Moha Moha

Unknown Fish of Australia.

Etymology: Said to be an Australian word meaning "saucy fellow" or "dangerous turtle."

Scientific name: Chelosauria lovelli, given by William Saville-Kent in 1893. Variant name: Moka moka. Physical description: Length, 28-30 feet. Greenish-white head and neck, with large white spots. Band of white around the black eyes. Visible teeth. Round jaws, 18 inches long. Long neck. Dome-shaped, slate-gray central body, 8 feet long and 5 feet high. Said to have alligatorlike legs and fingers. Dark-brown dorsal fin. Silvery, scaly, fish-shaped tail, 12 feet long.

Behavior: Said to be able to stand on its hind feet and attack Aboriginal camps. Edible.

Distribution: Sandy Cape, Fraser Island, Queensland, Australia.

Significant sighting: S. Lovell was walking along the beach at Sandy Cape, Queensland, in June 1890 when she saw the head and neck of a huge animal resting partly on the shore. She stood observing it for thirty minutes along with two schoolgirls; then it twisted its tail fluke, submerged, and vanished out to sea. Lovell said the animal had been seen the previous week by an Aboriginal boy.

Present status: Not seen since 1890. P^ossible explanations:

(1) The Pitted-shelled turtle (Carettochelys insculpta) is a freshwater turtle found in the river systems of the Northern Territory. It has a distinctive, pale streak behind each eye and a longish neck, and it grows to about 2 feet 5 inches long.

(2) The Eastern snake-necked turtle (Chelodina longicollis) occurs throughout eastern Queensland in swamps, rivers, and billabongs. It has a relatively long neck, but its total length is only 10 inches.

(3) A surviving placoderm fish, suggested by David Alderton. PHerichthyodes of the Middle Devonian, 375 million years ago, had an armored head and trunk shield that resembled a turtle shell, but the fish was only 6 inches long. Also, it did not have a long neck. Larger placoderms such as Dunkleosteus reached up to 18 feet in length but were shaped more like sharks or bony fishes.

Sources: Land and Water, January 3, 1891, and April 25, 1891; William Saville-Kent, The Great Barrier Reefof Australia: Its Products and Potentialities (London: W. H. Allen, 1893), pp. 322-327; Rupert T. Gould, The Case for the Sea-Serpent (London: Philip Allen, 1930), pp. 173-183; Bernard Heuvelmans, In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents (New York: Hill and Wang, 1968), pp. 295-302.


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