Mermaids have existed in folklore since antiquity, but there has never been a verified sighting of a mermaid, nor has a purported mermaid body ever been verified as genuine. While it is impossible to prove that mermaids do not exist somewhere, there is no scientific evidence to support their existence.
Sightings of manatees and other sea creatures may have inspired some mermaid stories. Christopher Columbus reported seeing mermaids while exploring the Caribbean, and the West Indian manatee would have been fairly common in his day. Alleged mermaid bodies were once a popular attraction in sideshows, but these hoaxes were usually made by stitching together parts of animals, typically a monkey and a fish.