Monday, March 10, 2014
According to legends, something massive dwells beneath the forests of Brazil. It bores enormous tunnels through the soil, large enough for a child to walk through. It uproots trees, destroys crops and leaves water-filled ditches in its wake. Natives call it the Minhocao -- and its nature has been discussed for over a century. Granted, little evidence for the beast has been found since the 1800s. But the stories alone give us much to work with, and allow us to deduce its identity.
The traditional description of the Minhocao resembles a giant worm. Legends detail a gigantic serpentine beast, dozens of feet long and covered in black scales. The Minhocao, it is said, has two stalk-like tentacles portruding from its head -- but it lacks eyes altogether. This amalgamation of features is rather confusing. Several creatures share a few of these traits, but none exhibit all of them.
Let's look at some possible candidates for the Minhocao's identity. One, suggested by cryptozoologist Karl Shuker, is the caecilian. These wormlike amphibians are capable of burrowing, and can be found throughout South America. They sometimes have a scaly appearance, and on occasion have head-tentacles -- but caecilians are relatively small in size. The largest is not five feet long, certainly incapable of making massive tunnels. These biggest of these creatures are no thicker than a human arm. Legless lizards and blind snakes, while they also share traits of the Minhocao, are unlikely for the same reason.
Bernard Heuvelmans, the father of cryptozoology, had a far different theory -- and it's the one I find most probable. He believed that the Minhocao was a prehistoric armadillo relative called the glyptodont, and that the stories of its appearance were entirely fanciful. Unlike snakes or caecilians, glyptodonts (if they burrowed at all) could make monster-sized tunnels. Furthermore, their fossils are found in South America, and the Amazon is relatively unexplored. There's plenty of habitat in which they could dwell, despite the improbability of their survival. Now, I don't generally advocate for prehistoric cryptids, and I'm not saying I believe in this one. But this fossil animal is the best Minhocao candidate yet suggested.
Read more about the Minhocao:
Image (public domain) from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/51/Minhocao.png