Photo shows Thai university student’s artwork, not a merman

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Facebook posts claim that a photo of an odd-looking creature shows a fish with human characteristics caught in the United States. But the claim is false: the photo is a hyperrealistic artwork created by a Thai artist in 2018 as part of his final-year project.

“A fish with human-like hands and body has just been found in American waters, marking a breakthrough in the field of marine research,” reads the post published on May 2, 2023.

A screenshot of the false post, taken on May 9, 2023

Shared more than 700 times, it features a screengrab showing a fish-like creature with human hands and male genitalia.

The same post was shared elsewhere on Facebook, including here.

The picture also circulated in China in 2020 with the claim that the creature was “caught in the South China Sea”. AFP Fact Check debunked a French post making the same claim in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mermaids and mermen have been part of European and African folklore (archived here) for centuries and feature in popular culture, including Hollywood films (archived here).

However, the claim that the photo shows a fish with human features is false.

Artwork from Thailand

Using a reverse image search, AFP Fact Check found that the photo appeared online in May 2018.

The image was posted on Facebook along with several others on May 23, 2018, by a page called “PI-R2” (archived here). According to the caption, the images were from an “art thesis exhibition” by students from the Department of Fine Arts and Architecture at King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang in Bangkok, Thailand.

The post further explained that the fish-like creature was an artwork made by Parada Pattarakunpreeda from silicon, resin, and artificial fur.

It said that Pattarakunpreeda’s art intended to show the different ways human society uses animals for its interest without consideration for their “feelings”.

Pattarakunpreeda posted the same photo on Instagram where he gave his name as Parada Wiratsawee on June 23, 2018 (archived here).

A keyword search for “Parada Wiratsawee” led to this account of the same name (archived here).

The page bio showed that Wiratsawee, who attended King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang, posted the same photo and others on October 3, 2018 (archived here).

A screenshot shows the photo posted by Wiratsawee in 2018, taken on May 9, 2023

He said the artwork was exhibited at the 64th National Exhibition of Art held between October 10-28, 2018 at Thailand’s National Gallery, Chao Fa.

Translated by