Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

DALE DRINNON: Modifications to the Aquatic Cryptids classifications as proposed by Heuvelmans

This is a general outline of my modifications to Heuvelmans, basically what I was distilling down at the opening of my article in the CFZ yearbook. The other work on the categories follows from this, and the range maps go with this.
Heuvelmans lists three opening categories:

1X) Vague or indeterminate reports, Mistaken observations and False reports or Hoaxes.

While I change the percentages of all the categories I allow those to stand, but I also add to the invalid reports the majority of the following categories:


2X) Super Otter 13 definite and 15 possible sightings. It has the overall shape like an otter, a serpentine body which undulates vertically, and a short or medium-length neck. The Super Otter may be about 65-100 feet long, sometimes reported up to several hundred or over a thousand (!) feet long. The creature seen by Hans Egede was probably a Super Otter, and it is perhaps a primitive archaeocete with four legs. As of 1965, the last definite Super Otter was in 1848, so it might be extinct by now.

The Report credited to Hans Egede (actually made by his son Povel) was most likely a misunderstood view of a whale now thought to be extinct in the area, and the Sundsland Fisherman report a more normal viewof another creature of the same type. The majority of the rest of the reports are mistaking waves in the water for living animals. As to the statement that the last one was seen in 1846, reports of the same type continue to the present day and it is permissible that NONE of these reports accurately describes any living creature. NONE of them would therefore be "definite" reports of a "Super-otter" or anything else.

3X) Many Humped 33 definite and 26 possible sightings. As the name suggests, this has several humps on it's back. It has a small head, short or medium-length neck, and (sometimes)a fin on its back as well as a pair of flippers. It seems to be about 60-100 feet long, and may be threatened or endangered, as there are very few recent sightings. It is probably an archaeocete.

The Super-Otter and Many-humped categories are hard to distinguish from one another. Most of the reports in this category are also mistaken impressions of waves in the water, even if a Plesiosaur-shaped creature is making the wave. The distinctively black-backed, white-bellied reports with a back fin come from mistaken views of killer whales.

4X) Many Finned 20 definite and 6 possible sightings. This has a round head with whiskers, short neck, and many fins along the sides. It is probably about 60-70 feet long. The many finned seems to have some kind of armored protection, and seems to be another kind of primitive archaeocete.

Many-finned reports are most often mistaken views of several small cetaceans in a line. Some of the reports included are even Plesiosaur-shaped creatures or large whales. The Along Bay Dragons and Tompandrano do NOT conform to Heuvelmans' description.


1) Longneck 48 definite and 34 possible reports. The Longneck has a long neck, a humped back, and little or no tail. Some Longnecks have two horns, and the creature has a fast speed. The Longneck has flippers (similar to those of a seal) and is probably about 15-60 feet long. The Longneck is probably a kind of pinniped (seals, sea lions, etc) and the first known sighting was in 1846 (Although Heuvelmans states it was known to the ancients as "Physeter" and the first Sea-serpent listed on his table in the back is possibly a ?LN)

1A, Male of 1) Merhorse 37 definite and 34 probable sightings. The Merhorse has a head similar to a horse, a long neck, and a mane. It has big eyes and a snake-like tail. Sightings suggest that ther Merhorse ranges in size from 30-100 feet. The Merhorse's big eyes suggest that it may normally live in the deeper parts of the ocean.

Sightings of Megalotaria - the hypothetical long-necked pinniped

Most other reporters regard Longnecked and Merhorse to be male and female of the same species. The sizes indicated are a clue to this, with the males much larger in size. The larger size estimates should probably be cut in half.

It turns out the Merhorse's eyes are not proportionately longer, they are marked with circles around them in contrasting clour to the rest of the head and back, and this has been plainly stated since the 1700s. Included separately in each category are separate series of reports of large pinnepeds: a kind of sea lion in the first instance and a large seal-elephant seal-in the second series. including these reports in with the others has corrupted the composites created for both of them. The standard Longneck also has a snakelike tail and is otherwise identical in shape to the Merhorse. The Merhorse in turn is also brighter-coloured as well as having a mane, ordinarily a reddish or mohagany brown but sometimes with a greenish colour variation instead. reports of distinctively reflective, silvery or greyish bodies, and distinctively long reddish manes, are due to mistaken observations of Oarfish.

Consequently the total numbers of reports in each category comes down somewhat owing to the mistaken reports being culled out. Both categories are still by far the majority of "Unidentified" Sea-serpent sightings, counted either together or separately.


Map - Megaconger sightings Picture - reconstructions of megaconger and titanoconger

5) Super Eel 12 definite and 11 possible sightings, equally well 12 larger and 11 smaller category sightings. The Super Eel may actually include different species. Most of them look like eels (the only sea serpents that actually are serpentine) though the description of their heads and coloration differ. Super Eels have large eyes and are said to be 20-100 feet long, in two bunches, one averaging about 30 feet and the other nearly 100 feet. Super eels are sometimes dying when at the surface, and are probably fish.

