Encyclopaedia of Cryptozoology
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Digited creature

Visualisation of the digited creature by Cameron McCormick (Used with Permission).

System Champagne system (2007)
Proposed scientific names
Other names Kelp chameleon,[1] seamonkey
Sightings range Atlantic and Pacific Oceans
Proposed identification Indet. amphibian or reptile (Champagne, 2007), sea sloth (Mardis, 2019)

The digited creature is a Champagne type of sea serpent based on around five[2] main observations as recently as 1995. Based on the sightings examined by Bruce A. Champagne, this type is a small animal with four limbs featuring opposable digits, a tail which may be prehensile, and a chameleon-like head. It corresponds to an amphibian or a reptile,[3] but too few high-quality observations have been reported for more specific speculation.[2]

Known mainly from carcasses[2] as well as the Caesar (1910) sighting off Ireland, the digited creature is reported from temperate coastlines of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, especially near kelp forests. Its digited appendages, similar to those of arboreal animals, lead Champagne to theorise that this type inhabits the kelp forests, navigating the kelp with its opposable digits and perhaps its tail. He suggests that it is either a nocturnal predator of small invertebrates, or a marine grazer.[3]

History[]

The possible existence of the digited creature as a distinct type had not been proposed before Champagne's work. Bernard Heuvelmans examined only one sighting later attributed to the digited creature, which he classified as a longneck or merhorse.[3] The Canvey Island monster, widely identified as a deep-water monkfish (Lophius sp.), was initially included in the type's dataset,[4] but was later removed.[2] As of 2007, the most recent known sighting had occurred in 1995, although most reports merely concerned washed-up carcasses.[3]

Significant sightings[]

Caesar (1910)[]

Royal Navy officer Robert Hamilton Anstruther (1862 – 1938) described seeing a small, chameleon-like "sea serpent" leap 40–50 ft (12–15 m) out of the Irish Sea in two letters, one published in The Spectator in 1922, and the other in Wide World Magazine in 1925. In his account for Wide World Magazine, Anstruther did not give the animal's size, leading Bernard Heuvelmans to assume that it was large; however, in the letter to The Spectator, Anstruther stated that the animal he allegedly saw was the size of a dog.[5]

In the spring of 1910, when I was in command of the 'Caesar,' battleship, steaming towards the Clyde and between the coast of Ireland and the Isle of Man, I was on the bridge, in broad daylight, when a creature leapt out of the water close to the ship and shot straight up into the air about forty or fifty feet, and came down spread-eagle fashion. It had the appearance of a chameleon, though shorter in proportion, and was about the size of the skinned chow-dogs one sees hanging outside the butchers' shops of Canton. I called the navigating officer from the standard compass, and as he got to my side the creature leapt again, and we both had a good look at it.

In the longer account published in Wide World Magazine, Anstruther named the navigating officer as Howard James Lionel Walter Kox Willcox (1875 – 1936), and claimed that the animal had possessed four legs.[6]

I, of course, had my galilee-glasses handy, and quickly fixed them on the quadruped–for a four-footed or, at any rate, a four-legged, beast it proved to be. In appearance it gave me the impression of a skinned chow-dog, such as one sees hanging up in the butchers' shops of Canton. In shape it reminded me of a chameleon, though a shortened one; the head and short tail also had a chameleon-like appearance ... It did not appear to have scales, but rather the shiny skin of a reptile. Its feet seemed like the claws one sees represented in figures of Chinese dragons.

Anstruther believed that the animal he supposedly saw was connected to a wyvern allegedly depicted on the seal and coat-of-arms of Rye. He asked for the readers of The Spectator to help in identifying the animal, but received only satirical and mocking responses.[7][8] Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 – 1930) later came upon Anstruther's account, which induced him to make public his own alleged sighting of a sea serpent in the Mediterranean Sea; he sent a sketch made by Anstruther to the Natural History Museum.[9] Heuvelmans, unaware that Anstruther had described this animal as dog-sized, classified it as a possible longneck or merhorse.[10]

Bahía de Samborombón (1967)[]

In January 1967, Spanish-language newspapers reported that a sea monster with digited hands had been killed and photographed off the coast of Argentina's Buenos Aires Province, near the estuary of the Rio Salado in Bahía de Samborombón, a tidal wetland. It had been seen by an officer of the Maritime Police, Sotelo, who noticed an animal which he took for a sea cow swimming past his post. Approaching in a launch, he recognised that it was an unfamiliar animal, and was able to kill it in the water with two shots. Upon being roped and drawn onto the beach, it proved to be a spindly-bodied, 700–800 kg animal with "dorsal [sic] fins in the form of hands, ending in four clawed digits," and a cow-like head sporting large canine teeth. A photograph of Sotelo and the animal's head was reportedly published in Buenos Aires.[11][12]

Profile[]

Champagne suggests that digited creatures, which he nicknamed "kelp chameleons," may inhabit kelp forests (C BY-NC-SA 2.0.)

