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Matt Fraser writes..
> Go to <http://www.abcnews.com/sections/scitech/madrad_0627/index.html>
> and check out the newly described marine reptile (extant, mind you).
> Anyone have any insights on this? Anyone get _Amphipacifica_, where it
> was published?
Well, I'm not sure if discussion of this thing should be aired too much here
but.. hmm.. shall I go for it? Yes, _Cadborosaurus willsi_ is the official name
given to the 1937 Neden Harbour (British Columbia) carcass by Paul LeBlond and
Eric Bousfield. They chose one of the several known photos as the iconotype of
this taxon, and therefore formalised a name for a cryptid thus far referred to
only in the vernacular ('Caddie', 'Cadborosaurus'). Historically, there are a
wealth of proposed scientific names in existence for cryptids (Bernard
Heuvelmans was fond of creating them), but all are _nomina nuda_ as they lack
type specimens. _Cadborosaurus willsi_ is the first exception. The decision of
LeBlond and Bousfield to formally describe _Cadborosaurus_ in a formal journal
(_Amphipacifica_ 1, Supplement 1) has received substantial derision from
colleagues and peers.
The 1937 carcass - or 'object' if you want to be more objective - was retrieved
from the stomach of a Sperm whale (_Physeter catodon_) and was approx. 3 m long.
It obviously struck the whalers as unusual, because they had the presence of
mind to put it up on a load of crates and take several photographs of it.
Suggestions that the object is an elephant seal, shark or baleen whale
foetus/embryo/youngster don't seem realistic in view of certain of the object's
features. These include an apparently symmetrical caudal fluke-like distal
structure with a central series of knobs that appear to correspond with
vertebrae, and a camel-like 'head'. The 'body' is elongate and serpentine and
there appear to be pectoral flippers.
I cannot see that the object could be faked.
As discussed at greater depth in their recent book (which I haven't seen: it's
not widely available over here), Bousfield and LeBlond favour a reptilian
identity for _Cadborosaurus_. Why is not exactly clear, especially when reported
'caddies' have fur, swim in very cold waters (yes, gigantothermy is a
possibility but 'caddy' is very long bodied and an unsuited shape for heat
retention - in contrast to _Dermochelys_ and big ichthyosaurs etc.), and have
no discernible reptilian characters.
Bousfield and LeBlond (in _Amphipacifica_) speculatively identified jointed
elements in the Neden Harbour specimen's 'tail pseudo-fluke' (their term) as
homologous with those of the tetrapod hind limb, and pointed to a similarity
with the hind limb of a pachypleurosaur. They ignored the fact that all
tetrapods have the same elements in their hindlimbs as do pachypleurosaurs.
Their entire case for _Cadborosaurus_ being an extant sauropterygian does not
therefore have any serious supporting evidence. If the Neden Harbour carcass is
a real animal, and if it is the same animal as those seen in British Columbian
waters (I suspect it is), I think it is a mammal. Despite quotes attributed to
me in certain French newspapers, I do not believe that _Cadborosaurus_ is a
whale. Horizontal tail flukes, I suggest, are indicative of a mammalian identity
as they have been evolved several times in marine mammals, but never in
reptiles. But what sort of mammal a cadborosaur would be is anyone's guess.
Other supposed extant marine reptilian cryptids have yet to provide enough data
to usefully denote identity. They include a wealth of giant crocodile-like
animals, and long-necked creatures seen in waters around the world. Some of
these cases suggest the presence of as-yet-undiscovered species, but large
examples of known species and misidentifications are also possibly important.
A piece of evidence comparable to the 1937 Neden Harbour carcass is the Bungalow
Beach, Gambia, carcass examined by Owen Burnham in 1986. Burnham claims he knows
exactly where this is buried: no excavation there has yet been carried out.
Burnham's description is that of a small short-necked plesiosaur, and he is
adamant that it was not a whale. Burnham's case has received a lot of publicity
and is apparently accepted as largely valid by most cryptozoologists. I am
totally sceptical and do not accept his account as truly genuine (his father and
brother claim to have seen the same carcass), but this is only because I want
to remain objective and require more evidence that the account of someone who
is presently writing up tales for _X Factor_ magazine on the flying soul-demons
of deepest Africa.
Interestingly, 2 photos of an alleged 'carcass' very much like those taken at
Neden Harbour were published as postcards in the 1930s. They were apparently
taken on the beach of Camp Fircom, B.C. Both have now been published (for the
first time in more than 60 years!) and examination of them leads me to believe
that they (1) represent the same assemblage of objects (the two photos are taken
from different angles and have the 'carcass' positioned differently), and (2)
do not represent an animal carcass of any kind, but are in fact composed of a
montage of beach debris. A stem of kelp serves as a body, a large white rock
(with a mussel shell as an eye) poses as a skull. My article on this is in press
for _The Cryptozoology Review_. Not everyone agrees with my interpretation. Paul
LeBlond thinks that the Camp Fircom 'carcass' is a decayed shark. Yes, I know
that dead sharks look like plesiosaurs, but there is not one feature you can see
in the Camp Fircom object that is discernibly shark-like. I would like to
emphasise that the Camp Fircom specimen is entirely detached from the Neden
Well, there you go. You asked for it Matt. Fwd to your heart's content Ben.
Give me a gu--un"
The countdown begins: 30