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article imageMermaids don't exist, NOAA says after Animal Planet show mix-up

By JohnThomas Didymus     Jul 4, 2012 in Environment
The NOAA have been forced to issue a statement saying there is no evidence that half-human, half-fish "humanoids" exist after they received several phone calls following a fictional Animal Planet documentary titled "Mermaids: The Body Found."
Daily Mail reports several viewers of the documentary mistook the fictional show for fact.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) usually deals with environmental issues such as tsunamis and hurricanes. But they were forced to release a statement under their Ocean Facts section after several persons who had seen the fictional Animal Planet show called the agency making inquiries about mermaids.
In a statement titled "No Evidence of Aquatic Humanoids Has Ever Been Found," the agency said:
"Mermaids — those half-human, half-fish sirens of the sea — are legendary sea creatures chronicled in maritime cultures since time immemorial... The belief in mermaids may have arisen at the very dawn of our species. Magical female figures first appear in cave paintings in the late Paleolithic (Stone Age) period some 30,000 years ago, when modern humans gained dominion over the land and, presumably, began to sail the seas. Half-human creatures, called chimeras, also abound in mythology — in addition to mermaids, there were wise centaurs, wild satyrs, and frightful minotaurs, to name but a few.
But are mermaids real? No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found."
BBC reports that, according to NOAA spokeswoman Carol Kavanagh, the agency released a statement using information from other sources because they do not have a program dedicated to researching on mermaids.
Live Science reports that Keeley Belva, spokesperson for NOAA, said: "As we had gotten a couple questions about mermaids, we thought this would be a fun way to talk about it and to have information up about mermaids in different cultures and to draw people into our website and learn more about what NOAA and the National Ocean Service does."
According to Discovery, Animal Planet last month aired a documentary-style TV show. The Animal Planet's press release for the show described it as painting " a wildly convincing picture of the existence of mermaids, what they look like, and why they've stayed hidden... until now."
Discovery reports that the filmmakers admitted that the film is science fiction, but it appears that for many the make-believe evidence the show marshaled in support of existence of mermaids was just too convincing. According to Discovery, the show was a "mix of state-of-the-art computer generated animation, historical fact, conspiracy theory and real and faked footage sprinkled with enough bits of scientific speculation and real science to make it seem plausible."
The show even included interviews with real NOAA scientists. According to BBC, the show touted the controversial aquatic ape theory/hypothesis that suggests that human beings originated in aquatic environments and that they had an "aquatic stage" in their evolutionary history. The Animal Planet show said its story is "about evolutionary possibility grounded in a radical scientific theory – the Aquatic Ape Theory, which claims that humans had an aquatic stage in our evolutionary past." But many experts consider this theory "pseudoscience."
Discovery also notes that the show's reference to the aquatic ape theory was a deliberate mix-up because mermaids have nothing to do with the scientific aquatic ape theory.
The New York Times reviewer Neil Genzlinger, commented that the show is “a fictional account built on a few strands of fact and made to look like an actual documentary. If you know those ground rules, it’s a rather enjoyable and intriguing piece of work, in the same vein as 'The Blair Witch Project.'"
This is not the first time a show in fake-documentary format would fool many people. In 1995, Fox Television produced a film titled "Alien Autopsy," that used similar documentary-style format with contrived "scientific" theories and "evidence" to fool thousands into believing that scientists had performed an alien autopsy.
According to Discovery, the Animal Planet show also posed "scientifically non-sensical" questions such as: “If massive whales haven’t been discovered until recently, it answers why we haven’t been able to detect mermaids yet?” The statement is false because whales have been known for ages and the fact that new subspecies have only recently been revealed by genetic testing has nothing to do with the hypothesis of mermaids, Discovery notes.
This is not the first time that NOAA is reacting to rumors relating to the marine habitat. The NOAA has responded to rumors about Atlantis and Bermuda Triangle in the past because part of its mission is public education and outreach, Discovery reports.
Live Science notes that myths and legends of mermaids are found in cultures all over the world and speculates:
"Sailors long ago mistook these large gentle marine mammals for mermaids, or sirens who sang songs to lure ships into rocky shores. Legend has it that Christopher Columbus recorded a sighting of a manatee, saying he was surprised at the not-so-beautiful 'mermaid.'
The aboriginal people of Australia had their own name for mermaids, yawkyawks, which could refer to the sirens' allegedly mesmerizing songs. In fact, as far back as 30,000 years ago when humans were becoming the dominant species of the land, and possibly taking to the seas, they seem to have imagined magical female figures. These figures first appear in cave paintings at the time."
CBS News notes that only land-starved sailors (or more likely sex-starved) could possibly regret the information there are no such things as mermaids.
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