Letter | Published:

Order Zeuglodontia, Owen


IN August 1848 H.M.S. Dædalus encountered off St. Helena a marine animal, of which a representation appeared in the Illustrated News of the latter part of that year. It is thirty-two years since I saw this figure, but I recollect that it was one of a blunt-nosed animal with a neck carried about four feet above the water, which was so long as to present the appearance of a serpent; and I remember that Prof. Owen, in combating at the time the idea that this was a sea-serpent, pointed out that the position of the gape in relation to the eye, as shown in the figure in the Illustrated News, was that of a mammal, and not that of a reptile; in consequence of which he argued that the animal seen was probably only a leonine seal, whose track through the water gave an illusory impression of great length. This idea, however, seemed to me untenable in the face of the representation in the Illustrated News; but it was obvious that to afford the buoyancy necessary for the support above the water of so long a neck (estimated on that occasion as sixty feet, though only the part near the head was actually out of the water), the submerged portion of the animal could not have had the shape of a serpent.

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