Opinion Brief

The completely bizarre Venezuelan poodle moth

What's fuzzy, adorable, and terrifying all at the same time? This mysterious little winged creature, which has become an overnight internet sensation

The video: This little critter has been compared to everything from a cross between "a miniature gargoyle and a Furby" to a puzzling new "Pokemon character." But whatever people think of its looks, the Venezuelan poodle moth is, apparently, the real deal. The photo, snapped in 2009 by zoologist Arthur Anker of Brazil's Federal University of Ceará, has become something of an overnight sensation after Anker posted it onto his Flickr page. (Take a closer look below.) He first spotted the tiny insect with a 1-inch wingspan while walking through Canaimá National Park in Venezuela, and is now asking other zoologists to help identify its genus. A few experts believe the poodle moth is related to the furry muslin moth (Diaphora mendica), which gives scientists hope that there are still fantastical creatures out there we haven't even seen yet. "Thousands of new insects are discovered every year in the South American rain forests," says cryptozoologist Kark Shuker. "So it would be by no means unusual if [Anker's] Venezuelan poodle moth proved to be one, too."

The reaction: The poodle moth looks like it belongs to a family called Arctiidae, says Alan Boyle at NBC News. There are an estimated 11,000 species of Arctiidae around the world, including 6,000 already known in this region. That could be why classifying this critter has proved to be so "tricky." In any case, "holy crap," says David Mendez at Tuscon Weekly. This thing "has the distinction of being both something that I would run away in terror from, as well as something that I want to capture and train to battle other frightening creatures with inexplicable elemental powers." It's certainly "adorably weird," says George Mathis at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It's unfortunate that scientists trekking through the park in Venezuela have been unable to spot it again, but the creature doesn't appear to be a hoax. Its rediscovery would confirm what we pretty much already know: "Nature is chock full of amazing stuff." Take a look:

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