October 12, 2021
We’ve all heard stories about fantastical creatures that people swear they’ve seen and have evidence of but can never be confirmed. Think Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster. Mermaids or the Kraken. While there’s no evidence backing the existence of these creatures, either in present day or at any point in the past, there must be a reason why such legends were created in the first place. In most cases, the legend in grounded in fact.
While Third Pod might be on a break, Halloween comes around the same time every season. So this year we’re bringing you four stories from scientists who know a little something about the real-life animals that inspired these legendary creatures. In this first episode, we chatted with Cristina Brito, Director of the Centre for Overseas History at University of Lisbon, about the connections between mermaids and manatees, as well as Ryan Haupt, Ph.D candidate, Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wyoming and co-host of the podcast Science…sort of, about the connections between Bigfoot and prehistoric giant sloths.
This episode was produced and mixed by Shane M Hanlon.
Shane Hanlon: 00:00 Hi Nancy.
Nancy Boppy: 00:01 Hi Shane.
Shane Hanlon: 00:03 So today, I have a little quiz for you.
Nancy Boppy: 00:08 Ooh, I love the quiz sometimes.
Shane Hanlon: 00:10 Yeah. So, we should say, this is the second part of a two part series where we’re talking about mythical monsters and the real life animals that inspired them. And so, my first question for you, is what two creatures make up a griffin? Can you picture a Griffin?
Nancy Boppy: 00:31 Yeah. Aren’t those the things that sometimes are on like gothic buildings?
Shane Hanlon: 00:36 Sometimes.
Nancy Boppy: 00:37 So it looks like kind of scaly, right? Dragony?
Shane Hanlon: 00:43 It flies.
Nancy Boppy: 00:45 It flies. So it has wings. So we’re going to go with bird.
Shane Hanlon: 00:49 Bird. Sure.
Nancy Boppy: 00:51 And a… I mean, a lizard or a dragon, but a dragon is not a real thing. I don’t know.
Shane Hanlon: 01:01 No. So Griffin is a…
Nancy Boppy: 01:03 No.
Shane Hanlon: 01:05 Is traditionally an eagle and a lion.
Nancy Boppy: 01:08 Oh, okay. Okay.
Shane Hanlon: 01:11 Not quite as scaly, but-
Nancy Boppy: 01:12 Okay. Okay.
Shane Hanlon: 01:14 All right. I have a multiple choice for you, which of these is not a nickname for mermaids? Siren, a naiad, a kelpie, or a sirena?
Nancy Boppy: 01:31 Kelpie.
Shane Hanlon: 01:32 No, actually sirena.
Nancy Boppy: 01:34 What?
Shane Hanlon: 01:35 So sirena is-
Nancy Boppy: 01:36 I knew the first two were, the first two are.
Shane Hanlon: 01:39 Right. Sirena is… Oh shoot. I looked it up. It’s like the order of that like manatees are in.
Nancy Boppy: 01:45 Okay.
Shane Hanlon: 01:46 It’s a scientific name.
Nancy Boppy: 01:46 Kelpie. I never heard of kelpie.
Shane Hanlon: 01:48 Kelpie, yeah. So we could dive deep into this, people in like mythology would argue with kelpie because it’s a shape shifting thing, that oftentimes takes the form of a mermaid.
Nancy Boppy: 01:58 Okay. That just went down a weird route.
Shane Hanlon: 02:00 I know. I did a lot of research for these questions. All right, one more quick one. What region do these Bigfoot names come from? So there’s a lot of different names for Bigfoot. So where’s Sasquatch from?
Nancy Boppy: 02:14 Like what part of the world?
Shane Hanlon: 02:15 Yeah.
Nancy Boppy: 02:17 The Western United States. Canada.
Shane Hanlon: 02:19 Canada.
Nancy Boppy: 02:20 Canada. Nice!
Shane Hanlon: 02:22 What about Yeti?
Nancy Boppy: 02:24 Yeti? Canada.
Shane Hanlon: 02:26 No. Think like Himalayas.
Nancy Boppy: 02:30 Oh, the Himalayas. That’s my answer.
