|still from a film allegedly showing the Mokele-Mbembe|
A recent news item has been hitting the internet recently and it concerns a group of young amateurs taking an expedition to the Congo in order to search for what they take to be a Living Dinosaur.
- A dinosaur in the Republic of Congo maurading with hippos and consorting with crocodiles? Or crunching down on them? Maybe it's Mokèlé-mbèmbé.
- The legend of Mokèlé-mbèmbé is attracting adventure seekers to search the jungles of Africa for signs of the river-dwelling sauropod.
Obviously this expedition is going on the Creationist scientist reading material because of its very specific slant, including the mention of giant spiders (which are actually said to stand as tall as a Pygmy man!). The introduction of a new kind of man-eating fish is novel. Actually, the name "Mokele-mbembe" is very vaguely applied (in a different geographical area, see map below) to any old kind of water monster including an alleged one-horned water-loving rhinoceros, as well as to the supposed living dinosaur. We have discussed these matters before. And ever since Mackal's book In Search of Hidden Animals came out in 1981, it has been acknowledged that natives were just as likely to identify flash cards of Plesiosaurs as being typical of this water-monster category. That book was the forerunner of Mackal's own expedition and the subsequent book A Living Dinosaur?A young Missouri man has turned to the Internet in search of investors for his expedition into the remote jungles of Africa seeking to document undiscovered flora and fauna. That is not so unusual, but one of the creatures he hopes to find is a living dinosaur.The region Stephen McCullah, the organizer of the expedition, has chosen to explore is the reputed home of the Mokèlé-mbèmbé, a dinosaur-like creature said to be up to 35 feet long (11 meters), with brownish-gray skin and a long, flexible neck. Many locals believe that it lives in the caves it digs in riverbanks, and that the beast feeds on elephants, hippos and crocodiles.
McCullah posted his pitch on Kickstarter.com asking for $27,000 in donations so that he and his friends can launch the Newmac Expedition, "one of the first expeditions in this century with the goal of categorizing plant and animal species in the vastly unexplored Republic of the Congo." The preliminary four-man venture is slated to launch June 26.
Though the team members largely lack formal education in biology or zoology, they "anticipate discovering hundreds of new insect, plant and fish species during the course of our research. There is also the legitimate hope of discovering many reptile and mammalian species. We have received reports...in the region of eyewitnesses seeing canine-sized tarantulas, large river dwelling sauropods [dinosaurs], and a species of man-eating fish," McCullah wrote on the website. (Can We Make Jurassic Park Yet?)[snip]
|The-hunt-for-Mokele-mbembe. Note that the creature has been given a Plesiosaurian and not a Sauropod head|
The Description of Mokèlé-mbèmbé, a dinosaur-like creature said to be up to 35 feet long (11 meters), with brownish-gray skin and a long, flexible neck also is a pretty good match for the Loch Ness Monster and in fact sightings of the creature do resemble land sightings of the Loch Ness Monster. [For the moment we are ignoring reports more clearly attributable to either giant monitor lizards or to giant softshelled turtles, both of which are specifically stated to live in different areas under different specific local names] it lives in the caves it digs in riverbanks, ...the beast feeds on elephants, hippos and crocodiles [which all experts agree must be a gross exaggeration]
The great surprise about the anatomy of these animals is that they are highly anachronistic... compared to Mesozoic sauropods. In fact, Mokele-Mbembe more resembles artistic restorations of sauropods from the decades preceding the 1960s. The skin of [Mokele-mbembe] is smooth and devoid of both the vertebral spines present in fossil diplodocoids and the dermal ossicles and spines present in titanosaurs. The articulated limb skeletons of Mesozoic sauropods, combined with many thousands of well-preserved trackways, show that these animals had columnar [legs placed under the body while the Mokele-mbembe is supposed to have legs stuck out the sides of the body like a lizard's]
In fact the creratures which spend all of their lives submerged and only rarely being seen ashore have nothing to do with real Sauropod dinosaurs: the idea that Sauropods needed to remain submerged because of their immense size is an obsolete theory, and one which was first seriously called into question in 1968 by Bakker. Part of that re-evaluation included the study of the legs, which were not bent out to the sides in life as the older reconstructions had it, but were carried straight and indicated a lifestyle which was primarily carried out on land. The poor vestigial legs attributed to the Mokele-mbembe as sticking out to the sides (above, a version of the Wikipedia illustration) are much more likely to be flippers instead of legs, and the three-toed tracks belong to the rhinoceros water monster (the one with the horn that sometimes migrates to Mokele-mbembe descriptions)