Saturday, March 20, 2010

Extinct Birds

Haven't had much time recently to note recent news, so I'm playing catch-up here.

First, a new biological modeling system is being tested to determine whether it is economically feasible to try and save a species after it hasn't been seen in a while. Recent test subjects include the ivorybill and the dodo. (News source.)

California condors have made a nest in Pinnacles National Monument for the first time in 100 years. (News source.)

Scientists have extracted DNA from the eggshells of several extinct birds (moas, elephant birds, etc.). (Abstract)

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ohio Spider Survey Wrapping Up

After 15 years, a biologist at Ohio State Univeristy is wrapping up his state spider survey. (News source.)

While I know that it would be practically impossible to do a full guide to the state's spiders, I hope that their proposed book on common species really does cover most recognizable arachnids in the state; I'd like to see them do as well with this book as the Ohio Biological Survey did with their salamander book.

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Catalina Island Rattlers Distinct?

Researchers are investigating whether the rattlesnakes on Santa Catalina Island may be a different subspecies from their California mainland kin. (News source.)

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Great White Research

Researchers have discovered that great white sharks in the northeastern Pacific are a distinct population. (News source.)

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Falkland Wolf Research

Looks like the extinct Falkland wolf's closest relative was the South American maned wolf. (Eurekalert.)

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Giant Canadian Snakes: A Published Article

There is an excellent paper recently published on the examination of a large snake skin found in Manitoba. ("A shed skin from a large individual (>2m; Fig. 1) was collected ca. 100 meters from the shoreline of northern Lake Martin in southern Manitoba. The shed was found in a crotch of a tree near the ground.") Investigator John Warms provided the specimen for testing, and it was confirmed as a Boa constrictor shed. While the particular findings were not unexpected, the authors note "Molecular phylogenetics allows definitive tests on purported cryptozoological specimens. While such analyses cannot dispute the existence of legendary beasts, it can shed light on individual claims." This paper shows how a proper objective scientific methodology can be very beneficial to cryptozoological investigations of alleged specimens.

Giant Canadian Snakes and Forensic Phylogenetics
Brian I. Crother, Mary E. White, David Gardner, and John Warms
Contemporary Herpetology 2009(2): 1-4

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rapid Sightings: Keys to Visual Recognition

A recently published paper notes that people who see an animal first use shape, then texture, to quickly identify it. Color isn't a primary character used in identifications. (News source.)


Monday, September 07, 2009

"Rediscovered Whale"

An announcement at a recent symposium on whales in the Indian Ocean apparently noted the rediscovery of a whale species. As I didn't see any further news on it, I queried Dr. Anderson, who replies: "The rediscovered whale should be described in a multiauthor paper, which will probably appear in Marine Mammal Science next year. Nothing more definite than that yet." So, something to look forward to.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rediscovered Birds

The Tasman booby, thought to be a now extinct species, has turned out to be a subspecies of the living masked booby. (News source.) [Abstract of paper here.]

Beck's petrel has been photographed in the Bismarck Archipelago, near Papua New Guinea. It hadn't been seen since 1929. (News source.)

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Moa Coloration

DNA from ancient feathers is helping researchers figure out what moas actually looked like. (News source.)

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Is the Kipunji a Baboon?

A paper (available in full here) tries to determine the systematic relationship of a recently (2005) described primate, the Tanzanian kipunji.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Genetics and Pine Martens

Pine martens in Wales are genetically distinct from those in the rest of the UK. Still the same species, though. (News source.)

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Ontario Cougar

"Rick Rosatte, a research scientist in co-operation with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Trent University, is involved in a study to scientifically establish the presence of cougars in Ontario.
"In his recent report, he said at least one cougar has been documented on camera near Sunderland in the Barrie area" (News source.)

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Giraffes: Splitting Species?

An interview here that notes the ongoing research into whether the single recognized giraffe species should be split into several species...

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

DNA Article

An article here on investigating ancient bones (from Homo floresiensis to moas) through clues in the DNA.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Identical Species at Both Poles

A marine census shows there are hundreds of identical species found at both poles. (News source.)

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hot Spots, New Species, Etc.

Some research here on locating hot spots of species diversity for conservation focus.

408 new mammal species have been discovered since 1993, according to a new paper. The authors then go on with dire warnings for humanity.

And, new birds are waiting to be discovered in the eastern Himalayas.

