Thursday, May 31, 2007

5 New Sea Slugs

Five new nudibranchs, or sea slugs, have been discovered in the Tropical Eastern Pacific. From Eurekalert:

"The Tropical Eastern Pacific, a discrete biogeographic region that has an extremely high rate of endemism among its marine organisms, continues to yield a wealth of never-before-described marine animals to visiting scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. Alicia Hermosillo, researcher at the Universidad de Guadalajara in Mexico, and Angel Valdes, assistant curator of Malacology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, describe five newly discovered species of nudibranchs, two of which Hermosillo collected in Panama, in Volume 22 of the American Malacological Bulletin." ...

"It took Hermosillo and her collaborators two more years to identify the animals in the new collection by comparing them to existing collections, consulting specialists and using a scanning electron microscope to examine the jaws and other hard parts of the nudibranchs that distinguish species.
"This was part of the formal project “Phylogenetic Systematics of Nudibranchia,” sponsored by a National Science Foundation grant to Terrence M. Gosliner, senior curator for Invertebrate Zoology and Geology at the California Academy of Sciences and to Valdes. The microscope work also was supported by the NSF through a grant to Valdes and collaborators.
"A list of the new species (and one still to be classified) that are completely described in the publication follows:
"Cerberilla chavezi sp. was collected from the Bahia de Santiago, Colima in Mexico and is named for Roberto Chavez, who provided assistance during fieldwork and suggested dive sites.
"Cuthona destinyae came out of hull scrapings from the M/V Destiny in La Gordornia, Guerrero, Mexico, and thus, is named for the boat.
"Cuthona millenae, named for Sandra Millen for her knowledge of Pacific nudibranchs, was collected from under a rock at 19m depth in the Bahia de Banderas, Jalisco-Nayarit, Mexico.
"Cuthona behrensi, a beautiful white specimen with white-tipped rhinophores named for nudibranch specialist Dave Behrens, who supported the research effort, was found by Alicia Hermosillo under a rock at 13m depth at Los Frailes, Golfo de Chiriqui, Panama.
"Eubranchus yolandae was collected from Los Arcos, Bahia de Banderas, Jalisco-Nayarit, Mexico, from a rock wall at a depth of 17m. This species was named for Yolanda Camacho-Garcia for her contributions to the knowledge of Pacific opistohbranchs.
"Herviella sp., was photographed and collected by Alicia Hermosillo from a floating buoy southeast of Isla Coiba, Coiba National Park, Panama. The new species status and naming of this animal awaits the discovery of additional specimens."


Photo: Cerberilla chavezi, one of five new species of aeolid nudibranchs discovered in the Eastern Pacific. Credit: Alicia Hermosillo

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Down East Magazine - Article on Maine Cougars

The June 2007 magazine Down East includes an article on Maine cougars.

Written by Jeff Clark, the article looks at a brief history of the cougar in Maine, recent sightings, wildlife professional views as well as captive animals.

Read it online at http://www.downeast.com/index.php/page/issues/id/2643 or pick up a copy of the print magazine.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Loch Ness Video

Yorkshire Post states that a science enthusiast, Gordon Holmes, was testing some hydrophone equipment in Loch Ness when he had opportunity to videotape what may be an animal in the water. From the news:

"He said: 'I was sat in a lay-by about 70ft above the loch – it was 10pm but the sun was still shining on the mountains on the other side.
"'I was minutes from going home and I had only gone up there to relax and enjoy the view when I saw something moving on the surface of the water so I dashed to get the camera.
"'It wasn't a wave because it was going in the opposite direction to the waves that I could see and the top half of it seemed to be black.
"'My camcorder was on a black and white setting and it took me a while to find it again in the water, but I've got two-and-half-minutes of footage which I have shown to experts and they think it is definitely a living creature.'" ...
"Mr Holmes arranged for the footage to be played on a TV at a shop in Inverness and he has also shown it to biologist Adrian Shine and Dick Raynor, of the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre.
"He said: 'I originally thought it looked about 4 ft to 6ft long but I think it may have been larger than that, one onlooker in the shop said he thought he could see a fin.'"

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Albino Wallaby Loose in UK

An albino wallaby was photographed running wild near Olney, Buckinghamshire. From the news:

"IT trainer Stacey Purdy first saw the bright white animal while walking her dog.
"The 28-year-old saw a pair of pink eyes peeping out of the undergrowth as she strolled through the countryside.
"When it hopped fully into view she recognised it as a wallaby as she had recently returned from a trip to Australia where she fed them at a zoo in Queensland." ...

"There are known to be several groups of wallabies - which are usually greyish brown in colour - thriving in various locations in rural England, particularly Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Suffolk.
"There are dozens of reported sightings each year.
"Two years ago, an albino wallaby was photographed by civil servant Paul French, 29, as he drove through woods at Hanslope, near Milton Keynes - about five miles from the latest sighting."

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Scientists Study Koala Mystery

Australian scientists are trying to determine why the introduced koalas of St. Bees island are thriving while the species is doing poorly in other parts of its range. NPR has audio commentary here.

