Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Galaxy rasbora placed in new genus

Galaxy rasbora placed in new genus

"Microrasbora sp 'Galaxy' has been officially described and placed in a new genus. Tyson Roberts today described the new species as Celestichthys margaritatus in a paper in the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology. He has also given the fish the new common name of Celestial pearl danio. Roberts says that the new species is a member of the cyprinid subfamily Danioninae and is most closely related to two danionins from Inle Lake in Myanmar, Microrasbora rubescens and "Microrasbora" erythromicron.

"Prior to its official description, the fish was only tentatively considered a member of the Microrasbora genus, on account of its similarity to M. erythromicron. Roberts believes that Celestichthys margaritatus is so different to other Microrasbora that it warrants a genus of their own, possibly along with "Microrasbora" erythromicron. The fish, which was discovered in August 2006, was first covered by Practical Fishkeeping in September and featured in the Interesting Imports column in the December 2006 issue of the magazine."

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New shark, ray species found

Please note, the article below details some basic data on 20 new species of sharks and rays from Indonesia between 2001 and 2006, some have been formally described, others are pending. You can purchase a hard copy of the referenced field guide through the ACIAR, or also download a copy (over 6 mb) freely of "Economically important sharks and rays Indonesia "

Twenty new species of sharks and rays have been discovered in Indonesia during a five-year survey of catches at local fish markets, Australian researchers said on Wednesday.

The survey by the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, or CSIRO, represents the first in-depth look at Indonesia's sharks and rays since Dutch scientist Pieter Bleeker described more than 1 100 fish species from 1842-1860.

Researchers said six of their discoveries have been described in peer review journals, including the Bali Catshark and Jimbaran Shovelnose Ray, found only in Bali, and the Hortle's Whipray, found only in West Papua.Papers on the remaining 14 are being prepared.

"Indonesia has the most diverse shark and ray fauna and the largest shark and ray fishery in the world, with reported landings of more than 100 000 tons a year," said William White, a co-author of the study. "Before this survey, however, there were vast gaps in our knowledge of sharks and rays in this region."

Based on the survey's findings, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research has published a 330-page, full-colour, field guide titled: "Economically Important Sharks and Rays of Indonesia."From 2001 to 2006, researchers photographed and sampled more than 130 species on 22 survey trips to 11 ports across Indonesia.

More than 800 specimens were lodged in reference collections at the Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense at Cibinong, Java, and the Australian National Fish Collection at Hobart.The survey was part of a broader project working toward improved management of sharks and rays in Indonesia and Australia, researchers said.

"Good taxonomic information is critical to managing shark and ray species, which reproduce relatively slowly and are extremely vulnerable to overfishing," White said in a statement. "It provides the foundation for estimating population sizes, assessing the effects of fishing and developing plans for fisheries management and conservation."

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Is Bigfoot Living In The Forest Above Marysville?

Note: See for the video segment


There's a big mystery in our backyard tonight. Is a Bigfoot living in the forest above Marysville?

A local couple has found big prints in those woods and experts are saying it may not be a hoax.

It was just after a rainstorm, a great time for hunting deer. It was a perfect place, high up in the dense woods of the Plumas National Forest.Chuck and Michelle Padigo had been down the logging road lots of times, including just a few days earlier.

Past two gates, about three miles from the highway, in a recently logged area, Michelle looked down and spotted something very strange. What the Padigo's say they encountered was more than three dozen huge footprints spread out over a hundred yards or more.

“I swear the hair on my arms stood up,” says Michelle.The couple recorded their discovery with photographs and returned to take more pictures.

Joining the Padigos now was Scot Woodland, a Nevada County search and rescue team member and a certified expert tracker.

Scot says he's got an open mind but when he first saw the tracks he figured here's another hoax."The closer I got and looked at the prints, the more I could see the detail and the movement in the foot. As a tracker you see how things move the weight and all that stuff. The complexity of the footprint made me go whoa!” he says.

What really impressed Scot was the force of the Bigfoot print which rippled the ground around it. Scot's footprint next to it hardly moved the earth.“If it's a hoax, somebody really did a good job, if it's not, then there's a big creature that lives among us," says Woodland.

All the prints appear to be from one animal walking slowly but with a stride twice that of a human.“We measured from heel of the left foot to heel of left foot, 56 inches," says Scott.

The footprint was gigantic. It was seven-and-a-half inches wide. The tape measure shows the impression is nearly double the length of an adult human foot. In Humboldt County, in the tiny town of Willow Creek, there's a Bigfoot museum run by Al Hodgson. Decades ago, he had a similar experience when he found what he believed were the footprints of a mother and child Bigfoot.Ever since the scratchy film of an alleged Bigfoot spotting was taken in 1963, a growing amount of potential evidence has been reported.

From a distant picture of a possible big foot, to plaster impressions of some very big feet. Compare them with the plaster cast Chuck Padigo made and you’ll see the same basic shape, same size. Almost square toes with little or no arching.

If there is a big foot living in the woods, it wouldn't be the first time somebody has reported the evidence. CBS13 checked the records over the past decade.In both 1997 and 1998, a science researcher found possible Bigfoot tracks and feces in the same Plumas Forest Area.And again in 1998, a veteran forest service employee found footprints fourteen inches long by six inches wide.CBS13 checked with residents of the small towns near where Michelle and Chuck found their footprints.

Store owner Peggy Pope says she's a believer.“I've never heard of anybody up here saying they've seen one, or any evidence? Or any evidence, but I believe there is such a thing," says Pope.Other locals say they have either heard or smelled what might be a Bigfoot, but they also tell of some big bears living in these woods.But pictures of bear paws, while certainly very large, clearly show big claws.

The footprints Chuck and Michelle found show no sign of any claws, just clean imprints of five toes.The Padigos found the footprints four months ago and didn't publicize it until now.They do not seem to seek notoriety and appear to be genuinely and deeply affected by the incident but still, we had to ask if they were playing a hoax on us. “No sir, I wouldn't do that, I'm not that smart, I couldn't make something like that," says Chuck.

Photos and measurements of those big footprints have been sent to a renowned scientist who is researching Bigfoot sightings. No word yet on whether he thinks those prints are made by man or by a lot bigger and more secretive creature.


Monday, February 26, 2007

More on Bowness

Loren Coleman notes another image of the "creature" at Bowness, pointing out there is little to suggest an actual mystery animal in the picture. I don't know where that particular image comes from, but the photographer of the first noted picture, Linden Adams, is hawking several others in a "media packet." Apparently, there's money to be made in pics of wakes.

Dr. Charles Paxton notes on a discussion list that the newspaper article quoted him incorrectly and out of context. He also observes that "50 feet" was the length of the wake, not whatever was making it. The forensic photographer suggested that the solid portion at the front of the wake was perhaps 3.5 meters long, but that could also be part of the wake itself (waves), and so the responsible animal (or animals) could have been much smaller.

Rare Cuckoo Recorded

A large bird from Sumatra, rediscovered only in the last decade, has finally been recorded on audio tape, which should help ornithologists survey the rare species. From Eurekalert:

"A team of biologists with the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have recorded for the first time the call of the extremely rare Sumatran ground cuckoo, found only on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia.
"The bird was captured by a trapper and handed over to WCS biologists, who recorded the bird’s call while it nursed an injured foot. Once fully recovered, the bird will be released back into the wild.
"Known only by a handful of specimens collected over the past century, the Sumatran ground cuckoo is considered to be one of the world’s rarest, most secretive birds, and is restricted to Sumatra’s deep jungles and rainforests. In fact, ornithologists believed the bird was extinct until 1997, when a single individual was briefly seen. Last year a second bird was photographed by a remote camera trap. It is now believed to be critically endangered. Until now, however, no one knew the bird’s call – a key field diagnostic ornithologists use to identify birds that live in forest. According to WCS, having a recording of the bird’s call will also make it easier for biologists to locate other individuals, and to possibly evaluate the bird’s total population.
"'We were extremely lucky to have recorded the bird’s unique call,' said Firdaus Rahman, of WCS’s Indonesia Program. 'Our team will use the recording to hopefully locate other Sumatran ground cuckoos, and to eventually secure their protection.'
"The recoded call can best be described as a pair of sharp screams. It is unknown at this point whether the bird has additional vocalizations.
"Sumatran ground cuckoos are relatively large birds (half a meter long) with long tails. It has green plumage with a black crown and green bill, and striking blue facial markings."

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

More Cougar Articles

Two news postings of interest:

Pros and cons of cougar sightings in Massachusetts.

A Michigan sighting near East Lansing.


Mystery Squid

Another squid story this week. From the News-Press:

"Scientists are trying to figure out the identity of a large squid found off the Keys by a charter captain earlier this week. Capt.
"Clint Moore was fishing in 850 feet of water near the Gulf Stream southwest of Key West Tuesday when he saw a large mass floating at the surface.
"He realized it was a squid and took it aboard; at the dock, he estimated the length at 13 feet, but was not fully intact — the giant squid, genus Architeuthis, can reach lengths of 30 feet.
"The animal was taken to Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota where Debi Ingrao performed a necropsy — post-mortem examination — Thursday.
"'The tail section was gone; it had no tentacles, so I can’t speculate what the overall length was,' Ingrao said.
"'What we have is 6.5 feet long. It weighed 13.2 pounds, but it may have been more than that.'
The squid is definitely not Architeuthis.
"'It’s much different, very, very different,' Ingrao said. 'I don’t know the genus. That could be my lack of knowledge. Someone who’s seen 50 million squid might know what it is.'
"So it might be a new species or even a new genus.
"'The thing is, I don’t think people realize how many things we don’t know about the ocean,' Ingrao said. 'We’re discovering hundreds of species a day.'
"A researcher from the Smithsonian Institution is expected at Mote on Tuesday for an attempt to identify the squid."

Friday, February 23, 2007

Bowness Monster

News and photo of an unidentified lake creature in England:

"It is little more than a dark smudge near the surface of a lake - but it could still signify the birth of a new legend.
"For this shadowy image is causing more than a ripple of interest among monster aficionados.
And to the man who took it, the picture is proof that something strange lurks in the waters of Windermere.

"Photographer Linden Adams, 35, was walking in the area with his wife Louise a fortnight ago.
They were at a secluded spot more than 1,000ft up a mountain when they spotted the 'creature'.
"'It just came out of the blue,' said the father of two. 'The water was incredibly peaceful and then this huge thing appeared, diving and thrashing around.'

"He said it appeared to be 50ft long, when compared to boats nearby. 'I snatched the binoculars from my wife and gasped when I got a better look. I could see this huge dark thing moving in the water. It had a head like a labrador, only much, much bigger.'
"Mr Adams, from Bowness-on-Windermere, said: 'I know the lake well and this was no freak wave or boat.'
"Aware of similar sightings in the lake, he began taking pictures of what he calls the 'Bowness Monster'.
"'When I looked at them on my computer I realised I had something,' he said. 'It was spine-tingling.'
"Aware of the scepticism surrounding photographs purporting to show the Loch Ness monster Mr Adams sent his picture to a forensic photographer, who confirmed it was not digitally enhanced.
"His wife, 38, said: 'I was just making excuses in my head for what it could be but when we saw the pictures we knew we had seen something really important.'

"Dr Charles Paxton, a Marine Biologist from St Andrews University in Edinburgh, said: 'A fish or a water mammal would not be that big and deer would not go under the water.'
"He said that new species of water creatures are often discovered, so he 'wouldn't rule out any possibilities'.
"The sighting comes just months after scientists visited Lake Windermere to examine claims by a tourist about a 20ft 'serpent-like' creature.
"Richard Freeman of the Centre for Fortean Zoology, which researches mystery animals, said the sightings could in fact be of giant sterile eels, which, unlike normal eels, 'just stay in fresh water and get bigger and bigger'."

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Colossal Squid Caught

New Zealand Fishermen Catch Rare Squid

A fishing crew has caught a colossal squid that could weigh a half-ton and prove to be the biggest specimen ever landed, a fisheries official said Thursday.

The squid, weighing an estimated 990 lbs and about 39 feet long, took two hours to land in Antarctic waters, New Zealand Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said.

The fishermen were catching Patagonian toothfish, sold under the name Chilean sea bass, south of New Zealand "and the squid was eating a hooked toothfish when it was hauled from the deep," Anderton said.

The fishing crew and a fisheries official on board their ship estimated the length and weight of the squid: Detailed, official measurements have not been made. The date when the colossus was caught also was not disclosed.

Colossal squid, known by the scientific name Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, are estimated to grow up to 46 feet long and have long been one of the most mysterious creatures of the deep ocean.
If original estimates are correct, the squid would be 330 pounds heavier than the next biggest specimen ever found.

"I can assure you that this is going to draw phenomenal interest. It is truly amazing," said Dr. Steve O'Shea, a squid expert at the Auckland University of Technology.

If calamari rings were made from the squid they would be the size of tractor tires, he added.
Colossal squid can descend to 6,500 feet and are extremely active, aggressive hunters, he said.

The frozen squid will be transported to New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa, in the capital, Wellington, to be preserved for scientific study.

Marine scientists "will be very interested in this amazing creature as it adds immeasurably to our understanding of the marine environment," Anderton said.

