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Sunday, 16 June 2013

Sea Serpent Reconstructions and the problem of the Longnecks' Necks

My original statement made about Longnecks was made back in 2009 under the heading

 "TWO Long-necked sea creatures"

on the CFZ blog:

"This concerns two different long-necked animals reported as Sea-Serpents. The first is the Long-necked sea lion such as reported off the Island of Hoy in 1918 and the other is the larger more Plesiosaurian creature more commonly seen.

This (Top) would be the same type as the Hoy Island SS of 1918. It is a rather poor drawing of an exaggerated but fundamentally normal sealion type.

"There are more samples from the group Frontiers-of-Zoology. The Kivik Stone is in the files and has this description:

'Original for some of Holiday's creature drawings: showing a possible Scandinavian long-necked sea lion of unknown type.'

"However, that is not the only or even the more important of the long-necked Sea-Serpents. Tim Dinsdale's illustration from Monster Hunt shows one of the larger, longer-necked, smaller-headed, tailed creatures hunting seals (which it evidently kills but does not eat, and when they are said to kill human beings the same thing is said again).

'This is incidentally one of three such plain representations of a Plesiosaurian tailed creature seen from above that Heuvelmans must have known about: two other examples were in Sanderson's archives. A later and better-known example was the Plesiosaurian creature seen by the research submarine Alvin in the tongue-of-the-sea, off Grand Bahama.

"The larger collage [Lost by the CFZ in the original printing] is also from the files of the group and collects together several pre-contact representations of Plesiosaur-shaped creatures, from prehistoric rock art up until 'Primitive' art in more recent times. This is only a sample from the groups' photo albums. Specifically Plesiosaurian anatomy shows in several cases: sometimes the specific skeletal structure of the paddles and limb girdles is shown, sometimes even the characteristic Euryapsid openings at the back of the skull are clearly intended (Snakes have nothing like that)

greek-sea-serpent2, compared to Plesiosaur
E=Euuyapsid opening behind the eye, O=Eye socket, N=Nostrils, all in their proper places

"I presume that both types can wander inland but they do not make a career of it: and the two areas in specific where the long-necked seals wander inland are Ireland (Shannon River system especially) and Australia (where they are sometimes called Bunyips. Not the only things called Bunyips, either).
Grant Nessie sighting compared to the hypothetical long-necked sealion (above right)
And even more so for the Plesiosaur at bottom (Cryptoclidus from Walking with Dinosaurs)

"And personally I prefer maintaining the proposed scientific names of Megalotaria for the sea lion and Megophias for the more typical long-necked (and tailed) sea-serpent. My colleague
 Charles Paxton is, however, strongly opposed to the suggestion."

Megophias was the name given to the American Sea-Serpent in an unrecognizable description by Rafinesque but because of that Anton C Oudemans insisted it must be retained as the proper name when he wrote his own book , The Great Sea-Serpent (1892), and for which he made the following reconstruction of it. Beneath Oudemans' version are the reconsteuctions of Ivan Sanderson and then Tim Dinsdale from Loch Ness Monster (1960), with the humps on the back removed (As per his remark "They might as well have been left off")

These reconstructions are entirely comparable and the general feeling after Oudemans has been that he allowed too great a length for the tail. Sanderson allowed about equal thirds of the total length for the head-neck, body and tail, but later versions (and his own later versions) have tended to allow even less for the tail.

