Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Legend of the Club-Tusked Walrus

club-tusked walrus

Here we find the very rare skull of the ancient club-tusked walrus on an arctic ice floe. Referred to jokingly by scientists as "an evolutionary mistake," this walrus was at a distinct disadvantage for both fighting off predators and climbing out of the water, which modern walruses are better equipped to do.

However, in addition to being extinct, the club-tusked is also notable for it's eyes. Unlike most mammals, indeed most animals, the eyes do not completely decompose. Not bone, but a substance closer to a metal in consistency, it is highly unusual to find an intact set such as this specimen. It is not known if the X in the eye was visible when the animal was alive or only after it died.

The species was discovered in 1906 when a large block of ice broke away from a glacier. Unlike most paleontological finds, scientists didn't have to dig deep to find it, it simply floated by them as they were on their way to unearth a Woolly Mammoth.

Astounded with their discovery, much fanfare surrounded the curious-looking creature. Inspired by the coverage, a young Charles Schulz, who worked for a Minnesota Newspaper as an editorial cartoonist, studied the photos of the animal and then made a decision that would affect the cartooning world forever. He used the distinct X shape in the eye to indicate a character in his cartoon that was either dead or passed-out drunk.

The trend soon became an expected convention in all manner of cartooning. Shows you how even the most unlikely and unintentional connections can have far reaching effects.

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At 9:46 AM, Blogger Jeope said...

I always wondered where the X-eye originated!


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