Colossal squid are found in Antarctic waters and are not related to giant squid found round the coast of New Zealand. Giant squid grow up to 39 feet long, but are not as heavy as colossal squid.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Hairless Gray Fox = Piedmont Odd Animal from 2006

Professor identifies mystery creature

By Tom Steadman

The odd-looking animal spotted in several Piedmont counties last year evidently was a hairless gray fox.That's the conclusion of Jaap Hillenius. He examined the carcass of a similar animal that had been hit by a car in the Charleston, S.C., area.

So it wasn't an exotic cross-species, though some central North Carolina residents who spotted the animals had reported it having the head of a cat and the body of a canine.

Just a fox sans hair because of a mutant gene, said Hillenius, associate professor in the biology department at College of Charleston."That's the best we can think of," he said.

"There was no obvious reason for hair loss — no mange or malnutrition. It was normal except it didn't have hair follicles in the skin."Hillenius sent part of the carcass' tongue to a UCLA lab, which confirmed it was a fox, he said. His findings were presented last weekend at the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition in Charleston."It had been seen in the area, and people were so interested in it," Hillenius said.

Three years ago, interest was high in the Piedmont. Sightings of similar creatures were reported in Guilford and Randolph counties; in 2006, one was seen and photographed near Raleigh.

Area residents theorized it could be an Australian dingo, an escapee from the nearby North Carolina Zoo or even some new species.In May 2004, Asheboro businessman Bill Kurdian snapped a picture of one of the creatures feeding on corn he and his wife had put out for wild animals. After the sighting near Raleigh last year, state wildlife officials guessed that it could have been a hairless fox.

Hillenius saw Kurdian's photo Tuesday and said the animal seemed similar to the one he examined. The fox ID makes sense, Kurdian said ."I know that when he was out there, foxes would come up and feed next to it," he said. "There were no signs of aggression. They went up and smelled each other. There was no sense they feared each other."Kurdian had hoped to trap the animal so it could be identified.

But it disappeared about a year ago, he said.Still, his nighttime photo of the mystery creature remains on numerous Web sites."You wouldn't believe the number of people who have asked me about that," he said.Hillenius said his first goal was to identify the creature.

Now he wants to know how many are around. Evidently, there are more than a few. Sightings have been reported in Alaska and Colorado, in addition to the Carolinas.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Great Sea-Serpent

The Coachwhip Publications reprinted edition of Oudemans' classic, The Great Sea-Serpent, is now available. This text is one of the most important for sea-serpent studies, though current opinions may or may not agree with his theories. It is certainly a foundational text for the development of cryptozoology in a systematic fashion. My former ebook version of this text was very popular, and I believe this affordable paperback edition will be of interest to those wanting a physical book for their shelves. (The paperback, of course, has a brand new layout.)

This edition (ISBN 1930585365) runs 440 pages (8.25 x 11), retailing in the US for $19.95 (though I see Barnes & Noble is selling it for a few bucks less). More information, and a free chapter download (PDF), at CoachwhipBooks.

An additional reprint of this text will be available shortly from Cosimo Books. More info on that will appear at Cryptomundo.

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Misc. Cougar Articles

A cougar that escaped from an Indiana feline rescue center is still on the loose. New box traps have been set up to try and recapture it.

Photos of a cougar are being circulated in hoax emails in Iowa, as DNR officials point out that the pictures were actually taken in South Dakota.

A Pennsylvania man believes he saw a cougar near Montoursville this past weekend.


Multi-Legged Duck is Born

A rare mutation has left the bird, named Stumpy, with an extra two legs behind the two he runs about on.

The creature would not survive in the wild, but Nicky Janaway, who runs the farm in the New Forest, said: "We will make sure he's OK and hopefully he will carry on running around and using the extra two legs as stabilisers."

John Durnell, head of conservation for the West Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, said: "I have never heard of anything like this in my life, and I have been birdwatching for more than 30 years."

A duck with four legs was born in Queensland, Australia in 2002, but died soon afterwards.


Scorpions on Planes, and Fruit As Well

Imagine getting home from the supermarket and digging in to your favorite fruit only to find a scorpion inside.

Izabela Murray says she bought a container of raspberries at the Stop & Shop in Torrington, and it wasn't until she sat down in front of the TV and started eating did she realize the dangerous creature was in there.

"I noticed toward the end when they were just a few left. There was something stuck in the corner and I looked in there and it looked like some kind of stem. And it was actually a scorpion," said Murray.

Murray was startled at first because having a poisonous spider as an after-dinner treat was not in her plans.
"You know, it took me a second to realize it, you know I kind of just didn't believe it," said Murray.

Murray says the container of raspberries were shipped from Chile and she quickly told Stop & Shop about her ghastly discovery.

"I just wanted them to look at the fruit more cause I don't want someone else to find something like that and get hurt. Examine the boxes a little more careful and stuff like that," said Murray.

Murray now plans to inspect all her fruit from now on and she wants everyone to do the same.

"I'd like everyone to be aware that strange creatures can come from tropical countries and end up in your home, so just be aware and be careful," said Murray.

New Sponges - Cancer and Other Disease Aids?

Scientists soak up sponges knowledge

Divers have uncovered a treasure trove of underwater animals new to science off the coast of Rathlin Island - but warned that Spongebob Squarepants and his family are already under threat.

The scientists from the Ulster Museum have uncovered 128 different sponge species in the seas off the North Channel island - including nine which are new to Northern Ireland, three which have never been seen in UK waters and 28 which are new to science altogether.

And although most of us are familiar with Spongebob as the bath accessory we use to scrub our backs, it turns out he could be the granddaddy of us all.

New DNA research suggests a sponge could well have been the ancestor of all multi-celled animals - everything from seahorses to dinosaurs to humans.

Bernard Picton, who led the research at Rathlin, says our sponge ancestor probably existed 500 or 600 million years ago. Its descendants could hold the key to future medical research.
The new species found at Rathlin could contain chemicals that are potential antibiotics or anti-cancer drugs, he said.

"It's not just blue sky research," he said.

"We knew that Rathlin Island was an important area for sponges but the results of the project have surpassed our expectations.

"These findings make it one of the most important areas in Europe for sponges and this discovery is particularly important because it will aid other researchers in their study of sponge communities in the future."

Scientists first realised that the sponge communities of Rathlin were unusually rich during a study of Ulster's wildlife 20 years ago, but it was only during the recent six-week scuba diving survey that the four-strong team realised how special the spot is.

The team has collected 849 specimens, taken more than 3,000 photographs and are investigating another 19 species

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Chinese Giant Salamanders Invade Japan

A recent study of Japanese Giant Salamanders (genus Andrias) discovered that some of the large amphibians were actually the closely related Chinese species, probably introduced for culinary purposes -- Iron Chef Giant Salamander? From the Japan Times:

"Giant salamanders inhabiting rivers in central and western parts of the country may be a nonnative species from China that threatens endemic species, according to recent DNA findings that have alarmed biologists.
"'This poses a huge problem for us in terms of protecting (Japanese) giant salamanders,' said Masafumi Matsui, a Kyoto University professor and amphibian expert whose research group released the findings.
"Biologists studied giant salamander habitats in various parts of the species' range between 2005 and 2006. After analyzing DNA taken from 22 animals, they were astonished to find that four were the Chinese species.
"The Japanese giant salamander, which can reach more than 1 meter in length and live up to almost 100 years, inhabits rivers in the central and western parts of Honshu, and in Shikoku and Kyushu.
"The rare animal used to be hunted for food and medicinal purposes but is now strictly protected by law, having been designated as a special natural monument in 1952.
"Its critically endangered Chinese relative, which is the largest of all amphibian species, is ostensibly protected in China, though it is mass bred under license for human consumption.
"The two sister species are not easy for nonexperts to tell apart by appearance, making it difficult to assess the extent of the invasive species problem.
"In years past, before an international ban on trade in Chinese giant salamanders came into effect, many were imported to Japan for human consumption, with one dealer in Okayama Prefecture having acquired 800 in 1972 for sale to restaurants."

Mangalore: Two new species of frogs found

Two zoology professors-cum-researchers, one from Mangalore and another from Japan, have said that they have found two new species of frogs in the Western Ghats.

The new species of bush frog, which belongs to genus Philautus, are Philautus luteolus and Philautus tuberohumerus.

S. Hareesh Joshy, Head, Department of Zoology, St. Aloysius College, Mangalore, and Mitsuru Kuramoto, Emiretus Professor, Fukuoka University, Japan, have found them in Kudremukh and Kogadu region in the Western Ghats.

Philautus luteolus is a medium-sized yellow colour frog with a few indistinct markings.
In Latin, "luteolus'' means yellow. Hence, they called it by the same name. It has pointed longer snout and does not have noticeable black markings.

Advertisement calls (calls made by male frogs to invite females for breeding) of these species are that they produce trills (sound) consisting of short phase and long phase. This species are present in Kudremukh and Kirundadu areas in the Western Ghats, Mr. Joshy told The Hindu.

Philautus tuberohumerus is a tiny dark brown frog. This species has an extension of bone anterially in the tubero-humerus region.

It can be easily identified by its small size and absence of a papilla on the tongue. As it has an extension of bone in its tubero-humerus region, it got the name. It produces sharp and metallic sounds and is seen in Chikmagalur and Kudremukh areas, he said.

Both the new species have adhesive pads in their legs, Mr. Joshy said.In India, there are 260 species of frogs. Of them, 135 species are found in the Western Ghats.

They have published the findings of the research on the new species in the scientific journal, "Current Herpetology'', published by the Herpetologist Society of Japan.

Mr. Joshy is involved in research on bio-diversity of frogs in Western Ghats for the past 12 years and has published scientific papers in national and international journals.

He obtained his Ph.D from Mangalore University for his research on "Cytogenetic studies of anurans of Western Ghats''.

Rondano Bio-diversity Research Laboratory at St. Aloysius College is involved in research on frogs. The research activities are supported by the college.

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Two New sisorid catfish from the Yunnan Province

In Environmental Biology of Fishes (2007) 78:223-230, K. DePing, C.X. Yong and Y. JunXing outline in their paper "Two new species of the sisorid Genus Oreoglanis Smith from Yunnan, China (Teleostei: Sisoridae)"

The species are Oreoglanis jingdongensis and Oreoglanis immaculatus. There are described from the Mekong and Salween River Basins of the Yunnan Province in China.

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New deep-sea spider crab from Micronesia

In the paper "A new species of Cyrtomaia Miers, 1886 (Crustacea: Decapoda: Brachyura: Majidae) from Micronesia" by B.R. de Forges and P.K.L. Ng in Zootaxa 1409: 61-67 (2007) a new species of Cyrtomaia deep-sea spider crab.

The species is described from Guam and Palau as was discovered as part of a arthropod survey of Micronesia.

Cyrtomaia micronesica is different than its closest relative (Cyrtomaia cornuta from New Caledonia) by shorter basal antennal spines, longer chelipeds, varied male meri and pleopod and a varied carapace.


New Indian Caecilian

Earlier it was reported on a new species of caecilian from Goa, India. Called 'immandehavu' . The description of this species has now been printed in Zootaxa 1409: 51-59 (2007) by G. Bhatta, K.P. Dinesh, P. Prashanth and N.U. Kulkarni in a paper entitled "A new species of Gegeneophis Peters (Amphibia: Gymnophiona: Caeciliidae) from Goa, India".
The species differ from the other eight known caecilian members of the genus Gegeneophis in India by the presence of visible eyes, over 120 annuli and over 75 secondary annular grooves.

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New Genus of Centipede from Australia

A new genus of centipedes has been described from Western Australia. This new genus is Pilbarascutigera and is described in the paper “A new genus of scutigerid centipeds (Chilopoda) from Western Australia, with new characters for morphological phylogenetics of Scutigeromorpha” by G.D. Edgecombe and L. Barrow within Zootaxa 1409: 23-50 (2007)

The new genus is described based on collected specimens since 2000 by the Department of Environment and Conservation of Western Australia, Biota Environmental Sciences and the Australian Museum from the Pilbara region of Australia.

Morphological differences serve as the basis for the new Pilbara regions genus.

This species has a taxonomic breakout as follows:

Order: Scutigeromorpha
Family: Scutigeridae
Subfamily: Thereuoneminae
Genus: Pilbarascutigera
Species: Incola


Length: Up to 31 mm in males, 28 mm in femalesColor: Orange brown with yellowish sections

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Australian Night Parrot Found (dead one)

Ex-parrot sighting in Qld sparks interest

The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service says the discovery of a rare bird in outback Queensland will probably attract worldwide scientific interest.

Rangers found a dead night parrot - one of Australia's rarest birds - in the Diamantina National Park in the state's far south-west late last year.

The last reported sighting was 1990.

Keith Twyford from Parks and Wildlife says the parrot is classed as endangered, but the most recent discovery has sparked big interest.

"I suspect it is of international significance, we haven't got that level of interest just yet but it wouldn't surprise me if we did," he said.

"There's been calls from all across Australia coming into the Queensland Museum and into our office so there's an enormous amount of interest from the 'twitchers' [bird watchers who focus on collecting new species] out there and the scientific and conservation community as well, so it's a very, very exciting find."

