• Question: are mermaids real

    Asked by moomoo04 to Peter, Keith, Bethany, Hannah, Ramya on 20 Jun 2014. This question was also asked by amanagoldiexo.
    • Photo: Bethany Dearlove

      Bethany Dearlove answered on 20 Jun 2014:


      Having been a synchronised swimmer, I’ve been described as a mermaid myself plenty of times – but unfortunately there’s been no scientific evidence of a human-fish hybrid being real. A lot of the mermaid specimens in museums are man-made – like the Horniman merman at the Horniman Museum in London. A description of the investigation they did into the origins of their merman is found here (click on the links next to the picture at the top to read each part of the story): http://www.horniman.ac.uk/collections/stories/manmade-mermaids/story-chapter/the-horniman-merman.

      The closest thing to mermaids that we do know about are the Sirenia, or sea cows (sirens are sometimes depicted as a type of mermaid, which is where their name comes from when sailors encountered them at sea). The most well known of this group are the manatee and dugong, and they are fully aquatic herbivorous mammals. It’s a real shame that both the manatee and dugong are endangered; I had the pleasure of seeing some manatees in Florida, and they’re a really beautiful and gentle animal – I could have sat and watched them all day.

    • Photo: Keith Grehan

      Keith Grehan answered on 22 Jun 2014:


      As Bethany said there isn’t any evidence of anything like a mermaid. It is an interesting question to think about though I think one thing we would have to consider is would or could a mermaid look like we normally think of them (top of a person bottom of fish). I think a major problem with the image is that a mermaid would need to survive in the sea and so would need a body suited for the sea. Fish are brilliantly adapted to the sea so I think any real mermaids would have to be quite a bit more fishy than we normally see them as 🙂
      For a start I think we would have to lose the hair as this is a big drag under water (at least the long hair that the mermaids usually have).
      I would say that that we wouldn’t need the mermaids to have gills as they could come to the surface to breath just like other mammals in the sea (whales, dolphins and seals). They would probably need to change their skin and eyes though to work better underwater, not sure what they would end up looking like but I think it would be quite a bit different from what we normally think of.
      Even without mermaids though there are some really amazing creatures that live in the sea I really like sea dragons which are closely related to sea horses but are covered in extensions that look like seaweed and it makes the dragon really hard to spot when they are resting in the weeds.
      There is also the mimic octopus which is really amazing and uses if flexible body to make it self look like other animals and so scare off predators 🙂

    • Photo: Peter Elliott

      Peter Elliott answered on 23 Jun 2014:


      Sadly not. The only other thing I can think of, other than the sea cow which sailors use to confuse as being a mermaid (life out on the ocean can be tough) is a free diver. They can swim down to incredible distances on one breath but don’t have any typical fish like qualities and obviously cannot stay in the water forever.

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