On Sunday, Animal Planet aired a follow-up to last year’s television special called “Mermaid: The Body Found.”
The two-hour documentary-style program, described by the network as “science fiction based on some real events and scientific theory,” was so convincing that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was overwhelmed with callers demanding to know the truth about the existence of the legendary sea creatures.
There is no scientific evidence that mermaids exist, but the way the story is told, it is difficult to separate fact from fiction.
There’s been some uproar about it airing on “Animal Planet,” a channel that traditionally focuses on nature and science, rather than myth and fantasy.
Charlie Foley, the show’s executive producer, creator, and writer, encourages viewers to approach the show with a sense of possibility, while keeping in mind that the premise is fiction.
The mockumentary uses evolution-based theories and several real examples from nature as a springboard to weave an imaginary story about a contemporary myth, Foley told us.
Here’s the story of how mermaids evolved from humans as told in the special.
The story starts nine years ago, when two boys stumbled upon a mass whale beaching in Washington State. (Mass whale die-offs do happen and have been linked to NAVY sonar tests, though the video is staged.)
Among the washed-up creatures shown in the video, the boys claimed they saw a body that was not a whale.
The NAVY took the remains of the unidentified body and the official record of what the two boys saw on the beach was later changed.
The government cover-up is told by an actor playing Dr. Paul Robertson — a character created for the show. His character is a former scientist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and head of the investigation into the existence of mermaids.
They were probably drawn to the water's edge by food. Some fringe scientists believe that our ability to walk upright first evolved on the shore, where catching food required wading in water.
Over time, more of our ancestors were drawn to the shore. The theory told in the program is that their bodies began adapting for the water.
The theory goes that our ancestors split into two groups: The majority went inland, while a small group went further out to sea.
There is plenty of evidence that humans were once adapted to living in water, the Robertson character claims.
Humans have partial webbing between their fingers and toes that other terrestrial animals, like apes, do not have.
All of these features can be interpreted as some design to make us better swimmers, which Robertson's character says means humans were once well-adapted (or could adapt in the future) to a life underwater.
The land-to-sea transition has happened with other animals in the past. The Arctic polar bear is believed to be a sub-species of brown bears. Polar bears were separated from their brown bear ancestors around 125,000 years ago. The bears slowly evolved to live in extreme cold and hold their breath in water for minutes at a time.
While there is still no scientific evidence that mermaids exist, Robertson argues that the mythical creatures have been recorded through sailor accounts, sea-faring Greeks, Vikings, and even the Chinese during their era of maritime exploration.
They show video from a remote-operated submarine near an oil derrick of a spear in a fish — possible evidence of a mermaid raid.
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