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12 animals mistaken for mythical creatures

By: Bryan Nelson on June 9, 2010, 1:25 p.m.
Skull of a dwarf elephant, cyclops

Photo: wonker/Flickr

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Dwarf elephants

Look at this elephant skull out of context, and you might believe you were looking at the remains of a giant one-eyed beast. In fact, prehistoric dwarf elephants (with skulls much smaller than modern elephants) used to roam the Mediterranean islands, including Crete, Sicily, Malta and Cyprus. Extinct by the time ancient Greeks encountered their skulls and remains, these elephants are likely the origin of the mythical creature known as Cyclops. The "eye socket" on the skull is actually the central nasal cavity for their trunks.