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Experts conduct X-ray and CT scans on the Fiji mermaid in an attempt to unravel its genuine nature.    Source: Norse Media

Scans of ‘Frankensteined-Together’ Fiji Mermaid Reveal Its Origins


The mystery behind one of the infamous ‘Fiji mermaids’ may soon be solved by radiology testing. This bizarre creature seems to be part fish, part monkey, and part reptile, and has baffled scientists for over a century. It had traversed the seas from Japan to Ohio, brought back by an American sailor in 1906, and donated to the Clark County Historical Society. With a grimacing face, strange teeth, oversized claws, fish-like lower half, and downy layer of grey hair, it's been giving museum visitors the creeps for decades!

A Hodgepodge of Creatures: The Beast Within

Joseph Cress, a radiologist at Northern Kentucky University, was quoted by The Daily Mail as saying:

“It seems to be a hodgepodge of at least three different species externally. There's the head and torso of a monkey, the hands seem to be that of an amphibian almost like an alligator, crocodile or lizard of some sort. And then there's that tail of a fish – again, species unknown. It is obviously fashioned, almost Frankensteined together – so I want to know what parts were pulled together.”

It has a twisted face, peculiar teeth, massive claws, a lower half resembling a fish, and a soft covering of grey hair. (Norse Media)

According to Japanese legend, consuming the flesh of mermaids is believed to bestow immortality upon the person who eats it. However, given that the composition of this particular mermaid is uncertain, biting into it could mean consuming any number of animals or other substances hidden within!

Small enough to fit a shoebox, the Fiji mermaid was a popular sideshow attraction throughout the 19th century, captivating audiences with its bizarre and peculiar appearance. The renowned showman P. T. Barnum famously displayed the first specimen known to the West, which an American sea captain had acquired from a Japanese fisherman, at his museum in 1842. Over the years, various versions of the mermaid emerged with different compositions. Some were taxidermies, combining monkeys and fish, while others were entirely crafted from papier-mâché.

According to Natalie Fritz, the archivist and outreach director at the Clark County Historical Society, their specimen was originally obtained by a Navy sailor in Japan during the 1870s and later donated to the county's Heritage Center in 1906. The mermaid had been on display in the museum's Cabinet of Curiosities since 2003. One woman, whose father served as the curator in the 1970s, recalled that it had frightened her when she would visit her dad at work.

Dr. Cress and university students examining the artifact.  (Norse Media)

Dr. Cress and university students examining the artifact.  (Norse Media)

However, it was recently taken down as the historical society embarked on a multiyear inventory project that has revealed a fair share of curiosities, not yet revealed to the public in entirety. These curiosities include items connected to historical figures like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln's signature, and even a purported piece of Noah's ark, reports The Northerner.

Tech at Hand: CT Scanning and Radiology

Dr. Cress explained that the CT scanning would enable them to identify 'slices' of the artifact, with the hope of determining whether any part of it had once been a real animal. He stated that by doing so, it would provide them with more data, such as whether the nostrils continue up into what they believe is a legitimate nasal cavity and the depth of these structures.

CT scanning procedure used on the Fiji mermaid will to reveal new findings. (Norse Media)

CT scanning procedure used on the Fiji mermaid will to reveal new findings. (Norse Media)

This scanning method allows them to examine the artifact from front to back and even from side to side. They can also assess whether the ear cavity extends to where it would connect to the brain. In summary, the CT scanning process is being applied to all sections of this Fiji mermaid, including the head, facial region, thoracic region, and tail end.

X-rays and CT scans have uncovered that the specimen possesses a genuine fish's lower body, jaws, and teeth. It has been taxidermied using a traditional method, encompassing a wooden core. This aspect allows for dendrochronology analysis of the wood, offering a more precise means of determining the time when the specimen was created. The information will be sent to specialists at the Cincinnati Zoo and the Newport Aquarium in the expectation of identifying the creatures, if any that were merged to create the mermaid.

Top image: Experts conduct X-ray and CT scans on the Fiji mermaid in an attempt to unravel its genuine nature.    Source: Norse Media

By Sahir Pandey


Fidler, K. 2023. Scans reveal ‘Fiji mermaid’ is part fish, monkey and reptile. Available at:

Havis, M. 2023. Unravelling the mystery of the 'Fiji Mermaid': Scans confirm bizarre creature discovered in Japan is part fish, part monkey, and part reptile. Available at:

Nguyen, D. 2023. NKU students scan a Fiji mermaid. Available at:

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I am a graduate of History from the University of Delhi, and a graduate of Law, from Jindal University, Sonepat. During my study of history, I developed a great interest in post-colonial studies, with a focus on Latin America. I... Read More

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