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Ancient Krakens Making Self-Portraits? 135

Posted by timothy
from the not-sexting-but-octing dept.
First time accepted submitter Sanoj writes "Strange patterns of ichthyosaur bones have been found on an ancient deep-water seabed. One paleontologist has put forward the theory that these could have been the work of giant cephalopods who were eating the swimming dinosaurs and then arranging the vertebrae to resemble their own tentacles. Sound far-fetched? Apparently, the modern octopus also does this."
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Ancient Krakens Making Self-Portraits?

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  • by Millennium (2451) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @09:13AM (#37678152) Homepage

    The researchers are totally off base here. These aren't self-portraits; they're writing. When transliterated into the Roman alphabet, they read "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn"

    • by Anonymous Coward

      ...next to which a fairly large asteroid impact crater, implying the message "don't you dare to paste any Perl here", is found. :P

    • The researchers are totally off base here. These aren't self-portraits; they're writing. When transliterated into the Roman alphabet, they read "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn"

      Linguists have managed to translate that writing. It means, "This space has been intentionally left blank."

  • I think it is evidence that a historical race known as the Silurian that had culture and art really did exist in that time. Ask the doctor.

  • by vlm (69642)

    I'm not thinking making a homemade scarecrow is a positive evolutionary adaptation.
    So there must be some other bonus. Attract a mate?

    • by slim (1652)

      I'm not thinking making a homemade scarecrow is a positive evolutionary adaptation.

      Why not? Scarecrows are useful.

      I can well imagine an organism creating artifices that deter competitors from feeding on its food source.
      I can also well imagine the intermediate steps in the evolution of such an adaptation.

      • by vlm (69642)

        From the point of view of the prey, a scarecrow isn't a good idea.

        If corn could walk and talk, it would sound something like "we gotta get the heck away from this straw dude before the meat dude eats us"

        • by slim (1652)

          I'm not sure what you're getting at here. From the point of view of a shrew, an owl's talons aren't a good idea.

          Hypothetically, a squid self-portrait could frighten off, say, shrimp-eating fish, without frightening off shrimp -- e.g. if the fish had better eyesight than the shrimp, or the shrimp were more smell-oriented, etc.

        • If the squid-shaped things you saw were lifeless stone, might you not grow more comfortable hanging out around them? Then when one suddenly moves and tries to eat you, you might just be caught off guard.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Every action does not need to have a direct evolutionary benefit. For example humans still have sex long after they have lost their reproductive ability.
      Some mammals play for no known reason. (Otters slide down into water just to run up and reepat the action.)

      Evolution does not optimize away unnecessary traits, only those that hinders reproduction. If making scarecrows doesn't prevent reproduction then it can occur as a mutation and stay.

      • by vlm (69642)

        Every action does not need to have a direct evolutionary benefit. For example humans still have sex long after they have lost their reproductive ability.

        Not seeing the logic there of no direct benefit, or not seeing any proof that it provides a net no benefit. Can't do it long distance so sex means the partners stick together. Keeping parents around and together and thinking about kids, even if they can't have more kids, clearly increases offspring (and offspring of offspring) survival rate... If you postulate the maternal instinct would keep ma around, then ma keeps pa around, and pa drags home the occasional wolly mammoth for the (grand)kids to eat, it

        • Actually, it's been theorized that menopause is an evolutionary trait designed to give us helpful, caring grandmothers. I belive orcas are another species that do this.
          • It's more likely to prevent the addition of tons of offspring with Down's. The chances of mentally disabled kids skyrocket as mothers enter their 40s. Quite frankly I think it's irresponsible to have children at such at age since the likelihood of Down's approaches one in twenty.
            • It's more likely to prevent the addition of tons of offspring with Down's.

              Which would be an example of that "group selection" you so confidently stated was "debunked" a couple of posts ago.

              • And this is why I'm not taking a lot of effort to discuss it. It's clear you really don't understand it. Offspring with Down's are less likely to survive and reproduce, so mothers who had and primarily utilized late fertility would actually be less likely to successfully continue their lineage. Mothers who primarily used their fertility early would be more successful. There's no group selection dynamic to that at all.
                • Offspring with Down's are less likely to survive and reproduce, so mothers who had and primarily utilized late fertility would actually be less likely to successfully continue their lineage. Mothers who primarily used their fertility early would be more successful.

