Since the late 1800s, reports have surfaced from South America of a creature known as the minhocão.  The following article is taken from The Strangerest; no ownership is claimed over this article, it is being posted purely for educational purposes.

In the late nineteenth century, many sightings surfaced from South America of a creature called the minhocão. This creature was reputed to be similar to a huge earthworm. An article by Auguste de Saint-Hilaire in the American Journal of Science was the first published reference to this shadowy creature of southern Brazil. Its name, he said was derived from the Portugese minhoca (earthworm). Sainte-Hilaire recorded several instances, usually at fords of rivers, where livestock were captured by one of these creatures and dragged under the water. Instances he recounted took place at the Rio dos Piloes, Lake Padre Aranda, and Lake Feia, all in the province of Goyaz.

A possible parallel with the Brazilian beast was described in 1866 by Paulino Montenegro. He described a creature in the folklore of Nicaragua called sierpe. This animal was described as “like a large snake,” and lived in ponds called chaquites.

Legends of the Minhocão were nearly forgotten until 1877, when another article was written on the creature, this time for the German publication Zoologische Garten by zoologist Fritz Müller. He provided further data on the monster, including accounts of trenches dug by the subterranean creature which were so large as to divert rivers, and which destroyed entire orchards. This article also included, unlike Saint-Hilaire’s, an actual sighting of the monster. The sighting took place sometime in the 1840s near the Rio dos Papagaios in Paranà State.

A black woman going to draw water from a pool near a house one morning … saw a short distance off an animal which she described as being as large as a house moving off along the ground. … In the same district a young man saw a huge pine suddenly overturned … he found the surrounding earth in movement, and an enormous worm-like black animal in the middle of it, about twenty-five metres long, and with two horns on its head.

He also mentioned a sighting which took place in 1849. Lebino José dos Santos heard tales of a Minhocão which had been found dead near Arapehy, Uruguay. The creature was found lodged between two rocks. It was reputed to have skin “as thick as the bark of a pine-tree” and was armored with “scales like those of an armadillo.” One was also seen near Lages, Brazil in approximately 1870.

Francisco de Amaral Varella … saw lying on the bank of the Rio das Caveiras a strange animal of gigantic size, nearly one metre in thickness, not very long, and with a snout like a pig, but whether it had legs or not he could not tell. … whilst calling his neighbours to his assistance, it vanished, not without leaving palpable marks behind it in the shape of a trench …

Two possible theories were proposed for the identity of the Minhocão. One, which is generally the most popular, holds that the creature was none other than a surviving glyptodont (a prehistoric South American animal which resembled an armadillo). Another held that it was a large species of lepidosiren (serpentine South American lungfish).

Karl Shuker debunks the glyptodont theory in his discussion of the creature by pointing out that glyptodonts were not burrowing animals (in addition to their lack of adaptations for burrowing, such as massive claws, their well-developed defenses were evidence that they lived much of their life above ground and near predators) and that they were presumably not nearly as aquatic in nature as the Minhocão is supposed to be. In addition, he points out that, contrary to what may be thought, the armored carapace of the glyptodonts was not terribly similar to that of an armadillo.

He goes on to debunk the lepidosiren theory and to endorse an identification of the creature as a species of caecilian. Caecilians are wormlike amphibians native to Mexico and South America, among other places. They physically resemble earthworms, and unlike most amphibians, live their lives nearly entirely below ground. Two sensory organs on the animals’ head which, at times, resemble horns. Caecilia can also grow quite large (one Colombian species grows to nearly 5 feet).

The giant caecilian theory is certainly an enticing one and one which could yet prove to be true, although doubtless the creature would prove to be much larger than any known caecilian. In my view, though, Shuker’s dismissal of the lepidosiren theory does not sit well. This possible identity should not be ruled out entirely. Given the evidence, we may conclude that the glyptodont theory, although appealling, does not account for the sightings.

But the case may never be proven, as the Minhocão has not been sighted since the 1870 sighting recounted above. It may be that the creatures have become extinct since the “heyday” of reports, unless one considers certain reports, usually passed off as being of a Sucuriju gigante or giant anaconda, of horned water serpents.

 

Very little information is known about the creature known as the Minhocão; what is it, you ask?  That’s up for you to decide…

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