The SyFy Channel has built a reputation for taking the creature/horror genre to its (il)logical extreme, and the recent release of the movie "Sharknado" is certainly no exception. The antics in the film, which involve tornadoes filled with man-eating sharks, might seem beyond ridiculous. (And well, for the most part, they are.) But the film's central premise — that a tornado could pluck creatures from the sea and deposit them on land — actually has some scientific merit.
In fact, there are numerous accounts throughout history of animals raining from the sky, most likely the result of getting sucked up by a tornado. Although no shark tornadoes have ever been reported, tornadoes and waterspouts have been known to lift animals like fish, frogs and even alligators and drop them ashore, often still alive and kicking. (Yes, you read that right: alligators.)
Here are five documented instances of real-life animal tornadoes, including the gatornado.
One of the most likely animals to get sucked up into a waterspout are small fish. Most recently, residents of Agusan del Sur in the Philippines were left dumbfounded after dozens of 3-inch mudfish began raining from the sky. A couple of years earlier, a similar event occurred in Lajamanu, Australia, when perch began falling from the clouds by the hundreds. Many of them were still alive and flopping after they landed. Fishnadoes usually involve smaller species or younger fish, simply because larger specimens are too heavy to get sucked into a spout. But that doesn't mean that man-eating sharknadoes aren't beyond the realm of possibility...
Rains of frogs are another relatively frequent form of animal tornado, and have been documented as far back as the third century AD. The Greek author Athenaeus, quoting the historian Heraclides Lembus, wrote of such an account: "In Paconia and Dardania it has, they say, before now rained frogs… So great has been the number of these frogs that the houses and the roads have been full of them." More recently, in 2005, a frognado was reported in the Serbian town of Odzaci.
This one might almost be on par with the sharknado on the horror scale: a tornado filled with stinging, venomous jellyfish. The jellyfishnado actually happened, though. Or at least, that's according to a report in 1894 out of Bath, England. Jellyfish, roughly the size of a shilling, apparently rained by the thousands.
Though not as horrifying as a sharknado or jellyfishnado, the wormnado might be the squirmiest, most disgusting animal tornado of them all. Yes, the sky actually rained worms in Jennings, La., in July 2007, shortly after a waterspout was reported 5 miles from town. The worms reportedly came down in slithering, tangled clumps.
This story might be the closest thing to a real-life sharknado. According to a report from 1887 in the New York Times: "Dr. J. L. Smith, of Silverton Township, while opening up a new turpentine farm, noticed something fall to the ground and commence to crawl toward the tent where he was sitting. On examining the object he found it to be an alligator."
Smith went on to find himself surrounded by eight alligators in total, which had apparently been dropped from the sky by a distant waterspout. If his account is to be believed, then this was history's first and only documented case of a genuine, no joke, gatornado.
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