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Accidentally Correct Zoology

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Left: Dim, a character from A Bug's Life (1998).
Right: Megaceras briansaltini, a rhinoceros beetle discovered in 2006.

"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 happens when a fictional species is made up for a work, or a fictional animal quality or ability is, only for a real example 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. Also compare Right for the Wrong Reasons, where someone coincidentally arrives to the right conclusion despite being mistaken about the facts, and Reality Is Unrealistic, where someone might believe something doesn't exist or is incorrect despite actually being real.


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. Contrast Science Marches On, where new discoveries prove assumptions or even previously admitted certainties wrong.


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  • The invalid dinosaur genus Agathaumas was named in 1872 for some rather unremarkable fossils that probably belonged to a Triceratops. Even though nobody knew what the whole skeleton looked like, artist Charles R. Knight illustrated it as a sort of imaginary cross between a Triceratops and a Styracosaurus, with three horns and a spiky frill (a combination which has since gone on to appear frequently in fiction). At the time, no dinosaur with this combination of features was actually known. In 2015, a dinosaur named Regaliceratops was discovered that looked almost exactly like the one in Knight's painting—and it came from the same time as the Agathaumas fossils too!

    Comic Books 
  • Flesh featured "furry tyrannosaurs". Decades before the discoveries of actual feathered tyrannosaurs: Dilong in 2004 and Yutyrannus in 2012.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: One Sunday strip features the "Calvinosaurus", a monstrous carnosaur which is bigger than Tyrannosaurus rex and eats sauropods. 1995 saw the discovery of a sauropod-hunting carnosaur that gained fame for usurping T. rex in size, and its name is Giganotosaurus. Although it should be noted Giganotosaurus is roughly the same height and mass as T. rex, whereas Calvinosaurus is ridiculously enormous to the point of devouring the largest sauropods in a single bite.

