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Stranger than fiction: the real-life Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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Ahead of the release Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, based on J K Rowling's novel of the same name, here is our selection of the real-life weird and wonderful beasts who could have sprung from the Harry Potter author's imagination...

Fantastic Beast: Star-Nosed Mole

Where to Find It: Wet lowland areas of Canada and the north-eastern USA

This little chap looks as though its nose has exploded. Alternatively, it could have crept out of an Alien movie. In fact, its highly specialised snout comprises 22 separate appendages, each of which are loaded with highly sensitive sensory receptors. That's how it hunts down tasty worms and insects.

Fantastic Beast: Fossa

Where to Find It: Madagascar

The largest carnivorous mammal on the island of Madgascar, the Fossa looks like it's been bodged together on a Friday afternoon from bits of cat, dog and mongoose. As a result, it's been difficult to classify, but most authorities now agree that it's most closely related to the mongoose family. Fossa means 'hidden anus'. 

Fantastic Beast: Blobfish

Where to Find It: Deep waters off the coastlines of Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania

Has there ever been a more aptly named beast? The blobby blobfish is a lazy gelatinous lump. Because its density is slightly less than that of water, it simply floats above the seabed. It doesn't bother expending energy on swimming but just waits for marine snacks to float by.

Fantastic Beast: Sun Bear

Where to Find It: The lowland forests of southeast Asia

The smallest member of the bear family, the Sun Bear bears - if you'll pardon the pun - an uncanny similarity to one of our favourite domestic pets. That's why it's often been called the dog bear. Despite its name, the Sun Bear is actually nocturnal. And rather like a certain Pooh, it loves honey and has an exceedingly long tongue that it pokes into bees' nests.

Fantastic Beast: The Penis Snake

Where to Find It: The Brazilian rainforest

Curiously, nature's rudest-looking animal is neither a penis nor a snake. It's acutally a Caecilian, or limbless amphibian. Needless to say, it has acquired a number of colourful nicknames. The Sun newspaper - never a stickler for accurate taxonomy - dubbed it the Man-aconda.

Fantastic Beast: Seapig

Where to Find It: In the sea, obviously. Specifically on the floor of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.

As you might expect, the seapig loves mud. Particularly the nutrient-rich mud on the ocean floor, through which this plump critter snuffles in search of tasty morsels. Favourite snack? A nice big hunk of rotting whale carcass. There are enormous numbers of seapigs out there, but we humans rarely get to see them.

Fantastic Beast: Slime Mould

Where to Find It: Almost anywhere, usually in soil

Hang on a minute? What's a mould doing in a list of beasts? Well, the slime mould is arguably the most bizarre and mysterious organism on the planet. It's not a plant or an animal. Scientists used to think it was a fungus, but now they've agreed that it isn't. What they do know is that this brainless, slithery single-celled organism has all kinds of amazing properties, including the ability to work out the quickest route to food. There's a movie connection too. It inspired the cult 1958 sci-fi film 'The Blob'.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is due to roar into Cineworld on 18th November.