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Migration


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Ian Topham's picture
Ian Topham
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I was sat watching Finding Nemo over Christmas and got to thinking about the reports of Sea Monsters around the UK, maybe I was drinking too much.....who knows. If they exist wouldn't they migrate, such as whales etc and therefore wouldn't sightings be restricted to certain times of the year? Who knows it may be possible to work out a potential migratory pattern.

Mauro
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Migration

That's not a stupid question to ask at all Ian.
Sadly very few rigorous studies have been made over the years, mostly by the '70s. Interest in sea monsters died away in that period, ironically when a new wave of new discoveries was about to be made both in the living (Megachasma sharks, Indonesian Latimeria etc) and fossil (our knowledge of the cetaceans evolution radically and completely changed in the '90s, mainly thanks to a series of spectacular findings in Pakistan) world.
Bernard Heuvelmans was only one to publish a serious study on the matter: In the Wake of the Sea Serpents . Ivan Sanderson was known to have studied the matter too but his studies remain unpublished to this day.
In chapter 14 (Disentangled and Classified at Last) Heuvelmans tried to classify various types of sea monsters, giving a brief anatomical, behavioural and geographical description for each one.
After analizing an immense number of sightings he concluded that some of these animals seem to exhibit a migratory pattern.
The Super-otter, for example, an animal living along the Norwegian coast and above the Artic Circle seemed (Heuvalmans considered it most likely extinct in the XIX century) to ehibit a migratory pattern to slightly warmer waters in the Summer.
The Many-humped lives in the warm waters of the Gulf Steam but, for reasons obscure, seems to prefer the colder waters of New England during the Summer.
Heuvelmans' work has been unjustly criticized in recent years but the critics fail to understand that he published the book in 1968 when our knowledge of both cetaceans and pinnipeds was completely different from today. And, by the way, not a single one of these critics seem to have offered equally good and well documented alternatives.

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"Louhi spoke in riddled tones of three things to achieve: find and catch the Devil's Moose and bring it here to me. Seize the Stallion born of Fire, harness the Golden Horse. He captured and bound the Moose, he tamed the Golden Horse. Still there remained one final task: hunt for the Bird from the Stream of Death"

-Kalevala, Rune XIII-


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Ian Topham
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Migration More

I never realised somebody had already looked into this idea. Some of these sea monsters were seen hundreds of years ago and no doubt climate has changed since then so could that have a hypothetical effect on migrations?

Some Whale species often beach themselves accidently, does anyone know of any sea monsters doing this or strange carcasses being discovered?


Mauro
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The stranded specimen has always been hotly debated, though now "skeptics" usually liquidate everything with the usual basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) explanation. You see, when basking sharks decompose they take a "saurian" appearance: the gills rot away taking away the jaws and the minuscule skull on top of the spine seems an awful lot like a dinosaur head, the tail fins rot away etc.
Problem is this generated more problems than it solved.
For example the Stromsay Beast in the Orkney was reliably identified as a basking shark by that great anayomist, Sir Everard Home, because he bothered to ask the locals for a few samples to analyze.
Too bad the Beast length was 55 ft, when the longest confirmed basking sharks are around 40.
In 1942 at Gourock, Inverclyde, Mr Charles Rankin found a strange 28 ft carcass on the beach. The description would seem to indicate a large shark of some sort. Dimensions are again a problem: Mr Rankin was adamant that it has large pointed teeth and this would rule out a basking shark: the largest living shark with that kind of dentition is the Great White (Carcharodon carcharias), an exceptional visitor to British Islands, though it never reaches 20 ft.
Also there are a number of whales (mainly Ziphidae) only known to science from the occasional stranded specimen: for example Longman's beaked whale (Mesoplodon bahamondi), Bahamonde's beaked whale (Mesoplodon bahamondi) and the Lesser beaked whale (Mesoplodon peruvianus) have never been observed (or reliably identified) in the wild are only known from stranded carcasses.
The funny thing is that until recently nobody bothered asking fishermen for help in the study of large sea animals. The whale Berardius bairdii was deemed so rare and little known until the '60s that it didn't even have a common name. Then it was discovered that Japanese and Russian fishermen had been hunting them for centuries. It's ironic to think that the two countries involved have always been known for the excellency of their scientific institutions...
Anyway, back to sea monsters now.
Gary Mangiacopra, a marine biologist who tried to follow up Heuvelmans' work in the '80s, observed that after WWII sightings seem to have become less abundant and to show a less marked variety. This could be to a number of causes: for example better access to scientific literature may have reduced misidentification, though I would personally trust much more a XIX century illitterate Norwegian whaler than a present day whalespotter with full Internet access, sea routes have become more restricted, despite the immense increase in commercial traffic, and modern vessels with their powerful diesel and turbine engines may be scaring away the shiest inhabitants of the sea.
Also remember that if a marine biologist or an interested person isn't around many fishermen will discard or eat any unusual catch without bothering too much about classification or anatomy. The Indonesian Coelacanth (Latimeria menandoensis) was discovered by an extraordinary chance of luck by a marine biologist who was taking a vacation with his Indonesian wife at Sulawesi. They were strolling through the local market when they saw a large fish being carted to a fishmonger's stall... and the rest is history as they say. Ivan Sanderson was told by fishermen of the Arafura Sea about the habits of the creature that Heuvelmans later called "Merhorse" but, as far as I know, no biologist or other researcher outside of Sanderson and, to a lesser degree, Heuvelmans, took interest into it despite the wealth of details given by native fishermen and the report of the French authorities of Noumea of a Merhorse fighting a colossal squid in 1923 off that island.
Perhaps we should apply the methods which allowed Marc Van Roosmalen to become one of the most succesful zoologists of all times: instead of probing the sea at random just talk to fishermen and other tollers of the sea and "if you happen to catch anything unusual, keep the bones and the skin, thanks".

