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Accidentally Correct Zoology

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A real species that resembles a fictional one is discovered later on.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
EdnaWalker on May 28th 2017 at 9:39:27 PM
Last Edited By:
EdnaWalker on Aug 15th 2017 at 10:38:36 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

"It just goes to show how diverse ancient mammals are, that we can just imagine some bizarre critter and later find something just like it."
— Guillermo Rougier on the similarity of Cronopio dentiacutus to Scrat.

Accidentally Correct Zoology is where a fictional species is made up for a work, only for a real species resembling it to be discovered later on. The animal or other organism should first appear in a work of fiction, without the author believing that it actually exists, to count. What was once thought to be Artistic License – Biology is later confirmed by science to be real.

Compare Real After All, an in-universe counterpart where a creature that is considered a myth or superstition is revealed to really exist in the universe of the work.

A subtrope of Accidentally Correct Writing. Not a Subtrope of Defictionalization unless the real-life species or breed is a result of artificial selection or genetic engineering that is inspired by fiction. Compare to Reality Is Unrealistic.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Films — Animation 
  • A Bug's Life: Dim was a member of a fictional species of rhinoceros beetle created for the movie. Eight years after the movie's release, a real species of rhinoceros beetle that resembled Dim, called Megaceras briansaltini, was discovered. This trope was coined "the Dim Effect" by its discoverer Brett C. Ratcliffe because of this.
  • Ice Age
    • Scrat from the Ice Age movies, a franchise starting in 2002, is a sabre-toothed squirrel. Cronopio dentiacutus is a small (8-9 inches long) squirrel-like mammal with a long snout and sharp canines, discovered in 2011.
    • The Gastornis from the second film don't appear to invoke the same Carnivore Confusion among herbivores as other carnivores in the series do. Skip ahead several years and it's discovered that Gastornis was actually a herbivore.
  • In The Good Dinosaur, the protagonists are attacked by a snake sporting four small, lizard-like legs. When the movie was developed, although there was a lot of indirect evidence that snakes evolved from four-legged ancestors, no such snake was known in the fossil record. Only a few days after the release of the movie's trailer in 2015, Tetrapodophis was discovered.

    Film - Live Action 
  • The velociraptors of Jurassic Park are nothing like and much larger than real-life velociraptors, and are based on Deinonychus instead. However, after filming had started a movie!raptor-sized dinosaur, called Utahraptor was discovered.
  • In King Kong (2005), Skull Island apparently has a breed of theropod dinosaurs that developed batlike wings in lieu of feathers. Ten years after the film's release, a real theropod with a similar adaptation (Yi qi) was confirmed to exist, though it still has feathers.

    Literature 
  • Hobbits are small human-like beings in Tolkien's Legendarium, first appearing in The Hobbit in 1937. When the prehistoric hominid Homo floresiensis was discovered in 2003, it got the nickname "hobbit" due to its similar size to the race in Tolkien's books.
  • Some species described in the Speculative Documentary book The New Dinosaurs: An Alternative Evolution were later described in some form in real life, although most didn't resemble Dixon's creations except in the most basic concepts.
    • Dwarf island dinosaurs were discovered in the form of Haeg Island dinosaurs and Europasaurus.
    • Long-necked, long-legged running pterosaurs became reality once better remains of Azhdarchids were discovered.
    • Small arboreal coelurosaurs, such as microraptorines and scansoriopterygids.
    • Large flightless birds evolving in the presence of non-avian dinosaurs; Gargantuavis in particular is not too unlike the troumble.
    • Fur-like plumage on ornithischians (Tianyulong, Psittacosaurus, and Kulindadromeus).
    • A number of dinosaurs are portrayed with "fur", which, at the time, was a very unorthodox idea. As science marched on, it was discovered that many dinosaur species were covered in downy feathers that could look fairly fur-like.
    • An Asian coelurosaur that glided with membranous wings: Yi.
  • Bakker included a therizinosaur ("segnosaur") in Raptor Red's story even though none were known from the right time and place when the book was written. (Perhaps not coincidentally, it was depicted as a mountain dweller, therefore living in an environment unlikely to preserve its fossils.) A decade later, a therizinosaur (Falcarius) contemporaneous with Utahraptor was published.

