Sea Monster of West Africa.
Etymology: Coined by Karl Shuker after the name of the country, The Gambia.
Variant name: Kunthum belein (Mandinka word for dolphin, literally "cutting jaws").
Physical description: Smooth, scaleless skin. Length, 15 feet. Width, 5 feet. Dark brown on top, white below. Dolphinlike head. Small, brown eyes. Jaws, 18 inches in length, with eighty sharp, conical, uniform teeth. No blowhole. Nostrils are at the tip of the jaws. Short neck. No dorsal fin. Four paddle-shaped flippers, each 18 inches long. Pointed tail, 5 feet long. No flukes.
Distribution: Kotu, The Gambia. Significant sighting: On June 12, 1983, Owen Burnham discovered the carcass of an odd sea creature washed up on the beach near the Bungalow Beach Hotel at Kotu. Local people were in the process of cutting off the head to sell when he found it. Possible explanations:
(1) The combination of four paddles, eighty teeth, lack of scales and blowhole, and long tail rules out seals, known cetaceans, sirenians, modern reptiles, and fishes.
(2) Fossil archaic basilosaurid whales only had forty teeth.
(3) Shepherd's beaked whale (Tasmacetus shepherdi) matches somewhat in coloration, but it has a blowhole, tail flukes, a dorsal fin, a much shorter beak, no nostrils, and no pelvic flippers. In addition, this rare cetacean prefers the cold water of New Zealand and the South Atlantic.
(4) A surviving pliosaur, a member of a group of short-necked plesiosaurs with large heads, elongated jaws with massive teeth,
two sets of flippers, and pointed tails. In some larger species such as Kronosaurus queenslandicus (over 40 feet), the skull was as much as 10 feet long. These marine reptiles lived 200—65 million years ago (from the Early Jurassic to the end of the Cretaceous), swam underwater aerodynamically like penguins, and were probably pursuit predators.
(5) A surviving mosasaur, a group of twenty genera that included some of the largest marine reptiles ever, frequently exceeding 33 feet in length. They lived in the Late Cretaceous, 95—65 million years ago, and had large, conical teeth, each set in a deep socket. The plioplatecarpines and tylosa urines had short bodies and long, narrow tails.
(6) A surviving metriorhynchid archosaur, a member of a group of thalattosuchians with flippers, no dermal armor, and an expansion at the end of the tail. These reptiles lived
200-95 million years ago, from the Early Jurassic to the Late Cretaceous. Like mosasaurs, they moved through the water by undulating trunk and tail.
(7) A surviving ichthyosaur, a group of dolphinlike reptiles with narrow, pointed snouts and spindle-shaped bodies. They lived 245-65 million years ago, from the Early Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous, reaching their greatest size (about 48 feet) in the Late Triassic. The ichthyosaur had big eyes, nostrils placed well back from the tip of the snout, a dorsal fin, and a fishlike tail that did all the work of moving the animal through the water.
(8) A surviving champsosaur, a freshwater, crocodile-like animal with a flat skull and slender snout that lived from the Late Cretaceous to the Oligocene, 70-30 million years ago. It had well-ossified limbs and could probably walk on land.
Sources: Karl Shuker, "Gambo: The Beaked
Beast of Bungalow Beach," Fortean Times, no. 67 (February-March 1993): 35-37; Karl Shuker, In Search ofPrehistoric Survivors (London: Blandford, 1995), pp. 116-118.
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