Dear Sara –
I’ve heard that people used to confuse the sea mammals manatees with mermaids. Can this really be true – that someone saw a resemblance between something that looks like a walrus and a seductive woman?
–Best wishes, Larry T.
Dear Larry –
Given that manatees are actually of the order Sirenia, along with their ocean-going cousins, the dugongs, it seems that these herbivorous aquatic creatures were indeed mistaken for mermaids and the seductive singers of Greek myth, the Sirens. It seems that ancient manatees were more svelte than their current descendants, ancient sailors had terrible eyesight, or else standards of beauty were very different back in the day.