Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Baby Cadborosaur No More. Part 4: What is 'Cadborosaurus'?

In Woodley et al. (2011), we used LeBlond and Bousfield's 'Cadborosaurus wilsi' to compare with the Hagelund specimen, among other candidates. The authors include a number of "striking"/"major" characteristics along with additional details, but we note that none of the reports have all the major traits and there are a number of odd traits which are not directly commented on. So what do the 178 reports in Cadborosaurus: Survivor from the Deep actually say about 'Cadborosaurus'?

1. Its dimensions, ranging from five to 15 meters in length
Note: Sightings are exclusively in feet. The converted range is 16'5" to 49'2.5".

Where did LeBlond and Bousfield get this size range? There were 65 reported lengths with a range of 5-300 feet, a mode of 20 feet, and an average of 41.8 feet (standard deviation = 42.3 feet). The proposed size range of LeBlond and Bousfield excludes about 41.5% (n=27) of the reports. Why?

5 feet long (1)
8 feet long (1)
10 feet long (2)
12 feet long (1)
12-14 feet long (1)
15 feet (2)
15-20 feet long (2)
16 feet long (2)
18-20 feet long (1)
20 feet long (9)
20-23 feet (1)
20-50 feet long (1)
25 feet long (5)
30 feet long (6)
30-40 feet long (1)
32 feet long (1)
35 feet long (2)
35-40 feet (1)
40 feet long (6)
40-100 feet long (1)
40-50 feet long (1)
50 feet long (3)
55 feet long (1)
60 feet long (5)
60-90 feet long (1)
80 feet long (1)
90 feet long (1)
100 feet long (1)
100-110 feet long (1)
150 feet long (1)
300 feet long (1)

2. Its body form: snake-like, or serpentine...
An accurate assessment, although there are some contradictions.

Snake/serpentine/"garter snake" (12)
Eel (3)
Turtle-like (2)
"caddy-like creature" (1)
Crocodile-like (1)
"dragon" (1)
"hose" (1)
"plesiosaur" (1)
Tapering (1)
"reptilian formation" (1)
"much more reptile than serpent" (1)

...with extraordinary flexibility in the vertical plane
Note: I did not include reports of neck motion, which were usually from side-to-side. 

It is interesting how infrequently the plane of locomotion is mentioned, and that a couple are not vertical. It appears the "extraordinary" motion was interpreted from the reported "coils" (see below).

"vertically"/"up and down"/"rise and fall" (5)
"undulation" (3)
"side to side"/"like those of a crocodile" (2)

3. The appearance of its head, variously described as resembling that of a sheep, horse, giraffe or camel

Out of the 55 animal comparison descriptions, "horse-like" was by far the most common with 23 (about 42%). The difference between horse-like, camel-like, and giraffe-like heads appeared to be interpretive (some reports used more than one description) and if they are lumped together, there are 36 examples (about 65% of total). Why LeBlond and Bousfield chose "sheep-like" is mysterious considering it is known from a single instance - why not "snake-like" or "seal-like"?

Horse-like (23)
Camel-like (7)
Snake-like/serpentine/garden snake-like/python-like (5)
Giraffe-like (3)
Seal-like (3)
Camel/giraffe (2)
Horse/Giraffe/Camel (1)
Dog-like/Giraffe-like (1)
Sheep-like (1)
Cow-like (1)
Airedale-like (1)
Boxer dog-like (1)
Cat-like head (1)
Lizard-like (1)
"Reptile head" (1)
Frog-like (1)
Eel-like (1)
Seahorse-like (1)

Animal comparisons were not the only way to describe heads:

Flat head//flattish (3)
"long" (1)
"bulky" (1)
"blunt" (1)
"immense forehead" (1)
"heavy snouted" (1)
"square" (1)
"nose about a foot long" (1)
"round, ball-like head" (1)
"gaping maw like hippo" (1)
"thicker than body" (1)

4. The length of its neck, elongated, ranging from one to four meters
Note: This is about 3'3" to 13'1.5"

Another weird treatment of size, as while the lower bounds were roughly right, 3 of the 15 descriptions exceeded the upper bounds. The mode is 7 feet (due to averaging the 6-8 foot range) and the average is 8.8 feet with a standard deviation of 5.9 feet.

