Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Xenotyphlops Found

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.

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Leeches and Salamanders

A new vector is reported for infections in certain newt populations:

"Parasite-carrying bloodsucking leeches may be delivering a one-two punch to newts, according to biologists, who say the discovery may provide clues to disease outbreaks in amphibians.
"The findings could also lead to a better understanding of diseases affecting humans, such as malaria, chagas disease and sleeping sickness. All these diseases are transmitted through a vector, an organism that spreads disease from one animal to another.
"The researchers found evidence for leech-borne transmission of a little-known fungus-like organism of the genus Ichthyophonus, which infects the muscles of red-spotted newts and other amphibians in North America. It does not appear to kill amphibians but might affect their ability to reproduce. 'This is the first evidence that newts are getting infected through the bites of leeches,' said Thomas R. Raffel, a postdoctoral researcher at Penn State's Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics, and the study's lead author.
"Early infections in the newts appear as clusters of small dark dots under the skin, which can later develop into a large area of swollen muscle. The swollen muscle contains many spores (also called spherules), each of which contains hundreds of infectious cells called endospores. Raffel and his colleagues think that the infection is transmitted when one of these spores bursts open and releases its endospores onto the mouthparts of a feeding leech. Their findings are outlined in the January issue of Journal of Parasitology." ...

"Raffel, whose work is funded by the National Science Foundation, says 'when a leech sticks its proboscis into an infected newt, either the mechanical action of the probe or the anti-inflammatory chemicals injected by the leech, could be used by the parasite as a cue to release its packet of spores. The spores could then latch on to the leech's proboscis, and the infection would be passed along to the next newt the leech bites.'
"The researchers point out that Ichthyophonus might not be as contagious as other leech-transmitted amphibian parasites. That is because this particular parasite lodges itself in muscle tissue instead of blood. A leech would have to be feeding right on top of a newt's infected muscle in order to transmit the infection. However, it is still unclear if the spores are multiplying within the leech, or simply ferrying on its proboscis.
"Even though the infection is not fatal to the newts, it could affect their numbers, says Raffel. 'When newts get infected, they often stop breeding, apparently to shore up their immune system to fight off the disease. But that comes at the cost of having fewer offspring,' he adds."


Pomologists Puzzled

Granfer's Apple is its name, an apple that grows on a 200 (+) year old tree in Beaminster, Dorset.

Grandmother Diana Toms, 83, brought an apple recently to an event run by the Symondsbury Apple Project in Dorset to get some advise on caring for the old tree. Yet, the pomologists were unable to identify the apple... including experts from the National Fruit Collection (NFC).

The apple has been called the Granfer's Apple as long as Grandma Toms can remember. Her grandfather, born in 1860, always called it that in an shortend form of "Grandfather's Apple". The actual tree is thought to have been planted by Grandma Tom's great-great-great-grandfather Isaac Bugler cicrca 1800.

The difference in the apple appears to be the basic shape, stalk length and closed eye. With a sharp and crisp taste to it...... New style apple pie anyone???

Pomology is the branch of botany that studies and cultivates fruits, the best folks to identify an apple....

New type of apple, or forgotten one?

See the entire story at The Daily Mail


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Georgia: Black Cat Sighting

Noted on the Anomalist, from The State (South Carolina):

"A federal forester says he was chased into the Chattooga River by a 7-foot-long panther with 'jet black' fur.
"Terrance Fletcher, a technician with the U.S. Forest Service, dove into the frigid water and crawled up the bank in South Carolina to escape.
"'The animal started running ... so I decided to run and get away and jump in the river to get across to the other side,' Fletcher said this week. 'It was a life-changing event for me.'
"The incident occurred the second week in January along the mountain river separating Georgia and South Carolina.
"Black panthers are not native to the southeastern United States, meaning Fletcher might have seen a river otter or a bobcat, state wildlife officials in Georgia and South Carolina said.
"Still, Fletcher and Forest Service District Ranger Dave Jensen said they think he saw some sort of large cat on the Georgia side of the river.
"'It was a little too big to be a bobcat,' Fletcher said. 'My first impression was a panther.'
"The Georgia Department of Natural Resources found no evidence of large cat tracks in the area where Fletcher said he saw the animal, but the Georgia DNR’s Kevin Lowrey said it’s possible a black panther was lurking in the woods.
"If so, it was probably an exotic pet that escaped, he said. His agency regularly receives reports of people seeing cougars, large tawny cats that were once native to Georgia and South Carolina. Officials say the creatures are likely escaped pet cougars or other animals, rather than wild cougars.
"'We don’t have a native black cat in the United States,' Lowrey said. 'That just tells me it was something released.'
"Lowrey, a wildlife biologist with the Georgia agency, said people hiking or fishing along the Chattooga River should not be overly concerned. The river is the only federally designated wild and scenic river in South Carolina, and it is popular with recreational enthusiasts.
"Lowrey said folks should always be aware of their surroundings when in the forest.
"Fletcher, a 24-year-old Alabama native, said he and another Forest Service technician were surveying trails on the Georgia side of the river south of the Burrells Ford bridge when they separated.
"While taking a break near the river bank, Fletcher heard rustling in the woods and looked in that direction. Staring back at him was what appeared to be a black panther, crouched on the forest floor like a house cat stalking a bird, he said.
"When he stood up, the cat started running, prompting him to take the icy dip in the Chattooga. Soaked to the skin and freezing, he met up with his partner and walked through the woods to their Forest Service truck.
"'We just got on out of there,' Fletcher said, adding he remains a bit spooked by the incident. 'I don’t know how long (the feeling) will last.'"

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Australian Big Cat Sightings

From the news:

"The mystery of a colossal cat seen roaming the region began to unravel last week as residents reported more panther sightings to the Macarthur Chronicle.
Wedderburn resident Ted Lalor, 70, said he and a neighbour saw a panther near their homes six months ago.
"'The boys in Appin who saw the panther last week were fair dinkum,' he said.
"'I've shot feral cats before and there's no way a cat could grow to the size of the animal I'm talking about. Eventually someone will knock off one of these creatures, then people will finally believe they exist.'
"Two people who won't need much convincing are teenagers Emilly and Karrine.
Emilly said she saw the creature while riding her horse at Sugarloaf Horse Centre in Menangle.
"'The first time I saw the panther, it chased me on my horse,' she said.
"'But I've seen it other times and it just hangs around then goes back into the bush. My friend Karrine told me she saw the same thing.'
"Other reports included Kelly, 29, who saw the big cat near the Broughton Pass in Appin, and Dale Shackleton who recalled a panther terrorising his Appin farm and the Inghams chicken sheds more than 30 years ago.
"Cryptozoologist Mike Williams said scientists believed a breed of big cat existed in Australia but they were unsure whether it was a mutated feral cat, native, or an exotic cat, like a panther.
"'There is something out there,' he said. 'Where there's smoke, there's fire. People don't just wake up in the morning with an urge to say they have seen a panther.'
"Mr Williams said big cats were among the best animals when it came to camouflage and were largely nocturnal.
"'That humans see these creatures is not amazing - what is amazing is that we see them at all,' he said."

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Rhabdophis Toxins: From Toad to Snake

The small colubrid snakes of the genus Rhabdophis have a shady past in the pet trade. Because they resemble certain harmless garter-snake like species, they were imported into the U.S. and U.K. under the wrong names, and ended up causing medically-significant emergencies when they bit their new owners. Rhabdophis are one of the few rear-fanged groups that can cause serious harm or even fatalities. A new study shows where they acquire this toxicity:

"A new study shows that the Asian snake Rhabdophis tigrinus becomes poisonous by sequestering toxins from its prey which consists of venomous toads. The research is published in the current issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Analyzing differences between snakes living on toad-rich and toad-deficient islands in Japan, Researchers lead by Deborah A. Hutchinson of Old Dominion University in Norfold, Virginia, found that Japanese grass snake or Yamakagashi, as the snake is known locally, did not manufacture its own venom, but instead relied on that found in toxic toads:
"'The researchers found that snakes living on Japan’s toad-free island of Kinkazan lacked the toad’s toxic bufadienolide compounds completely. Snakes from Ishima, where toads are plentiful, had high levels of bufadienolides. R. tigrinus from Honshu, where toad numbers vary, displayed a wide range of bufadienolide concentrations. Feeding R. tigrinus hatchlings toad-rich and toad-free diets confirmed these results.'

"The study also found that snake mothers with high concentrations of the toxin are able to pass bufadienolide toxin on their offspring helping protect them from predators.
"The Yamakagashi stores the sequestered toxins in 'a series of paired structures known as nuchal glands in the dorsal skin of the neck,' according to the researchers. When threatened the snake takes a defensive position that exposes the toxin-containing nuchal glands to predators.

"While sequestering defensive toxins from prey is unusual among terrestrial vertebrates it is not unknown. Research published last year by Valerie C. Clark of Cornell University showed that poison dart frogs (Dendrobates species) and their Madagascar counterparts, the Mantella frogs, sequester toxic skin chemicals, called alkaloids, from the ants they eat. These alkaloids protect the frogs from predation. Similarly, some garter snakes are known to store tetrodotoxin from ingested newts while birds in New Guinea appear to sequester poisons from insects.

"Citation: 'Dietary sequestration of defensive steroids in nuchal glands of the Asian snake Rhabdophis tigrinus' by Deborah A. Hutchinson, Akira Mori, Alan H. Savitzky, Gordon M. Burghardt, Xiaogang Wu, Jerrold Meinwald, and Frank C. Schroeder."

"What is more, when attacked, snakes on different islands react differently. On Ishima, snakes stand their ground and rely on the toxins in their nuchal glands to repel the predator. On Kinkazan, the snakes flee.
"'Snakes on Kinkazan have evolved to use their nuchal glands in defence less often than other populations of snakes, presumably due to their lack of defensive compounds,' says Hutchinson.
"Moreover, baby snakes benefit too. The team showed that snake mothers with high toxin levels pass on the compounds to their offspring. Snake hatchlings thus also enjoy the toad-derived protection."


Sasquatch back in the comics

Viper Comics is releasing a 256 page independent comic in April 2007.

The topic, SASQUATCH.

The name:
Josh Howard Presents: Sasquatch

The comic will feature over 20 stories and over 30 different artists and is an indie style comic release.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

'Hobbit' was no pygmy, but a separate species

'Hobbit' was no pygmy, but a separate species:

Jan.30 (ANI):

World-renowned paleo-neurologist and chairman of the Florida State University's anthropology department Dean Falk has acknowledged that "Hobbits" are indeed a separate and a new homonid species.

Having carried out further studies on the skeletal remains of an 18,000-year-old Hobbit-sized human discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003, Falk and her team of researchers are now convinced that the "Hobbit" catalogued as LB1 - Homo Floresiensis - was definitely not a human born as a pygmy or a microcephalic - a human with an abnormally small skull.

Falk and her team of international experts have based their finding on detailed maps of imprints left on the ancient hominid's braincase, and concluded that the so-called Hobbit was actually more closely related to Homo Sapiens.

"We have answered the people who contend that the Hobbit is a microcephalic," Falk said of her team's study of both normal and microcephalic human brains published in the January 29 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS).

A debate over the remains of the 3-foot-tall adult female with a brain roughly one-third the size of a contemporary human has been going on for the past four years.

People have refused to believe that someone with that small of a brain could make sophisticated tools, but according to Dr. Falk, the LB1 had a highly evolved brain that wasn't very big, but was reorganised to carry out certain actions in tune with activity normally related to homo sapians.

In the latest study, the researchers compared 3-D, computer-generated reconstructions of nine microcephalic modern human brains and 10 normal modern human brains. They found that certain shape features completely separate the two groups and that Hobbit classifies with normal humans rather than microcephalic humans in these features. In other ways, however, Hobbit's brain is unique, which is consistent with its attribution to a new species.

Comparison of two areas in the frontal lobe, the temporal lobe and the back of the brain show the Hobbit brain is nothing like a microcephalic's and is advanced in a way that is different from living humans. In fact, the LB1 brain was the "antithesis" of the microcephalic brain, according to Falk, a finding the researchers hope puts this part of the Hobbit controversy to rest.

In October last year, researchers said that the Hobbit fossil found in Flores, Indonesia did not represent a new species of hominid, but was rather a small bodied modern human who suffered from a genetic condition known as microcephaly, characterized by a small head.

A study published in Nature in 2004 had said that the fossil belonged to a new species of hominid. The claim had divided palaeontologists into two distinct camps, with one camp vociferously arguing that the remains belonged to a new species.

Microcephaly is a term that covers many conditions. There are more than 400 different human genes for which mutations can result in small brain size. Accordingly, there is a correspondingly wide range of different syndromes that are recognized in clinical practice.

In August, a view was circulated that the Indonesian hobbit was actually a deformed Homo Sapien. The belief then was that Homo Erectus reached Flores 840,000 years ago and, living in isolation, evolved into a species distinct from Homo sapiens, named as Homo floresiensis.

They said geographically, Flores had at least two migrations of ancient elephants from nearby islands, and therefore it was highly unlikely that hominids arrived only once and evolved in isolation.

Also, the island was not large enough to have supported isolated hunter-gatherers with a population adequate enough to maintain genetic diversity for long-term survival. A later study by a joint Indonesian, Australian, and US research team showed that the remains belonged to a Homo sapiens and not a distinct species.

In May last year, there was a view that hobbits simply did not exist"It's perfectly plausible that these were pygmy people. But there's only one skull, and that is human and microcephalic," claimed Professor Robert Martin then. (ANI)

The PNAS article is not up at their website at this time, but should be shortly.

It should also be noted that Dr. Dwight Smith and Gary Mangiacopra have authored a new article on the subject of Homo Floresiensis , this article is slated to appear in the forthcoming Bestia Elementum book under the CRYPTO series in April / May 2007. In this entry the authors propose that Homo floresiensis is not only a new species, but a potential new genus.......

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12 New Snakes Described

In the journal Zootaxa twelve new species of snakes are described from Turkey, Hispaniola and Cuba.

In Eleven new species of snakes of the genus Typhlops (Serpentes: Typhlopidae) from Hispaniola and Cuba. (THOMAS & S.B. HEDGES) in Zootaxa 1400: 1-26 (2007)
11 species of blindsnake are described. Four of these are from Hispaniola and seven are from Cuba.

The Hispaniola snakes were previously, according to the journal abstract, confused with Typhlops hectus while the Cuban snakes are closely related to Typhlops biminiensis.

DNA and morphological analysis is the basis for the re-classification and new classification of these snakes, and suggests at least 15 cryptic species are confused with Typhlops hectus or Typhlops biminiensis. While the genetic analysis is not published at this time, the authors are confident that the morphological differences are sufficient to diagnose the new species.

In A new species of Rhynchocalamus (Reptilia: Serpentes: Colubridae) from Turkey (K. OLGUN, A. AVCI, C. ILGAZ, N. UZUM & C. YILMAZ) in Zootaxa 1399: 57-68 (2007) a single new species of Rhynchocalamus is named.

Rhynchocalamus barani is described from Turkey and is diagnosed as different than other Rhynchocalamus species based on color-pattern, upper labials (1 vs. 2) , number of ventralia (163-173 vs. 180-240), and dorsalia (17 vs. 15). The new species was found in the Amanos Mountains in Turkey in May of 2006.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

DVD: Harry and the Hendersons

If nothing else, it was a significant cultural milestone in public perception of cryptozoology. Harry and the Hendersons is soon to be released on a special edition DVD here in North America. From

"If you've never seen 'Harry,' the premise is simple: The Henderson family has an unfortunate vehicular accident in which they think they've made road kill of a fabled Bigfoot. When the Hendersons take the creature home, they discover he's far from dead, and far from from the fierce beast that legend has made sasquatches out to be. From there on out, it's Bigfoot — or Harry, rather — in suburbia. Good natured comedy and thrills obviously follow.
"2007 marks the 20th anniversary for 'Harry and the Hendersons,' and the 10th year of the DVD format. And believe it or not, 'Harry' and DVD have never met in the United States. Until now.
"Universal Studios Home Entertainment will be releasing a Special Edition of 'Harry on the Hendersons' to DVD this April 24. For fans who have been waiting a decade to add this title to their Amblin collections, you'll be pleased to hear that the release will feature a number of previously unavailable special features.
"First, the film will be available in an anamorphic 1.85:1 picture, with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack to compliment (the film will also include subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish). Bonus features will include an audio commentary by director William Dear" ...
"Also included are deleted scenes, a 'Harry...Finding the Missing Link' featurette, a 'Making of Harry and the Hendersons' documentary, plus a behind-the-scenes newswrap featurette and the film's theatrical trailer.
"If that's not enough, you can pre-order "Harry and the Hendersons" on DVD for a low $10.49 through"

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Roar of Mich. cougar debate grows louder

Francis X. Donnelly / The Detroit News
January 27, 207

TRAVERSE CITY -- No cougars live in Michigan, say some state and federal wildlife officials.
But a conservation group believes so many of the big cats exist that they cover the state.
Somewhere between those two views lies the truth, which has become as elusive as the skittish animal at the center of the debate, cougar experts said.

The argument has grown increasingly bitter with charges of hoaxes, cover-ups, blurry photos reminiscent of Bigfoot sightings, a state agency accused of violating state law, scientists accused of ignoring their own research, and a dead pet panther named Sasha.

"It's about money, ego, power -- all the forces of evil," said Dennis Fijalkowski, executive director of the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy, about the controversy.

The disagreement is more than an academic food fight. The two sides agree that public safety is at stake, but, as with everything else dealing with the issue, they disagree how.

The wildlife conservancy, based in Bath, near Lansing, says the government is failing to protect residents and an endangered species.

The state and federal officials say the conservation group is needlessly scaring people.

Cougars -- also called mountain lions -- seldomly attack humans, but a growing number of reported sightings -- 1,200 since 2001 -- has alarmed residents around the state.

Last year, Berrien County on the Indiana border issued a public safety advisory after an attack on a horse, and in June Battle Creek police did the same after officers reportedly spotted several cougars.

Eleanor Comings, 62, a volunteer at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore near Traverse City, said she was followed by a cougar for 20 minutes along one of the park trails in 2003.

"When I first saw it, it was my worst nightmare," she said. "My second thought was: Everyone wants to see one, and here it is."

Read More of the story at the Detroit Press


Archaeologist digs for proof of Sasquatch

Archaeologist digs for proof of Sasquatch
Published: January 26, 2007

By Chris Bateman

BY DAY SHE'S the Stanislaus National Forest's archaeologist. With a master's degree in anthropology, she makes sure prehistoric Native American sites in the woods are protected. She's also the forest's liaison with the Me-Wuk tribe.

But it's what Kathy Strain does in her spare time that separates her from Forest Service colleagues.

She's a Bigfooter. A student of Sasquatch. A yearner for Yeti. A true believer.
"A strong case can be made that Bigfoot exists," said Strain, whose Jamestown-area home includes a room full of books, videos, cast footprints, notes and reports on the creature. "I've seen things I have no other explanation for."

Not only that, but she says Tuolumne County and the forest she works on are among the huge creature's favorite haunts. She has catalogued scores of eyewitness accounts, has discovered a Sasquatch "nest" near Twain Harte and swears she was once close enough to the creature that dirt was still falling from the sides of deep,14-inch footprints it left behind.

Read the rest of the story over at the Union Democrat

Image is from the Union Democrat story


Friday, January 26, 2007


Earlier it was reported about the stolen Bigfoot artwork.

Well, BIGFOOT HAS BEEN FOUND. Only, his feet are missing!!!!

FROM THE Associated Press - January 26, 2006

An imposing, wood-carved Bigfoot statue stolen from outside a doctor's office has been recovered — minus its big feet.

An anonymous tip led police to the 400-pound sculpture beneath a pile of debris in a backyard about a block from where it was snatched Monday. Two people confessed and could face theft charges.

The likeness of the legendary ape-like creature of the Northwest used to stand 8 feet high, but its 16-inch-long feet had been sawed off at the ankles, leaving it 18 inches shorter.

"I'm glad we got him before they cut him anymore," said chiropractor Tom Payne, who had the statue made 5 1/2 years ago and planted at the foot of his secluded driveway as a landmark for patients. "We're relieved to have him back at the office."

The statue was recovered Thursday. The suspects, a man and a boy, offered no motive, police spokeswoman Stacy Flores said.

Bigfoot is back in place outside Payne's office in this small town between Seattle and Tacoma, and Payne plans to get him some new feet.
"I'm sure I can find a chain saw sculptor that might feel up to the task," he said.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ivory Bill in the Mix

Just last December there were reports of more Ivory Bill Woodpecker sightings in Arkansas, where the bird was declared 'rediscovered" not so long ago. Reported sightings in Florida, and the story goes on

This has led to legal issues between conservationists / researchers and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Corps of Engineers has been working on a $230 million irrigation project near the Big Woods area along the White River in Arkansas, but an injunction was placed back in July 2006 that blocked on site work. The pumps and motors have been continuing to be built and the Corps of Engineers is going to store them until such a time as they can be used.