    Films — Animation 
  • A Bug's Life: Dim is 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.
    • The behavior of the grasshoppers—move to an area, eat everything, move on—is more in line with locusts than grasshoppers. However, it's since been discovered that some species of grasshoppers can morph into locusts under the right conditions, so the movie got it half-right. In some translations they're outright named locusts instead, though.
  • Finding Nemo: Although the blue whale that swallows Marlin and Dory in the film being portrayed as having a uvula (the grape-like ball that hangs in the back of your throat) was initially seen as inaccurate, the discovery of a similar "oral plug" in many baleen whales that closes their airways off when lunging for food, much like a human uvula, was discovered in 2022, rendering the addition of the organ somewhat accurate after all.
  • 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.
  • Ice Age, a franchise starting in 2002, has a "sabre-toothed squirrel" named Scrat. Cronopio dentiacutus is a small (8-9 inches long) squirrel-like mammal with a long snout and sharp canines, discovered in 2011. However, it lived during the Cretaceous Period, not the ice age, wasn't a rodent, and probably didn't eat acorns.
  • Pinocchio: Monstro the whale resembles a gigantic sperm whale with huge teeth on both upper and lower jaws, something real life sperm whales lack (having only thin teeth on their lower jaw). In 2008, a prehistoric sperm whale called Livyatan was discovered with gigantic tearing teeth on both jaws.
  • In Tarzan and the spin-off series The Legend of Tarzan, gorillas are shown catching termites with sticks. Back in 1999, when the movie was made, it was believed that only chimpanzees do this. However, in 2014, similar behavior was also observed in mountain gorillas.
  • The Tyrannosaurus rex in Fantasia was going to have two fingers as in reality, but Walt Disney himself thought three fingers looked better and changed it. The movie has the Tyrannosaurus fight a Stegosaurus, which actually lived 100 million years before Tyrannosaurus... and along the three-fingered carnosaur Allosaurus.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The monster from Alien was the Trope Codifier for Nested Mouths, but it was later discovered that Moray eels have these as well, although they use them to yank their prey down their throats rather than to punch holes in their heads. The phenomenon is now known to actual biologists as a "Pharyngeal jaw".
  • Jurassic Park: The velociraptors are nothing like and much larger than real-life Velociraptor, which was about the size of turkey, and are based on Deinonychus instead — but are, in fact, far too large to be Deinonychus either, as even the largest specimens didn't quite reach a meter of height at the shoulder. However, after filming of the first movie had started, an even larger species than the movie raptors called Utahraptor was discovered. In the years since then, another dromaeosaur has been found matching Jurassic Park's raptors for size, and it lived in roughly the same time and place as the raptor Grant was digging up. It's called Dakotaraptor. Both are still not complete matches, since Utahraptor and Dakotaraptor had feathers (the arm bones of Dakotaraptor even have quill knobs to prove it) unlike the raptors in the book and movie. Also, Utahraptor turned out to be more bizarre-looking than JP's raptors in having a stockier build, shorter legs and tail, and a procumbent jaw.
  • Jurassic Park III: A two-fold example:
    • The size of Spinosaurus, known by mostly fragmentary remains at the time, was exaggerated in order to make it a more terrible threat than the previous films' Tyrannosaurus. Later findings revealed that Spinosaurus was the largest carnivorous dinosaur of all time.
    • The scene with the Spinosaurus swimming behind a river boat and sneaking on it was recycled from the first book, where a Tyrannosaurus did this on a park's tour barge. It was already known at the time that Spinosaurus was mainly a fish eater but it was believed it stayed on the river margins and captured passing fish like a crane or a grizzly bear. In 2014, it was discovered that Spinosaurus was adapted to swimming to the point of being semiaquatic and having trouble walking on land on two legs. The 2020 discovery of Spinosaurus's tadpole-like tail further confirmed its aquatic lifestyle.
  • 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.
  • In Napoleon Dynamite, the main character doodles "ligers", "a lion-tiger mix, bred for its skills in magic". Since the creature looks nothing like a real one, either the character or the filmmakers were unaware that lions and tigers can breed in captivity and that the hybrids they produce are indeed known as "ligers". People who watched the movie first may believe that reports of ligers are hoaxes because of it. This is addressed in the animated spin-off series, where Napoleon encounters much more realistic ligers that are lazy zoo animals with no magical powers. Except one cub, who is every bit as awesome and magical as Napoleon believes.
  • Rebirth of Mothra 3: When Mothra Leo first arrives in the late Cretaceous period, there are a couple glimpses of a Brachiosaurus-like sauropod living alongside Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops, as a seeming case of Anachronism Stew. Years later, it would turn out that titanosaurs (including Alamosaurus, the sauropod that was a contemporary of T. rex) were closely related to brachiosaurs.
  • The 1940 film One Million BC (the original version of the more famous 1966 One Million Years B.C.) features a "dinosaur" that is a crocodile with a sail taped on its back. Discoveries in 2014 and then in 2020 demonstrated that Spinosaurus had very crocodile-like proportions (elongated skull, short hind legs, broad paddle-like tail), looking very much like a crocodile with a sail on its back.