Shane Hanlon: 02:33 Nepal.
Nancy Boppy: 02:33 Okay.
Shane Hanlon: 02:34 What about a Yowie?
Nancy Boppy: 02:34 A Yowie?
Shane Hanlon: 02:38 A Yowie.
Nancy Boppy: 02:40 Maybe Australia.
Shane Hanlon: 02:41 Australia.
Nancy Boppy: 02:43 Oh my gosh, that was totally a guess.
Shane Hanlon: 02:45 And the last one, a skunk ape.
Nancy Boppy: 02:48 A skunk ape. I’m going to go Africa.
Shane Hanlon: 02:50 Nope.
Nancy Boppy: 02:50 Somewhere. A skunk ape. Mexico.
Shane Hanlon: 02:56 Florida.
Nancy Boppy: 02:58 Florida.
Shane Hanlon: 03:04 Welcome to the American Geophysical Union’s podcast about the scientist and the methods behind the science. These are the stories you won’t read in the manuscript or hear in a lecture. I’m Shane Hanlon.
Nancy Boppy: 03:14 And I’m Nancy Boppy.
Shane Hanlon: 03:15 And this is Third Pod from the Sun.
Shane Hanlon: 03:19 So like I said up top, this is the second episode in a two part series where we’re looking at mythical creatures and the animals that inspired them. And just as a reminder as well, we are currently doing some of our staff picks from Third Pod. So if you’ve heard this episode before, we hope you’ll listen again. If you haven’t, please stick around, but this is just a coincidence, but we are talking about two sea creatures. So it just happens to be that we’re sea themed this time. And so we’re going to start with the Kraken.
Nancy Boppy: 03:52 What’s a Kraken? Actually I heard, wasn’t there something that’s like bring on the Kraken. Isn’t that from a movie?
Shane Hanlon: 03:58 Yeah. Well, so the Pirates of the Caribbean movies had that in it. It’s a mythical sea creature that we’re going to learn more about. And so we’ll bring in our first interviewee to talk about it.
Rodrigo Salvado…: 04:13 So my name is Rodrigo Salvador, and I’m a curator of invertebrates at the Museum of New Zealand in Wellington. And I actually specialize in snails, land snails mostly. And as a curator, my job is to conduct research on mollusks and to look after, take care, and expand our collection of mollusks, and also do outreach activities in the museum.
Nancy Boppy: 04:46 Okay. That still does not explain what a Kraken is.
Shane Hanlon: 04:49 We’re getting there. All right. Just wait.
Rodrigo Salvado…: 04:51 Let’s start in the beginning. So as for my interest, it kind of started very early. I mean, the first memory of receiving a book as a gift was a book about Greek mythology that I got from my sister, and I kind of immediately got into it. And ever since then, it’s just been a sort of expansion of it. So I’ve always liked to read about these monsters, the stories about the gods, et cetera.
Shane Hanlon: 05:27 And this was independent of your kind of scientific interest. You just have this interest in Greek mythology.
Rodrigo Salvado…: 05:32 Completely independent.
Shane Hanlon: 05:33 Okay.
Rodrigo Salvado…: 05:33 Because when I was a child, of course I was interested in dinosaurs.
Shane Hanlon: 05:37 Sure.
Rodrigo Salvado…: 05:38 As all children are, but then they kind of faded away a little bit. I got into engineering in university actually. And then I dropped out and changed to biology. So I kind of lost the… I don’t know, kind of lost the interest in all the dinosaurs and the living world at some point, but then got back in it. And I mean in between there was Dungeons and Dragons of course. And I suppose that after I started biology, one thing just led to another in a natural way.
Shane Hanlon: 06:18 Kind of the initial interest then was in Greek mythology.
Rodrigo Salvado…: 06:21 Yeah. I suppose that has to do with Dungeons and Dragons. I’m always, I guess, the dungeon master, so I have to prepare adventures, come up with monsters, et cetera. So I already had an interest in mythology. So I was kind of looking into several monsters that kind of started off as sort of a common animal and just the legend just built up. And the Kraken was just one of them, but then there came one day that I thought, well, I could actually start, write an article about this Kraken. I’m already studying Malacology. So it’s just felt natural.
