Rhinogradentia is a fictitious order of mammal invented by German zoologist Gerolf Steiner. Members of the order, known as Rhinogrades, Snouters, Nasopods, or Nasobames, are characterized by a nose-like feature called a nasorium, which evolved to fulfill a wide variety of functions in different species. Steiner also created a fictional persona, naturalist Harald Stümpke, who is credited as author of the 1961 book Bau und Leben der Rhinogradentia (translated into English in 1967 as The Snouters: Form and Life of the Rhinogrades).
Rhinogradentia, their island home of Hy-yi-yi, zoologist Harald Stümpke, and a host of other people, places, and documents are fictional creations of Gerolf Steiner (1908-2009), a German zoologist. Steiner's fictional work as Stümpke is his best known, but he was an accomplished and respected zoologist in his own right. He held a professorship at the University of Heidelberg and later the Technical University of Karlsruhe, where he occupied the department chair from 1962 to 1973.
Harald Stümpke's account
Steiner's fictional author, credited as "quondam curator of the Museum of the Darwin Institute of Hy-yi-yi, Mairuwili," provides a very detailed account of the order and individual species, written in a dry, scholarly tone. The evidently expert voice of the author, his competent writing, and apparent familiarity with conventions of academic literature set the work apart as a rare example at the intersection of fiction and scholarship.
Steiner credits himself by name as the illustrator of Stümpke's book and author of its epilogue, in which he explains the researcher's fate and why the book might be the only remaining work on the subjects it covers. Prior to a disaster at Hy-yi-yi which claimed Stümpke's life, Stümpke sent materials to Steiner to serve as basis for illustrations in preparation for the book's publication.
Discovery at Hy-yi-yi
According to Stümpke, Rhinogradentia were native to Hy-yi-yi, a small Pacific archipelago consisting eighteen islands: Annoorussawubbissy, Awkoavussa, Hiddudify, Koavussa, Lowlukha, Lownunnoia, Mara, Miroovilly, Mittuddinna, Naty, Nawissy, Noorubbissy, Osovitissy, Ownavussa, Owsuddowsa, Shanelukha, Towteng-Awko, and Vinsy. The islands occupied 1,690 km2 (650 sq mi) and the archipelago's highest peak, 2,230 m (7,320 ft), was on its main island, Hiddudify (Hy-dud-dye-fee). Each of the islands was home to distinctive fauna, dominated by Rhinogradentia, the only mammals other than humans.
The first description of Hy-yi-yi published in Europe was that of Einar Pettersson-Skämtkvist, a Swedish explorer who arrived in Hiddudify in 1941, after escaping from a Japanese prisoner of war camp. In the late 1950s, atomic bomb testing by the United States military caused all of the islands to sink into the ocean, destroying all traces of rhinogradentia, their unique ecosystem, and all the world's experts on these subjects—who happened to be holding their congress there at the time.
Pettersson-Skämtkvist's descriptions of the animals he encountered there led zoologists to name them after the title creature in a short nonsense poem by Christian Morgenstern, The Nasobame (Das Nasobēm). In the poem, which exists outside of this fictional universe and also served as an inspiration for Steiner, the Nasobame is seen "striding on its noses" (auf seinen Nasen schreitet).
Biological characteristics and behavior
According to the book, the order's remarkable variety was the natural outcome of evolution acting over millions of years in the remote Hy-yi-yi islands. All the 14 families and 189 known snouter species descended from a small shrew-like animal, which gradually evolved and diversified to fill most of the ecological niches in the archipelago — from tiny worm-like beings to large herbivores and predators.
Many Rhinogrades used their nose for locomotion, for example the shrew-like Hopsorrhinus aureus, whose nasorium was used for jumping, and Otopteryx, which flew backwards by flapping its ears and used its nose as a rudder. Some species used their nasorium for catching food, for example by using it to fish or to attract and trap insects. Other species included the fierce Tyrannonasus imperator and the shaggy Mammontops.
Stümpke describes the following genera of Rhinogrades:
Since the book's original publication several scientists and publishers have written about rhinogradentia as though Steiner's account were true, though it is unclear how many of those who continued and popularized the joke did so intentionally. Wulf Ankle wrote that the order "is not a poetic invention, but has really lived". Erich von Holst celebrated the discovery of "a completely new animal world". Timothy E. Lawlor's widely read textbook Handbook to the Orders and Families of Living Mammals, includes an entry for rhinogradentia that does not acknowledge its fictional nature. Decades later, papers are still published purporting to continue Stümpke's research or otherwise paying homage to Steiner's hoax. In a 2004 paper in the Russian Journal of Marine Biology, for example, authors Kashkina & Bukashkina claim to have discovered two new marine genera: Dendronasus and an as yet unnamed parasitic taxon.
