Thursday, March 31, 2005

Sea Monsters

From April's mini-AIR (Annals of Improbable Research), a Sea Monster Discovery:
We are proud to announce (if only at second-hand) the 21st century's first great discovery about sea monsters. In a paper to be published this month in the Archives of Natural History, Charles Paxton and two colleagues reveal a possible historical truth about certain sea monsters. Here is the citation: "Cetaceans, Sex and Sea Serpents: An Analysis of the Egede Accounts of a 'Most Dreadful Monster' Seen Off the Coast of Greenland in 1734," C.G.M. Paxton, E. Knatterud and S.L. Hedley, Archives of Natural History, vol. 32, no. 1, 2005, pp. 1-9. The authors report that:

"[T]here is an alternative explanation for the [reported sighting of a] serpent-like tail. Many of the large baleen whales have long, snake-like penises. If the animal did indeed fall on its back then its ventral surface would have been uppermost and, if the whale was aroused, the usually retracted penis would have been visible. The penises of the North Atlantic right whale and (Pacific) grey whale can be at least 1.8 metres long, and 1.7 metres long respectively, and could be taken by a naive witness for a tail."
I have no joke here. Thanks to Improbable Research for the tip.

Also of interest to some sickos out there, necrophilia in pigeons.