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Friday, February 06, 2009

Black Wolves

Some interesting genetic research regarding a black mutant gene found in North American wolves, and its origin. (Eurekalert)

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Extinct Animal Cloned (Then Goes Extinct Again)

The cloning of the extinct Pyrenean ibex was partially successful: a successful clone was born, but the kid died shortly after birth from breathing issues. (News source.)

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Papers: Civets and Lemurs

Via Kevin Stewart, a couple of new papers to mention:

Lemur Diversity in Madagascar
Mittermeier, et al.
International Journal of Primatology (2008) 29: 1607-1656

This is a review of the taxonomic status of lemurs, recognizing 99 species and subspecies. It also notes several controversial areas, and points to potential new species (as yet undescribed).

The taxonomy of the endemic golden palm civet of Sri Lanka
Colin P. Groves, et al.
Zoological Journal of the Linnaean Society (2009) 155: 238-251

This is the citation for the golden palm civet paper noted in a previous blog posting. Paradoxurus stenocephalus, a new species, is described, and a possible new species is identified but not yet described.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009


A Sri Lankan "hobbyist" studies the native civets, leading to the rediscovery of one species and the discovery of a new species. (News source.)

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Woodpecker Study

A new UGA study suggests that ivory-billed woodpeckers could have persisted (in that it is possible as far as a population viability analysis goes).

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008 Abstracts: The Munzala

A Voucher Specimen for Macaca munzala: Interspecific Affinities, Evolution, and Conservation of a Newly Discovered Primate

Charudutt Mishra and Anindya Sinha

International Journal of Primatology
Vol. 29, no. 3 (June 2008): 743-756

Abstract: Sinha, A., Datta, A., Madhusudan, M. D., & Mishra, C. (2005. Macaca munzala: A new species from western Arunachal Pradesh, northeastern India. International Journal of Primatology, 26, 977989) discovered Arunachal macaques (Macaca munzala), a species new to science, in the eastern Himalaya of Arunachal Pradesh in northeastern India. They depicted the holotype and paratypes of the species in photographs, and a specimen of the species had been unavailable for preservation and examination. In March 2005, we obtained an entire specimen of an adult male Macaca munzala, which we propose as a voucher specimen for the species. We provide detailed morphological and anatomical measurements of the specimen and examine its affinities with other macaques. Macaca munzala appears to be unique among macaques in craniodental size and structure, baculum, and aspects of caudal structure, while exhibiting affinities with the other members of the sinica-group to which it belongs. We summarize our insights on the origins and phylogeny of Macaca munzala. Finally, we review the current conservation status of the macaques, which are threatened by extensive hunting in the only 2 districts of Arunachal Pradesh where they are documented to occur.


In search of the munzala: distribution and conservation status of the newly-discovered Arunachal macaque Macaca munzala

R. Suresh Kumar, Nabam Gama, R. Raghunath, Anindya Sinha and Charudutt Mishra

Vol. 42 (2008): pp. 360-366

Abstract: The recently-described Arunachal macaque Macaca munzala is so far known only from western Arunachal Pradesh, north-east India. Here we present the first conservation status assessment for the species. Our surveys enumerated a total of 569 individuals in the Tawang and West Kameng districts of the State. The species seems to be tolerant of anthropogenic habitat change but is vulnerable to hunting. A low infant to adult female ratio suggests that not all adult females reproduce at any given time, and females do not give birth every year. The macaques are persecuted largely in response to crop damage, with the practice of keeping them as pets providing an added incentive to hunting. The species is, however, able to attain remarkably high densities in the absence of hunting. Crop damage by the macaque is widespread; patterns of crop damage are similar across altitudinal zones and do not seem to be correlated with macaque density. The species will need to be protected in human-modified landscapes, and the issues of crop damage and retaliatory persecution need to be addressed urgently.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Bringing Back the Dead

An article here on the possibility of reviving extinct species.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Googling for Species

Scientists have used Google Earth to locate an unexplored habitat, leading to the discovery of new species in Mozambique. (News source.)

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fossil Wings Studied

X-ray fluorescence imaging is being used to determine what the wings of the Archaeopteryx actually looked like before fossilization. (News source)

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Tree Lobsters Split

Three Pacific island stick insects, including the endangered Lord Howe Island stick insect, are distinct species, new genetic investigation shows. (News source.)

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Mekong Discoveries

The WWF is noting that over 1000 new species have been discovered in the Great Mekong region of southeast Asia, over the last decade. (News source.)