                  Irrelevant, since late reproduction can't go back in time and affect the genes of earlier offspring. If it were an either/or choice, sure, early reproduction would be a more effective strategy, but you know, it doesn't really work that way. If there's selective pressure against late reproduction (which is not the same thing as pressure in favor of early reproduction) you need a mechanism which has an effect on earlier, healthier offspring. Group selection provides such a mechanism; individual selection d

            • by haruchai (17472)
              What's the correlation with fathers? Namely ,when both mothers and fathers are over 40 or when only the fathers getting up there.
            • by quenda (644621)

              Quite frankly I think it's irresponsible to have children at such at age since the likelihood of Down's approaches one in twenty.

              Frankly wrong. It is only irresponsible if done without screening for chromosomal defects. Most Downs kids around here have young mothers for that reason.
              Amniocentesis is extremely accurate.

              > Actually, it's been theorized that menopause is an evolutionary trait designed to give us helpful, caring grandmothers.

              I though the question was more "why do we live so long past child-bearing age?" rather than why does menopause happen.

        • Evopsych != natural selection. People really need to stop imagining that all the complex social shit has a demonstrable effect on allele composition and effect. Turning off geriatric sex drive would simply have to have a greater positive effect on reproduction than a negative one. Apparently it doesn't, and in fact no post-fertility behavior can impact genetic traits downstream except where it involves the care for the young (which by extension includes survivability).

          Group selection has been debunked. On
          • by slim (1652)

            Group selection has been debunked. Only genes that reproduce have effects. The end.

            How do you account for the existence of non-breeding worker ants?

            • You're conflating kin selection with group selection. Beyond that, far as I'm concerned all the sterile offspring of an ant queen are for most intents and purposes extensions of the queen as a superorganism. The sterile workers don't have a separate existence, and are almost as much a part of the queen as another animal's armor or other biological adaptation.
              • by slim (1652)

                But surely group selection is a weaker shade of the kin selection you're describing.

                In a close-knit family, the grandmother is as much a part of the child "as another animal's armour or other biological adaptation". Albeit, the child has inherited (some of) its genes from the grandmother, rather than vice versa.

                To look at it from a Selfish Gene perspective, the gene for "protect your grandchild" is increasing its own chances of being reproduced, by protecting a vessel that contains instances of itself.

                Wheth

          • by joss (1346)

            The word "debunked" is amazingly powerful. A lot of people seem to think that using it ends all discussion or possible dissent (even without references or anything). In a world where its virtually impossible to get a definitive answer on anything without plausible opposing opinions, its amazing how often it works.

            • by Culture20 (968837)
              Parent just debunked the myth that debunking something prevents further discussion. Discuss.
            • by haruchai (17472)
              It also strikes me as being contradictory, in its typical usage - bunk or bunkum means nonsense or bullshit and "de" typically means removal or separation. So its not the false argument that's debunked but the true one, or rather the true one is what is left.
    • by Exitar (809068)

      Scarecrows? Those were baits!

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      One speculation is that if the octopus litters the sea floor near its turf with octopi-like shapes, then predators will be "trained" to ignore octopi-like patterns, reducing or delaying the chance of attacks against it. The fake patterns keep "calling wolf".

      Delaying the predator would give the octopus time to react or drum up adrenaline (or it's equiv.) when a predator starts sniffing around. After attacking dummy rock patterns in the past, predators will take longer to investigate, if they even bother.

      It'

  • Cthulhu. He controls the.... ahh!
    .
    .
    .
    Vote Cthulhu 2012. Vote early, vote often.

  • Hm? (Score:4, Funny)

    by roc97007 (608802) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @09:23AM (#37678298) Journal

    > Apparently, the modern octopus also does this."

    What, eat ichthyosaurs? No wonder you don't see too many of them around anymore.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @09:23AM (#37678306)

    Is anyone else disturbed a little by the paleontologist in this article actually calling this thing a "Kraken"? Look I know that may be the cute nickname they use in the office, but it seems a little tawdry for a supposedly serious researcher to use the name of a mythological creature in a public context. Makes me think this guy is a PR-whore looking to promote his work with sensationalism. What's next, someone finding a new type of dinosaur and calling it a "Dragon"?

    • by s_p_oneil (795792) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @09:34AM (#37678438) Homepage

      "And, says McMenamin, there is one modern predator that does exactly this - the octopus. He suggests that the remains may indicate the existence of a giant octopus, similar to the Kraken of kegend."

      I'm surprised their spell-checker didn't catch the mis-spelling of "legend", but my point is that he's talking about the possible existence of an undiscovered animal. If it hasn't been discovered, it hasn't been given a name, so it makes sense to compare it to something people can relate to. An octopus has no bones, so I'm not sure what kind of fossils we'd be able to find from an ancient giant octopus. Maybe a giant beak?

      • by Sockatume (732728) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @10:00AM (#37678740)

        The Kraken of Keg End sounds like a long-lost Discworld novel.