3.5 feet long (1)
4 feet long (2)
4-5 feet long (1)
5 feet long (1)
6 foot neck (2)
6-8 feet long (2)
7 feet long (1)
10 feet long (1)
12 feet long (1)
15 feet long (1)
15-16 feet long (1)
20-30 feet long (1)

Some descriptions gave head height out of the water instead of estimating neck length. If those additional 11 figures are added to the prior data, there is a new lowest figure (2 feet), the mode is once again 7 feet (but n=5 and not n=3), and the average is now 9 feet with a standard deviation of 7.34 feet.

Head 2 feet above water (1)
Head 3-4 feet above water (1)
Head 4 feet out of water (1)
Head 4-5 feet above water (2)
Head 6-7 feet above water (1)
Head 6-8 feet above water (1)
Head 7 feet above water (1)
Head 10 feet above water (1)
"neck and upper part 25 feet out of water" (1)
"like 30 foot telephone pole" (1)

The description of a "long neck" was very common, second only to a horse-like head, although the reports of a "short neck" and "no long neck" are quite interesting. I do not know what an "eel-like neck" would entail

Long neck (20)
Short neck (1)
"no long neck" (1)
Giraffe-like (2)
"Log that raised up" (1)
"Eel-like neck" (1)
"Thick" (1)
"Slender" (2)

5. The vertical humps or loops of the body, arranged in tandem series directly behind the neck
Note: Only concerned about count, other traits (e.g. "large", "low") not included. "Hump" and "Bump" synonymized (sometimes used interchangeably), but "coil" and "loop" treated separately.

Hump/Dome/"upturned barge" (9)
Humps/Bumps/lots of humps (6)
2 Humps (6)
3 humps (7)
4 humps (1)
4-5 humps (1)
5 bumps/humps (3)
5-7 humps (1)

2 humps/coils (1)

1 coil/loop/arch (5)
Coils (3)
2 coils (3)
3 coils (1)
3-4 coils (1)
5 coils (1)
5-6 coils (1)

"folds"/"fold after fold" (2)

"resembling a gable of a house floating in the water... back looked much like the roof of a shed" (1)

"three distinct undulations" (1)

6. The presence of a pair of anterior flippers...
"Flippers" (3)
"no fins or flippers" (1)

Other fins are mentioned with unknown placement:

fins 4 feet high (1)
"revolving fins" (1)
"fins all over the body" (1)

Dorsal fins are mentioned more frequently than flippers, yet LeBlond and Bousfield make no mention of them:

Dorsal fin (1)

long fin on back (1)
fin on back (1)

"fin on its back reached to about three feet" (1)
"2 foot fin on its back" (1)
"continuous fin running the length of the body" (w/ illustration showing dorsal placement) (1)

...posterior flippers absent or nearly fused with the body
What is the evidence for this claim? The only relevant (and highly bizarre) detail I could find was:

"little feet on the side back of the tail" (1)

7. The tail, dorsally toothed or spiny...
Known from precisely one report:

"Toward the tail it appeared serrated like the cutting edge of a saw... with something moving flail-like at the extreme end" (1)

With a couple contradictions:

"flat like that of a beaver" (1)
rounded like lizard tail" (1)

... and split horizontally or fluke-like at the top
Flukes (1)
Split tail tip (1)
Fish-like tail (1)

8. The very high swimming speed, clocked at up to 40 knots at the surface
Note: About 46 miles per hour or 74 kilometers per hour. Units converted to knots.
3 knots (1)
3.48 knots (1)
5.2 knots (1)
10 knots (1)
13-17.4 knots (1)
25 knots (1)
34.7 knots (1)
35 knots (1)

"Fast swimmer" (1)
"Much faster than boat" (1)
"Very fast swimmer" (1)
"Moving fast" (1)
"speed... astounding" (1)
"low speed" (1)

And now for the additional traits:

Sometimes the back is described as serrated, sometimes as smooth
Serrated back (2)
Not serrated (2)
"horns on its back" (1)
"line of moving spines" (1)
Jagged dorsal crest (1)
Spines 8" apart (1)
"serrated markings along the top and sides" (1)
Ridge running across top of body (1)