Mr Twyford says more surveys will now be done.

"Before the big wet that you've had out west we had park rangers and park scientists working through western Queensland looking for night parrots," he said.

"Unsuccessful at this stage and the weather got in our way to continue that but once conditions get a bit better, we'll be looking to continue that survey work probably in conjunction with Birds Australia, who've already indicated they'd be very keen to help us out."


DNA genetic "barcodes"

Genetics reveal 15 new N.American bird species

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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King Moose

Craig's article on King Moose folklore is now available for perusal at BioFortean Review.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Ugandan Mangabeys Upgrade to Species

Primatologist Colin Groves has upgraded a Uganda population of gray-cheeked mangebays (Lophocebus albigena) to full species status (Lophocebus ugandae). From the news:

"A new monkey species believed to be endangered, has been discovered in Mabira forest reserve in Mukono. According to a report by Prof. Colin Groves of the Australian National University, the monkey species is now one of the 19 primate species in Uganda." ...
"Groves revealed that when he revised the research he undertook three decades ago, he discovered that the Uganda monkeys were much smaller than similar ones in other parts of the world. 'It was really striking,' he said.
"The species is dramatically smaller than the true lephocebus albigena (sic) and the new methods of analysis have made it more obvious, according to Groves.
"Groves’ report is proposing to raise the conservation status of Uganda mangabeys to the IUCN’s list of endangered species. This means that they will be of the same priority for conservation internationally as gorillas and chimpanzees.
"The Uganda species have a short skull and face compared to the ones in their previous grouping that widely occur in Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo.
"The gray-cheeked mangabey can also be found in Central Africa and westward toward the Congo River and east to the shores of the Lualaba River in DRC. They occupy northern Zaire southward into northern Angola. In Uganda, they are only found in Kibale, Semliki, Itwara, Bugoma, Bujuko, Mpanga, Sango bay and Mabira forests.
"When completed, the upgrade will separate the Ugandan monkeys from those in central and southern Africa, becoming the only species found exclusively in Uganda.
"'This is excellent news as it will sell Ugandan forests for tourism,' said William Olupot, a researcher on primates at the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society. 'It also raises the tourism potential of Mabira one or several notches,' he said.
"The new species prefer to live in the middle and upper layers of the forest, where they feed on fruits. Because of this, they rarely come out of the forest to raid crops."


Robotic Cameras for Ivorybills

Eurakalert this morning notes that robotic cameras will be placed in suspected Ivorybill Woodpecker territory, which may provide greater scope in the search to positively identify any remaining birds:

"In the bayous of eastern Arkansas, amidst ancient trees both living and dead that provide nourishment to creatures of the swamp, hangs a high-tech sentinel patiently waiting to capture video of an elusive bird once thought to be extinct.
"Developed by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and Texas A&M University, the high-resolution intelligent robotic video system installed in the Bayou DeView area of the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas is part of a major effort to locate the ivory-billed woodpecker in its historic habitat, the bottomland forests of the southeast United States.
"If the researchers obtain conclusive photographic evidence of the woodpecker, it will settle a debate that has become heated in recent years and fascinated millions of people around the world, from bird-watchers and environmentalists to Arkansas farmers and duck hunters.
"In the meantime, the new robotic video system provides detailed video sequences of other birds, suggesting a new high-tech approach to doing field biology work." ...
"The robotic video system is part of a new project, called Collaborative Observatories for Natural Environments (CONE) and funded by the National Science Foundation, to develop automated systems that can observe and record detailed natural behavior in remote settings." ...

"'A single photographic frame would have to clearly show the unique markings of the ivory-billed woodpecker,' said Goldberg. 'Much better would be a high-resolution video clip that would also capture its unique wing and flight patterns.'
"The researchers note that simply pointing video cameras at the sky and recording is not practical, as the images would quickly fill up the computer's hard drive. The challenge, they say, is for the software to automatically recognize when animals are present. 'Passive infrared (PIR) motion sensors are sometimes used in wildlife research,' said Goldberg, who has pioneered networked teleoperation systems for more than a decade. 'The problem is that PIR sensors look for heat and are not triggered by birds flying overhead. So we're developing a robotic system that analyzes high resolution video in real time.'
"In February 2006, the Cornell researchers took Goldberg and Song out to the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge to scout out potential locations for placing the remote cameras. Because no one knows exactly where the bird might appear, the cameras must cover a relatively wide swath of sky.
"They settled upon a power line that cuts through the bayou and provides a 50-foot-wide clearing unobstructed by trees.
"'It's a natural bottleneck in the forest, and birds passing through that corridor are relatively easy to spot because they expose themselves,' said Ron Rohrbaugh, project director at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 'At this location, we should have the highest probability of capturing an image of the ivory-billed woodpecker.'
"With the generous help of the Arkansas Electric Cooperative, a 69 kilovolt transformer was erected for the project that provides both a power source and a post to mount the equipment. The researchers decided against solar and battery cells because they would not provide a reliable enough power source.
"The two cameras - one pointing east and the other west - are connected to a computer that processes the data. Waterproof gear helps protect the equipment from the elements, including rain and wind, and even from occasional bird droppings.
"The researchers created software that keeps video files only when potential 'bird flight' movement is sensed.
"The software is based on new algorithms that can handle the unpredictable conditions of a natural environment, filtering out false readings from clouds, water reflections and falling leaves. 'The program knows, for instance, that the ivory-billed woodpecker flies 20 to 40 miles per hour, so anything outside that range is deleted,' said Song, who worked with Ni Qin, a computer science Ph.D. student at Texas A&M, on the software.
"'The high-resolution camera we have shoots at 22 frames per second, with approximately 2 to 3 megapixels per frame,' said Song. 'That's a huge amount of data that must be managed.'
"Collecting the video data involves a decidedly low-tech approach: Luneau takes a boat out to the site every two weeks to change the disk.
"Not only is Luneau skilled with computer equipment, he is an avid bird-watcher and a leading member of the ivory-billed woodpecker search team in Arkansas. He does an initial screening of the images from the hard drive, and then sends the data to researchers at Cornell, Texas A&M and UC Berkeley.
"And what if a high-quality image of the ivory-billed woodpecker is captured? 'If something really interesting is in the frame, Cornell makes the call (on the identity of the bird),' said Song.
"Rohrbaugh pointed out the benefits of using an autonomous camera. 'There are other ways of searching for the ivory-billed woodpecker, but those ways usually involve a human positioned in the forest for a very long time,' he said. 'Humans are expensive, and they're not always alert, and their simple presence is a disturbance to the environment, even when they're camouflaged and sitting quietly. Remote systems that can serve as our eyes and ears are a big advantage.'
"Song also noted that using the camera extends the search season to the entire year.
"'Usually people do this type of bird-watching in the winter because there are fewer leaves, making it easier to spot the woodpecker,' Song said. 'Also, in the summer, the temperature is hot, it's swampy, and there are mosquitoes and snakes to deal with. Our system can run the whole year, and it is not bothered by mosquitoes.'"

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Big Bird Book

Noted on CFZ's blog, Ken Gerhard has published Big Bird!, though I'm not clear on the specifics of what the book covers. From the description:

"The Indians called it the Thunderbird, a winged monster so vast that the beating of its mighty pinions sounded like thunder. But this ancient beast is not to be held in the cage of mythology. Today, from all over the dusty U.S. / Mexican border come hair-raising stories of modern day encounters with winged monsters of immense size and terrifying appearance. Further field sightings of similar creatures are recorded from all around the globe. The Kongamato of Africa, the Ropen of New Guinea and many others. What lies behind these weird tales?"

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North Florida Panthers

An article at notes recent alleged encounters with cougar in northern Florida. Not much given for investigation purposes, but the article does include a clickable audio file of a panther vocalization.


SC: Genes Responsible for Hairless Foxes

Research on those hairless foxes in the news last year has come up with an interesting finding:

"The latest research results on the weird-looking Shem Creek hairless foxes reported around the area last summer will be presented at the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, a College of Charleston biologist said Thursday.
"Jaap Hillenius, associate professor in the biology department, said a necropsy performed on a dead hairless fox found in a neighborhood off Chuck Dawley Boulevard in Mount Pleasant showed no obvious causes for the fox's hairless condition.
"There was no mange or other skin parasites or disease, and the fox was in reasonably good nutritional condition, Hillenius said.
"'The most likely explanation thus remains that this concerns a genetic fluke, a hereditary trait that shows up in some families of foxes,' Hillenius said.
"One of his students, Amanda Jenkins, will have a poster presenting the findings today through Sunday at Marion Square. Students will be on hand to answer questions about the fox research, he said." ...
"A hairless-fox sighting has been reported in the town as recently as two weeks ago, Hillenius said." ...
"Hillenius sent genetic material from the dead fox to a colleague at the University of California at Los Angeles, who identified it as a gray fox.
"Hillenius said similar fox sightings were reported in Finland in the 1930s and 1940s. The reports declined over the next 20 years. 'We're still reading up on this, but there doesn't seem to be an obvious explanation for this decades-long population spike,' he said.
"Hillenius said more research is needed to determine whether local reports of bald foxes are on the upswing or whether they are relatively constant over time."

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Fantagraphics CZ Art

In January, Fantagraphics published Beasts!, by Jacob Covey, a bestiary of sorts that includes both purely mythological and some cryptozoological creatures. The entries are illustrated by artists and cartoonists, showing a wide range of styles and perspectives.
More information can be found at the Beasts! blog, and an online interview with Covey.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

More on the Virginian Foot Mystery

Earlier it was noted that an odd "foot" had been discovered in Virginia. Here then is more information on the continuing investigation by locals.

Foot 'looks like bear's hind paw'

FREDERICKSBURG -- The apelike foot found in a Spotsylvania County landfill still has folks scratching their heads.

Spotsylvania Sheriff Howard Smith said yesterday that he plans to send the foot to an as-yet-undetermined expert for further examination. "So we can find out what it is," he said.
Already, word of the find is making the rounds on Internet sites dedicated to Bigfoot sightings and theories.

William M. Dranginis, who operates the Virginia Bigfoot Research Organization, has offered to have DNA samples, if he can obtain them, tested by experts, including renowned primatologist Jane Goodall. Dranginis said he has already made arrangements with Goodall in case an unidentified creature is ever found.

"You prepare for this," he said in a phone interview yesterday.

Goodall has said she is certain Bigfoot creatures exist in nature.

"Dr. Goodall is curious and keeps an open mind on the subject," Nona Gandelman, a spokeswoman for the Jane Goodall Institute in Arlington, said yesterday, adding that Goodall was traveling and not immediately available for comment.

Dranginis, who has viewed photographs of the foot found in Spotsylvania, said it resembles a bear's skinned hind paw. Authorities say the foot, which appeared sawed off above the ankle, is about 8 inches long.

"That would be relatively small even for an adolescent Bigfoot," said Dranginis, who has been on a quest since spotting what he described as a Bigfoot creature in Culpeper County in 1995.
"There's big bucks in bear poaching," said the 48-year-old Manassas man. In Virginia, bear-hunting season runs for specified periods from mid-October to early January, depending on the locality and the weapon to be used.

Authorities initially thought the foot might belong to a human and that it might be evidence of a homicide. Workers found the appendage Saturday afternoon in the treaded tracks of a bulldozer used to move garbage at one of the county's landfills.

Three dozen searchers -- sheriff's deputies and volunteers from the fire and rescue departments -- sifted through half of a 127-ton load of fresh garbage looking for more body parts.

Authorities halted the search Monday morning after receiving word that the state medical examiner's office in Richmond determined the foot belonged to an apelike species, based on the bone structure revealed through X-rays. At the time, the sheriff said he considered the case pretty much closed unless someone came forward with information.

Yesterday, Smith said he plans to send the foot for testing after it is returned from the medical examiner's office. Arkuie Williams, a spokesman for the medical examiner's office, said officials there are still doing further investigation. He would not say what tests are being performed but reiterated, "It's not human."


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Glowing Squid Attack

Japanese scientists have found that one squid uses its bioluminescence to disorient prey during an attack. From BBC News:

"Taningia danae's spectacular light show was revealed in video footage taken in deep waters off Chichijima Island in the North Pacific.
"Japanese scientists believe the creatures use the bright flashes to disorientate potential victims.
"Writing in a Royal Society journal, they say the squid are far from the sluggish, inactive beasts once thought.
"In fact, the footage, taken in 2005 - the first time T. danae had been captured on camera in their natural environment - reveals them to be aggressive predators.
"The squid, which can measure over 2m (7ft) in length, deftly swim backwards and forwards by flapping their large, muscular fins. They are able to alter their direction rapidly by bending their flexible bodies.
"The films, taken at depths of 240m to 940m (790 to 3,080ft), also show the cephalopods reaching speeds of up to 2.5m (8ft) per second as they attack the bait, capturing it with their eight tentacles.