    Mythology 
  • Older Than Print: Vampires appear in many European cultures, in various shapes and forms - with the most iconic being the blood-sucking monster that can transform into a bat. Of course, vampire bats very much exist - there are three separate species of them. All are native to Central and South America, and thus had not been discovered until well after the vampire myth had developed...

    Webcomics 
  • Hero Oh Hero features an In-Universe version; there's a race of people with strong nature themed magic, pointed ears and green colouration who are called "elves" as a slur by The Empire, because of their resemblance to the elves in their folklore.

    Real Life 
  • In 500 BC, Hanno the Navigator described a tribe of "hairy women" he encountered in Gabon, that the locals called "Gorillas". His report was largely disregarded as a traveler's tale, but in 1847, a large, hairy hominid was indeed discovered in Africa, which was named "gorilla" after the creature described by Hanno. The animal, now called the western gorilla, become prominently featured in popular culture from the 1860s on. note  Whether or not Hanno's "gorilla" is the same as the animal we know today is still unknown.
  • For a long time, pterosaurs with both teeth and head crests only were known in popular culture, mostly in the form of toys (smaller species with toothy jaws lacked crests, whereas larger species with spectacular crests lacked teeth). In 2003, a pterosaur having both features was discovered, and was given the name Ludodactylus, from the Latin word "ludus" meaning "toy".

Feedback: 50 replies

May 28th 2017 at 10:18:01 PM

  • Velociraptors in Jurassic Park are depicted as much larger than Real Life velociraptors were. They bear more resemblance to Utahraptor, a another dinosaur in the same family which was discovered after the release of Jurassic Park.

May 28th 2017 at 10:21:02 PM

The velociraptors of Jurassic Park are nothing like real-life velociraptors, which were much smaller, and are based on Deinonychus instead. However, after filming had started a movie!raptor-sized dinosaur (Utahraptor) was discovered.

May 29th 2017 at 12:14:57 AM

This screams The Same But More Specific to me. And implausible too, considering that this trope plays with discovery rather than creation.

May 29th 2017 at 1:22:45 AM

This is a coincidence.not a trope, since the species cannot be made deliberately Defictionalized is a trope because the product is deliberately made to take advantage of the demand created by the fictional version.

At best this would be trivia.

May 29th 2017 at 1:51:00 AM

Well, even as a Trivia-page, it might be interesting... especially since it reminds me of a possible Older Than Print example.

  • Vampires appear in many european cultures, in various shapes and forms - with the most iconic being the blood-sucking monster that can transform into a bat. Of course, vampire bats very much exist - there are three sepparate species of them. All native to Middle- and South America, and thus not discovered until well after the vampire myth had developed...

May 29th 2017 at 6:42:01 AM

Possible page quote: "It just goes to show how diverse ancient mammals are, that we can just imagine some bizarre critter and later find something just like it." - Guillermo Rougier on the similarity of Cronopio dentiacutus to Scrat.

  • Scrat from the Ice Age movies, a franchise starting in 2002 is a sabre-toothed squirrel. Cronopio dentiacutus is a small (8-9 inches long) squirrel-like mammal with a long snout and sharp canines, discovered in 2011.

May 30th 2017 at 1:37:42 AM

  • Examples section
    • Media section titles changed to match Media Categories.
    • Capitalized (european).

May 30th 2017 at 5:55:57 AM

The Gorilla was first described in 1903, but have been featured in fiction since the 1980s and the first recorded description of the word was from 500 BC (Hano the Explorer used to describe a tribe of "hairy women" that locals called Gorillas. Whether or not this was the actual animal we know to day is still unknown.). The reason for this was that the Gorilla was well known to people in the areas they lived in, and western travelers, but weren't scientifically cataloged.

May 30th 2017 at 6:57:05 AM

It may be relevant to mention Reality Is Unrealistic for comparison.

May 30th 2017 at 1:29:55 PM

^^ The western gorilla was actually scientifically described in 1847. It's the eastern gorilla (known back then as mountain gorilla) that was described in 1903.

