Mongol Monsters: The Country’s Giant Heritage


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By CATE CADELL

Mongolia has a heritage of monsters. In 1971 a fossil of a velociraptor and a protoceratops locked in deadly combat was discovered by a Mongolian-Polish team in the Gobi desert. The famous discovery was among the many hundreds of prehistoric artifacts discovered in Mongolia, including a dinosaur egg that still contains an embryo.
The Cretaceous period in Mongolia was a predator's wonderland. According to fossil evidence, the area was a historical and natural anomaly in that were more predators than herbivores. Even Mongolia's plant eaters had a fierce reputation.
Among them was Erlikisaurus, a huge clawed Theropod that inherited its namesake from the Shaman demon - Erlik,  who according to mythology was cast into the underworld as the deity of evil.

Picture 2For millions of years, the Mongol heritage of mega-monsters has been upheld. Last year, the world's largest fossilized spider was found in the Gobi desert. The giant arachnid had a leg span of over 15cm and was related to the modern day Golden Orb spiders. The 165 year old specimen was preserved on a bed of volcanic ash; suggesting that she was victim of a large scale natural disaster like many other animals of the day.
In the past, Mongolia's monsters have drawn some of the world's most famous explorers, including the original Indiana Jones, Roy Chapman Andrews. During the Soviet era, authorities restricted who could scour the Gobi - meaning that Polish and Soviet explorers were privy to some of the country's most amazing finds.
The period also promoted the education of Mongolian naturalists and paleontologists, who were taking on the jobs usually delegated to foreign funded academic and museum groups. Rinchen Barsbold is perhaps the most influential paleontologist Mongolia has produced. His work on identifying feathered dinosaurs was extremely influential in historical and evolutionary terms.
It's not just  Mongolia's prehistoric giants that draw so much attention however. The country is still home to many mythical and actual monsters.
The most disputed case of a currently living monster is the Mongolian Death Worm. The Hollywood style giant is locally called олгой-хорхой (olgoi-khorkhoi), and though its existence is still heavily contended, first and second hand reports from local tribesmen are frightening.
The mega-worm is described to be thick and pink. It’s between 2 and 6 ft long, while hysterical reports have put it at 10 ft. It has been said that the monster is able to spew a deadly corrosive acid and also has the potential to electrify its victims. locals have reported camels falling dead on the spot, while others have claimed that whole hunting parties were attacked and killed.
During his time as a paleontologist in the Gobi desert, Roy Chapman Andrews set out to verify the existence of the monster; setting a trend for many naturalist and documentary makers after him. In his 1926 book On The Trail Of Ancient Man Andrews was able to collect many detailed accounts of the creature but doubted its existence in conclusion.
It has since been a favored topic of conspiracists and super naturalists, who believe mining activity in the Gobi will reawaken the monster. Scientists have not been able to rule out the possibility that a similar creature may exist, considering that much of the desert is unexplored, and parts near the Mongol-Chinese border are restricted.
In his 2009 documentary Lair of the Red Worm New Zealander Richard Freedman also documented many accounts and sightings. He managed to conclude that sightings had peaked in the 1950's and that there had been a decreasing amount of reports since then.
Without crossing the borders of mythology and speculation, Mongolia is still home to some of the worlds current living monsters. The country's mega-fish are particularly well known, being the biggest freshwater fish in the world.
The Taimen is the world's largest trout, growing over two meters in length and weighing nearly 100 kilograms. The population of Taimen in the Eg and Uur rivers is one of the biggest in the world due to the fact that there has historically been very little fishing culture among the herders in those areas.
Many fear that new interest in fishing culture will severely deplete the last healthy reserve, with the slow growing fish taking years to regenerate, living to over 50 years of age.
In 2009, a joint project between the World Wildlife Fund and Craig Miller Productions created the documentary Creating a Lasting Sanctuary for the Mighty Taimen. The documentary was a finalist in the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival and showed how the health and prevalence of the Taimen as the key predator could indicate the overall health of the 3000 mile long Amuur river.
Mongolia’s rivers are also famous for their giant Greyling and Lenok; providing one of the most challenging and remote fishing opportunities in the worlds and one of the final reservoir of modern river giants.
While the giants of Mongolia's future may be technological and economic, the country's modern outlook could mean that much more will be uncovered about past and present giants. Whether that means excavating groundbreaking prehistoric discoveries, disproving the existence of killer Gobi worms or even just providing a sustainable future for the Amuur Taimen, Mongolia’s heritage of monsters will surely continue.


Source:UB Post
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