It was thought that the 45-foot-long Snaggle-toothed ichthyosaur, an air-breathing sea monster larger than a school bus, was the king in the world of the prehistoric oceans But now Mount Holyoke College paleontologist Mark McMenamin believes that there was an even larger and more cunning sea monster - a huge Kraken or something like it. The sea monster, which preyed on ichthyosaurs, roamed the Triassic Seas.
There is no direct evidence of the mythical creatures as they are soft-bodied and it is hard to present a firm case of existence of for them. But the discovery of large piles of ichthyosaur bones lend weight to the idea that something very large was hunting them, dragging them back to its underwater lair.
The fossilized remains of a nine 45-foot ichthyosaurs that comes under the species called Shonisaurus popularis have puzzled researchers for decades. The fossils were discovered in Nevada's Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park.
The peculiar arrangement of the fossils makes the finding even more mysterious for researchers, including Dr. Charles Lewis Camp, one of the country's most renowned paleontologists and the world's foremost expert on the Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park site.
Charles Camp puzzled over these fossils in the 1950s. In his papers he keeps referring to how peculiar this site is. We agree, it is peculiar,” McMenamin said in the Geological Society of America’s press release.
Dr. Camp had theorized that the arrangement of the bones suggested a group death by stranding in shallow water or as the result of exposure to a toxic plankton bloom. However, the most recent survey of the region suggests it was actually a deep water environment. Also, the etching on the bones of the animals suggested they were not all killed and buried at the same time.
However, Dr. McMenamin has a different theory; after examining the placement and sucker markings on bones, he believes that creatures were drowned or had their necks snapped by a Kraken-like creature. They also seemed to be purposefully rearranged.
This is where the thought of a particular modern predator, known for this type of intelligent manipulation of bones and leaving them in their dens, came to McMenamin's mind.
The arrangement of the bones is strongly indicative of octopus-like behavior, which encourages the view that this beast had tentacles.
Modern octopus will do this, McMenamin said. I think that these things were captured by the kraken and taken to the midden and the cephalopod would take them apart.
McMenamin explained that in the fossil bed, some of the shonisaurs' bones were arranged in curious linear patterns with almost geometric regularity.
We think that this cephalopod in the Triassic was doing the same thing, McMenamin said. It was either drowning them or breaking their necks.
What made it even creepier was that the arranged vertebrae resembled the pattern of sucker discs on a cephalopod tentacle. In other words, the vertebral disc pavement seen at the park may be the earliest known self-portrait.
However, McMenamin's theory has been approached with skepticism by many scientists.
“There is little evidence to support it and Dr. McMenamin is exceptionally imaginative, Dr. PZ Myers, a biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris, said in a blog post.
This fossil bed is being over-interpreted as a trace fossil, with the bones arranged by intent, by an intelligent cephalopod, which they have not seen. Furthermore, a line of discs is being seen as a picture of a cephalopod tentacle, classic pareidolia... This is a whole series of tenuous and unlikely speculations stacked together to make an ultimately ridiculous hypothesis,” he wrote.
It's the perfect Triassic crime because octopuses are mostly soft-bodied and don't fossilize well, Christa Stratton said, spokesman for the GSA, since their beaks are the only hard part of their body.
That means there is no hard evidence for the theory. It is only circumstantial evidence that the Kraken is the culprit, which may leave some scientists rather skeptical.
But McMenamin is ready to defend his theory against skeptics.
We're ready for this, he said. We have a very good case.