Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Post Revamp: the Buru

The Himalayas are home to the Yeti, one of Earth's most famous cryptids.  But the western part of this mountain range once contained a lesser-known beast.  This aquatic creature, known as the Buru, dwelled in the river valleys of eastern India.  According to locals, it has been extinct for decades, but lived recently enough to be clearly remembered.

The Buru, it is said, was a reptilian creature between ten and fifteen feet long.  It had a long neck and forked tongue, along with claw-like feet well adapted for digging.  The beast had fish-like skin, a rounded tail and a flat snout behind which lay its eyes.  For a time, the Buru coexisted with the Indian inhabitants of its valleys.  But eventually, it came to be seen as dangerous, and the species was exterminated.  The marshes where it dwelled were drained, and its watery homes were filled with boulders.  No Buru has been seen since.

To most cryptozoologists, the Buru's traits suggested an aquatic monitor lizard.  Some of these lizards, like the Komodo dragon, can exceed ten feet in length -- and prehistoric varieties like Megalania grew even larger.  Furthermore, fossil monitors lived in India, meaning that finding one in the region wouldn't be improbable.  The downside of the monitor theory is that these lizards don't live in the water.  Some of them can swim fairly well, but the Buru was said to spend most of its time submerged.  Monitors are terrestrial reptiles; they need to warm themselves in the sun and hunt land-dwelling prey.  These energy requirements would be more profound, not less, in a gigantic species -- making an aquatic variant unlikely.

Another possibility is that that the Buru was a crocodilian.  Crocodiles spend much more time in the water than monitor lizards, and are generally far larger.  They also share the Buru's flat snout, rounded tail and claws.  Further evidence comes from the Buru's name -- which can also mean "crocodile" in the native languages.  The crocodile theory would seem a fairly good fit, but one piece of evidence undermines it.  The Buru, it is said, could hardly leave the water -- while crocodiles do so on a regular basis.  These cryptids, after their marshes were drained, remained buried in the mud at the bottom.  In a crocodile's marsh was drained, it could easily move around and hunt on the shore.

This odd discrepancy inspired Karl Shuker, a noted cryptozoologist, to pose another theory.  He proposes that the Buru was a gigantic species of lungfish.  These fish have skin resembling the Buru's, along with eyes at the back of a long, flattened snout.  They lack long necks or a forked tongue, but spend virtually all their time in water -- unlike any other Buru-candidate.  Personally, I don't think this the best of matches.  Lungfishes don't grow close to the Buru's size, and none are found in Asia whatsoever.  Besides, nobody would be in danger from a giant lungfish -- these creatures are absolutely harmless.  Personally, I favor the crocodilian explanation.

Read more about the Buru:
Image (public domain, of a swimming water monitor) from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/86/Flickr_-_don_macauley_-_Varanus_salvator.jpg

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