"However, the intense pulses of light that accompanied the ferocious attacks surprised the research team." ...
"The footage reveals the creatures emitting short flashes from light-producing organs, called photophores, on their arms.
"Writing in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the team said: '[The bioluminescence] might act as a blinding flash for prey.'
"The light would disorientate the squid's intended prey, disrupting their defences, they added.
"It could also act, the scientists commented, "as a means of illumination and measuring target distance in an otherwise dark environment."
"However, further investigation revealed the light bursts may also serve another, quite different, purpose away from the hunting field - courtship.
"As the squid drifted around torches that had been attached to the bait rig, they emanated long and short pulses of light.
"The team believe the torch lights may have resembled another glowing T. danae, and the squid were possibly emitting light as courtship behaviour."

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Giant Noctule Bat Eats Migrating Birds

Interesting behavior in a European bat. From Eurekalert:

"It was until now believed that nocturnally migrating songbirds, while venturing into the unfamiliar night sky for accomplishing their long, challenging trans-continental migrations, could at least release anti-predator vigilance thanks to the concealment of darkness. A new study by Spanish and Swiss scientists – published this week in PLoS ONE – shows that migration at night is not without predation risk for passerines. A unique creature is indeed capable of exploiting the formidable food source represented by the billions of high-flying, Eurasian songbirds which engage twice a year into long-distance, north-south or south-north nocturnal movements. The danger seems especially acute where birds' flight routes converge around the Mediterranean basin, such as the Iberian Peninsula. This newly recognized hazard adds to the numerous obstacles that sea and desert crossings already represent for fragile migratory passerines. Actually, the newly uncovered danger comes from the deep black sky, in the form of a 45 cm wing-spanned aerial-hawking mammal, equipped with sharp canines and an efficient radar system which remains probably largely inaudible to songbirds.
"In 2001, Carlos Ibáñez and his colleagues at the Doñana Biological Station in Seville, Spain, suggested that the giant noctule bat (Nyctalus lasiopterus), a rare European species occurring principally in the Mediterranean, may feed to a large extent on birds (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 98, 9700-9702). They had found numerous feathers in the faeces of Spanish giant noctules, with occurrence peaks in the diet in spring and autumn, i.e. during main songbirds' seasonal migration. This contrasted strikingly with food composition of other European bat species which all feed exclusively on invertebrates!
"This finding brought about a heated controversy among bat scientists. Some claimed that eating feathers was no proof of preying upon birds: they suggested that giant noctules could simply, and accidentally, ingest feathers hovering in the air, which are particularly numerous during migration events. According to the detractors of a bird-based diet, eating feathers could thus be a classical consequence of a bats' echolocation system which hampers fine-grained discrimination of targets (therefore a confusion between insect prey and feathers); also, the costs of swallowing feathers which are casually encountered would be lower than spitting them away (Bontadina & Arlettaz, 2003 Functional Ecology 17, 141-142).
"In the case of giant noctule bats, it was for sure the description by Ibañez et al. (2001) of a so far totally unrecognized, outstanding predator-prey relationship that triggered so much initial scepticism. As usual, a new major and amazing discovery generates a lot of sceptical reactions, which calls for gathering further, indisputable scientific evidence. Indeed, presence of feathers in diet was no ultimate demonstration of a bird-based diet, although indicative. New innovative approaches were thus necessary for proving the case. But how to study the foraging habits of an elusive predator that chases its favourite prey several hundreds if not thousands of metres above the ground in total darkness?
"To elucidate the mysterious habits of giant noctule bats, an ambitious investigation led by young scientist Ana Popa-Lisseanu, under Prof. Ibañez' supervision, was launched by Spanish research teams based in Sevilla (Doñana Biological Station) and Granada (Zaidín Experimental Station) thanks to funding from the Spanish Environmental Ministry. The programme was soon joined by one of their once most virulent Swiss detractors (Prof. Raphaël Arlettaz, University of Bern and Swiss Ornithological Institute). The technique of stable isotopes was applied because this recently developed method allows tracking species' main dietary specializations and trophic level position along food chains. The researchers concentrated on carbon and nitrogen isotopes, which are among the best dietary tracers. They analysed their concentrations in bats' blood throughout the year, predicting major seasonal shifts in isotopic signatures towards bird prey in spring and, especially, during autumn. In parallel, isotopic signatures of whole insect bodies and passerine muscular tissues were tracked throughout the year, serving as a control. The results elegantly showed that the bats ate only insects in summer, included some songbirds' flesh in their diet during spring, and depended a great deal on passerines during autumn. Moreover, a higher fraction of songbirds' flesh in autumn than in spring was attributed to the more massive passerine migration in autumn, because both parents and offspring migrate then towards their wintering grounds in Africa, whereas in spring only birds having survived winter mortality return to their breeding area. In addition, young birds in autumn may represent naïve, inexperienced, i.e. more vulnerable prey.
"The ability of giant noctules to prey on the wing upon nocturnally migrating passerines appears unique not only among bats but also within the whole animal kingdom. Although carnivorous bats feeding on small-sized vertebrates are not rare, they all live in the Tropics and collect their prey from substrates. The few species of falcons which capture migratory birds along the Mediterranean and African coasts are exclusively diurnal. Finally, owls, as typical night-active predators, never forage in the open space: moving prey is detected from substrates through passive-listening of rustling noises.
"The unique ecological niche of the giant noctule may in turn explain some of its peculiar natural history traits. First, the species occurs almost exclusively in some restricted parts of the Mediterranean where major streams of migrating birds congregate. Second, it is among the largest Palaeartic bats and even belongs to the heaviest aerial-hunting bats of the world. A large body mass (up to 50 g for 45 cm wingspan) is probably a prerequisite for subduing prey items as large as passerines, which have approximately the same weight as other European bat species.
"The extraordinary predatory specialization of the giant noctule may be shared by the few other big aerial-hawking bat species which exist elsewhere in the world. Are some of them similarly stalking unwary songbirds during their massive nocturnal passes? The foraging habits of these rare bats still remain quite mysterious, like in the case of giant noctules until recently. Stable isotopes could be a promising tool for unravelling their furtive ecology.
"For now, Eurasian songbirds should mind not only the Mediterranean Sea and the immensity of the Saharan desert, with their harsh winds and storms, when engaging into their transcontinental journeys at night; the forces of a skilled, almost silent nocturnal hunter patrolling the infinite dark space await them..."


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Mid-Atlantic Predator Survey

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

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

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


Chimp Tools or Controversial Discovery?

Excavators say they've found tools made by chimps
Crude hammers likened to those of race of hominids
David Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor
Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Archaeologists working in the rain forest of West Africa's Ivory Coast say they have found a site where prehistoric families of chimpanzees fashioned crude stone hammers to crack open nuts for their food.

The flaked stones made by those savvy animals at least 4,300 years ago are remarkably similar, the scientists said, to those made by the earliest known prehuman tool-users -- the race of hominids known as Australopithecines, whose fossils show they lived some 2.5 million years ago or more.

The chimps, therefore, must have shared "cultural attributes" with the hominids who lived and went extinct almost at the start of the long and complex human lineage, said Julio Mercader an archaeologist at Canada's University of Calgary.

Perhaps, Mercader speculated, the hominid race known as Australopithecines and ancient ancestors of tool-making chimps inherited their jointly shared "technology" from some common ancestor before the apes and human lineages split 6 to 7 million years ago.

His conclusions, reported today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, are already controversial. Tim White, the noted Berkeley paleoanthropologist who has long explored human evolution in Africa, insists, for instance, that it's impossible to tell just who or what made the scattered stones found by Mercader's group.

Nicholas Toth, an Indiana University anthropologist who specializes in the study of Stone Age tools, sharply criticized earlier reports from Mercader's team -- published in the journal Science in 2002 -- suggesting that the chimp tool-makers might have imitated the earliest hominids. At least this time, Toth said, the team is "not overstating the case that there's chimp archaeology out there -- although whether the tools are chimp or human is still uncertain."

Mercader and his international team of scientists explored three sites about 200 yards apart in the Ivory Coast's Tai National Park, and said they found a total of 210 flaked and chipped stone hammers made from granite, quartz or quartzite.

Almost all were at a single site called Noulo, where the scientists found cracks in what they identified as stone hammers that bore traces of starchy pulp from edible nuts. The starchy pulp is evidence, they said, that to obtain food the apes had deliberately cracked open the nuts by bashing them with their hammers against tough tree roots or fallen tree limbs that they used as anvils.

The rocks, most of them about the size of melons, clearly resemble the deliberately crafted choppers and hammers typical of the earliest Stone Age tools known to anthropologists as the Oldowan technology, Mercader said. But they were almost surely made by chimpanzees, he maintained, because the chipped rocks are too large to have been crafted by smaller human hands.

He conceded there is no evidence that the chimps crafted them deliberately, however, and said humans too may have lived in the rain-sodden forest there, or at least passed through.

"The tools represent a parallel Chimpanzee Stone Age," the archaeology team wrote in its report, and the chipped rocks indicate that chimps and the oldest hominid toolmakers of the distant past shared a culture that dates back for countless millennia. Since the chipped stones that the group has analyzed have been independently dated as at least 4,300 years old, and since mother apes in the region today are also known to teach their children to use stone tools, it is clear that nut-cracking behavior has now been passed along from parents to offspring for at least 200 generations, Mercader said.

"I believe that the culture of these chimps dates back for many more generations than that," Mercader said, "and perhaps back to the time when they sprang from a common ancestor."
At Berkeley, White was strongly skeptical. The stone objects strewn beneath the trees at the reported sites seem little more than rubbish, he said.

"The (team's) paper falls short of establishing that this thin scatter of rubbish was left by chimpanzees," White wrote in an e-mail. "An alternative hypothesis is that the rubbish was authored by humans."

Toth, the Indiana anthropologist, is the founder and co-director of the Stone Age Institute at Bloomington, where he demonstrates how he can skillfully craft the hammers, sharp knives and spear points that evolution enabled the forebears of Homo Sapiens to make long before the dawn of true humanity.

For the past 17 years, in fact, Toth has been teaching a smart bonobo named Kanzi -- a pigmy chimpanzee -- to make tools of all types from all kinds of materials as a way of understanding how chimp minds work.

Toth is well aware how tricky it can be to identify stone objects that may or not be tools. In fact, he said in a telephone interview, only last year he was in San Francisco with Berkeley friends and colleagues, and at the rock-strewn base of Telegraph Hill they found a scatter of rough stones that had obviously been chipped and flaked merely by bumping against each other as they tumbled down the hill's precipitous slope.

"You can find stones that have been broken either naturally or humanly, and they really look like tools," Toth mused. "But chimp archaeology is very new, and it needs a lot more study."



Authorities now say that the foot found at a Spotsylvania County landfill is not human, but it's unclear exactly what species it is.

The Virginia medical examiner's office X-rayed the left foot found Saturday at the Livingston Landfill and determined that the 8-inch foot was that of an "apelike species," said Spotsylvania Sheriff Howard Smith.

The medical examiner's office reported those findings early yesterday morning, ending search efforts at the Massey Road landfill. About 35 Spotsylvania fire, rescue and sheriff's personnel were at the site sifting through 127 tons of trash to find more of the body.

That search began Sunday after the foot was found by landfill workers cleaning the treads of a bulldozer used to spread and cover garbage.

The foot appeared to have been cleanly sawed off and resembled that of a human, Smith said. An employee with the Virginia medical examiner's concurred, and the foot was sent to Richmond for forensic testing.

The Free Lance-Star sent photos of the foot to several people who study primates. All disagreed with the state medical examiner's office's conclusions.

Experts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said it looks more like a human foot than that of an apelike species, according to Jordana Lenon, a spokeswoman for the primate center on campus. She said it's difficult to tell without handling it. A colleague of Lenon's said it looked like the skinned-out hind-foot of a bear.

April D. Truitt of the Primate Rescue Center in Kentucky, also said the foot looks more human. She said it's too big to be a monkey; it's more the size of a gorilla, chimpanzee, bonobo or orangutan. She said its bone structure leaves the chimp as the only possibility.

"This certainly doesn't resemble the foot of any chimp I've ever met, and I've encountered hundreds in the past two decades," Truitt added.

William Dranginis of Manassas has a more unusual opinion--he believes the foot could be that of Bigfoot. He heads the Virginia Bigfoot Research Organization and has been passionately studying the elusive creature for more than 10 years.

It's also unclear how the foot got to the landfill. Theories have included that it was dumped by a hunter, a taxidermist or a traveling animal exhibitor putting on shows for a fee.

Sheriff Smith said his office's investigation essentially ended when they were told it wasn't a human foot. But he noted that it's against county law to have a pet primate or to dump animal carcasses. It also could be an animal cruelty case.

Mary Beth Sweetland, director of research and investigations at PETA in Norfolk, said she hopes there is further investigation.

"But cruelty-to-animal cases often are given short shrift," Sweetland said.

Smith said his office will open the investigation if someone comes forward with more information. For now, he's thankful the foot isn't that of a human.

"The good news is that we don't have a homicide," he said.


Monday, February 12, 2007

A Madagascar Blindsnake Rediscovered after 100 Years

Not what I'd call a major rediscovery (any burrowing species is going to be elusive under the best conditions), but this particular species of blindsnake was last seen in 1905. From FoxNews:

"The snake, which looks like a long, skinny pink worm, was only known from two other specimens, both discovered in 1905.
"'They're really rare because they're subterranean,' said blind-snake expert Van Wallach of Harvard University, who described the new specimen. 'You can't just go out anytime you want and collect these things. You can dig forever and never find them.'