And video of the Laotian rock rat (one of those discoveries) here.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

New Crocodiles

The African dwarf crocodile has been split into three species, after genetic investigation. These are now Osteolaemus tetraspis, from Central Africa's Ogooué Basin, Osteolaemus osborni, from the Congo Basin, and an as-yet unnamed species from West Africa. Details here.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Ice-Nesting Mystery

A father/son team tracked down the bird species responsible for some mysterious nest built directly on the glacial ice in the high Andes. (News source.)

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Monday, October 13, 2008

"Yeti" Hairs Tested

Hairs found near sightings of a yeti-like primate in India have turned out to be goral (a wild goat) hairs. (News source.)

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Mihi Itch

A fascinating paper (download free) from Zootaxa discusses the use of this term to denote those scientists who name trivial variants in order to see their own names in print.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Orkney Carcass

A geneticist is looking into the old Stronsay Beast carcass. Not sure why... (News source.)

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bar Coding Life

A cautionary note has been published, suggesting that those involved in creating "DNA bar codes" need to be very careful in their techniques to accurately choose the correct marker from the mitochondria, rather than non-functional copies from the nucleus. Inaccuracy could lead to mistaken "new species." (Eurekalert.)

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Feline News

A new population of clouded leopards has been found on Borneo. (News source, courtesy Kevin Stewart)

More searching for the European wildcat in the UK here.

And, a reported "leopard" roaming Floyd Co., Indiana. (News source.)

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Still Waiting for DNA Results...

The UK scientist investigating the "India yeti" hairs is still awaiting DNA results. (News source.)

The guy's logic is a bit strained, though, here:

"'The DNA will tell us if it's a primate and may unveil a new species. If that's the case, it'll still be a mystery and we need to get resources to the Indian scientists.
"'If it's a new species, it's likely to be small and, therefore, could well be under threat. If they're the size people have said they are, you would expect a lot more of them to be seen in the area.
"'The sightings are in secluded villages where there are no cars or telephones so news travels by word of mouth.'"

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Yeti Hair Update

From the news:

"Ape expert Ian Redmond, who is coordinating the research, said they had ruled out the hairs belonging to Asiatic black bears, macaque monkeys, humans, dogs, and wild boar." ...
"Zoe Forbes, a spokesman for Oxford Brookes, said: 'The testing of the hairs is a three-stage process, involving microscopic analysis, analysis under a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), and then the extraction of DNA.
"'The SEM analysis is also taking place at Brookes, but if it confirms the original findings, the hairs will be sent to other laboratories for DNA extraction.'"

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Big Fossil Lemur

Research is being done on the skull of a now-extinct lemur that was as large as a baboon. (Eurekalert.)

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

India's "Yeti" Hair Investigated

From the news:

"Hair strands thought to be from a yeti-like creature living in India are to be tested in Oxfordshire.
"Scientists at Oxford Brookes University will study the sample, which was found in the state of Meghalaya.
"The hair was found and handed to BBC reporter Alastair Lawson during an expedition to try and find the animal after a number of reported sightings."

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Ontario Cougar is North American

DNA from droppings in Ontario show that a cougar roaming there is from the North American subspecies. (News source.)

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Don't Rely on the Unreliable

I've seen far too many excuses about trying to "protect" a species from "monster" hunters who discount acquiring physical proof, instead focusing on unreliable evidence. Then, of course, they try (in some cases successfully) to use the unverifiable evidence to push legislation intended to protect the animal, whatever it is.

Instead of protecting it, of course, all they do is make it more difficult to actually acquire proof of existence. Good legislation backs good conservation practice, and is supported by good science. Poor legislation hampers successful conservation, as there is no way to determine what factors may or may not affect a population nobody knows anything about. So you've kept hunters from shooting a Bigfoot (as if that's ever been a real problem); how exactly does your law protect a population of Bigfoot from environmental encroachment or habitat fragmentation?

Not everyone has the ability to search for sufficient physical evidence; there's nothing wrong with that. But that's not reason to denigrate those who do. In any case, there's an interesting study recently published on case studies of recognized (though rare) species, and the results of relying on shoddy evidence.

Using Anecdotal Occurrence Data for Rare or Elusive Species: The Illusion of Reality and a Call for Evidentiary Standards (
Kevin S. McKelvey, Keith B. Aubry, and Michael K. Schwartz
BioScience 58(6), June 2008, pp. 549-555

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Big Rodent Downsized

The fossil rodent Josephoartigasia monesi was originally speculate to have weighed as much as 2584 kg, but "re-estimation of J. monesi's body mass with a more complete analysis suggests it may have weighed as little as 350 kg." (News source.)