Tim Dinsdale states the data on the neck in Loch Ness Monster page 19: "Taking into account the angle at which the neck is held or the graceful arch when motionless in the water, and the consistent reference to a height of 5-6 feet above the water, total length of the neck must be 9 or 10 feet [With the neck at an angle, travelling forward at speed, and the cylindrical forepart of the neck evenly a foot thick according to the drawing on the opposing page,], and in view of its sinuous fexible movements it must be extremely muscular; a solid pillar of muscle springing from a tremendous breadth of shoulder, 2 or 3 feet thick at its base perhaps, then tapering down suddenly before continuing out to the head with an almost parallel thickness [Oudemans' reconstruction shows this also- DD] It is a very remarkable neck and if people are to be believed it is quite unlike that of any known living species- fish, mammal or reptile, and there is no doubt that irrefutable proof of its existence will provide a very tough morsel for scientists to chew upon"
My contention is that it is impossible for a mammal to have a neck that fits these specifications
Below is a diagram comparing Heuvelmans' model to Oudemans' (minus the tail) in order to point out the problem of a Long-necked mammal: Placental mammals including seals have  only the standard 7 neck bones (Seven vertebrae).
Dimensions of sample Sea serpents from Oudemans' chart page 492:
A) Length of head, 1 foot; length of neck 6 feet; length of trunk 7 1/2 feet: breadth of head,8 inches: thickness of neck , 4/9 feet, Dale says 6 inches and be done with it; Oudemans total is 28 feet, Dale's total is 20 feet.
B) Length of head, 2 feet; length of neck 11 2/3 feet, Dale says 12-13 feet; Length of trunk 15 feet; Breadth of head 16 inches, Thickness of neck is 8-9 inches (Dale says poss 1 foot);Oudemans total is 55 feet, Dale's total is 40 feet: this is close to the average of most sightings by both Dale and Dinsdale (And Heuvelmans if the estimation of 60 feet in most Longneck cases is equivalent to Oudemans' 55)
C) Length of head, 3 feet: length of Neck 17 1/2 feet: Breadth of head is 2 feet: Thickness of neck is 16 to 18 inches; Oudemans length is estimated as 83 feet, Dale's est is 60 feet, and this corresponds to the Daedalus' SS in 1845 according to Oudemans, one of the standards he uses to derive all the measures from. This might equivilate Heuvelmans' Merhorse, probably not so large really and Dale thinks not nearly so common as is often assumed. All of Oudemans larger estimates may be safely ignored and the largest estimates are probably mistaken sightings of whales according to Dale.

The proportions of the neck were also as specified by Sir Henry Rostron in an earlier blog entry and I took pains to draw attention to it then. Below are more views of the head and neck from Loch Ness Witnesses. (Torquil MacLeod to the left, Miss Margaret Munro top right, and the original nighttime sketch by Arthur Grant at right bottom. This last corrects the figure by Putting the tail back on the tail end after it had been drawn as separately in order to get it all on the same sheet of paper:

Below are some typical Sea Serpent head and  postures taken from many reports and in the first examples utilizing Bruce Champagne's sea-serpent models as being neutal to the debate; First is te fully erect periscope with a "Caddy" report inset as a crioss-reference. This is typically only assumed when the animal is fully stalled or is only moving forward very slowly: one or two reports of sea serpents at full erection swimming forward at good speed are suspicious for that reason alone and at least one of these may be describing a waterspout.
Next is the creature with the neck thrown forward and up at an angle, which can be assumed at a good rate of speed. N such occasions the creature seems to be alarmed at disturbances at the surface. A model for the New England Sea Serpent in the 1800s is the inset here, This posture will commonly throw up a standing wave in the wake, hence the "String of Buoys" effect in the inset illustration.

Above, two good Sea Serpent reports with the head and neck on the incline to various degrees. The Valhalla sketch has been flipped horizontally and the original is shown at the end of this article.
And finally there is the actually typical swimming posture with the head and neck down in the water and pointed straight ahead. on such occasions only the head at the end of the neck may break surface

 The following drawing taken from Tim Dinsdale's Loch Ness Monster but "Recognised" in Florida
has the neck bending about halfway along. It is because of this that a good many reports and most of the earlier authors underestimate the true length of the neck. I have indicated where I make the division of the length from snout to vent to be broken into halves of nearly equal length
The Morgawr photos off Cornwall may or may not be legitimate but they DO illustrate what is usually described as fishing posture with the neck in an arched shape. From the arched shape the neck can also move from side to side or forward to probe around, or it can plunge downwards.
And so below here are my mock-ups showing a Longneck as a Plesiosaur at scale to a human figure, illustrating these basic moves to the head and neck as are typically mentioned in the reports:
First the typical swimming posture with the neck pointed straight ahead and down in the water,

Secondly with an upward curve from usually the forward half of the neck,
and this can be a shallow S-curve

Next is the position moving ahead at speed on the surface with the neck inclined forward at an angle, evidently assumed when there is a perceived threat at or above the surface of the water

Next the arched neck posture assumed to be used in fishing
(Inset, the open mouth and tongue in proportion as also reported)