Manatees on Alabama Coast

Manatee sightings along the Alabama coastline have been increasing over the last few years, but scientists are uncertain as to why the animals are congregating there. From the news:

"Ingram said the manatees appear to be migrating from Florida, as evidenced by the first reported sighting this year, two weeks ago in the Intracoastal Waterway.
"'They were headed into Alabama. The last reported sighting we had last year was also in the Intracoastal but headed toward Florida,' Ingram said. 'That's really neat. It looks like they are moving from Florida.'
"Over the last several years, Press-Register reporters have observed manatees, sometimes with young, in Fish River, Dog River, Fowl River, Mobile Bay and Grand Bay.
"Members of the public have reported seeing the creatures in some of those same areas, as well as Bayou La Batre, Halls Mill Creek, Rattlesnake Bayou and interior sections of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, such as McReynolds Lake.
"Scientists believe it's likely that the same animals are returning to the area each year, teaching their young where to find the best grazing areas.

"Manatees were once common in the area but were not seen in the 1970s or 80s. Then, in the mid-1990s, they began turning up again, coinciding with the resurgence of undersea grassbeds that had been lost on both sides of the bay."

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

"Big Stuff"

Another independent Bigfoot movie is in the works. From the SunJournal:

"The hirsute creature will create many of the scares in the 45-minute horror/comedy, tentatively titled 'Big Stuff.'
"'It's not cutesy, cutesy or anything,' said Raymond, an artist from Massachusetts who settled in Buckfield six years ago. 'It'll be no "Harry and the Hendersons."'
"Imagine a movie by "Sixth Sense" creator M. Night Shyamalan, only with laughs, he said.
"Raymond came up with the idea for his story, set on Buckfield's Streaked Mountain, last year.
"He wrote a short screenplay and immediately began imagining whole scenes, using his mountaintop home, barn and fields as the location.
"He plans to shoot the film over four days this August or September.
"The cost: $15,000.
"He has raised about half of the money. He believes the rest will come."

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Lost and Found Bigfoot Statue...

Another statue of Bigfoot has gone missing, only to be rediscovered.

Back in January 2007 an 8-foot statue was taken from a chiropractic office. This time around the stolen beast was a 1200 pound upwards of 10 feet tall!

Returned sometime in the evening of May 24th, the beast was missing for a few days in total.

The statue is situated within the property of the Bear Creek Mountain Resort in Macungie, Pennsylvania. It was one of the greeters at the top of Sasquatch Trail on the mountain, one of the resorts black diamond ski trails.

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New Skink Found in India ?

A group of researchers from the Vasundhra organization of India report they have found a new species of skink in a forested area of Khandadhar in the Orissa state in eastern India.

The 7-inch specimen appears, at preliminary evaluations, to belong to the genus Sepsophis.

Discovered in mid-May 2007, the specimen is awaiting formal description once additional data is collected.

The Vasundhra organization is based in Orissa, India and is a research and advocacy group in India. They work on sustainable environmental controls and conservation.

Source: International Herald Tribune, from an Associated Press report, May 28, 2007

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Frog Fall

Villagers in the Spanish village of El Rebolledo (in Alicante) reported thousands of tiny frogs ("the size of a fingernail") falling from the sky. A climatologist reported it was not uncommon for a whirlwind to suck up frogs from a body of water and deposit them elsewhere. (There is not enough detail to determine whether in fact any frogs fell from the sky, or if the villagers just assumed such upon being inundated with a large hatching season.) (News source.)

Army Ants' Engineering Skills

New research on South American army ants shows that raiding parties plan ahead and "resurface" the roadway for a quicker return with plunder. From Eurekalert:

"Certain army ants in the rainforests of Central and South America conduct spectacular predatory raids containing up to 200,000 foraging ants. Remarkably, some ants use their bodies to plug potholes in the trail leading back to the nest, making a flatter surface so that prey can be delivered to the developing young at maximum speed.
"The raid always remains connected to the nest by a trail of forager traffic, along which prey-laden foragers run back to run back to the nest. This trail can be extremely uneven and full of ‘pot holes’ as it passes over leaves and branches on the forest floor.
"The study, by Dr Scott Powell and Professor Nigel Franks at the University of Bristol, and reported in the June issue of Animal Behaviour, shows that these living ‘plugs’ improve the quality of the surface. This increases the overall speed of the traffic and results in an increase in the amount of prey delivered to the nest each day." ...

"Their experiments showed that individuals size-match to the hole they plug and cooperate to plug larger holes. 'We did this by getting the ants to literally "walk the plank",' said Powell. 'We inserted planks drilled with different sizes of hole into the army ants’ trails to see how well different sizes of ant matched different sizes of pot hole. Indeed, they fit beautifully', explained Franks.
"Overall, this behaviour results in an increase in the average speed of prey-laden traffic. Moreover, calculations suggest that under a range of realistic scenarios, plugging behaviour results in a clear increase in daily prey intake. In other words, the behaviour of the pothole pluggers more than compensates for them not carrying prey themselves."

IBW Sighting

James Guthrie, a volunteer on the continuing search for the ivorybill woodpecker, believes he saw one on April 17 in the Big Woods of Arkansas. From the news source:

"Guthrie’s observation joins a growing list of sporadic reports, but the definitive proof – a clear photograph, has eluded even the dogged ornithologists that brave the snake-infested bayou each winter and spring in search of the 'Lord God Bird,' as it is known.
"'Rich Guthrie was a volunteer on the ivory bill search, but as far as verifying his sighting, we can’t,' said Constance Bruce, of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
"In other words, Guthrie’s observation is not proof positive, and he knows it. But he’s also 100 percent confident that he saw what he thinks he saw.
"'At the moment, I realized what was going on. I wasn’t a jump up and down birdwatcher celebrating a tick on the life list. I was there gathering data – mentally taking it all in,' Guthrie said. 'I realize the significance of it, and how fortunate I was, but I’m glad that I was able to throw my observation into the ring to help the world know that there is still a viable hope down there.'
"With the search season winding down, this is likely to be the only evidence noted for awhile. Guthrie, for his part, encourages anyone with an interest and a camera to go search for the bird in the wilds of Arkansas."

