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1983’s Megamouth Prank

Posted by: Loren Coleman on May 29th, 2007

Mythic Creatures

Richard Ellis is one of the curators of the current 2007 “Mythic Creatures” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History. He once was part of a “new species” hoax back in the early 1980s.

The long delay between initial discovery (1976) and the scientific description (1983) [of the Megamouth shark] became the focus of an elaborate practical joke by two friends of Leighton Taylor, Richard Ellis of the American Museum of Natural History and John McCosker, director of San Francisco’s Steinhart Aquarium. Ellis and McCosker photocopied random articles from Japanese scientific journals and inserted photographs of the megamouth shark and a map of the type location and an English abstract, making it appear as if a Japanese team under guidance of John E. Randall of the Bishop Museum was to snatch the scientific merits of the description right from under Taylor’s nose.

An accomplice in Japan then mailed the “preprints” to Taylor, who was naturally dumbstruck. He then had his Japanese-American secretary translate the “paper”, only to be told that it contained things like musings about the cat in Japanese art, and rhinoceroses in Ueno Zoo, but nothing about the megamouth shark. Hidden on the last page were the names of Ellis and McCosker, put there deliberately for Taylor to find them. Realizing he had been had, Taylor finally wrote up the description.

The remark on its last page, “Particular thanks go to Richard Ellis and John McCosker for preparation of a preliminary manuscript which was of great help in the production of this final paper,” is in reference to this incident.“Hoax” under “Megamouth shark,” Wikipedia.

But, wait, what if the megamouth – a real one – is actually behind a mystery often discussed here at Cryptomundo? Read on…in another blog I’m posting today…

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


3 Responses to “1983’s Megamouth Prank”

  1. mystery_man responds:

    Haha! Very interesting! I myself am fluent in Japanese and would have loved to see just what was written in the bogus report. Just goes to show how easily a hoax can be pulled off sometimes.

  2. Lyndon responds:

    Ah those wags Ellis and McCosker. No wonder Taylor fell for it.

    Randall himself was the scientist who later cleared up the obscure surroundings of the famous Cojimar ‘record sized’ great white shark from 1945….for a long time in the Guiness Book Of Records……..despite the authors only accepting hearsay evidence for it.

    Turned out it wasn’t as long as was claimed. Nor was it actually ever even weighed.

  3. Daniel Loxton responds:

    Awfully funny!



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