And the full periscope, which is rarest of all and usually assumed with little or no forward motion.
This is actually an s-shaped curve with the top 1/3 bending as much as the bottom 2/3, which is in good agreement to other indicators of the neck flexibility.
There are also occasions where the front part of the neck is making a curve at the top like the upper part of a C curve, and this old sighting of the New England Sea Serpent illustrates that curve:
This illustration of the Scandinavian sea serpent also shows the same position, also the size of the mouth (gape) when opened. The illustration intends to show the mane but the nature of the mane is described differently in different reports. Often it is said to be a fin or of a fleshy nature. 
Loch Ness Monster as reported in 2010
Now the point of all of this is that while the necks of Plesiosaurs are made up of many vertebrae with many cartilaginous joints between them, the necks of mammals ordinarily come with the seven neck bones (And the first one at the base of the skull does not count for much in any lengthening of the neck) Below we have a direct comparison between the skeletons of a giraffe's neck (Photo inset) and a Plesiosaur's neck (Public-domain drawing) Please note how long the individual vertebrae are in the giraffe's neck.
However the Longneck's neck is clearly NOT the same as the giraffe's neck: it is at the same size for the head, and the same thickness but at least double the length of the neck proportionately.
At this point the vertebrae are stretched to the length of more typical limb bones, being something like two or three feet long. The joints between them are more like elbow joints between the elongated bones. Please bear in mind that the vertebrae cannot bend in the middle, they can only bend at the ends. To compare again, here is the Zakariya al-Qazwini Bestiary Longneck from just after 1200 (One of the same series we have been looking at recently) This still has recognizably a littler curve at the top and a longer curve at the bottom, to make an overall stretched-S shaped curve
 (This one also shows the mane as spikes)

Already when you have a giraffe bend its neck, it does so stiffly and forming angles rather than smooth curves. In the photo below, the giraffe's neck folds over as a straight segment at the top because there is only one bone in there. It cannot make a nice continuous curve because it needs more vertebrae to do that. It cannot make anything comparable to a sea-serpent's S-curve or C-curves for that reason. There are not enough joints in the neck to make the curves go that way. Instead of a curve you get a set of angles.
Please refer to the reconstructions for Heuvelmans' and Oudemans' hypothetical long-necked pinnepeds at the top of this page: I have indicated where the vertebrae are going to have to be if those are going to be mammalian necks. The front half of the neck is going to have three vertebrae only at most, and those three vertebrae are not going to make a smooth curve. What you will have will be a series of angular kinks as I tried to convey to Darren Naish in my eatrlier drawing. For the kinds of curves we have frequently illustrated (and shown in samples above), my guess is that we would need two or three times the number of joints in the place of the hypothetical giraffe-like long pieces, in order to make the curves to have the sufficient bending for a smooth curve instead of a stiff bend at an angle. And once again, you are going to have to have vertebrae at least two feet long each in order to get the neck as long as you need it to fit these reports (Not a few reports but the majority of reports, worldwide and over the span of centuries) You are not going to get a nice tight circular curve over a five-foot length of neck such as the top of the Periscope or C-curve, what you will have will be two long pieces bent at right angles to each other for that same given length of neck..
Bending the longneck's neck: at 4 feet of neck the mammalian longneck has two vertebrae
to execute a tight curve but can only manage to fold at right angles (Left) at a 4 foot length of neck
with six vertebrae instead (Right), it is much easier to make regular curves in the neck. 

Below is Dale's plan drawing for a typical longneck using the statistical averages common in many reports and basically it is once again like the Oudemans, Sanderson and Dinsdale reconstructions, borrowing a little from each one but making more specifications including the larger flippes on this model. I have a later, improved version of the drawing that has made the numbers on it more readable
Below is a selection of Sea Serpent and Loch Ness Monster stills selected from many candidates by Scott Mardis, Jay Cooney, Dave Francazio, myself and some of our co-workers as being possible candidates for the Longneck category. The purpose here is not to dissect and criticize them but just to give a general overview of what the evidence looks like.

