Seals as Sea Monsters?
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.
- 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.