        • The Kraken has resurfaced from the depths of the abyss, where it's boneless body is impervious to the immense pressure of the deep, only to devour a cruise ship . . . JUST FOR THE BEER!
      • by elrous0 (869638) *

        Yeah, except later on he says "I think that these things were captured by the kraken," which is a little different than merely COMPARING it to one.

        • by s_p_oneil (795792)

          I disagree. If I was writing an article like that, I would give it a temporary pseudonym to avoid awkward wording every time I needed to refer to the animal. If I was speaking aloud, I would be even more likely to do it to avoid dragging the conversation out longer than necessary. It would be both painful to write and painful to read a phrase like "this hypothetical animal with properties similar to the mythical kraken" fifty times. Since I'm not a lawyer, I wouldn't feel the need to bu ultra-clear by expli

          • A simple reference to the "Kraken-like creature" would have sufficed. The author should have refrained from treating the creature as if it were an actual Kraken and instead continued to refer to it as "Kraken-like" to make it clear that it s an unknown type of creature that is similar to a Kraken. Just saying "the kraken" implies it is a Kraken, and not just something like one.

      • by AvitarX (172628)

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microcosmus [wikipedia.org]

        Though I agree, similar to the Kraken of Legend is probably more appropriate.

    • by RKThoadan (89437) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @09:36AM (#37678468)

      No, I'm very pleased with his ability to communicate in a way that is perfectly understandable to normal people. I don't see you complaining about his using the term "octopus" which is just as much a nickname as "kraken" since neither of them is the scientific name of the animal in question.

      If someone discovers a large dinosaur that matches any of the various representations of dragons through the ages I'd have absolutely no problem with them calling by that name.

      To be less snarky about it: Communicating scientific information to the public and to the press is always a tricky endeavor and there is a balance to be found between speaking 90% latin and between super-sensationalism. I thought this article struck a decent balance between the two.

    • by Baloroth (2370816)
      Kraken is a common way to refer to giant cephalapods, distinguishing them from non-giant ones easily.
    • by Rogerborg (306625)

      What's next, someone finding a new type of dinosaur and calling it a "Dragon"?

      *cough* Dracorex hogwartsia [wikipedia.org] *cough*

      • by elrous0 (869638) *

        See, this is why we shouldn't let kids name dinosaurs. It's the same way we ended up with the Dinosaurus Awesomous Timberlakeous back in the 90's.

        • by Coren22 (1625475)

          I found the J.K. Rowling quote even more offensive. Because the dinosaur was named after a location in a set of books she wrote, suddenly it is HER dinosaur...

    • by daem0n1x (748565)
      You need to get laid more.
    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      Is anyone else disturbed a little by the paleontologist in this article actually calling this thing a "Kraken"?

      Naw, I'm sure there are others who get in a tiff over their perception of what constitutes "serious" naming despite there being no basis in reality for their nitpicking.

      This notion you seem to have that biological names must be completely serious, and therefore that using the names of mythological creatures is verboten in serious biology, is something you picked up somewhere other than in the context of real, serious biology. Which means you and everyone else who is disturbed should just get over yourselve

  • by Bicx (1042846) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @09:31AM (#37678394)
    A normal-sized octopus arranged these vertebrae into a giant tentacle pattern just to freak out everyone
    • A normal-sized octopus arranged these vertebrae into a giant tentacle pattern just to freak out everyone

      A normal-sized JAPANESE octopus arranged these vertebrae into a giant tentacle pattern just to freak out everyone.

      Fixed it for you.

  • Science is Awesome (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ideonexus (1257332) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @09:32AM (#37678420) Homepage Journal

    This is why Science is so $#@%ing awesome. As Samuel Clemens put it best, “There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such trifling investment of fact.” This will be a very tough hypothesis to sell, but the researcher says his evidence is ready to take on all skeptics.

    There are incredible stories waiting to be revealed in the fossil record and stories we have already uncovered. There's the footprints of Austrolopithecus, which were preserved in volcanic ash, large and small, male and female, close together as if they were huddling--perhaps the male had his arm around his mate, and the female's footprints lopsided as if she were carrying an infant. Imagine what it was like for them, walking fearfully across a landscape raining ash from a distant volcano... This story is drawn in this famous diorama [flickr.com].

    Or the Taung child [si.edu], whose skull bares the scars of an eagle attack. The child was carried away by a bird of prey. A story both fantastic and tragic at once.

    Or the stories of Homo erectus , who was the velociraptor of our human ancestors. She was a total badass, which is why I love this statue of her [flickr.com] at the Smithsonian Hall of Human Origins carrying a rotting caribou carcass across the Serengeti.