The digited creature is a relatively small, four-limbed animal with a noticeable, possibly prehensile tail, approximately 1.22 m (4 ft) in total body length. Its skin is scaleless and tough, and pink, red, or brown in colouration. Its head has been called chameleon-like, and features large eyes and powerful, sharp teeth. The digited creature's eponymous diagnostic feature are the opposable digits on its four limbs, up to five on each extremity, which may be arranged three-versus-two, as in chameleons. Champagne compares these to the digited limbs of chameleons and koalas, both relatively slow arboreal animals.[3]

Sightings attributed to the digited creature have been reported from coastal regions of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Champagne posits that the digited creature may be a specialist inhabitant of kelp forests and similar marine habitats, where its opposable digits could be useful in securely navigating, climbing, and holding onto, the kelp. The hindlimbs could potentially be used to seize the stine of the kelp, and maintain position while the animal either browses on macroalgae or awaits a feeding opportunity. Its small size and colouration might also function as camouflage. No feeding behaviour has been described: Champagne suggests that, based on its large eyes, the digited creature may be a nocturnal predator of sessile or slow prey such as crustaceans and molluscs; or, based on the strong and sharp teeth, an herbivore which feeds on kelps, seaweeds, and other algas.[3]

Gallery[]

Eyewitness depictions[]

Theories[]

The marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) is the world's only known marine lizard (CC BY 2.0).

Using a marine vertebrate classification matrix, the digited creature scored equivalent to amphibians, one point below modern reptiles. However, according to Champagne, the digited creature's score could be higher and "more accurate," equivalent to the reptiles, if the type's dataset were larger.[3] If this animal is indeed a lizard, Champagne has noted possible issues regarding heat conservation and access to the surface. The only known marine lizard is the marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) of the Galapagos Islands, which is smaller than the digited creature is reported to be: these lizards feed in relatively cold water, but return to the land to regulate their body temperature. A nearshore wave-swept environment might also prove challenging for an air-breathing animal like a reptile, which must periodically return to the surface to breathe, although Champagne observes that other amphibious sea animals have adapted to such conditions.[4] In an interview with Champagne, cryptozoologist Scott Mardis briefly compared the digited creature to Thalassocnus, a Mio-Pliocene marine sloth from the Pacific coast of South America.[2]

Notes and references[]

  1. "Bruce Champagne: Desert Hominoids and Aquatic Cryptids," Sasquatch Tracks (18 May 2021) — Online
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "Bruce A. Champagne," The Haunted Sea with Scott Mardis, Monster X Radio (2019) — Online
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Champagne, Bruce A. "A Classification System for Large, Unidentified Marine Animals Based on the Examination of Reported Observations," Elementum Bestia: Being an Examination of Unknown Animals of the Air, Earth, Fire and Water (2007), Lulu Press, ASIN B001DSIB2W
  4. 4.0 4.1 Champagne, Bruce A. (4 December 2005) "Comment on Type 8 Sea Serpent," Cryptozoology.com (cryptozoology.com) [Accessed 28 June 2022] – Online
  5. Anstruther, Robert H. "A Strange Sea Reptile," The Spectactor (4 March 1922) – Online
  6. 6.0 6.1 Pound, Reginald "The Case for the Sea-Serpent," Wide World Magazine, No. 54 (January 1925)
  7. Bacon, J. Ester "A Strange Sea Reptile," The Spectator (18 March 1922) – Online
  8. Ritchie, Eleanor "A Strange Sea Reptile," The Spectator (25 March 1922) – Online
  9. Fallon, Richard (2021) Reimagining Dinosaurs in Late Victorian and Edwardian Literature
  10. Heuvelmans, Bernard (1968) In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents, Hart-Davis, ISBN 9780246643124
  11. "Captura de un Monstruo Marino de la Costa Argentina," La Vanguardia (22 January 1967)
  12. Crexells i Playà, Joan "Capture of a Sea Monster on the Coast of Argentina," The INFO Journal, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Autumn 1967) – Online (Original)
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