With this injunction, and more sightings, one wonders about the affect rediscovering or even finding for the first time a mystery creature can have on the local economy, ecosystem and governmental systems.

For those who have not seen the identification chart for the Ivory Bill, follow the link (a snapshot is here for you as well). There is also an interesting publication by the US Fish & Wildlife that may be of interest. Of course the classic AUK outline of the Cuban Ivory Billed Woodpecker is also a good reference point for a historical basis.

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Norwegian Lake Monster

Norwegian investigator Erik Knatterud has turned up a sighting report from a Norwegian newspaper. It involves a large aquatic cryptid photographed with an older camera-cell phone in 2005. The witness (an older man who was afraid he wouldn't be believed) finally allowed the picture to be published. To be honest, this isn't a great photo, and all caveats apply. Erik is investigating this report, and hopes to have a copy of the original pic to examine soon. A rough (very rough) translation of the newspaper article follows (primarily an online translator, with some modification from Erik's notes to a cryptozoology list):

"Is this a sjøorm (sea serpent)?

"Einar Johannes Sandnes wonders about a sjøorm he saw stick up at Snåsavatnet (Snaasa Lake). What do you believe?

"David Braendeland

"Could this be one of the sjøorm? Creature that appeared at Snåsavatnet stayed long enough to shake up Einar Johannes Sandnes.
"It all began with an absolutely ordinary fishing trip on a calm summer evening.
"'We'd been fishing the entire afternoon. As evening arrived and the sun stepped down we went to land for a cup coffee. Abruptly I looked at the lake, and there it was. I got a picture with the mobile telephone before it disappeared,' he told Nettavisen.

"Close at hand
"Sandnes, who has a farm near the Snåsavatnet, remembers well the episode as it happened in June 2005.
"'We became certainly excited and wondered what it was,' he recalls.
"The creature apparently appeared close at hand to them.
"'It was around 20 to 50 meters away, close to the land. It was summer and still light, and was easy to see,' he added.

"250 meter deep
"Sandnes is well-known in the area around the 48 kilometre long lake that lies north of Steinkjer in North Trønderlag. He say there are many stories about sjøormer in Snåsavatnet.
"'There are certainly rumours, from time to time. Sjøormen has been nicknamed Kudulla. That is the original name of Snåsavatnet,' he believes.
"The lake is charted to 21 (121?) meters deep. Sandnes states however that the firm NTE laid a cable there and detected depths to 250 meters.
"'So there is no wonder there could be a sjøorm there,' he claims.

"Afraid he would not be believed
"Einar Johannes Sandnes has had the picture of the possible sjøormen on his mobile telephone now for over a year and a half. Now he allows Nettavisen to show it.
"'I was long afraid to show it. I was certainly afraid nobody would believe it,' says Sandnes."

Tamaraw Flourishing

From the news:

"Manila, Philippines (AHN) - Conservationists have successfully worked on stopping the declining population of the unique dwarf water buffalo. Previously, the animal was considered an endangered species due to hunting and deforestation.
"The tamaraw, or Bubalus mindorensis had been threatened by big-game hunters, deforestation by settlers, loggers and ranchers that placed it on the world's endangered list by 1970.
"The government has taken steps to conserve the species through a captive breeding program and the development of a 25,000-hectare jungle reserve, in addition to increasing the residents' environmental awareness.
"The latest official population count of the animal is 263, 'although the figure could even exceed 300 if reported loose sightings in the northern side of the Iglit Baco National Park are taken in,' reports the Philippine government.
"'The tamaraws have definitely survived. In fact, with the continuous efforts of the government, concerned sectors and the Mindorenos [Mindoro residents], they may even begin to thrive,' it added.
"First discovered in 1888, the tamaraw is three feet tall and has a weight of 300 kilograms."


Floresiensis Cave Opened to Research

News from BBC:

"Archaeologists who found the remains of human 'Hobbits' have permission to restart excavations at the cave where the specimens were found.
"Indonesian officials have blocked access to the cave since 2005, following a dispute over the bones.
"But Professor Richard 'Bert' Roberts, a member of the team that found the specimens, told BBC News the political hurdles had now been overcome." ...

"'This year we will back in Liang Bua again, back in the cave where we found the Hobbits,' said Professor Roberts, from the University of Wollongong in Australia." ...
"'It's now a matter of getting everything organised so we can start digging again,' said Professor Roberts.
''You've got to get there in the dry season; in the wet season you can hardly drive to the site and when you are there, there are puddles of water all over the floor - so it's got to be dry to sensibly dig holes.'"

[Full news posted to StrangeArk archive.]


The Virgin Eggs Produce 5 Komodo Dragons

Earlier Chad has posted on the Komodo Parthenogenesis within this blog.

Well those eggs have now hatched.....

According to the Associated Press, 5 komodos were born at the zoo:

'Virgin Birth' Of Komodo Dragons Stuns Zoo
(AP) MANCHESTER, England A British zoo announced Wednesday the virgin birth of five Komodo dragons, giving scientists new hope for the captive breeding of the endangered species. In an evolutionary twist, the newborns' eight-year-old mother Flora shocked staff at Chester Zoo in northern England when she became pregnant without ever having a male partner or even being exposed to the opposite sex.
"Flora is oblivious to the excitement she has caused but we are delighted to say she is now a mum and dad," said a delighted Kevin Buley, the zoo's curator of lower vertebrates and invertebrates.The shells began cracking last week, after an eight-month gestation period, which culminated with the arrival on Tuesday of the fifth black and yellow colored dragon.The dragons are between 15.5 and 17.5 inches and weigh between 3.5 and 5.3 ounces, said Buley, who leads the zoo's expert care team.He said the reptiles are in good health and enjoying a diet of crickets and locusts.Other reptile species reproduce asexually in a process known as parthenogenesis.
But Flora's virginal conception, and that of another Komodo dragon earlier this year at the London Zoo, are the first time it has been documented in a Komodo dragon.
The evolutionary breakthrough could have far-reaching consequences for endangered species.Captive breeding could ensure the survival of the world's largest lizards, with fewer than 4,000 Komodos left in the wild.Scientists hope the discovery will pave the way to finding other species capable of self fertilization.
While it wasn't unusual for female dragons to lay eggs without mating, scientists understood they were witnessing something important when they realized Flora's eggs had been fertilized.DNA paternity tests confirmed the lack of male input, although the brood are not exact clones of their mother.Parthenogenesis — where eggs become embryos without male fertilization — had only been noted once before in a Komodo dragon. Genetic tests showed that Sungai, a resident of London Zoo, was the sole parent to offspring last April.


Cape Town Croc. Hunt

The hunt is on - 'Crocodile' spotted in Steenbras Dam
A MYSTERIOUS creature spotted only once in the murky waters of the Steenbras Dam has since October been the subject of an intense search by City of Cape Town and Cape Nature officials.

The hunt for the Helderberg's own "Loch Ness" monster was sparked one late afternoon by a City of Cape Town employee who was fishing in a shady bay of the 260 hectare upper dam when he saw the beast. He said it came rustling out from the undergrowth and slipped into the water. He fled, making a report that sparked a massive search.

Steenbras Dam supplies just over 10% of the City of Cape Town's water. Although a public picnic spot nearby was closed a few years ago, only the 60-odd staff and researchers with permits are allowed into the area. People illegally gaining entry for fishing and boating is also a problem. The City of Cape Town believe its employee may have sighted a two-metre long crocodile.

While such an animal may find it a lonely existence, the Steenbras Dam, which stretches along the Hottentots Holland mountain range for many kilometres, with its large pine forest plantations and fynbos is an ideal habitat. Up to now it seems, the most dangerous creatures there have been snakes. Conservation officials from Cape Nature and staff at the dam have combed the area on foot, motorcycle and boats, looking for traces of the animal.

Just like Scotland's elusive "Nessie", nothing has been found, but the employee who first saw it has stuck to his story.

The City of Cape Town is not taking any chances. According to municipal acting media manager Charles Cooper, a Cape Nature field officer walks the dam shore and patrols with a motorcycle approximately every second day. Boat patrols and workers on the dam have been told to be on the lookout for unusual shapes in the water or basking reptiles along the shoreline. As to how a crocodile - if it is a crocodile - may have come to be in the dam remains a mystery. Karin Prins, who works at one of the Cape's few crocodile farms, Le Bonheur in Paarl, suggests the only possible way could have been that it was acquired illegally by someone who thought a baby croc was cute, but dumped the animal in the dam when it grew too big to handle.

Escaped crocodiles in the Western Cape are extremely rare. In August 2004 Le Bonheur had to fetch one of its three-metre long reptiles that had escaped, from a dam at the Santé Winelands Hotel and Wellness Spa.


Dugongs are wandering, too

You can add this to the meandering manatees file (sirenians, anyway). From Malaysia:

"LANGKAWI: The discovery of a dead dugong on the coast of Pulau Tuba, near here, is causing a stir not only among the locals but also in the research community.
"After years of failing to get a single sighting of the animal, yesterday’s discovery at least confirmed that there were dugongs in the waters here.
"A fisherman found the carcass floating in the mangrove swamp of Lubok Cempedak in Pulau Tuba, a small populated island off Kuah town here in the morning.
"The 100kg carcass, which had shallow scratches on its body, was taken by boat to Kuah where it was later stored at the Langkawi Underwater World.
"The animal, measuring 190cm, was still bleeding from its mouth when it was found.
"Langkawi fisheries head Badeli Hassan said a post-mortem would be conducted by an expert from the Turtle and Marine Eco-system Centre in Rantau Abang, Dungun.
"Meanwhile, islander Mohd Ratu Mansur, 30, who helped retrieve the carcass, said the locals here initially thought the animal was a seal.
"'We didn’t know it was a dugong as we’ve never seen one before. Then I remembered watching a programme about the dugong which was found in Johor.'
"'Maybe it got lost here as I’ve never heard local folk talking about any dugong sightings before,' he said."


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Dragons found in Brazil

Two new species of lizard found in Brazil were described in the latest issue of the South American Journal of Herpetology. No more than fourteen centimeters from head to tail, these small creatures resemble miniature dragons according to the scientists who discovered them. Living primarily near the ground, on tree trunks and small cavities, they use their disruptive colors and cryptic behavior as camouflage in the dense and dry savannas. Their Latinized names refer to their morphology: quinarius in allusion to the five well-marked dorsal crests, and squarrosus in reference to the stiff, erected scales of the entire body.
“Time is running out as habitat destruction continues. Future studies on the Stenocercine lizards will provide a much better picture of diversity, as the new species carry unique and very important information on speciation processes that may help to understand the relationships between major blocks of open habitats in South America,” says Brazilian herpetologist Cristiano Nogueira, a biodiversity analyst with Conservation International (CI) and co-author of the paper that first named the two new species.

Recent estimates show that at least 2 million hectares of the Cerrado are destroyed each year. It is estimated that by 2030, only the legally protected areas (now covering less than 3 percent of the region) will remain as original Cerrado habitats.

The two new species are found generally in a special type of dense savanna, locally called “carrasco,” in dry, flat sandstone tabletops. This type of habitat, whose origins are still a puzzle to botanists, harbor a mixture of Cerrado and Caatinga plant species, and is being quickly destroyed by irregular charcoal production and soybean plantations. These habitats may represent ancient vegetation types now restricted to naturally isolated fragments within the surrounding Caatinga and Cerrado.

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.

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The rodent with a whisp - a new rodent from Peru

In the rainforest of Peru a squirrel like rodent has been discovered.

A striking rodent, closer in relation to spiny rats than to squirrels, it features a wick like tail of black and a broad head covered throughout with long transitional fur of reddish to gray.

The new rodent has been dubbed Isothrix barbarabrownae and was found in 1999 at 6200 feet . The find occurred while researchers where in the Manu National Park and Biosphere Reserve Mountains in Peru.

Using genetic analysis the discoverers have been reviewing the proposed evolutionary connection of the South American rodents. This analysis is suggestive that the new species may have arisen from Andean ancestry.

The description of the new species is presented within Mastozoologia Neotropical, while early work detailing the findings of the research team was in Fieldiana: Zoology.
The total species finds for the research team has been 1 opossum, 7 bats and 3 rodents all from the same river valley of research in Peru.
Please see:

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Frilled Shark Caught on Tape

A frilled shark caught on tape can be viewed over at Reuters.

This video was shot near Japan and aired January 24, 2007.

The "frilled shark" (Chlamydoselachus anguineus ) grows to around 2 metres in length and is characterized by its eel-like appearance, three-pronged teeth, caudal fin lacking a bottom lobe and six gill slits (six sets), among other items.
Named in 1884, this shark is a living representative of a primitive shark order, Hexanchiformes.
Found on outer continental and insular shelves and upper slopes, usually between 120 and 1,280 meters, it is occasionally caught at the surface. Although not known to be a danger to man, its teeth are sharp enough to inflict some harm though.
Their frilled and eel-like body is reminiscent of some "sea-serpent" accounts.

Paleontologists Discover Most Primitive Primate Skeleton

January 23, 2007:

The origins and earliest branches of primate evolution are clearer and more ancient by 10 million years than previous studies estimated, according to a study featured on the cover of the Jan. 23 print edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The paper by researchers at Yale, the University of Winnipeg, Stony Brook University, and led by University of Florida paleontologist Jonathan Bloch reconstructs the base of the primate family tree by comparing skeletal and fossil specimens representing more than 85 modern and extinct species. The team also discovered two 56-million-year-old fossils, including the most primitive primate skeleton ever described.

In the two-part study, an extensive evaluation of skeletal structures provides evidence that plesiadapiforms, a group of archaic mammals once thought to be more closely related to flying lemurs, are the most primitive primates. The team analyzed 173 characteristics of modern primates, tree shrews, flying lemurs with plesiadapiform skeletons to determine their evolutionary relationships. High-resolution CT scanning made fine resolution of inaccessible structures inside the skulls possible.

"This is the first study to bring it all together," said co-author Eric Sargis, associate professor of anthropology at Yale University and Assistant Curator of Vertebrate Zoology at Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History. "The extensive dataset, the number and type of characteristics we were able to compare, and the availability of full skeletons, let us test far more than any previous study."
At least five major features characterize modern primates: relatively large brains, enhanced vision and eyes that face forward, a specialized ability to leap, nails instead of claws on at least the first toes, and specialized grasping hands and feet. Plesiadapiforms have some but not all of these traits. The article argues that these early primates may have acquired the traits over 10 million years in incremental changes to exploit their environment.

While the study did not include a molecular evaluation of the samples, according to Sargis, these results are consistent with molecular studies on related living groups. Compatibility with the independent molecular data increases the researchers' confidence in their own results.

Bloch discovered the new plesiadapiform species, Ignacius clarkforkensis and Dryomomys szalayi, just outside Yellowstone National Park in the Bighorn Basin with co-author Doug Boyer, a graduate student in anatomical sciences at Stony Brook. Previously, based only on skulls and isolated bones, scientists proposed that Ignacius was not an archaic primate, but instead a gliding mammal related to flying lemurs. However, analysis of a more complete and well-preserved skeleton by Bloch and his team altered this idea.

"These fossil finds from Wyoming show that our earliest primate ancestors were the size of a mouse, ate fruit and lived in the trees," said study leader Jonathan Bloch, a vertebrate paleontology curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History. "It is remarkable to think we are still discovering new fossil species in an area studied by paleontologists for over 100 years."

Researchers previously hypothesized plesiadapiforms as the ancestors of modern primates, but the idea generated strong debate within the primatology community. This study places the origins of Plesiadapiforms in the Paleocene, about 65 (million) to 55 million years ago in the period between the extinction of the dinosaurs and the first appearance of a number of undisputed members of the modern orders of mammals.

"Plesiadapiforms have long been one of the most controversial groups in mammalian phylogeny," said Michael J. Novacek, curator of paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History. "First, they are somewhere near primates and us. Second, historically they have offered tantalizing, but very often incomplete, fossil evidence. But the specimens in their study are beautifully and spectacularly preserved."

"The results of this study suggest that plesiadapiforms are the critical taxa to study in understanding the earliest phases of human evolution. As such, they should be of very broad interest to biologists, paleontologists, and anthropologists," said co-author Mary Silcox, professor of anthropology at the University of Winnipeg.

"This collaboration is the first to bring together evidence from all regions of the skeleton, and offers a well-supported perspective on the structure of the earliest part of the primate family tree," Bloch said.

The research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, Field Museum of Natural History, Yale University, Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (Canada), University of Winnipeg, the Paleobiological Fund, and The Wenner--Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

Beaked Whale Stranding / Death

Whale may be a mountain of information

By Lunga Mtshizana

The carcass of a rare beaked whale at Morgan’s Bay may hold the key to unlocking new information about this mysterious mammal of the deep.

The 5,7 ton whale died on Sunday after a dramatic attempt to push it back into the ocean failed.
“The beaked whale is the least known whale and it is also amongst the least known mammals, therefore this is a very significant find,” Port Elizabeth Museum marine mammal scientist Stephanie Plön said.
Yesterday, Plön and her team removed the whale’s stomach contents and reproductive organs and took genetic samples, measurements and photographs. The scientists are hoping to determine the type of beaked whale this female specimen belonged to.

“Genetic analysis will help us determine whether this is a new species of beaked whale or whether it belongs to one of the existing species,” said Plön.

“From its stomach contents we will be able to determine its feeding behaviour and it will help us learn more about an animal which is very rare in South Africa and in other parts of the world.”

In 2004, scientists at the Port Elizabeth Museum found a new species of beaked whale after using genetic testing.

Gill Watson, collections manager for the Port Elizabeth Museum, said there were very minimal chances that the blood from the beaked whale would attract sharks to the beach, but she advised people not to swim at Morgan’s Bay until all the whale’s blood had been washed away.

Plön added the Eastern Cape Parks Board will now bury the dead whale and that scientists would return at a later stage for the animal’s skeleton. Plön said the whale might have been washed up because of old age, or because it was sick or in labour. She advised locals not to eat its meat as the cause of death has not been determined.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

New Mexico Sasquatch

Jerry Padilla passed along a news account he wrote for the Taos (NM) News, involving a Sasquatch sighting in northern Taos County. From the January 18, 2007, edition:

Interesting find becomes scary experience for Costilla man

By Jerry A. Padilla

The Taos News

"In the interest of protecting a fragile ecosystem and a potentially rare and misunderstood species, the exact location of the following experience is best not revealed. Suffice it to say, the unusual encounter occurred in a canyon of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near the Colorado-New Mexico border in northern Taos County.

"Arturo 'Homie' Mart'nez, 67, of Costilla said he decided 'to tell The Taos News about my experience because many people I’ve shared the information with don’t seem to take me serious. However, many do, and they have encouraged me to come forward with my story.'
"Mart'nez, originally of Arroyo Hondo, has spent a lifetime in the mountains, canyons and wilds of Northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, and can identify all the native wildlife, plants and animals, whatever the season or conditions. Not long ago, he and a person he calls a 'super friend' had a frightening, but very interesting experience while scouting for elk in preparation for a hunt. His friend has chosen to remain anonymous. Mart'nez made personal notes about what happened in this mountain canyon area Sept. 27.
"'I, myself, and my friend set out to scout for game, but something weird happened.'
"He explained that earlier the first day, while scouting in stands of aspens within sight of the community of Amalia from up high, Mart'nez found an interesting, naturally formed piece of aspen tree that strongly resembled a human face. 'Nobody carved it, it grew that way and I decided to bring it back.'
"After leaving the object at home, Mart'nez and friend returned to another area several miles away from where they had been earlier in the day. This time, while driving on another fork of the rough road, they found many tops of aspen trees cleanly broken off that were strewn over the road.
"'We decided to investigate who was breaking the trees and throwing them on the road. I asked my friend, "Who would want to do this?"' Mart'nez explained, 'These were aspens ranging in size from 3 to 4 inches to 6 to 8 inches in diameter, cleanly broken about 13 to 15 feet up the trunk of the trees. There were no tracks of bear or elk, or human tracks — no tracks of any kind, no sawdust at the bottom of the trees and what was strange, it was as if they were thrown several feet away from where they were broken. There were two big aspens completely uprooted and thrown away from where they had been growing. If bears had broken them, they would have left claw marks. Bears leave a smell on trees they scratch or break.'
"'Elk in rutting battles leave the ground very disturbed. It wasn’t, and seeing many broken trees we continued on to investigate who or what was breaking them. The broken tree tops were lying in the road as if something or someone wanted to say, "Nobody is welcome here." Rounding a curve, my tire blew out and things started getting very scary,' he continued.
"'We could hear elk bugling up higher and we decided to walk back down since it was late afternoon,' Mart'nez said. 'We needed to get a spare, and come back to change the tire. We were taking our time checking out more bro-ken trees, and there was easily over a 100 broken the same way. That’s when I heard the scariest noise I have ever heard in my life.
"'It started at first, sounding like an elk bugling, then turned into a scary roar so loud it kept echoing through the canyon,' he continued. 'The elk up high stopped bugling. It kept making that noise at us, it reminded me of the noise the devil made in "The Exorcist" movie. Whatever was making the noise started breaking trees and throwing them in our direction a few seconds later.
"'Then I saw a huge creature moving through the edge of an aspen grove, about 30 to 40 feet from me. It walked upright, but hunched over, maybe 6 feet tall bent over, and standing straight was 7 to 8 feet tall with very dark fur all over. It was not a bear. Bears don’t walk like humans. I am convinced I saw what many call Sasquatch. Even with my gun, I was very scared and we left in a hurry. It seemed to be following in the edge of the trees, breaking more, throwing them toward us and making that awful noise. It was almost dark and we had to get out of there,' he recounted.
"The two men fled down the mountain, and Mart'nez said every time the creature roared the noise continued reverberating through the entire area. 'I felt like at any moment something was going to grab me from behind all the way out of there.'
"They arrived on foot in Costilla well after dark, deciding no matter how scared they felt, it was necessary to return to the canyon, change the blown tire and bring Mart'nez’s vehicle back. The two men returned to where the vehicle was parked, and by the time they changed the spare it was after 2 a.m. on Sept. 28.
"'We decided to stay until daylight and try to find out what it really was we had experienced,' Mart'nez continued, 'It was deathly quiet the whole time, nothing moving, no elk bugling, not a sound at all. At sunrise, we checked around, found more aspens broken the same way. Nothing else happened to us. There was no sign of anything out of the ordinary except more broken trees.'
"Not finding any other evidence of their frightening experience of the afternoon before, Mart'nez and his friend returned home. 'Like I said, I know what I saw. I know it is not a bear or any other of the wildlife I have seen around here all my life. I decided to tell my story because America, wake up, these creatures exist,' he said. 'Every time I go into the mountains anywhere from now on I will have a camera and an audio recorder with me. I have had other people tell me that even though they wish to remain anonymous, they have had similar experiences over the years, but don’t say much because they get ridiculed. I know what I saw and heard.'"


