On November 7th 2009, the Centre For Inquiry in London is hosting a one-day event titled Monsters From the Deep! It’s being held at Conway Hall in Red Lion Square (a venue I know all too well…). I’m giving a talk at the event so wanted to advertise it: for more details please visit the CFI website here. The day kicks off at 11am and will include both talk and workshop sessions. Charles Paxton of the University of St. Andrews, well known for his work on statistical ecology, will be giving a talk titled ‘Anecdotes, statistics and sea monsters’. The belief that anecdotal data (in this case, reports of sea monsters) can be dismissed wholesale is naïve, as analysis can still reveal meaningful inferences (make sure you see Paxton (2009) for more on this). Charles will also be leading a workshop on ‘Ecology of aquatic monsters’. A very belated congrats to Charles, incidentally, for his 2002 Ig Nobel Prize for Bubier et al. (1998).
I’ll also be speaking, and will be discussing the ‘prehistoric survivor paradigm’ and what it does, or doesn’t, mean for sea monster sightings. The hypothesis that sea monsters (if they exist) might be late-surviving plesiosaurs, basilosaurids and mosasaurs that have somehow managed to survive for tens of millions of years without leaving a fossil record is certainly not endorsed by all cryptozoologists, but it is still out there, is discussed in most of the more prominent literature on the subject, and is repeated every single time the media announces a new plesiosaur discovery, sigh. I’ll be discussing the evidence from the fossil record, what we think we know about the biology and behaviour of plesiosaurs, basilosaurids and whatnot, and will be comparing all of this to what’s reported in the sea monster literature. It’s essentially a very updated version of ‘Seals, serpents and coelacanths’ (Naish 2001), incorporating stuff from Woodley et al. (2009) and various other projects.
All in all, it’s sure to be good fun. I hope to see you there!
For previous Tet Zoo articles on marine cryptids, or sea monsters, see…
- Phylogenetic roulette and the identification of sea monsters
- A Russian sea monster carcass is claimed to be that of an ancient ‘archaeocete’ whale
- Statistics, seals and sea monsters in the technical literature
- The Long-necked seal, described 1751
- Tet Zoo on tour
- Where are all the dead sea monsters?
- That cryptozoology conference: mystery lizards, sea monsters and whale penises, 40 years of the Patterson footage
Refs – –
Bubier, N. E., Paxton, C. G. M., Bowers, P. & Deeming, D. C. 1998. Courtship behaviour of ostriches (Struthio camelus) towards humans under farming conditions in Britain. British Poultry Science 39, 477-481.
Naish, D. 2001. Sea serpents, seals and coelacanths: an attempt at a holistic approach to the identity of large aquatic cryptids. In Simmons, I. & Quin, M. (eds) Fortean Studies Volume 7. John Brown Publishing (London), pp. 75-94.
Paxton, C. G. M. 2009. The plural of “anecdote” can be “data”: statistical analysis of viewing distances in reports of unidentified giant marine animals 1758-2000. Journal of Zoology DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7998.2009.00630.x
Woodley, M. A., Naish, D. & Shanahan, H. P. 2009. How many extant pinniped species remain to be described? Historical Biology 20, 225-235.