Lately at the yahoo group Frontiers-of-Zoology, I have been going over a site on Patagonian Monsters that I discovered recently, in which Austin Whittall is putting together a book to be published on the subject and under the same name. That site is here:
And it holds a wealth of information, most of which is very good and I find no fault in it. He has a lot of useful information on hominids including the Patagon giants (Some of which may have been Bigfoot in my interpretation, not his), and such creatures as Water Bulls that might have been Toxodons and the giant otter Iemisch. However, he completely discounts the creature known as the Patagonian Plesiosaur or Nahuelito. He repeatedly states that the reports of long-necked creatures must have been false, yet he is curiously silent when the same long-necked creatures are seen at sea. For the record and in case nobody was already aware of the fact, Long-necked Sea-serpents are probably the largest category still reported worldwide AND the most regularly represented types of freshwater monsters as well. There is little value in saying that there are no Long-necked Lake Monsters in Patagonia when they are reported in comparable other lakes world-wide.
A commonly repeated description of Nahuelito, the Patagonian Plesiosaur is as follows:
'it is curious that the great majority of tales coincide with the description of an animal of about 10-15 meters long, with two hunches or humps, leathery skin and, occasionally, a swan-like neck. It is striking that this characterization is so similar to the descriptions made by the Mapuches two hundred years before.'
That happens to coincide exactly with my own statistical composite, the composite Tim Dinsdale made of the Loch Ness Monster, and other similar composite drawn from such reports worldwide. I have done statistical analyses of most Long-necked Lake monsters worldwide and they are generally very close together in averages. (Ogopogo and other Canadian Lake monsters do ot turn out to be Long-necked creatures in most cases. Champ is one at times, though)
Whitall objects to this and says that the corresponding Mapuche water-monster is the Cuero (hide, or cowhide) which is not described as being like that at all. From that point he goes on to say that the reported creatures were not originally long-necked and that the Cuero tradition cannot be applied to a Plesiosaur-shaped creature.
The Cuero is supposed to be a flat creature like a spread-out spotted goatskin or cowhide with no discernable head but bugged-out eyes and a sucking mouth underneath. Under the name Trelquelhuecuve it is said to have many poisonous spines or claws but under a different name it is just said to have the one claw or stinger in its tail. Its general shape and especially the placement of the mouth, but most of all the sting in its tail, mark it as a kind of stingray. Oddly, Whittall is somewhat indifferent to this explanation and says there are no freshwater stingrays in Patagonia: on the contrary, Eberhart indicates an unidentified stingray is reported in the Rio Negro (Black River) which is near to lake Nahuel Hapi where Nahuelito is supposed to live.
The problem is - and this almost took my breath away when I realised it - every single writer on the subject before has been misled by the same mistake. They were identifying Nahuelito with the wrong tradition. Nahuelito was not what was called Cuero but was instead something else called (in Spanish) Culebron. Culebron means 'Big Snake' and it is used to cover several different traditions. It is the local-usage equivalent of 'Dragon.'
I found illustrations meaning to show Cuero and Culebron from Spanish-language sites off the internet and I have mutilated them in the name of scientific research. The Spanish-language information on this Culebron says that it is a plumed serpent equivalent to Quetzalcoatl and it is being shown with plumed wings to swim through the water with (as a water monster Culebron) I cut the wings short so that it could be shown that actually the creature they are talking about is built like a plesiosaur, in this case one third of the length apiece is head and neck, body, and tail. The same creature is also described with humps on the back, four limbs, and sometimes a mane.
So THAT is what the native-tradition Patagonian Plesiosaur actually IS, and the tradition does go all the way back to the original discovery of the country in Conquistador days.
Another thing that bothers Whittall is a supposed carved likeness of Nahuelito printed in Suckling and Eggleston's book The Book of Sea Monsters. Whittall rightly says the art style is nothing like the indigenous art of the area, and he is right: the illustration is made up. However, I did discover from the Spanish-language sources that Culebron is depicted in rock art of the area, but it would not look anything like that. If anything, the 'Plumed Serpents' alluded to would look like the objects in the hands of the central god figure in the Sun Gate at Tiahuanaco, for the culture cited in the Spanish sources was using that style.