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

New Mollusk Genus

A Key West predatory bivalve turns out to be a new genus of mollusk. (News source.)

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Article Review: Images of the Wildman...

Images of the Wildman Inside and Outside Europe
Gregory Forth
Folklore 118(December 2007): 261-281.

Forth's article is a folkloric treatment of the medieval European wildman, comparing it with representations of the wildman motif in Asian and, to a lesser extent, elsewhere. This is one of the first such treatments that I've seen that considers cryptozoology with more than a throwaway line or a few negative mumblings. Forth, instead, approaches it carefully and with interest.

Forth begins with an examination of the European wildman folklore, noting that there are significant differences from wildman folklore elsewhere. He suggests that this may result from sighting discontinuity (few alleged sightings in Europe over the last century), while in Asia, North America, etc., there continue to be reported encounters which contribute to the shaping of folkloric representations. Also, he points out something that may surprise many academic folklorists: the wildman in non-European regions cannot be simply downplayed as a colonial artifact or just the influence of Western ideology.

Forth then notes the transformation of European wildman representations over the centuries, particularly as science and colonization brought Europeans into greater contact both with the great apes and with native peoples in other lands.

Finally, Forth discusses the modern phenomena of cryptozoology, and its interest in (particularly non-European) "wildman" accounts. Keeping in mind that this is a folkloric treatment, it isn't surprising that Forth's source materials in cryptozoology are a few older works (Manlike Monsters on Trial, Heuvelmans, and Napier). His primary point is that the European wildman does not appear to be a direct folkloric influence on non-European cryptids, but rather the folkloric descriptions are far more influenced by paleoanthropological discoveries and the like. (Within the field of cryptozoology, that is; obviously, indigenous people groups in Asia, for example, would have little influence in their native folklore from such.)

Conclusion (or part of it): "Virtually all scientific concepts are partly derivative of non-scientific ideas. Representing modern crypto-species, or for that matter the categories of palaeoanthropology, as a simple survival of the European wildman obscures both the radical transformation of the mediaeval figure and the emergence of approaches that, engaging with evolutionary biology and other scientific disciplines, provide evidence against the existence of a crypto-species, as well as evidence in support." Forth also notes that while most anthropologists may view wildman imagery as by-products of a culture or social system, this perspective "has typically been assumed rather than advanced or defended," and so is basically undeveloped.

In all, it's worth reading. Yes, there are a few areas (i.e., his noting of the Jacko account) where he may not have caught up with current cryptozoological speculations, but it is a better treatment of cryptozoology in an academic setting than we normally see. Forth is currently in Indonesia for several months, but has a book coming out this fall (assuming Kegan Paul/Routledge keeps on track), Wildman: Images from Flores, Southeast Asia, and Elsewhere.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Giant Sloth Lemurs

Genetic investigation reveals that the giant "sloth" lemurs of Madagascar were a sister group to the living indriid lemurs. Paper can be downloaded here.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Borneo Clouded Leopard

Here's an interview with a researcher, trying to protect the recently described Borneo clouded leopard.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

First Lungless Frog

A rare aquatic frog, Barbourula kalimantanensis, from Borneo has been confirmed as the only known (so far) lungless frog. The frog "lives in cold, fast-flowing water, they noted, so loss of lungs might be an adaptation to a combination of factors: a higher oxygen environment, the species’s presumed low metabolic rate, severe flattening of their bodies that increases the surface area of their skin, and selection for negative buoyancy—meaning that the frogs would rather sink than float." (Eurekalert)

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Loch Ness

Gordon Holmes is back on Loch Ness with sonar and video equipment. (News source.)

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Monday, March 17, 2008


NG has an article on engineering following in nature's footsteps.


Monday, February 25, 2008

UAV Potential?

Australian researchers are planning to use UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) for surveying whales and dugongs. Might be some potential for cryptozoology research with this technology? (News source.)

