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Creatures, Myths & Legends

Pink mouse and pop-eyed frog were 'made up'

By T.K. Randall
January 13, 2020 · Comment icon 4 comments



Some pranksters have managed to take the scientific community for a ride. Image Credit: PD - pxfuel
Every now and again, someone manages to sneak a fictitious species into a distinguished scientific journal.
With an aim to further the progress of science by publishing reputable new research and discoveries, journals have long been the go-to source for all the latest developments in the world of science.

While there is general expectation that the research featured in these journals meets a certain scientific standard, sometimes someone manages to publish something deliberately absurd.

Take the case of Austrian entomologist Hans Malicky, for example. Back in the 1960s, he chaired the Entomological Society of Austria and also published the society's newsletter - Entomologische Nachrichtenblatt - until being relieved of the role for failing to keep its content relevant.

He soon got his own back however when he managed to submit an article to another of the society's publications under the pseudonym Otto Suteminn. The piece detailed the discovery of two new species of flea from Nepal that, as it turned out, were completely fictitious.
It wasn't until 1972 that another flea expert published an article pointing out that Suteminn's article was full of made-up information, not least of which being the example mammal species on which the fleas could allegedly be found - Canis fossor ("canine gravedigger") and Apodemus roseus ("the pink wood mouse") - both just as fabricated as the fleas on which the paper was based.

Another well known example of a fake species making it into a scientific journal was in a study focusing on Rana magnaocularis ("the pop-eyed frog") published in 1978 in the Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa - a publication that focused on reptiles and amphibians.

"Night collecting along roads in Ontario has revealed a new species of frog strikingly characterized by enormous eyes and a flattened body," the fictitious author 'Rank Fross' wrote.

It turned out that the "pop-eyed frog" was actually just a tongue-in-cheek reference to another, common species of frog often found squashed on the roadside.

Source: MIT.edu | Comments (4)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Tom1200 3 years ago
When it comes to the ultimate list of the finest, mind-boggling, Earth-shattering hoaxes I'm not sure a made-up flea will rank very highly...   On the other hand - what if this 'invented' species is real, but has been dubbed a hoax by 'the scientific community'?  What are they trying to keep secret from us?  Why is this new flea so worrying?  Is it dangerous?  Does it spread a new, enhanced version of the plague, which will wipe out 95% of humanity?  Why haven't we been told about this?  Who are the 1%* that will be allowed to hide from this pandemic in hermetically sealed government bunkers f... [More]
Comment icon #2 Posted by South Alabam 3 years ago
 
Comment icon #3 Posted by stereologist 3 years ago
This should be a good lesson to those that cling furiously to single fringe articles in journals that there are errors in journals and that the publication of an article is the first step in providing information to other researchers. It does not mean that the article is necessarily correct. 
Comment icon #4 Posted by butterflygirl1 3 years ago
This is a very crucial point. In insect taxonomy there are a number of rogue articles which do not meet the acceptable standards but these are often widely cited which makes it a huge effort to correct these works. For once example, when I was a student I had to publish a huge paper to rebut an article merely a couple of pages long...


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