May 31st 2017 at 3:46:09 AM

Also, "but gorillas have been featured in fiction since the 1980s" makes no sense (they were featured in fiction much earlier than that). I suppose the OP meant the 1880s, but that still somewhat later than the description of the western gorilla in 1847. Was there any significant media about savage apes in Africa before that time, other than Hanno's report?

May 31st 2017 at 3:48:05 AM

<accidental duplicate>

May 31st 2017 at 5:56:44 AM

What was I on... Meant 1860s (I think I was torn between something else). The story as I've always heard it is that "Hairy Wild People" are common mythic archtypes in the region like the Sasquatch and Yeti were to their native local population (in the case of the Yeti, the Sherpa people treat the matter of the creature's existence as settled science).

Of course, this does get into Cryptid Craziness, which offers this question: If the animal is "Mythical" but can be tied to a real or possibly real modern animal, does it count?

May 31st 2017 at 10:42:00 AM

I think the animal should first appear in a work of fiction, without the author believing that it actually exists, to count.

This is a subtrope to Accidentally Accurate.

May 31st 2017 at 1:26:44 PM

^ And not a subtrope of Defictionalization, because if it is, then the species is actually "created" rather than discovered.

May 31st 2017 at 1:31:55 PM

^ Exactly. Unless the real-life species / breed is a result of artificial selection or genetic engineering, inspired by fiction.

May 31st 2017 at 2:45:09 PM

Compare Real After All, an in-universe counterpart where a creature that is considered a myth or superstition is revealed to really exist in the universe of the work.

May 31st 2017 at 2:49:54 PM

  • Hero Oh Hero features an In Universe version; there's a race of people with strong nature themed magic, pointed ears and green colouration who are called "elves" as a slur by The Empire, because of their resemblance to the elves in their folklore.

May 31st 2017 at 3:19:37 PM

  • Hobbits are small human-like beings in Tolkiens Legendarium, first appearing in The Hobbit in 1937. When the prehistoric hominid Homo floresiensis was discovered in 2003, it got the nickname "hobbit" due to its similar size to the race in Tolkien's books.

May 31st 2017 at 10:52:43 PM

Should we find a name that doesn't include the word Defictionalization?

Jun 1st 2017 at 12:09:35 AM

^ Good question. What would be a good name for this trope that doesn't include the word "Defictionalization"?

Jun 1st 2017 at 1:08:09 AM

^ Not sure. Since this is the Real Life counterpart of Real After All, maybe something similar to that name? Or perhaps Accidentally Accurate Zoology?

Jun 1st 2017 at 1:37:51 AM

I like Accidentally Accurate Zoology. It's fairly descriptive and halfway alliterative...

Jun 1st 2017 at 5:49:47 AM

^ I'm fine with that

Jun 3rd 2017 at 12:05:26 AM

I still think the gorilla example can be shortened. If the Western Gorilla was discovered in 1847, then being featured in popular culture from the 1860s doesn't count as "accidentally accurate". Maybe something like this:

  • In 500 BC, Hanno the Navigator described a tribe of "hairy women" he encountered in Gabon, that the locals called "Gorillas". His report was largely disregarded as a traveler's tale, but in 1847, a large, hairy hominid was indeed discovered in Africa, which was named "gorilla" after the creature described by Hanno (and become prominently featured in popular culture from the 1860s). Whether or not Hanno's "gorilla" is the same as the animal we know today is still unknown.

Jun 3rd 2017 at 12:45:31 AM

Jun 6th 2017 at 1:34:28 AM

I thought there's a relatively recent discovery of a flying reptile fossil that's named after Aerodactyl from Poke Mon?

Jun 6th 2017 at 3:14:55 AM

^ Does it look like Aerodactyl? If it's just named after it, that shouldn't count - for example, Gojirasaurus is named after Godzilla, but doesn't look that different from any other theropod.

Jun 7th 2017 at 6:29:32 AM

  • For a long time, pterosaurs with both teeth and head crests only were known in popular culture, mostly in the form of toys (smaller species with toothy jaws lacked crests, whereas larger species with spectacular crests lacked teeth). In 2003, a pterosaur having both features was discovered, and was given the name Ludodactylus, from the Latin word "ludus" meaning "toy".