"Scientists captured the snake, called Xenotyphlops mocquardi, alive in 2005 during an expedition to collect reptiles and amphibians in northern Madagascar. The specimen was approximately 10 inches long and about as thick as a pencil.
"There are about 15 species of blind snakes on the island, so the unique nature of the team's find wasn't apparent until the blind snake specimen was sent to museum experts for identification and possible comparison with dead specimens in their collections." ...

"The rediscovered blind snake is detailed in the Feb. issue of the journal Zootaxa."

[Full news archived at StrangeArk mailing list.]

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New Parrot or Fake Photos?

Following news reports of the possible discovery of a blue-browed fig-parrot in Queensland, comes a report that the photos have elements that suggest alteration. From the Australian:

"The reported discovery of a new species of parrot in Queensland's rainforests has been undermined by a leading authority on forensic photography.
"The Beattie Government has dissociated itself from naturalist John Young after Gale Spring, associate professor in scientific photography at Melbourne's RMIT University, cast doubt on a photograph of a parrot Mr Young claimed was new to science." ...
"In November, Mr Young's company, John Young Wildlife Enterprises, and Queensland Environment Minister Lindy Nelson-Carr announced the discovery of the so-called blue-browed fig-parrot in the rainforests of southern Queensland.
"Mr Young and the Queensland Government's endangered species officer, Ian Gynther, were to publish a scientific article about the discovery.
"The photograph of the parrot was featured prominently in Brisbane's Courier Mail newspaper. At the time, The Australian reported Mr Young had made similar claims in the mid-1990s which were not substantiated, and that there were doubts about the photograph. The bird depicted closely resembled the red-browed fig-parrot of north Queensland, except the forehead was blue, not red. Soon afterwards, Professor Spring was sent a high-resolution image of the photograph.
"At a briefing in Brisbane last week, Professor Spring showed computer images of the photo to Dr Gynther and other Environment Department officers. He pointed out differences between the texture of feathers around the bird's head and feathers on the rest of its body. He thought the surface imaging of the photograph was typical of pictures that had been altered, and although there might be an explanation for this, said he needed to view the original image.
"He offered to examine the original photographs on a CD or under supervision at Mr Young's Brisbane office. The inspection would have resolved the matter, but the offer was not taken up.
"'Without seeing the original images, it is not possible for me to conclude absolutely this photograph is not genuine,' Professor Spring said. 'Nonetheless, I have doubts about several aspects, and this clearly requires inquiry.'"

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Fossils: myths, mystery and magic

Fossils have fired the human imagination for thousands of years. To ancient civilisations they were objects of fear and wonder. Now, the legends these strange, beautiful relics inspired are celebrated in a major exhibition. Steve Connor digs up the facts - and the fiction

Published: 12 February 2007

Ancient bones and other fossilised remains have been known to humans for millennia but it is only over the past 300 years or so that their true origins have been revealed. Until then, a rich folklore sought to explain these enigmatic relics from the past. Every culture in every country, it seems, wanted an explanation for the unusual objects and bizarre shapes that often seemed to emerge, as if by magic, from the ground.

Imagine a group of prehistoric hunters, whose trail has brought them to a remote cave in northern Europe. They discover a cave and in it they find the empty skull of a huge, unrecognisable beast sitting on top of a pile of bones. It is easy to how the myth of cave-dwelling dragons who fed on other large creatures might have come about.

In fact, the mysterious beast would have been a woolly rhinoceros, which roamed Ice Age Europe before it went extinct about 10,000 years ago. Like many animals before it, the rhino would have used caves to take refuge from the elements - unaware that its bones would become entombed for thousands of years.

In Japan, fossilised sharks' teeth were said to be the pointed thumbnails of Tengu Man, a mythical mountain goblin. In India, the fossilised shell of ammonites - marine molluscs - were known as saligrams, symbols of the god Vishnu, which were kept in temples to purify water. In China, the fossils of mollusc-like brachiopods were known as Shih-yen, or stone swallows, which were said to be able to fly during thunderstorms.

Some fossils were ground into powder and taken as a potion to cure a rich variety of ailments. Others, like the saligrams of Hindus and the "tonguestones" of Christians, were dipped into drink to ward off evil.

Fossils were given exotic names in the many attempts to try to explain their existence. "Names such as thunderbolts, tonguestones, toadstones, snakestones and devil's toenails became widely used for different types of fossils in Britain," says Paul Taylor, a fossils expert at the Natural History Museum in London. Many resembled parts of the human body, and so became associated with the practice of sympathetic medicine - curing like with like. In Chinese medicine, the "dragon's teeth" used in some recipes were in fact the teeth and bones of common animals.
It was not until the mid-18th century that the true nature of fossils began to emerge.

A physician called Steno, who lived and worked in Florence, realised that the peculiar stone tongues that fell out of rocks were actually the teeth of ancient sharks. He was able to prove his theory after dissecting the head of a huge shark caught near Livorno in 1666. His "eureka" moment was the beginning of the end for fossil folklore - and the rest, as they say, is palaeontology.

An exhibition, Fossil Folklore, opens today at the Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum in Tring, Hertfordshire, and runs until 8 July.

Read more at The Independent

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Big Cats in Britain Group 3-Day Event in March

Big cat sightings under spotlight

Simon Bristow

THE Wildcat of the Wolds, the Lincolnshire Lynx and the reported sightings of other mysterious "big cats" will be debated at a conference in Hull next month.

The Big Cats in Britain group is hosting the three-day event at The Dorchester Hotel, in Beverley Road, from March 23.Guest speakers will include veteran big cat researcher Di Francis, zoologist Chris Moiser, South African trackers and several people claiming to have witnessed the phenomenon.A spokesman said: "It is over 40 years since the first public spate of sightings hit the headlines with the Surrey Puma, yet we are still no closer to solving the mystery."

Experts from all over the country will be gathering to discuss if these cats really are all black leopards, hybrids, or a relic, indigenous species that we never knew existed alongside us."The event also includes film shows, a raffle, quiz, and book stall.


Another New Catfish - Central Vietnam

In Zootaxa 1406:25-32 (2007) Heok Hee Ng and Heok Hui Tan describe a new species of Pseudecheneis catfish from Central Vietnam. Their paper is entitled Pseudecheneis maurus, a new species of glyptosternine catfish (Teleostei: Sisoridae) from Central Vietnam.

The new species is from the Song Thuy Loan in Central Vietnam and was discovered during an ichthylogical survey of the region. The genus Pseudecheneis was not known from this area, and the new species is distinguished from other members by the absence of distinct pale spots, thoracic adhesive apparatus sulcae not at midline and a short adipose fin base.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Cryptids, et al in Popular Culture

Bigfoot, Yeti and the like have appeared for over a century in popular media. From movies, to television, they appear in the most unexpected locations.

Recently, while watching Open Season this became very evident. Within this film are two characters, and a wiener dog, who are seeking Homo saquatchensis. While they play a pivotal role in the film, it has nothing to do with their expedition in search of Bigfoot. But, it does bring up the pop-culture aspect of cryptozoology.

Computer animated movies are around every year, and they run the gamut from the kid friendly to borderline family fare. The best ones seem to have a bit for kids and adults, Toy Story is one of these due to its blend. Others have abounded that are entertaining, from Madagascar to Monster House, even Ice Age to the recent Happy Feet. Even the people behind the movies are characters in, and of themselves. For example George Miller the director of Happy Feet is the same director of the violent Mad Max films, quite a varied spread (but then again look at Sam Raimi who directed the recent Spiderman films and his origins in low-budget but affective horror films in the Evil Dead franchise).

But, I digress a bit here. Back to animated cryptozoology in films.

Two films stand out from recent time for their depiction of cryptozoology, even in passing. Open Season is one, and the other is Monsters Inc.

Open Season, came out in 2006 and was directed by a trio of people: Roger Allers, Jill Culton and Anthony Stacchi. While not be spectacular in the box-office, perhaps in part due to its more mature usage of animation aimed at older children and adults, it still went on to gross over 100 million dollars worldwide. If you watch close, aside from the reference to BIGFOOT being sought, you'll also see a classic "grey" alien on the Bigfoot hunters RV wheel cover.

It was Monsters Inc that really used a cryptid well, although cartoony. In Monsters Inc, a clever creation called the Abominable Snowman is shown. Voiced by John Ratzenberger, the Abominable Snowman has a memorial part of the main characters journey in the film. Directed by Pete Doctor, this Pixar Animation film grossed over 300 million dollars worldwide.

Now these creatures pop up at regular intervals. We saw a classic Patterson Bigfoot stance in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, even a series of Sasquatch appear during the recent Jack Black film, Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny. These are mainstream movies, not independent horror of fantasy flicks, but show how cryptozoology, especially Bigfoot, creeps into our everyday lives. Even Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Mans Chest featured an aquatic beastie.

It was only a year or so ago that prime time television has a show about sea monsters. While short lived, Surface did show a side of mystery investigation. Other shows have featured such mystery beasts as well, including the classic X-Files (there were those non-mythology shows with Jersey Devil, lake monsters and so forth), Special Unit 2 that featured at lest one episode with merfolk, even the original and remade Night Stalk shows. This is but, of course, a sparse listing of popular media representations.

Cryptozoology is present, and much like its contents, the spot sightings in movies are as elusive as the creatures themselves.

Perhaps one day, a cryptozoology cartoon in and of itself. Can you image the adventures of Ogopogo and Bigfoot together as they partner up with a Chupacabra and Cadborosaurus to rescue the Yeti and the Mongolian Death Worm from the clutches of the evil king Thunderbird and his Mokele-mbembe hordes?

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Flying Snakes in Arizona

Nick Sucik has been investigating several cryptozoological animal with ties to Native American tradition in Arizona for several years. One of the most interesting mystery animals is the "flying snake" (though there may, ethnozoologically, be more than one type within regional traditions). Nick was approached by a television news program last fall about his research, and they have recently aired their segment. You can view it online at Further information on Nick's research can be found in a brief article at the same site.

Nick and several other CZ researchers have been investigating reports of some of these odder mystery animals throughout the country. The "flying snake" category has a wider range than is usually appreciated within cryptozoology; I noted several cases in a chapter in Cryptozoology and the Investigation of Lesser-Known Mystery Animals. (Nick has a chapter in the same book on the small bipedal lizard-like animals we've been looking into, as well.) Whether or not there is a viable biological unknown at the root of these sightings, it is worth investigating.

Overall, this media report was very even-handed, without the sensationalism that often takes place. It does, though, point to a difference in perspectives: Nick is attempting to determine whether an unknown animal actually exists, while another individual states (paraphrasing), "Knowledge is enough for us; we don't have to go search for them." Unfortunately, in today's world, ethnoknowledge alone is not enough to protect a species from habitat loss or extinction. There are levels of knowledge, each with its own purpose; cryptozoology seeks to expand the value of what is ethnoknown, using a scientific methodology, so that recognition of a folkloric animal within a specific people group progresses to the study and protection of a living species. The cultural knowledge remains, and should certainly be preserved as such; but, it is as important to preserve the species, which requires the cooperation and education of people outside a local community. Within cryptozoology, ethnoknowledge leads to scientific knowledge, which engages the outside world. Knowledge can't be contained, and neither can the curiosity that leads to zoological discovery.


Fife (UK) Big Cat?

A couple in the UK photographed what they think is a big cat. From the news:

"George Brown and his wife Jill, who first reported a sighting of the animal in November, were out walking their dog near Hawklaw on Saturday afternoon.
"Suddenly they saw what appeared to be cat-like beast with a black face, fawn-coloured body and busy, black tail just 200 yards away.
"Mr Brown said from the moment they had entered the field Jill sensed something, but it wasn't until they had walked nearly to the top of the hill, with their three-year-old son George close behind them, that they got their closest ever sighting.
"'We were about 200 yards from the animal when it started to move,' he said.
"'Our cocker spaniel Charlie was 150 yards from it and we were trying to stop him from picking up the scent.'
"'But we could see that this animal was the same size as the dog. We did get a good look at it and we could tell it wasn't just a domestic cat, it was much bigger and more powerful looking.'
"Mr Brown said the animal had short, smooth fur on both its face and body, but its tail was thick and black and resembled a fox tail."

The photo is not very clear, but I don't see any characteristics which would disqualify the animal from being a large domestic cat.


Anaconda Attack

A young boy in Brazil was saved from a large anaconda by his grandfather. From the news:

"An eight-year-old boy was saved by his grandfather after a five-metre anaconda in Brazil began to swallow him headfirst.
"Local newspaper Bom Dia Rio Preto reported that Mateus Araujo had been walking near a creek with his eight-year-old cousin Flavio when they were attacked by the giant snake.
"It bit Mateus in the chest and coiled about him. It then attempted to swallow him head first.
"Flavius ran to Mateus's 66-year-old grandfather Joaquim's house.
"Joaquim ran to the creekbed and found his grandson slowly being eaten by the monster snake.
Joaquim attempted to free his half-devoured grandson by attacking the serpent with a machete, and after a battle that Bom Dia said took over half-an-hour, he managed to pull his son from the anaconda's mouth.
"The python was killed by locals afterwards, and Mateus received several stitches to the right side of chest, where he had been bitten.
"Mateus, from Sao Paolo, had been visiting his grandfather's farm in the municipality of Cosmorama, a small township about 400 kilometres north of Sao Paulo."