Sea serpemt depictions corresponding to megaconger (right)

titanoconger (left)

The larger and smaller size categories I name Titanoconger and Megaconger, and they differ in ways other than size. The Titanoconger is a really big deepsea, free-swimming fish marked with a distinctively darker back and lighter belly. I doubt if it is actually abyssal. The Megaconger is a smaller fish, although at an average of 20-30 feet long it is still larger than any known eel. It has a more even colouration and seems to favor shallower waters near to the coast and on continental shelves. Two subcategories in the Mediterranean and around Fiji might be more like large moray eels instead, without pectoral fins and otherwise similar to larger editions of the more common local morays.
Heuvelmans also includes a category of reports he calls ?LN?SE because he considers them difficult to categorize as either Longnecks or Super-eels. It would seem to me that about two-thirds of these are Longnecks and possibly a third (or less) are Super-eels: some of them are also reports of whales or other mistaken observations.

Map - sightings of `titanoconger`


6. Marine Saurian When Heuvelmans designed his classifications, the Marine Saurian was known from only 4 definite, 5 possible sightings. It is described as looking like a gigantic crocodile (50-60 feet), and may be some kind of ancient marine reptile.I have subsequently broken this down into a larger-sized category including 6 of the original 9, The actual Marine Saurian although it grows much larger than Heuvelmans states, and a small-sized category including 2 of the 9 and which are similar to the African carcass known as Gambo. One of the reports is different, it is more definitely a crocodile like C. porosis but larger. I have subsequently added more reports to the Marine Saurians, and more recently especially to the largest-sized category. Curiously enough, some of the sightings now added to it were formerly called "Merhorse" and "Longnecked" reports.The Marine Saurians in Heuvelmans' collection reported to the furthest North of their range were always the largest, up to 100 feet long, and with the largest heads, reported as 10-15 feet long and with a neck commonly estimated at 6 feet thick. The dimensions match the creature said to have been killed by the Monogahela. The larger ones seem to prey on large sharks and small whales, and the reports seem to indicate that it follows whale migrations and breeds in warmer waters. A large one and a small one were seen together off South Carolina, and that is also the location of the smallest length otherwise reported (35 feet) It would seem that the larger adults are able to tolerate cold waters (down to freezing) the best. Total lengths for many of the most famous reports are not even estimated.


7x) Father-of- all-Turtles also known from only 4 possible sightings, is is described as a giant marine turtle. It may have some relation to the ancient giant turtle, Archelon. Heuvelmans considered the existence of the Father-of-all- Turtles to doubtful and the reports to be probably misidentifications.

There are independant reports of an outsized leatherback turtle of Archelon-size as printed by Ulrich Magin an an article to PURSUIT. This may or may not be the outsized giants of the known Leatherback species but in any event has nothing to do with Heuvelmans' category otherwise. Some may still wish to place the Soay beast here.


8) Yellow Belly Known from only 3 definite, 3 possible sightings (as of 1965), this has a yellow color and is tadpole shaped. Its size is estimated at around 60-100 feet. Heuvelmans suggested that it might a shark or other fish, or even an amphibian[this last was the suggestion of the witness. I count it as a shark, much like a whale shark but with a longer tail and the markings run together to form stripes].Mackal subsequently tried to write off this category as sightings of marine invertebrates, but his arguments were flawed and he contradicted his own theory with other information elsewhere. In specific, he admitted that Salp chains were not known to come in that characteristic colouration.

Since I consider the basic creature described to be a kind of elongated shark, I also classify it loosely with the elongated basking sharks and even Eel-shaped sharks derived from reports of Seamonster corpses cast ashore periodically.


Dale Drinnon said...

This represents a simplified tabulation of my results from running all of those dissections of the reports I did back in the 1970s and it is basically the only extensive publication OF those results to have seen print since then. I have referred to the evaluation of the sightings of In The Wake of the Sea-Serpents before, but this is the only time that they have been put up all in one place at the same time.

I do have a couple of very minor adjustments to make-the last map shows "Yellow-Belly" sightings with Heuvelmans' cases in yellow and other possible additions in orange squares. Many are questionable because they would have been tail-only and usually 40 feet long for just the tail. If some of the other reports are the same thing, then its couration has also been described as banded in brown-and-green or light-and-dark brown. Some people feel the Le Serrac phot represents this creature and that is about what Dinsdale says in Monster Hunt (The Leviathans in UK)

Apart from that omission, the Sacramento SS up top was not intended to go with the void categories, another old print was meant to show a "Super-otter" in its place. The Sacramento SS is the "Clasic" Marine-Saurian. Since both Jon and I were experiencing email problems and both of our accounts falsely called bouncing at the time we were arranging for this blog entry, I do not blame Jon for these problems at all but I simply say we had transmission problems.

And thanks to Jon for putting it up. This blog should be considered in conjunction to the comments on Bruce Champagne's Sea-serpent categories.

Dale Drinnon said...

After I had made the map of Yellow-belly sightings, I also thought of another: the 1890 Annie Harper (ship) sighting off the end of Long Island with a 40-foot black-and-lighter-brown tail showing, NOT a head and neck "Periscope". if that were the head and neck it would have to have been swimming backwards. Indeed it seems the most common sightings of the type are the tail part, which might be seen more readily if it is closer to the surface. And I guess if the 40 feet often specified is actually right, the total length would be 80-90 feet.

There was another map without a caption earlier on, the second Longnecks map which has the red area. The red area is the approximate range of the Leatherback tutle and the items marked with lines and boxes were places where witnesses' drawings or photos indicated specific Plesiosaurian anatomy such as the Euryapsid skull or the flipper structure.The neck is of course the defining feature of the type and it is also specifically Plesiosaurian.