It seems that Bigfoot and the Lochness Monster aren’t the only fabled beasts whose existence some of us refuse to let go. But this time, it’s not Lovecraft or Jules Verne fans who insist the Kraken is real—it’s a bonafide scientist.
On Wednesday, Mount Holyoke College paleontologist Mark McMenamin gave a talk at the Geological Society of America meeting called “The Kraken’s Back.” And, in case you were wondering, this isn’t about the giant squid having a spine. In his talk, McMenamin detailed new findings suggesting that a fossilized squid “pen,” a protective paddle that resides in the mantle, or the main part of a squid’s dorsal body, is actually the “beak of the Triassic kraken” from over 200 million years ago.
The fossilized pen is only a few inches long, and isn’t a complete sample. Still, McMenamin estimates that it belonged to an ancient giant squid that was 50-100 feet long. That’s a pretty significant range, but at either end of the spectrum McMenamin’s Kraken is bigger than even a modern giant squid, which reaches around 40 feet. A recent giant squid found on the Spanish coast made waves for its impossibly big size, and that was only 30 feet long.
McMenamin’s claims didn’t stop there. Aside from asserting the existence of the Kraken, he also posited that the ancient squid created mosaics from the backbones of their prey. Apparently, the Kraken had quite a knack for artistry. He thinks it’s possible that the macabre art projects were actually attempts at creating self-portraits. I could possibly buy the idea that an awesome, ancient beast wants to keep tokens of its kills as some kind of Dexter-esque reminder of its own badassery, but the claim that they were arranged into artistic mosaics seems to me a bit farfetched. And as much as I’d love to buy the self-portrait idea, that’s an even tougher sell.
McMenamin presented some evidence that may or may not convince skeptics. 30 years ago there was an exhibit at a Nevada museum that displayed such mosaics, and he apparently found a similar samples at the site where the fossilized squid pen was found. This isn’t the first time he has made such a claim. In 2011 he claimed to have found the Kraken’s lair in a fossil site in Nevada, which is a pretty strange place to find a sea monster’s hideout. The evidence he presented was nine ichthyosaurus backbones arranged and fossilized into a mosaic pattern. McMenamin says this is because ichthyosaurs, dolphin-like reptiles, were a favorite food of the Kraken. After dinner, the giant squid would start the art project, arranging the spines into a pattern that the scientist claims resembled the Kraken’s suction-cupped tentacles.
One paleontologist said that the Kraken-as-artist claim “is kind of a strange argument.” Another says that while octopi create such lairs, squids don’t, and that the bones came to be arranged in such a pattern by ocean currents. Another insists that, “NOT ONE scientist at these meetings takes him seriously.” And you know he’s not kidding because he used caps. Other scientists are hopeful that the fossilized pen can be confirmed as belonging to an ancient, giant squid.