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Mene Mamma

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Fish-tailed Merb

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eing of South America.

Etymology: Quechuan or possibly Creole, 
“mother of waters.”

Variant names: Femme poisson (in Martinique), 
Mae do rio, Mayuj-mamma, Orehu 
(Arawakan).

Physical description: Half woman, half fish.

Behavior: Sometimes drags canoes underwater.

Distribution: Guyana; the Caribbean; Brazil; 
Argentina.

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.

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