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    You're Kraken Me Up
    By Danna Staaf | October 11th 2011 06:05 PM | 1 comment | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Danna

    Cephalopods have been rocking my world since I was in grade school. I pursued them through a BA in marine biology at the University of California...

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    Today's post in honor of the 2011 Cephalopod Awareness Days. October 11th is Myths and Legends Day.

    And what better way to celebrate than with an account of the newly discovered Triassic Kraken, you know, the one who made a self-portrait with the vertebral discs of dinosaurs a couple of millions years ago?
    The evidence is at Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park in Nevada, where McMenamin and his daughter spent a few days this summer. It's a site where the remains of nine 45-foot (14-meter) ichthyosaurs, of the species Shonisaurus popularis can be found. . . . Among the evidences of the kraken attacks are many more ribs broken in the shonisaur fossils than would seem accidental and the twisted necks of the ichthyosaurs. "It was either drowning them or breaking their necks." Of course, it's the perfect Triassic crime because octopuses are mostly soft-bodied and don't fossilize well.
    If your reaction to this bizarre claim is to snort something that starts with B and ends with it, you're not alone. Wired's Brian Switek offers scathing commentary on the "discovery" itself . . .
    The McMenamins’ entire case is based on peculiar inferences about the site. It is a case of reading the scattered bones as if they were tea leaves able to tell someone’s fortune.
    . . . and the media hype surrounding it:
    No outside expert was contacted for another opinion in any of the stories — standard practice in science journalism — and, frankly, all the stories reek of churnalism. What does it say about the general quality of science reporting when major news sources are content to repackage sensationalist, evidence-lite speculations and print them without further thought or comment?
    And Kevin Z at Deep-Sea News--tongue firmly planted in his cheek--promptly took Switek to task for smashing all our hopes and dreams.
    Don’t go out there on the internet and ruin it for the rest of us with your *facts* and *arguments* and accumulated knowledge through years of researching stuff.
    Really, what more is there for me to say? I can only offer my own humble opinion, which is that the McMenamins' are simply having a laugh, telling a humorous tale, making a practical joke, if you will. Writing up fictitious science is a practice not without tradition, the Sokal affair being one of the most famous, although my personal favorite is Karl Banse's paper on Mermaids--Their Biology, Culture, and Demise.

    Time will tell. Let me close with the final words of the McMenamins' abstract, which are undeniably truthful:
    The submarine contest between cephalopods and seagoing tetrapods has a long history. A Triassic kraken would have posed a deadly risk for shonisaurs as they dove in pursuit of their smaller cephalopod prey.

    Comments

    I am not a rum drinker, but one of these days I wish to try kraken rum.

    And does anyone hear Mickey Rooney's line in "Night at the Museum" as "Are you kraken wise?" ;)