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Wayward Alligator - The Haddonfield Horror


Hopkins Pond in Haddonfield, New Jersey, has been the scene since May 11, 2007 of an alligator, or other similar styled reptile.

On the morning of May 11th a woman reported seeing an alligator swimming in the pond around 9:30 a.m., Sgt. William Draham of the Campden County Park Police Department arrives shortly thereafter and reported seeing the animal eating in the water and then submerging beneath.

Since May 11th the pond has been shutdown and cordoned off while investigators searched the area for the 3-4 foot reptile reported. Schools sent out warnings to parents of the potential danger, and the on looking and searching from the banks commenced.

After searches for two-weeks, the pond and surrounding area was reopened on May 25th. No additional sightings have been made, and no definitive findings of the animal were obtained. The most common reaction to the situation is that the animal was either an escaped pet alligator or caiman, or a released one after it grew too large.

In total officials from the state wildlife department, local authorities as well as a reptile from the Rainforest Reptile Shows partook in the search.

This is just another in the extending list of potential sightings of alligators, or similar styled animals, in the waters of North America.

February 2005 An alligator was reported in Lake Washington in Medina, Washington.
March 2005 A boy kill a 3-foot alligator and report another in a water body near Rehoboth, Massachusetts
April 2005 An 8-inch alligator is found on the Potomac River near Williamsport, Virginia
July 2005 A 4 ½ foot alligator is captured in DW Field Park, and a second animal is reported but not captured near Brockton, Massachusetts
August 2005 A 7-foot alligator is reported in Machado Lake near Los Angeles, California.
August 2005 A 3-foot alligator captured in East Loon Lake near Antioch, Illinois
August 2005 A 2 ½ foot alligator is captured near Kauffman, Pennsylvania
November 2005 A 2-foot alligator is photographed in Longmont, Colorado
May 2006 A 2-foot alligator is captured near Slater Memorial Park in Pawtucket, Rhode Island
April 2007 A small alligator was captured in Huntington, New York.
May 2007 Reggie the alligator of Lake Machado in Los Angeles, California is captured after nearly 2 years of searches

Sources:

The Haddonfield Sun, Haddonfield, New Jersey, May 16-22, 2007
CBS 3 Newreport, May 11, 2007
The Daily Times, Salisbury, Maryland, May 11, 2007
Fox29 Newsreport, May 11, 2007
Courier Post Online, May 25, 2007
Inquirer, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 26, 2007
Campden County Press Release, May 26, 2007
Captive Wilde Animal Protection Coalition Reptile Incidents Jan 1, 2005 – June 30, 2006

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Video: Goodbye Reggie

Reggie the Alligator was captured this past week, and Jacob Soboroff from the LA Observer has a video online with recap.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Man Attacked in Minnesota

Man attacked in the woods, clawed strangely by a mysterious beast…. Like the opening to a B-movie, but this time it happened in Itasca State Park in Minnesota.

On Thursday, May 24th, 2007 Jon Kenning, an assistant professor of biology at Creighton University (Omaha, Nebraska) was left with 2-inch lacerations on his head and torso after an early morning attack inside his tent.

Kenning never saw the animal, so speculation can be rampant as to the cause, from a bear to a fisher, and the latest suspect a Bobcat. And yes, we knew it would arise, even Bigfoot has fallen in the trap.

While Kenning will recover from his attack, it should be remindful of all researchers, hikers and campers to be aware that they are in nature and that even in a tent danger can lurk. This should not inhibit people, but be just a bit of warning.

Now, on the facet of Bigfoot and this attack. That is a story for another time, as it is a continuation of a pattern of quick reactions when an “unknown animal” is reported in the news. Reminiscent of the “mystery foot” for a while back found and other oddities of the woods.

For more, see : http://www.twincities.com/allheadlines/ci_5980828 (which has short links tied to the Bigfoot notes) as well as http://www.startribune.com/462/story/1207142.html , and for the Department of Resources (DNR) statements http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/news/releases/index.html?id=1180040178 , http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/news/releases/index.html?id=1180118219

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Friday, May 25, 2007

White Moose

A man in Norway captured a white moose on film. From the Aftenposten:

"[Kurt] Nikkinen, 31, was on his way home from a fishing trip when he spotted a white moose in Tanadalen, 30 kilometers east of Karasjok in Finnmark County in northern Norway." ...
"The Finnmark man had a video camera in his car and filmed the moose, also driving after it when the moose ran along the road, and at one point was only about 20 meters from the animal.
"'It was completely white and had red eyes,' Nikkinen said." ...

