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Prehistoric Mammals Theme Unit
Sea Serpents or Ancient Whales?



Sea Serpents or Ancient Whales?
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 3 to 5
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.01

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    balochistnensis, carving, cone-shaped, lion-like, serpent, status, toothy, triangular, wedge-shaped, whale-like, white-capped, snout, stubby, underwater, mammal, backbone
     content words:    Sir Humphrey Gilbert, Hans Egede, Late Eocene, And Basil, United States, Some Southerners, Wouldn't Basil, Senate Resolution


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Sea Serpents or Ancient Whales?
By Colleen Messina
  

1     In 1583, Sir Humphrey Gilbert thought he saw a lion-like sea monster with glaring eyes. Later, Hans Egede from Denmark said that he saw a terrible sea creature that had a sharp snout and ugly, wrinkled skin. The black creature fell backwards into the sea, and its snake-like body writhed in the white-capped waves. It was as long as the ship!
 
2     Seamen have told stories about sea serpents for centuries. Did they ever exist? About 45 million years ago, a creature that looked like a monster lived in the prehistoric sea. Sailors would probably rather walk the plank than face this frightening creature! Scientists have called this odd mammal an ancient whale.
 
3     This ancient whale had a big name: Rodhocetus balochistnensis. Let's just call her Rhoda for short. She lived in the warm, shallow seas of the Late Eocene period. Rhoda was about 9 feet long. She had four stubby legs. Her ankles and webbed toes made her a good swimmer. She may have been able to slide over land like a modern seal, but scientists don't know that for sure. Her jaws had many sharp teeth. Could she spread them wide in a toothy grin if she scared a sailor? Probably not, even though it is a fun idea.

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Animal Themes
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Prehistoric Mammals Theme Unit
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