Pacific Northwest tree octopus
The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus is a fake animal created in 1998 by Lyle Zapato. Zapato's website says the tree octopus is real, and that it lives on both land and water. Zapato created this website about the fake tree octopus to show how important it is to think carefully about whether things on the Internet are true or not.
The original website that described the fake species is commonly used as an example in internet literacy classes to teach students to check more carefully if sources of information are reliable.
The text included other hoax species and organizations, mixed with links to pages about real species and organizations. Despite the falsehoods shown on the site, all 25 seventh-grade students involved in one well-publicized test believed the content. All but one of the 25 rated the site as "very credible".
- "Help Save The Endangered Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus From Extinction!".
- Beth Krane (November 13, 2006). "Researchers find kids need better online academic skills". UComm Advance. University of Connecticut. 25 (12). Retrieved 2008-01-11.
Don Leu, Chair in Literacy and Technology at UConn, "All 25 students fell for the Internet hoax....anyone can publish anything on the Internet, and today's students are not prepared to critically evaluate the information they find there".
- Matthew Bettelheim (March 14, 2007). "Tentacled tree hugger disarms seventh graders". Inkling.
Of the 25 seventh-graders identified as their schools’ best online readers, 24 recommended this bogus website to another class that Leu had told them was also researching endangered species.