A legendary sea monster known as kraken may have existed, eating ichthyosaurs and arranging bones into deliberate patterns, a new evidence suggests.
Known as the kraken theory, which was first introduced in 2011, the latest findings were recently presented at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America on Wednesday by Mark McMenamin, a paleontologist at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, Discovery News reports.
"This was extremely good luck," McMenamin told LiveScience while referring to the second discovery of unusually arranged ichthyosaur bones from a former display at the Las Vegas Museum of Natural History. “This was finding the needle in the haystack, really."
McMenamin first made headlines in 2011 when he found a strange linear pattern of bones of an ichthyosaur found in Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park in Nevada. He argued that the bone pattern, which measured 15 yards in length, could not have been a product of ocean current, but created by a giant cephalopod (an octopus or squid) playing with its food, LiveScience reports.
Since then, McMenamin saw a photo of an exhibit from the Las Vegas Museum of Natural History and recognized a similar pattern from the ones found at the state park.
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"When I saw that photograph, basically my eyeballs popped out," McMenamin told LiveScience about the double row of vertebrae organized in the same way the first set of ichthyosaur remains were found.
"It was laid out exactly as found in the field and there were rib cage constrictions," he said. "It was very strange. I'd never seen anything like it before. It looked like something had pulled bones out of place and placed them to one side."
McMenamin then decided to follow up on the first set of bones he found by revisiting the site where he found a small rock that might be part of a kraken’s beak.
"It's the densest thing on the body of a cephalopod," McMenamin told Discovery News. And so it's the most likely thing to be preserved in the fossil record. "We obtained a beak of a giant Humboldt squid and compared. That actually worked pretty well. We have direct comparison to modern Humboldt squid. They had very similar fractures and converging straia [lines]."
Stories about kraken, a legendary sea monster believed to attack ancient ships by wrappings its tentacles around it, date back to the 12th century in Norway. The creature is most likely a giant squid or cephalopod.
Not every expert is on board with McMenamin’s kraken theory.
"The problem with the kraken argument is it does not take into account all the other ways those vertebrae could have been re-arranged," Spencer Lucas, paleontologist and curator at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science said adding that more research needs to be done to confirm the kraken theory.
"I suppose the kraken argument is a possibility, but one of many, and a highly unusual one," Luca said. "What we need here is a more rigorous analysis that excludes the many alternatives to the kraken idea."