Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. He is the author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), Dragons: A Natural History (1995), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings (1997), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Hidden Powers of Animals (2001), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), The Menagerie of Marvels (2014), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is widely considered to be his cryptozoological magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016) - plus, very excitingly, his first two long-awaited, much-requested ShukerNature blog books (2019, 2020).

Dr Karl Shuker's Official Website - http://www.karlshuker.com/index.htm

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Sunday 12 August 2018


A publicity poster for The Meg (© Warner Bros. Pictures/Gravity Pictures/Flagship Entertainment/Apelles Entertainment/Di Bonaventura Pictures/maeday Productions – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)

I'm gonna need a bigger cinema! Yes indeed, I could well have been forgiven for thinking that, because the reason why I visited my own local picture house on 10 August was to see the newly-arrived cryptozoology-themed monster movie The Meg, which I've been awaiting with great anticipation for ages.

Size does matter: a visual comparison of the enormous dimensions of the megalodon (grey = maximum estimate, red = conservative estimate) with a whale shark (the world's largest known living species of fish; violet), the great white shark (green), and a human for scale (© Scarlet23/Wikipedia – CC BY-SA 4.0 licence)

Directed by Jon Turtelbaub, co-produced by Warner Bros. Pictures, and based upon the bestselling novel Meg by Facebook friend Steve Alten, its nominal star is Jason Statham, but its real stars are a couple of CGI megalodons, representing the giant prehistoric shark Carcharocles megalodon – the largest shark species ever recorded by science. Officially, it became extinct approximately 2.6 million years ago during the late Pliocene epoch, and is principally known physically only from fossilised teeth and vertebrae, but thanks to some intriguing eyewitness accounts on file of supposedly gargantuan sharks, some mystery beast investigators have speculated that it might still exist today. Be that as it may (or may not), this review of mine is of the film, not cryptozoology per se (click here to read my own thoughts concerning the exceedingly contentious prospect of megalodon survival as posted by me earlier on ShukerNature and excerpted from my book Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors). So, back to the movie.

My book Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors, published in 2016 by Coachwhip (© Dr Karl Shuker/Coachwhip Publications)

When the megalodon was first made known to science and formally named back in the 1840s, based upon its triangular and highly-serrated teeths' huge dimensions (up to 7.5 inches high - 'megalodon' translates as 'big tooth') an estimated total length for the entire shark of around 75-98 ft was postulated, but in more recent times, following further researches, this estimate has been downsized to 'a mere' 43-55 ft (although to put that into perspective, this is still more than twice the length of the great white shark Carcharodon carcharias, the largest species of carnivorous shark KNOWN to exist today). However, The Meg is a monster movie, not a shark documentary, so the film makers have adhered to the flawed earlier but cinematically much more spectacular 75-ft dimension (think Jaws writ large - very large!!) - resulting in a truly mega megalodon, a prodigious prehistoric behemoth which if it had lived in an earlier geological era would have been a veritable Jurassic Shark (come on, you knew full well that I was never NOT going to work in that pun somewhere!).

My mother Mary Shuker holding one of my megalodon tooth specimens (© Dr Karl Shuker)

As this is a newly-released movie that many fellow cryptozoology fans will definitely be going to see, I'll avoid spoilers, but the scenario of how the megs are discovered is quite fascinating, and they have been digitally recreated on screen to stunning effect. Once their discovery has been made, however, the plot adheres by and large to the typical, generic monster movie storyline - a flawed but immensely brave hero sets out to confront said monster(s), interacts along the way with a villain and a naysayer, some wisecracking sidekicks, a cute extra-smart kid, and an initially aloof but ultimately adoring, sassy lady, and after a series of thrilling set pieces finally battles said monsters(s) in a climactic confrontation of epic proportions. But hey, you already guessed that without even needing to watch the film - and who goes to a monster movie to be blown away by the intricacy and intellectual, deeply philosophical nuances (or even the scientific authenticity) of its plot anyway?? What you go to see is the monster(s), and this movie definitely delivers on that score.