Two of the more controversial photos, from Loch Ness and from the "Patagonian Plesiosaur" Nahuelito

And the Valhalla illustration in its original orientation. It seems there are
different drawings of it pointed in either direction. 
My opinion was and is that some of the reports ascribed to the Mokele-MBembe are probably the same type of water monster as elsewhere and that in some cases, the reported dimensions match the Loch Ness Monster. That does mean specifically the reported dimensions of the neck. On this earlier blog posting:

I included this depiction of a Mokele-MBembe which struck me as being more reminiscent of a Plesiosaur rather than a Sauropod dinosaur, and it definitely shows many vertebrae in the neck:

Furthermore there are many native depictions of water monsters and dragons the whole world over and not one of them shows only a few vertebrae in the neck, they always show many vertebrae in the neck. In this one the limbs are depicted oddly, but I think the idea is still that they are flippers rather than feet. In other depictions, the flippers are much more obviously so.

And here is the large file that the CFZ left off in the 2009 printing of the article

Native LongNecker Depictions Worldwide


  1. Very nice article Dale, I really enjoyed this one. However, I do have to disagree with your assertion that mammalian vertebrae would not fit the dimensions and flexibility observed in longnecks. You are forgetting that cartialge capsules and discs make up a large part of flexibility and length in tetrapods. While I will admit that I had used giraffe neck flexibility as an argument for longnecks having a neck flexibility achievable by mammals, it is important to note that giraffes are terrestrial animals with different behavioral uses and factors relating to the anatomy of their necks. I think it would be a premature judgmement to say that a long necked pinniped would not be able to exhibit the degree of flexibility exhibited in lonnecks, as we do not know how behavioral and environmental factors as well as cartilage anatomy could affect their neck flexibility.

    1. And YOU are not looking at the diagram, you are merely repeating the same bland assertions as you made in the first place like a tape recorder! LOOK at the diagrams man!! There is no way you are going to get a length of neck which is hypothetically going to have two or three individual vertebrae at most to make curving bends such as are required to fit the witnesses' accounts. You only have so much length of neck and so many vertebrae. What you are describing is a flat impossibility and a logical absurdity. Again, LOOK at the diagrams before saying such things. You have a placental mammal with the standard seven neck vertebrae, like a giraffe. You elongate the neck going on the same principle as elongating the giraffes neck. Only this time it is worse, the situation is at least twice as bad. Furthermore you are not making this assertion out of any background experience in anatomy, you are merely stubbornly carrying on with the same proposition you had in the first place without considering any of the overwhelming evidence that your initial point of view was wrong. You do not have a leg to stand on in this matter and you never did have a leg to stand on in this matter. Explain to me just exactly how you can bend two-foot-long vertebrae in the middle, and then we'll talk. Otherwise this is all just the same hot air being recycled unthinkingly and a complete waste of time.

    2. Dale, I am looking at the diagrams but your diagrams do not take into account the factors of soft tissue structures. Here's the paper on this again if you need to remind yourself
      And I may not have a degree or background in anatomy, but I can do research myself, and Dr. Darren Naish himself is the person who told me that soft tissue structures could allow for such flexibility.

    3. And THAT is why you are being such an ass about this and continue to go back over and over and over again, because you are quoting Darren Naish when he said plainly he did not understand what I was saying? The joints in the cartilage have NOTHING to do with the lengths of the bony shafts of the vertebrae when you are talking in terms of vertebrae supposedly two feet long and over. You still cannot see that you cannot bend the bony shaft in the middle and you still do not get the meaning of it even when you are looking directly at the picture! OK, let's do this again. You have this creature that has a neck twice the length of a giraffe's neck at the same diameter. For a 4-foot length of that neck we can assume a typical two two-foot-long vertebrae make up that length. That means you have only ONE joint in the middle of that, and the bend can only be an angle. You do not get that in any of the reports, you get a continuous curve indicating many smaller joints are involved, several smaller turns to make up the curve. And that means you need more vertebrae than the mammalian neck will provide you with.

    4. It is pseudoscience that quotes absolute authority as its justification, not science.

  2. I think it is also important to add that the accuracy of such depictions as included in this article and of witness observations is not certain.

