Cryptozoology, BioForteana, and Remarkable Species
Monday, February 15, 2010
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Potential Canine Tool?
Monday, November 30, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Florida Panther Census
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Golden Cat on Camera
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
The Hunt for Paleodictyon nodosum
Monday, August 31, 2009
Deathworm Doc Coming
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Searching for Evidence
A wing was all that was known of an Ethiopian nightjar, Caprimulgus solala, but adventurous birdwatchers managed to spot it, though they weren't able to capture it. (News source.)
A US FWS researcher is looking for the Charleston ant, Lasius nevadensis, in Nevada, which hasn't been seen since the 1950s. (News source.)
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Monday, June 01, 2009
Malaysian Tapir Research
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Technology Locates Unexpected Whales
Endangered Right Whales Found Where Presumed Extinct. (Eurekalert.)
"Using a system of underwater hydrophones that can record sounds from hundreds of miles away, a team of scientists from Oregon State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has documented the presence of endangered North Atlantic right whales in an area they were thought to be extinct."
Friday, March 20, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Range Extension News
Friday, March 13, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Saturday, January 31, 2009
Local Politics and Monster Hunting
Monday, January 19, 2009
New Marine Species from Australia
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Careful As You Go...
Sunday, December 28, 2008
2008 Abstract: Muntjac
Molecular evidence for the occurrence of the leaf deer Muntiacus putaoensis in Arunachal Pradesh, north-east India
Jiffy James, Uma Ramakrishnan and Aparajita Datta
Vol. 9, no. 4 (August 2008): pp. 927-931
Abstract: The discovery of the leaf deer Muntiacus putaoensis in northern Myanmar has added to the growing list of large mammals recently discovered in remote, unexplored parts of south and south-east Asia. Its subsequent discovery in eastern Arunachal Pradesh, India, based on morphometric analyses of two skulls collected from local hunters, doubled the size of its known east-west range, which is significant for a newly-discovered and poorly understood species. However, ambiguity remained regarding several other partial skulls and dried skin samples collected during subsequent surveys. The sympatric occurrence of the Indian muntjac Muntiacus muntjak further complicates species identification based primarily on morphometry. In this paper, we develop molecular genetic analyses that can unambiguously identify muntjac species. Further, we test and apply our methods to unknown skin samples to confirm the occurrence of the leaf deer in Arunachal Pradesh. Finally, we use our samples and genetic data from three mitochondrial markers to establish phylogenetic affinities between these samples and other extant members of the Muntiacus genus. Our approach, which combines the use of specific primers and phylogenetic analyses, is generally applicable towards the detection of cryptic biodiversity in unexplored and species-rich areas like north-east India.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Rumors of an Extinct Bird
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Rediscovered Pygmy Tarsier
A Texas A&M anthropologist has rediscovered a pygmy tarsier in the wilds of Lore Lindu National Park, Sulawesi. "The pygmy tarsiers, furry Furby/gremlin-looking creatures about the size of a small mouse and weighing less than 2 ounces, have not been observed since they were last collected for a museum in 1921. Several scientists believed they were extinct until two Indonesian scientists trapping rats in the highlands of Sulawesi accidentally trapped and killed a pygmy tarsier in 2000.
Not specifically noted, it appears they mean Tarsius pumilus, according to the EDGE site. (Which notes, "Some researchers doubted the continued existence of Tarsius pumilus or in fact that it ever represented a separate species, as only two specimens were ever found and it had not been unambiguously identified in the wild since 1930.")
The anthropologists notes on NG: "There have been dozens of expeditions looking for them—all unsuccessful. I needed to go and try to see for myself if they were really there or if they were really extinct."
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Cuvier's "rash dictum" had a twin in marine biology. "In 1843, the British naturalist Edward Forbes declared life was impossible below 300 fathoms (540 metres)." (source)
Now, the deepest-living fishes (so far) have been photographed by biologists, and it turns out they're a rather social species. (News source.)
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Okapi Survives in Congo
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Submarine to the Abyss
Thursday, August 07, 2008
"Dino" Sightings in PNG
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Monday, June 23, 2008
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Mystery Animals of South Sudan
Sudan has monsters of its own, for certain. They swim in the Nile, lurk in the swamps and hide in the forests awaiting stray travelers to prey upon. In the fertile South, contrasted by the more arid regions of the country with which Sudan is commonly affiliated, the landscape remains largely undeveloped and human settlement is restricted to a handful of well spaced towns with a countryside sparsely populated by tiny hut villages. Much of the land remains untamed, unconquered and in some areas, much feared for its wildlife. There are areas even today where villagers will not enter for fear of the monsters believed to inhabit them.
