Is This Nessie Carcass a Plesiosaur?

The fateful day was April 25, 1977. The players were the crew of the Zuiyo Maru, a Japanese fishing trawler. They were sailing east of Christchurch, New Zealand when they hauled in an unidentified creature.

Facts Please!

The main problem? It was an extremely smelly, decaying carcass. The Captain, Akira Tanaka, decided to throw it overboard before it fouled the fresh fish they just caught. But before it was tossed overboard, the Captain allowed pictures and measurements to be taken. This is what they discovered:

  • The carcass weighed 1,800 kg and was about 10 m long.
  • The long neck measured 1 ½ meters long
  • It had 4 large, reddish fins
  • The tail was about 2 meters long
  • There was no dorsal fin.
  • No internal organs remained, just flesh and fat.

Samples taken from the body were sent to Japan so experts could examine them for further evidence.

What Experts First Thought

Professor Tokio Shimaka from Yokohama University believed the remains were of a dinosaur previously through to be extinct: the plesiosaur. Dr. Fujiro Yasuda from Tokyo University agreed with Shimaka and was reported to have said, “the photographs show the remains of a prehistoric animal.”

Not everyone was willing to buy into the plesiosaur hypothesis, however. The Swedish paleontologist, Hans-Christian Bjerring voiced his skepticism in an interview with a Swedish news agency.

Ove Persson, another Swedish scientist, also criticized the plesiosaur theory. He had seen other carcasses recovered that looked like plesiosaurs, but which turned out to be decomposing shark bodies. In addition, he explained that plesiosaurs had lungs so they had to come to the surface to breathe. For that reason alone it seems certain that they would have been seen throughout humanity’s maritime history.

A Logical Conclusion

A London scientist from the Natural History museum in London agreed with the Swedish scientists. In a July 28, 1977 article in the New Scientist, he explained that “… the decomposition pattern of a basking shark, whose spine and brain case is relatively highly calcified for a cartilaginous fish, can be expected to produce a similar shape to a plesiosaur; the first parts that fall off during decomposition are the lower jaw, the gill area, and the dorsal and caudal fins.”

So at that point in its decomposition, a basking shark would look like a rotting plesiosaur. See the photo and imagine it without the huge lower jaw. The “nose” part, hanging limp in death would look like the head of a plesiosaur.

Basking sharks are the second largest fish in the sea. (In first place is the whale shark.) These sharks can grow to over 30 feet long and sometimes upwards of 40 feet. Though it looks ferocious, it’s a gentle animal, feeding on plankton that it filters through its massive mouth.

Sample Analysis

The fishermen had taken some tissue samples of what they described as a “horny fiber”. That turned out to be “similar in nature to the fin rays of a group of living animals – sharks.”

An initial chromatography test showed that a profile of amino acids taken from the carcass samples closely resembled a control sample taken from a blue shark. So this carcass/creature was clearly closely related to sharks because it was one.

Verdict, Please!

Based on the scientific analysis I’m confident that the “Nessie” carcass was nothing more than the carcass of a basking shark.

I’d love for plesiosaurs to still be swimming around us, but that seems unlikely for the simple reason that they’re air breathers and they most surely would have been seen throughout history by sailors and other sea travelers.

Are you as disappointed as I am? Oh well, there are still PLENTY of real creatures, most already discovered, some not, still wandering our planet and we can share the joy of discovering them here!

Til the next time!


  1. Crushed……I was breathless reading through the information!! Hoping for a Nessie outcome…..exciting stuff….
    Looking forward to our next adventure!!

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