Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. For centuries, sailors have repeated the legend of the Kraken, an enormous octopus-like creature said to attack ships (please see artist’s recreation). Today we believe that such tales were based on actual sightings of real-life Giant Squids, which may exceed 60 feet in length (frightening, but never observed attacking ships…as far as we know!). However, recently uncovered fossil evidence suggests that a giant octopus actually may have haunted the Triassic seas – and that it was able to capture bus-sized marine reptiles known as Ichthyosaurs!
A Fossil-Hunter’s Mystery
Armed with saber-like teeth and reaching more than 45 feet in length, Ichthyosaurs were long thought to have been the Triassic Period’s top marine predators (please see photo of skeleton). However, recent findings have led some researchers to believe that something, perhaps a giant octopus, was able to make a meal of even these formidable beasts.
For over 50 years, paleontologists have been puzzled by the odd arrangement of the Ichthyosaur fossils that are located in Nevada’s Berlin-Ichthyosaur National Park. The bones seem to have been physically moved about so as to fit neatly together. The fossils represent several individual animals, and the generally accepted theory was that they had died together, perhaps as a result of a group-stranding (as happens with pilot whales today).
Den of the Kraken Found?
However, a recent study at this site (presented before the Geological Society of America this week, October 10, 2011) reveals that the individual Ichthyosaurs likely died at different times. So why did their bones wind up together, and in a neat pile no less?
One prevailing theory is that a huge octopus or other Cephalopod killed the creatures and dragged them to its undersea den. The giant predator may have piled the bones in or near its lair once it had finished feeding, just as octopuses do today. Broken bones and twisted necks, found on some of the Ichthyosaurs, lend credence to the theory that they were killed by a predator.
Formidable Cephalopods Survive Today
Unfortunately, squid and octopus remains do not fossilize well, so we have little direct evidence of their lives and sizes. However, those that survive today are no less fantastic than their extinct relatives.
It was only very recently that the famed Giant Squid was first filmed, and then finally captured on a line (please see article below); its size staggers the imagination. And at the Seattle Aquarium, the culprit behind the mysterious death of a large shark was found to be a Pacific Giant Octopus (please see video below) – aquarists never expected such a “mushy” creature to be capable of killing a shark. The Common Tropical Octopus often appears in the pet trade and can be a fascinating addition to one’s collection – please see the article below for information on its care.
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Temnodontosaurus Skeleton image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Ghedoghedo