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10 Mind-Blowing Discoveries This Week

A new snake-like creature? Spray-on skin? Just two of the fascinating things the world discovered this week.
 
 
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The Altamaha River in Georgia is said to be home to a fabled sea monster known as the Altamaha-ha. Altie, whom you can read all about in  this excellent illustrated story by Creative Loafing’s Curt Holman via Cryptomundo), is said to resemble a  plesiosaur.

A few years back, my friend Jim and I drove up to Georgia to see if we could spot it. The trip was a charmed one, a poor-girl’s substitute for Loch Ness, where I’ve always wanted to go. Did we see anything? I thought I remembered seeing  something in the water, something pinkish silvery and a bit serpentine, but frankly I can’t remember if it was in that body of water or another one. (“If you go looking for monsters, eventually you’re going to see one,” says a lighthearted skeptic in Holman’s story.)

1. I want to believe….but c’mon.

So, l’d love for the recent headline-making photo of the Loch Ness monster, seen  here in the Daily Record UK to be real, but…I dunno. The photo was snapped by George Edwards, a 60-year veteran of the Nessie hunting-and-touring trade. It looks like a living thing, but that doesn’t make it  a sea monster and Edwards says it didn’t register on his deep scanning sonar. It’s kind of an unconvincing hump in the water and frankly, we’ve all had too many of those to get overly eager about another.

It’s intriguing that the same week  Curiosity made a great and true stride for scientific exploration, a single blurry photo of the Loch Ness monster is still able to make headlines, albeit briefly. I mean, we’re exploring  Mars. You’d think Loch Ness would be taken care of by now.

Benjamin Radford  wrote on LiveScience about (among other things) the  BBC’s big investigation into the Loch Ness in 2003 using sonar and satellites, which, for all its due diligence, found nothing unusual. The world is irritatingly knowable these days and that may be why Nessie and Altie endure. There’s a little fun in not knowing, and frankly, the power of that fun is what Edwards' picture proved. There are truly fantastic underwater creatures like  this, and  this, and this that show up for photos regularly and never get Nessie-level attention. Nessie leaves us wanting more, the saucy minx. I’d look for her any day.

2. Is that a snake-like tetrapod in your pocket, or…

Speaking of mysterious, serpentine creatures, more than one person sent me a link to the tale of the newly discovered African blind snake-like creature that everyone thinks looks  embarrassingly phallic

“If this isn’t up your alley,” my friend Dave said, “I need a new GPS.” 

Geekosystem’s Sui Ying Teoh writes that when the Madeira River in Brazil was drained to build a dam, workers found about six of these tetrapods at the bottom of it, making the riverbed look like a Good Vibrations sale rack. They’re a rare species of caecilian, amphibians that look like worms or snakes, known as  Atretochoana eiselti. They’re about 30 inches long and have no lungs so they breathe through their skin. You can almost hear it…can’t you? Pleasant dreams.

These actually have a leg-up on Nessie because we  clearly see them but they are still mysterious, currently classified as “data deficient” by the  International Union for Conservation of Nature “in view of continuing uncertainties as to its extent of occurrence, status and ecological requirements.” There are no other known populations and of the six found one died, two were kept for study and three were released.

 
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