|Eyewitness sketch of the Hagan carcass (middle) and images of the two most plausible identities (above and below).|
(Part 4 can be found here)In this, the final installment of the Hagan Carcass Comparison Series, I will review two possible hypotheses which I have formulated after researching possible identities for the enigmatic carcass reported by Ms. Julie Hagan. The first hypothesis involves a scenario of misidentification: the carcass being that of a known species. Commenters have suggested a wide variety of animal species which could have been misidentified in this case, from oddly decomposed sturgeons to false catsharks. While many aspects of sturgeon morphology are in disagreement with those described for the Hagan Carcass, false catsharks can grow to a length of ten feet and can have a similar appearance to the carcass with their wide angular heads and other body features1. These sharks are also rare deep-water fish1, and thus would likely not be identified by the average person if found swollen and slightly decomposed on shore.
Comparison between Ms. Hagan's sketches of the Hagan carcass (middle), an image of a false catshark carcass (top), and several images of decomposing sturgeon carcasses (bottom).
(False catshark image is from here, sturgeon carcass image at upper left is from here, sturgeon carcass image at upper right is from here, and sturgeon carcass image at the bottom is from here)
Please click to enlarge
However, not all false catshark specimens have the same appearance as the one in the comparison above, and it seems that a marine mammal is a much likelier explanation based off of Ms. Hagan's description. Going off the likelihood that the carcass was mammalian in nature, it seems that the carcass was possibly that of a known beaked whale species (or a different cetacean species known to science). As eyewitnesses are notoriously bad at recalling features of animal carcasses which are unidentifiable to them, this seems to be a quite plausible explanation. The hind flippers alleged to have been present on the carcass may have been an atavistic trait (as seen on this four-flippered dolphin found off the coast of southwestern Japan), a mangled dorsal fin which was twisted in a manner which was lateral to the body (also suggested for the "Gambo" carcass2, although it wouldn't explain the appearance of two hind flippers), or possibly mutilated strips of flesh which were hanging off the carcass giving the appearance of hind flippers (as suggested by cryptozoological researcher Tyler Stone in correspondence with me). Looking at Ms. Hagan's sketches of the carcass, it appears that the animal had a characteristically domed head which indicates a melon. Modern day, advanced cetaceans possess this fatty structure which is located in the forehead and acts as an acoustic lens for echolocation sound production.3 Thus, it seems that a very plausible explanation for the identity of the Hagan carcass is that of a known cetacean species.
3D models of the melons of various cetaceans (including a beaked whale: Ziphius) compared to Ms. Hagan's sketches of the unknown carcass. (Source for image at left is here)
A drawing and images of Baird's beaked whales compared to the Hagan carcass drawings.
|A rendition of Heuvelmans' "Many-Humped sea-serpent" by Oberon Zell. (Image Source: here)|
Sketches from reports which Heuvelmans cited as anecdotal evidence of relict archaeocetes; most appear to have been standing waves or
known animals/groups of known cetaceans. (Source of images is here)
(Please click to enlarge)
In conclusion, I feel that the hypothesis that the Hagan carcass belonged to a mutilated or mutated known beaked whale species is most likely. The archaeocetes hypothesis suffers from multiple factors such as the ghost lineage in the fossil record which would have to exist for such species to have survived to the modern day and advanced cetacean features which the sketches indicate the carcass possessed (notably, the blowhole and possible melon). Occam's Razor would suggest that, as deceased beaked whales have been misinterpreted as unknown animals before, this is the most plausible explanation. I am not doubting Ms. Julie Hagan's reliability or observation skills by saying this, but I feel that past occurrences and other information infers that she witnessed the carcass of a known member of Ziphiidae (possibly Baird's beaked whale). Thus, she did likely see an elusive and enigmatic marine animal after all, just not an entirely unknown species. However, in the absence of photographs or samples from the carcass itself, researchers are left to speculate. Perhaps the carcass did belong to an unknown animal, one of the sea's many remaining secrets; it's impossible to be certain for now. While this seems to sadly be another dead end, it is an interesting report which may gain much importance if a similar carcass arises in the future. Thank you for taking the lengthy dive into these anomalous depths with me, an endeavor which began on that fateful June day. With a final thanks to Ms. Hagan for being so kind with discussing what she witnessed with me, I end my research into the Hagan carcass....for now.
|Beaked whales are extraordinary cetaceans; growing to stunning sizes and often remaining unseen from humans.|
My research indicates that Ms. Hagan most likely witnessed the carcass of such a bizarre beast.
(Please click on the "Hagan Carcass" label located on the right side of my blog for my previous articles on the subject)
The previous Hagan Carcass comparison articles are as follows:Hagan Carcass Comparisons (Part 1—Introduction)
Hagan Carcass Comparisons (Part 2—"Gambo" and Type 2B "Sea Serpents")
Hagan Carcass Comparison Images (Part 3—Mammals)
Hagan Carcass Comparison Images (Part 4—Marine Reptiles)
- "False Cat Shark, Deep Sea Sharks, Deep Sea Animals, Sea Sharks." False Cat Shark, Deep Sea Sharks, Deep Sea Animals, Sea Sharks. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Nov. 2013. http://www.deepseawaters.com/deep_sea_cat-shark.htm.
- Coleman, Loren, and Patrick Huyghe. The Field Guide to Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents and Other Mystery Denizens of the Deep. New York, NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 2003. Print.
- "Cetacea." Tree of Life Web Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2013. http://tolweb.org/Cetacea/15977.
- "Baird’s Beaked Whale." American Cetacean Society. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Dec. 2013. http://acsonline.org/fact-sheets/bairds-beaked-whale/.
- Black, Richard. "Beaked Whales - into the Abyss." BBC News. BBC, 29 Sept. 2008. Web. 29 June 2013. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7641537.stm.
- Heuvelmans, Bernard, Richard Garnett, and Alika Watteau. In the Wake of the Sea-serpents. New York: Hill and Wang, 1968. Print.