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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Mermaid Kicked Out of Public Pool

Author: Reilly Capps/Thursday, July 18, 2013/Categories: marine mammals

By Reilly Capps

In the news: mermaid kicked out of public pool

Or, a woman with a plastic mermaid fin was asked not to swim there. The pool has a no-swim-fin policy. 

Bringing up two questions: 

1. Would a real mermaid be kicked out of a public pool? 

2. Can there be real mermaids? 

First, many Americans do believe in mermaids. In an Entertainment Weekly poll, 20 percent believe. A South Jersey radio station's poll revealed that 41 percent believe and 29 percent say "maybe." 

It's not just Americans. Last year, in Zimbabwe, Voice of America reported, "Water Resources Minister Sam Sipepa Nkomo told a senate committee that mermaids have been hounding government workers off dam sites." The minister said not to worry; the mermaids were being exorcised. 

Why do people believe in this particular crazy thing? If these polls are close to right, more people believe in mermaids than believe in Bigfoot. 

My guess? People believe in mermaids because they're pretty. My nieces, 5 and 3, love going to the Denver Aquarium, where women in mermaid fins put on a show like this: 


The 5-year-old seems to realize that these are women in costumes. The 3-year-old, I believe, doesn't. She is young and has not yet grown brains. 

What's amazing is how many full-grown humans with fully-formed brains believe. I know grown people who believe, seemingly for real. 

A mockumentary on Animal Planet called "Mermaids: The Body Found," seems to have confused a lot of adults. They played it pretty straight-faced, without a lot of notice that it's all made up: 

To me, that's pretty terrible CGI, and mediocre acting. But Khloe Kardashian seems to have bought it. And read the comments on the website. 

Commenters on other sites debate it earnestly: is this real? In a poll on the site, 57 percent said they believed, and 24 percent said "maybe." 

It's to the point that the U.S. government issued a statement that "no evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found." 

And a graduate student in ecology takes umbrage at these misguided beliefs. "If you are so ignorant about what is really happening in the ocean that you believe that there are organisms that are half human and half fish, you're almost certainly unaware of the important problems, much less how to solve them." 

He argues that there are enough amazing real things in the ocean that you don't have to be interested in things that don't exist. 

There are other scientific objections, besides the fact that there's zero evidence. Evolution would never have come up with such a creature. There's no reason for a creature that lives in the sea to have fingers, which aren't good for swimming, or hair, which isn't hydrodynamic. And no aquatic mammal has its breathing holes on the front of its head. 

Those kinds of objections bring us pretty close to an answer to the question: can mermaids exist? The answer is pretty close to "no." An animal like that, if it ever came close to evolving into that shape (which it never would), wouldn't be as adept in the water as a shark or a killer whale, and it would lose the race for survival, and go extinct. 

I can't believe I'm actually pointing these things out. 

As for the first question: would a real mermaid get kicked out of a public pool? I'm going to say yes. It would be an animal (wouldn't it?) and most pools don't allow pets. 

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