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Dinosaur fossils shaped sea monster stories


Posted on Friday, 26 April, 2019 | Comment icon 18 comments

Depiction of a sea monster from 1621. Image Credit: Chet Van Duzer
A new study has highlighted the role that fossils have played in influencing sightings of sea monsters.
The research was conducted by St Andrews University statistician Dr Charles Paxton who, along with palaeontologist Dr Darren Naish of Southampton University, analyzed 1,700 sea monster sightings dating back to between 1801 and 2015.

Over the years these stories have evolved from tales of giant fish and snake-like 'sea serpents' to stories of long-necked creatures similar to the iconic portrayal of the Loch Ness Monster.

The researchers found that the shape of the creature described in any given sighting seemed to be directly influenced by the dinosaur fossil discoveries of the time.
It's a concept that has been put forward before - most notably by 1960s sci-fi author L Sprague De Camp who wrote the Conan the Barbarian stories.

"The discovery of long-necked marine reptile fossils in the 19th century does appear to have had an influence on what people believe they have spotted in the water," said Dr Paxton.

"The problem is an interesting fusion of history and palaeontology which shows that statistics can be used to rigorously test all sorts of strange hypotheses, if the data is handled in the right way."

Source: The National | Comments (18)

Tags: Sea Monsters

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #9 Posted by stereologist on 26 April, 2019, 14:06
There was a case of castle someplace with a dragon skull at the entrance. That story might be the case of a crocodilian skull. 
Comment icon #10 Posted by the13bats on 27 April, 2019, 5:11
i recall a story a croc was brought to some king 100s of years ago but escaped into the town and was called a dragon with no question it wasnt
Comment icon #11 Posted by oldrover on 27 April, 2019, 15:39
That might be based on certain legends connected to Pembroke Castle. 
Comment icon #12 Posted by Earl.Of.Trumps on 27 April, 2019, 15:52
Then there were all those craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazzzzy stories by sailors about giant squids LOL! And some people *believed* them LOL!!!
Comment icon #13 Posted by Carnoferox on 27 April, 2019, 16:05
These stories have been confirmed by multiple physical specimens of giant squids. Can't say the same about sea serpents or lake monsters...
Comment icon #14 Posted by Carnoferox on 28 April, 2019, 16:33
Naish has now posted a blog about the paper. http://tetzoo.com/blog/2019/4/27/sea-monster-sightings-and-the-plesiosaur-effect He's also made a pdf of the paper available. https://research-repository.st-andrews.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/10023/17586/ESH_38_1_02_Paxton_Naish.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
Comment icon #15 Posted by stereologist on 29 April, 2019, 3:03
There was good reason for the stories: The contents of whale stomachs The scars on whale skin Recovery of squid bodies on coasts So yes, there was a reason to believe - the physical evidence. How interesting? They actually had verifiable evidence.
Comment icon #16 Posted by Engineer69 on 30 April, 2019, 0:28
Robert E Howard wrote the Conan the barbarian stories. Not L S Decamp .
Comment icon #17 Posted by Engineer69 on 30 April, 2019, 0:29
Robert E Howard wrote the Conan the barbarian stories. Not L S Decamp .
Comment icon #18 Posted by Piney on 30 April, 2019, 2:04
He continued it after Howard whacked himself. 


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