New Book by Mark Opsasnick

Got a notice today that Mark Opsasnick is releasing a paperback of several of his investigative articles. I think (but not certain) these were originally published in Strange Magazine. These investigations have all been rewritten for the book, and if they are anything like the rewrite on Mark's Maryland Bigfoot Digest, should be excellent reading. The book is titled, The Real Story Behind the Exorcist: A Study of the Haunted Boy and Other True-Life Horror Legends from Around the Nation's Capital. Of particular interest to cryptozoology enthusiasts will be the chapter, Horror on Fletchertown Road: The Goatman of Prince George’s County, Maryland. You can order the book now at XLibris, and it will be available on Amazon shortly.


Tegus in Florida

It's common now to see the occasional news article on invasive species in Florida, particularly noting the Burmese pythons and monitor lizards. A recent column by Tom Palmer notes another big reptile has been seen there:

"Wildlife officials have noted another new lizard called the giant tegu, a South American species that can grow up to four feet long. Its diet includes bird eggs, and I've read there's some concern these lizards could invade gopher tortoise burrows and eat anything seeking refuge there except the tortoises.
"So far there are no tegu reports outside of Hillsborough County, but if these large lizards become established, it will only be a matter of time before they spread into Polk County."


Bigfoot is Stolen


The News TribunePublished:

January 23rd, 2007

Bigfoot has gone missing in Federal Way, leaving no massive footprints in sight.

It isn’t a hoax. An 8-foot-tall, wooden carving of the fabled Northwest beast was reported stolen Monday from a chiropractic office on Southwest Dash Point Road.

Tim Payne, who’s had a practice in Federal Way for two decades, propped up the statue near his business’ secluded driveway more than five years ago. His family says he is fascinated with the lore of Bigfoot, which is why he chose the creature instead of a wooden bear or gorilla.
Although intimidating, Bigfoot welcomed guests and served as a landmark for lost passers-by. Payne said he paid $1,400 to the friend of one of his patients to carve it.

Payne couldn’t believe his eyes when he pulled into work Monday morning. Someone had apparently stolen the statue along with the chain that secured it to the fence. All he found were tire marks leaving the scene.

“Oh my goodness,” he remembers saying. “Someone finally got him.”

The news shocked Chantel Wilson, one of Payne’s two daughters and massage therapists at the family-run office. She said the beast was part of the family, no matter how much hairier it is than the rest of them.

Wilson’s three children often climbed the statue. Around town, people would describe how they couldn’t help but look at it.
“We would say, ‘If you see the Sasquatch, our office is the next right,’” she said.

Even authorities sometimes use Bigfoot as a landmark when trying to track down stranded drivers or others in the neighborhood, said Federal Way Police spokeswoman Stacy Flores. Her department took a report on the missing creature about 9:30 a.m. Monday.
Bigfoot is just the latest in a string of Federal Way icons that have gone AWOL in recent months.


Monday, January 22, 2007

Updates to BFR

Just added to BioFortean Review:

In the PDF archives, a copy of "New Light on the Cahow," published in The Auk in 1951.

Craig's review of Valley of the Skookum is now up in the review section.


Pfiesteria Kills Explained

A long-standing controversy on certain mass fish-kills has been the culpability of Pfisteria, a strange little algae which under certain conditions appears to bloom and kill surrounding aquatic life (presenting also a health hazard to humans). [See the book, And the Waters Turned to Blood by Rodney Barker, for an introduction to the subject.] Laboratory results in the past have been problematic, but a new study may have the answers to this question:

"A team of researchers from the Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, S.C., has uncovered a subtle chemical pathway by which a normally inoffensive algae, Pfiesteria piscicida, can suddenly start producing a lethal toxin. The discovery, reported last week in Environmental Science and Technology, could resolve a long-standing mystery surrounding occasional mass fish kills on the East Coast.
"Pfiesteria has been implicated for years in a series of otherwise unexplained episodes of mass fish death throughout its range from roughly Delaware to Alabama, particularly in the Neuse River in North Carolina and the Chesapeake Bay. The single-cell organism can experience explosive growth resulting in algae blooms in coastal waters. While it has been suspected not only in fish kills but in incidents of human memory loss and other environmental and health-related effects, no one has ever conclusively identified the actual mechanism. Attempts to grow lethal Pfiesteria in the laboratory have had inconsistent results.
"The Hollings Marine Laboratory is a joint institution of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the College of Charleston, and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). Lead researcher Peter Moeller of NOAA suspected that the presence or absence of heavy metals might be the missing factor accounting for Pfiesteria's lethality, and put together a multidisciplinary research team to identify the actual toxin and the conditions under which it is produced.
"The work was complicated by the fact that the suspect toxin turns out to be highly unstable, decomposing rapidly once it's activated. Chemists from NIST and MUSC used an array of advanced spectroscopic techniques to determine that the toxin is characterized by the presence of copper-sulfur complexes. 'NIST saved the day,' Moeller said, 'because we were working with only microgram and submicrogram quantities of the toxin. To not only determine that a metal was indeed present but even tell us which one really broke things open.'
"With that lead, Moeller's team established that the Pfiesteria cell can produce a copper-containing exotoxin--a toxin produced external to the cell itself--possibly as a mechanism to protect itself from copper in the environment. When exposed to sunlight or other environmental factors that can destabilize it, the toxin rapidly breaks down into short-lived free radicals, highly reactive chemical species believed to be the actual lethal agents. To observe the entire chain of events requires just the right combination of copper ions, temperature, light and Pfiesteria, explaining the difficulty researchers have had in reproducing the effect according to Moeller.
Although exotoxins like that produced by Pfiesteria are not common, the researchers observe, a number of other microalgae species are known to produce them, and under the right conditions in metal-rich waters they also might produce lethal variants."

Papers on this:

Environmental Science and Technology Online, "New Pfiesteria toxin identified"
NOAA news release, "Study Shows Pfiesteria Triggered By Multiple Components"
P.D.R. Moeller, K.R. Beauchesne, K.M. Huncik, W.C. Davis, S.J. Christopher, P. Riggs-Gelasco and A.K. Gelasco. Metal complexes and free radical toxins produced by Pfiesteria piscicida. Environ. Sci. Technol., ASAP Article 10.1021/es0617993 S0013-936X(06)01799-8

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Kokako Oldies

With the recent declaration (re-declaration actually) of the South Island Kokako being extinct in New Zealand by the DoC, it is only fitting to share some "older" accounts not often referred to. So, enjoy a few from the files:

Volume 13, Number 4, December, 1966


Late in January 1961 and early in the morning I entered the bush on the Nelson slope of the Mangatapu Saddle on the old road from the Maitai Valley to Pelorus Bridge. Shortly I was attracted by the loud calling of a bird which I located on the trunk of a large beech tree about 18 feet from the ground. The bird did not seem to notice me at all, so that I was able to watch it for some minutes before pouring rain drove me on. There was movement in an adjoining tree, and I was aware of what I think was a young bird; but it was the
adult which interested me. It invariably moved upwards in short springing hops; and tapped its beak on the branch, left and right. I think it was urging the young bird to join it. It called loudly all the time I was within hearing distance.

It looked about the size of a Tue. I never saw its breast or under its wings. A yellowish colour was noticeable about its face; and its back which it kept in view even when it sprang on to a branch and proceeded up it, was, I think, brownish green. It was most active all the time I was watching it. I have tried to identify it on various occasions since, but it was only when I overheard a fellow-camper at a Forest and Bird Camp at Waikaremoana mention the characteristic up-ward springing climb of the Kokako that I had a clue to its identity. There is no doubt in my mind that the bird I watched below the
Maungatapu Saddle was a South Island Kokako (Callaeas c. cinerea).
- H. E. READ

[Mrs. Read has discussed this incident with me. There seems to be no reason to doubt the accuracy of her identification; especially ,as the South Island Kokako has since been reported near Picton. - Ed.]

Volume 28, Part 4, December, 1981

(Callaeas cinerea cinerea) IN MOUNT ASPIRING NATIONAL PARK

For several years from about 1957, I went down to Mt Albert Station, then owned by Mr John Quaife, to help with the autumn cattle muster, usually in late March and early April. The calves duly weaned and the sale lot on their way to Cromwell, I would go up into the Teal Creek valley for a few days of deer shooting. The track, a seldom-used blazed trail, led steeply up the north side of the valley through thick silver beech forest with little understorey and a scattering of totara.

As I climbed and returned I would always come upon areas of the mossy forest floor that had been recently disturbed, and rotting tree trunks and branches that had been picked at and underdug. I suspected kaka but saw no other sign.

On my visit to Teal Creek in 1964, I heard what I described to my hosts as a rather exalted Tui, followed by the harsh and prolonged cry of a falcon, then silence. Mrs Quaife, who had heard of their possible previous existence in the area, suggested Kokako, but I didn't give much credence to it.

The following year, still intrigued by the "ploughing," I took more care to travel quietly and, on my way down, spent an hour or so just listening. I was rewarded by hearing the same Tui-like sounds from two different directions, and did see movement of what appeared to be a largish bird in the tree tops from whence one song came. Again a falcon came screaming down the valley and all sounds ceased.

The next year (1966), I missed the muster and paid my visit in early May. I was coming quietly down the trail and stopped to ease my shoulders by resting my pack, which was loaded with venison, on a convenient rock. Presently, I realised I was looking straight at
a strange bird perching on a branch 15-20 metres away. It was just below the canopy of a beech downslope from me, about 15 metres above the ground but horizontally only about 3 metres above me. It seemed to be quietly singing to itself as its head and beak were
constantly moving and I heard an occasional note, but with a gusty wind rustling the leaves and the river roaring below, it was hard to tell if the song was continuous. The light was not good, but I could see detail quite well. It was facing directly towards me, the tip of its tail visible below the 10-cm-thick branch. It was dark grey with jet
black head and beak. One could imagine it was wearing a mask ! Its wattles, which were quite prominent, were putty coloured, just a light fawn, but it was undoubtedly a Kokako.

I tried to ease out of my pack straps to get at my camera, but, the bird immediately hopped into the upper branches and disappeared. I was fairly sure I heard a snatch of song from another direction, but just then a falcon screamed down near the river and, apart from an occasional call from that, I heard nothing more. The position was
NZMS 1 Map S107 Grid 968687.

The following year (April 1967), I was within 400 metres of the previous sighting, and close to a patch of " ploughed" ground which I had seen on my way up the valley about six days before. It was a fine afternoon, no wind, the only sound being the roar of the
river just below. I had stopped to listen, propped against a tree for only a few minutes, when a Kokako appeared walking along a log which protruded from a thick patch of fern beside a patch of "ploughed" ground. I think it saw me immediately because it quickened
its pace, flew from the end of the log to a sloping tree trunk a short distance below, and began to climb the trunk in a most peculiar way. With each rather ungainly step upwards, it appeared to hold on to the bark with its beak, look in my direction, take another step, hold, look, and so on until it reached the branches, when it hopped rapidly out of sight. I was fairly certain I saw two largish birds moving in the canopy nearby, but as a small flock of parakeets was moving through just then, I could not be sure. I had to hurry on then, as it is not a place one would care to be benighted in.

The following day I took Mrs Quaife up to the spot, but in 3-4 hours we saw and heard nothing except the inevitable falcon.

I had informed the resident park ranger at Wanaka of my sighting the previous year, and again jogged his memory. The Park Board eventually flew in a hut to a nearby clearing, and spent some time in an unsuccessful search.
My next and last trip (1968) was also without sighting except of the falcon.

K. McBRIDE, Kawarau Downs, RD4, Kaikoura

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A new population of orchid - monomeria barbata - or a new orchid species?

Orchid found in Camerons likely a new species
January 21, 2007

Two environmentalists may have discovered an entirely new species of orchid, deep in the jungles of the Ruil mountains near Jasar Valley here.

Embi Abdullah, 59, and N. Madi, 52, were trekking in the jungles in the middle of last year when they found what they thought was a common species of orchid growing on the bark of a fallen tree.

“The plant was not flowering and looked like an ordinary orchid. We picked it up thinking we’d try to salvage it by replanting it ourselves,” said Madi.

The wild orchid enthusiasts, formerly members of the Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands Society, were stunned when the plant began to flower last week.

Ruil excitement: Embi holding up the orchid species he and fellow environmentalist Madi found at the Ruil mountains in Cameron Highlands for closer scrutiny.Embi, who has studied orchids for more than 15 years, said it sprouted 14 flowers from a stalk growing straight out from the plant’s rhizome. Each flower has a circumference of a 20 sen coin.

“It looked like nothing we had ever seen before. The flowers were small, yellowish green with deep purplish brown spots and slope vertically downwards,” said Embi.

After much research, he believes the plant closely resembles a type of wild orchid called the monomeria barbata, which was first discovered some 200 years ago in Nepal.

“I found that the barbata is rare and can sometimes be found in parts of Nepal, Myanmar, Vietnam and northeastern India. There are no records of the flower ever being found in Malaysia,” said Embi, who confirmed this after checking with several sources all over the country.

“But if it is the same one found in Nepal, it is of an entirely new genus from the orchids found in Malaysia.

He said that although the monomeria barbata best resembled the flower they found, the two blooms may not be of the same species of barbata.

“It may be a variety of the monomeria. If this is true, we will probably name it after the mountain, Ruil, and have it registered at the Kew Gardens in London,” said Embi.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Todd Standing Bigfoot Video Shown 1-19-2007

This is not new news, the film has been a round a while (see Cryptomundo ). But this does outline that the film is still be shown and moving around. More show times / locations can be found at Sylvanic.

Does Bigfoot exist? Meet the man who says he’s got the proof
John B. SpigottFriday January 19, 2007

From the Lloydminster Meridian Booster

If Edmonton native Todd Standing is right, the elusive Bigfoot may be elusive no more.Standing will be hosting a documentary showing tonight at the Vic Juba Community Theatre about the legendary creature, and says he not only knows where Bigfoot lives, but has also seen one.

“I’m showing the third video, a video which hasn’t been publicly released yet,” said Standing. “It’s going to be the most definitive piece of Bigfoot evidence ever.”Standing said he had a kineticist – an expert on motion related to body movement – do an analysis on the footage and was told by the kineticist that the fastest man in the world could not do it in 24 seconds, while the bipedal animal on film did it in 17 seconds. “There are no special effects done to the tape,” said Standing. “If no human being could have done it … what did it? I’m not saying believe me, but all I want is to get a CNN or a NBC type media to come with me, and I’ll prove to everyone.”

“You know what? I probably wouldn’t believe me. But give me an opportunity, and I’ll go out and I’ll prove it.”

A close friend of Standing’s had a run-in with Bigfoot in the region known as Sylvanic, which got Standing interested in the possibility of delving into the Bigfoot myth for himself. All Standing will reveal about the location of Sylvanic is that it is in the North American Rocky Mountains.

Standing embarked on several expeditions to Sylvanic beginning in 2005 in search of Bigfoot, and says after three expeditions he still didn’t believe that Bigfoot definitively existed. It wasn’t until he saw the nocturnal behaviour of an unidentified animal that he started to change from skeptic to believer.“It was what I saw at night … no animal could have done the things we witnessed,” said Standing.

“It wasn’t a ghost out there either – it was flesh and blood. There’s something out there no one knows about.”Standing says he became a believer when he heard an animal traverse 200 metres of dense bush and climb a 50 foot rock face straight up.

“When I heard that in 40 seconds, I became a believer,” said Standing. “I couldn’t deny what I heard.”Although Standing says he could easily go public with the information he has now and show people exactly what it takes to capture these animals, he wants to make sure the animals are protected from people who might hunt them for sport.

“They evade people as a community,” said Standing. “I believe they have a special sensory perception, but I can’t prove that yet. All I know is they triangulate themselves in an area of the mountains wherever they feel comfortable and when people come, they have daywatchers, so they just back away.”Death threats, angry letters and furious people all come with the territory for a man who is trying to prove what some say simply cannot exist.“Some people are just ignorant and rude about things,” said Standing.

“But for the most part, I get tremendous support from the people and places I go to.”Standing said his next video will focus on obtaining physical evidence of Bigfoot, something he doesn’t foresee as being a big problem.“The only reason we were unable to get physical evidence last time is because it was raining 90 per cent of the time,” said Standing.

“When you’re looking for hair samples in the muck and the rain, it’s just not going to happen. But we came back with the video samples, which are very conclusive, and we want to carry on with our research and in the spring do another expedition.”The documentary shows at 7 p.m., 8 p.m., and 9 p.m. tonight at the Vic Juba, and all proceeds for the non-profit event will be donated to the Lloydminster SPCA.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Bornean Skink

From the AP - January 19th, 2007 - JANET McCONNAUGHEY

BATON ROUGE, La. -- The sweat-drenched scientist turned over yet another log in the Borneo rain forest. There, its chocolate-colored scales gleaming among the rotting leaves, was something new to science.

Quick as a skink, Christopher Austin's hand flashed out. He grabbed the tiny lizard, and another nearby. They were about 1 1/2 inches long with subtle gold stripes.

Austin, assistant curator at Louisiana State University's Museum of Natural Science, said he was amazed at the find.
"These small skinks are very hard to find. They're very poorly represented in museum collections. They also tend to be arboreal, on the tops of trees," said Austin, who's studied reptiles and amphibians for years.

"Probably in another second, I realized it was a new species. I was very excited," said Austin.

That was in the summer of 2003. It has taken until now to prove what he knew almost instantly, that Austin had discovered a new species.
Among other things, he had to count the scales on the tops, sides and bottoms of heads the size of a pencil eraser _ and even on the bottoms of the lizards' tiny toes. After all, people in the jungle don't usually have DNA analyzers to identify animals they find. They need things they can see.

The process will culminate in March, when the Journal of Herpetology publishes a paper by Austin and Indraneil Das of the Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation at the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak.
Until that article comes out, Austin can't tell anyone the new find's scientific name. Its common name, he said, is Borneo striped skink, or Borneo striped lipinia.

Skinks are one of the most varied kinds of lizards _ there are more than 1,300 known species. They tend to be glossy, with shorter legs and less noticeable necks than other kinds of lizards. U.S. species are found in back yards from California to Florida and as far north as New England and Minnesota.

Borneo is a hotbed for new species. At least 52 new animals and plants were found last year alone, the World Wildlife Fund reported in December. Hundreds have been found over the past decade, said Matthew Lewis, the fund's program officer for species conservation.
He wouldn't guess how many more may be undiscovered. "Nobody has really looked thoroughly yet," he said. "It's just a matter now of doing intense exploration and cataloguing of species that are there."

That work is essential, he said, because forests are rapidly being leveled for palm oil, coffee, cocoa and other plantations.
"There's a chance they'll disappear before they have a chance to be discovered by science. It's a widespread problem everywhere there's tropical forests," Lewis said.

Terry Schwaner, a herpetologist at North Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega, Ga., who, like Austin, has studied life in tropical rainforests, said, "Every new species you find is another little piece in the puzzle about how the whole group came about. That's what's important about it."

