In the latest episode of River Monsters, Jeremy Wade shared with us the fossilized record of creatures that used to live in ancient freshwater environments. Huge, ugly, but nonetheless fascinating, they were truly monsters of the deep. Could other, terrifying species be alive today in the depths of our oceans?
Prehistoric creatures from the depths of ancient rivers and lakes, each a monster in their own right. I found myself alternately glad they no longer existed, and a little sad that they didn’t.
Did you see last Sunday’s episode of River Monsters on Animal Planet? It was a fascinating tour into the past where we could actually see the fossilized remains of these monsters and super predators. The CGI brought them to light in fascinating and gruesome detail.
Here’s a sampling of the creatures we saw:
Xiphactinus (image from American Museum of Natural History)
For sure, you won’t catch me going into the ocean ever again, I don’ t care if they ARE extinct!
The host, Jeremy Wade, is known for his freshwater fish expertise and he showed us how physical traits from these now extinct monsters were still alive in some of today’s fierce underwater creatures.
For instance, the architecture of the Rhizodont’s jaw is exactly the same as it is today in the Goliath Tigerfish. The streamlined body of our highly prized sail fish is the same as that of another super-long predator from that bygone era, Xiphactinus.
So what could this possibly mean for cryptozoology lovers today?
Well, you’ve read in past articles where I have wondered what exactly is trolling the vast, sunken depths of our oceans. Could these prehistoric fossils provide clues as to what might be lurking there today? Especially considering how evolution takes the best of its previous creations and uses them anew in related or totally new species.
That Missing Shark
Do you remember the report from last year where an 8 foot white shark that had been tagged by scientists off Australia suddenly dropped to the ocean’s depths and stayed there for 8 days? That was a behavior totally inconsistent with that species and scientists were left scratching their heads.
The next thing they know, the tag floated up on shore and was found and returned to the scientists. They suddenly realized what had happened. Their 8 foot shark was eaten whole by something else, something much larger. It takes about 8 days for food to digest through a shark’s system before the waste is voided, thereby releasing the tag. It all made sense. It had to have been eaten by a much larger shark.
Maybe it was a shark, maybe it was something else. The point is, it was something new to science for which they still don’t have definite proof.
The Earth’s oceans cover 70% of the planet. The average ocean depth is 12,460 feet (3,798 m) but in the Pacific’s Mariana Trench, it dips down to 36,198 feet (11,033 m).
One cubic kilometer equals 264 billion gallons of water. According to the US Geological Survey, our oceans hold 332,519,000 cubic kilometers of water. I’ll let you do the math.
The point is, there is plenty of room to hide and plenty of room to develop into great big nasty creatures hidden from the prying eyes of mankind.
Further complicating the search is the inadequacy of our human bodies for the deep sea environment. The pressure alone can kill us, never mind the lack of oxygen.
It’s all very frustrating.
Science has known about vampire squid for a while, but didn’t know much about their life cycles. This is one glowing in the deep water (left). They’ve recently discovered that these squid reproduce more like fish do, than other species in their family who reproduce once at the end of their lives.
Vampire squid reproduce periodically throughout their lives, and they seem to live their life more slowly, more laid-back, than other squid. Because of this recent finding, scientists from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research on the shores of the Kiel fjord in northern Germany, believe they must live longer than their shallow-water living cousins.
One researcher named Henk-Jan Hoving said, “We know very little about deep-sea organisms and their life-cycle patterns, in particular in the water column of the deep sea. The patterns we know from coastal and shallow-water organisms may not apply to deep-sea species. We need to enhance our knowledge of deep-sea pelagic organisms and the system they are part [of], since the pelagic deep sea is the largest living space on the planet. A better understanding of this unique marine ecosystem will eventually allow for better development of management and conservation strategies.”
Pelagic refers to animals that live at or near the ocean surface, but far from land.
I think as our technology grows, science will be able to do more and more research into what lurks in our oceans’ depths. Most likely it will involve remote viewing and perhaps some super duper scanning technology, kind of like the fish finders we have now, but ones that will be able to penetrate down to the ocean’s floor with top notch accuracy.
You might say, well satellites have mapped the floor of the ocean, which is true. However, they don’t have that fine-tuned accuracy to tell us what’s in the layers of water in between. On the Loch Ness episode of River Monsters, Jeremy mentioned that their fish finder, though it could “see” the bottom of the fjord in which they were fishing, didn’t have the sensitivity to pick up the bodies of any sharks at that depth. Hence, the technology has to be improved.
I thought this River Monsters episode (Prehistoric Terror) was an excellent program and if you didn’t get a chance to see it, Animal Planet is showing it again tomorrow night, April 22, 2015 at 9 pm (EST) in the US.
It really fueled my imagination and confirmed in my mind that the possibilities of what we might find are endless and very exciting!
Are you excited by the possibilities too?