Rodrigo Salvado…: 07:05 And so I started to investigate it, the story behind it, all the reports that we have in the literature about sightings of these monsters, et cetera. And that goes back to the 12th century in Norway. So that’s the first actual report of a Kraken. If you believe it. And the thing is, back then, there were several sea monsters around, and there is this very old manuscript written by a king of Norway in the 12th century and he lists all sorts of sea monsters the Kraken is just one of them. But I think what happened in time, as the centuries just passed, all these monsters, some of them, they kind of were not strong enough I suppose, in the folklore, in the people’s minds, et cetera. And they just kind of faded away, and the Kraken was just a strong enough monster to surviving people’s memory I suppose.
Shane Hanlon: 08:15 There’s mention of Kraken going back hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years, right? The connection you’re making. And I want to ask, is this a connection unique to you, or are there other folks out there who have looked at Kraken and thought, okay, these people are probably seeing a giant squid.
Rodrigo Salvado…: 08:33 So yeah, in the very first reports, we don’t have actually much information besides the fact that the Kraken was gigantic. So at first it had a sort of a morphous quality to it. Some people said it was like a mounting or an island. So you can also imagine the proportions of the monster, but then it kind of started to evolve along the centuries. So we have representations of the Kraken as a giant humanoids, like a giant lobster, and a giant cephalopods too, of course. But the thing is, by time you reach the 18th century, the Kraken already had a sort of established cephalopod look. And it was such a strong image in the minds of the Nordic countries that Carl Linnaeus, the father of taxonomy, the modern biological classification, he actually included the Kraken as cephalopod in his book. The original book, Systema Naturae, that kind of defined and started the system of biological classification. It had the Kraken listed as a real animal under cephalopod.
Shane Hanlon: 09:55 I found it really interesting that the Kraken was listed as a species in and of itself, but it turns out there’s a lot of murkiness in the, is it a squid or is it a Kraken realm? So I asked Rodrigo for some clarity.
Shane Hanlon: 10:10 When was the first description of a giant squid as something separate and apart from this, like as itself, when did that first description happen?
Rodrigo Salvado…: 10:18 That was in Greece.
Shane Hanlon: 10:20 Okay.
Rodrigo Salvado…: 10:21 Actually. So it’s Aristotle, I think fourth century BC.
Shane Hanlon: 10:26 Oh, God. Long time ago. Okay.
Rodrigo Salvado…: 10:27 So, and that’s funny, because back then they knew that there were squids, normal squids, and there was a giant version of squids that was a different animal. And they actually just treated as it as an animal, not a monster. And they had plenty of monsters. So, you were left wondering why this one is not a monster, but anyway, they treated it as a real animal.
Shane Hanlon: 10:53 Was their Kraken, and then as people found that there’s also this thing out there that potentially could be the Kraken. Did they come together kind of separately? Because I think in my mind it was giant squid and it turns out the thing that people thought was a Kraken was actually always just a giant squid, but from the way you describe it, it’s that the Kraken wasn’t always a squid. It was this thing in the sea that was destroying stuff.
Rodrigo Salvado…: 11:20 So it’s very possible that the animal that started the whole thing was actually a giant squid. We can never be like a hundred percent sure about it, but there are good indications of it. So if you go back to other reports of the Kraken along the centuries, you will find something like there’s a Bishop, Pontoppidan, in Norway, and he wrote extensively about the Kraken. And that was the first moment when it was clearly a cephalopod. I mean, despite the huge colossal size, he assigns to the monster. There are some things, like the fact that it could make the waters around it dark. So that’s kind of a cephalopod thing, expelling ink to warm off predators, et cetera. So I think those were the very first signs that it was related to a cephalopod. Of course, anything that back then in the 12th century, even before that, anything that people would see while they were crossing from Norway to Iceland, anything that they will see floating around and that was kind of big, people would get scared of it, you know?
Shane Hanlon: 12:41 I know with Kraken there are these kind of these myths and stories of Kraken taking down ships, and causing all of this damage. So assuming that giant are actually Krakens, is there evidence that giant squids have ever done anything like this? Have they ever taken down a ship or anything like that? Is there any validity to the myths that were told in the past?
