I read a week or so ago about a new hypothesis (getting a mixed reception) that, 200 million years ago, giant krakens, up to a hundred feet long, lurked in the deep and grabbed passing icthyosaurs to use as playthings and snacks. Bear in mind that icthyosaurs were large, fast, and predatory:
So this had to have been a spectacular monster, at least twice as big as the biggest known cephalopods. But the thing is, squidish things are soft; they don’t fossilise well. So the evidence is scanty. Or should I say the indicators. Basically, a paleontologist called Mark McMenamin (try saying that three times at speed) took a look at a weirdly organised jumble of marine fossils and decided a good explanation could be a giant kraken behaving like its smaller, extant cousin, the octopus.
Here in Seattle, in the aquarium, Giant Pacific Octopuses have been known to kill sharks. (Bad octopus!) Perhaps they’re also playful art collectors:
Some of the most intelligent creatures in today’s oceans, says McMenamin, are cephalopods — particularly octopuses and squid. In large aquariums, octopuses are known to collect unusual objects and even play with them. McMenamin imagines that during the Triassic period, his proposed kraken would do battle with ichthyosaurs. When it was victorious, the kraken would drag the ichthyosaur’s corpse back to its den for a feast.
In McMenamin’s purported midden, the kraken would play with the bones of the unfortunate ichthyosaurs, perhaps even arranging them into deliberate patterns. The double lines of disc-shaped vertebrae in the death assemblage closely mimic the arrangement of suckers on a cephalopod’s tentacles — which could make the patterns seen in the ichthyosaur fossils the world’s oldest self-portrait, McMenamin suggests. (Scientific American)
I don’t have a picture of a hundred-foot kraken, but I can show you a picture I took today that brought all this to mind:
It’s from a friend’s garden, freshly pulled today. It’s now washed and safely in the fridge. I just hope it’s not throttling the milk.
5 thoughts on “Kraken of the deep!”
Fascinating! I love the diversity of what you write about here! Plus, Mark McMenamin was one of my geology professors at Mount Holyoke! Good to see he's still putting interesting ideas out there…
My mom volunteers doing paleontology for a local museum, hence I have had the delightful experience of digging up Ichthyosaur vertebrae. I passed them on survey thinking they were large bottle bottoms, as the area was used as a dump & was strewn with dirt-encrusted glass. Mom set me straight and wow, Ichthyosaurs were huge. The vertebrae we found were scattered about, all sitting on end. Placed by a giant kraken? I don't know, but it's a fascinating idea.
Becker, I find the entire world fascinating–but I'm particularly keen on life sciences, history, cultural/ethnographical studies, language, entertainment and everything to do with books and the people who make them, sell them, read them. Oh, and beer. And wine. And the outdoors. And–okay, back to The Entire World :)
Jo, I am so going to eat that carrot today. I can't bear the notion of it lurking in the depths of the vegetable drawer…
That is the most disturbing carrot I've ever seen. It's going to haunt me in my nightmares. . .
transceptor, fear not, I have eaten it. (Very tasty, too.)
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