    1. Lets handle this one first. You do realize that we are talking about the same dimensions and proportions that are repeated with very little variation over hundreds of occasions in many separate parts of the globe and over the last several centuries? The proportion of the forepart of the neck as the thickness being one-tenth of the length, plus the thicker rear part, is certainly very well attested and is the exavct same thing repeated in each of the analyses by Oudemans, Sanderson, Dinsdale and myself: and it is the exact same thing as stated by Rostron in the Campania case, and he is generally considered to be a very observant and reliable witness.The same dimensions are repeated many times by others likewise considered to be good and reliable witnesses. Since you have done no such statistical analysis of the reports yourself and in fact you commonly make statements that show your unfamiliarity with the various witnesses' accounts, it does seem a little bit out of your line to make such an assertion out of the blue.

  3. Think about the 5th mock-up illustration included in this article of a plesiosaur in full periscope pose; it is in disagreement with L. Sprague Camp's work (quoted in many articles on this blot) which says that plesiosaurs like plesiosaurus could only raise their neck above the water in an arc (as in the 4th mock-up illustration.)

    1. No and no. de Camp's wording allows the position under the description of a "stretched-S" shape. Which is what it IS. You seem to have an ongoing problem with interpreting plain English and you have commented several times your objections which merely go to show that you do not grasp the meaning of what you are talking about. That one earlier about "The skull does not fill up the head" was a real howler. I almost cut you off flat from all future postings at that point because the fact that NO skull ever fills up ANY head was so basic and you did not get it.

    2. PS your statement about the Valhalla Sea-serpent was untrue and moreover it was not stated in the original that way. You have misunderstood the situation again and I have deleted the post as off-topic

  4. I am getting a rising number of comments making essentially nonsense arguments that the diagrams do not show what they oh so obviously do show. To recap it once more: there is only so much movement you can get out of a neck that can be predicted to have only two vertebrae for a length of four or five feet, which is what is predicted if you have a mammal-like neck more than twice the length of a giraffe's neck. You can bend it but it will have only the one bend at the one joint in the middle. You cannot have several joints which together will make a smooth curve if you only have two vertebrae for that length of neck.. Furthermore this is what tradition always maintains, that the neck has a lot of vertebrae and hence joints to it. Argument against that much is pointless and shows a lack of comprehension of the situation. Any more posted arguments saying such a thing is impossible and that an extremely elongated mammalian neck MUST work in a different way shall NOT be posted any more. The allegation has already been made,, it has already been shown to be pointless and unrealistic in defiance of the obvious illustrations pointed here, and repeating the argument endlessly will not alter the situation in any way. Some people have the bizarre notion that they can argue you into disbelieving anything so obvious and basic as that by invoking higher authority. Invoking higher authority will not change the situation. So unless you have new and valid, cogent and reasonable statements to be submitted as arguments against this presentation, your comments shall not be allowed. There is a line that has to be drawn or the thing gets entirely out of hand. A definition is commonly stated that once you continue to make the same argument after the argument has been thoroughly disproven and invalidated, that is an insanity (Madness): it is nothing more than a form of obsession. In this case, the Mammalian neck does not meet the criteria and any arguments that what I said cannot be right because I said it instead of somebody else saying it shall not be tolerated.

    1. Sorry dale. You're probably right; a plesiosaur explanation is better than all other explanations for longnecked sea serpent sightings (including the "simple case of misidentification" idea.)
      I also promise to make sure I do not include any flaud or illogical arguments in future comments.

  5. Thank you. Its not that I ordinarily dislike a good discussion, what I dislike is dishonesty, evasions, cheating and subterfuge in order to win the argument at any cost. Its not about winning the argument, its about actually making sense and not winning on cheap shots and bullshit. I am so tired of supposedly professional Cryptozoologists pulling that sort of thing on me that actually I am almost willing to go into another field just so I won't have to put up with it any more.

    1. Hi, dale! Do you know where I could read more about the zakariya al-qazwini bestiary longneck sighting?

    2. It is a very famous book in the original language. I would have to say I have never seen an English translation, though.

  6. I notice that the illustration of this sighting shown in this article has the nostrils positioned on thewitness end of the snout. Did the did the witness actually specify this?

    1. You mean the Bestiary one? I do not think Bestiary illustrations are generally notable for their reliability and I don't hold that the black smudge necessarily means the nostrils are there (I do notice that you are focusing in on that one only out of all the other illustrations on this page)


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