"The Finnmark man had heard rumors of the white moose before and there have been sightings of the animal in the area. Nikkinen believes the moose is a youngster, about a year and a half old." ...
"According to Nikkinen there were sightings of a white moose in the area around three years ago, and that this is likely a relative. A white moose appeared in Østfold County in southern Norway last October and sparked a heated debate about whether it should be hunted or preserved."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Parthenogenic Shark

A bonnethead shark at Omaha, Nebraska's Henry Doorly Zoo gave birth to a pup without ever mating. Genetic testing confirmed parthenogenesis. From the Omaha World-Herald:

"This form of asexual reproduction, called parthenogenesis, has been found in other vertebrate species, including some snakes and lizards. But this is the first time it has been documented in a shark.
"Researchers from the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University in Florida and Queen's University Belfast found no male DNA in the female baby shark, which was born in December 2001 and died shortly after birth, apparently killed by another fish.
"The mother was one of three female bonnetheads, a small hammerhead species, that had been captured in Florida and kept without male sharks for three years in the Henry Doorly Zoo.
"At the time of the birth, many scientists thought that the female had mated with another species, or that it had used sperm obtained years before. Female sharks are capable of storing sperm, although none have been known to store it as long as these sharks had been isolated.
"But through the analysis 'it was pretty clear that there was no male contribution,' said Mahmood S. Shivji, director of the Guy Harvey Research Institute and author of a paper on the finding being published online today by the journal Biology Letters."

The NYT notes:

"Instead, the female shark’s own genetic material combined during the process of cell division that produces an egg. A cell called the secondary oocyte, which contains half the female chromosomes and normally becomes the egg, fused with another cell called the secondary polar body, which contains the identical genetic material.
"Robert E. Hueter, director of the Center for Shark Research at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla., said the finding helped fill a gap in understanding of parthenogenesis, which has been found to occur in most vertebrate lines except mammals and, until now, cartilaginous fishes like sharks."


Additionally, from the Miami Herald:

"One other significant finding is that DNA from the bonnethead pup's carcass showed it suffered what Shivji called a genetic 'double whammy.' Not only did it lack genetic input from a father, but it lost half of the genes a mother would normally pass on.
"In the long run, Chapman said, more asexual offspring could reduce the genetic diversity of sharks, weakening immune systems and introducing congenital defects."


The articles note also that keepers at Detroit's Belle Isle Aquarium report a similar, but unconfirmed, case in white spotted bamboo sharks.

Fishers Have Fingerprints

Conservation officers attempting to track the spread of the rarely-seen fisher (a good-sized mustelid) are using fingerprints to distinguish individual animals. From Eurekalert:

"A new study in the May issue of the Journal of Wildlife Management reports that scientists from the New York State Museum, Wildlife Conservation Society and other groups have teamed up with the New York State Department of Criminal Justice to developed a new technique that uses fingerprints to track the fisher--an elusive member of the weasel family, and the only carnivore species known to have unique fingerprints.
"Fingerprints left behind at special tracking-boxes allow field biologists to identify which individual fisher had come in for the bait and, therefore, count the exact number of animals using an area. Scientists teamed with fingerprint experts at the New York State Department of Criminal Justice (DCJS) to develop this method, which is far simpler and less expensive compared to alternatives such as DNA fingerprinting.
"Fisher prints differ from human fingerprints because they are made up of patterns of dots rather than ridges, so standard criminology software did not work. 'We tried submitting fisher prints to the state's fingerprint database but it didn't pair up the prints well,' says Richard Higgins, retired chief of the DCJS Bureau of Criminal Identification. 'But looking at them side-by-side it was obvious when you had a match.'
"The fisher, an eight-pound member of the weasel family, is the only carnivore known to have fingerprints, which are also known from primates and koalas. Other species may also have unique patterns in their tracks that would help in counting their numbers in the wild." ...

"Scientists surveyed fishers from 2000-2002 as part of a carnivore survey across 54 sites in the Adirondack region of Northern New York. Fishers were the second most commonly detected carnivore species, behind coyotes. " ...
"Fishers were nearly driven to extinction in the state by deforestation and over-trapping before receiving protection in the 1930s. This led to a slow recovery, and limited trapping was permitted again in the 1970s. Their recent population boom appears to have begun in the 1990s.
"Fishers spread south out of the Adirondacks and Vermont and into the Hudson Valley. They are also spreading westward, with today's leading edge around Syracuse. Fishers were first recorded in the suburbs of Albany and Boston in the last six years."

BioFortean Review Article

Another article has been posted to BioFortean Review:

Did a Sea Serpent Kill a Man?, by Craig Heinselman

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Coelacanth Caught near Surface

A specimen on the coelacanth was captured alive in the waters near the Bunaken National Marine Park (North Sulawesi) in mid-May 2007.

The fish lived for 17 hours in quarantine before expiring. The fish is planned for further study.

For more information see http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,21765466-663,00.html and http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/05/20/asia/AS-GEN-Indonesia-Living-Fossil.php

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A new Lake Monster Game




Ozura Mobile, a developer and publisher of mobile entertainment games, has recently launched a new game that cryptozoologists may find of interest.


The Lake Monster synopsis is pretty basic. Lake Chini has for decades been the site of many deaths. These deaths are linked to the creature in the lake. Your role is to prevent a sleepwalking village boy, Wan, from falling into the realm of the monster. You need to help him cross the river with the aid of animals. The animals in this case become the moving puzzle pieces.


