Fish-tailed Merbeing of South America.
Etymology: Quechuan or possibly Creole,
“mother of waters.”
Variant names: Femme poisson (in Martinique),
Mae do rio, Mayuj-mamma, Orehu
Physical description: Half woman, half fish.
Behavior: Sometimes drags canoes underwater.
Distribution: Guyana; the Caribbean; Brazil;
Significant sighting: In 1793, Gov. A. I. van
Imbyse van Battenburg of Berbice (now
Guyana) told the British doctor Colin
Chisholm of the half-women, half-fish seen in
the rivers of his country. The creatures were
generally observed in a sitting posture in the
water; when disturbed, they swam away, creating
a disturbance with their tails.
Possible explanation: Van Battenberg’s animals
are almost certainly the West Indian manatee
(Trichechus manatus), often seen at the
mouths of Guyanese rivers.