    Science has thousands of these stories that we have already discovered, and an infinite supply of them in store for us if we keep exploring. Knowing this, I simply don't understand how people can be so impressed with a book covering a few hundred years of human history and consider it sacred. The sacred is all around us, written in the natural world waiting for us to read it.

    • by Myopic (18616)

      Science is awesome, but keep in mind this disparaging note on the "scientist's" Wiki page: He has earned the nickname McMinimal from his colleagues due to the perceived poor quality of his research, such as suggesting that Agnostids are cannibals and claiming that the Kraken was a real beast..

      Still, to me those sure look like discs purposefully arranged into tentacle patterns.

      • by Colin Douglas Howell (670559) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @12:20PM (#37680384)

        Science is awesome, but keep in mind this disparaging note on the "scientist's" Wiki page: He has earned the nickname McMinimal from his colleagues due to the perceived poor quality of his research, such as suggesting that Agnostids are cannibals and claiming that the Kraken was a real beast..

        Whatever you think of this professor's hypothesis, that note was added just hours ago [wikipedia.org] by an anonymous IP editor, without any references. It has since been removed [wikipedia.org], rightly so.

        • by Colin Douglas Howell (670559) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @12:51PM (#37680702)

          Some other, rather more reliable indications that this guy may indeed be full of crap:

          Brian Switek's commentary on the story on his Laelaps palaeontology blog [wired.com]

          P. Z. Myers' view of the story on his Pharyngula blog [scienceblogs.com]

          Discussion of the story on an archive of geologists' conversations on Twitter [tumblr.com]

          The professor's own profile page [mtholyoke.edu], which shows he has quite a history of making far-reaching claims.

          • by Myopic (18616)

            Ha! Thank you for first pointing out that my reliance on Wiki was naive, and then also for doing the research to prove that the unsourced Wiki slander might be rightheaded after all.

            Me? I don't have an opinion on it. The guy's explanation for the bones sounds reasonable to me, because it jives with my understanding of octopuses as among the brightest species on the planet. Still, I don't normally put a hell of a lot of weight on what one scientist says.

            • Ha! Thank you for first pointing out that my reliance on Wiki was naive, and then also for doing the research to prove that the unsourced Wiki slander might be rightheaded after all.

              Glad to be of help.

              Me? I don't have an opinion on it. The guy's explanation for the bones sounds reasonable to me, because it jives with my understanding of octopuses as among the brightest species on the planet. Still, I don't normally put a hell of a lot of weight on what one scientist says.

              The biggest problem with his claim isn't octopus intelligence, which is definitely quite remarkable. (Still, making self-portraits would still count as extraordinary behavior for any animal, since it implies a particular arsenal of especially complex mental capabilities, and remember this is back in the Triassic, over 200 million years ago, when basic vertebrate brains, and presumably cephalopod brains as well, were still being refined.)

              One big problems is that he has taken a site widely

              • "That's a bit like claiming that bodies in a cemetary are actually a serial killer's victims."

                Even if it's a cemetary that would be interesting in itself, implying some kind of well-developed awareness on the part of the animals...

                • Yeah, but I wasn't trying to imply something like that. It's only a weak analogy. We humans don't tend to let our bodies pile up in places where we happen to drop dead. :D
      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        claiming that the Kraken was a real beast..

        Seems to me that the Kraken being a real beast -- specifically the Giant Squid -- is pretty much a given, just as it's a given that the stories sailors told about it were exaggerated as well. Not that it takes a lot exaggeration to make a 40+ ft long creature seem like a mythical monster. Pants-shitting fear will do that.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          Kraken is not the Giant Squid.
          However, the use of 'Kraken' might be German usage.

          • by Chris Burke (6130)

            Kraken is not the Giant Squid.

            If there's a more plausible explanation than sightings of dead or dying giant squid -- already a fantastically large creature -- creating the myth of the Kraken, I'd like to hear it.

            In other news, werewolves, vampires, and zombies are people with rabies.

  • It is a conjecture. In order for this to be a theory, there would have to be evidence the supposed "kraken" existed, which there isn't. Really, this scientist, and I am using the term loosely, is just begging the question.

    • by slim (1652)

      TFA doesn't use the word "theory" (well, it does, but in relation to a different hypothesis).

      But, even if it did, "theory" in informal English usage, has pretty much the same weight and meaning as "conjecture" or "hypothesis". And "theory" is more commonly used, because, frankly, if you're not talking to a fellow scientist or writing a paper, it's just pretentious.