The game is intended for portable phones, see the website for details on compatibility.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Another Cryptofiction Classic

I've added another historical short story in the cryptofiction genre to the StrangeArk archive: The Last of the Vampires, by Phil Robinson.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Sci-Fi Crypto

Cryptozoology meets Stargate... well, not really. But Stargate SG-1 star Amanda Tapping is executive producer and lead star in a web-based science fiction series, Sanctuary, which deals with monsters, some being critters of the cryptozoological ilk.

From an online news account:

"In Sanctuary Tapping plays monster hunter Dr. Helen Magnus. Magnus runs the titular institution and gives protection to strange creatures that hide in the dark alleys and attics of the Sanctuary universe. Magnus describes herself as, among other things, a cryptozoologist, but her interest in these creatures is not only altruistic and scientific. They may hold the key to a seemingly incurable condition she has and have implications for all of humanity."

Don't expect pure cryptozoology, but it looks interesting for those of us into science fiction/fantasy.

Cayman Croc: Still a Mystery

The out-of-place crocodile found in the Cayman Islands has turned out to be even more strange than previously thought. DNA results suggest it is a Pacific saltwater crocodile, though the morphology points to American crocodile. From the Compass:

"Cayman’s fostered crocodile has left scientists and environmental experts baffled as to its origins following recent DNA results.
"Information from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama following genetic analysis on blood and tissue samples of the animal is at odds with the look of the animal.
"'So we’re in a bit of a conundrum,' said Director of the Department of Environment Gina Ebanks–Petrie. 'We’re now trying to figure out what these results mean.'
"The nearly eight foot crocodile was captured in Old Man Bay on 30 December following calls from the public to the 911 Emergency Communications Centre reporting a sighting. The reptile has been at Boatswains Beach.
"Mrs. Ebanks–Petrie said experts who viewed photos of the croc said it is a freshwater American Crocodile (crocodylus acutus)." [sic]
"But results from the DNA tests suggest that the animal is a saltwater Cuban crocodile (crocodylus rhombifer)." [sic]
"She said results took so long to come back from the Smithsonian Institute because experts there were so confused by the results.
"'Either the crocodile is a weird looking rhombifer, or the animal is some type of hybrid,' she said.
"The DNA analysis was done to help determine the population of origin of the animal in order to send it back to its natural environment.
"The situation will have to be looked into further in order to try to understand what the results mean, Mrs. Ebanks–Petrie added."

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Whale-Fall Anemone


A new species of anemone was found, noteworthy because it was found on a whale carcass at the bottom of the ocean. From Ohio State's research communique:

"Researchers cruising for creatures that live in the deepest parts of the Pacific Ocean found a new species of sea anemone living in the unlikeliest of habitats – the carcass of a dead whale.
"A marine biologist would say that discovering a new sea anemone isn't so unusual. But finding one that calls a dead whale home is what sets this new creature apart.

"Since the scientists who initially found these animals weren't sea anemone specialists, they sent the 10 specimens they collected to Meg Daly, an assistant professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology at Ohio State University. Daly runs one of the very few laboratories in the world equipped to study sea anemones.
"'These creatures were so cool simply because we knew that no sea anemone had ever been found on a whale fall,' she said.
"Once a whale dies, its carcass sinks to the bottom of the ocean. Scientists call this a 'whale fall.' The anemones that Daly received once lived on the bones of a dead whale some 1.8 miles (3,000 meters) below sea level in a region of the Pacific Ocean called Monterey Canyon, roughly 25 miles off the coast of Monterey, Calif. All of the specimens currently in Daly's collection came from this whale fall.
"The anemone, given the scientific name Anthosactis pearseae – there is no English name for it – is small and white and roughly cube-shaped. It's about the size of a human molar, and even looks like a tooth with small tentacles on one side.

"Daly and Luciana Gusmão, a doctoral student in Daly's laboratory, describe A. pearseae in detail in a recent issue of the Journal of Natural History. The two assigned the anemone to the genus Anthosactis primarily due to the roughly uniform length of A. pearseae's tentacles – a characteristic common to this group of about seven sea anemones.
"'We tend to differentiate Anthosactis species from other groups of sea anemones by a variety of traits, rather than any one unique attribute,' Daly said.
"She and Gusmão named A. pearseae after Vicki Pearse, the naturalist who first collected the specimens during a cruise of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute's research vessel the Western Flyer. Pearse is a research associate at the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of Santa Cruz." ...

"While the flesh of a dead whale decomposes within weeks, the bones can last anywhere from 60 to 100 years.
"'As that happens, the bacteria that break down the bones release sulfur,' Daly said. 'A whole community of aquatic creatures uses that sulfur to make energy, much like plants convert light into energy.'

"Daly doesn't know much about A. pearseae beyond its physical description. She and Gusmão aren't sure how old the creatures are, and say that sea anemones can live for hundreds of years. Nor are they sure how A. pearseae reproduce (each anemone may have male and female sex organs), or if it lives exclusively on whale carcasses."