Austin wasn't looking for new animals when he found the Borneo skinks. Rather, he was on a sort of herpetologist's head count, a trip paid for by LSU to find out which kinds of reptiles and amphibians lived where on the world's third-largest island.

That meant tromping through the rainforest with temperatures in the high 90s and humidity at near 100 percent, wearing long pants and a long-sleeve shirt. "Even though you're burning-up hot, it's really good for keeping mosquitoes off. And long pants are really good to keep the leeches off," he said.

Movies would have you think that jungle explorers must cut away vines and other plants. But that's usually true only at the edges: the dense canopy of leaves high overhead blocks out most light, so the forest floor is covered with rotting leaves and logs rather than living plants.
The underside of logs is a great place to find animal life, and Austin said he probably turned over hundreds before he found the new skink.
The same sort of thing happened last summer, on a trip to New Guinea which _ like Borneo, is a "megadiversity" area. That trip, financed by the National Science Foundation, was aimed at figuring out why New Guinea has so many kinds of plants and animals.
He found several possible new species: a greenish-brown skink; a small, venomous snake related distantly to the coral snake; and two or three kinds of frogs, one of them a tree frog about 3 inches long from snout to back end.

He's checking out the snake first, a brown snake with darker swirls on its head. The first pass on DNA and some of the physical characteristics suggest a new species, Austin said. He feels that their discovery is important. "The way in which the world works, species need to be described _ they have to have a name on them before we can begin to protect them."


Some more on the Kokako

Chad has posted earlier this week on the South Island Kokako, likewise Loren Coleman over at Cryptomundo also posted on the birds "extinct classification".

While Rhys Buckingham has been a long time supporter and research on the South Island Kokako, he has not been alone. Another prominent research, as mentioned in both Chad and Loren's posts, has been Ron Nilsson. Here is an additional piece tied to the "extinct" declare, this comes a day or so after the original declaration. From New Zealand Herald of January 17, 2007

The South Island kokako is now listed as officially extinct, but one of its most dedicated fans is still a believer.

Ron Nilsson, of Christchurch, has spent more than 20 years searching for the South Island kokako, which he says he has heard up to 100 times and seen once.

Conservation officials yesterday formally declared the South Island kokako extinct, saying there had been no confirmed sightings for more than 40 years.

But Mr Nilsson said he saw a bird just five years ago in Westland.

"I watched the bird flit across an old forestry road."

Mr Nilsson, a self-taught bird expert who has worked for the Wildlife Service, said he knew it was a kokako because of its size and behaviour.

"They are bigger than a tui ... like a small native pigeon. It has a peculiar body movement, like a saddleback."

Mr Nilsson said some of his colleagues had also seen and heard the elusive bird.

He planned to get back into the Fiordland bush in the next month to continue his search.

He has also searched remote valleys in Nelson, Westland and Stewart Island for signs of the grey bird with orange wattles at each side of the beak.
"There are half a dozen places where it could be."

He said that unlike the Department of Conservation, he would not have the audacity to say something was extinct.

For more read on at the New Zealand Herald

Having performing some research and writing about this bird and its connection to cryptozoology in 1998, it is indeed sad to see that despite finds of kick-ups and occasional sightings, the bird may well be slipping away completely. But, as history has shown with other "extinct" birds, there are times when remnant populations will be found. We can hope this is the case with the South Island Kokako.



From the Times News Network - January 19, 2007

Udupi Jan 19: A new species of legless amphibian has been discovered in an orchard of S R Parodkar and R P Kerkar of Goa.

The discovery was made G K Bhat, a zoology professor in Udupi MGM college. The species is commonly known as 'immandehavu' and has been named as Gegeneophis goaensis.
Prof Bhat's research paper on this investigation has been accepted for publication in the reputed journal Zootaxa, New Zealand.

Prof Bhat said a team led by him and K P Dinesh from the Zoological Survey of India, Kozhikode, P Prashanth from Agumbe Rainforest Research Station and Nirmal Kulkarni from Goa had encountered two specimens of this animal in 2004 and the team was in search of more of these to confirm that they are, indeed, a new species.

Their repeated visit to the sites from 2004 to 2006 in rainy season ultimately enabled them to find many more individual specimens last year.

Bhat said that, earlier, the team had discovered two new species — one form Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, Goa, and another from the surroundings of Kollur Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary, Karnataka.

They were named Gegneophis nadkarnil and Gegeneophis madhavaorum, respectively.

These amphibians, also known as Caecilians, are the least known of the three kinds of amphibians (the other two are frogs and salamanders) as they are legless, secretive, nocturnal, burrowing, earthworm/snakelike amphibians. These creature are characterised by minute eyes and rings around the body. They are non-poisonous and do not bite humans.

These legless amphibians are one of the bio-indicators of healthy environments. Since amphibians live both in water and on land, they are the first to respond to changes in the environment.


Uromastyx yemensis x 2

In Zootaxa 1394: 1-23 (2007) a new species of spiny-tailed lizards is described from South-West Arabia. The species consists of two sub-species Uromastyx yemenensis shobraki and Uromastyx yemenensis ocellata.

A new polytypic species of the genus Uromastyx Merrem 1820 (Reptilia: Squamata: Agamidae: Leiolepidinae) from southwestern Arabia - Thomas M. Wilms and Andreas Schmitz

The new species is closely related to U. Benti, but differs from others of the genus by smaller scales at mid-body and smaller ventrals. It is located at the south-western tip of the Arabian Peninsular with a different population (both color and genetic difference) also being present.

The spiny-tailed lizards of Uromastyx are found between 5º and 35º N in the desert area. They exist in Africa and portions of Asia.

The image herein is of Uromastyx acanthinurus


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Antarctic Seafloor Videos

You can view video footage taken from recent Antarctic seafloor exploration at the Costeau Society website.

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More UK Big Cat Sightings

More black feline reports from the UK:

"Professional lobster catcher Graham Barker said he watched a beast similar to those described in recent Herald and Gazette reports when he was out on the water last June.
"The animal was walking along the shoreline and he initially thought it was a big dog.
"Mr Barker, of Beltring Road, said, 'We were at Beachy Head at about 4.30am one day last June and we saw what we thought was a large dog running along the shore. We went nearer to have a look and realised it was a big cat. It was sat there on a black rock for about 15 minutes — 200lbs of jet black cat with a white mark on the right hand side of his cheek. Fifty feet away was close enough.'
"Three weeks later they were told somebody who had later been in a boat by the shoreline had found large paw prints at low tide.
"Mr Barker said, 'I couldn't believe it. He exists, he is up there. Two of us were in the boat. We took cameras up with us for the next six weeks but didn't see him again.'
"He added he has heard at least one other fisherman say they have seen the big cat."


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

dendrelaphis kopsteini - a new Bronzeback Snake

In Zootaxa 1394: 25-45 2007 a new species of Dendrelaphis snake is named.

A new species of Dendrelaphis (Serpentes: Colubridae) from Southeast Asia - Gernot Vogel and Johan Van Rooijen detail the species and give it the designation Dendrelaphis kopsteini.

The image attached is not of the new species description, rather Dendrelaphis formosus, but does show the striking appearance of these snakes. These snakes are also referred to at times as Bronzeback snakes or Tree Snakes due to their coloration. They are found in parts of Australia, Asia and New Guinea. These are not poisonous snakes.

From the abstract:

A new species of the colubrid genus Dendrelaphis Boulenger 1890 is described .Dendrelaphis kopsteini sp. nov. rangesfrom Thailand through Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore to Sumatra. A detailed statistical analysis of the differences between D. kopsteini sp. nov., D. formosus (Boie, 1827) and D. cyanochloris (Wall, 1921) is provided as the three spe­cies have been mixed up frequently in the literature. D. kopsteini sp. nov. differs from all other Dendrelaphis species by a brick red neck coloration . A neotype is designated and described for D. formosus and a lectotype is designated and described for D. cyanochloris.

Harry & The Hendersons Comes to US DVD

Harry and the Hendersons a favorite of many Bigfoot searchers, is finally arriving in the USA on DVD on April 24th 2007.....
DVD Features:- Commentary with Director William Dear- Deleted scenes- Making of featurette- "Harry... finding the missing link" Featurette- Newswrap. 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, dolby 5.1

Directed by William Dear and written by Bill Martin, Harry tells the story of a Sasquatch and an American family who work together to protect its secret after bringing it into civilization. The story is a family affair, and is decent for children.

Made in 1987, the movie featured John Lithgow, Kevin Peter Hall as Harry the Sasquatch(who also played Predator in the move Predator), David Suchet, Don Ameche and more. The makeup effects by Rick Baker also won an Academy Award.

The characters themselves, especially the researchers in the film, have characteristics of actual Bigfooters such as Rene Dahinden, Peter Byrnes, Grover Krantz and so forth.

While the movie has been out off and on on VHS in the USA, as well as laserdisc since 1993, this will be the first DVD release of the film.

The film sparked a spin-off television show as well that ran for a few years.

Craig Heinselman
Peterborough, NH

Brave: The Search for Spirit Dancer

A game with giant birds, wendigo and Bigfoot..... A cryptozoologists delight perhaps????

Brave: The Search for Spirit Dancer (Playstation )

Set in a fantastic world based upon the mythology of Native America, the game tells the coming of age story of Brave, a young Native American boy embarking on an epic journey to save his tribe. When his village is set upon by the evil Wendigo, and his friends are enslaved, Brave is sent to find the only one that can free them - Spirit Dancer, the greatest Shaman who ever lived. Hunting snarling evil wolves in a huge forest of towering Redwood trees, canoeing down raging river rapids, tracking the legendary Sasquatch through a swirling blizzard and battling on the back of a buffalo in the middle of a stampede are just some of the breathtaking challenges Brave will face. His journey will take him across a beautifully rich and interactive world inhabited by remarkable characters, bizarre creatures, and terrifying evil spirits......

Craig Heinselman

Peterborough, NH

The Cost of Carnivory

A recent open-access peer reviewed entry at PLoS, the authors review biomass of carnivores. The review yields a predictive model of mass to energy needs and projects size estimates on carnivores. This model may be beneficial in predictive examination of fossil finds, as well as new carnivores (as discovered) to project the expected maximum weight of the species. It can also be used as a litmus to determining weight estimates associated to those reports of large mammalian like creatures.

Craig Heinselman
Peterborough, NH

The Cost of Carnivory

C. Carbonem A. Teacher, J.M. Rowcliffe
PLoS Biology, February 2007, Volume 5, Issue 2

Given these energetic constraints, we predict a maximum mass for a mammalian carnivore at 1,100 kg. Among extant species, the polar bear is the largest carnivore with the largest recorded individual weighing 1,002 kg However, at least four carnivore species with a very large average body mass are known to occur in the fossil record: the short-faced bear Arctodus simus, estimated at 800–1,000 kg; the North American lion Panthera atrox and the South American sabercat Smilodon populator both around 500 kg; and Megistotherium osteothlastes (880 kg) While there is conflicting evidence about whether some of these species were pure carnivores (e.g., short-faced bear ), ancient bears had morphological similarities to the carnivorous polar bear. Thus, we believe that these species represent a possible upper limit to mammalian carnivore body size and this provides support for our model prediction. This prediction, however, is based on mammalian metabolic rates and costs of transport. Were we to assume lower metabolic rates (e.g., as in reptiles), we would predict a larger maximum mass. The largest terrestrial predators, such as Giganotosaurus and Tyrannosaurs, may have achieved their massive size by having a lower metabolic rate, and it is interesting, in this context, that estimates of total metabolic rate for these species are similar to those of a mammal weighing about a ton
Our analysis provides a broad perspective on energy and time budgets in mammalian terrestrial carnivores and provides insights into carnivore conservation and evolution, helping us to understand the vulnerability of large carnivores to historical and future extinctions. Among extant carnivores, the largest species are particularly vulnerable to human threat processes and have been shown to have higher rates of extinction in the fossil record than smaller species, even prior to the evolution of man . At the upper limits of body mass, an extremely high-prey biomass would be required to both minimize energy expenditure and maintain high rates of energy intake. Slight environmental perturbations, anthropogenic or otherwise, leading to lower prey availability, could readily upset this energy balance.

Final words, or a whisper

Two new studies appear in the recent journal Biological Conservation . The pieces cover unique species, numbering to close to 1000, within the Eastern Arc Mountains of Kenya and Tanzania. The are is rapidly coming under threat, yet has the greatest native concentrations of animals in Africa. These animals are found no place else on Earth. At least 832 plants, 43 butterflies, and 96 animals are only found here, this being the region where the highland mangabey was found recently (a new genus of monkey Rungwecebus) . Even more species remain unclassified, these numbers are upwards of 15 and include some new reptiles.

These surveys and analysis of threatened areas shed light on the plight of the regions, the species, and potentially the next monumental discovery in zoology. They can also be the grave markers for the future, the final words of the species, or the whispers of what we did not find in time.....

Craig Heinselman
Peterborough, NH

Biological Conservation Volume 134, Issue 2 , January 2007, Pages 209-231

The biological importance of the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania and Kenya
N.D. Burgessa, T.M. Butynskid, N.J. Cordeiroe, N.H. Doggartg, J. Fjeldsåh, K.M. Howelli, F.B. Kilahamaa, S.P. Loaderk, J.C. Lovettl, B. Mbilinyia, M. Menegonm, D.C. Moyern, E. Nashandaj, A. Perking, F. Roverom, W.T. Stanleyo and S.N. Stuartp

The Eastern Arc Mountains are renown in Africa for high concentrations of endemic species of animals and plants. Thirteen separate mountain blocks comprise the Eastern Arc, supporting around 3300 km2 of sub-montane, montane and upper montane forest, less than 30% of the estimated original forested area. At least 96 vertebrate species are endemic, split as follows: 10 mammal, 19 bird, 29 reptile and 38 amphibian species. This includes four endemic or nearly endemic species of primate – the Sanje Mangabey, the Iringa Red Colobus, the Mountain Galago and the new Kipunji monkey that forms its own monotypic genus. A further 71 vertebrate species are near-endemic. At least 800 vascular plant species are endemic, almost 10% of these being trees. These endemics include the majority of the species of African violet – Saintpaulia, a well-known flowering plant in Western households. An additional 32 species of bryophytes are also endemic. Many hundreds of invertebrates are also likely to be endemic, with data for butterflies, millipedes and dragonflies indicating potential trends in importance. Seventy-one of the endemic or near-endemic vertebrates are threatened by extinction (8 critical, 27 endangered, 36 vulnerable), with an additional seven wide ranging threatened species. Hundreds of plant species are also threatened. Most Eastern Arc endemics are closed-forest specialists and comprise taxa with an ancient history and those of more recent origin, including some possessing ancient affinities with taxa from West Africa, Madagascar, and even South America and Southeast Asia. Mountain block prioritisation for biodiversity conservation shows that Udzungwas, East Usambaras and Ulugurus are the most important blocks, with other important blocks being the Ngurus and West Usambaras. Rankings are correlated closely with the area of remaining forest. Most of the remaining forest is found within nearly 150 Government Forest Reserves, with 106 of these managed nationally for water catchment, biodiversity and soil conservation and where forest exploitation is not allowed. Outside these areas most forest has been cleared, except in small village burial/sacred sites, a few Village Forest Reserves, and inaccessible areas. In most Eastern Arc Mountains the local populations have not encroached beyond the reserve boundaries to develop farms, but forest resources within the boundaries are used for fuel and building materials and some forests are heavily degraded. Fire is also a problem as it enters and destroys forests during the dry seasons. The future of the biodiversity on the Eastern Arc Mountains is closely tied to management policies and capacity of the Tanzania Forestry and Beekeeping Division, Tanzania National Parks Authority, and Kenya Forest Department. Supporting these agencies in their mandated job is an essential conservation investment over the longer term.

Biological Conservation Volume 134, Issue 2 , January 2007, Pages 164-177

Correlations among species distributions, human density and human infrastructure across the high biodiversity tropical mountains of Africa
Neil D. Burgessa, Andrew Balmfordc, Norbert J. Cordeirod, Jon Fjeldsåg, Wolfgang Küperh, Carsten Rahbeki, Eric W. Sandersonj, Jörn P.W. Scharlemannk, J. Henning Sommerh and Paul H. Williamsl

This paper explores whether spatial variation in the biodiversity values of vertebrates and plants (species richness, range-size rarity and number or proportion of IUCN Red Listed threatened species) of three African tropical mountain ranges (Eastern Arc, Albertine Rift and Cameroon-Nigeria mountains within the Biafran Forests and Highlands) co-vary with proxy measures of threat (human population density and human infrastructure). We find that species richness, range-size rarity, and threatened species scores are all significantly higher in these three tropical African mountain ranges than across the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. When compared with the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, human population density is only significantly higher in the Albertine Rift mountains, whereas human infrastructure is only significantly higher in the Albertine Rift and the Cameroon-Nigeria mountains. Statistically there are strong positive correlations between human density and species richness, endemism and density or proportion of threatened species across the three tropical African mountain ranges, and all of sub-Saharan Africa. Kendall partial rank-order correlation shows that across the African tropical mountains human population density, but not human infrastructure, best correlates with biodiversity values. This is not the case across all of sub-Saharan Africa where human density and human infrastructure both correlate almost equally well with biodiversity values. The primary conservation challenge in the African tropical mountains is a fairly dense and poor rural population that is reliant on farming for their livelihood. Conservation strategies have to address agricultural production and expansion, in some cases across the boundaries and into existing reserves. Strategies also have to maintain, or finalise, an adequate protected area network. Such strategies cannot be implemented in conflict with the local population, but have to find ways to provide benefits to the people living adjacent to the remaining forested areas, in return for their assistance in conserving the forest habitats, their biodiversity, and their ecosystem functions.

Mammalian Responses to Pleistocene Climate Change

A recent paper entitled Mammalian responses to Pleistocene climate change in southeastern Australia (Geology, January 2007, V 35 N. 1, pp 33-36) researchers G. Prideaux, R. Roberts, D. Megirian, K. Westaway, J. Hellstrom and J. Olley

From the abstract:

Resolving faunal responses to Pleistocene climate change is vital for differentiating human impacts from other drivers of ecological change. While 90% ofAustralia’s large mammals were extinct by ca. 45 ka, their responses to glacial-interglacial cycling have remained unknown, due to a lack of rigorous biostratigraphic studies and the rarity of terrestrial climatic records that can be related directly to faunal records. We present an analysis of faunal data from the Naracoorte Caves in southeastern Australia, which are unique not only because of the species richness and time-depth of the assemblages that they contain, but also because this faunal record is directly comparable with a 500 k.y. speleothem-based record of local effective moisture. Our data reveal that, despite significant population fluctuations driven by glacial-interglacial cycling, the species composition of the mammal fauna was essentially stable for 500 k.y. before the late Pleistocene extinctions. Larger species declined during a drier inter­val between 270 and 220 ka, likely reflecting range contractions away from Naracoorte, but they then recovered locally, persisting well into the late Pleistocene. Because the speleothem record and prior faunal response imply that local conditions should have been favorable for megafauna until at least 30 ka, climate change is unlikely to have been the principal cause of the extinctions.

The proposal of the paper is that climatic change alone was not the cause of mammalian extinctions in Australia. This is supported by a review of how regional fauna dealt with climatic cycles as part of an explanatory route towards a resolution of the extinction debate in Australia.

The results of the study suggest that climate had a small hand in population reduction, it was not sufficient to cause the extinctions. The cause itself therefore can be more associated to human involvement:

... the persistence of relatively cool, moist conditions for most of the last glacial should have favored the megafauna, a conclusion com­parable to that drawn from inland localities by Miller et al. (2005). Therefore, extinction of the NCWHA megafauna by ca. 45 ka (Pate et al., 2002) cannot have been caused solely or primar­ily by climate change, especially given the per­sistence of all other mammals into the Holocene (McDowell, 2001). The disparity between pre-human and posthuman changes at Naracoorte resembles that described for an analogous North American mammalian succession in Porcupine Cave, Colorado (Barnosky et al., 2004b). These records show that mammal faunas on both con­tinents were well adapted to Quaternary climatic variations prior to the arrival of humans.

While this has no direct correlation to unknown animals, it does support the successful survival of species in the environment. Humans had the larger impact, and the environment at the time was sufficient to sustain the megafauna.

Craig Heinselman
Peterborough, NH

Coffee Leads to Extinction

Ok, we all have some vices. Coffee is one of mine, the taste is good and rich, the scent is right. Fair Trade was set up a while back to protect the workers as it helps assure a "fair" price for coffee beans from various woldwide regions. But, now the selling of beans from protected lands, which can have a negative impact on the wildlife..... Follow the link in the text to more information, including the location for the 12 mb download of the report.

Craig Heinselman
Peterborough, NH

LONDON, Jan 17 (KUNA) -- Coffee lovers around the globe are unknowingly drinking coffee which was illegally grown inside one of the world's most important national parks for highly endangered tigers, elephants and rhinos, according to an investigative report published here Wednesday.

