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Friday, 31 May 2013

Bizzare Zoology on Mammalian Sea Serpents

A painting by Thomas Finley, based off of a sighting of an alleged unknown animal in Loch Ness. This alleged animal's pinnae (ears) and mane of hair support the theory that such unknown vertebrates are mammalian in identity

This is a matter which we have fully covered on this blog many times before. This kind of "Sea-serpent or Lake Monster" is the one that is properly called the Water Horse. It is an animal which looks like a hose that goes in the water: it has a thick and not very long neck (Ordinarily only 3-4 feet long, but the head is also nearly that size and so the head and neck together can be spoken of as 6 feet long), has obvious ears (that can wiggle), a mane and often a beard (or bell) and a distinctively horsey or camel-like head. Thomas Finley also did a very good job of depicting one of its identifying characteristics: a blunt nose with large round nostrils at the end and a large overhanging upper lip.

The basic animal is obvious enough: it is an elk or moose. The size and overall shape, but especially the shape of the snout, mane and beard or bell, rare reports of stubby horns but more importantly occasionally even moose horns (which have been specifically reported at Lake Champlain and at Flathead Lake) make the identification certain. At which point critics who say it cannot be a moose are in a bind because if we can have reports of runaway pet big cats the whole world over (but especially in Britain, where the reports draw attention), or even kangaroos and such, there is not any especially unusual problem with supposing some moose got loose. The King of Sweden even historically gave away gifts of moose (Elk) to friendly countries because they are much esteemed in Sweden.

A seal would never have the head of a moose, nor yet anything approaching an ungulate shape. The specifics of the head shape are clear enough that we can say with some assurance that is what Lorenz Von Ferry saw way back in the 18th century and reported to Pontoppidian. Such reports are often attributed to "Caddy" in the Northwest Coast region and to "Ogopogo" inland in British Columbia.

Such creatures are reported to have cloven hooves in folklore, and their tracks when reported in some areas (Including New England and at Lake Okanagon)  match moose tracks in their reported size and shape.

 moose swimming-fine art photograph by john burk


  1. Hi Dale. I actually thought the same thing when I saw the painting, but the very long neck and the alleged nature of the sighting makes me think possibly otherwise. Many reports indicate that the animals with manes and horn like pinnae which I once considered to be misidentified moose were moving in the water at extreme speeds, much faster than a swimming moose could achieve in my opinion. But who knows about the reliability of such reports.

  2. Hmm, Let me just say that if you see a sighting with moose-like characteristics and you move from that to saying it could be a sort of a seal that somehow independently evolved moose-like characteristics, you're thinking about the whole thing backwards anyway. There are several points where such reports can be mistaken: over estimating the size and overestimating the length of the neck are both common. But somehow the moose nose remains in the reports, standing out like a sore thumb. You have got to give that more weight than the other less certain aspects of the reports. And when you have a consistent pattern of reports which seem to indicate moose are being reported, and such reports occur throughout the moose's natural range (which has historically included Scotland), and the reports all reinforce each other with details like the antlers and cloven hoof prints, then you can be pretty sure that you are near to the truth in such reports.

    1. I wasn't exactly referring to a pinniped with moose like features, I just do think descriptions of the animals as having manes and the horn-like pinnae or possibly breathing tubules are accurate. I do think the moose theory certainly applies to some reports, especially in the Loch Ness region.

  3. If we are talking moose features here, "descriptions of the animals as having manes and the horn-like pinnae or possibly breathing tubules are accurate" would definitely apply, and reports definitely do specify both horns and ears, the ears sometimes prominent and described as wiggling, and the horns described as being exactly the club-shape of early-growth antlers. They are not pinnae such as sea lions have, nor would pinnipeds be developing pinnae to the point where they would become more obvious-the reverse is much more likely. And while on the subject of ears, it is definitely specified that the gianbt otters (master otters) are supposed to have prominent and pointed ears.

  4. Pontoppidian in speaking of the Norweigan sea-serpents reported by Lorenz von Ferry and others says that "The head in all of these animals has rather a high and broad forehead: some however have a sharp snout [meaning Hans Egede's report as differentiated from the others] others a quadrangular [blunt-ended, overhanging] beak as cows and horses have, with large nostrils [at the end of the blunted snout], and on the sides are a few stiff hairs, or bristles, as other animals have with a good nose" The basic features are definitely mammalian and even ungulate, but the large blunt muzzle with its overhanging "beak" of an upper lip is definitely describing a moose. And some moose do even have the differentiated white mane. The animal that Von Ferry saw also had large dark eyes with a darkened area around the eye, and a darker mouth: these features are probably due to those parts being especially wet. I should also point out that the nostrils as described do not go with any sort of a seal-like creature, nor yet with anything that has to regularly dive underwater, but they belong to herd animals that live on land that sometimes have to breathe heavily in and out of those enlarged nostrils when they are exerting themselves and running hard. And the few stiff bristles around the nose are not compared to seal's whiskers, they are compared to what horses and cows have.


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