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Mystery Reptiles of the Samoan Islands

I've posted my latest article for BioFortean Review, on a "crowing snake" and "large lizards" from Samoa.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Lake Erie Crabs

First it was the Loch Ness Toad, now another critter is found in a body of water where it really shouldn't be. From the Morning Journal:

"Rick Patterson of Lorain was fishing for perch off the pier near the Jackalope Bar and Rotisserie, when he saw something biting the minnow on his hook and reeled it in.
"What Patterson caught was a Chinese mitten crab." ...
"Dave Kelch, extension specialist with the Ohio Sea Grant Program of The Ohio State University Extension Service, drove to the pier yesterday to take a first-hand look at the crab." ...
"Kelch said the first sighting of two Chinese mitten crabs in Lake Erie was in 1973. A second Chinese mitten crab was found in the lake in 2005.
"'This is only the fourth one found in Lake Erie,' Kelch said." ...
"'The strange thing about this,' Kelch said, 'is that he (Patterson ) said he's always fishing out here and that he's seen a Chinese ore freighter (on occasion) sitting outside the harbor.'
"Kelch speculated that the crab could have been caught in the ballast water from the freighter's home port of Hong Kong and then dumped into Lake Erie. Ballast water balances the ship and is proportional to the weight of the load the ship is carrying."

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Encyclopedia of Life

Interesting online project... From the Seattle Times:

"In a whale-sized project, the world's scientists plan to compile everything they know about all of Earth's 1.8 million known species and put it all on one Web site, open to everyone.
The effort, called the Encyclopedia of Life, will include species descriptions, pictures, maps, videos, sound, sightings by amateurs and links to entire genomes and scientific journal papers. "Its first pages of information will be shown today in the nation's capital, where the massive effort is being announced by some of the world's leading scientific institutions and universities. The project will take about 10 years to complete." ...

"If the new encyclopedia progresses as planned, it should fill about 300 million pages — which, if lined up end-to-end, would be more than 52,000 miles long, able to stretch twice around the world at the equator.
"The MacArthur and Sloan foundations have given $12.5 million to pay for the first 2 ½ years of the effort, which will be free and accessible to everyone.
"The pages can be adjusted so they provide useful information for a schoolchild and a research biologist alike, with an emphasis on encouraging "citizen-scientists" to add their sightings. While amateurs can contribute in clearly marked side pages, the key detail and science parts of the encyclopedia will be compiled and reviewed by experts." ...

"As new species are discovered, they will be added, scientists say. They estimate that Earth has about 8 million species or so, but only one-quarter of them have been identified and named as separate species.
"After that, long-gone species — the fossil world — will be added.
"'If we don't include dinosaurs, we'll have lost 6-year-old boys,' Edwards said."


EOL Demonstration Page

Monday, May 07, 2007

Homo timoriensis and Homo celebesiensis?

Homo floresiensis, the hobbit of Flores, is still debated as to whether it is a distinct species or not (or even a new GENUS as proposed by Dr. Dwight Smith and Gary Mangiacopra). But soon a new excavation will take place on other localized islands around Flores.

Mike Morwood is predicting new hominid species may be discovered on the islands of Timor and Sulawesi. Going to the level of proposing some may be found to be dwarf like, as on Flores, or gigantic in stature.

Are we perhaps in the near future to open even more debate over new hominid species?

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New Zealand Quail Still Living?

Mark Seabrook-Davison of Massey University is starting genetic analysis on quail found in New Zealand.

The birds found on Tiritiri Matangi Island are thought to potentially be surviving members of the New Zealand Quail, Coturnix novaezelandiae.

The New Zealand Quail was believed to be extinct in New Zealand by the late 1880’s, which means if these quail found on the Island are in act Coturnix novaezelandiae it would mark a rediscovery after over 100 years.

The potential still exists however that these are either introduced quail or hybrids of current species. The genetic testing will be needed for the final confirmation and then conservation controls as necessary.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

New (Old) Cryptofiction Story

Recently came across another classic cryptofiction tale, "The Last Haunt of the Dinosaur," from a 1908 issue of The English Illustrated Magazine. I've posted the text of this story to my classic cryptofiction archive. It's about average, not much of a plot, but it's great to run across a story I've not seen mentioned before.

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

What Did Jay Garbose Film?


Jay Garbose was diving on Juno Ledge, a mile or so off of Juno Beach (in Florida), when he came across on odd creature.

The creature was approximately 7-10 feet in length, wormlike, grey and "taffy" like in appearance.

Garbose, an underwater videographer who has worked with the Discovery Channel and National Geographic is familiar with filming underwater, and many of its inhabitants. This one puzzled him.

Garbose contacted the Smithsonian, who identified it as a Nemertean Worm, but not definitively. So at this time the Juno Ledge Worm remains "undescribed".

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Beast of Sedgemoor Again


Peggy Brant recently found and recorded on tape some rather large animal prints.




The Sedgemoor beast is one of the British Mystery Cats, described as a large panther like cat. The feline has been haunting the area for at least 2 decades now and has spurred a number of reports.




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A Thylacine Movie - With A Twist

Movies are a staple of culture, and are a favorite pastime for many.

In cryptozoology good films are not the norm, they tend to be B-Movie features or "monster of the week" style, while rare ones capture the attention. Harry and the Hendersons, Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend, these are some of the better ones.

B-movies are fine, they are fun and "cheesy". An entire sub-culture exists around these, and they can become cult classics (the Rocky Horror Picture Show or Basket Case anyone?).

The Film Finance Corporation of Australia (FFC) has recently financed a new film entitled Dying Breed. An intriguing title, and this is a cryptid movie with a twist. While the story starts as the search for the living Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine) it is in actuality a film in which the heroes encounter cannibals..... Yes, cannibals.....Descendants of one Alexander Pearce. Pearce was a real life person from the early 19th century who did indeed cannibalize people.