Conservation organisation, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), said that coming from Bukit Barisan Selatan (BBS) National Park in Sumatra, Indonesia, the illegally grown coffee is mixed by local traders with legal coffee beans and exported from Indonesia to food and drink companies such as Kraft Foods and Nestle.

Neither exporting nor importing companies have mechanisms in place to prevent the trade of illegal beans, according to WWF.

The report entitled "Gone in an Instant" states that most of the companies buying the coffee were unaware of its illegal origins, based on the lack of regulation in the region.

WWF provided the draft copies of the report's findings to the top recipients of coffee tainted with illegal beans from BBS.Some companies denied any purchase of illegally grown coffee, while others are in talks with WWF on how to avoid purchases of the coffee, how to boost the production of sustainably grown coffee and restore the habitats in the park.

The report recommended that the park and local authorities prevent further encroachment into the park and develop regulations that prevent illegally grown coffee from infiltrating international trade.

Using satellite imaging, interviews with coffee farmers and traders and monitoring of coffee trade routes, WWF tracked the illegal cultivation of robusta coffee inside the remote National Park all the way through its export routes to multinational coffee companies across the US, Asia and Europe.

BBS, a World Heritage Site on the southern tip of the island of Sumatra, is one of the few protected areas where Sumatran tigers, elephants and rhinos coexist.

It is one of the most important habitats left for the three endangered or critically endangered species. But almost 20 percent of its forest is degraded mostly due to illegal agriculture, according to WWF.

Heather Sohl, Species Officer at WWF-UK said in a statement, "If this trend of illegally clearing park land for coffee isn't halted, the rhinos and tigers will be locally extinct in less than a decade.

"We think even the world's most committed coffee drinkers will find this an unacceptable price to pay," she added.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

High Endemicism in Tanzania/Kenya

The Eastern Arc mountain range in Tanzania and Kenya is home to a large number of animals found nowhere else in the world. Many have yet to be discovered. A new study notes this high concentration, emphasizing the need to protect the region:

"New studies published this month in the scientific journal Biological Conservation document an amazing concentration of over 1000 species unique--or endemic-- to an area slightly larger than Rhode Island in the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania and Kenya. This remaining habitat in the Eastern Arcs has the highest concentration of endemic animals in Africa and is increasingly endangered by complex threats.
"'The wild areas of the Eastern Arc Mountains are pockets of Eden--the last remaining safe havens for over 1000 plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth and some with ancient lineages stretching back in time over millions of years,' said Dr. Neil Burgess, lead author of the two studies and Eastern Arc expert, World Wildlife Fund and University of Cambridge. 'Side by side, these species and their human neighbors struggle for survival as more and more people need more and more farmland for food.'

"One study found that the Eastern Arc Mountains are exceptionally important for conservation because at least 96 animals, 832 plants and hundreds of invertebrates--including 43 butterflies--live only there and nowhere else on earth. Another 71 animals are found only within a limited range including these mountains and nearby areas. Of these species, seventy-one are classified as threatened by extinction by the IUCN Red List.
"There are likely more species to be discovered in the mountains. One of the most exciting recent discoveries was that of a new genus of monkey--the 'Highland Mangabey' (Rungwecebus kipunji). A further 15 new animals have recently been found that are still in the process of being described by scientists including several new chameleons. Over the next two years, surveys will continue and new discoveries are expected in remote and poorly known areas.

"The studies point out another unusual characteristic of the species in the Eastern Arc Mountains: a number of them are genetically ancient. DNA analysis of forest birds indicates that some species have lineages stretching back 25 million years and some are most strongly related to birds in Southeast Asia than birds in Africa. Some plants and animals--like tiny little shrews with elephant-like trunks known as elephant shrews and nocturnal primates with large eyes known as bushbabies--are thought to have evolved early in the species lineage, known as 'primitive' or 'ancient relic lineages.'
"The same conditions that give life to these plants and animals support a dense and growing human population in one of the poorest countries in the world, according to the second study. With most local people dependent on agriculture, inefficient farming methods and a growing need for food lead to farmland expansion, sometimes across the boundaries and into existing reserves. Effective conservation in the Eastern Arc Mountains requires finding solutions to the livelihood needs of these poor, rural populations and sufficient funds to establish and adequately manage a network of protected areas.
"'Seven proposed reserves protecting an additional 153, 205 acres of wilderness in the Eastern Arcs are currently awaiting declaration by the Tanzanian government,' said Dr. Burgess. 'Their declaration would help establish the network urgently needed to protect the natural wealth of the Eastern Arc Mountains.' The Tanzanian government is also pursuing the declaration of the area as a World Heritage Site, in recognition of its universal value for the conservation of biological diversity.
"Not only do the Eastern Arc Mountains support life locally, but they provide drinking water for at least 60 percent of the urban population of Tanzania and generate over 90 percent of the nation's hydroelectricity generation capacity. World Wildlife Fund and its partners are exploring one possible solution for conserving the Eastern Arc Mountains that would attach a monetary value to these 'ecosystem services' and divert funds paid by water users to the forest managers and surrounding communities.
"The Eastern Arc Mountains curve through eastern Tanzania and just over the border into southeastern Kenya. Its forests are often covered in a blanket of mist during the night and help collect water for much of Tanzania and its hydroelectricity. As a crucial source of water and home to unique and threatened wildlife, World Wildlife Fund considers the Eastern Arc Mountain range and coastal East Africa a conservation priority and works with local communities and partners to protect the natural richness of the region."

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Mystery Bears

For those who found the recent reprint posting on Macfarlane's Bear interesting, Matt Bille has kindly allowed us to reproduce his section on mystery bears (from Rumors of Existence, 1995) in BioFortean Review as a companion piece.

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Carnivore Size Study

From the press release:

Why are lions not as big as elephants?

Carnivores are some of the widest ranging terrestrial mammals for their size, and this affects their energy intake and needs. This difference is also played out in the different hunting strategies of small and large carnivores. Smaller species less than 15-20 kg in weight specialize on very small vertebrates and invertebrates, which weigh a small fraction of their own weight, whereas larger species (>15-20 kg) specialize on large vertebrate prey near their own mass. While carnivores around the size of a lynx or larger can obtain higher net energy intake by switching to relatively large prey, the difficulty of catching and subduing these animals means that a large-prey specialist would expend twice as much energy as a small-prey specialist of equivalent body size. In a new article published by PLoS Biology, Dr. Chris Carbone and colleagues from the Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London reveal how this relationship might have led to the extinction of large carnivores in the past and why our largest modern mammalian carnivores are so threatened.

The authors provide a model of carnivore energetics in relation to predator and prey size, and compare the model predictions with observed estimates of metabolic rates and intake rates taken from animals in the wild. By analyzing the balance between energy intake and expenditure across a range of species, the authors reveal that mammalian carnivores would not be able to exceed a body mass of one ton. Their model predictions are consistent with the data we have. Most mammalian carnivores are relatively small compared with the largest extinct terrestrial herbivorous mammals, such as the Indricothere, which weighed around 15 tons. The largest existing carnivore, the polar bear, is only around half a ton, while the largest known extinct carnivores, such as the short-faced bear, weighed around one ton. The authors also note that the largest terrestrial non-mammalian predators, such as Giganotosaurus and Tyrannosaurs, may have achieved their massive size by having a lower metabolic rate. Indeed, previous estimates of total metabolic rate for these species are similar to those of a mammal weighing about a ton.

We know that the largest carnivores that exist today are particularly vulnerable to threats imposed by humans and have been shown to have higher rates of extinction in the fossil record than smaller species even prior to the evolution of man. Carnivores at the upper limits of body mass would have been heavily reliant on abundant large prey to both minimize energy expenditure and maintain high rates of energy intake. Slight environmental perturbations, anthropogenic or otherwise, leading to lower prey availability, could readily upset this energy balance. It may have also contributed to the extinction of the largest carnivores and explain why the largest modern mammalian carnivores are so rare and vulnerable today.

Citation: Carbone C, Teacher A, Rowcliffe JM (2007) The costs of carnivory. PLoS Biol 5(2): e22.

South Island Kokako

New Zealand conservation officials have declared the South Island Kokako extinct, as there haven't been confirmed sightings in 40 years. From the news:

"Conservation officials today formally declared the South Island kokako extinct, saying there had been no confirmed sightings for 40 years.
"Rod Hitchmough, a scientific officer at the Department of Conservation (DOC) told a press briefing in Wellington that the kokako decision had attracted controversy.
"'But the definition of extinct is that we are absolutely certain the last individual has died,' said Mr Hitchmough, who compiled DOC's latest lists of threatened species, including six native insects and snails also declared extinct.
"'It was last seen on the South Island in 1967,' he said.
"There had been further reports on Stewart Island in 1987 and other more recent sightings, but these had not been corroborated.
"A panel of bird experts which drew up the previous list of the threat status of native animals and plants in 2002 had not been able to decide with certainty whether it had died out.
"'There have been more recent sightings recorded but they have been less well-documented,' Mr Hitchmough said.
"'Now, given there have been no further convincing records, the panel decided to bite the bullet and list it as extinct.
"'But it was probably extinct years ago'.
"Less than a year ago, veteran searchers seeking signs of the kokako unsuccessfully searched a valley east of Puysegur Point in Fiordland National Park for signs of the grey bird with orange wattles at each side of the beak.
"That South Island kokako investigation team included Christchurch researcher Ron Nilsson, who has spent 20 years searching remote valleys in Nelson, Westland, Fiordland and Stewart Island.
"Other searches have been made in Granville State Forest in the West Coast's Grey Valley and further north in the Paparoa Range near Charleston.
"Conservation Minister Chris Carter told the Wellington briefing that the new threatened species list updated the 'threat classification' status of 5819 of New Zealand's native plants and animals, and 44 had been given a change in status.
"Almost half of those were listed in one of the seven threatened categories, and the rest required further research to determine if these were threatened or not."

So now that the bird is considered extinct, it may be viable as a cryptozoological candidate: after all, it was earlier this past year that a team in South Island heard the distinctive calls of this bird:

"For the veteran searchers seeking signs of the long-lost South Island kokako, a valley east of Puysegur Point in Fiordland National Park sounds like a breakthrough.
"The bird was believed extinct in the 1960s, a tuneful victim of predators and loss of habitat.
"But the South Island Kokako Investigation Team has kept compiling reports of the grey bird with distinctive orange wattles at each side of the beak. The North Island kokako has a bluish wattle.
"And now an offshoot of January's hunt for more kakapo in Fiordland has led to hopes that the team has another valley to check in detail, with a community of the supposedly extinct birds living there.
"For Christchurch researcher Ron Nilsson, the breakthrough has come after more than 20 years of collating reports and checking regions in Nelson, the West Coast, Fiordland and Stewart Island.
"He went to the other valley, on the South Island's south coast, when the search for more kakapo had ended without success.
"A team was dropped in by helicopter to check out reports they heard from a geologist remapping Fiordland. The map maker had provided grid references.
"'We landed at 1pm and by 2pm we had heard the first of the calls,' said Mr Nilsson. The calls kept coming in sequences of about five, and up to 10. They heard at least 50 calls in the first afternoon.
"Some recordings were made and better gear was set up next day, but it proved to be the hottest day of the summer in Fiordland and the forest went silent.
"Mr Nilsson believes the concentration of calls in such a confined area indicates a possible viable breeding population. The abundance of calls indicates the birds are actively calling to mates and marking out territories.
"In recent years, searches for the South Island kokako have been in Granville State Forest in the West Coast's Grey Valley and further north in the Paparoa Range near Charleston.
"'In those places there may be one or two birds in 5000ha of forest. This one is different. I think there is a small group of birds there. You have got a sense that it's very important.'
"The group was in the area for just over a day, but accomplished a lot in that time. Now the pressure is on to convince the Department of Conservation - or a sponsor - that an urgent return visit is necessary."

Monday, January 15, 2007

Lesser-Known Mammals

The Zoological Society of London has begin a conservation project ( - not functioning yet) to help preserve 100 endangered mammals that are poorly known. From the Guardian:

"Led by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the Edge project has identified 100 species of mammals that have the fewest relatives left alive in the wild, making them the world's most genetically-unique mammals. The 10 most endangered, including the Yanghtze river dolphin and bumblebee bat, will be the focus of the first year's work. Jonathan Baillie of ZSL said the aim was to prevent hundreds of unique species from sliding unnoticed towards extinction.
"'This is the first global-scale programme specifically developed to focus on these one-of-a-kind and highly threatened animals. We will be working to protect some of the world's most extraordinary species, including giant venomous shrew-like creatures, matchbox-sized bats and egg-laying mammals, all of which are teetering on the edge of extinction.'
"The almost-blind Yanghtze river dolphin is at the top of the list. 'It's extremely threatened, a team was recently out there looking for it and could not find one - they truly are on the verge of extinction,' said Dr Baillie.
"Others include the egg-laying long-beaked echidna; the mouse-like long-eared jerboa which has the largest ear to body ratio of any mammal; and the world's smallest mammal, the bumblebee bat." ...

"In selecting the Edge list scientists first highlighted those mammals with the fewest close relatives, in order to work out which animals had evolved independently for the longest period of time. The results were cross-referenced with the International Conservation Union's official list of endangered species to identify the 10 priority animals. 'When species have few close relatives there could be a number of reasons - they could have evolved for a long time and not created new species or their close relatives could have died off. Either way, they represent entire lineages,' said Dr Baillie." ...
"Many of the animals on the Edge list have been overlooked because they come from poorly-explored regions or species groups where scientists have had had little interest. Dr Baillie said raising the animals' profile would be key to their future.
"In collaboration with local scientists and biodiversity groups, ZSL scientists will come up with the conservation plans needed for each species on the Edge list. Their plans will be posted on the website and move ahead as money becomes available. 'We'll move as fast as we can with the funding available, through the internet and other sources. People can fund projects over the internet and, as soon as they are funded, we'll move forward with them. We'll also have blogs where people can follow progress, and web forums,' he said." ...

Species include:

"Slender Loris - Shy, nocturnal primate with huge eyes endemic to Sri Lanka. Populations are declining because its forest habitat is being destroyed and the animals are also hunted for meat and body parts (particularly the eyes) used in folk medicine.
"Pygmy hippopotamus - Only 2,000-3,000 individuals remain in the wild, mostly concentrated in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and conservationists say its viability is extremely poor.
"Yangtze river dolphin - Also known as the baiji, this is the only living representative of an entire family, having diverged from other river dolphins more than 20m years ago. It has rapidly declined over the past 30 years, and a survey last year failed to find any surviving animals.
"Attenborough's long-beaked echidna - One of the few egg-laying mammals, the species is believed to be restricted to a single peak in the Cyclops mountains in the Indonesian province of Papua.
"Hispaniolan solenodon - West Indian insect-eater with the unique ability to inject venom into its prey through grooves in upper incisors. Its numbers plummeted when predators such as dogs, cats and mongooses arrived with colonists.
"Bactrian camel - Probably the ancestor of all domestic two-humped camels. Fewer than 1,000 individuals survive in Gobi desert.
"Hirola - Called the 'four-eye antelope' because its preorbital glands look like a second set of eyes. It is the sole survivor of a once abundant group of antelopes. An estimated 600 survive.
"Golden-rumped elephant shrew - The size of a small rabbit, the elephant shrew can run at speeds of up to 25km/h and is endemic to Kenya but is threatened by the destruction and fragmentation of its forest habitat.
"Bumblebee bat - World's smallest mammal is endangered in Thailand where it is known from a single national park. Since it was first described in 1974 this tiny mammal has been disturbed by collectors and tourists; other threats are from burning of forest near the limestone caves in which it lives.
"Long-eared jerboa - Mouse-like animal with largest ear to body ratio of any mammal. Lives in parts of China and Mongolia but little is known of ecology and no conservation measures have been set up."

Another UK Big Cat Sighting

From the latest news report:

"A Langney man spotted a large black cat 'the size of a labrador' near his home on Monday night.
"John Hescott was exercising his two Yorkshire terriers at 10.30pm when he saw the animal 100 yards from where he was standing.
"This follows a sighting of a creature believed to be a black leopard near Arlington last week, as reported in the Gazette on Wednesday.
"Mr Hescott was with his dogs on an area of verge near his house when he saw the big cat walk from a play area in Faversham Road into a service road.
"He said, 'We've also got a labrador cross Alsatian and it was the size of that. It just looked around but didn't seem in any hurry.'"

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Bulgarian Wolf Not a Record

Forwarded by Kevin Stewart, from Yahoo News:

"A grey wolf shot dead in northwestern Bulgaria and reported to be the biggest wolf ever recorded at 80 kilogrammes (176.4 pounds) actually fell far below this weight, an independent expert has told AFP.
"'The male beast that was shot dead on December 30 near the town of Brusartzi weighed 48 kilogrammes,' Hunting Association chief Mihail Boyadzhiev told AFP Thursday." ...
"Bulgaria has one of the largest game populations in Europe, including more than 2,500 grey wolves according to the latest tally."

Macfarlane's Bear

For those interested in lesser-known mystery animals, Macfarlane's bear is noted occasionally in cryptozoological literature. While the specimen is usually now attributed to the grizzly (albeit somewhat unusual in appearance), for a brief period it was placed in its own genus. A 1946 article in Natural History was forwarded by Kevin Stewart, and has been placed in the BioFortean Review historical articles section. (Given that the specimen is located in the Smithsonian, it would be interesting to see some genetic work done with it. Some, Matt Bille most recently, have noted that it might have been a hybrid grizzly-polar bear.)

300th Birthday

Kevin Stewart located this interesting article. 2007 is Linneaus' 300th birthday. Special events are scheduled in Sweden from January to Linnaeus' birthday, May 23.

Kashmir Owl Rumors

Urban legends travel fast. From the Daily India:

"A bizarre rumour in Jammu and Kashmir that an owl weighing over three kilograms can turn its owner into a millionaire has spread like wild fire in the rest of northern India.
"The Srinagar office of IANS is receiving scores of telephone calls daily from northern India, with callers desperate to know the contact numbers of the mysterious man who has offered a fortune for such owls.
"And at least one Hindi newspaper that carried the original story says its phone lines are literally jammed.
"'Sir, I have an owl weighing 3.1 kilo. The bird is in good health and unharmed. Please tell me where is it to be delivered so that I can collect my reward,' pleaded Naresh Kumar, who said he was calling from New Delhi.
"Similar calls have come to the IANS office from Ludhiana and Jalandhar in Punjab, Hissar in Haryana, New Delhi and also Jammu, the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir.
"Bhupinder Singh of Ludhiana said: 'I have an owl of the right weight. I am feeding rats to the bird. Where can I claim my reward?'
"Those making the queries about the dream merchant who floated the rumour about the million-rupee owl are not just the ordinary citizens.
"Many journalists too are eager to interview either the elusive owl buyer or simply some of the locals who have been braving the winter chill in Kashmir to chase an owl in the state's northern parts.
"That is where the rumour began. Just how, no one seems to know.
"'It is such an interesting story. I want to interview somebody who went on the wild owl chase. We also need a photograph of the person. Can you help us?' a desperate journalist from Jammu asked.
"The beauty is that almost all the callers seemed to believe that there must be some truth to the rumour.
"One agitated caller from New Delhi even threatened to go to court if the identity of the one who is reporting willing to shell out huge amounts of money for a select owl was not revealed.
"In the owl hunt now on in Kashmir, animal rights activists need not worry as the owls are to be caught alive and sold unharmed - as the rumour goes.
"But the buyer is proving to be as elusive as the dream he has sold to the people.
"Kashmiri villagers say they have heard that they would be paid a staggering Rs.3 million (about $68,000) for such a creature.
"According to the rumours, the mystery man looking for the bird wants nothing that weighs less than three kilograms.
"According to one Kashmiri village, another villager had given him a mobile telephone number to establish contact with the buyer. He refused to divulge the so-called buyer's name or the contact phone number.
"'I spoke to the buyer and he told me that the owl was needed for some scientific research and should not be harmed in any way. But only those birds weighing three kilos and above are in demand,' he said.
"'This proves that Kashmir's grapevine has strong elements of credibility,' said Nizam-ud-Din, 87, a resident of downtown Srinagar.
"'I am reminded of the days when Kashmir had little means of communication. All news got disseminated through word of mouth. In Srinagar, such wild rumours were called 'Khabar-e-Zaina Kadal'. The owl story has fondled my childhood memory,' Nizam-ud-Din added."

On the trail of the fabled greenland shark

On the trail of the fabled greenland shark

Nicholas Read, Vancouver SunPublished: Saturday, January 13, 2007

Scotland has its Loch Ness monster and B.C. its Ogopogo. But for the people of Quebec -- both native and non-native -- there was always a shark.

A big shark. A dangerous shark. A shark that lurked under the ice in the darkest waters imaginable. Stories of it were rare and intermittent, but constant, too. People always claimed to have known someone who had caught one once.

