Real-Life Animal: Dodo (Raphus cucullatus)
Size: 3.3 feet (one meter) tall; 23 to 46 pounds (10 to 21 kilograms)
IUCN Red List Status: ᴇxᴛɪɴᴄᴛ
According to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the non-magical world knows the diricawl as the dodo, a flightless bird once found on the island of Mauritius. In Scamander’s telling, people don’t see the dodo today because it can vanish at will when it senses ᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀ. The truth of the dodo’s disappearance is much sadder: Habitat loss and run-ins with human-introduced predators drove the dodo to ᴇxᴛɪɴᴄᴛion by the late 1600s.
Current research on the dodo’s closest living relative, the Nicobar pigeon, could present its own form of magic by letting scientists understand the details of the dodo’s genome, which was sequenced in 2015. Don’t get your hopes up for reviving the dodo: Scientists haven’t yet cloned a bird successfully, much less brought a bird species back from the ᴅᴇᴀᴅ.
Real-Life Animal: Star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata)
Range: Canada and the United States of America
Size: 7.6 inches (19.3 centimeters) long
IUCN Red List Status: Least Concern
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them describes the niffler as a mole-like creature with an affinity for stealing shiny objects. While the star-nosed mole doesn’t have great eyesight, it has another heightened burgling sense: touch.
The star-nosed mole’s 22-fingered nose is one of the most touch-sensitive organs in the animal kingdom, studded with thousands of microscopic sensory receptors called Eimer’s organs.
This stellar nose lets the mole “see” its environment with remarkable detail and hunt for small invertebrates underground with startling efficiency. A star-nosed mole can identify, catch, and finish eating its prey in less than a quarter of a second—making it the world’s fastest-eating mammal.
7. ʙʟᴀsᴛ-Ended Skrewt
Real-Life Animal: Bombardier beetles (Subfamily: Brachininae)
Range: Every continent except Antarctica
Size: Up to one inch (2.5 centimeters) long
IUCN Red List Status: Not Yet Assessed
In the Harry Potter novels, the ʙʟᴀsᴛ-ended skrewt is the product of a breeding experiment gone wrong—a crablike creature that smells of rotten fish and can ᴇxᴘʟᴏsively ʙʟᴀsᴛ its enemies.
The non-wizarding world has a creature capable of similar pyrotechnics: the bombardier beetle. When ᴛʜʀᴇᴀᴛened, the beetle can produce a ɴᴏxɪᴏᴜs spray that can reach temperatures of 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius) and can fly at predators at up to 22 miles an hour (10 meters per second).
In fact, bombardier beetles have a skill that even ʙʟᴀsᴛ-ended skrewts don’t seem to have: rapid-fire. Bombardier beetles’ outbursts pulse rapidly instead of going all at once. The result? Pulses of spray that fire out between 300 and a thousand times per second.
Real-Life Animal: Stick insects (Order: Phasmida)
Range: Global, mainly in the tropics and subtropics
Size: Up to 24.6 inches (62.4 centimeters) long
IUCN Red List Status: Least Concern to Critically ᴇɴᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀed
In Scamander’s telling, bowtruckles are stick-shaped insects that guard the trees that yield wood for magical wands. In reality, insects of the order Phasmida invoke a magic themselves—by resembling a dizzying variety of leaves, twigs, sticks, and branches.
Some 3,000 Phasmid species live worldwide. Their shapes, colors, and sizes vary spectacularly: Timema cristinae, a stick insect native to North America, is only half an inch (1.3 centimeters) long, while Phryganistria chinensis Zhao, found in China in 2014, is a staggering 24.6 inches (62.4 centimeters) long.