In popular culture, Steiner's work influenced or inspired a number of works of art. Japanese noise musician Merzbow, for example, gave the name Rhinogradentia to both a song and an album in the Merzbox box set.
- Codex Seraphinianus
- Eoörnis pterovelox gobiensis - an older biological hoax, a fictional bird
- Fictitious entry
- Lists of fictional species
- Stümpke, Harald (1961). Bau und Leben der Rhinogradentia. Stuttgart: Fischer Verlag. ISBN 3-437-30083-0.
- Stümpke, Harald (1981). The Snouters: Form and Life of the Rhinogrades. Translated by Leigh Chadwick. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press.
- "Development of Biology at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (University of Karlsruhe)". Karlsruher Institut fur Technologie.
- Webster, Bud (June 2003). "Curiosities: The Snouters: Form and Life of the Rhinogrades by Dr. Harald Stümpke (1967)". Fantasy & Science Fiction.
- Morgenstern, Christian (1905). "Das Nasobēm". Galgenlieder. Berlin: Bruno Cassirer Verlag.
- "Nasobem - Schneuzender Schniefling - Forschung". Der Spiegel. 24 January 1962.
- Naish, Darren (2007-04-01). "At last, the rhinogradentians (part I) – Tetrapod Zoology". Scienceblogs.com. Retrieved 2014-07-12.
- Naish, Darren (2007-04-01). "When snouters attack (or… rhinogradentians part II) – Tetrapod Zoology". Scienceblogs.com. Retrieved 2014-07-12.
- Lewin, Ralph A. (April 1983). "Humor in the Scientific Literature". BioScience 33 (4): 266–268. doi:10.2307/1309040.
- Cain, Joe. ""You must be joking!" Pranks, Jokes, and other Silliness in Science". University College London.
- Lawlor, Timothy E. (1979). Handbook to the Orders and Families of Living Mammals. Eureka, CA: Mad River Press.
- Simons, Paul (December 22–29, 1983). "Science Jokers". New Scientist: 949.
- Kashkina, M. I. (2004). "Dendronasussp. -- a New Member of the Order Nose-Walkers (Rhinogradentia)". Russian Journal of Marine Biology 30 (2): 148–150. doi:10.1023/b:rumb.0000025994.99593.a7.
- Bukashkina, V. V. New Parasitic Species of Colonial Rhinogradentia. Russian Journal of Marine Biology 30. p. 150.
- "Rhinogradentia steineri". Encyclopedia of Life.
- "Merzbow - Merzbox". Discogs.
Steiner's books as Stümpke have been translated into other languages, sometimes crediting other names based on the country of publication. Harald Stümpke, Massimo Pandolfi, Hararuto Shutyunpuke, and Karl D. S. Geeste are pseudonyms, while translator names are authentic.
- Stümpke, Harald (1961). Bau und Leben der Rhinogradentia. Stuttgart: Gustav Fischer Verlag. ISBN 3-437-30083-0. OCLC 65616734.
- Stümpke, Harald (1962). Anatomie et Biologie des Rhinogrades — Un Nouvel Ordre de Mammifères (Trans. Robert Weill). Paris: Masson. ISBN 9782100054497. OCLC 46829688.
- Stümpke, Harald (1967). The Snouters: Form and Life of the Rhinogrades (Trans. Leigh Chadwick). Garden City, NY: The Natural History Press. OCLC 436148.
- Pandolfi, Massimo (1992). I Rinogradi di Harald Stümpke e la zoologia fantastica (Trans. Achaz von Hardenberg). Padua: Franco Muzzio. ISBN 88-7021-485-0. OCLC 875787215.
- Shutyunpuke, Hararuto (1997). Bikōri: atarashiku-hakken-sareta-honyūrui-no-kōzō-to-seikatsu. Tokyo: Hakuhinsha. ISBN 4-938706-19-9. OCLC 76500640.
- Geeste, Karl D. S. (1988). Stümpke's Rhinogradentia: Versuch einer Analyse. Stuttgart: Gustav Fischer Verlag. ISBN 3-437-30597-2. OCLC 28345723.