  • All Yesterdays: All Your Yesterdays, the fan-made response contains three hypotheticals about extinct animals that later turned up on the fossil record:
    • A filter-feeding anomalocarid, "Cetiocaris", was almost immediately followed by the discovery of Tamisocaris. The discoverers referenced the fictional creature directly when they proposed the name Cetiocaridae for a new clade containing Tamisocaris.
    • The small, tree-climbing, long-fingered scansoriopterygid dinosaurs, which were interpreted at the time as aye-aye like, were speculated to be gliders with membranous wings similar to gliding mammals, but unheard of in dinosaurs. Yi qi, a new scansoripterigid with preserved membrane impressions, was published three years later.
    • The pterosaur Rhamphorhynchus depicted as diving into the water to catch its prey, rather than skim-feeding on the surface. This is now considered the likelier feeding method of most pterosaurs.
  • Earth's Children: In the second book (1982), set in Eastern Europe 30,000 years ago, Ayla claims to have seen a sabertooth cat once. This is treated as a case of Not So Extinctnote  but it was still a stretch: sabertooths were believed to have disappeared from the Old World in the Middle Pleistocene, thousands of years before modern humans colonized Europe. However, in 2003 a Homotherium jaw was fished out of the North Sea, and dated right to the time setting of the book.
  • The New Dinosaurs: An Alternative Evolution: Some types of creature created as part of the book's Speculative Biology 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 Hateg Island dinosaurs and Europasaurus.
    • Long-necked, long-legged running pterosaurs became reality once better remains of azhdarchids were discovered (Dixon's were flightless, however).
    • Small arboreal coelurosaurs, such as microraptorines and scansoriopterygids, did indeed exist.
    • Large flightless birds did evolve in the presence of non-avian dinosaurs. Gargantuavis in particular is not too unlike the troumble.
    • Fur-like plumage was present on several 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.
    • Some scansoriopterygids — small Asian coelurosaurs — such as Yi and Ambopteryx have since been discovered to have glided with membranous wings.
    • A pterosaur has been discovered that used its wings in a penguin-like manner: Alcione elainus.
  • Raptor Red:
    • Bakker included a therizinosaur ("segnosaur") 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.
    • When the book was written in 1995, no Early Cretaceous diplodocids were known. Then, in 2014, Leinkupal laticauda was found in Argentina. Granted, it lived in a different continent from Utahraptor, but it still lived at exactly the same time.
  • In the Tarzan book series, starting in 1912, the protagonist is raised by a fictional ape species named "Mangani", which combines the physical and behavioral traits of chimpanzees, gorillas and primitive humans. In 1996, in the Bili Forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a subspecies of chimpanzee was discovered that is larger than other chimpanzees and shows some gorilla-like behavior. The similarity between the Mangani and the "Bili ape" did not go unnoticed.
  • Paddington Bear:
    • The titular character is a bear from Peru. The only bears native to that region are spectacled bears, but Paddington looks more like a brown bear. Around 2016, a wildlife photographer discovered a spectacled bear with a golden-brown fur color, different from the normal dark brown or black fur color of common spectacled bears. The photographer even noted the similarity between the golden spectacled bear and Paddington Bear.
    • Paddington was originally supposed to come from "Darkest Africa"; it was changed to "Darkest Peru" after someone pointed that there are no bears in Africa but there are in Peru. However, before the 19th century there was indeed a small brown bear subspecies in the mountains of North Africa.
  • In John Hodgman's The Areas of My Expertise, he tells a long, absurd story about how the term "lobster" originally referred to a type of sea otter found on the coast of New England, which was driven to extinction by the introduction of "new lobsters" to America (a story parodying the disastrous introduction of starlings to the New World in Real Life), and how for a while, Maine fishermen would use the term "furry old lobster" to distinguish the otters from the crustaceans. Hodgman's friend Jonathan Coulton even wrote a tie-in Protest Song called "Furry Old Lobster", lamenting the decline of the fictional animal, turning it into a kind of a mascot for the book. A few years later, the yeti crab - a deep-sea, fur-bearing crustacean - was discovered. In Hodgman's next book, More Information Than You Require, he takes the existence of an actual furry lobster-like creature as kind of a personal challenge from reality, and promises the reader that his ability to make up truly ridiculous lies is undiminished.
    • On a whole different level, there was an actual marine mustelid in New England that was driven to extinction by human hunting in the 1860s: the Sea Mink.
  • Quest for Fire:
    • Despite being published in 1911, the book has even more different hominid species than the film, all coexisting on a vaguely Eurasian setting. At the time it was only known that Neanderthals and H. sapiens had coexisted in Europe. Nowadays, we know that Neanderthals, H. sapiens, and a third hominid species (Denisovans) coexisted in Central Asia. Also that several hominid species existed at the same time in early Pleistocene Africa and in Late Pleistocene Southeast Asia.
    • The "blue-haired men" were modeled on African mountain gorillas, which had been recently discovered at the time. Twenty-four years later, the giant gorilla-like ape Gigantopithecus was discovered in East Asia.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Future Is Wild (2003):
    • The 5 million years AD segment has "Carakillers", a flightless terror bird-mimic evolved from South American caracara. In 2008, a flightless caracara from Pleistocene Jamaica was described.
    • Fans assumed that the four-winged Great Blue Windrunner, from the 100 million years AD segment, was inspired by Microraptor, a gliding dinosaur discovered to have been four-winged in the same year. However, according to Dougal Dixon, the Windrunner was thought up alone by the show's ornithology consultant Phil Currie, without Currie being aware of Microraptor.
    • The Spitfire Beetle is a beetle that uses mimicry to prey on vertebrates that would normally eat them. In 2011, it was discovered that Epomis ground beetles do exactly that, only with frogs instead of birds.
  • Walking With Cavemen: The scene where an eagle hunts a baby Australopithecus is likely based on reports of African eagles hunting monkeys. Three years later, it was published that the Taung Child (the first identified Australopithecus and probably the most famous after Lucy) had been killed and eaten by an eagle.
  • In Planet Dinosaur the chaoyangopterid model is re-utilised to represent some pterosaurs in the mid-Cretaceous of Africa. As it happens, an actual chaoyangopterid would be found there a decade after the show debuted, Apatorhamphus.
  • Walking with Dinosaurs:
    • The dromaeosaurid from the last episode, "Death of a Dynasty", was seen as an example of Anachronism Stew, as Dromaeosaurus (what the animal was called during production despite its flaws) was extinct by the K/Pg extinction. Skip ahead to 2013, and the dromaeosaur Acheroraptor, just the right size to match with this creature, is discovered in the exact formation the episode takes place in.
    • The Tapejara in "Giant of the Skies" were restored as mainly black with a red crest, years before fossil evidence confirmed those same colors.
    • The Didelphodon, while completely inaccurate per later fossil evidence, turned out to be a remarkably close depiction of a different Mesozoic mammal: Repenomamus giganticus.

