April 1, 2016

New Evidence of Prehistoric Dragons

        For some time scientists have been studying the calanchi goose, a rare heritage variety still raised in small villages in the Emilio-Romagna region in northern Italy.  What makes the calanchi goose so special is that it has four legs in addition to wings.  One of the arguments against the possible existence of dragons has always been that there are no vertebrates with six limbs, but of course the calanchi goose not only disproves that but implies the existence of six-limbed reptiles from which it must have evolved.  Fossil finds in the nearby Pliocene Foothills (in the Tuscan-Emilian Appenines) have recently been confirmed as a “missing link” between four-legged, winged birds and four-legged, winged reptiles.  “Missing link” isn’t quite an accurate term, as fossils of dragons are also still missing, but their existence now seems not only probable, but positively predicted.
        Here’s a wood block print of a calanchi goose from Ulisse Aldrovandi (Italy, 1522-1605), who compiled one of the sixteenth century’s largest and most comprehensive collections of information about natural history.  He also collected about 7000 specimens of biodiversity in a famous cabinet of curiosities, which he left in his will to the city of Bologna.  We know the names of a few of the artists who worked with Aldrovandi in illustrating his works, but unfortunately I can’t definitely attribute this particular piece to anyone.  However, one of the possible artists, Jacopo Ligozzi, is described by Wikipedia as “the Audubon of late Renaissance Florence.”  One thing I find interesting about this goose is that there is a distinctly reptilian look to its head, and its beak looks almost toothed.  Coincidence?  I think not.  But I also like the two silly little tail-feather tufts, which are not at all draconic.
        Aldrovandi was born and lived in Bologna, in which neighborhood you will find the “calanchi” badlands and the Pliocene Foothills, but I probably don’t need to tell you that a search for dragons might well be a wild calanchi goose chase.  Because, yes, this is all a lot of Bologna.

[Picture: Anser quadrupes (Four-footed goose), wood block print from Ulisse Aldrovandi, 1570 (Image from University of Oklahoma Libraries).]

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