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Crypto New Zealand

Tony Lucas passed along notice of a new article from New Zealand on cryptozoological research there.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Bald Ibis

Some interesting news here about the rare bald ibis, as tagged birds in Syria migrate to eastern Africa.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Psittacosaurus "Feathers" Debate

A researcher has more to say in the "feathered dinosaur" fray, arguing for the collagen side. From the news:

"Prof Theagarten Lingham-Soliar at the University of KwaZulu Natal, claims today to have 'refuted' a suggestion that primitive bristle-like structures that adorn the tail of Psittacosaurus are prototype feathers, as claimed by those seeking evidence to back the widely accepted idea of avian origins." ...
"But Prof Lingham-Soliar, who attacks this interpretation of the Chinese fossil in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biological Sciences, tells The Daily Telegraph: 'Scientists must really now choose - belief in the nebulous idea of protofeathers or the reality of collagen, the dominant protein in vertebrates.
"'I am convinced from the nonsense spouted by many of the people who denounce collagen in favour of protofeathers that they have never actually seen collagen in its natural or decomposing state.'
"He adds that, thanks to a quirk of preservation, the fossil provides a 'remarkable, unprecedented' insight into the structure of dinosaur skin.
"'What is highly significant in the present study are the masses of collagen fibres found - over 40 dermal layers seen for the first time in a fossil animal, which shows how vitally important collagen was in providing support and protection of the enclosed body mass of dinosaurs per se.'"

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Friday, January 04, 2008

H. floresiensis Debate Continues

A new study suggests that Homo floresiensis is not a new species, but is based on individuals with a rare growth disorder, MOPD II, caused by a gene, PCNT. The gene causes the formation of a small brain and small (but proportional) body size, but retains normal intelligence. The condition also causes subtle wrist and hand bone anomalies, similar to those found in the floresiensis bones. (News source.)

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Price to Pay

Funding for the search for more evidence of the ivorybill woodpecker may run out if the bird isn't confirmed in 2008. Researchers are worried, while detractors continue to pile on. (News source.)

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bigfoot in SciAm

Scientific American has a profile on Dr. Jeff Meldrum and his Bigfoot studies. (Noted by Kevin Stewart)

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Friday, September 21, 2007

H. Floresiensis: The Debate Continues

Research being published today in Science notes "evidence in three wrist bones that these people were members of a distinct species rather than humans with a physical disorder." From the NYT:

"In the new study, scientists led by Matthew W. Tocheri, an anthropologist of human origins at the Smithsonian Institution, examined wrist bones from the skeletons and found them to be primitive and shaped differently than the wrist bones of modern humans. For example, the trapezoid bone connected to the index finger was wedge-shaped, not boot-shaped, as in humans. In fact, the scientists said these wrist bones were closer in shape to those of apes."

One critic says the study is mostly obfuscation, disregarding the variation naturally found in wrist bones.

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Celebes Sea Expedition

An ocean explorer with the New England Aquarium will be exploring the Celebes Sea, renowned for its diversity. From the press release:

"Stone is part of an undersea expedition which will explore the unique Celebes Sea, just south of the Philippines. The Celebes Sea is unlike anywhere else on the planet. With a shallow rim that protects it from deep-running frigid currents, it is one of the only deep ocean areas filled with warmer, life-sustaining water from its surface to its great depths. Scientists believe that most of the Earth’s oceans were similar 25 million years ago. The deep waters of the Celebes Sea just might be an ancient, biological time capsule. There has been little exploration of the deeper waters of the Celebes Sea. From September 24 to October 16, a joint expedition of the New England Aquarium, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Geographic Magazine, in cooperation with the Philippine government, will do a top-to-bottom exploration of the twisted trenches and seafloor basins of this strange sea. Operating from a 175 foot research vessel, the scientists will use a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that can descend to 10,000 feet and is also outfitted with HDTV and biological collecting equipment. They will also use baited deep sea cameras and deep sea trawl nets. Dr. Stone is a veteran National Geographic expedition leader, yet he exclaimed, 'We expect to make spectacular findings, including discovering new species and capturing images of beautifully strange creatures.'"

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Thylacine Research

A researcher with the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA is testing animal scat from the 1950s and 1960s to determine whether any were left by thylacines. The scat was collected in Tasmania by Eric Guiler, a thylacine expert, who thought they possibly came from thylacines. (News source.)

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

PDF - How to Tell a Sea Monster

Meant to put this link up earlier, it's a paper from 2002, "How to Tell a Sea Monster: Molecular Discrimination of Large Marine Animals of the North Atlantic," from the Biological Bulletin. It has been out for a few years, but I didn't realize it was available online from the author until Rod Dyke pointed it out. Should be useful to those new to cryptozoology or those who haven't had a chance to pick up a copy before.