Body colour is reported as ranging from "gun-metal" blue, through orange, green, brown, gray to black
Brown/Brownish (10)
Dark/Blackish (6)
Dark brown (5)
Gray (4)
Dark green/greenish (4)
Light brown (3)
Grayish brown (3)
Dark gray (2)
Chestnut brown (2)
Green (2)
Shiny black (2)
Blue-gray (1)
Greenish Brown/Dark Olive Green (1)
Greenish-Blue (1)
Bluish-Green... some in the sun like aluminium (1)
Yellow and blue (1)
Stripe brown and yellow (1)
Yellow head (1)
Camel-colored (1)
Brownish yellow (1)
Bright orange brown (1)
Fawn-colored (1)
Flesh-colored face (1)
"whitish tan in color on the throat & lower front... solid tan upper head" (1)
"Light brown [head] with white streaks running up and down it" (1)
"gray brown with a dark brown stripe running along the body slightly to one side" (1)
Mouse colored (1)
Gray, silvery like dogfish (1)
Color of kelp (1)
Color of porpoise (1)
Color of wet seal (1)

Fur, fuzz, or hair on the neck or body is sometimes mentioned, "like that of a seal", or "like coconut fibre"; most often, however, the skin is described as smooth
This is completely inaccurate. There is precisely one report which describes the animal as smooth and not hairy:

Smooth, no hair (1)

Other reports also suggest that hair was absent, but make no mention of smoothness:

No mane (3)
No hair (1)
"wart-like rather than hairy" (1)
"scaly appearance" (1)

Mention of hair is, however, comparatively much more common:

Hair on head and body (1)
"Shaggy" (1)
Hair (1)
Covered with hair (1)
Short fur (1)
Furry (1)
Smooth-haired, like seal (1)
Mane (1)
Long floppy mane (1)
Mane like seaweed (1)
"kind of mane"... looking like the teeth of a drag saw (1)
"stuff hanging down like hair" (1)
"sort of mane" (1)
Mane the color of seaweed (1)
"sort of mane" (1)
"dirty hair covering long neck" (1)

Some witnesses see bumps on the head, which they variously describe as ears or horns, sometimes both together.
"no ears" (6)
Ears (3)
Small ears/short ears (2)
Horns or ears (2)
Small ears/small strait horns (1)
horns or horse-like ears (1)
small horns... giraffe-type stubs AND large, floppy ears (1)
2 blunt horns (1)
2 knobs like horns (1)
Two protrusions, possibly horns (1)
pointed formation above eyes resembling horns (1)
Two bumps, rounded on top (1)
Bulgy on top (1)
bulge behind ears (1)
No horns or ears (1)

Most mention eyes, sometimes large, sometimes coloured.
This is certainly not "most".

Eyes (5)
Large/Big (7)
2 eyes in front/"set to look forward"/"in the front of the head" (3)
No eyes seen (3)

Red eyes (2)
Jet black eyes (2)
Large black eyes (1)

"roll" from reddish to green (1)
Cow-like, film over them, large, timid (1)
Eyes like alligator (1)
Bulgy eyes (1)

And also:

"eye bumps" (1)

There is also occasional mention of facial whiskers.
Very occasional.

Whiskers (2)
Whiskers under jaw (1)
Beard (1)
No whiskers (1)

Traits that do not fit in any category:

"sea pet" (1)
"body appeared smooth from one side, but with spikes when turned in other direction" (1)
"looking like huge diver wearing a helmet" (1)
"broad flat chest" (1)
"shoulders" (1)
"exaggerated lips one sees in a minstrel show" (1)

Ever since pondering over Heuvelmans' Many-Finned, I am increasingly convinced that, at present, the classification of unknown marine species into 'types' is a deeply flawed approach in desperate need of a more rigorous approach.

So what does this mean for how 'Cadborosaurus' and the Hagelund specimen compare? Stay tuned...

Previous entries:

Tet Zoo Coverage: 
A baby sea-serpent no more: reinterpreting Hagelund’s juvenile Cadborosaurus


LeBlond, P. H. & Bousfield, E. L. (1995). Cadborosaurus: Survivor from the Deep. Victoria, British Columbia: Horsdal & Schubart.


Allen Hazen said...

There don't seem to be any comments yet on this series of posts. This STILL isn't a comment-- I'll see if I have anything intelligent to say at the end of the series-- but I just want to tell you that I REALLY appreciate the effort you are making! ... I would, of course, love Cadborosaurus to be real, but however things fall out, it is a treat to see a careful, systematic, study of the evidence.

"Journal of Scientific Exploration" isn't a journal I'm familiar with; I'll see whether I can find it in either of the university libraries I have electronic access to.

Cameron McCormick said...

It's good to know you appreciate it - that should help me keep chugging along!

This may just be the start (or continuation?) of a series technically analyzing sea monsters. I hope the next one takes a bit less than two years from inception to publication, however.

I'm fairly certain it's within my rights to send you a copy.

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