Rodrigo Salvado…: 13:10 No, definitely not. So I suppose that seeing one of those, like on the surface of the water might scare you quite a lot, especially if you were traveling around in a flimsy wooden boat back then. But the reality is that when squids are floating on the water like that, especially the giant squid, which lives deep under water, so they usually reach the surface when they have already spawned their eggs and are dying. So they would not be able, in any sense, to attack a ship or anything.
Rodrigo Salvado…: 13:49 But the thing is they might still… Well, they still have their defense mechanisms. So that includes, of course, releasing ink on the water. And they can also spout water through a structure called the funnel. That’s how they move with jet propulsion. But if they do that in the surface and people see like just a jet of water, so that might scare someone.
Shane Hanlon: 14:16 Sure.
Rodrigo Salvado…: 14:16 And it’s very likely that when they got back home, they wanted to tell the story. And this story is just kind of increased a little bit, like every time they were told. And then that’s how you end up with a monster.
Shane Hanlon: 14:33 Yeah. I can imagine over the years they become more and more exaggerated as the stories get passed on.
Rodrigo Salvado…: 14:41 Yeah. You just add one other detail. And of course, if you are telling a good story about monster, it needs to be big, it needs to be able to sink a ship and eat its entire crew. That sort of thing.
Shane Hanlon: 14:55 So Nancy, now, do you know what a Kraken is?
Nancy Boppy: 15:01 Yes. I do.
Shane Hanlon: 15:02 Do you enjoy learning in our podcast interviews?
Nancy Boppy: 15:10 Always. Learning something new.
Shane Hanlon: 15:10 Well, we wanted to, or no, don’t want to, but we happen to end up sticking with this theme of aquatic monsters. And we talked to someone else who has some expertise on these linkages between real life animals and the mythical monsters.
Danielle Serrat…: 15:24 So my name is Danielle Serratos. I’m the director curator at the Fundy Geological Museum, which is located in Parrsboro, Nova Scotia on the bay of Fundy, which is worldwide famous for having the highest tides in the world. I specialize in researching Mesozoic marine reptiles, which would include plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs, and mosasaurs. Mosasaur have been fairly popular in media for the past couple years due to Jurassic World and the quite voracious mosasaur that’s in the water pen in that movie. But more recently I’ve been working on Canada’s oldest dinosaurs, the prosauropods and the earliest reptiles, as well as the reptiles that were living alongside those Canada’s earliest dinosaurs. So moving more into the land environments.
Shane Hanlon: 16:18 I think it’d be helpful to place folks in time. So when was the Mesozoic, when is the period where these animals that were going to be talking about lived?
Danielle Serrat…: 16:32 So I’m actually going to go on a bit of a tangent here because-
Shane Hanlon: 16:35 Perfect.
Danielle Serrat…: 16:36 Providing a quick overview of Mesozoic marine reptiles is not like really all that quick.
Shane Hanlon: 16:42 Fair enough.
Danielle Serrat…: 16:43 So the Mesozoic was the geological era from 252 to 66 million years ago, and includes the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods. So that’s the Mesozoic part. The marine reptiles is a bit more complicated. So they’re reptiles the same way that dinosaurs were, but there are some pretty significant differences between marine reptiles and dinosaurs. The biggest one is marine reptiles, there’s a lot of fossil evidence that they gave birth to live young. So instead of laying eggs, the way that dinosaurs did. A notable exception would be turtles, which just goes to show that classifying animals can be a really tricky problem.
Danielle Serrat…: 17:32 Marine reptiles, they also lived in the ocean, or at least in brackish waters, like an estuarine system. The only aquatic dinosaur that we currently know of is the spinosaurus, and it seems to have stuck to fresh water. So that designation of mostly being a land versus mostly being in the ocean is a pretty clear delineation.
