Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Gloria from Kenansville, NC. Gloria Wonders, “I wonder if the recent evidence of discovery a mermaid's remains are reliable.” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Gloria!

When one of our Wonder Friends asked whether mermaids were real, we knew just who to ask. We went to Myrtle, the Wonderopolis mermaid. She lives in the depths of the Wonder Sea. Myrtle told us that, while mermaids exist in Wonderopolis, they’ve never been found elsewhere on Earth.

Mermaids aren’t real. Still, they have fascinated people for thousands of years. But what exactly is a mermaid? When most people hear the word “mermaid,” they think of a creature that’s half-human, half-animal. Specifically, they usually picture a woman whose legs have been replaced by the long tail of a fish.

Of course, the stories of mermaids also include male mermaids, known as mermen. Together, mermaids and mermen make up merfolk! There are many stories of creatures that are half-human, half-animal. Mermaids are just one of the most popular.

The history of mermaid legends and myths goes back a long time. It’s full of many versions of similar creatures all over the world. For example, the Babylonian fish god Era was a merman. Likewise, the Greek god Triton was a merman figure. Both have been around for many hundreds of years.

The first stories about mermaids, though, come from thousands of years ago. They’re from ancient Assyria. These stories say that the goddess Atargatis changed herself into a mermaid. She did so after she accidentally killed a human. This may be why many older mermaid legends associated them with bad luck. Old stories often blame mermaids for storms and shipwrecks.

This view may also be the result of their connection with the mythological Greek creatures known as sirens. The sirens were popularized in Homer’s Odyssey. They were known to lure sailors into dangerous waters. They did so with their beauty and singing.

In many other cultures, however, mermaids were seen as good creatures. They brought good luck. Some even fell in love with humans. These mermaids are the ones that have become popular in modern stories. This includes Hans Christian Andersen’s "The Little Mermaid" and Disney’s musical version of the tale.

Have mermaids always been nothing more than myths and legends, though? Not at all! Over the years, many people have reported seeing mermaids. In fact, Christopher Columbus reported seeing mermaids in the Caribbean. Are these sightings all made up? Or is there another explanation? Some scientists think they might have an answer.

Mermaids have also often been connected to sirenia. This is a biological order of animals. It includes dugongs and manatees. Some experts say that mermaid sightings might actually be misunderstood run-ins with these animals.

Might there really be mermaids deep under the ocean waters? Today, mermaid sightings are rarely reported. In 2012, the U.S. National Ocean Service confirmed that no evidence of mermaids has ever been found. Still, these creatures capture our imaginations. It’s no WONDER that some people hold a special place in their hearts for mermaids. Many hope that they might really exist in the depths of the seas!

Wonder What's Next?

Learn about a global epidemic in tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day.