Cryptozoology, BioForteana, and Remarkable Species
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Going out on a Limb...
Thursday, February 04, 2010
Monday, January 18, 2010
"Extinct" Tortoise Found in Captivity
Thursday, January 07, 2010
A Couple of New Species
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Herp Art Prints
I have started a new product line in parallel with my book publishing: reproduction art prints from vintage natural history images. I've started out with a small group of reptile prints, and will be adding a few invertebrates and birds soon. These are available in a variety of print sizes and even in greeting card format.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Ecuador: Possible New (Small) Species
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Beast of 'Busco Festival
Saturday, February 28, 2009
UK: Big "Snakes"
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Komodo Dragon Attack
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Fossil Croc with Tusks
Sunday, January 04, 2009
Tanzanian Herp Hotspot
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Albino Alligator Isn't
Monday, November 24, 2008
Italian Big Snake Story
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Boss Snakes Book Sighting
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
More on Cyprus Creature
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
New Iguana Species
Thursday, August 14, 2008
"Giant Lizard" Caught
Thursday, August 07, 2008
"Dino" Sightings in PNG
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).
Friday, February 29, 2008
Komodo Reports Just Stories, Gov't Says
PNG's investigation into supposed Komodo dragon sightings reveals nothing more than stories and rumors. (News source.)
"Even animals sighted by two informants from Butibam village did not resemble the Komodo dragon, they added.
"They said it was possible the reptiles sighted could be endemic to the local area and were sighted because they were disturbed by increasing human activity." ...
"Dr. Iamo also lashed out at the media for not consulting the appropriate agencies before publishing the story.
"'For example, the use of a komodo dragon from the Internet (in the newspapers) brought reality too much of the allegations, causing much panic and fear amongst the public in Lae,' he said."
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
End of an Era
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Giant La Palma Lizard Rediscovered
The thought-extinct giant lizard of La Palma, Gallotia auaritae, may still be around. A 300+ mm lizard was found by José Antonio Mateo, from the species recovery center on La Gomera. (These are in the Canary Islands.) A search is planned to hunt for more of the lizards. (News source.)
Friday, November 23, 2007
The Natural History Museum in Milan, Italy, has received fossil Tanystropheus bones from the Alps that are "exceptionally well-preserved." (News source.)
"The fossils belonged to three younger 'reptile giraffes,' so nicknamed because of their long neck which the animal used to approach its prey unnoticed.
"Tanystropheus lived in shallow waters but went ashore. On land, they dined on insects and small reptiles while in waters they would feast on fish and mollusks, the researchers said."
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Monday, May 28, 2007
New Skink Found in India ?
A group of researchers from the Vasundhra organization of India report they have found a new species of skink in a forested area of Khandadhar in the Orissa state in eastern India.
The 7-inch specimen appears, at preliminary evaluations, to belong to the genus Sepsophis.
Discovered in mid-May 2007, the specimen is awaiting formal description once additional data is collected.
The Vasundhra organization is based in Orissa, India and is a research and advocacy group in India. They work on sustainable environmental controls and conservation.
Source: International Herald Tribune, from an Associated Press report, May 28, 2007
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Big Python Found in UK
"The snake, which was discovered by a dog walker, was found in Newlands Lane, Cloughton, Scarborough, early on Monday morning.
"Police said they had no idea where it had come from, or the exact species of python it was.
"Officers said the snake had been handed over to the local council to dispose of it.
"Local resident Ann Tindall sent photographs of the snake to the BBC.
"She said: 'It was a real surprise to see it. You just cannot believe that something like that could be found somewhere like Scarborough.
"'We measured it to find out how long it was and it came to about 17.7ft. We don't know if it had been living there wild, or had just been dumped.'"
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Addendum and details Oxyuranus temporalis - the new taipan species
Earlier on March 9th, 2007, it was reported that a new species of taipan was discovered in Australia.
However, it was neglected to mention more specifics of this new snake.
In the paper “A new species of taipan (Elapidae: Oxyuranus) from central Australia”, researchers P. Doughty, B. Maryan, S.C. Donnellan and M.N. Hutchinson (in Zootaxa 1422: 45-58: 2007) described Oxyuranus temporalis.
