Monday, February 1, 2010

Emu teeth and other internet lies

This is a real emu. See his beak?

This is fake.

You probably knew that, but allow me to share a little story.

My daughter is doing a report on an animal in her 2nd grade class, and she chose an emu. She wanted an animal 1, with a funny-sounding name, and 2, that she knew nothing about before doing the report. I admired both those reasons.

So we sat down at my laptop together and went to a few reputable sites on animals, and she wrote down some facts on emus.

Then she decided to print out a couple of pictures. We went to google images, she typed in "emu," and picture #2 above was the first one that popped up.

Wow! We said. That's astonishing, I said. I explained to her how surprised I was, because I'd never heard of a bird with teeth before, let alone canine teeth, and we talked about how the kind of teeth you have shows what kind of food you eat. I said I was surprised that what we'd read so far hadn't mentioned anything about teeth, and we needed to do some more research. I was thinking of the platypus which is only one of two mammals on the planet that lays eggs, and the platypus is also from Australia, so could the emu be another example of species blending that I'd never heard of? The sad truth, gentle reader, is that I bought it. Of course this emu with teeth is just someone online having a bit of fun and doctoring photos.

So we did further research and found out we'd been had.

I was embarrassed, but this was a teachable moment if I'd ever seen one, so I called to my 4th grade son, and we all studied this photo carefully and talked about how real it looks. Never, I said, think that just because it's online, it's true. Especially stuff drawn randomly in a google search. There is a wealth of wonderful and useful information, but there is also a whole flotilla of silly jokes and downright lies, and it's up to us to check and double check any information gleaned from the internet.

And other sources of information too, for that matter.

I hope they remember this. Ha! I hope I do, too!


  1. I was led to your blog from a comment on Excellence in Early Childhood Education, and I have to say, this post had me laughing out loud. We have all been "had" when reading things on the interent, but you put it so eloquently and familiar. It was like I was sitting with you & your daughter seeing that photo for the first time!! Thanks for making me laugh today :) I'll be back!!

  2. Thank you for visiting, Michelle! I look forward to keeping up with your blog, too!

  3. Crazy! I hope I would have been so thoughtful to continue my research and not assume that emus had teeth. I'll always remember this in future internet research. Beware of the toothed emu . . .