giant Bones

8- Archaeoindris

Photo credit: Ghedoghedo

In Madagascar, prehistoric underwater graves were found containing the fossils of the giant animals that once dominated the island. Among these fossils were the remains of an extinct species of lemur weighing as much as 15 times its modern day relatives, elephant birds the size of basketball players, and enormous tortoises.

Three sunken caves located at Tsimanampetsotsa National Park yielded an enormous amount of bones representing thousands of years of Madagascar’s history. One of the caves was so filled with fossils that every time divers felt the floor of the cave they found new bones—the most important find being the Archaeoindris, a species of lemur the size of gorillas. The most obvious theory about why Madagascar’s megafauna were found in the caves is that they were chased there by the arrival of humans. Many species would have hidden themselves to avoid being hunted, but over the past millennia, the majority were killed off.

2English Aristocratic Clothing

9- dress

Photo credit: Kaap Skil Museum

Texel and Eyerland, which later merged to become the island of Texel, were important way points for traders going to and from Holland. But the Wadden Sea around the islands is a dangerous place, and many ships have sunk there over the years. From this treacherous area, a fantastic discovery was made: the 400-year-old possessions of an English noblewoman.

The discovery was made from a 17th-century chest that contained a preserved silk dress, undergarments, a lice comb, and a leather-bound book stamped with the royal seal of King Charles I, suggesting a member of nobility. The silk dress was the most important discovery, and while it most likely was more of an everyday garment because of the lack of decorous beads and complex designs, it also reveals a wealth of information about how garments were made at the time.

1Britain’s Pompeii

10- bronze age

Photo credit: Chris Radburn

Three thousand years ago, Bronze Age houses near the Peterborough quarry in Great Britain burned down but were preserved almost perfectly by silty fen. The near-pristine condition that the dwellings were found in have been compared to the conditions of Pompeii, and the findings at the Peterborough sight are just as impressive.

The homes remain the best preserved Bronze Age dwellings in Britain. They are large wood dwellings built on stilts in a waterlogged area near the Nene River. Inside are artifacts ranging from delicate drinking cups to the last meal the owners had. It appears that whoever lived in the homes fled and left the meal, which had calcified in the cooking pot. The houses most likely belonged to wealthy people because of the amount of material goods found. The cause of the fire that burned the houses is unclear. It may have been an accident, intentional, or even a military attack.

Gordon Gora is a struggling author who is desperately trying to make it. He is working on several projects but until he finishes one, he will write for Listverse for his bread and butter. You can write him at gordongora21@gmail.com.