Someone found a weird, shriveled animal corpse near a Russian nuclear power plant, so now it's an alien. Seriously, Internet?
Adding fuel to the fire, unfortunately, are comments from a Russian biologist -- ones he now says have been taken out of context. Yegor Zadereev had announced -- quite reasonably -- that he isn't sure what kind of animal the decrepit little creature is. That's really not surprising, because:
1. Not every biologist has encyclopedic knowledge of every organism that might conceivably show up in their town.
2. This little critter has clearly gone through quite a bit of decay, further confusing its physiology.
3. It's even possible, given its proximity to a nuclear power plant, that the organism has radiation-related mutations -- though we'd obviously hope this wouldn't be the case, given the implications that would have for the safety of the plant.
4. Even to a barely-trained eye (read: my eye) it looks fairly embryonic. In other words, it's quite possibly a shriveled up chicken embryo, or something of that nature, and shriveled up embryos are as weird looking as you'd expect.
5. Who knows -- maybe it's a new species! A whopping average of 15,000 new species are discovered each year. Granted, most of these are insects and bacteria and other things more likely to escape notice than a weird winged thing in Russia, but it could happen. And it's a lot more likely than aliens.
In an email to The Post, Zadereev clarified his thoughts on the corpse.
"I am not specialist in vertebrates," he wrote "This is definitely some either embryo or aborted vertebrate species that can be identified by specialist. DNA analysis will give answer about species identity. All parts of animal (skin, fear, bones, legs, etc.) looks quite normal for species that we observe on earth."
He added "I am quite familiar with mass media. That is why [I am] a bit disappointed by mistake that I did myself – never comment on issues that might be attributed to something mystical or extraterrestrial."
Ain't that the truth.
If this is our first contact with an extraterrestrial species, I'll eat my hat.
This happens periodically: Something a little weird is found, scientists are "puzzled" over it, and the conspiracy theorists go nuts. Let me tell you a little secret, friends -- scientists are puzzled by a lot of things. Solving puzzles is basically a scientist's entire job. When a scientist isn't willing to come straight out and say "aha, that thing is definitely a chicken fetus that's been rotting in the water for six weeks" it's just because they're more careful about jumping to assumptions than, say, the people who blog about aliens are.
And if you still want to believe, here's one last reminder -- This happens all the time. "Alien" corpses make international news all the time. Two incidents in particular come to mind.
In 2009, some teenagers in Panama claimed to have found an alien corpse. It was pretty freaky:
And back in 2003, scientists found a tiny, unusual corpse in the Atacama desert in Chile. What could it possibly be? Definitely an alien. Until the DNA evidence came back showing that it was definitely human -- and probably just suffered from some profound defect.
But DNA evidence actually failed to stop the "definitely an alien" rumors on that little guy, and I'm sure Russia's weird baby chicken won't be any different.
This post has been updated with commentary from Yegor Zadereev.