It’s been a while since we checked in on how the Renaissance is doing with its ocean mysteries, so here is a marine biology update circa 1550.
Seals come in two forms:
Walruses are horrifying
But whales are worse
Fish can have human faces
but not always where you’d expect
As for the rest
… it’s probably better left alone.
[All images except chest face fish from Historiae animalium liber IV : De piscium & aquatilium animantium natura. Chest face fish from The noble lyfe & natures of man of bestes, serpentys, fowles & fisshes yt be moste knowen]
Seven years after an elk hunter accidentally
stumbled on a fossil in Montana’s Charles M. Russell National Wildlife
Refuge, the new species he found by mistake has a name — Nakonanectes
“Nakonanectes” is to honor the
native Nakona people of Montana, and “bradti” is after David
Bradt, the hunter who discovered the fossil, according to a statement from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
Bradt first discovered the fossil in a stream in 2010, he believed it
was from a dinosaur. “It’s about the size of a cow, and I’m thinking
it’s a triceratops,” he told the Associated Press.
But when paleontologists excavated and studied the fossil, it turned
out it belonged to a prehistoric sea creature that lived in an inland
sea east of the Rocky Mountains some 70 million years ago, according to
the AP. Read more (4/14/17 10:24 AM)
It’s Mythological Throwback Thursday! This week we’re cracking the case of one of the most fearsome sea monsters of all time. In the icy waters of the far north, we seek the Kraken!
The Kraken (from the Norwegian word krake, an approximate translation of which would be ‘twisted creature’) is a gargantuan and mysterious aquatic beast. The first clear record we have of this legendary creature is from Örvar-Oddr, a 13th-century Icelandic saga, in which it was referred to as the hafgufa. It is said to be large enough to swallow whales and ships; indeed it was claimed to be possible to sail through its mouth.
Early scientists speculated that the Kraken was incapable of reproduction, for their numbers were so small. Compared to an island in size, it was said that they lured in vast shoals of prey-fish by regurgitating part of their previous meal, then swallowing them up. Eugh. This disgusting tendency was nevertheless also a lure for fishermen, who sought the bounteous hauls of such a swarming.
Tales of the Kraken may have been influenced by the story of the Greek sea monster, Charybdis. Both creatures are told to generate vicious whirlpools that could easily sink ships, and both have gigantic, monstrous forms and appetites.
Norwegian Erik Pontoppidan, 18th-century bishop of Bergen, said that the Kraken could pull down even the largest warship with its tentacles. The consensus among 18th-century investigators was that it was a type of gigantic cephalopod, a colossal octopus or squid, but earlier descriptions pitched it as more of a crab-like or whale-like being.
Tales of gigantic sea monsters have petered out as we have learned more about the ocean depths and the areas in which they might hide from us have shrunk. This hasn’t diminished their presence in fiction though: the Kraken had a prominent role in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and features in works by Tennyson, Melville, Jules Verne and China Miéville. As a mysterious, powerful and deadly being, it seems the appeal of the Kraken will not soon disappear to the depths…
Thanks for taking the plunge with us! We look forward to seeing you again next week for another Mythological Throwback Thursday!
Region of origin: Hook Island, Queensland, Australia
A purported large sea animal photographed
by Robert Le Serrec off the coast of Hook Island near Australia while he and his family were out sailing. The pictures showed a creature that appeared massive but “tadpole-like,” with a large, broad head and thin, serpentine body approximately 90 feet in length. Le Serrec said it approached their boat before retreating back towards the sands of the ocean floor, coming close enough where he noted a wide mouth full of tiny teeth, smooth skin like that of a shark and a seemingly injured tail.