Merbeing of South America.

Etymology: Guarani (Tupi), "water dweller."

Variant names: Hipupiara, Iara (for the female), Igpupiara, Oyara, Uiara.

Physical description: Covered in short brown hair. Females have long, beautiful head-hair. Deep, sunken eyes. Whiskers. Bl owhol e is at the back of the head. Tail fins.

Behavior: Moans. Kills victims by constriction. Eats only the eyes, nose, tips of toes and fingers, and genitals.

Distribution: Coast of Brazil.

Significant sightings: In 1554, Baltasar Ferreira encountered an Ipupiara moving along the beach near Sao Vicente, Brazil. He kil l ed it with his sword, al though it put up some resistance. It was completely covered with hair and had whiskers and tail fins.

Anatomist Pieter Pauw (1564-1617) dissected a merman brought to him by merchants of the Dutch East Indies Company, who had al -legedly captured it off the coast of Brazil. The corpse had a human head and torso, but the lower extremity was a shapeless, tailless mass of fl esh. One hand and some ribs wound up in Danish physician Thomas Bartholin's "cabinet of curiosities," an early museum of anatomical and zool ogical oddities. The hand's fingers were webbed, and the knucklebones were robust. Possible explanations:

(1) The Boto dolphin (Inia geoffrensis) is found in the Amazon and Orinoco River basins. Its flipper might be mistaken for a human hand, according to Michel Meurger. In Amazonian myth, the Boto is said to be able to interbreed with humans, producing hybrids.

(2) The merman corpse may have been a genetically malformed human suffering from sirenomelia, in which the limbs are fused throughout their l ength and no separate feet are present.

Sources: Pero de Magal haes de Gandavo, Historia da provincia sacta Cruz a que "vulgar mete" chamamos Brasil(Lisbon: Antonio Gonsalves, 1576); Jean de Lery, Histoire d'un voyage fait en la terre du Bresil (La Rochelle, France: Antoine Chuppin, 1578); Fernao Cardim, Tratados da terra e gente do Brasil [1585] (Lisbon: Commissao Nacional para as Comemora^oes dos Descobrimentos Portugueses, 1997); Joannes de Laet, Novus orbis, seu, Descriptionis Indiae Occidentalis, libri XVIII (Leiden, the Netherlands: Elzevirios, 1633), p. 508; Thomas Bartholin, Historiarum anatomicarum rariorum centuria I et II (Copenhagen: Academicis Martzani, 1654), pp. 186-191; Luis da Camara-Cascudo, "Los mitos de las aguas del Brasil," Annuario de la Sociedad Folklorica de Mexico 5 (1945): 14-15; Michel Meurger and Claude Gagnon, Lake Monster Traditions: A Cross-Cultural Analysis (London: Fortean Tomes, 1988), pp. 199-205.

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