    Puppet Shows 

    Video Games 
  • Age of Empires: The first game is notorious for Misplaced Wildlife, featuring African elephants, bald eagles, and alligators in a setting that was originally intended to include only Greece and the Middle East. However, Microsoft told Ensemble to include East Asian factions to boost sales in Asia... and there happens to be a Chinese species of alligator.
  • Pokémon: Slugma and Magcargo are a Fire/Rock-type slug and snail made of lava and debuted in Generation 2 in 1999. Two years later, a species of snails would be discovered to live near volcanoes, camouflaged as volcanic rocks and lava as well as able to withstand high temperatures in order to live there. However, Slugma and Magcargo would not be found in volcanic areas in the games until after the real-life volcanic snails were discovered.
  • Saurian's decision to paint the Dakotaraptor eggs blue was inspired by eggshells of Oviraptor, a distant relative of dromaeosaurs (the devs only decided to also feature a playable oviraptorosaur, Anzu, later). It was later discovered that the eggs of Deinonychus, a very close relative of Dakotaraptor, were also blue.
  • Some of the most difficult enemies in Dino Crisis are the Therizinosaurus, depicted as carnivorous dinosaurs with giant slashing claws on their hands. It was not until after the game was released that real therizinosaurs were established as herbivores. However, their portrayal bears a resemblance to a real dinosaur called Megaraptor, which at the time was itself mistakenly believed to be a giant dromaeosaur.

