Agnano's monster: the deformed tadpole that confused Milan

by Federico Quagliuolo

The Loch Ness Monster? No, we are satisfied with Agnano's monster.

This story even tells us Lazzaro Spallanzani: the legendary Emilian biologist, who wanted to study the Agnano Lake in person intrigued by his bad reputation.

In the eighteenth century there was in fact a fake Neapolitan scientist which made a lot of talk about himself a Milan, where he went saying he had caught the baby of a sea monster and to want to show it to the scientific community of Northern Italy. Indeed it was a strange beast: it was as big as a grown man's arm and was half frog and half fish.

According to the man's stories, of course a mythomaniac, he was in fact alone a cub of the legendary sea monsters that populated the lake of Agnano: that was enough for create a legend that animated the fantasies of the Milanese cultural salons of the late 1600s.

monster of agnano

Agnano's monster revealed!

In the end, the intervention of Antonio Vallisneri who, intrigued by the legend of monster fish of Agnano, he decided to dissect it to study it.
The surprise was bitter for those hoping for a twist: it was in fact a poor tadpole that, by a strange and fortuitous case of life, it had not completed its evolutionary process correctly. However, the abnormal size of this animal remained, which, in fact, could not be explained.
Unable to go to Naples in person, the Tuscan scientist eventually explained that probably in Agnano the frogs were the largest in Italy and therefore, by chance, the tadpole had grown excessively.

The biologist Spallanzani who, on a long journey in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, decided to personally go to Agnano to study this infamous and legendary lake. Here, too, in the end, he found that all things considered there were so many frogs, but equal to all the other frogs of Italy both for size, color and behavior.

He came to suspect that probably the same tadpole, due to its unusual size, it must have been taken from some ship from America or from distant continents, where very large frogs actually exist and where it probably had been taken as an object of study for the Neapolitan universities. Then he was sold as a "monster of Agnano" in Northern Italy, fascinating the entire scientific community of the late eighteenth century with a huge fake.

References:
Works by Lazzaro Spallanzani: Travels to the two Siciles and in some parts of… - Google Books

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