      Just because ID proponents misrepresent the "theory" of evolution, doesn't mean we all have to abandon the common use of words.

      • by DaveV1.0 (203135)

        If scientists had not abandoned the scientific use of the word, it would be impossible for ID proponents to misrepresent the world "theory".

        • Stop wasting your time arguing about that, and if anyone says, "it's just a theory," respond with the short, "yeah, but it's a true theory." They will not be able to overcome this inane argument because theirs is even more inane.
    • by Hast (24833) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @09:49AM (#37678618)

      There's an article on Wired on why this kraken "science" is complete bullshit and an indication of the sad state of scientific "reporting".

      http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/10/the-giant-prehistoric-squid-that-ate-common-sense/ [wired.com]

    • by T.E.D. (34228)

      there would have to be evidence the supposed "kraken" existed, which there isn't

      You wouldn't call Enteroctopus Dofleini [wikipedia.org] "evidence"? Existing specimens are commonly found with 14 foot long tentacles, one has been certified at 23 ft, and there are reports of specimens as long as 30ft. That last specimen would probably be large enough to take out a 45ft ictheosaur.

      We know the order octopoda dates back that far, and they are carnivores. If placed in an environment where they had lots of available prey that large, it makes perfect sense that they would have evolved even more size. They ce

      • by DaveV1.0 (203135)

        No, I don't consider it as evidence because there is no evidence of it existing when the fossils were laid down.

        They certianly wouldn't have been smaller!

        Why not? Please explain in detail why they would not have been smaller, given that there may have been larger predators that would target larger shelless cephlapods. Oh, and let us not forget that smaller prey would have been more numerous.

        Given that shell-free cephlapods don't exectly leave a good direct fossil record, finding a kill-bone arrangement that they are known to favor today is about the best you can ask for.

        That is begging the question: The "kill-bone" arrangement was made by a "kraken". The kraken must have existed because the kill-bone arrangement exists." To put

        • "That is begging the question: The "kill-bone" arrangement was made by a "kraken". The kraken must have existed because the kill-bone arrangement exists." To put this in perspective "The universe was made by a god. The god must have existed because the universe is here." Do you see the problem with the logic now?"

          Current octupos make some funny bone arrangements... Look, a giant bonne arangement that is similar to the current ones; must have been a giant actopus.

          Quite a sane way of thinking.

      • by cusco (717999)
        Heck, octopi eat sharks today, I don't see any reason to doubt they could have eaten an ictheosaur. If I could get to Youtube from here I'd link to the vid of the one at the Seattle Aquarium hunting and killing a shark after the tourists had left for the day. It's really quite fascinating to watch.
  • Ichthyosaurs are not dinosaurs. They are swimming reptiles and just like the pterosaurs and pleisiosaurs they are not dinosaurs. Calling an ichthyosaur a dinosaur is somewhat like calling a bat a rodent.
  • I'm not familiar with the bone-patterning behavior of the octopus. Are they going out their way to do it, or is it just that each tentacle leaves its own pile of bones? Kind of like the aftermath when you share a giant plate of wings at the local sports bar...

    • by daid303 (843777)

      It's not strange that you are not familiar with the bone-pattering of the octopus. Because they don't have bones.

  • I've never heard of octopuses rearranging bones to create art, nor can I find anything online about octopuses doing this, where are they getting this from?

  • Based on the amount of evidence, I've constructed a "theory" that the Kraken's mother was named Celliphelia, and that she was constantly scolding the Kraken for playing with his food. Kraken was going through teen rebellious stage (normal for octopi which ate dinosaurs), and left home for a period but was lost in a plankton storm, and washed up on a remote island.

    See? "Science" is amazing when you apply paleontology to boneless organisms! It opens an entire new career track for creative writing majors

  • Mark McMenamin is well known in science circles as a crank, a woo woo practitioner, and a media hungry crack-pot.

    While it is true that octopuses do build midden piles, there is absolutely no evidence that they are doing anything other than keeping their lairs clean and occasionally building walls to keep predators out.

    Funny thing too, there are occasionally fossils of soft bodied creatures found, which is how we know that octopus and squid were around quite a long time ago. I would expect, if this were some

  • Don't tease the octopus, kids!

  • Pretty much nothing is factually true in that 'research' other than that octopi live in the ocean. For example, modern octopi do NOT arrange bones into 'art' gardens as Mark McManmin asserts. Arstechica sums it up best with the article 'The giant, prehistoric squid that ate common sense' at http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2011/10/the-giant-prehistoric-squid-that-ate-common-sense.ars [arstechnica.com] The best quote from Ars is "We have a serious problem with science journalism. A big one, in fact, and today that problem

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