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

    Western Animation 
  • Godzilla: The Series: Komodithrax is depicted as reproducing asexually like Godzilla. While iguanas capable of reproducing asexually are still unknown, in 2005, it was discovered Komodo dragons are indeed able to produce fertile eggs without a mate.
  • The Wuzzles: Crocosaurus is a crocodile-dinosaur hybrid as his name suggests. Not only are crocodiles and dinosaurs closely related to each other, but there were dinosaur-like relatives of crocodiles (rauisuchians, aetosaurs, etc.) and dinosaurs with crocodile-like heads (spinosaurids).
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • Mr. Fluffypants is depicted as having a completely white front end, white feet, and a completely black back end and tail reminiscent of black pants. There is a type of cat with white spotting that was discovered in Russia in the 2010s that creates such a pattern, called the Panda pattern, in the mid- to high-grade form.
    • The teal coloration of Perry the Platypus was surprisingly validated by the discovery that platypuses actually have biofluorescent greenish pelts when viewed in ultraviolet light conditions.
  • Many cartoon cats of the 1920s and 1930s, such as Felix the Cat, Mike, Ortensia and Homer, and Beans, have black fur all over except for a white muzzle or face. Many of them also have white back paws or back and front paws with the white fur stopping at the ankle/wrist. There is a type of cat with a white spotting pattern that was discovered in Russia the 2010s, called the Topaz white spotting pattern, that produces a pattern with white only on the face/muzzle, throat, feet, and tip of tail without a white chest or belly in the low-grade form, which resembles the Inkblot Cartoon Style cats.
    • Animaniacs: Yakko, Wakko, and Dot Warner, although from the 1990s, are Inkblot Cartoon Style Cartoon Creature characters who have that general appearance of the low-grade Topaz cat white spotting pattern, black furred with a white face and white feet.

    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, has 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.
  • In 1843, naturalist Edward Newman suggested that the recently discovered pterosaurs were bat-like, flying marsupials, and created a piece of art portraying them as such. While he couldn't have been more wrong, he depicted them with mammalian fur, which looks quite similar to the pycnofibres that pterosaurs had in real life.
  • 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".
  • In 1915, an ornithologist named Steve William Bebee hypothesized a "Tetrapteryx" stage in bird evolution where avian ancestors had feathers on their wings and legs. In 2003, Microraptor was discovered. They were the first dinosaurs found with feathers on both their wings and legs.
  • Maned domestic cats, that is, maned like a male lion, are a good example of this.
    • Back in the 1990s, the "Longhair Sphynx" or "Powderpuff Sphynx" was a fancy April Fool's joke, poking fun at breed classification by registries. Several years after the joke, a longhaired mutant Sphynx really did appear. Said cat was a neutered domestic pet. It had long, fine fur on the chest and sides and short fur on the legs, but was bald elsewhere. This gave it the appearance of a maned cat.
    • In February 2009, a similar cat, known as Ugly Bat Boy, was reported in Exeter New Hampshire, USA. He was part of a litter of four kittens, two normal, plus he and a similar-looking female sibling that died at a few weeks old.
  • Pretty much any pre-2015 work that features Brontosaurus has become this, now that the genus turned out to be separate from Apatosaurus rather than synonymous.
    • The same goes for any genera that were a fairly common sight in older works that had been considered to be a junior synonym but later turned out to be separate after all. Particularly Dinichthys (formerly synonymous with Dunkleosteus), Eohippus (formerly synonymous with Hyracotherium), Scolosaurus (formerly synonymous with Euoplocephalus), and Stenonychosaurus (formerly synonymous with Troodonnote ).
  • An old Australian hoax pulled on tourists is that of the drop bear a supposed deadly koala that jumps unsuspecting people from trees. Cue the discovery of Thylacoleo carnifex, the "marsupial lion". Some scientists believe it jumped down at prey from trees (like the similarly sized leopard does), and it coexisted with prehistoric humans. It remains unclear if the drop bear hoax has origins in native oral history of the creature, or the similarities are a mere coincidence.
  • When Gideon Mantell restored the first ever dinosaur skeleton in 1834, he famously misinterpreted Iguanodon's thumb spike as a nose horn. But like all dinosaurs, Iguanodon actually had a nose horn... as a hatchling.
  • Andrewsarchus was originally described as a mesonychid, which were believed to be related to whales. It was later discovered that mesonychids were not whale relatives, but also that Andrewsarchus (not actually a mesonychid), was.
  • Instances of Polar Bears and Penguins that keep their penguin species and time setting vague (or not explicitly set in any time after the 1850s) are this, by virtue of (Antarctic) penguins being actually named after a flightless, black-and-white bird from the Arctic that was hunted to extinction in the 1840s: the also called great auk.