Mermaids — Common Threads Of Mythologies & Folk-Stories From Around The World (Melusine, Merrow, Rusalkas, & Finfolk Of The Orkneys)

November 24, 2016 in Stories

The word mermaid originates with the Old English compound of mere (meaning “sea”) and maid (meaning unmarried “girl/woman”). Older stories sometimes used the term merewif. In many of the stories of the region (British Isles), such “mermaids” were depicted similarly to the sirens of Greek stories such as the Odyssey — beautiful women with enchanting voices, who tried to lure sailors to shipwreck and stranding on the islands that they inhabited. That certainly paints a different picture than the pop culture image of a mermaid doesn’t it?

There are some early depictions of mermaids though that aren’t vastly different in nature than modern ones, but there are also some that hold nothing in common with modern depictions as well. The culture that the associated stories spring from predictably seems to have a lot to do with the nature of the “mermaids” in question. For instance, the Slavic corollary, Rusalkas, are usually depicted as being the restless spirits of young women who died violent, or untimely deaths. These Rusalkas inhabit the rivers, streams, and lakes, of the region, and attempt to lure young men to their drowning — presumably as resolution for their own violent or untimely deaths.

Waterhouse mermaid painting famous
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Stellar’s Sea Cow, Stories, Myths, & Their Connection With Now Extinct Animals

November 6, 2016 in Animals & Insects

The Stellar’s Sea Cow was an enormous marine mammal related to the manatee and to the dugong that live until very recently — until ~1772 or so. Following “discovery” in 1742 they were subsequently hunted to extinction over the course of only 3 decades.

For those wondering, the species was named after its “discoverer” Georg Wilhelm Steller. Notably, Stellar himself died (in Siberia) only a few years after making it off the island where he “discovered” the animals, while shipwrecked there with his crew for 9 months.

The Steller’s Sea Cow (Hydrodamalis gigas) was an enormous animal, considerably bigger than even the largest West Indian Manatees — growing to reach lengths of 26 to 33 feet (8 to 11 meters), reportedly. Modern estimates suggest that adults could reach weights of between 8 and 10 tons. Some individuals may well have been larger though. It’s been classified within Sirenia.

Sea cow Stellar's
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Manatees — Description, Pictures, Behavior, Lifespan, & Folk Stories

October 29, 2016 in Animals & Insects

Manatees are a type of very large, long lived, and intelligent marine mammals that live primarily in the coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, the Amazon Basin, and West Africa. The 3 species are: T. manatus (Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea), T. inunguis (Amazon Basin), and T. senegalensis (West Africa).

While often solitary, they are also known to congregate in large numbers in shallow waters at certain times of the year. They often perform regular migrations from coastal estuary waters deep into inland river systems. This is especially true of the subspecies that inhabits the waters off of Florida (T. manatus latirostris). This subspecies makes regular migrations into the Crystal, the Homosassa, and the Chassahowitzka river systems, amongst others.

Manatee swimming

Amongst the notable qualities of the manatee, are a number that are nearly unique amongst mammals — including the fact that manatees have only 6 cervical vertebrae (possibly due to mutations in the homeotic genes). The only other mammals to only have 6 cervical vertebrae are two-toed and three-toed sloths.

Manatees are also one of the only mammals to exhibit polyphyodonty — a process whereby teeth are continuously replaced throughout life, with new teeth growing at the rear and falling out at the front, like a conveyer belt. The only other mammals to exhibit polyphyodonty are elephants and kangaroo. (Manatee have no canine or incisor teeth.)

And, perhaps most strangely, manatees are the only animal of any kind that’s known to have vascularized cornea.
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