Marine Saurian

A category of Sea Monster identified by Bernard Heuvelmans.

Physical description: Length, 50-60 feet. Smooth skin. Grayish- or reddish-brown. Scales form rings around the body. Elongated, crocodile-like head. Slight dorsal crest. Prominent eye sockets. Long mouth. Numerous, closely set teeth. Two pairs of flippers or legs. Webbed toes. Long tail.

Behavior: Favors both coastal and deep waters. Swims quickly with horizontal undulations.

Distribution: Tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.

Significant sightings: Capt. George Hope of the HMS Fly observed a huge, alligator-like animal with a long neck swimming underwater in the Gulf of California in the late 1830s.

A controversial sighting occurred January 13, 1852, in the South Pacific Ocean about 700 miles northeast of the Iles Marquises. Capt. Charles (or Jason) Seabury, of the New Bedford whaler Monongahela, claimed to have har pooned and killed a reptilian monster 103 feet long with a 10-foot-long, alligator-like head. Seabury had the animal's head cut off and managed to preserve some bones, an eye, and the heart. However, after sending back a report on the encounter via another ship (variously identified as the brig Gipsy or the Rebecca Sims), the Monongahela was apparently lost at sea.

On July 30, 1877, Capt. W. H. Nelson and officers of the Sacramento sighted a sea monster in the mid-North Atlantic. It had a flat head raised several feet above the surface, was yellowish or reddish-brown in color, and appeared to be 40-60 feet long.

A crocodile-shaped, 60-foot-long sea monster was allegedly thrown into the air by an underwater explosion after the German submarine U-28 torpedoed the British steamer Iberian off County Cork, Ireland, on July 30, 1915. Some discrepancies in the account given by the U-boat commander eighteen years later cast some doubt on the incident. Possible explanations:

(1) The long beak of the Garpike (Belone belone) is slightly reptilian, but this fish has a maximum length of only 3 feet.

(2) A surviving thalattosuchian, a group of long-snouted crocodilians known mostly from European marine sediments of the Early Jurassic to the Early Cretaceous, 190-100 million years ago. Their elongated jaws made it easy for them to catch and eat fish, probably by ambush rather than pursuit. It is now thought, however, that they swam with vertical undulations like whales. There were two types: the teleosaurs, which had webbed feet, dermal armor, and a tapered tail, and the metriorhynchids, which had flippers, no armor, and possibly a tail fin. They appeared to favor open water.

(3) A surviving mosasaur, a group of twenty genera related to monitor lizards 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. There is reasonable evidence to indicate that

320 marine saurian mosasaurs swam upstream to breed in freshwater rivers and lakes, thus preferring coastal waters.

(4) A surviving pliosaur, 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 10 feet long. The animals lived 200—65 million years ago, from the Early Jurassic to the end of the Cretaceous; they swam underwater aerodynamically like penguins and were probably pursuit predators. Sources: Edward Newman, "Enormous Undescribed Animal, Apparently Allied to the Enaliosauri, Seen in the Gulf of California," Zoologist 7 (1849): 2356; "Reported Capture of the Sea-Serpent," Zoologist 10 (1852): 3426-3429; Australasian Sketcher (Melbourne), November 24, 1877; Freiherr von Forstner, "Das schottische Seeungeheuer schon von U 28 gesichtet," Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, December 19, 1933; C. O. Clark, "The Monongahela and the Sea Serpent," Fate 11 (December 1958): 31-33; Bernard Heuvelmans, In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents (New York: Hill and Wang, 1968), pp. 564, 566; Ulrich Magin, "Forstner Sea Serpent Sighting: A Possible Hoax?" Strange Magazine, no. 2 (1988): 4.

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