Mysterious mermaid stripped naked

Paolo Viscardi reveals what it takes to make a convincing, fake mermaid

I am fascinated by mermaids. But my fascination, I should add, is purely professional. It all began when, in my capacity as a curator of natural history at the Horniman Museum & Gardens, I was asked to help identify the composition of a mermaid in the collection.

Mysterious mermaid stripped naked
What is it made of? The mysterious merman at the Horniman Museum & Gardens. Photograph: Heini Scheebeli

At that point, I was familiar with the idea that tales of mermaids most likely arose from the misidentification of real-world animals like the Sirenidae (a family of American aquatic salamanders that lack hind limbs) or Sirenia (the dugongs, manatees and now extinct Steller’s sea-cow). I was less familiar with fake mermaids, taxidermy chimera supposedly made by attaching a monkey to a fish.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as I peered into the case where the mermaid lurks in the Horniman’s Centenary Gallery, a space that struggles to strike a balance between the low light levels needed to preserve museum objects and the need for visitors to actually see the exhibits. With a torch, however, I was able to pierce the stygian gloom to reveal the suitably nightmarish visage of the “Japanese Monkey-fish” (as the museum’s register describes it).

Mysterious mermaid stripped
The stuff of nightmares. Photograph: Heini Scheebeli

This presumptive descriptive name led me to think about taxonomy rather than taxidermy: what should the scientific name be? Pseudosiren paradoxoides (literally, the “absurd pretend mermaid”) seemed an appropriate moniker. But in the interests of a snappier name and still assuming Japan was the country of origin, perhaps ningyo or “man fish” would be better. However, presumptions and assumptions are bad for the business of science, so I took it back to basics and, given the absence of feminine characteristics, I settled on “merman”.

“Is it real?” is the first question that most of the museum’s visitors ask and they are all dutifully disappointed by the equivocal answer that it’s a real object, but not a real merman. “What is it made of?” is the second most common enquiry and one to which we now have an answer.

It quickly became apparent that in spite of appearances the merman did not contain a trace of monkey. The main clue lay in the teeth, which lacked the typical simian pattern of having four incisors in the top jaw and four in the bottom. In fact, it lacked the standard mammalian feature of having properly defined incisors altogether, raising questions about just what teeth they were.

mermaid stripped naked
The distinctly fishy teeth of the Horniman merman. Photograph: Heini Scheebeli

Find us here

Get news from the CSGLOBE in your inbox each weekday morning

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors/source and do not necessarily reflect the position of CSGLOBE or its staff.

Paid content

The 10 Biggest Dangers Posed By Future Technology

It’s not easy predicting the future of technology. In the fifties it seemed a pretty much foregone conclusion that by 2015 we would all...

If You’re Alive in 30 Years, it’s Likely You Will be Alive in 1000 Years

Life extension is no joke. It's being pursued, avidly, by the chief engineer at Google, Ray Kurzweil, and is increasingly popular, with some scientists...

Did we discover “Alien technology” and reverse-engineer it?

A lot of people have wondered ever since the first reported UFO crash, if we had come into contact with Alien technology. Highly advanced technology...

What's New Today

Georgia House Votes To Allow Citizens To Abolish Police Departments In The State

The Georgia House backed an effort on Friday to dissolve the Glynn County Police Department and any...

Leaked CDC document contradicts Pence claim that U.S. coronavirus cases ‘have stabilized’

Even as Vice President Mike Pence wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Tuesday that coronavirus...

Five bombshells about Trump from Bolton ‘s book

Excerpts from former national security adviser John Bolton ’s book about his time in the Trump administration...

Don’t Listen to Fox. Here’s What’s Really Going On in Seattle’s Protest Zone.

It seems I live in a city undergoing a “totalitarian takeover” that will lead to “fascist outcomes”...

MOST READ

What Is Agenda 21? Depopulation of 95% of the World By 2030

Most people are unaware that one of the greatest threats to their freedom may be a United Nations program which plans to depopulate 95%...

Don’t Listen to Fox. Here’s What’s Really Going On in Seattle’s Protest Zone.

It seems I live in a city undergoing a “totalitarian takeover” that will lead to “fascist outcomes”...

Five bombshells about Trump from Bolton ‘s book

Excerpts from former national security adviser John Bolton ’s book about his time in the Trump administration...

The 10 Biggest Dangers Posed By Future Technology

It’s not easy predicting the future of technology. In the fifties it seemed a pretty much foregone conclusion that by 2015 we would all...

Audi creates diesel fuel from water and CO2 that leaves zero-carbon footprint

A breakthrough refinement process perfected by Audi engineers has produced a diesel fuel created from high temperature water and carbon dioxide. After only four months,...

Imagine a safe welding flame using water as its only fuel

Scientists have invented a new low-cost method to create a safe welding flame using water as its only fuel Called the Safeflame, the device splits...

Scientists Discover Another Earth!

NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope recently discovered an Earth-like planet orbiting a nearby star within the habitable zone of our galaxy. Kepler-186f is approximately 500...

10 CANCER-CAUSING FOODS YOU SHOULD NEVER PUT IN YOUR MOUTH AGAIN

While no one goes around trying to consume things that will make them ill, the truth of the matter is, there are many unnatural...

Russia’s Massive Tesla Tower Revealed in Drone Footage

Russia's Massive Tesla Tower Western energy sanctions levied against Russia are already threatening to trickle down and compromise the energy security of the entire EU,...

Warning: Ebola could mutate and become airborne

Doomsday warning: UN Ebola chief raises 'nightmare' prospect that virus could mutate and become airborne - making it much more infectious The longer the Ebola...

German state orders crosses mounted at government buildings

Bavaria's conservative government is ordering Christian crosses to be placed at the entrance of all state administrative buildings. The regional government says the crosses shouldn't...