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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

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

DNA genetic "barcodes"

Genetics reveal 15 new N.American bird species

OSLO (Reuters) - Genetic tests of North American birds show what may be 15 new species including ravens and owls -- look alikes that do not interbreed and have wrongly had the same name for centuries, scientists said on Sunday.

If the findings from a study of birds' DNA genetic "barcodes" in the United States and Canada hold true around the world, there might be more than 1,000 new species of birds on top of 10,000 identified so far, they said.
A parallel study of South American bats in Guyana also showed six new species among 87 surveyed, hinting that human studies of the defining characteristics of species may have been too superficial to tell almost identical types apart.

"This is the leading tip of a process that will see the genetic registration of life on the planet," said Paul Hebert of the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, a co-author of the report in the British Journal Molecular Ecology Notes.

"You can't protect biodiversity if you can't recognise it."

The scientists found 15 potential new species among 643 types of bird studied from the Arctic to Florida. The sample covers almost all 690 known breeding species in North America.

"North American birds are among the best studied in the world," said co-author Mark Stoeckle of the Rockefeller University in New York. "Even in a group where people have been looking very carefully there are genetically different forms that appear to be new species."

Look alike species were of the Northern Fulmar, Solitary Sandpiper, Western Screech Owl, Warbling Vireo, Mexican Jay, Western Scrub-Jay, Common Raven, Mountain Chickadee, Bushtit, Winter Wren, Marsh Wren, Bewick's Wren, Hermit Thrush, Curve Billed Thrasher and Eastern Meadowlark.

"It would be a reasonable guess that there are likely to be at least 1,000 genetically distinct forms of birds (worldwide) that will be recognised as new species," Stoeckle said.

The genetic tests, for instance of a feather, give a readout of a "barcode" for each creature similar to the black and white parallel lines on packages at supermarkets.

They said DNA diverged by at least 2.5 percent -- enough, they said, to define a species despite almost identical shape, plumage and song. A one percent difference typically indicated a million years without interbreeding, they said.

The study also found 14 pairs of birds with separate identities that were almost genetic "twins", two trios of birds were DNA triplets and eight gull species were almost identical.

"Some of these on close inspection may really be better considered as a single species," said Stoeckle. "Others are probably very young species at the borderline."

The Snow Goose and Ross's Goose, for instance, shared 99.8 percent of DNA and the black-billed magpie and the yellow-billed magpie 99.6 percent. Gulls such as the Glaucous and Iceland Gulls were 99.8 percent the same.

The scientists said there was no clear scientific definition of a species -- inability to interbreed was often favoured.

"But that's difficult -- we're not watching bats mate in caves, we're not often watching small life forms," Hebert said.

The scientists are hoping to raise $100 million to compile a barcode of life -- 10 million DNA records of 500,000 animal species by 2014.

Please note, the entire published paper is entitled BOLD: The Barcode of Life Data System ( by Sujeevan Ratanasingham and Paul D. Hebert through Molecular Ecology Notes , 2007. This was originally submitted in July 2006, revised in November 2006, and awaiting final print publication in 2007. However, the paper is available through OPEN ACCESS online in PDF format through Blackwell Synergy.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Mid-Atlantic Predator Survey

Researchers will be placing camera traps in hundreds of locations near the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland this year. The purpose is to survey predators in the region. This will include bears, bobcats, skunks, weasels, foxes, etc. While the organizers don't expect to see any, the possibility of cougar is also noted by the journalist. From the news:

"The cameras will be mounted to trees along with scented lures, placed roughly a half-mile apart and moved monthly to new locations.
"The locations will be within the AT corridor, but not along the trail itself to avoid being triggered by passing hikers. The data will be uploaded about once a month to a National Park Service Web site.
"Wildlife studies have been conducted along the Appalachian Trail for years, but this will be the first time motion-sensitive cameras are used to start creating a comprehensive predator inventory along the AT, which crosses all major ecological zones between New England and the Deep South.
"The study's goal is to create a baseline of predator populations so their fluctuations can be charted over time. The first year's data is valuable in itself because it can show how some species are faring by comparing their numbers in different locations such as heavily populated Northern Virginia and rural parts of Western Virginia." ...

"About 100 volunteers -- both professional researchers and 'citizen-scientists' -- are being recruited from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Virginia Master Naturalist Program and other outdoors-oriented groups."