From the University of Connecticut:

When researchers in the Neag School of Education asked 25 seventh-graders from middle schools across the state to review a web site devoted to a fictitious endangered species, the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus, the results troubled them:

* All 25 students fell for the Internet hoax;
* All but one of the 25 rated the site as ?very credible;?
* Most struggled when asked to produce proof ? or even clues ? that the web site was false, even after the UConn researchers told them it was; and
* Some of the students still insisted vehemently that the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus really exists.

I’ve been to the site; as an aficionado of satire, I must say it’s very well done (q.v., “Reaching out with one of her eight arms, each covered in sensitive suckers …” and the “tentacle ribbon”). These kids need a Baloney Detection Kit or something; a little close reading would have revealed several obvious leg pulls, such as:

? “booming populations of its natural predators, including the bald eagle and sasquatch”

? “Tree octopus hat from 1923” (on the cover of a “Cascadia Evening Post”) accompanying the paragraph about “Tree octopuses became prized by the fashion industry as ornamental decorations for hats, leading greedy trappers to wipe out whole populations to feed the vanity of the fashionable rich.”

? “Participate in tree octopus awareness marches. You can demonstrate their plight during the march by having your friends dress up as tree octopuses while you attack them in a lumber jack costume.”

? Related links at the end of the page to such things as “Save the Mountain Walrus” and “The Rock Nest Monster” and organizations such as “” and “People for the Ethical Treatment of Pumpkins.”

Speaking of sensitive suckers, however, I was distressed to find out the following:

The students ? identified as their schools’ most proficient online readers ? are taking part in a federal research project, funded by a $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.