David Attenborough's Natural Curiosities

A Curious Hoax?

Series 1 - Episode 2 A Curious Hoax?



The platypus and the midwife toad may have confounded the scientific world, but the stories behind our understanding of them are almost as fascinating as the creatures themselves. The former was considered a hoax when a specimen made its way back to England in 1799. Even Darwin later remarked, “Surely two distinct creators must have been at work.”

David Attenborough puts the history back into natural history in this admirably concise programme, which examines the media sensations and tussle of scientific reputations that in one case ended in ignominy and suicide.


David Attenborough highlights the curiosities that have led to accusations of forgery, but have ultimately helped assist the rethinking of evolution. When early explorers brought the first specimen of a duck-billed platypus to England in 1799, it was considered so bizarre it was deemed a hoax. Similarly, the midwife toad became the centre of a scientific storm in the 1920s that led to accusations of fakery.

Cast & Crew

Presenter David Attenborough
Executive Producer Stephen Dunleavy