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1848 Hydrarchos Zeuglodon basilosaurus

1848 Hydrarchos Zeuglodon basilosaurus

C011/0951

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Credit

PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

C.G. Carus's paper "Das Kopfskelet des Zeuglodon Hydrarchos". It shows the skull of "Dr." Albert Koch's 114 foot (34 metre) skeleton of a fossil 'sea serpent'. It was displayed as such in the US and later in Europe where it caused a sensation. This was before the dinosaur reconstruction exhibitions of the crystal palace, or any accurate reconstructions of articulated dinosaurs had been attempted. Later Hydrachos was shown to be a forged composite of up to five individuals primarily of the fossil whale Basilosaurus - at the time believed to be reptilian (hence 'saurus'). Sir Richard Owen earlier showed Basilosaurus was actually a mammal and renamed it Zeuglodon - a synonym which is sometimes preferred but scientifically does not have primacy. While Koch's sea serpent was received with scepticism in the US and UK, it was accepted as real in his native Germany.

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