Posted by: Karl Shuker on September 1st, 2013
Sea monsters can be very deceiving, even when dead. It is well known that the decomposing carcase of a beached basking shark often transforms very dramatically, and deceptively, to yield what on first sight looks remarkably like a long-necked, four-flippered, slender-tailed, hairy plesiosaur-like creature. This is the so-called pseudo-plesiosaur effect. Similarly, when a sperm whale dies at sea and its carcase gradually rots, its heavy skull and skeleton eventually sink down to the ocean floor, but sometimes a very sizeable skin-sac of rotting blubber, surfaced externally with exposed connective tissue fibres, will remain afloat – encasing a thick matrix of collagen and often not only the substantial spermaceti organ too but also a few isolated ribs with fibrous flesh still attached. If subsequently washed ashore, this is popularly dubbed a globster, created by the quasi-octopus effect.
Obviously, however, as a pseudo-plesiosaur only arises with decomposing sharks whereas a quasi-octopus/globster only arises with decomposing whales, there is no mechanism by which both of these artefacts – these charlatan sea monsters – could result from the same carcase. Or at least that is what I had always assumed – until the following case (not previously published online) was brought to my attention.
Further details can be obtained here on my ShukerNature blog.