The new species, name after its varied temporal scales from its two sister species, was collected near Walter James Range in Western Australia on September 22, 2006 at around 4 p.m. by M.N. Hutchinson after being spotted from an automobile.. Its primary distinguisher from O. microlepidotus and O. scutellatus, its sister species taipans, is via one primary temporal scales (vs. two) and six lower labials (vs. seven). Subsequent genetic analysis also differentiated the three sisters.
The holotype measures just under 3 feet in length, and exhibits a brownish coloration with spotted locales of yellowish-white.
This marks the third species of taipan known, and the first in 125 years. Suggestive by the researchers that taipans were once more widespread through Australia. These snakes are among the most venomous in the world, so additional research and collection of this 3rd species will be necessary to determine its distribution, toxicity, and size.
Friday, March 09, 2007
New Taipan Found
RESEARCHERS have found a new species of taipan snake slithering in the outback.
Similar to the western brown snake, the still unnamed species was discovered during an expedition to a remote region about 200km northwest of Uluru in September last year.
Mark Hutchinson, reptile and amphibian curator at the South Australian Museum, caught the immature female taipan while it was crossing a dirt track.
Dr Hutchinson bagged the 1m venomous snake and sent it to the Western Australian Museum in Perth for inspection.
"It was a bit of a surprise," he said. "You usually don't find a new species that big out in the open - well, not in Australia."
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
The genus Xenotyphlops consists of one known species. That of the enigmatic blind snake from Madagascar Xenotyphlops gradidieri.
First discovered by Francois Mocquard the blind snake was described in 1905 and given the designation Typhlops grandidieri . This description and classification was based on two specimens of the snake with an unclear range location.
For 100 years the snake had not been reported again. In 1996 the species was redescribed as the Xenotyphlops grandidieri in Redescription of a Rare Malagasy Blind Snake, Typhlops grandidieri Mocquard, with Placement in a New Genus (Serpentes: Typhlopidae) V. Wallach, Ivan Ineich Journal of Herpetology, Vol. 30, No. 3 (Sep., 1996), pp. 367-376
But still no rediscovery of the species or genus had happened.
But, this has now ended. The description and documentation of a collected 3rd specimen from the northern section of Madagascar has been done, this rediscovered snake has external and internal features sufficiently different to classify it as a distinct species itself.
The full article is printed in Zootaxa 1402:59-68 (2007) within the entry Rediscovery of the enigmatic blind snake genus Xenotyphlops in northern Madagascar, with description of a new species authored by V. Wallach, V. Mercurio and F. Andreone.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Dragons found in Brazil
These are the first new species described as a result of the largest inventory of squamate reptile diversity in the Brazilian Cerrado (one of the 34 biodiversity hotspots named by CI), concluded in 2006 by Nogueira during his doctoral studies at the University of São Paulo.
Discovered in the region of Grande Sertão Veredas National Park, on the tablelands of the Serra Geral plateau, Stenocercus quinarius is relatively safe within the protected area. However, its populations outside the conserved area are under threat due to habitat loss and the expansion of mechanized agriculture, especially in the Cerrado areas of the Bahia state – where CI has been working in the Jalapão-Western Bahia biodiversity corridor.
The situation of Stenocercus squarrosus, discovered during a field research lead by Hussam Zaher, curator of reptiles at MZUSP (University of São Paulo Zoology Museum), also deserves attention. The new species was found only within Serra das Confusões National Park, in the Cerrado and Caatinga contact zone, where CI works in the Uruçuí-Mirador biodiversity corridor. This protected area may be enlarged soon, expanding to pristine tabletops of the Serra Vermelha.
The Cerrado Squamate inventory, funded by FAPESP (the State of São Paulo Research Foundation) and Conservation International (CI), recorded 253 squamate species, 73 more than the 180 previously known for the Cerrado savannas. Of these 253 species, at least 103 are endemic, challenging earlier notions of low vertebrate endemism in the Cerrado hotspot.