__________________

"Louhi spoke in riddled tones of three things to achieve: find and catch the Devil's Moose and bring it here to me. Seize the Stallion born of Fire, harness the Golden Horse. He captured and bound the Moose, he tamed the Golden Horse. Still there remained one final task: hunt for the Bird from the Stream of Death"

-Kalevala, Rune XIII-


Lee Waterhouse
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Migration

I remember reading (probably FT) about a strange carcass being washed up somewhere in the British Isles. If memory serves it turned out to be an Oarfish, deep sea beasties that are rarely seen but they near the surface when its time to die or something like that. They are also a contender for the title Sea Serpent as some reports have them growing up to 50ft long. Have a look here http://www.accuracyingenesis.com/dragon.html near the bottom of the page and there is a picture of a load of US Seals/Marines with one they found.

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Ian Topham
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Migration

In 2007 a huge squid was pulled from the waters south of New Zealand. The boat was called the San Aspiring. The squid weighed 450 kilo and was 10m long. It's eyes were the size of dinner plates and it is said that if it was cut up into calamari rings each piece would be the size of a tractor tyre. I think this is the biggest squid found and probably accounts for the legends of the kraken.

Lee Waterhouse
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Some websites out there and probably a load of books say that we actually know more about space than we do about whats in our oceans and seas, the two examples above sort of highlight this. Both these creatures are deep sea "sea monsters" and there are oodles of nasty things lurking in the deep that you wouldnt want to meet in a dark alley or should i say Atlantic Trench Laughing

Browsing the net earlier i also stumbled across some website that stated an Oarfish could be the Loch Ness Monster as its swimming pattern undulates ? mmm I cant imagine that Loch Ness is 3000ft deep and salty, i could be wrong though Laughing

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Urisk
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The only problem with massive beasties and the deep sea (the abyssal plane and hadal zone), the biomass is generally very sparse, and so most (I say most) animals tend to be small. Most large active predators live in the pelagic zone.

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Mauro
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Architeuthis sp. colossal squids (as opposed to "giant" squids like the various Ommatostrephes species) have been the subject of speculation ever since that spectacular series of strandings in Newfoundland between 1870 and 1880: how large can they grow? The largest one was washed ashore in 1878 at Thimble Tickle and its size still remains unsurpassed despite recent allegations to the contrary (mainly because the length is measured from the tail to the tip of the tentacles while the correct procedure is to give three separate length: body, arms and finally tentacles).
Their immense eyes clearly indicate that they live at semiabyssal depths (ie where eyes are still useful) and it has long been known that Sperm Whales (Physeter catodon) are their main predators: the Architeuthis itself is a very strong predator, probably feeding on smaller squids and pelagic fish.
Bernard Heuvelmans proposed that the "Merhorse", one of the various types of sea monsters he identified, was an enormous seal adapted to semiabyssal depth and most likely feeding on giant squids. Now we have a more perfect knowledge of marine mammals evolution and we can hypotize that if such a creature really exists it's probably an offshot of the archaic whales known as Basilosauri .
The Oarfish (Regalecus glesne) has been suggested numerous times as a sea serpent candidate but there are a number of problems. First, it's simply too small. Second: it only lives in temperate and tropical waters. Third: its bright red crest is giveaway sign. Fourth: it swims nowhere near as a sea serpent.
About the Loch ness Monster i would like to keep my best shots for a later date: just know that I am supporter of the multicausal theory.

__________________

"Louhi spoke in riddled tones of three things to achieve: find and catch the Devil's Moose and bring it here to me. Seize the Stallion born of Fire, harness the Golden Horse. He captured and bound the Moose, he tamed the Golden Horse. Still there remained one final task: hunt for the Bird from the Stream of Death"

-Kalevala, Rune XIII-


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Urisk
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Migration

Are you suggesting that pinnipeds evolved from cetaceans, or that the merhorse could be a descendant of Basilosaurus? The only problem regarding Basilosaurus is its bone structure (the limb bones were rather thickened, and apparently the axial musculature would have been rather weak), which might not have coped with deep sea conditions. That said, 30 million years is plenty time for a bit of evolution to kick in.

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Mauro
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Of course not, pinnipeds are 100% Carnivora: Phocidae probably share a common ancestor with Mustelidae while Otariidae are very closely allied to Ursidae.
What I am saying is that back when Heuvelmans wrote his Merhorse theory back in the '60s evolutionary theories about both pinnipeds and cetaceans were quite different from today.
The Merhorse is quite a "niche" sea monster: as the name implies its most striking body characteristic is the long mane on his neck. He hasn't got the classic Nessie-like periscope neck and has large, saucer shaped eyes. Sightings seems to indicate that it spends as little time as possible on the surface, probably just enough to breath. Everything, apart from the fur, seems to indicate a much more acquatic lifestyle than any known pinniped.
That's one of the reason why a cetacean is a much better candidate: Basilosauri is just my catch-all name for ancient cetaceans, I have no time to remember them all. Perhaps this Merhorse came from the same common ancestor of the Odontoceti (toothed whales) who include some excellent deep sea divers like the Sperm Whale and various Beaked Whales.

__________________

"Louhi spoke in riddled tones of three things to achieve: find and catch the Devil's Moose and bring it here to me. Seize the Stallion born of Fire, harness the Golden Horse. He captured and bound the Moose, he tamed the Golden Horse. Still there remained one final task: hunt for the Bird from the Stream of Death"

-Kalevala, Rune XIII-




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