But it took a scientist from B.C. to finally track it down.

Except at the time, Chris Harvey-Clark, a zoologist/veterinarian who now runs the University of B.C.'s Animal Care Centre, was working out of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.

It was 2003, and Harvey-Clark and his close friend, Jeffrey Gallant, a Quebec schoolteacher with a passion for sharks almost as visceral as his, finally saw it. The Greenland shark -- at up to 1,100 kilograms, the biggest shark in the North Atlantic and, after the Great White, the second largest on the planet -- and there it was, right under their noses.

Read more here......

New frog from the Western Flank of the Cordillera Oriental of Colombia

Zootaxa 1389: 61-68 (11 Jan. 2007)
New frog (Brachycephalidae: Eleutherodactylus) from the Western Flank of the Cordillera Oriental of Colombia
S.B. ARROYO (Colombia)

A new Eleutherodactylus species is described from the western flanks of the Cordillera Oriental in the Departamento de Santander. It is a member of the Eleutherodactylus conspicillatus phenetic group. It appears to be most closely related to E. carranguerorum.

Field work carried out by Professor John D. Lynch on the northern part of the Cordillera Oriental between 1986 and 1991 revealed that various Eleutherodactyles species occurred there... Although the Cordillera Oriental of Columbia is the least species-rich of the three Cordilleras in Columbia in terms of the frogs of the genus Eleutherodactylus, new material collected by pesons from the Universidad Industrial de Santander in the last few years gives us evidence that this Cordillera harvours more Eleutherodactylus species than previously recognized.

From March 1999 to February 2002 field work was done at the Estacion Experimental El Rasgon in the Municipality of Piedecuesta, Santander, Columbia... The collections made in this area contain two new species of Eleutherodactylus. Subsequent collections made in the south-eastern portion of the Departamento de Santander at the Santuario de Fauna y Flora Guanenta have turned up more new species. One of these species is shared between the two reserves, and is named here.


While I have not read the book as of yet, it is inline on the bookshelf in its order, the recent novel Shadowkiller is most likely the first piece of published cryptofiction for 2007. It was released the 1st week of January.

'Shadowkiller' features a superprimate

"The Shadowkiller," by Matthew Scott Hansen
Simon & Schuster, New York; $25; ISBN 0-7432-9473-4

Matthew Scott Hansen lives in Southern California, but he grew up in Oregon and Washington.

He is a screenwriter, radio producer and actor, a photographer and the author of three biographies. "Shadowkiller" is his first novel.
Set in Snohomish County, Wash., the book is a blend of a police procedural and a horror story. Snohomish detective Mac Schneider is assigned the case of two lawyers who disappeared in the woods.

He considers the case below his training as a homicide detective in Los Angeles. But then other people go missing.
Former software designer Ty Greenwood is attracted to the case. He has lost everything in his life because of his aggressive pursuit to prove that Bigfoot exists.

He, too, comes to the woods near Snohomish.
And Greenwood is right. The disappearances are the work of a huge superprimate seeking revenge for the deaths of his tribe in a fire set by careless campers. But he soon develops another motivation ... a taste for human flesh.

Portions of the book are written from the point of view of the superprimate:
"Below, the small creature tripped and stumbled its way down the hill, adding distance between them. He watched it for a moment, its fear glowing like fire at night.
"He knew it was injured and in pain. He particularly enjoyed the increased chaos of their thoughts when they were scared and hurt."

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Illegal fishermen kill rare giant fish in China

The following entry is on the rare Chinese Paddle Fish.

Paddlefish are not closely related to sharks, but they do share some common characteristics including a skeleton primarily composed of cartilage, and a deeply forked, abbreviate heterocercal tail fin (the top fin lobe is slightly larger than the lower fin lobe). Paddlefish are one of the oldest fish according to fossil records, pre-dating the dinosaurs. The North American paddlefish (Polyodon spathula) has only one other species as a member of the same family. The Chinese paddlefish (Psephurus gladius) is found in the Yangtze River and has a cone-shaped snout rather than the long, paddle-like snout (known as a rostrum) of the North American paddlefish. A decent journal entry on the chinese paddle fish and its genetic diversity, predicting populations may have an inability to adapt and that increased captive breeding programs be required. The breeding and environmental impact in China on this fishes environment has also been documented, the building of the Three Gorges Dam demonstrated a reduced breeding population due in part to reduced oxygen levels and higher toxic values in the environment. Some of the same characteritics that are pushing, or have not already pushed, the Chinese River Dolphin to the brink of extinction.

Illegal fishermen kill rare giant fish in China
Agence France-PresseLast updated 12:00nn (Mla time) 01/12/2007

BEIJING -- Illegal fishermen have killed a highly endangered freshwater fish in China 3.6 meters (12 feet) long and weighing 250 kilograms (550 pounds), state press reported Friday.

The Chinese paddlefish was the largest of its kind seen in six years, with very few sightings of the species in its native habitats of the Yangtze and Qiantang rivers recorded recently, Xinhua news agency said.

The species is dubbed the "giant panda of the rivers" due to its similarities with China's favorite animal in size and the fact that it is close to extinction in the wild, according to the report.

An employee at a nature reserve in Hubei province said two illegal boats caught the fish in the Yangtze River on Monday.
A team from the reserve tried to take the fish, suffering wounds from six hooks, back into deep water but it died on Wednesday, the employee, Ma Daoyun, said.

"The case is rare because the fishermen continued trying to pull the fish from the water even after villagers warned them that the species was under top state protection," said Xiong Yuanhui, another worker at the reserve.

"Most fishermen would report to the reserve if they accidentally caught rare fish," he said.

Coromandel Striped Gecko

World's rarest gecko turns up in Coro street
Sunday Star Times Sunday, 14 January 2007

It's new Zealand's rarest reptile and the world's rarest gecko. So rare that, until last week, only three had ever been seen.
For all anyone knew, it was already extinct - until it turned up at a suburban barbecue in the Coromandel.

The moment Pim de Monchy saw the distinctive, wood-brown male lizard on the garden wall, he was "pretty sure" it was a Coromandel Striped Gecko. De Monchy, who was a guest at the party in Coromandel township, is programme manager for DOC's Moehau Kiwi Sanctuary on the peninsula and knew the significance of the find.

With the precious gecko secured in a jar, he excitedly phoned colleague Rob Chappell, the local ranger who was there when the species was discovered in 1997.

"Up until then we didn't even know this thing was on the planet," Chappell says, feeding it in his Coromandel office with cockroaches and tinned cat food.

The first Coromandel Striped Gecko, a handsome, silver-toned male quite different from the brown, almost wood-grained specimens that followed, was found "about 300 yards" from the latest discovery.

Chappell said DOC kept the 1997 lizard in captivity in the hope that a female could be found and a captive breeding programme started.
"But we found none, despite four years of intensive searching. Meanwhile the gecko died of old age."

Another one was later found, but she died, possibly from injuries inflicted by a kingfisher.
DOC then combed the Port Charles area, using pit traps, but it found only a dead one after a call from a member of the public.
That was until last week's find.

Another intensive search will begin this week, but because the Coromandel Striped Gecko has never been observed in its natural habitat, DOC's herpetology advisers can still only guess as to its behaviour and the best places and times to search for it, using its closest known relative, the Stephen's Island Striped Gecko (confined to two islands in the Cook Strait) as a guide.

So little is known about the Coromandel Striped Gecko that scientists are uncertain about its most basic activities - whether it's nocturnal, whether it's arboreal or a ground-dweller, lays eggs or gives birth to live young (a peculiarity of New Zealand lizards which, like our native frogs, are considered anatomically primitive compared with their relatives round the world).

Too few specimens have been found to even confirm it as a distinct species, which means it's living under a borrowed scientific name - Hoplodactylus stephensi var. coromandel, "the Coromandel version of the Stephen's Island striped gecko" - even though it's clear to experts that it is morphologically and genetically distinct from its Stephen's Island cousin.

If a partner cannot be found for Chappell's latest charge, he'll fit the gecko with a tiny transmitter and release him "to take his chances" in a predator-controlled area of bush near where he was found.

The transmitter would last only a couple of weeks, but might divulge more information, Chappell said.

World's oddest creature at risk from killer fungus

World's oddest creature at risk from killer fungus
By Kathy Marks in Sydney
Published: 14 January 2007

From The Independent

It is a unique Australian creature - a mammal that lays eggs, and has a furry body, a bill like a duck's and webbed feet. The males are also poisonous. But in Tasmania, one of its principal habitats, the platypus is under threat from a deadly fungal disease.

More than one-third of the population is believed to have been wiped out in the north of the island state, and there are reports that the disease has now spread to southern areas. It is almost always fatal, causing ulcers that turn into gaping wounds.

The shy, solitary platypus inhabits the waterways of Tasmania and the eastern Australian mainland. The same fungus is found on the mainland, where it kills amphibians, particularly Queensland's green tree frogs. But it does not affect platypuses there.

Niall Stewart, a research fellow at the University of Tasmania, believes that the tiny frogs may have carried the fungus into Tasmania in bunches of Queensland bananas. "Platypuses on the mainland have evolved with the fungus, and so they're immune," he said. "But the poor platypuses here haven't seen it before." The island is a haven for platypuses, thanks to its abundant waterways. But Dr Stewart, who has carried out extensive field work, believes that 35 per cent are falling victim to the disease in the affected areas.

Dr Stewart said nothing was being done to combat the disease. He has repeatedly failed to secure research funding. The problem has been overshadowed by a rare cancer that has killed half of the wild population of another native animal, the Tasmanian devil, and threatens the species' survival.

The ulcers, which appear on a platypus's broad tail or hips, grow to up to 10cm in diameter. Death is usually caused by secondary bacterial infections, or from depletion of body fat, most of which is stored in the tail. The wounds also prevent the platypus from keeping warm in cold water.

It is not known how the disease is transmitted - possibly by ticks, or by males fighting, or via burrows. Dr Stewart said it was feasible that mud containing fungal spores was being carried into new areas on hikers' boots or 4x4 vehicles.

Asked if the Tasmanian platypus could develop immunity, he replied: "Possibly, in a few hundred thousand years. The problem is that mature animals with ulcers are still capable of breeding, so they're producing more susceptible animals. It would take a long time for natural selection to sort it out." The platypus is one of only three monotremes - egg-laying mammals - in the world. The others are Australia's two species of echidna, or spiny anteater.

Italy's rare birds fall to hunters

Italy's rare birds fall to hunters

ROME, Jan. 13, 2007 (UPI) --

The shooting of a golden eagle in northern Italy shows the need for greater protection for rare birds, ornithology groups say.

The bird shot in Val Biondino near Lake Como may have been the last male in the valley, The Independent reported. Its carcass was found near that of a sheep, believed to have been used to attract the bird.

the work of the national parks in protecting endangered species, we still witness acts like this of gratuitous brutality and culpable ignorance, which wreak serious damage on the environment," said Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, a Green Party member and minister of the environment. "This latest example of poaching shows there is still a lot to be done in Italy with regard to protecting and respecting animals, particularly those which are increasingly rare."

The number of hunters has dropped in Italy from 2 million 20 years ago to 750,000. But the number of rare birds, including golden eagles, greater flamingos and black storks has been dropping at least as fast.
Poachers also trap small birds, selling them to restaurants, bird fanciers and also to hunters who use them to lure large birds.

Giant, stinky flower finds its roots

Giant, stinky flower finds its roots
Bizzare rafflesias blooms have baffled botanists
for nearly 200 years

By Jeanna Bryner - January 11, 2007

The stinky heavyweight of the floral world never quite fit in with the other plants, until now.
And oddly, a group of scientists have decided that the bizarre desk-sized bloom belongs to a plant family made up mostly of teeny blossoms.

Using genetics, the scientists solved a nearly 200-year-old mystery regarding the relatives of rafflesias, a group of plants whose flowers reach a petal-to-petal girth of three feet and weigh 15 pounds. The research, detailed today in the online version of the journal Science, identified the family to which the flower belongs, which includes natural rubber trees, poinsettias, Irish bells and cassava plants.

Rafflesia must have undergone a rapid growth spurt in its past, said lead researcher Charles Davis of Harvard University.

“These large flower plants, early in their evolution, experienced a size increase that was on the order of an 80-fold increase,” he said.

Morphological misfitsFirst identified 180 years ago in Sumatra by naturalist Sir Stamford Raffles, rafflesia has baffled botanists trying to pinpoint its close relatives. That’s because the flower is a parasite and lacks leaves, stems and roots — features typically used to identify and group plants. Rather than pulling water and nutrients from the ground, rafflesia attaches to and sucks life from grapevines.

Even genetic techniques, reliable for spot-on descriptions of organisms, proved troublesome. Scientists usually rely on DNA from chloroplasts — light-gathering structures needed for photosynthesis. Since rafflesia depends solely on a host for nutrients, and not photosynthesis, it lacks chloroplasts.

In the current study, Davis and his colleagues analyzed DNA found in mitochondria, the cells’ energy-making machines.. Each plant cell contains up to several thousand mitochondria, each holding a complete set of genes.

Why so big? The scientists suggest the flower’s gigantism serves it by luring in pollinators—carrion flies that are attracted to the flower’s rotting-flesh smell. On the rainforest floor, rafflesia is hidden by a dense carpet of taller vegetation. The flower’s relatively vast surface area helps boost its scent, allowing more of the odor to radiate off the petals.
“Once the pollinators get in the vicinity, this really large stop sign that’s on the forest floor acts as a nice visual attractant for the pollinators,” Davis told LiveScience.
The finding could someday have horticultural uses, that is, if scientists pinpoint a gene or set of genes for gigantism.

“You can imagine isolating these genes," Davis said. "And horticulturalists would just love this stuff. You could make all of these horticulture monstrosities and roses that were 10 feet in diameter or something like that."

Red-crowned kakariki reported & seen

Rare native parrot seen on Maungatautari

Waikata Times - January 13, 2007

A red-crowned kakariki has been spotted in bush on Maungatautari, south of Cambridge, sparking a flurry of interest from conservationists in the area.
Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust chief executive Jim Mylchreest said he had received reports of possibly several of the birds on the mountain.
"We've got an excellent photo of one of the birds and we had another report that three of the birds were seen up there recently," he said.
The birds were once thought to be extinct outside of aviaries on the mainland.
The Maungatautari ecological island is the biggest of its kind in the country and recently the mountain's 3400ha of bush area was completely circled by a pest-proof fence.
Steps are now being taken to eradicate all pest mammals inside the fence, while at the same time native bird and plant species are being encouraged, and new species introduced.
Mr Mylchreest was "very keen" to have the parrots on the mountain, "and we also want to know from members of the public if they see the birds there".
"We want to know numbers, and where and when the birds were seen."
Mr Mylchreest wanted to know whether any of the birds had recently escaped from aviaries or had been released in the area.
"Captive birds can be inbred, or they can sometimes breed with yellow-crowned kakariki, which means they are not a pure native species. As well, they can sometimes transmit exotic parrot diseases into the wild," he said.
"We need to find out this sort of detail, and if possible get some feathers from the birds on the mountain so we can have them tested for disease and purity of species."
It was necessary to establish this information before other red-crown kakariki, being bred for release on Maungatautari, were placed on the mountain.
Anyone seeing the birds can contact the trust's office on 07 823-7455.

Giant Squid Attacks Boat?

Kevin Stewart forwarded this interesting article. It reports:

"In the summer of 2004, Beth and Ken Cone boarded their Sundeer 60 Eagles Wings in their home port of Waukegan, Illinois, sailed across the Great Lakes and out the St. Lawrence Seaway, and have been cruising the world ever since.
"The latest post on their website,, concerns an episode of underbody sabotage attributed to one of the most mysterious creatures of the deep, the giant squid. While visiting Papeete, Tahiti, the Cones met up with their old cruising pal, Shigeo Kitano, whose progress on a recent passage from the Galopagos to the Marquesas had been impeded by an unknown hindrance somewhere below the waterline of his sloop, Akitsushima II.
"Investigating the findings of another cruiser, who hypothesized that Akitsushima II had been latched onto by a giant squid, the Cones donned scuba gear and inspected the underbody, where they found 'hundreds of strange circular marks on the keel, rudder and hull, where the soft bottom paint had been rubbed away…the marks looked like suction cup marks. But not just any suction cups. Double cups within cups. Like the ones on a squid. A really, really big squid.'"

You can read more about this incident, with plenty of pictures, at

Big Cat Sighting in Ohio

From the Wilmington News Journal:

"Amy Miller of Wilmington has had cats her whole life. She has four cats now. But she's never seen a feline in the open as large as the cat she believes she saw on Hickory Trail Drive in Wilmington this week.
"About 4:15 p.m. on a weekday earlier this week, Miller was driving to her parents' residence in Timber Glen off Truesdell Street (state Route 730) when she noticed something out of the corner of her eye as she neared her destination. It was walking down a wide path of grass that comes down through a woods, a route deer often travel in order to drink from a stormwater retention area nearby.
"Miller pulled into her parents' driveway and jumped out of her car while making sure not to shut the car door because she didn't want to scare the animal away. She said she stood and watched it slowly walk down into a ravine. So this sighting was not a mere glimpse, she said, although she acknowledged she was at a distance from the animal.
"'Here's what I told my mom. It was bigger than a goat, but it wasn't as big as a St. Bernard,' Miller said Friday when contacted.
"'It was not a house cat. It was seven house cats in one,' said Miller, who pretty much insists it was some member of the cat family. She believes it was a cat because of the way it was walking.
"'Not like it was hunting. Kind of like if you see a cat out in the field looking for a mouse. Kind of sneaking along. That's what he was doing,' she added.
"It had a yellowish color, Miller said. She didn't see any spots and it looked like it had a tail.
"'It was like the size of a very big dog. And it was not a dog,' she said. 'I know how cats act. It was walking like a cat. It was definitely not a dog,' she said."

Years ago, I once tracked reports of a large tawny cat as it was reported from south of Dayton traveling to points in southern Ohio (Highland County). It was reported from several different papers, yet not one reporter caught on that it was a string of related reports. I was able to backtrack the reports to an area where, "coincidentally," a law enforcement officer living in a county west of Dayton left town and his job, leaving behind a pet tiger for the authorities to deal with. He was reported to have owned a cougar, also, but that cat had disappeared, as well. Wouldn't surprise me to hear he had just released it. That would explain the almost straight-line trajectory of the wandering cougar, being unfamiliar terrain. I doubt this is the same cat being reported today, but it should be recognized there is a large trade in exotic pets in Ohio.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Crypto-Drink - But Be Responsible......

I'm not a liquor drinker for the most part, but for the cryptozoology collector, is it time for a beer?

Yeti Imperial Stout - Great Divide Brewing Company

Bigfoot beer anyone (Sierra Nevada Brewing)

And of course, for the non-liquor based cryptozoological drink - Flathead Lake Monster Soda -

And for you "cat lovers" - a Catamount Ale - Harpoon Brewery (was Catamount Brewing Company)

As always, be responsible. But even the cryptids sneak into mainstream areas like liquor and soda.

Craig Heinselman
Peterborough, NH

Science 12 January 2007 - Anthropology Interest

Recent publications within the journal SCIENCE show potential new anthropological data on human transitions and movements over time.

Science 12 January 2007:Vol. 315. no. 5809, pp. 223 - 226

Early Upper Paleolithic in Eastern Europe and Implications for the Dispersal of Modern Humans M. V. Anikovich, A. A. Sinitsyn, John F. Hoffecker, Vance T. Holliday, V. V. Popov, S. N. Lisitsyn, Steven L. Forman, G. M. Levkovskaya, G. A. Pospelova, I. E. Kuz'mina, N. D. Burova, Paul Goldberg, Richard I. Macphail, Biagio Giaccio, N. D. Praslov

Radiocarbon and optically stimulated luminescence dating and magnetic stratigraphy indicate Upper Paleolithic occupation—probably representing modern humans—at archaeological sites on the Don River in Russia 45,000 to 42,000 years ago. The oldest levels at Kostenki underlie a volcanic ash horizon identified as the Campanian Ignimbrite Y5 tephra that is dated elsewhere to about 40,000 years ago. The occupation layers contain bone and ivory artifacts, including possible figurative art, and fossil shells imported more than 500 kilometers. Thus, modern humans appeared on the central plain of Eastern Europe as early as anywhere else in northern Eurasia.

Science 12 January 2007:Vol. 315. no. 5809, pp. 226 - 229

Late Pleistocene Human Skull from Hofmeyr, South Africa, and Modern Human Origins F. E. Grine, R. M. Bailey, K. Harvati, R. P. Nathan, A. G. Morris, G. M. Henderson, I. Ribot, A. W. G. Pike

The lack of Late Pleistocene human fossils from sub-Saharan Africa has limited paleontological testing of competing models of recent human evolution. We have dated a skull from Hofmeyr, South Africa, to 36.2 ± 3.3 thousand years ago through a combination of optically stimulated luminescence and uranium-series dating methods. The skull is morphologically modern overall but displays some archaic features. Its strongest morphometric affinities are with Upper Paleolithic (UP) Eurasians rather than recent, geographically proximate people. The Hofmeyr cranium is consistent with the hypothesis that UP Eurasians descended from a population that emigrated from sub-Saharan Africa in the Late Pleistocene.

