We hate to break it to you, but there’s no such thing as mermaids. Sexy, bosomy ladies with fish tails in lieu of shapely legs? That’s neither biologically nor evolutionarily possible. The closest thing the ocean has ever spawned to a legitimate mermaid would be the manatee, and outside of a very specific subset of animal lovers, few would describe those aquatic bovines as “sexy.”
Wait a second, why are we suddenly raining doubt on the existence of mythological creatures? That’s a bit out of our normal purview of electronic cars and web browsers, isn’t it? Well, yes, it is, but when the US government sees fit to offer commentary on the existence of half-person/half-fish hybrids we feel that qualifies as news that you absolutely must hear about. Besides, we’d hate for any of you to be patiently camped out on a wharf waiting to catch a glimpse of a flirtatious undine that will never appear.
“No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found,” reads a brand new addition to the website of the National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration, before offering a short primer on basic mermaid facts. While it points out that records of mermaids have been found dating back tens of thousands of years, it also notes that similar records of likewise unlikely beasts like the minotaur and satyr have been unearthed.
But why? Why would a wing of the US government (albeit one tasked with uncovering the secrets of the deep) spend precious time and resources on debunking an idea that should be plainly silly to everyone who has ever seen a woman and/or any sort of fish? Blame Discovery.
Specifically, a show on Discovery’s Animal Planet network dubbed Mermaids: The Body Found. It was something of a faux documentary, offering “scientific facts” to support the idea that merfolk really could (and likely do) exist somewhere deep in the ocean. Discovery News offers more:
The show was an “X-Files” type fanciful 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. In fact, there were even interviews with real NOAA scientists. As with all good science fiction, there’s a grain of science and truth to it: the so-called “aquatic ape” idea it touted (suggesting our evolutionary ancestors may have lived in marine environments) is a real hypothesis, but has nothing to do with mermaids.
Apparently the show spawned enough interest in viewers to inundate the NOAA with questions about the existence of mermaids, to the point that the agency added that small info blurb we linked above. As Discovery News points out, it isn’t entirely aberrant for the NOAA to discuss mythology — the site already includes pages about Atlantis and The Bermuda Triangle — but as far as we can tell those pages were not generated amidst the confusion created by a faux documentary claiming that either place was legitimate.
In sum: People are easily fooled by broadcast television, mermaids don’t exist, and the government (hopefully) has better things to do than dispel myths about watery vixens. Besides, the oceans are weird enough without our simple human minds fabricating things from thin air.