Dying Breed will start filming shortly in Tasmania and is directed by Jody Dwyer based on a script by Michael Boughen and Rod Morris.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Canadian Sasquatch Sighting

News from the Edmonton Sun about a possible Sasquatch encounter (apparently in late 2006?):

"A Cranbrook resident says he was just beginning his early-morning shift as a sand truck/snowplow driver for a highways maintenance contractor when he saw what he now calls 'the beast.'
"Gord Johnson says he was barely out of the Cranbrook city limits, heading west, when his headlights illuminated what he thought was a human figure some 150 metres away.
"'It was standing in the ditch on the right side of the road, sort of bent over. It was dark and cold and too early in the morning for anybody to be out picking bottles or something, so I thought whoever it was might be hurt or sick, so I slowed down.'
"As Johnson drew nearer, the figure in the ditch straightened, then turned and began to move towards his truck while remaining in the ditch.
"As the distance closed the snowplough driver was now better able to see that this individual was oddly shaped; very large with arms that reached nearly to its knees, a conical head and what he had initially thought to be a light golden brown parka was instead hair.
"The two-metre-plus figure walking towards him was covered in it, he says.
"Johnson’s truck slowly passed the creature, allowing him to see it clearly through the passenger side window." ...
"Nearly three months later, on Jan. 25, Johnson was again maintaining a road in the early morning when his truck ran out of sand. Finding a wide spot in the road he began turning his truck around so he could head back for another load to finish the job.
"While backing up, he noticed a set of strange tracks in the newly fallen snow and decided to get out and investigate.
"'As soon as I saw them I could tell they were made by something walking on only two legs — kind of offset. Right away my gut told me something wasn’t right. I took a couple shots with the disposable camera that I started carrying since the October incident.'
"Johnson finished his shift, then wanting to show Carter what he considered possible proof of his previous encounter with a strange biped, returned to the spot with a better camera.
"The pair then re-photographed the tracks, measured the distance between them (about 1.8 metres), and then followed them a short distance until they disappeared into dense brush.
With the light failing and the possibility that whatever had made the tracks might still be in the vicinity, the pair decided not to follow the mystery beast’s trail any further."

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Loch Ness Toad

Here's one of the oddest amphibian encounters ever. MIT scientists have been surveying the bottom of Loch Ness, and ran across this critter. From BBC News:

"US researchers carrying out a sonar survey of Loch Ness have been amazed to find a common toad crawling in the mud 324ft (98m) down.
"The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been attempting to unravel the mysteries of the loch.
"However, MIT said it did not expect to come across the amphibian so far down.
"MIT president Bob Rines will tell the Oceans 07 engineering conference in Aberdeen about the toad and the survey next month." ...
"MIT said it had completed a side-scan sonar map of the entire length of the loch - which is about 750ft (228m) at its deepest point.
"The data has been compared with a geological map of the bottom made by Sir Edward Murray using plumb lines 100 years ago.
"The institute said the scan was part of its continuing efforts to find animal remains preserved at the low temperatures at the loch bottom that might explain unusual sightings on the surface.
"Professor Watson's presentation to the conference will cover details of how the loch has changed over the past century."

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New Ivorybill Book


A new book is out from Oxford University Press on the hunt for the ivorybill woodpecker.

Ivorybill Hunters: The Search for Proof in a Flooded Wilderness
Geoffrey E. Hill
Oxford University Press, 2007
ISBN 0195323467

Book description: "The last documented sighting of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker--one of the rarest and most intriguing animals in the world--was noted over 50 years ago. Long thought to be extinct, the 2005 announcement of a sighting in Arkansas sparked tremendous enthusiasm and hope that this species could yet be saved. But the subsequent failure of a massive search to relocate Ivorybills in Arkansas made hope for the species' revival short-lived. Here, noted ornithologist Geoffrey Hill tells the story of how he and two of his colleagues stumbled upon what may be a breeding population of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in the swamps of northern Florida. He relates their laborious attempts to document irrefutable evidence for the existence of this shy, elusive bird following the failure of a much larger research team to definitively prove the bird's existence. Hill tells of his travails both in and out of the vast swamp wilderness, pulling back the curtain to reveal the little-seen political maneuvering that is part of all modern science. He explains how he and his group decided who to exclude or include as their findings came in, and why they felt the need to keep their search a secret. Hill returns repeatedly to how expectations can guide observations, and how tempting it is to oversell evidence in the face of the struggle between an overwhelming desire to find the bird and the need to retain integrity and objectivity. Written like a good detective story, Ivorybill Hunters also delves into the science behind the rediscovery of a species, explaining how professional ornithologists follow up on a sight record of a rare bird, and how this differs from the public's perception of how scientists actually work. Hill notes the growing role of amateurs in documenting bird activity and discusses how the community of birders and nature lovers can see, enjoy, and help preserve these birds. Ivorybill Hunters will prove a fascinating read for those with an interest in natural history, adventure, environmental conservation, and science, as well as the more than forty-six million Americans who now call themselves birdwatchers."