Jun 7th 2017 at 6:41:18 AM

^^^ I checked Aerodactylus, which was indeed named after the creature from Pokemon, but shares not many other traits with it (Aerodactly has a long tail, a thick jaw and a pair of horn-like crests; Aerodactlyus has a short tail, a narrow, pointy jaw and no crest). The official description says: "The name derives from the Nintendo Pokemon Aerodactyl, a fantasy creature made up of a combination of different pterosaurian features. It seemed a pertinent name for a genus which has been synonymous with Pterodatylus for so long due to a combination of features."

Jun 7th 2017 at 10:47:17 AM

Is the example I mentioned not this trope?

Jun 9th 2017 at 1:25:41 PM

^ The example you mentioned is a example of this trope. I even put it in.

Jun 14th 2017 at 5:56:14 AM

Please bear in mind that Accidentally Accurate generated a big amount of misuse, and that it's been renamed to Accidentally Correct Writing per TRS thread. The move has still to be made, but the decision is taken.

Jun 14th 2017 at 6:11:07 AM

Accidentally Correct Zoology, then? Alliteration is lost, but the name is more clear.

Artistic License Biology should be mentioned in the description, maybe something like this: "What was once thought to be Artistic License Biology is later confirmed by science to be real."

Jun 18th 2017 at 7:46:38 AM

  • In King Kong 2005, Skull Island apparently has a breed of theropod dinosaurs that developed batlike wings in lieu of feathers. Ten years after the film's release, a real theropod with a similar adaptation (Yi qi) was confirmed to exist, though it still has feathers.

Jun 19th 2017 at 8:56:28 AM

  • Some species described in The New Dinosaurs An Alternative Evolution were later described in some form in real life, although most didn't resemble Dixon's creations except in the most basic concepts.
    • Dwarf island dinosaurs were discovered in the form of HaČ›eg Island dinosaurs and Europasaurus.
    • Long-necked, long-legged running pterosaurs became reality once better remains of Azhdarchids were discovered.
    • Small arboreal coelurosaurs, such as microraptorines and scansoriopterygids.
    • Large flightless birds evolving in the presence of non-avian dinosaurs; Gargantuavis in particular is not too unlike the troumble.
    • Fur-like plumage on ornithischians (Tianyulong, Psittacosaurus, and Kulindadromeus).
    • An Asian coelurosaur that glided with membranous wings: Yi.

Jun 23rd 2017 at 12:31:20 PM

  • Ice Age:
    • An extinct mammal that looked just like Scrat was discovered some time after the first film was released.
    • The Gastornis from the second film don't appear to invoke the same Carnivore Confusion among herbivores as other carnivores in the series do. Skip ahead several years and it's discovered that Gastornis was actually a herbivore.

Jun 23rd 2017 at 4:25:17 PM

  • Bakker included a therizinosaur ("segnosaur") in Raptor Red's story even though none were known from the right time and place when the book was written. (Perhaps not coincidentally, it was depicted as a mountain dweller, therefore living in an environment unlikely to preserve its fossils.) A decade later, a therizinosaur (Falcarius) contemporaneous with Utahraptor was published.

Jul 1st 2017 at 7:28:10 AM

  • In The Good Dinosaur, the protagonists are attacked by a snake sporting four small, lizard-like legs. When the movie was developed, although there was a lot of indirect evidence that snakes evolved from four-legged ancestors, no such snake was known in the fossil record. Only a few days after the release of the movie's trailer in 2015, Tetrapodophis was discovered.

Jul 23rd 2017 at 12:10:09 AM

Moved Other to the end of the Examples section as per Media Categories FAQ.

Created Mythology folder and moved the vampire example to it.

Changed Other folder to Real Life.

Aug 1st 2017 at 8:41:57 AM

Is this ready to launch? I think it is.

Aug 1st 2017 at 11:54:04 AM

Yes, it looks launchable. Doesn't have a ton of examples, but I guess it's a relatively rare trope.

Aug 15th 2017 at 10:38:36 AM

Bump! There's nothing in the way to get this launched.

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