The plural of 'anecdote' can be 'data': statistical analysis of viewing distances in reports of unidentified large marine animals 1758-2000

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Abstract

Analysis of the nearest reported distance in accounts of seemingly unknown, large, marine animals (sea monsters) by boat- or water-based eyewitnesses, revealed that, contrary to expectation, the majority of sightings were at close distance (< 200 m). This suggests that misidentification of inanimate objects or known animal species due to great distance was unlikely. Assuming a uniform distribution of objects around the boat, the reported sightings were far closer than expected, implying a bias in the sighting or reporting process. The distribution of reported distances from boat- or water-based eyewitnesses was almost identical to that of shore-based witnesses. Unidentified large marine animals were more likely to be reported to be closer if the report was anonymous or secondhand. The gap of time between recollection/reporting and the actual sighting did not influence reported distance. There was no relation between reported distance and reported length. There was some equivocal evidence that the absence of a stated distance in a report might be an indicator of a hoax.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-387
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Zoology
Volume279
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2009

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