Danielle Serrat…: 17:53 And then lastly, marine reptiles had fins or flippers, whereas dinosaurs had and have toes with claws. So it’s important to keep in mind that these evolutionary relationships are incredibly complicated and general statements and science should always come with a caveat. For example, dinosaurs evolved from some reptiles, the same way birds evolve from some dinosaurs. But that doesn’t mean that birds are actually reptiles. They just share many characteristics due to sharing ancestors.
Shane Hanlon: 18:26 Nancy?
Nancy Boppy: 18:27 Yes.
Shane Hanlon: 18:30 Do you know your, I guess, geologic epoch? Your time scales.
Nancy Boppy: 18:37 Mesozoic, Jurassic, Cenozoic. I have no, I am just saying words.
Shane Hanlon: 18:42 This is why we had Danielle. What about your different aquatic reptiles, right? Like mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs.
Nancy Boppy: 18:52 [Dadasaurs 00:18:52], [myrantasaurs 00:18:54]. No.
Shane Hanlon: 18:55 Well, we got a quick background on kind of the eras. Now, I really wanted to ask Danielle to dive into plesiosaurs in particular and their influence on kind of these myths that we’re going to be talking about.
Danielle Serrat…: 19:11 Plesiosaurs were around mostly from the end of the Jurassic through the end of the Cretaceous, or the mass extinction event that wiped out almost all the dinosaurs and all the marine reptiles that we were talking about as far as plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs, and mosasaurs go. So when we talk about marine reptiles, especially during the Mesozoic era, so during the age of dinosaurs, we’re talking about four major groups. Plesiosaurs being my area of interest, but there’s also mosasaurs, which people would associate with the Jurassic World movies.
Shane Hanlon: 19:49 I was going to ask about that, right?
Danielle Serrat…: 19:50 Yeah. And then ichthyosaurs, which are very, very popular in England because the first ichthyosaur skeleton was found on the Jurassic Coast, in Dorset, and turtles. So of course, turtles are still around today, but they look vastly different than they did during the age of dinosaurs. In fact, archelon, which was a turtle that is hundreds of millions years old at this point, was roughly the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.
Nancy Boppy: 20:24 So she’s interested in these prehistoric reptiles, but how does that lead to her interest in Loch Ness Monster, these other kind of things?
Danielle Serrat…: 20:33 I have been a science communicator for the majority of my career in paleontology. And inevitably, when you work with plesiosaurs, you have to learn about the Loch Ness Monster. It’s just something that comes with the territory. So the Loch Ness Monster is a story that most likely dates back about 1500 years ago to the [Pichtus 00:20:59] Standing Stones in the Scottish Highlands. So nowadays these Pichtus standing stones are more frequently associated with the term water horse or kelpie, but these depictions have fins and flippers, which really encourages that connection to prehistoric plesiosaurs and other Mesozoic marine reptiles, to some extent as well. Like you alluded the ichthyosaurs, while they look different, a lot of these mythological creatures have a weird accumulation of different types of body parts.
Shane Hanlon: 21:34 Sure.
Danielle Serrat…: 21:34 So it’s totally fair game to say that ichthyosaurs would be a part of this inspiration as well. Well, ichthyosaur skeletons and fossils would be.
Shane Hanlon: 21:43 Right. Well, there was like a lot of chimeras, right? Essentially just pulling different body parts from different organisms to make the thing if you’re choosing almost.
Danielle Serrat…: 21:51 Absolutely. And that totally makes sense when you think about it from a paleontological perspective, because so often the fossils that we find are not articulated, which just means that we find individual bones kind of scattered about and moved in different areas relative to how they would’ve been connected when the animal was still alive.
Danielle Serrat…: 22:11 So going back to the Loch Ness Monster, there’s this story of a missionary who in the year 565 claims to have come upon a swimmer being attacked by a monster in the lake, in the lock, which was recorded in this biography. And then the history of digging up fossils predates the written word, but there were significant advances in what would become the field of paleontology in the early 1800s, when Mary Anning, who we talked about before, when Mary Anning discovered the first ichthyosaurus and the first complete plesiosaur at the Jurassic Coast in Dorset, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, because it’s so incredibly important for the fossils that we find there.
