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1560 Gesner myth of the glutton wolverine

1560 Gesner myth of the glutton wolverine

C011/0857

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Credit

PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

The Wolverine (Gulo gulo) or Glutton, squeezing between trees to defecate before resuming feeding. From Conrad Gesner's "Icones Animalium" published by Christof Froschover, Zurich, 1560. The myth that the Wolverine eats so much that it had to force out its faeces may stem from its german name Vielfrab meaning "devours much". The German name however may be an example of false etymology, as the Old Swedish name fjellfras, meaning mountain cat, may have become Vielfrab in German. Though not a correct observation, it was a very early attempt to describe animal behaviour using illustration (coming originally from Olaus Magnus' Carta Marina map of 1539). Topsell republished the figure in 1607 describing how "It may be that God has ordained such a creature in those countries where it is found to express the abominable gluttony of the men there, so that they may know their deformed nature'.

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