Normally in my research I take lengths to avoid the word monster. It’s a primitive term, suggesting something outside the boundaries of the natural world. But since being here, “monster” seems appropriate when contemplating the dangers lurking about in this post-war frontier. Monsters will snatch you from the river bank if you linger too long. Others threaten to encoil you until you’re constricted to death. Then, there are the ones you don't notice at all until, following bouts of illness, you eventually find the protruding shape of a large worm coursing beneath your skin. When faced with such real threats it doesn’t seem to matter how many times one has seen documentaries on crocodiles or pythons or the horror that is Guinea Worm, the realization that one could be dispatched, or in the case of the latter, infected as such, sends a spark into the primitive realms of the mind and quickly we recall what it’s like to be prey, again. What were animals on television become monsters as one nervously fumbles to hasten their bathroom excursion in the secluded bush.
Speak with a local Nuer or Dinka and one finds a curious thing. Their list of recognized fauna doesn’t end with those we as Westerners would be familiar with from zoo visits and Discovery Channel. Each cultural group has their own cultural-zoology, or “ethnozoology.” And it’s here, in the folklore of an indigenous group, that the hunt begins by sifting through tribal lore. As always one must learn to better understand a culture before one can best understand their extra-animals. What is intended to be mythical or serve as a boogey man (as every culture has one) vs. an animal that is regarded as extremely rare? What is only known from oral tradition vs. something that is encountered in recent times? What given traits described to a creature are likely based on a fearful superstition vs. actual observations? In the case of animals like frogs or crocodiles being described as being of extraordinary size or unexpected color (many allusions can be found to “black” crocodiles) do these represent unique specimens or a potentially new species?
There’s also the matter of being a layman to the field of zoology—my having to find out if a seemingly extraordinary animal is necessarily ‘new’ to science or already recognized. One Dinka man described to me a type of antelope that lived mostly in the swampy parts of the Nile and had the ability to swim underwater when startled. He’d heard stories of them but had the rare fortune to briefly observe one during the war while being ferried on a small fishing boat. A diving antelope? Seems remarkable enough but Googling those two words we find this incredible animal (the Sitatunga) can be found within zoos. This strange elongated fish I saw a villager carrying while I was riding along on a supply convoy far into the countryside, was that also recognized species? The basketball-sized frogs from the swamps of the Bor region, could those be of a known species reaching exceptional size or does their given color combination not comply with any of the already recognized frogs in Sudan?
At present I’ve invested a total of seven long months in the semi-autonomous South Sudan. Within my time here I’ve gathered bits and pieces of folklore pertaining to potential mystery critters from various sources. First though, a review of what’s already been written in cryptozoology literature about Sudan’s potential mystery animals. With the assistance of a small but effective circle of email-based research colleagues, we thumbed through our books for anything to do with cryptids in Sudan. Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans includes the following in his “Track of Unknown Animals”:
Chepekwe: Described as a ‘giant Iguana’ which supposedly attacks Rhinos, Hippos, and Elephants. This is mentioned as haunting the basin areas of Sudan and surrounding countries.
Dingonek: Something of a hodge-podge of a saber-toothed tiger with some sort of armor-like hide and as big as a hippo, seen near Mara River or Ngare Dubash which runs into Lake Victoria.
Nyokodoing: a sort of “water panther,” amphibious, large-fanged.
Lukwata: A large aquatic creature supposedly encountered in Lake Victoria (which flows into Sudan).
Lau: An enormous super-snake or aquatic reptile of some sort reputed to dwell in Nile swamps. Possibly the same animal as the Lukwata.
Additionally Michael Newton’s extensive Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology includes for Sudan:
Woadd-El-Uma: described as an unknown hominid or merbeing. Amphibious, covered in brown or red hair. June 1832, Joseph Russeger found strange footprints (identified as this creature by a guide) near the third cataract of the Nile. They were 10 inches long, with four long toes and one opposed big toe.
Netwon also makes reference to a primate-like being referred to as the “Waab” and a single-horned rhinoceros.
My own list of odd critters described to me by locals would include black “mutant” crocodiles, river-dwelling octopus, man-eating humanoids, frogs the size of basketballs, gigantic crocodiles, horned snakes, snakes with feathers on their tails and a gigantic, black, swamp-dwelling, gold-vomiting super-snake.
It’s that last one, known as the lau, that I’ve applied the most effort into exploring through regional folklore. And in the process of learning about the lau we find an inescapable relevance to a certain aerial photograph from 1959 in neighboring Zaire (now Congo).