Danielle Serrat…: 23:03 So 110 years later from her discovery of that plesiosaurus, a local couple made newspaper headlines claiming to have seen an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the loch surface. A year later, so this would’ve been the early thirties, 1930s, a physician published a picture of the long neck monster, but a deathbed confession from a stepbrother, 60 years later, revealed that the photo had been an elaborate hoax that they had made with wood and a toy submarine.
Shane Hanlon: 23:38 Oh wow.
Danielle Serrat…: 23:39 Yeah.
Shane Hanlon: 23:40 That’s dedication.
Danielle Serrat…: 23:42 It is. And it’s funny how that part of the story is not commonly known. A lot of people know about the surgeon’s photograph, but very few people know that there was an official retraction of that photograph.
Shane Hanlon: 23:53 That’s, I mean, that’s how re retractions work, unfortunately.
Danielle Serrat…: 23:58 True. Yeah. So while we’re drawn to this idea of prehistoric monsters, especially in the ocean, I think it really draws from this idea that humans love a good mystery, right? They really love the idea of this is phenomenal or extraordinary, and let’s tell this story and not worry about the pesky facts that redact it later.
Shane Hanlon: 24:25 Sure. So I guess, when were the first connections. So people talking about stories for, what you said like 1500 years almost. When did the connections first start happening between these stories and these supposed firsthand accounts to, oh, but it could actually be this, or it could be backed up by the fossil record, or whatever it might be, like when did that start happening?
Danielle Serrat…: 24:56 The first well documented evidence that people were tying fossils in the rock record to these mythological stories, like the Loch Ness Monster, probably weren’t appearing until the early 1900s. Fossils were really being bought and sold for museums and private collectors in the late 1800s. But it was mostly a hobby for people, especially in the UK at that time. Yes, there was scientific research going on, but it was a beginning field at that time. And it was very insular. It was very classist. It was very sexist. So there were very few people that had access to that information, even though they were being put in museums, the fossils weren’t necessarily being put together accurately. There was a lot of confusion and building from the ground up in that field at that time. So I would say fairly confidently that those sorts of, I guess, interactions or relations between mythological creatures and actual fossils, you know, full fossil skeletons, at least, being compared wasn’t happening until the early 1900s.
Shane Hanlon: 26:17 When talking to Danielle, I found it interesting that the Loch Ness Monster, let’s say truthers, they like to use fossil evidence to say that yes, the monster existed and may still exist. And that was the case dating back hundreds of years, using these fossils to support their claims. I wanted to know though, kind of the opposite. I was wondering when folks started looking at the fossil record and using current technology to say yes, something like this may have existed in our history, but most certainly does not now.
Danielle Serrat…: 26:49 I think when you talk about using scientific evidence of fossils, specifically with plesiosaurs to sort of debunk this idea of the Loch Ness Monster. That idea had been around probably as long as the surgeon’s photograph had been a thing. However, the evidence has really accumulated strongly and been strongly presented in the last probably 30 to 40 years.
Shane Hanlon: 27:17 Okay.
Danielle Serrat…: 27:17 So there’s this desire for this compelling horror story that there’s this lake monster that’s going to come out and attack innocent bystanders, right? But extensive LIDAR sweeps across the Loch Ness and the surrounding area have pretty definitively verified that nothing near the size of plesiosaur is living in that lake, and nothing really on that size scale would even be possible to survive in Loch Ness at this point, just because we have really good understanding of what size these animals would’ve been on a global distribution, not just in the UK. And these were large marine reptiles. I mean, we’re talking anywhere between three and 11 meters long. They were sizable creatures. And the fossil evidence shows us that they all lived in salt water to brackish water. And of course the Lock Ness is fresh water. So that’s another indicator that there’s really, there’s no scientific evidence to really support this idea that they’d still be living in a freshwater environment.
Danielle Serrat…: 28:30 Now to top it all off, there’s also this idea that we really understand ecological niches and food webs, and these big picture ideas about how animal communities live nowadays. And yes, that’s compare them to modern species, but we have enough fossil evidence to talk confidently about what resources would be necessary for animals like plesiosaurs to have survived, and the Lock Ness simply doesn’t have that size or that level of resources to support even one plesiosaurs, let alone generations needed to survive the past, well, at least the past 66 million years.