Giant Wetas Reintroduced to NZ Mainland

From the Scoop:

"On Sunday 11 February, volunteers, trustees, iwi representatives and invited dignitaries will watch as up to 100 Cook Strait giant weta (Deinacrida rugosa) are released back into the wild at Wellington’s award-winning Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. This will be the first attempt to re-establish this species on the mainland since they became extinct here over a century ago.
"At around 70mm long, and weighing up to 27g, these mouse-sized insects are one of the world’s heaviest insects and, for many, the stuff of nightmares. But appearances can be deceiving. Deinacrida rugosa are gentle giants - herbivores far less ferocious than the smaller tree weta we find in our garages, gardens and gumboots!
"The weta will be collected on Matiu/Somes Island and released into two different habitat areas at the world-first wildlife sanctuary, where they will be safe from the rats and stoats that lead to their extinction on all but a few offshore islands. This is the first of four planned transfers – up to 450 weta will be transferred in total over four years. The source populations will all be from Matiu/Somes and Mana Islands. Giant weta will be the 15th native species transferred into the safety of the Sanctuary, and the first invertebrate released." ...
"Twenty of the weta will be fitted with radio transmitters so Sanctuary staff can monitor their movements. This is the first time transmitters have been used to track weta as part of a species transfer."

[Full news posted to StrangeArk archive.]

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Papua New Guidea Orchids

Blooming beauties

Scientists from the conservation non-profit WWF discovered at least eight other new species of orchid, in the tropical rain forests of Papua New Guinea. The researchers made the discoveries while surveying previously unexplored forests in the Kikori region on the southern coast of New Guinea's principal island.

Over the course of three expeditions, the scientists collected some 300 orchid species, eight of which have been confirmed as new to science, with 20 more still awaiting verification as new varieties. Even before the find, Papua New Guinea claimed more known orchid species than any other country in the world.

"The island of New Guinea is an incredible gold mine of orchids," said Wayne Harris, a WWF researcher and botanist with Australia's Queensland Herbarium. "There are over 3,000 known species found here with countless varieties undoubtedly yet to be discovered."


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Jules Verne Birthday

Today marks the birthday of Jules Verne.

Verne, born Nantes, France on February 8, 1828, is one the pioneering authors in science fiction or speculative fiction. Verne died on March 24, 1905 in Amiens, France.
His work has a tinge of the surreal and features exotic locations and settings. But, amongst these aspects are elements of cryptozoology.

From the attack by a giant squid in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, to the fantastic prehistoric beast of Journey to the Center of the Earth. Verne’s imagination was a superb piece of fancy, that delved into the hear of cryptofiction.

For the daring reader therefore, on the birthday of Jules Verne, a partial listing of his cryptofiction entries to the world:

The Stories of Jean-Marie Cabidoulin
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Journey to the Center of the Earth
Mysterious Island

Many of his books have been turned into films over the years, and he served as inspiration for future generations. Read a story or watch a movie, but remember Verne for one of the first cryptofiction authors of modern times.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Squeaking Oddity Eaten by Russians

Russian fishermen catch squeaking alien and eat it

Village residents from the Rostov region of Russia caught a weird creature two weeks ago after a strong storm in the Sea of Azov. The shark-looking creature was producing strange squeaky sounds. The fishermen originally believed that they had caught an alien and decided to film the monster with the help of a cell phone camera. The footage clearly shows the creatures’ head, body and long tail. The bizarre catch was weighing almost 100 kilograms, the Komsomolskaya Pravda reports.

However, ufologists and scientists were greatly disappointed when they found out that the fishermen had eaten the monster. They said that they were not scared of the creature so they decided to use it as food. One of the men said that it was the most delicious dish he had ever eaten.

Chairman of the Anomalous Phenomena Service, Andrei Gorodovoi, stated that the creature, which he could see on the short video, was an anomalous being. However, it could hardly be described as an extraterrestrial form of life, he added. Gorodovoi rejected the version about mermaids too. “There are many legends about mermaids living in the Sea of Azov. Nevertheless, specialists of the Service for Anomalous Phenomena have never confirmed those fairytales. On the other hand, we do not deny the possibility of other forms of life in the Sea of Azov,” the ufologist sad.
A spokesman for the Rostov-based zoo, Alexander Lipkovich, contacted local ichthyologists and asked their opinion about the Azov alien. “They said that the fish bears resemblance to a sturgeon. It was an extremely interesting individual. I have never seen anything like this before in my whole life,” the specialist said.

The images above were stills taken from the film at Komsomolskaya Pravda's website. The "creature" looks similiar to a ray or Angel shark (squatiniformes), but with a rather unique "face" like appearance. The full Russian article is here . However, its appearance across its length doesn't appear to be exactly "sturgeon" like.......


Cuvier Beaked Whale Found Dead

Back on January 24th, 2007 it was reported that a beaked whale had been stranded at Morgan's Bay in South Africa. Now, another rare whale has been found on Orkney Beach.

A RARE whale has been found dead on an Orkney beach far from its usual ocean home.
The 20ft Cuvier's beaked whale would normally inhabit deep water far from land.

Mystery surrounds its discovery on a rocky shoreline at Warebeth near the town of Stromness.

But samples taken from the adult male will help scientists discover more about this rarely seen species. Cuvier's beaked whales are found in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, but are shy animals that usually keep well away from shipping.

The animal washed up in Orkney is only the fifth to be found in the islands since 1920.
"Little is known about them because they live in very deep water," said Chris Booth, an Orkney-based cetacean expert.

"It's very rare for them to be seen close in shore, so it's only when there's a stranding that we get the chance to find out more about them."

A bone sample taken from one of the whale's flippers will be examined first at an Edinburgh museum and then in Australia, where scientists are keen to study the DNA it contains

Lake Seminole Dolphins?

A freshwater lake with no real access to the ocean shouldn't have dolphins in it, but someone claims to have seen them in Florida's Lake Seminole. From the St. Petersburg Times:

"A reported sighting of three dolphins in Lake Seminole has city, county and state officials scratching their heads over what appears to be an impossibility for a landlocked, freshwater lake.
"The lake does have a weir for outflow, but even then 'there's just no possible way for a dolphin to fit in there,' said Kelli Levy, a Pinellas County environmental program coordinator.
"'They would have to swim through a few feet of water under Park Boulevard, then jump like 12 feet in the air over the weir. I can't think why they would want to do that.'
"Alternatively, Levy said, the dolphins could have been swept into the lake at 10015 Park Blvd. if a 'big, humongous hurricane' came along." ...
"Levy was responding to a plea for help from the city of Seminole, which received an anonymous e-mail last Thursday:
"'At the risk of sounding a little crazy, I would like to mention to someone in Seminole gov't. that at 8 am Wed. 1/31/07 I saw what appeared to be three dolphins swimming in the SW corner of Lake Seminole near Park Boulevard. My girlfriend saw them as well. I thought I should at least report it to someone and found this e-mail contact for Seminole.' It was signed 'Concerned Citizen.'
"A city official forwarded the note to Levy with this note:
"'Have you ever heard of dolphins in Lake Seminole? Is it possible for them to get through the weir from the bayou to the lake? Also, if this is true, we have a problem as these critters are saltwater tolerant.'
"Despite her doubts about the sighting, Levy reported the story to the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which dispatched biologist Ken Arrison to the lake in search of dolphins.
"Arrison spent four hours walking around the park Friday and saw 'a lot of humans and a lot of great birds, but no dolphins,' he said.
"If they're there, Arrison said, it's likely they'll be seen again because dolphins have to come up for air fairly frequently.
"Both Arrison and Levy hope 'Concerned Citizen' will contact them with more information. Thus far, he has not responded to requests for comment to his e-mail address from the city, county, state or Neighborhood Times.
"Levy suggested the couple might have mistaken grass carp for dolphin. Grass carp were put into the lake in the late 1990s to eat the grass.
"They reach 35 to 40 pounds and 'they kind of come to the surface and they kind of roll over,' she said.
"Arrison suggested the sighting may have been diving birds. When cormorants dive, he said, their backs will break the water.
"And perhaps, there's one more explanation, Arrison posited.
"'You never know, maybe Lake Seminole has its own Nessie,' he said, referring to the legendary Loch Ness Monster."

Another "dolphin" was reported from Florida's landlocked Gasparilla Lake in 2003. Unless and until better evidence is found, the carp theory is probably the best one right now.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Cambodian Vulture Conservation

From the Wildlife Conservation Society:

"Working in the remote forests of Cambodia, conservationists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have just discovered Southeast Asia's only known breeding colony of slender-billed vultures, one of the world's most threatened bird species.
"Found in heavily forested country just east of the Mekong River in Cambodia's Stung Treng Province, the colony also represents one of the only known slender-billed vulture nesting areas in the world, and therefore one of the last chances for recovery for the species, now listed as 'Critically Endangered' by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
"'We discovered the nests on top of a hill where two other vulture species were also found, one of which—the white-rumped vulture—is also 'Critically Endangered',' said Song Chansocheat, manager of the Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project, a government project supported by WCS, BirdLife International, World Wildlife Fund, the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. 'Amazingly, there were also a host of other globally threatened species of birds and primates. It's a very special place.'
"Chansocheat's team immediately set-up 24-hour protection measures against poaching and egg collecting, and are now working with local communities to ensure that they are involved in—and support—longer-term conservation measures. 'We already have a successful WCS model working in the Northern Plains where local people benefit from conservation activities. I think we have a good chance of making it work here if we can find the support.'
"The slender-billed vulture is one of several vulture species in Asia that have been driven to the brink of extinction across its entire range due to Diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory drug used for cattle that is highly toxic to vultures. Diclofenac has lead to global population declines as high as 99 percent in slender-billed and other vulture species. Diclofenac is now being slowly phased out in South Asia, but not at a pace that assures the recovery of the vultures. Because Diclofenac is almost entirely absent from use in Cambodia, the country remains one of the main hopes for the survival of the species. However, these birds are still endangered from other threats, such as a lack of food due to the over-hunting of large-bodied mammals, loss of habitat, and sometimes direct hunting.
"The Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project has already been successful in helping stem the decline in Asia's vultures in Cambodia through a combination of scientific research, direct protection, food supplementation and awareness-raising. Satellite-collaring of animals has lead to a greater understanding of which areas are important to the two most threatened species, while simultaneous vulture 'restaurants' across the country provide both an additional food source for the birds and a chance to undertake coordinated counts to monitor the size and structure of the population.
"Chansocheat remains optimistic, adding 'We have the backing of local people and of the Government. If we can find financial support to extend what we know is already a successful strategy, then we should be able to conserve these species forever.'


Egyptian Sel'awaa

There is a folkloric canine in Egyptian culture, the Sel'awaa, a dog-like animal with ferocious habits. Sightings cropped up in 2005 in Alexandria, and have recently been reported in the Sharkia region:

"RESIDENTS OF Belbis, a district in Lower Egypt's Sharkia area, are currently under the reign of terror of a wild canine, which Egyptians call the Sel'awaa.
"The Sel'awaa apparently looks like a normal dog, but its brown or dark yellow skin and two short hind-legs distinguish it from other, more common canines. The key difference, however, is that it is far more savage than a domesticated dog.
"Its almost-ordinary appearance certainly fooled one victim, Ahmed Al Sawy, 17, who says that when he first saw the animal, he though it was just another dog. He only remembered his friends' Sel'awaa warnings when the creature attacked him, biting his leg. Regaining consciousness later at Belbis hospital, Sawy put the pieces together.
"The police have since claimed they have shot the Sel'awaa, but eyewitnesses continue to report sightings, the beast apparently sporting different colors each time it appears."

This appears to be a fear-driven cultural myth, rather than a cryptid, but it would be interesting to know where it originally began.

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Seeds of 2006 Discovery to Live On

Scientists in West Sussex are working to preserve the seeds of a rare Chinese plant rediscovered after 100 years.

Chinese seed collectors found the small, yellow-flowered paraisometrum mileense growing in Yunnan Province in South West China.

Its seeds will now be preserved for conservation and research at the Millennium Seek Bank at Kew's country garden, Wakehurst Place at Ardingly.

Botanists are investigating its evolution so it is never lost again.

A living collection of the plant, which was last found growing in its native habitat in 1906, is also being introduced into a botanic garden in China.

Experts feared it had died out.

"It is greatly encouraging for botanists and conservationists to rediscover a species thought to be extinct in the wild," said Jie Cai, co-ordinator of the Chinese seed collection at Wakehurst.