Craig Heinselman
Peterborough, NH

5317 New Species - 651 NEW TO SCIENCE

Not only do we see new species of animals, plants and related biologic life being discovered, it happens all over the world. For over half a decade, the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) has been performing a thorough chronicle of the biodiversity within the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. To date there have been 5317 new species identified. Of these 5317 species, 651 are new to science, the rest are new to the park. By "new" we are meaning simply they were not confirmed to be present in the region itself.

Of these species new to science:

Over 70 Lepidoptera (butterflies, moths)
60 Collembola (springtails)
Over 25 Hymenoptera (bees , ants)
Over 70 Arachnids
Over 90 different bacteria
70 different fungai

The following information is from the ATBI's websight:

There has been much written about the accelerating crisis in protecting global biodiversity. This is not just a tropical issue, but it is also an issue in the U.S. How are we to make critical decisions about protection, when we do not even know what species exist, or what their relative abundance and distribution are? An All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) is a concentrated effort to determine all species within a given area within a short time frame. The ATBI at Great Smoky Mountains National Park was conceived in late 1997, in part as a prototype for other reserves.
Discover Life in America, Inc. (DLIA) is the non-profit that is made up of scientists and educators who wish to make this project happen and to help encourage other such efforts. The US National Park Service (USNPS) has cooperative agreements in place with DLIA to allow the transfer of funding and provide mutual support for this mission.

Scientific Approach: Basic approaches for sampling were worked out by late 1998 and funding was sought for a pilot program. Sampling for the structured part of the pilot design (described below) began in fall 2000. The Smokies ATBI is using 2 parallel, complimentary approaches: the Traditional and Structured.
The Traditional approach utilizes the knowledge and experience of taxonomic specialists, who visit the Park and make collections of their organisms. Included here are
"bio-blitzes" or forays, which bring together large numbers of specialists and volunteers of all ages for a short and intensive effort to collect large numbers of the target taxa. The often specialized techniques employed are the only way to sample some groups of life. Beneficial side effects are that many specialists in the same discipline who have never worked together, finally get to collaborate, and cross-discipline contacts are easy and strongly encouraged.
The Structured approach is based on the use of selected, standardized, bulk sampling devices (traps) in an array of 1-hectare plots. The plots, only a few of which presently are in place, are distributed across the Smokies landscape using a Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis of physical, biotic, and historic land-use parameters is used to ensure as complete and objective coverage of the Parklands area as feasible. Samples from the plots are sorted to various taxonomic levels before being sent to authorities for identification. The Structured approach allows statistical comparisons among plots, traps, communities, topographies, disturbance histories, and other spatial and temporal factors, that are not possible with the Traditional approach. However, not all groups of organisms are reliably sampled with Malaise traps, pitfall traps, or other passive
samplers. A key point: both approaches inform each other as to efficiency and completeness of the inventory in each habitat type.

No large mammals, no spectacular flying birds, no giant snakes or the like. But a rich diversity of life that has not been fully documented. What else remains to be found? We'll need to wait and see....

Craig Heinselman
Peterborough, NH

New Plant Form from Arctic Ocean

From the latest press release:

"An international team of scientists including Université Laval biologist Connie Lovejoy has discovered new life forms in the Arctic Ocean. The team's findings are reported in the January 12 edition of the journal Science.
"The researchers have discovered a new group of microscopic organisms, which they have baptized 'picobiliphytes': pico because of their extremely small size, measured in millionths of a meter, bili because they contain biliproteins, highly fluorescent substances that transform light into biomass, and phyte meaning they are plants.
"The discovery came from carefully analyzing DNA sequences belonging to vast communities of micro-organisms living in the ocean. 'There was one group of sequences that just didn't line up with any of the known groups,' explains Dr. Lovejoy. 'In fact, the divergence of this group from known organisms is as great as the difference between land plants and animals,' adds the scientist.
"Over this last year the team has been scouring data bases, verifying their results and applying new techniques to their samples. They can now confirm that these new life forms are abundantly distributed throughout northern seas. They have yet to be brought into culture, but can be seen using advanced microscopy techniques."

Choose Your Own Adventure - For a New Generation

How many remember the Choose Your Own Books?

These were the classic works that opened up doors to reading to many children, and totaled over 250 million copies cold!!!

While the book itself is still available for purchase through CYOA, along with many of the other ones, it is now entering the new domain of technology Ipod Downloads. To test the market, the YETI one is being made available free until January 25, 2007.

Located in Waitsfield, Vermont, the book series published under the company name of CHOOSECO worked to bring reading to many children and young adults, as well as assisting in critical thinking and decision making concepts.

Craig Heinselman

Peterborough, NH

Beavers are Good for Frogs

A Canadian study shows that beavers help provide habitat crucial for amphibians:

"Though considered a pest because of the culvert-clogging dams it builds on streams, the beaver is an ally in conserving valuable wetland habitat for declining amphibian populations, a University of Alberta study shows.
"The study, conducted in the boreal forests of west-central Alberta, showed that frog and toad choruses are only present on streams where beaver dams are present. While surveying the calls of male frogs and toads engaged in acoustic displays for females, researchers recorded approximately 5,000 boreal chorus frogs, wood frogs and western toads at 54 beaver ponds over a two-year period. Pitfall traps on beaver ponds captured 5.7 times more newly metamorphosed wood frogs, 29 times more western toads and 24 times more boreal chorus frogs than on nearby free-flowing streams.
"The study identifies beaver as a valuable 'surrogate species', said University of Alberta researchers Dr. Cam Stevens (lead author) and Dr. Cindy Paszkowski. The work is published in the January 2007 issue of Biological Conservation. Surrogate species can be indicators of changes to the environment caused directly or indirectly by human activities, population changes in other species, or they can act as 'umbrellas' protecting a large number of naturally co-occurring species." ...

"The beaver pond seems to provide suitable breeding habitats because of its warm, well-oxygenated water, which enhances development and growth rates of frog and toad larvae. As well, the ponds may be less hospitable to predatory fish because the dams are often located on small streams where winterkill conditions are common, the study suggests."

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Stung on a Plane

Loren Coleman passed along two recent news articles, two separate events, where a passenger on a plane was stung by a scorpion.

First, there was a Costa Rica to Vancouver flight, with a stopover in Miami:

"After hiding undetected in the man's carry-on bag, the scorpion decided to slip out during the flight, crawling up his oblivious victim's pant leg. He wasn't oblivious for long, however. He reached a unique level of awareness when the poisonous stinger painfully sunk into his skin and a quiet flight took on an ominous, creepy tone.
"The man did manage to kill the scorpion after it bit him. But the fear of more carnage wasn't totally assuaged.
"The incident caused an hour-long delay at Pearson International Airport as officials looked to see if any others had gotten loose.
"After the plane landed the traveller was treated at Etobicoke General and released.
"Animal control officers identified the scorpion as a non-lethal species."

I don't know what species they identified it as, but the photo (above) looks similar to some Costa Rican Centruroides species that I've kept in the past. There's a smaller species in Florida, but I'm guessing this was just a tropical scorpion that hitched a ride accidentally.

The second report comes from a different location:

"But this latest incident happened on a United Airlines plane heading from Chicago to Vermont.
David Sullivan, a 46-year-old builder, was coming home from a trip to visit family in San Francisco and had just awakened from a nap on the flight when he noticed an odd sensation in his leg above the knee.
"'My right leg felt like it was asleep, but that was isolated to one spot, and it felt like it was being jabbed with a sharp piece of plastic or something,' he recalls.
"But unlike the Canadian victim, this passenger was hit by the same arachnid twice.
"He felt another twinge after he disembarked and was waiting for his luggage to appear. Finally deciding there was something wrong, Sullivan rolled up his pant leg and the creepy crawler fell out and began scuttling across the terminal floor." ...

"Airline officials believe the creature came onboard during a stop in Texas and have promised to investigate."

Doesn't sound like anyone attempted to identify the species, but there are several harmless species in the southwest. (OK - harmless in that you're unlikely to have serious medical issues unless you're allergic...) For some odd reason, the newscast on this last episode showed a large African emperor scorpion, which has little resemblance to the usually small brown scorpions of Texas. Note also, the news reports' inability to distinguish between a bite and sting. A scorpion bite, of any species, isn't going to be threatening. They don't have poisonous saliva. It's the venom in the sting that causes problems, and it is their sting that they use for defensive and predatory purposes.
Nothing really strange about these incidents, just mark it up as a coincidence that the two events occurred (and were publicized) so close together. (I'm guessing that anything strange in regard to airlines will get more publicity than usual now.) I've seen reports on bites and stings from various critters on airplanes over the years; it's not a sign of the apocalypse or anything.

Walking Shark on FINS Blog

An interesting posting over at FINS Blog describes a post-discovery search for a as-yet undescribed species of epaulette "walking" shark from Indonesia. (The discovery was part of a group announcement by Conservation International last fall.)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Batfish and now a Smeagol Insect

Not only do we have a fish named after Bob Kane's Batman, we now have an insect named after JRR Tolkein's creation Smeagol (the image is from Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy).

The new insect is a type of japygid. The japygids are from the insect family japygidae, and are wingless insects in the order diplura with forcepslike anal appendages the members attack and devour small soil arthropods.

In Zootaxa 1372: 35-52 (2006) from December 4, 2006, a description of a new japygid is described.

The paper is entitled Gollumjapyx smeagol gen. n., sp. n., an enigmatic hypogean japygid (Diplura: Japygidae) from the eastern Iberian Peninsula, the authors A. Sendra, V. Ortuno, A. Moreno, S. Montagud and S. Teruel describe the species, originally found 25 years ago but now supported by more data, as:

A new species of subterranean japygid dipluran belonging to a new genus is diagnosed and described from the eastern Iberian Peninsula. The new species is highly adapted to hypogean life with very obvious troglobiomorphic features: unpigmented cuticle, an extraordinary lengthening of thorax and appendixes, multiplication of antennomeres and supernumerary placoid sensilla, not just in the apical antennomere but also in the preceding antennomeres. These traits make it the most exceptional of all the hypogean Japygidae known to date, with troglobiomorphic characteristics more accentuated than in other hypogean taxa known in the rest of the world. The cercal armature of the Burmjapyx type (Silvestri, 1930; sensu Paclt, 1957) together with the characteristics of the glandular organs of the first urosternite set it apart from the known Japygidae. However, those characteristics prove insufficient to establish a relation with other genera. It is therefore the only manifestly hypogean japygid species in the Iberian Peninsula, where only Metajapyx moroderi Silvestri, was known in certain caves of the eastern reaches of the Prebetic range. The new species has been located inside six average-sized underground caves, generally in the deepest areas, and may be one of the major hypogean predators in the Iberian Peninsula, with a diet that ranges from Acari to Anillini carabids. Its distribution along the limestone regions of the coastal ranges in the east of the Peninsula coincides with that of paleo-endemic troglobites. Therefore, it is possible to infer a remote origin for this species, as suggested by its high level of specialization in the subterranean ecosystems.

Tolkein's Smeagol may not look a lot like a japygid, but they share the same cave habitat. Granted one is fictional, the other is not.

Craig Heinselman
Peterborough, NH

KY Cougar Sighting

Ron Schaffner passes this news along:

"A mountain lion is spotted running loose near a local neighborhood.
"In the past three weeks, six people reported seeing the big cat.
"It was first seen near Camp Springs, just off the AA Highway in Campbell County. More recently, the cougar has been seen much closer to Cincinnati." ...
"Cathy Rust saw a mountain lion three weeks ago, about seven miles south off the AA Highway in Camp Springs. She saw it outside the Saddle Club. The cat was across the street, prowling outside the Campbell County Animal Shelter. She made sure the five others in the club got a look at it and reported it.
"'Yeah, that's why I was glad and called them,' said Rust. 'So people wouldn't think I was nuts!'
"'I'm not as surprised as I would have been years ago,' said John Dinon, Cincinnati Zoo's Conservation Program.
"In fact, John Dinon, the head of the Cincinnati Zoo's Conservation Program, says there is so much wildlife in the area he's not surprised a mountain lion would migrate in just for the food. Or if one escaped captivity, like the cougar on the run from a preserve west of Indianapolis." ...

"It's rare, but there were other mountain lion sightings in Kentucky last year. A man outside of Louisville had a cougar on his front lawn."

Largest Wolf Shot?

From news forwarded by Kevin Stewart:

"A grey wolf weighing 80kg has been shot dead in northwestern Bulgaria, which if confirmed would make it the biggest wolf ever recorded.
"Slavcho Slavchev, who said he killed the animal near the village of Brusartzi, told BTA news agency that he shot the six-year-old beast with a single bullet to the head while lying in ambush for other game.
"None of the hunters in his party had ever seen or heard about such a big animal, Slavchev said, adding that a 50kg wolf is already considered an exceptionally weighty trophy.
"There was no immediate independent confirmation of the weight of the animal Slavchev said he had shot.
"The heaviest wolf on record weighed 79.4kg according to The International Wolf Center in Ely in the US state of Minnesota.
"That was an animal shot dead in east-central Alaska in 1939, said Andrea Lorek Strauss from the centre, who added that she investigating whether there were any heavier wolves recorded outside the United States.
"Bulgaria has one of the largest game populations in Europe, including more than 2,500 grey wolves according to the latest tally."

Batfish the Catfish - a catfish named after batman

Within Neotropical Ichthyology 4 (4): 379-383, 2006 a new species of catfish is described.

Otocinclus batmani, a new species of hypoptopomatine catfish (Siluriformes: Loricariidae) from Columbia and Peru - Pablo Lehmann

From the description by Lehmann:

"A new species of the hypoptopomatine catfish genus Otocinclus is described from two localities in the upper Rio Amazonas basin: a tributary of the Rio Pure in Columbia and two tributaries to the Rio Amazonas near Iquitos in Peru. The new taxon can be easily distinguished from all congeners, except Otocinclus cocama, by having a single, intensely pigmented, vertical W-shaped caudal fin spot and by having three discrete dark bands on dorsum, between the dorsal-fin base and the caudal fin. Otocinclus batmani differs from O. cocama by the abscence of vertically elongated blotches from the dorsal midline to the ventral border of flank, and by lacking a psterior extension of black pigmentation on the base of two central caudal-fin rays. Phylogenetic relationships of the new species are investigated and it is possibly more closely related to a clade formed by O. huaorani, O. mariae, O. bororo, O. mura and O. cocama."

Ok, very nice, a new catfish. Now for the kicker.... from page 381 of the journal:

Etymology. The name batmani, alludes to Bob Kane's hero Batman of the comic adventures, which had a bat shape for his symbol, referring to the single W-or bat-shaped vertical spot on the caudal-fin.

Batfish the Catfish

Craig Heinselman
Peterborough, NH

Monday, January 08, 2007

Another New Zealand Mystery Cat

Sightings of a large black feline in New Zealand were reported sporadically over the last few years. Now, someone thinks they've seen a large ginger-colored cat. From the latest news report:

"Folklore suggests that a large, black, panther-type animal is roaming Mid-Canterbury.
"Now, a huge ginger feline has been claimed to be in hill country further north, in the Waimakariri Gorge.
"Four hunters said they saw the cat gracefully padding along the hills above the gorge as they jet-boated upriver during the Christmas-New Year break. They could not believe their eyes, so they used the telescopic sights on their rifles to get a better view.
"They described it as a huge ginger cat slipping easily among the rocks and tussock. 'It was its tail and the way it moved that gave it away,' one of the hunters said.
"They said the cat was about a metre long and above knee-high to a man. Its tail was about 8cm in diameter and long. They were stunned at its size." ...
"They were reluctant to reveal the exact location.
"Conservation Department biodiversity programme manager Mike Ambrose said he would be surprised if there was an 'African plains-type' animal roaming the hills above the gorge.
"It was not unusual, however, to come across some large feral cats, particularly if there was a habitat nearby that treated them well.
"'Feral cats, depending on their home range, can grow large. It would be no surprise to find a few in the Waimakariri Gorge.
"'There has probably been a feral population of cats there for years,' he said.

[Full news posted to StrangeArk archive.]


Just an FYI: despite my settings, Blogger hasn't been informing me that comments are pending, so I guess I'm going to have to check for them myself.
My only request regarding comments is that if you are going to make statements of fact, please make sure you know what you are talking about. For example, one individual commented that the South American amphibian photo was "clearly" a fake: a fish with frog legs attached. Obviously, that individual has little background in biology, and probably jumps on the "it's a fake" bandwagon whenever he/she encounters something new. Please employ some critical thinking before making such assertions; otherwise, the comment won't be approved.
If you have questions regarding material posted (or cryptozoology/bioforteana in general), feel free to post them or email directly and we'll do our best to respond.

Centipede Blamed for Death

Loren Coleman passed this article along. A centipede is blamed for the death of a pregnant woman in Malaysia:

"Azlina Saian, 33, (picture) had thought that she was bitten by an ant as she laid on the floor watching television with her husband at their home in Kampung Tanjung Siam Baru on Dec 29.
"Thinking that it was only a minor ant bite, her husband Abdul Rahman Samad, 37, told her to apply some ointment.
"It was only when Azlina’s face started to swell that Abdul Rahman became worried. By midnight, four hours after the incident, Azlina was running a high fever.
"The odd-job worker later discovered a small centipede among the pillows where Azlina had been lying down earlier but thought nothing of it.
"However, Azlina’s condition worsened over the next two days and she started to bleed from the gums on New Year’s Day.
"'I rushed her to the Tanjung Karang Hospital but on the way there, she said she could feel our baby slipping away,' he said.
"Their worst fears were confirmed when doctors told them that the foetus was dead. Azlina was transferred to Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah (HTAR) in Klang for further treatment but her condition continued to deteriorate.
"'She was bleeding from the nose and under her fingernails and even a blood transfusion could not help.' Abdul Rahman said doctors induced the foetus which appeared swollen.
"Azlina died at 8.15am yesterday and was buried at a cemetery near their home in Kuala Selangor.
"HTAR director Dr Yahaya Baba said that the victim died of septicaemic (blood poisoning) and shock. "

The blame in this tragedy appears misplaced: it is highly unlikely that a centipede was the culprit. There is an Asian species, Scolopendra subspinipes, that can be dangerous as an adult, but a small one is not going to have the capability to deliver enough venom to kill a human. The small centipede was not found until later, suggesting it was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The symptoms don't particularly suggest centipede envenomations, either. (A study on centipede envenomations, with case studies, can be viewed at the Wilderness Medical Society site.) The coagulation problem almost suggests (and I'm not a doctor, so this isn't medical advice) a viper bite.

The Butterflies Are Coming...

The latest invasive species to hit the news is the Lime Swallowtail:

"An Asian butterfly known for ravaging the leaves of young citrus trees has spread from the Dominican Republic to other Caribbean islands and could soon strike fruit producers in Florida and South America, agriculture experts said.
"The Papilo Demoleus butterfly was spotted in the Dominican Republic three years ago — the first recorded sighting in the Western Hemisphere, said Brian Farrell, a Harvard biology professor who led the field study that found it.
"The insect, known also as the lime swallowtail, has since appeared in Jamaica and Puerto Rico. U.S. officials worried about Florida's $9 billion citrus industry have criticized the local government for not doing enough to control the pests.
"U.S. officials worry the pest could be brought into the United States by a tourist, or smuggled into the country with illegally transported fruit. Known as a strong flier suited for island hopping in Asia, the butterfly might also manage the trip on its own.
"'I don't think the (Dominican agriculture) ministry is doing anything. They don't see it as a problem,' said Russell Duncan, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Santo Domingo.
"The director of the Agriculture Ministry's fruit department, Damian Andujar, said there was no need for a widespread eradication campaign. 'This isn't a big problem for us, it's under control,' he said.
"The butterflies, with red and yellow wing markings and bright blue eyespots, have such a taste for citrus leaves that they often strip trees of all but their branches.
"A year after they were discovered in the Dominican Republic, an infestation destroyed more than 4,000 young trees owned by produce giant Grupo Rica — 3 percent of its nursery stock, said Felipe Mendez, a company official.
"Caterpillars ate every leaf on many of the trees they attacked, Mendez said. Damage to the company's orchards in the country's south central region has since been contained by workers trained to pick leaves at the first sign of butterfly eggs.
"'We realized we had a natural enemy,' Mendez said.
"Workers in Jamaica's St. Catherine region also have been trying to kill the caterpillars by hand. An aerial spraying campaign has not been attempted for fear of damaging nearby beekeepers' hives, Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke told the Jamaica Observer.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Hogzilla Again

Do you remember the large wild hog called Hogzilla from 2004? Chris Griffin shot this animal near Alapaha Georgia in mid-2004. The animal was reported to be over 12-feet long and over 1000 pounds in weight.