Shane Hanlon: 29:12 Are there still people out there who fervently believe that Loch Ness is still there? And I guess, can you speak to, do you know any of their arguments or why they would still think this?
Danielle Serrat…: 29:25 Well, there are definitely people who still believe the Loch Ness Monster is real. Even people who like are not invested in it, they just casually assume that that’s true because they know someone who have said it, or they read some article online, or watch some fake documentary or something. So there’s definitely people who are kind of casually interested in that idea. And also vehemently believe that the Loch Ness Monster is real and it’s simply outsmarted everyone who’s gone looking for it. The excuses abound, right?
Nancy Boppy: 30:05 So we’re talking about the Loch Ness Monster, but do other countries have these kind of same similar myths like the Loch Ness?
Danielle Serrat…: 30:11 So one of the most famous examples of people thinking they had found a live plesiosaurs would’ve been in the seventies off the coast of Japan. There was a fishing vessel that brought up a carcass that when they pulled it up with their, I believe it was a trolling net, it had this really elongated neck. The skull still had some dead tissue on it and the fins did as well, but a lot of the ribs were exposed and a lot of the cartilage and a bone like structures were exposed. So it was very decayed and it had been scavenged upon so it wasn’t clear what the animal was. So people took photos from, I want to say from the docks, when the boat came in and it just plastered global newspapers. It was this massive headline of fisher folk discover prehistoric ocean dinosaur or something, right? And it actually took a little while to figure out what was going on there.
Danielle Serrat…: 31:15 So they did end up contacting some of their local scientists there in Japan. And they did some DNA testing, of course, which technology was not as advanced as it is today, but in the seventies, that was still a possibility, right? So they eventually figured out that it had been a Thrasher shark skeleton. That the cartilage that makes their bones of a shark were still fresh enough that the skeleton stayed together, still held together mostly by muscle that had not yet been scavenged and eaten. And so, a lot of the exterior like the skin and a lot of the soft organs were missing, but that musculature and that cartilage was still there enough to kind keep it together. And Thrasher sharks, actually when you take away a lot of their ribs and organs, they look like they have really long necks.
Shane Hanlon: 32:12 Throughout this conversation I was really interested. Why do folks find this so intriguing? I wondered why people still really want to and do believe in things like Loch Ness Monster.
Danielle Serrat…: 32:25 As far as why people choose to believe those stories. I think human civilization has a very long and storied history of believing things that the evidence just simply isn’t there for. And that’s okay, right? Because if we don’t have that sense of wonder and sense of discovery, what are we doing? Right? You talk about being a scientist, that literally is the driving force for most scientific breakthroughs and endeavors, is that sense of wonder. That desire to discover new things, to make new understandings and share them with the world. So I can’t fault people for wanting to believe something extraordinary, because that’s what makes the world interesting, right?
Shane Hanlon: 33:15 Nancy?
Nancy Boppy: 33:17 Yup.
Shane Hanlon: 33:19 Do you believe in anything like unexplained, like mythical creatures or ghosts or something like that?
Nancy Boppy: 33:26 No. Definitely not. Do you?
Shane Hanlon: 33:31 I don’t believe in the stuff we’ve been talking about. I don’t not believe in ghosts. I mean.
Nancy Boppy: 33:37 Really? That’s interesting.
Shane Hanlon: 33:39 Again, I said this before, but I wish people could see the shade that you’re throwing at me with your eyes. Well, all right, folks, that’s all from Third Pod from the Sun.
Nancy Boppy: 33:50 Thanks so much Shane for bringing us this story. And of course, thanks to Rodrigo and Danielle for sharing their work with us.
Shane Hanlon: 33:56 This podcast was produced and mixed by me.
Nancy Boppy: 34:00 We’d love to hear your thoughts, please rate and review us. Check us out wherever you get your podcast, or always at thirdpodfromthesun.com. And if you missed it, there’s a part one to this series that you can check out.
Shane Hanlon: 34:14 Thanks all, and we’ll see you next time.