Cryptozoological artist William M. Rebsamen's portrayal of an imagined modern-day encounter between man and megalodon (© William M. Rebsamen)

I viewed it in 2-D, but I may well go back during its run to see the 3-D version too - I'm not normally a fan of 3-D movies, but there is no doubt that The Meg will do the format justice as it is exactly the type of film benefitted by it. Despite living over a hundred miles (maybe more) in any direction from the sea, an erstwhile friend of mine was seriously galeophobic (afraid of sharks), and I wouldn't recommend this film to anyone with a similar fear, but hardened monster fans will lap it up - it certainly engaged my attention and interest throughout. I can always tell how entertained my mind is by a film by noting how far through it I've viewed before looking at my watch to see what time it is and then calculating how much more of the film remains - with The Meg, I never looked at my watch once. One word of advice: don't bother, as I unfortunately did, (im)patiently sitting through the interminable credits at the end of the film in the expectation that there will be a teaser clip to some projected sequel inserted within or at the end of them - there isn't one. Oh, and just as a BTW: yes indeed, Pippin the Yorkshire terrier does survive his (very) close encounter with a megalodon (whoops, too late for a spoiler alert now).

Standing in front of a life-sized reconstruction of a megalodon's open jaws (© Dr Karl Shuker)

I fully expect that some movie (and also possibly some palaeontological) purists will opine otherwise, but I LOVED The Meg, a worthy new addition to the ever-popular cinematic genre of giant beasts on the rampage, and which along with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and The Shape of Water (click here to read my ShukerNature review of the latter film) has definitely made my 2018 movie-going experience a truly monstrous one - but in the best possible way. Finally: to view on YouTube an extended trailer for The Meg, please click here.

The megalodon shark and the giant pliosaur Liopleurodon existed in entirely separate geological eras, so they would never have encountered each other in reality; but here in this vibrant artwork, illustrator Hodari Nundu depicts what such a clash of marine titans might have looked like had it indeed been possible (© Hodari Nundu)

I wish to dedicate this ShukerNature article to my longstanding online friend and fellow cryptozoological enthusiast Robert Michaels, whose passing earlier this year I only learnt about on 10 August, just a few hours after returning home from watching The Meg at the cinema.  How very much he would have enjoyed seeing this film, and how very sad I am that he will never do so. Godspeed, Bob, may you now know the answers to all of the countless cryptozoological questions concerning which we corresponded with such shared interest, enjoyment, and zeal over so many years. Please click here to read my tribute to Bob on ShukerNature.

Another publicity poster for The Meg Warner Bros. Pictures/Gravity Pictures/Flagship Entertainment/Apelles Entertainment/Di Bonaventura Pictures/maeday Productions – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)

Saturday 11 August 2018


The photograph of my senmurv jardiniere that Bob had long used as his profile picture on Facebook (© Dr Karl Shuker)

I was extremely sad to learn yesterday that my longstanding online friend and fellow cryptozoological enthusiast Robert Michaels had passed away, on 27 February. He was 85. Our friendship dated back almost to the very beginning of my own online presence, when I first signed up to the internet in 1997.

A qualified zoologist himself, graduating from Columbia University, Bob was passionately interested in all aspects of cryptozoology and was not just a very good friend to me but also an unwavering supporter of my work and a prolific communicator to the whole cryptozoological community via his numerous, continuing postings of fascinating news reports on my various cryptozoology-based FB groups - which is why, when Bob's postings stopped abruptly in February, with not a single one appearing anywhere since then, I became increasingly worried for his well-being and therefore posted a series of urgent requests on my timeline, on my groups, and on his own timeline for any information concerning his status. Thankfully, another good friend, Jane Cooper, who was also one of Bob's FB friends, duly investigated this on my behalf and on 10 August uncovered the sad news of his passing. Thank you so much, Jane, I greatly appreciate your kindness in doing this.

Just one of the countless encouraging, supportive comments that Bob so kindly posted about me and my work on Facebook - thanks Bob!

Bob never posted an image of himself on his Facebook timeline, and since December 2014 he had used as his FB profile picture one of my photographs of my 19th-Century majolica jardiniere in the shape of a senmurv (aka cynogriffin). Consequently, from now on I shall always associate that photo, and indeed my senmurv jardiniere itself, with Bob, and I am therefore reproducing it here in tribute to him.

God bless you, Bob, for your friendship, and for your ever-present enthusiasm for cryptozoology and my own contributions to it - although we never met, and the great breadth of the Atlantic Ocean separated us in the real world, due to the modern miracle of the internet and social media you became a very close friend in the full sense of that word, and how very much I shall miss hearing from you and seeing your always-interesting, greatly-valued postings on FB. RIP Bob, you were one of the good guys, and I promise you that I will ensure through my writings that your name and your unstinting service to cryptozoology live on.

Bob's favourite cryptozoology-linked book, my Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals (© Dr Karl Shuker/Coachwhip Publications)