The famous photograph of the legendary Loch Ness Monster, taken by Robert Wilson in 1934, was long ago exposed as a hoax. Donald R. Prothero, a paleontologist and geologist, has coauthored a book that explains why such a creature could not exist, at least not in the freshwater loch in the Scottish Highlands.
But Kansas, which was once an inland sea, had something comparable to the Loch Ness monster of folklore in the plesiosaur. This aquatic reptile had a snakelike neck, small head and flippers. A specimen of a prehistoric fossil that Sotheby’s is calling “Nessie” will go on the auction block on July 26.
The 11-foot-long plesiosaur was discovered in the 1990s in Gloucestershire, England, and is believed to have lived about 190 million years ago.
Sotheby’s will also sell a true Kansas fossil, a pteranodon specimen nicknamed Horus after the falcon-headed Egyptian deity. It was discovered in Kansas in 2002, although the auction house doesn’t identify the location or the seller. It describes it as being among the largest well-preserved pteranodons ever discovered, and also one of the most complete.
The pteranodon was a birdlike animal that lived 85 million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period, Sotheby’s said. It is one of the largest winged creatures that ever lived, with a 20-foot wingspan.
Fossils and folklore both provide fascinating insights into our past. While the lessons learned may be subjective, the fossil record itself is literally “written in stone” to provide a history of prehistoric times.