Tompondrano

Multifinned Sea Monster of Madagascar.

Etymology: Malagasy Vezo dialect (Austrone-sian), "lord of the sea."

Physical description: Length, 70-80 feet. White, red, green, or dark longitudinal stripes. Mouth on the bottom of the head. A movable hood protects the eyes on the side of the head. Covered with bony plates. Some accounts give it front flippers like a whale's. Shrimplike tail with a terminal flap.

Behavior: Swims against the wind with vertical undulations. Emits phosphorescence, especially on the head. Said to be generated from intestinal worms that grow to a huge size and become land snakes called fananina, which dive into the sea when they get too large to move around on land.

Distribution: Indian Ocean off southwestern Madagascar.

Significant sightings: After midnight on January 21, 1926, Georges Petit was in a canoe with some local Malagasy fishermen along the coast 10-15 miles south of Toliara when he saw a large body in the water, lit at several points by natural phosphorescence. The crew obstinately refused to look at the animal, which they identified as a Tompondrano that causes great peril.

Sources: Georges Petit, L'industrie des pêches à Madagascar: Faune des colonies françaises (Paris: Mart G. et Colon, 1930), pp. 262-266; Raymond Decary, La faune malgache, son rôle dans les croyances et les usages indigènes (Paris: Payot, 1950), pp. 204-205.

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