There are some lifeforms that are so strange, that even when you do see them, you can hardly believe they’re real. For instance, it’s hard to comprehend that we can exist on the same planet as such bizarre creatures like the duck-billed platypus and the Venus flytrap.

But there is one creature that is so odd, so out there, that it is simply without precedent. And unfortunately, its days may be numbered.

This is the Pacific Northwest tree octopus (Octopus paxarbolis), also known as the whip-tailed tree octopus.

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This is a rare amphibious cephalopod, found in both land and water.

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The Pacific Northwest tree octopus can be found in the temperate rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula on the west coast of North America.

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It’s an incredibly intelligent animal, with the largest brain-to-body ration of any mollusk in the world.

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Unfortunately, this strange and wonderful creature is endangered.

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Besides the problems with their natural habitats being destroyed, many tree octopi lost their lives when tree octopus hats became fashionable, such as this one from 1923.

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They were also unfairly demonized, even though they are generally quite harmless to humans.

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Perhaps the greatest threat to the Pacific Northwest tree octopus’ survival, though, is the fact that they never existed in the first place.

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That’s right. There’s absolutely no such thing as a tree octopus. It’s an hoax created by Lyle Zapato back in 1998.

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Don’t beat yourself up too hard if you fell for it, because a lot of people have. The hoax has been used in a number of Internet literacy classes, and in one study, an entire class of 25 seventh graders believed it to be true. The Internet can be a lot of fun, but you always have to remain skeptical!

Share this terrific tree octopus with your friends, and see if any of them fall for it!