Seals as Sea Monsters?

A seal in the water: A sea monster?

The seal is an aquatic mammal that could explain some sea serpent or lake monster sightings. Certainly the Elephant Seal, Mirounga angustirostris, is large enough to play the part. Elephant seals weigh up to 8000 pounds and can measure more than 25 feet. Which are just about the right dimensions for some sea monster reports.

Seals (and their close cousins, sea lions) eat fish, crustaceans and squid. Awkward on the land, they are fast and agile in the sea, using their two forward flippers and large flat tails to race through the water.

We know that some species of seals, like the Harbor Seal, Ringed Seal or Baikal Seal can live in fresh water. Could an unknown variety of seal, a fresh water version of an elephant seal, explain some of the Lake Monster sightings? Probably not. Most seals spend whatever time they are not feeding laying on the beach, rocks, or even docks humans have erected, basking in the sun. They are just too visible members of the animal community to not be discovered in a lake.

Seals may be the answer for a few open ocean reports though. A large seal, seen at a distance, might be mistaken for a serpent or sea monster, though it is doubtful that an experienced sailor would make such an error.

Left - An elephant seal basking. Right - Sea lions giving the dock a "seal" of approval.

Another class of mammal which might be mistaken for monsters would be the Sirenias. This group includes dugongs and sea cows. The most familiar of these animals is the manatee that swims in the rivers and along the coast of Florida.

Manatee's have two forward flippers and a flat tail, like the seal. Unlike the seal it spends almost all of it's time in the water. Also unlike the seal it feeds on aquatic vegetation. Manatee's grow up to 15 feet long and weigh 3500 pounds. Could a relative of the manatee be a lake monster? Maybe. Many believe that the manatee and it's cousin, the sea cow, may have inspired the tales of mermaids, though it would take a particularly lonesome sailor to mistake the face of one of these creatures for a beautiful woman.

Two manatee's swimming near the sandy bottom.

Copyright 1996 Lee Krystek. All Rights Reserved.


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