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Kraken sea monster found? Researcher is mocked for theory

October 11, 2011 |  1:53 pm

Kraken_art_work
Paleontologist Mark McMenamin knew he would face lots of skepticism when he presented an admittedly outrageous theory this week at a geologists convention.

His theory involves fossils found at Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park in Nevada that have long perplexed experts. The size of a school bus, the fossils are believed to be the remains of ichthyosaurs, ancient reptiles akin to today's sperm whales. But how did they get there? Further, the remains seemed to be arranged in an appealing geometric pattern, almost like a work of art. Who or what would have done that, and more important, why?

McMenamin, a Mount Holyoke College professor, believes he has the answer. He posits that a kraken-like sea monster -- basically a giant octopus -- attacked these whale-like creatures and dragged them to its watery lair millions of years ago, during the Triassic Era.

But that's not the most intriguing part of his theory. McMenamin believes that this creature then took some enjoyment from arranging the remains of its victims.

And that's not even the most intriguing part of his theory.

McMenamin believes that the remains are not just serendipitous;  he believes that they were intentionally arranged to mirror the suckers running up and down and the sea monster's tentacles.

In other words, this could be the world's first self-portrait, and a sign of just how clever and self-aware these Kraken-like sea creatures could be.

McMenamin expected his theory to raise eyebrows. But, after advance word got out, he was surprised to see people streaming into his session at the geologists' gathering to hear the theory for themselves. "That's never happened before, I can tell you that," he told The Times.

He also wasn't expecting so many jokes.

"That theory is kraken me up," one wag told McMenamin. "Smokin' kraken?" was the headline on a dismissive story at Discovery.com.

McMenamin says he's not the least bit offended. Such skepticism and batting around of theories is an integral part of the scientific process. He says his theory can stand up to it all.

"We were expecting a very skeptical response to this, and rightly so. It is a kind of bold theory," he said.

The key to the site, he said, "is the double row pattern" of fossils arranged in a deliberate fashion. The remains from one or more animals were sorted for size and arranged from smallest to largest, not unlike that distinctive pattern on an octopus' tentacle.

"There is a puzzle piece fit to it," he said. "I cannot conceive of a physical process that would do it, it's some kind of intentional process," he said. And it's not a prank, either, because the excavation of the site, which has been well documented and photographed, has puzzled experts from the beginning.

If you have doubts about the ability of an octopus-like creature to take on a whale, you could take a spin through the "Clash of the Titans" or "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

Or you could check out this famed  -- and non-fictional -- video of an octopus taking down a shark at the Seattle Aquarium: 

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--Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Photo: Remains shaped in a deliberate geometric pattern.  Credit: Mark McMenamin

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