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In the Mouth of Madness
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Posts: 1970

« Reply #15 on: October 15, 2011, 03:49:19 pm »

The carcass controversy continued to make appearances in the popular press in America, but with less sensationalism. On July 26, 1977 The New York Times reported that professor Fujio Yasuda, who initially promoted the carcass resembled a plesiosaur, acknowledged that initial chromatography tests showed a profile of amino acids closely resemembling a control sample from a blue shark. An August 1, 1977 Newsweek article briefly discussed the "South Pacific Monster" without taking sides. A few months later a more detailed article by John Koster (1977) appeared in Oceans magazine. This account evidently the basis for many subsequent reports, many of which embellished or oversimplified various aspects of the story. Koster mentioned the preliminary tissue results and comments by western scientists supporting the shark interpretation, but also quoted Yano and others suggesting that the issue was not yet settled. Koster himself suggested that the small size of the creature's head, well-defined spinal column, and the lack of dorsal fin, did not fit the shark identification.

Soon news of the controversial carcass also came to the attention of some strict creationists, who suggested that the "likely plesiosaur" supported their young-earth position (Swanson 1978; Taylor 1984; Peterson 1988). After all, they seemed to imply, if a creature supposedly extinct for millions of years can turn up in a fishing net, how can we trust anything geologists tell us?

However, even if a modern plesiosaur were confirmed, it would not threaten the concept of evolution. After all, many other modern animal groups existed during the Mesozoic Era, such as crocodiles, lizards, snakes, and various fish. Most of these groups are well represented in the fossil record leading to the present time, but some creatures, such as the Coelacanth and Tuatara were once thought to have been extinct for tens of millions of years, only to be later found alive and little changed in modern times. These cases emphasize the incompleteness of the fossil record and the remarkable stasis of some animal groups, but are not grounds for upheavals in evolutionary thought. Nevertheless, the discovery of a modern plesiosaur would certainly be a stupendous scientific find in its own right, confirming that long-necked "sea serpents" were not just long-extinct creatures or the stuff of sailor's myths, but real "living fossils." Unfortunately, a more thorough examination of the evidence would convincingly refute the plesiosaur interpretation.
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