kraken

The kraken is a sea monster with long, snakelike arms. This amazing creature may have been inspired by a living animal--the giant squid of the deep ocean. The kraken also tells us something about the minds of sailors long ago. As they ventured across vast oceans for the first time, they must have wondered with fear and awe what creatures lurked below.

Physical features: Many long, flexible arms or tentacles; sharp "beak" like a parrot
First stories: About AD 1180 in Scandinavia
Habitat: Deep ocean near Norway and Iceland
Natural "evidence": pieces of giant squid tentacles and sucker marks on whales
Cool fact: Early sailors also reported seeing sea serpents. But the carcasses and drawings of these appeared to be blacksnakes, basking sharks, oarfish, and even floating seaweed.

Image credits: main image, AMNH/Sean Murtha; Laurel Kendall: courtesy of AMNH.