Thursday, September 25, 2008

Was this the "sea serpent?"

Dr. Darren Naish, in his invaluable blog Tetrapod Zoology, today discussed an item I'd been quite unaware of. In 1751, a London physician, Dr. James Parsons, published an article ("A dissertation upon the Class of the Phocae Marinae," Philosophical Transactions 47, 109-122) naming a new species - a long-necked seal. Parsons said that he had the type specimen of this animal, a juvenile about 2.3m long. He published an illustration showing a long-necked specimen along with two ordinary seals (not very accurately drawn) as comparisons.
What was this alleged specimen, and what happened to it? A long-necked seal is a familiar topic in cryptozoology, often put forth as an answer to "sea serpent" sightings. Did Parsons actually have his hands on something very important? No one knows, and we may never know.

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