Ever one to jump on a bandwagon, and with another ‘mystery carcass’ case still all too fresh on the Tet Zoo list of articles, I’ve decided to blog about this new ‘Montauk monster’ carcass. In case you’ve forgotten, back in July 2008 the global media went absolutely apeshit over a rotten raccoon carcass, informally dubbed the ‘Montauk monster’, and suggested by the uninformed to be some weird genetic experiment, a dead turtle without its shell (duh: THE SHELL IS THE RIBCAGE, IT CANNOT BE MAGICALLY DETACHED FROM THE REST OF THE BODY), or some sort of beaked dinosaur-monster. Yes, if you ever want to see how little people in general know about natural history and animal anatomy, show them a half-rotten carcass.
Anyway, the new carcass was discovered on May 5th 2009, this time at Southold, Long Island, New York, and thanks to everyone who has been emailing me about this, or linking to my previous article on the first carcass. As was the case for Montauk monster # 1, we’re seeing completely retarded ‘explanations’ that betray a wholesale willingness to avoid doing the stuff that can be loosely termed ‘doing research': you know, stuff like looking at books, googling, or going to the library or the museum…
So far, very little information is available. The carcass is mostly hairless, bloated, and not very large (though, as usual, no direct indication of scale has been provided). For starters, the carcass is – WITHOUT DOUBT – that of a quadrupedal mammal. A long, slim tail (perhaps two-thirds the length of the hindlimb) is present (it’s visible in one of the photos). In the video (I’m showing the msnbc.com clip here, but a longer version is available on youtube), we’re shown that the defleshed fingers are slim and stick-like. We also see a mostly de-fleshed skull: remember that the soft tissues of the head (starting with the snout) typically decompose first in rotting carcasses, and the hands and feet follow next. The skull of Montauk monster # 2 has a smoothly convex upper surface and a large, rounded orbit (= eye socket). When the skull is raised with a stick, we see that the animal has a broad palate, a relatively short snout, an alveolus (= socket) on the left side that clearly originally housed a large canine, and reasonably large molars. A screen-capture from the video (used in the composite image shown below) reveals the orbit, zygomatic arch (= bony bar that extends backwards from above the molars, under the eye, and attaches close to the ear region) and infraorbital foramen (= an opening on the side of the snout where nerves and blood vessels emerge).
All of these features demonstrate WITHOUT ANY DOUBT WHATSOEVER that the carcass is (again) that of a carnivoran (= a member of the mammalian clade Carnivora: the group that includes cats, hyenas, civets, dogs, bears, weasels, skunks, raccoons, seals etc.). It is not a dog, as it lacks the convex bony brow present in dog skulls. Instead… drum-roll…. it is ANOTHER RACCOON. Oh, what a surprise. In the adjacent composite, the skull of Montauk monster # 2 (at top; flipped horizontally) is compared with a raccoon skull [image by Peter Halasz, from wikipedia]. While they are not completely identical (the Montauk skull lacks the slight concavity present on the dorsal surface of the snout shown in the clean raccoon skull), these differences are well within individual variation (and might be due to perspective anyway) and the similarity is convincing. Case closed: definitely another raccoon.
Like the first Montauk monster, this case is crap, and driven by sensationalism and a desire to create a mystery where there isn’t one. We do not identify carcasses by poking them with sticks and saying how weird they look: we have to, you know, make observations about anatomy and compare what we see with what is already known about other animals.
UPDATE: can you help to make a difference? Perhaps you can. As suggested in the comments (see below), it might be worth making the effort of going periodically to the ‘Montauk Monster’ website, and leaving a link to this post (i.e., the one you’re reading right now at Tet Zoo) each and every time. As suggested by Ivan of The Lazy Lizard’s Tales, maybe someone would eventually follow the link and learn something. Consider this a sort of public-outreach teach-people-about-basic-science thing.
For other cases of this sort of thing see…