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Nessie Hunt (With Cameras)


Another group is exploring Loch Ness with remote-controlled submersible cameras. From the Inverness Courier:

"EVIDENCE that the Loch Ness Monster exists could be produced next week — even if the mysterious creature decides to eat the camera technology which could discover it.
"Up to 15 shoebox-sized metallic submarines — called 'VideoRays' — will enter the loch as part of a “Monster Gathering” arranged by Aberdeen company Buccaneer, which sells the equipment for £3500 to £20,000.
"The remote-controlled boxes have cables leading to a control box on the surface, with at least one able to drop to 300 metres — close to the bottom of the loch.
"The firm’s managing director Ian MacDonald explained the boxes would beam images to monitors which would record everything seen underwater on Wednesday and Thursday next week." ...

"The group aims to investigate a 50-metre patch on the bed of the loch known as the 'Monster’s footprint' — and try to discover if there are any remaining parts of the Second World War Wellington bomber which was raised from the loch in the 1980s."

Lonesome George May Have Relatives

Interesting Galapagos tortoise research showing that Pinta island's Geochelone abingdoni may persist on Isabella island. From the Eurekalert:

"Among flagship species for conservation, Lonesome George is perhaps the most renowned. Long thought to be the sole survivor of a species of giant Galápagos tortoise (Geochelone abingdoni), this conservation icon may not be alone for much longer. Researchers headed by investigators at Yale University report these findings in work published online on April 30th in the journal Current Biology, published by Cell Press.
"Lonesome George originates from Pinta, an isolated, northerly island of Galápagos visited only occasionally by scientists and fishermen. In the late 1960s, it was noted that the tortoise population on this island had dwindled close to extinction. Indeed, in 1972 only a single male, Lonesome George, was found. He was immediately brought into captivity at the Charles Darwin Research Station on the island of Santa Cruz, where he is housed with two female tortoises from a species found on the neighboring island of Isabela. After 35 years, Lonesome George remains uninterested in passing on his unique genes and has failed to produce offspring. His status as the “rarest living creature” (Guinness Records) and the continuing saga surrounding the search for a mate have positioned Lonesome George as a potent conservation icon, not just for the Galápagos, but worldwide.
"In the new work, Dr. Michael Russello (presently at the University of British Columbia Okanagan), Dr. Adalgisa Caccone, Dr. Jeffrey Powell, and colleagues, with the strong support and cooperation of the Galápagos National Park and Charles Darwin Research Station, studied the evolutionary history of a species of Galápagos tortoise (G. becki) on Isabela Island that was previously known to be genetically mixed. The study analyzed the distribution of genetic variation within two G. becki populations across the nuclear genome relative to a large database including individuals from all 11 extant species of Galápagos tortoises. The nearly extinct G. abingdoni on Pinta was added to the analysis for the first time by way of genetic-data collection from six museum specimens, also including Lonesome George. Population genetic analyses revealed that one tortoise sampled on Isabela Island is clearly a first-generation hybrid between the native tortoises from the islands of Isabela and Pinta. That is, this tortoise has half his genes in common with Lonesome George; unfortunately, it is a male. Given that there are well over 2,000 tortoises of G. becki on Isabela Island and a first-generation hybrid was detected in a very small subset of the population, there is hope that a more thorough sampling could reveal a genetically pure Pinta tortoise. In the event additional individuals of Pinta ancestry are discovered, a captive-breeding and repatriation program may be enacted for species recovery. These findings offer the potential for transforming the legacy of Lonesome George from an enduring symbol of rarity to a conservation success story."

NJ "Black Panther"

There's a "black panther" story coming out of New Jersey, accompanied by the usual poor photographs. From the ABC affiliate:

"Zoe Paraskevas believes the animal in the photograph is a black panther.
"Over this past weekend, she and at least six of her Old Farm Drive neighbors have spotted the animal roaming the woods behind their Vineland homes." ...
"'It was definitely not a house cat. It was large and definitely some kind of feline,' said Felicia Fiocchi.
"Paraskevas said back in October her son told her he spotted a black panther. She didn't believe him until she saw the animal in March." ...

"Vineland Police have confirmed to Action News that they've had reports of panther sightings in the area, but so far officers have not spotted the animal."

The ABC podcast (same site) shows three photos of a black feline, but none have a full well-focused side profile. What can be seen is that the cat appears to be completely black (no signs of spotting), has a moderate-sized tail (which rules out bobcat/lynx), and has the wrong features for a leopard or jaguar. The ears also appear pointed or tufted. In other words, there's little evidence that the feline is anything more than a very large (feral?) domestic cat. As we've seen time and again, feral cats can reach a decent size, and people do exaggerate black feline sizes in their imagination, anyway. Without a good size indicator in the photos, this appears to be yet another feral cat panic.

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Trinity Western Aliigator?

April 2007, a splashing is seen in the water of a ravine near Trinity Western University. Searches discovered drag marks and claw marks. Is a reptile loose in Langley, British Columbia?

Despite searches and traps, no additional signs were found according the May 1st, 2007 Vancouver Province newspaper account. Yet, what did the people see?

Or, was this as the newspaper account hints a salamander of some sort? After all the account quotes one Barrie Alden the “King of Giant Salamanders” .

British Columbia is no stranger to possible oversized salamanders (or salamander appearing critters) . Pitt Lake, Fraser River, Chilliwack Lake, Cultus Lake and Nitnat Lake all have their reported oversized salamanders or “black alligators”.
Is the Trinity University Alligator another of the cryptic salamanders of British Columbia? Or was it simply a Beaver or Muskrat?

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