Featured in 2005 in a National Geographic television special, the Georgian Hogzilla ended up being around 7 1/2 - 8 feet long and around 800 pounds.

Even if not the godzilla of hogs, it was a formidable animal. One not to tussle with.

That said though, the Georgian animal did set one record at least, its 18-inch tusk (one was 18, the other 16) set a new Safari Club international North American Free-Range Record.

News now comes of another Hogzilla, that is 1100 pounds that was killed in Fayette County of Georgia by William Coursey.

The Associated Press has been running an entry on it, which has been reported in numerous papers now across the land:

Another Hogzilla reportedly caught near Atlanta
FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. (AP) — A giant wild hog claimed to be bigger than the near-mythical "Hogzilla" caught in southern Georgia a few years ago has been killed in a suburban Atlanta neighborhood.
The hog hung snout down from a tree Friday in William Coursey's front yard, not far from where the avid hunter said he shot the beast. He said he hauled it to a truck weight station, which recorded the hairy hog at 1,100 pounds.
The Department of Natural Resources did not know whether the hog was a record for the state. "We don't keep records on hogs," said Melissa Cummings of the DNR's public affairs department.
But Coursey believes his behemoth surpasses the famed super swine shot and killed in 2004 that weighed in at half a ton on the farm's scales. A team of National Geographic experts later confirmed "Hogzilla" didn't quite live up to the 1,000-pound, 12-foot hype, saying the beast was probably 7 1/2 to 8 feet long, and weighed about 800 pounds.
The news of Coursey's kill got people are talking about the enormous beasts that roam the state.
"Nobody keeps official records," said Daryl Kirby, an editor with Georgia Outdoor News. "But it's one heck of a hog."

Another large animal indeed, but others of dangerous size have also been killed recently.

William Bruner and Kelly Livingston killed two hefty Russian boars on New Year's Day 2007 in Bull Swamp in South Carolina. One weighed 500 pounds the other 475 pounds.

Cryptic encounters in the woods with large hairy animals do occur. But would you want to run into one of these "monsters" in the woods?

Craig Heinselman
Peterborough, NH

Wisconsin Cougar Study

News report about a program attempting to determine whether cougar can be found in Wisconsin:

"A year-long search failed to turn up positive proof that mountain lions are present in Wisconsin, but the study's leader is far from dismayed.
"'We're still looking, but I don't think it (finding conclusive evidence) is too far off,' said Eric Anderson, professor of wildlife at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
"'If cougars are not here, they're going to be here, and we should be thinking about how we are going to deal with their presence.'
"Anderson's optimism is buoyed by a photograph reportedly taken Oct. 22, 2005, near Ettrick in Trempealeau County. A bow hunter's trail camera produced a blurry image that appears to be a cougar with a large collar around its neck." ...

"The presence of a collar could indicate the animal is an escaped pet cougar, but Anderson has another theory.
"'South Dakota is doing radio-collar work with cougars. One of their collared cougars was located in northwestern Minnesota. One was headed in the direction of Wisconsin, and they don't know its fate.'
"If the latter animal is the cougar captured on camera, there is no way to verify it.
"But the presence of cougars has been documented in Illinois and Minnesota, Anderson said, and the Michigan public is pushing that state's Department of Natural Resources to concede cougars have a small but established population there.
"Dozens of cougar sightings have been reported in Wisconsin in recent years, but state DNR officials say strong photographic or physical evidence is needed to verify those reports and to take any steps that might be necessary regarding the animals' future.
"Anderson began a concerted effort to obtain DNA samples of cougars in 2006.
"Hair snares on rubbing posts baited with cat lure were placed in several areas of the state with frequent cougar sightings. The snares were designed to capture cat hairs for DNA testing to ascertain whether the hair came from a cougar or some other animal.
"'We put a total of 36 hair snares out from Jan. 3 to the end of March," Anderson said. "We had seven hits. Two were from bobcats, two were from black bear and three were of unknown materials.'
"This winter, an additional effort will be made to collect hair samples, but the snare device has been redesigned and the cat lure reformulated.
"'We're trying to increase the attractiveness to mountain lions,' Anderson said. 'We've done trials on captive animals to see which formula gets the best reaction. We're trying to elicit a rubbing response.'
"Snare efforts will be concentrated in Lincoln, Langlade and Oneida counties, enabling UWSP student researchers Kristina Artner and Joe Welch to more easily monitor the stations." ...
"Many cougar sightings appear legitimate at first glance, he added, 'but maybe 90 percent of the sightings are explainable as other species.
"'When people have photos, nine times out of 10, the photo is of a bobcat. Shadows or the angle of the lens affect a photo, and if you don't know what you're looking for, it can look very much like a mountain lion.'
"Anderson said the Ettrick photo is the only one 'that I'm really quite convinced may be a mountain lion.'
"A paw print obtained along the Wisconsin-Michigan border in Vilas County 'looks pretty darn convincing to me,' he added.
"If one of the hair snares produces DNA evidence that a cougar is present, an array of trail cameras may be established in the vicinity, Anderson said.
"Adrian Wydeven, a DNR wildlife specialist at Park Falls, and Anderson have been looking for conclusive evidence of cougars in Wisconsin since 2003.
"'We don't have any answers yet, but we have lots and lots of questions,' Anderson said.
"Among the intriguing queries:
"If a native breeding cougar population is indeed present, how have these stealthy animals maintained a presence on the landscape without leaving more physical evidence of their existence?"

Friday, January 05, 2007

New sucker-footed bat

Madagascar has a new species of sucker-footed bat. From the press release:

"Scientists have discovered a new species of bat that has large flat adhesive organs, or suckers, attached to its thumbs and hind feet. This is a remarkable find because the new bat belongs to a Family of bats endemic to Madagascar--and one that was previously considered to include only one rare species. The new species, Myzopoda schliemanni, occurs only in the dry western forests of Madagascar, while the previously known species, Myzopoda aurita, occurs only in the humid eastern forests of Madagascar, according to new research recently published online in the journal Mammalian Biology. The new species is obviously different from the known species based on pelage coloration, external measurements and cranial characteristics, according to the researchers.
"Myzopoda are often found in association with broad-leaf plants, most notably Ravenala madagascariensis or the Travelers' Palm, a plant that is endemic to Madagascar but has been introduced to numerous tropical countries. Myzopoda are found in association with such plants because they can use their suckers to climb and adhere to the leaves' flat, slick surface. They are presumed to roost in the leaves during the day.
"Myzopoda were considered endangered because of their limited distribution and the notion that the family included only one species. The new research, however, modifies both of these ideas.
"The researchers determined that Myzopoda is not endangered by the loss of the moist tropical forests because the bat appears to have adapted very well to the large broad-leaf Ravenala that are often pioneering plants in zones where the original forests have been cleared and burned.
"'For now, we do not have to worry as much about the future of Myzopoda,' said Steven M. Goodman, Field Museum field biologist and lead author of the study. 'We can put conservation efforts on behalf of this bat on the backburner because it is able to live in areas that have been completely degraded, contrary to what is indicated or inferred in the current literature.'
"This underlines the importance of basic scientific research for establishing the priorities for conservation programs and assessments of presumed rare and possibly endangered animals, the study concludes.
"Due to the physical similarities between M. schliemanni and M. aurita, the researchers concluded that one species probably evolved from the other, most likely after the bat dispersed across the island from east to west.
"Bats are the last group of land mammals on Madagascar that have not been intensively studied, Goodman said. 'Until a decade ago, these animals remained largely understudied. On the basis of recent surveys and taxonomic research, about one-third of the island's bat species were unknown to scientists until a few years ago, and the majority of these are new to science.'
"Only about eight percent of Madagascar's original forest cover remains, as the forests continue to be cleared by associated subsistence agricultural activities and to provide wood energy for urban zones. The island, which is found off the eastern coast of Africa, remains one of the most critically threatened areas in the world, in terms of biodiversity. Madagascar has a higher level of endemism (with plants and animals found nowhere else) than any other landmass in the world of comparable size. 'Still today, you can go out and discover things in Madagascar that have never before been seen by scientists,' Goodman said. 'The sense of discovery is almost levitating.'"

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Submarine Ring of Fire 2006

Life in the sea has often been called the least known system. We know more some say about space than the deepest oceans. Now what of the species living around vents, and the ecosystem interactions?

By Thomas Winterhoff
Esquimalt News
Jan 03 2007

New species of fish thrives in toxic environment of underwater volcanoes

It’s sometimes been said that human beings know more about the farthest reaches of the solar system than they do about the deepest regions of Earth’s own ocean environments.

However, a team of Canadian and American scientists (including a group of University of Victoria staff and grad students) made a fascinating discovery this spring that’s shed a little more light on the mysterious world beneath the waves. In some respects, their work has raised as many questions as it’s answered.

The Submarine Ring of Fire 2006 expedition was launched in May and concentrated on identifying various forms of life around active underwater volcanoes in the Pacific Ocean. The ongoing project is jointly funded by research agencies in Canada and the United States, with American organizations such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) providing most of the financial backing. Dr. John Dower and Dr. Verena Tunnicliffe led a UVic contingent that was also involved in a similar 2004 expedition.

“They had invited us to come along to explore a big chain of underwater volcanoes that no one had really explored before we started there in 2004,” explains Dower, who is involved in both the biology and the earth and ocean science departments at UVic.

The most recent study was focused on a series of underwater volcanoes that lie along the Mariana Arc, located northeast of the Philippines. The depth of the volcanoes varies greatly, with some just 100 metres below the surface and others located over 1.5 kilometres beneath the waves. Some of the “seamounts” in the chain have been forcing their way upward over the millennia to the point where some of them formed small islands. That process produced the island of Guam at the south end of the Arc, which is home to a major U.S. military base and served as the expedition’s starting point.

The volcanoes may lie underwater, but some of them are extremely active and constantly spew out hot plumes of sulphur and toxic heavy metals.

The volcanic activity in these “hydrothermal” areas can heat up the surrounding seawater to temperatures approaching 180 C.

Under normal circumstances, most forms of marine life tend to avoid such inhospitable environments.

The team used a remote-control submersible vehicle equipped with a video camera to scan the seabed around each volcano. It was during those surveys that the researchers captured images that were totally unexpected; a species of previously unknown flatfish (also known as a tonguefish) was swimming nonchalantly through the clouds of poisonous chemicals and was even seen resting on top of pools of molten sulphur.

“In other hydrothermal systems like this, one of the groups (of animals) that’s often curiously absent – or in very low numbers – are fish,” says Dower. “It was surprising to find these fish there... What was even more surprising was their abundance.”

See for the entire article.

Craig Heinselman
Peterborough, NH

Prof’s niche is odd fish

Sometimes it takes time to describe something new, especially when you get to pick the new name.....

Prof’s niche is odd fish
Meet MU’s ‘ratfish lady’

By Madelyn Pennino
Intelligencer Journal

Published: Jan 04, 2007

MILLERSVILLE, Pa. - The counters in Dominique Dagit’s laboratory are lined with plastic containers holding preserved fish that have yet to be given scientific names.

The fish are ratfish — an ancient relative to sharks — and it’s the Millersville University biology professor’s task to give each a moniker.

Dagit, who calls herself the “ratfish lady,” has written about 15 articles on ratfish for various publications, and she’s attended numerous conferences, where she met people who have discovered new species of the fish or are seeking information about it.

A 1992 graduate of University of Massachusetts at Amherst with a doctorate in zoology, she has made a name for herself among other ratfish experts. And those experts frequently come to her for help in deciding if a new species has been discovered.

Oftentimes, Dagit will work with those colleagues to name the newly found species.

Most recently, she was one of several scientists involved in the naming of a new type of ratfish. She chose Hydrolagus mccoskeri after John McCosker, a friend and colleague from California Academy of Sciences who — on his birthday in 1995 — found the species in the Pacific Ocean near the Galapagos Islands. McCosker asked Dagit for her help in the naming process.

To date, Dagit has named five other species of ratfish. She said the process is exciting.

“It’s like immortality,” she said. “Your name is associated with it forever.”

See for the rest of the entry.

Craig Heinselman
Peterborough, NH

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Borneo's "Mystery Animal"

Darren Naish has a very interesting posting about the alleged mystery animal captured on film in central Borneo. A new paper appearing in Mammal Review indicates that the animal is a little-known flying squirrel. First, the paper in question:

'New Bornean carnivore' is most likely a little known flying squirrel
Erik Meijaard, Andrew C. Kitchener and Chris Smeenk

Mammal Review
Volume 36 Issue 4 Page 318 - October 2006


1. We analysed two camera-trap photos of an alleged new species of carnivore from Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia.

2. Comparisons of the features seen in the photos with morphological features of 17 similar-looking species from the region suggest that the animal is not a new species of carnivore, as had been widely speculated, but is most likely a rarely seen species of flying squirrel, probably Aeromys thomasi.

3. We advocate continuing adherence to the formalities of species description based on actual specimens and a formal review process. Even informal announcements about possible new species based on photographs or other indirect evidence should adopt a cautionary approach. All the possibilities should be eliminated using any available means, such as comparative morphometrics and assessments of body shape and posture, and coat colour.

Now, this isn't brand new information, as Meijaard suggested it in print for BBC Wildlife Magazine (March 2006), but it should provide an objective appraisal of the animal from professional mammalogists familiar with that region's fauna. (I'm including an image of the BBC Wildlife article here, which shows a photo of the flying squirrel Petaurista.)
From a cryptozoological standpoint, since 2005, the theory that it was a rediscovered civet has been the only one that has really gotten much press. That's unfortunate, as the squirrel theory was brought up on at least one cryptozoology forum. I'd suggest that in similar cases, when a summary review of a given mystery animal is written for the benefit of cryptozoology enthusiasts, all reasonable theories (not just preferred ones) should be given mention, with full recognition that poor imagery shouldn't be considered heavily weighted evidence.

Australia: Suburban Brush Turkeys

From the Japan Times:

"BRISBANE, Australia -- Summer has arrived in the leafy Brisbane suburb of St. Lucia. The only things falling from the trees are exquisitely scented frangipani flowers and the odd possum. Not much to rake up, but somebody next door has been at it half the day by the sound of it.
"Scrape, scrape, scrape. Who is this obsessive gardener? It seems rude to peer through the fence, but . . .
"He has a bald, boiled-red head and neck, as if he's been out under the Queensland sun far, far too long. Around his throat hangs a yellow ruff. Apart from that, he's all in black and using his feet, alternately, to spray leaves and twigs in a 2-meter arc behind him." ...

"But it's not one of your common-or- garden, stuff-it-with-sage-and-onion-type turkeys that's evaded the festive slaughter. No, this one has nothing to sweat about and no need to be the least bit evasive whatever the season, because this is Alectura lathami, aka the Australian brush turkey -- and it is protected by law." ...
"There's nothing flashy about a brush turkey. But it's still the most amazing bird in the garden.
"The Australian brush turkey is a megapode in the family Megapodiidae. There are 22 species of megapodes scattered across the Australo-Pacific region, with three (the brush turkey, the malleefowl and the orange-footed megapode) native to Australia. The name 'megapode,' meaning 'big foot,' refers to the long, raking-friendly toes characteristic of the birds in this family.

"By bird standards, megapodes do some strange things. When reports of their behavior were taken back to Europe by early travelers, they were for many years dismissed as mere sailors' stories, logged in the same category as mermaid sightings. There was talk of birds laying their eggs in volcanoes, of chicks hatching underground, and other such nonsense!
"Except it was true. One very unbirdlike thing that all species of megapode do is to bury their eggs and allow an external heat source to incubate them. And some megapodes do take advantage of geothermal heat in volcanic soil to do this. And indeed, chicks do hatch underground; they then dig themselves out, and have nothing at all to do with their parents.
In ornithological parlance, megapode chicks are 'highly precocial,' which is to say that they are mind-bogglingly talented and well developed when they hatch. Perhaps 'superavian' would also be a suitable term, because what these chicks manage to do is surely the equivalent of a human infant lifting a car.
"For egg incubation, brush turkeys rely on compost power -- which is where all that raking comes in. It is the male's job to build a mound out of leaves, twigs and soil for females to bury their eggs in.
"But don't imagine a molehill-size, not even the largest one ever heaved up by the heftiest megamole. The average brush turkey mound is 4 meters in diameter and a meter high; it comprises between 2 and 4 tons of material; and it takes up to six weeks to build. Decomposition of vegetable matter warms it from within.
"Once a male brush turkey has built his mound, he guards it fiercely and, using his beak as a thermometer, makes sure the core stays at around 34C , sometimes adding material or taking it away to adjust the temperature. (Due to their heat-sensitive beaks, megapodes are also known as 'thermometer birds.')
"Meanwhile, females of the species shop around mounds until they find a male they wish to copulate with. (Males man their mounds with this in mind throughout daylight hours, or can be found nearby.) But unlike some species of megapode, the brush turkey is highly promiscuous. No bonding between pairs takes place, and several females may end up laying in the same mound.
"The male only allows a female onto his mound for copulation or egg-laying, and on completion of either activity he chases her away. For her flighty part, she has nothing more to do with the eggs, which remain buried at a depth of around half a meter in the center of the mound for about 50 days until they hatch." ...

"The first Herculean task facing the chick is to dig up through 50 cm of rotting, oxygen-poor compost to reach fresh air. This takes about 40 hours, with most of the distance covered in a frantic burst of digging in the final hour or two." ...
"With no training, no time to build up its strength, and no adult model for inspiration, a newly hatched brush turkey chick can launch itself up into the air, from ground level, to take refuge for the night in the low branches of a tree. That's what you call precocial!"
"By the 1950s, brush turkeys were a rare sight indeed. Since they were designated a protected species in 1974, however, they have proliferated so dramatically in their native territory -- down much of Australia's east coast -- that many people now regard them as a pest.
"But they're still a protected pest. You have to be nice to a brush turkey, even if it destroys your garden. Even at Christmas."

Nepal Rhinos Disappear

From Reuters:

"Dozens of endangered Great One-horned rhinoceros have mysteriously gone missing from a nature reserve in southwest Nepal over the past few years, a wildlife official said on Wednesday.
"Authorities introduced 72 rhinos, also known as the Indian rhinoceros, in the Babai Valley, 320 km (200 miles) southwest of Kathmandu, as part of a conservation drive that started in 1984.
"'We have records showing 23 rhinos had died due to poaching or other causes. The rest are missing,' Laxmi Prasad Manandhar, a senior official at the Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation, said.
"But he ruled out the possibility of all the 49 missing rhinos falling prey to poachers.
"'If poachers had killed them they should have left behind the bodies' after taking away the horn, he said, adding that just one rhino skeleton had been found during an extensive search in June.
"'Where did they go? I have no answer. It is a mystery,' Manandhar said." ...

"Nepal began its rhino conservation drive 30 years ago when the population fell to 108 animals from around 800 in 1950. One-horned rhinos are also found in the northeastern Indian state of Assam.
"The one-horned species of the rhinoceros has been one of the greatest conservation success stories in South Asia. With strict protection, especially in India, their total numbers have touched around 2,500 from 100 about a century ago."

[Full news posted to StrangeArk archive.]

Cayman Island Croc

From news reports, an American crocodile was caught in the Caymans for the first time in decades:

"A crocodile that strayed into Cayman waters and was shot with a spear gun by a member of the public is reportedly doing well with its recovery at Boatswain’s Beach.
"The 7.5– to eight–foot crocodile was captured in Old Man Bay on Saturday following many calls from the public to the 911 Emergency Communications Centre reporting a sighting of a crocodile.
"And the RCIPS has stated that rumours that there were three crocodiles in local waters and the police had killed one of them, are untrue.
"'There were unconfirmed reports of a second crocodile,' said Media Liaison Officer Deborah Dennis, but officers have been out to look for it and have seen no signs of any other crocodile. An aerial search of the sea using Cayman Islands Helicopter was carried out Sunday.
"Ms Dennis did add, however, that it can’t be 100 per cent certain that there is not another crocodile out there." ...

"The croc is in the care of veterinarians under the supervision of the Department of Agriculture, but is being housed at Boatswain’s Beach.
"They are 90 per cent sure, said Curator of Terrestrial Exhibits at Boatswain’s Beach Geddes Hislop, that the fully mature crocodile is female." ...

"Mr. Hislop said as far as he knew, the last report of a live crocodile in Cayman was in 1959.
"The most recent find is an American Crocodile, Mr. Hislop said. This type is not known for attacks on humans and they generally do not attack unless provoked. A Cuban crocodile would be much more aggressive, he said.
"The crocodile, he said, would have swum from Cuba, Hispaniola or Jamaica." ...

"The crocodile is in a private area of Boatswain’s Beach where she cannot be viewed by the public.
"Mr. Hislop said it was a good thing the crocodile was taken from the water as someone would have killed it otherwise."

[Full news posted to StrangeArk archive.]