"It provides an important opportunity for people to find out more about the plant's evolution, conservation and potential uses."
Please note, while the news article does not explain the date of rediscovery, it is not 2007. The plant was found in 2006, but the conservation of its seeds should help assure it stays in existence for a while longer. - Craig Heinselman

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High Technology Bigfoot Expedition - Biscardi

Dates: March 28, 2007-March 31st, 2007

Location: In a swampy area that looks prehistoric, in the vicinity of Paris, Texas

Expedition: to be conducted by The Granite State Paranormal Society, Contact Jim Snell,
New Hampshire: 646-652-6529 for info

Expedition: to be led by Bigfoot Explorer, C. Thomas Biscardi and his Searching

For Bigfoot Team
For additional information: Robert Barrows, R.M. Barrows, Inc. Advertising and Public Relations, Burlingame, California
Tel: 650-344-1951


Despite countless "Bigfoot" sightings all over the globe, no one has ever captured the creature popularly known as Bigfoot.

Now, a New Hampshire company, The Granite State Paranormal Society, an organization that investigates the paranormal, has put together a team of scientists that have developed very special technologies that will be used in a Bigfoot Expedition that will take place in a swampy area that looks prehistoric, in the vicinity of Paris, Texas from March 28th to March 31st, 2007.
Bigfoot explorer C. Thomas Biscardi, Founder of Searching For, headquartered in Menlo Park, California will lead the expedition.

The expedition will be open to the public and journalists on a fee basis. The Granite State Paranormal Society will handle reservations and expedition details.

Searching For Bigfoot, Inc., in association with Big Cat Productions, plans to develop a new reality TV series, "Capturing Bigfoot," based on Searching for Bigfoot, Inc.’s latest expeditions to find and bring "Bigfoot" home alive. This new series, which will feature cutting-edge high technology equipment designed to locate, capture and contain Bigfoot, will be produced, directed and written by Ron Lyon and Jenny Paschall, whose collective creative credits include ABC-TV’s "Ripley’s Believe It or Not," Discovery Channel’s "Would You Believe It!!" as well as Travel Channel’s "Most Haunted in America" and "Strangest Remains". (For more information, go to

"Capturing Bigfoot" will be a co-production with Searching for Bigfoot, Inc., headed up by Tom Biscardi, founder of Searching for Bigfoot, Inc., in Menlo Park, California, (

Biscardi will be joined on the expedition by his search team, as well as leading academics and amateur participants who believe they can handle the challenge.
The television series will be based on the upcoming March 28th expedition and a series of future Bigfoot expeditions currently being planned around known Bigfoot migration routes. Bigfoot is a migratory creature" according to Biscardi, "so whether we capture one on the Paris, Texas expedition or not, they will continue to seek out additional creatures to find out more about them."

"The key to capturing a Bigfoot is knowing where to look and how to catch one," according to Biscardi, "and after all our expeditions over the past two years," we think we know where the best places are to look for one, and now we have this new technology that will help us locate, capture and contain this elusive creature!"

Read More at Web Wire


Local botanist discovers new species in Peru

Published February 6 2007

STAMFORD - Botanist Eric Morgan was in a boat traveling down the Orosa River in Peru last January when a felled tree trunk in the water halted his journey.Morgan and fellow botanist Jon Sperling decided to get out of the boat and explore while they waited for help. They spent the next hour-and-a-half gathering plants along the edge of the tributary, including one in the genus Dracontium, commonly known as Jergon Sacha.

They noticed it had several striking characteristics, including an unusual leaf segment pattern, with large and small leaves opposite each other."We were looking at it from the side of a boat and said, 'This looks kind of different. Let's take it back to New York,' " said Morgan, collections manager at the Bartlett Arboretum & Gardens in Stamford.

In America, the pair grew the plant under greenhouse conditions for 18 months and realized they had found a new species. They named it Dracontium iquitense, after the city of Iquitos in northeastern Peru, the closest large city to where they discovered it.

This summer, Morgan and Sperling, a biology professor at Queens College in New York, will publish a paper on the new species in Aroideana, a yearly academic journal devoted to the study of plants that belong to the Aracae family.One of the plants now grows in the greenhouse of the Bartlett Arboretum, where Morgan is studying it and monitoring its growth.

The plant has grown a stem with leaves that is about 2 feet tall and has not flowered. In the spring, Morgan expects the plant will stand 8 feet tall."It's not all that impressive in the middle of winter," he said.The plant has drawn the attention of Jack Dillon, Bartlett's executive director, who said he is impressed that Morgan picked out a new species in the middle of a rainforest.

"I think people like to say there is nothing new under the sun, and I think it is nice to have that proven wrong every now and then," Dillon said.Morgan, who is pursing a doctorate degree in botany at City University of New York, has long been fascinated by Jergon Sacha. He learned about it when he was an undergraduate at Stony Brook University and watched a video on plants belonging to the genus Dracontium.

He was intrigued when he learned the flower smelled like rotting meat and set out to learn more about the plant, including its medicinal properties."I just thought it was interesting from an evolutionary standpoint," Morgan said. "The plants tend to have different pollinators and tend to tailor their scents to different insect groups."There are 23 known species of the plant; 13 of them grow in South America and the Caribbean.

Morgan took his first trip to the Iquitos region of Peru in 2002 and interviewed residents about how they use the plant in everyday life, eventually publishing a paper on the topic in Aroideana."In rural areas, people lash the stems against their legs to prevent snake bites. Tribes that have more contact with modern medicine take the root, known as a corm, and crush it for use as a topical remedy for snake bites, Morgan said.

Pharmacists in large cities sell the crushed root in bottles and claim that it can cure HIV and cancer."It was neat to see how the use of it changed as you went from rural areas with little contact with the medicine world to big cities," he said.

Morgan plans to continue his study of the plant, preserving samples in formaldehyde and alcohol.He remains modest about his discovery and attributes it to the years he spent studying the evolution and structure of the plant."You end up looking at so many of them that you know them pretty well," he said.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Black Smokers Sing

So how do deep-sea fish manage to detour around black smokers (hydrothermal vents) without getting cooked? A new study shows that the vents are producing sounds:

"The long-held assumption that black smokers are silent is wrong, according to recently published research led by Timothy Crone, a University of Washington doctoral student in oceanography. It's prompting scientists to wonder: Could the sound and vibrations of black smokers be the reason fish in total darkness avoid being poached by waters as hot as 750 F? And might similar sounds guide them to the smorgasbord of tube worms, mussels, shrimp, snails and other fauna at vents with more temperate waters?
"Want to be the first on your block to hear what a black smoker sounds like? Go to where audio of a black smoker has been combined with a video into a short movie." ...

"Hydrothermal vents, discovered in the 1970s, are found along volcanically active ridges where seawater seeps into the seafloor, picks up heat and minerals and then vents back into the ocean depths. The hottest and most vigorous of the vents are black smokers, so called because when the fluids they emit hit the icy cold seawater, minerals in the fluids precipitate out and it looks just like dark, billowing smoke.
"Because of a paper published 15 years ago, it had been thought the vents were probably playing only the sounds of silence. Still a number of scientists suspected that the vents could be generating sounds, given the obvious turbulence of the flows, Crone says.

"It was decided that new recordings should be attempted because Crone and other oceanographers are looking for new ways to measure vent flows, which are a source of heat and minerals in the world's oceans that scientists would like to understand better. Commonly used instruments to measure flow are often short lived when inserted in the superheated, corrosive black-smoker fluids.
"How much simpler if the vents were generating some kind of sound that could be recorded and correlated to flows, Crone says.
"With funding from two organizations that help take fields of research and instrumentation in new directions, the UW Royalty Research Fund and the W.M. Keck Foundation, a deep-sea digital acoustic recording system was deployed in the Main Endeavour vent field. The field is on the seafloor about 300 miles west of Seattle on the Juan de Fuca Ridge. Crone recorded 45 hours of sound at the vent scientists call 'Sully' and 136 hours at the vent called 'Puffer.'
That's the sound of Sully you're hearing as the video runs. Crone likens the sound to the rumbling of an avalanche or a forest fire.
"How loud would it be if you were sitting a foot away? (That's something you couldn't actually do because the pressure where most black smokers are found is so intense that you'd implode.) The sound level would be somewhere between conversational speech and a hairdryer, Crone says.
"Four possible mechanisms might be causing -- or contributing to -- the noise, the researchers say. For example, the flow could be pulsating or its volume could be changing as its waters cool. Dissimilar fluids in the flow could generate noise where they mix. Or the fluids rushing through the nooks and crannies of the smoker vent itself could be creating noise." ...

"Buried within the broad range of sounds that produce the rumbling, Crone's analysis revealed the surprise that the vents also produce resonant tones. There could be a number of things generating such tones. For example, flows along the cavities and bumps inside the vent structures may cause tones in the same way jug band members produce sound by blowing across the mouths of their jugs, causing the air inside the jug to resonate and produce a deep tone.
"Both Sully and Puffer produce resonant tones at several different frequencies that we can't discern with all the other noise generated by the vents. But you can hear examples of tones that Crone pulled out from the racket by listening at
"'With these resonant tones, each vent within the vent field is likely to have its own unique acoustic signature,' Crone says.
"If so, and if fish are actually using vent sounds to navigate, then the distinctive tones might be how fish find their way back to cooler vents where the eats have been particularly good."

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Alice McKenzie and the Moa

Alice McKenzie was born in 1873, and moved to Martins Bay in the late 1870's. It was there in 1880 at the age of 7 that she saw an odd bird.

Described as bluish in color, her height and with greenish legs the size of her wrists. The bird made a grunting cry as it moved through the scrub. Glanced again in 1889, Alice thought for years she had seen a takahe. Now the takahe was not rediscovered until the late 1940's.

In the New Zealand Journal of Ecology (volume 12, supplement 1989), Atholl Anderson wrote an entry entitled "On Evidence for the Survival of Moa in European Fiordland". In this entry, he outlines a letter written by Alice McKenzie to North Otago historian GB Stevenson in May 1948:

" I was very much interested in your description of the Moa's, and wish to tell you of a very large bird which lived at Martin's Bay. I saw it twice, but many others saw its footprints in the sand, it must have gone about the beaches at night, as its fresh tracks were plainest in the early mornings, generally in July, we thought it probably lived in a large swamp between the sea and Lake McKerrow and when it was frozen it came to the sea beach.

First time I saw it was in 1880, I was 7 years of age. I was along the beach inside the sand hills, there are high sand hilles covered with tussock, inside of them the bush starts, flax grows around the edge of the bush in the sand. I saw this large bird lying beside the flax. I got nearer and nearer, it took no notice of me. I got behind it, and sat down on the sand, it seemed quite round behind, as it had no tail and was the colour of swamphen blue - I put a hand under it and drew out one of its legs, it was as thick as my wrist, and covered with dark-green scales, I thought I'd tie it up, so split a blade of flax and started to tie it around the birds legs, then it got up and making a harsh cry went for me. I went over those sand hills like a red shank, the bird after me for a short distance. I can't remember if it had wings, but I don't think so, when it went for me the feathers round its neck stood out like a ruff. I think if it had wings I would have noticed. I ran home and told of the huge bird which chased me. Mother thought I was exaggerating, but I persuaded Father to come and see where it had been, he saw its tracks where it went after me, he had a foot rule in his pocket and measured the feet 11 inches from heel to middle toe, its feet were three toes like a hen, he recorded it in his diary, but some allowance could be made for the feet sinking in the dry sand, and may have seemed larger than they were.

For years then we saw its tracks in the winter, 10 years after I was driving some cattle from the Kaipo River to Martins Bay, coming round a rocky point I saw the cattle standing on the sand beach looking startled toward the bush. I looked and saw a blue object disappearing into the scrub, it looked like a mans navy blue coat, and I felt very frightened as there were prisoners working at Milford Sound at the time, and was afraid it was one of them, however I had to pass the place to get home, then I saw the large birds tracks taking long strides towards the place I saw it entering the bush. I did not try to look for it, my early experience was too fresh in my memory..."

Alice's memories, through a series of journals written over the years, was first published in 1947. Reprinted as a 2nd edition in 1952, her story then came to light (after first appearing in the Otago Daily Times of July 1947). Now, in 2007, Alice's grand-daughter Alice Margaret Leaker has compiled a new edition of Pioneers of Martins Bay that is being published by Arrowtown's Lakes District Museum.

Now the moa is officially extinct, being gone since the 12th century, with some lingering possibly into the 1500's. There have been reports of moa like birds throughout the years, including a number in the 19th century. The most "popularized" account coming in 1993 when Paddy Freaney and two others reported seeing a 2-meter bird and snapping its picture (the picture is not distinct however, and the account is still debatable).
So did Alice McKenzie really see a Moa? Or something else?

Paddy Freaney's picture from 1993

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New Sri Lanka Frog

In Zootaza 1403: 55-68 (2007) a new species of frog from Sri Lanka is described.
In the paper A new species of endemic frog belonging to genus Nannophrys Gunther, 1869 (Anura: Dicoglossinae) from Sri Lanka the authors S.S. Fernando, L.J. Mendis Wickramasingha and R.K. Rodirigo outline the fourth species of the genus Nannophrys.
In 2004 and 2005 nine (9) specimens of the amphibian were collected. These came from Kokagala, Padiyatalawa of the Ampara District and from Yakunattela of the Bibile of the Monaragala District in Uva province.
The new frog is distinct from other Nannophrys by:
"...distal subarticular tubercle and penultimate subarticlar tubercles of the 4th toe are well separated (vs. these two tubercles close in all other species of the genus). Supernumerary tubercle absent or smaller than penultimate subarticular tubercle on the 4th toe. A hard sharp narrow symphysial knob and close pair of sharp apophyses on the anterior edge of the mandible and symphysial knob lower than two opophyses (vs. all other species with a blunt wider symphysial knob and wider pair of apophyes on the anterior edge of the mandible, and symphysial knob of the same height or higher than two aophyses). Palmer tubercles comparatively smaller, inner palmar tubercle separated from outer palmer tubercle (vs. other relatives posses palmer tubercles comparatively large, inner palmer tubercle connected with outer palmar tubercle)."

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Rare marine species discovered in Philippines

Rare marine species discovered in Philippines

Manila - A French-led marine expedition has discovered thousands of new species of crustaceans and mollusks in waters around the central Philippines, officials and scientists announced Monday.

The discovery was made by the Panglao Marine Biodiversity Project, which has been conducting "an intensive inventory" of the complex coastal ecosystem off Panglao island for the past two years.

Some 80 scientists, students and volunteers from 19 countries took part in the ground-breaking research.

"Numerous species were observed and photographed alive, many for the first time," the scientists, led by Philippe Bouchet, of the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle in France, said in a statement.

"It is estimated that 150-250 of the crustaceans and 1,500-2,500 of the mollusks are new species," the statement said.

"To put it in perspective, the whole decapod crustacean (shrimp or prawn) fauna of Japan barely exceeds 1,600 species.

"The Mediterranean (300 million hectares) has 340 species of decapods and 2,024 species of mollusks," the statement said.

Some 50 species were presented to the Philippine National Museum on Monday.
Bouchet said data was collected using both academic and traditional methods such as dredging and trawling, diving and deep-water nets which Panglao fishermen traditionally use.
Bouchet said the international science expedition in Panglao is the most comprehensive coral reef mollusk survey ever undertaken worldwide.

To push the research forward, the French embassy has announced a five-year programme to explore the deep-water fauna of the Philippines titled "Census of Philippines Deep-Sea Biodiversity."

The embassy said that, with a total of 80 participants from the Philippines, other Asean countries, Europe and the United States, the Panglao Marine Biodiversity Project was the most comprehensive survey of deep-sea invertebrates ever conducted anywhere in the tropics.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Gwoemul - The Host

We have seen many movies over the years with cryptozoology or some unknown animal as a piece of it. Typically these are Horror or Science-Fiction films. The list includes well done to poorly done entries, and continues every year.

In 2006 Gwoemul (The Host) was released in Asia by director Bong Joon-Ho, its premise is complex, but features a multi-generation family group who rescues one of its own from an aquatic creature that rises from the Han River. Full of political commentary and some humor, the movie has been well received since being releases in 2006. While the creature itself is "birthed" due to a chemical pollutant in the river, it is not presented as being a gigantic snarling beast. Rather a "truck" sized fish-like animal, granted that can run on land and dangle from bridges.

In March 2007 the film will be released in limited distribution here in the USA. While the FX may not be what American audiences are used to , it does show how they can be done to propel the story along and not control the story.
It does give one the perception of a "what if scenario". What if a "sea serpent" were to suddenly appear near a major city, would the reaction cause a behavior change? So if you get a chance to see it in the theatre during its release, see if it grabs your fancy. Otherwise sit-back and wait for the DVD release.


Saturday, February 03, 2007

National Museum to get new species’ specimens

National Museum to get new species’ specimens
The Philippine Star

February 3, 2007

Specimens of newly discovered marine species found by a joint Filipino-French research project on the island of Panglao in Bohol will be turned over Sunday to the National Museum, the French embassy in Manila said.

Some 50 species of holotype specimens will be turned over to the museum.

A holotype is single specimen or "illustration" designated as the type for naming a species or subspecies. It is also used as the basis for naming a species or subspecies when no type has been selected.

The French embassy said a year-long research of fauna conducted in the deep-sea and coastal ecosystems of Panglao Island resulted in the discovery of over 1,200 species of decapod or 10-legged crustaceans and some 6,000 species of mollusks.
Decapod crustaceans characteristically have five pairs of locomotor appendages each joined to a segment of the thorax, such as crab, shrimp and lobster. Marine mollusks are also called shellfish.

The Panglao Marine Biodiversity Project was conducted as a joint effort of the University of San Carlos and the French National Museum of Natural History from 2004 to 2005. It was funded by the French government and Total Foundation, which is based in the French capital of Paris.

The embassy said holotypes must be kept in museums or reputed institutions where they will be made available to scientists worldwide.
To push the research forward, the French embassy said a five-year program to explore the deep-water fauna of the Philippines titled "Census of Philippines Deep-Sea Biodiversity" will be formally announced during the turnover ceremony.

On its own, Panglao has a higher level of biodiversity compared to Japan, which barely exceeds 1,600 species, and the Mediterranean, which covers 300 million hectares and has 340 species of decapods and 2,024 species of mollusks, the French embassy said.

The embassy said that, with a total of 80 participants from the Philippines, other ASEAN countries, Europe and the United States, the Panglao Marine Biodiversity Project was the most comprehensive survey of deep-sea invertebrates ever conducted anywhere in the tropics.
The Philippines is located in the "Coral Triangle," which contains the highest number of known marine species.

The turnover ceremony will be witnessed by French Ambassador Gérard Chesnel, National Museum Director Corazon Alvina, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Director Malcolm Sarmiento, and Dr. Tin-Yam Chan of the Taiwan University of Oceanography, among other guests.

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The Border Beast Reported Again

According to the Tyrone Today for February 2, 2007, the mysterious feline called the "border beast" has been sighted again.

"The unidentified creature was seen on the Favour Royal Road at about 10 pm. Members of the public are asked to be vigilant and any sightings of the animal should be reported to the police. It is believed to be the first appearance of the so-called "border beast" for a number of years. In the last decade there have been a series of unexplained sightings of wild animals or catlike creatures in various parts of the Clogher Valley."

The "border beast" is a catlike animal reported from Ireland. One of the best entries outlining the history of this animal, and other mystery felines in Ireland is Neil Arnold's Ireland's Exotic Felids . Arnold outlines quite well the history, in brief, of the regions felid unknowns.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Book: Great Auk

For those interested in extinct species, I've just published a non-facsimile reprint of Symington Grieve's The Great Auk, or Garefowl. First printed in 1885, this was a thorough investigation of the known facts surrounding that large flightless bird through records, journals, and natural history collections. Further information is at

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Grand Caymans Croc Investigated by TX State

The out-of-place crocodile found in the Caymans is being tested through cooperation with the wildlife department at Texas State University. From the University Star:

"Researchers from Texas State are involved in an international attempt to identify the origin of an American Crocodile that swam to Grand Cayman from an unknown location.
"The endangered American Crocodile, Crocodylus acutus, was forced from Grand Cayman around 1500 A.D. because of over-hunting shortly after Europeans came to the island.
"Andrew Hope, Cayman Island department of environment marine enforcement officer, contacted Mike Forstner, associate professor in the department of biology, after a young male crocodile measuring more than 2 meters in length was found swimming into Old Man Bay Dec. 30.
"Wildlife officials in Grand Cayman want to return the crocodile to its home and needed help from the Texas State wildlife biology department to determine where the crocodile was from." ...
"Forstner said that he thinks the crocodile was forced from Cuba, where crocodile populations are healthy.
"'If it was in a population of crocs that had a lot of individuals in it, the big bull crocs are like, "Hey, I don’t like these little boys hanging around my ladies", and they would have pushed him out and he would have had to have gone somewhere (else),' Forstner said." ...
"Forstner said swimming or rafting from island to island is likely the way the crocodile originally got to the island." ...
"David Rodriguez, Texas State alumnus and Texas Tech doctoral student, has been working since 2005 on genetic markers that can identify the area where any American Crocodile may be from. He has worked with the Texas State wildlife biology program to compile genetic information from blood samples collected from individual crocs representing almost the entire range of crocodiles, and is currently writing his dissertation over the subject at Texas Tech." ...
"Acquiring the blood sample from Grand Cayman presents legal difficulties because it is against federal law to ship crocodile blood into the U.S. without a permit." ...
"To avoid the federal shipping rules involved in the international transportation of animal materials, the information used in testing for these genetic markers will be sent to Grand Cayman for analysis.
"'We will supply the markers, they will generate the data, then we will put it into our data set and do the analysis,' Forstner said.
"Researchers in Grand Cayman will use the markers supplied from Rodriguez’s research to determine what population of American Crocodile the captured one is from."

[Full news posted to StrangeArk archive.]


Jamaica: Scott Town Monster

This is an odd one. Apparently, there's a strange beast which has been reported in the fields near Scott Town, Manchester Parish, Jamaica. From the Jamaica Gleaner:

"There's something strange lurking in the bushes in Scott Town, Manchester and it has the whole town abuzz. It's unlike anything anyone there has ever seen before. The creature has been spotted in Maas Helton's banana field more than once and now the shaken man is afraid to leave his bed at night.
"'Di first time me see di sinting, mi just took off! Mi nah go lay lay and mek it nyam mi raw!' Mass Helton said.
"He's a short fellow with graying hair and he has noticeable trouble pronouncing the letter 'v', but his memory of the first time he encountered the mysterious beast is impeccable.
"'It was around 3 o'clock inna di morning. Mi decide fi get up early and go inna mi field. Mi and mi dog go round a di back and mi only see when the dog walk off. So mi stand up one side fi see where him a go. Den mi hear one digging noise and mi look and see something a dig up di banana tree. Mi frighten now and bend down behind one bush and a watch. Mi see di dog walk up to di creature and den mi just hear whoo, whoo! When mi hear dat mi gallop weh left all di dog! Dem bwoy out a road say mi too fraid, but mi nuh care!' Maas Helton shouted.
"He said the creature had four long and narrow legs like a goat and a long face with an obvious snout. It was furry and about twice the size of a large dog.
"'It front foot hab on four claw and it move very fast. If you quint too fast then you miss it,' he said.
"Now news of the strange animal spread across the community like wildfire and soon, plans for a public execution were put in place.
"At the crack of dawn the next day, almost everyone from the community turned up at Maas Helton's home, wielding machetes and carrying torches. 'Dem come say dem ready fi kill di brute. Everybody ready fi chop him up. Anyhow dem did ketch him, a murder,' Maas Helton said.
"But they didn't catch the creature and Miss Eva, who walked up to join Maas Helton, knows why.
"'Him nuh love noise. Di creature only come out a night time. My cousin see it down by Miss Mama garden. Anyhow him hear noise, him dig off,' she said.
"Miss Eva is a strapping woman who had a bunch of clothes pegs attached to the bottom of her blouse. She said she was washing clothes at the back of her house when she heard us talking about the beast.
"'People say dem afraid since the beast deh bout. But I not afraid. I not locking up myself inside the house. I must go church and no devil will stop me from go church! Mi nuh fear no foe! Him haffi go nyam mi!' she said adamantly.

"Now most people who live in the community are farmers and are more than a bit agitated that this beast has been running around in their fields and stealing pumpkins and melons. So now the men of Scott Town have devised what they think is an ingenious plan to catch the strange creature. Their plan is to make some giant traps and place them on everyone's property. If that doesn't work, then they plan to all spend the night in the bushes and wait for the first sign of the beast. 'We going to use some melon and catch him. Him always a trouble people melon and plantain. We going to put out some melon and wait pon him. We haffi ketch him!' Maas Helton said.
"By now a crowd had gathered and everyone was talking about how they could possibly catch the beast. I asked Maas Helton what kind of creature he thought it was.
"'Well mi see it and mi really nuh know. A man tell mi dat it could be a kangaroo. Another man tell mi dat is a duppy. Right yah now mi nuh really certain. All mi know is that any day mi spot it again, mi a go dig off,' he said.
"Miss Jane, an elderly woman wearing a cap, spectacles and a pair of running shoes, walked up to join us. She too had her fair share to say on the matter. 'These are the last days! That is why all a dem creature yah leggo pan di earth. God is calling his people! Repent!' she said to nobody in particular.
"This silenced the others for a few seconds and then Maas Helton spoke up again.
"'Di creature look like him have relation with the dog dem, for when him come round, the dog dem nuh mek nuh noise. Mi have four big dog and none a dem ever make noise when di creature come around. Is like him hypnotise dem wid him eye dem,' he said.
"The others seemed to agree. Dwayne, Maas Helton's son, chimed in. 'Yes! Is like him have some kinda magic. More time him look like him can disappear. Mi nuh know what it is, but it must be evil!' he said.
"As evening approached in the rural town, everyone scattered, each heading to his own home. It was to be another night of waiting in fear. Waiting for another sign of the Scott Town monster."

The obvious conclusion here is that an animal (unrecognized by these individuals) is being given an paranormal aspect. A "duppy" in Jamaican folklore is a spirit creature, usually with bad intent. The descriptions don't give a good picture of what the animal actually looked like, but it could be one of several Central American mammals (assuming some exaggeration in size) which are often kept as pets or could have been accidentally brought onto the island by some other means. Coati, perhaps?

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