Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bat Disease Spreading

White-nose syndrome continues to kill bats in New York and Vermont. Not much is known aboudt the disease, including whether humans (particularly cavers) are helping to spread it or if it is a potential health hazard to humans. (News source.)

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New Elephant Shrew

A new species of elephant shrew, or sengi, is also the largest known. It was discovered in Tanzania. "The newcomer, dubbed Rhynchocyon udzungwensis, stands head and shoulders above his cousins, weighing in at a massive 700 grammes (1.5 pounds), about 25 percent larger than any other known sengi." (News source.)


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Non-Vocal Sonation in a Hummingbird

Anna's hummingbird "chirps" and "whistles" with its tail during display dives during mating season. (News source.)

"Wind tunnel tests confirmed that the outer tail feathers vibrate like a reed in a clarinet. The bird's split-second tail spread at dive speed thus produces a loud, brief burst that sounds like a chirp or beep."

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New Fish

A marine biologist with the Benthic Crozet project near the Crozet islands (southern Indian Ocean) has discovered six new species of deep sea fish. (News source.)

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No Pain

Apparently, mole rats are immune to the "burning pain" sensation, due to lacking Substance P and other factors. (News source.)


Monday, January 28, 2008


All kinds of weird species (like the lancetfish shown) wash up on Oregon's beaches. (News source.)

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Journey Remake

A new adaptation of Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth will be shown on ION television on Sunday, January 27. Starring Ricky Schroder and Peter Fonda, it's two hours long and features a mysterious underground passage in Alaska leading to a lost world, "complete with prehistoric creatures, primitive tribes and amazing discoveries."

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Beast of Castor

From the UK, the "beast" of Castor has been spotted again, by a man walking his dog. He reported a black feline, about 2 1/2 foot long in body, with a tail about as long. (News source.)

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Crypto New Zealand

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

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Killer Dolphins

Vacationers thought the dolphins were fishing for salmon, until they realized a small porpoise was being deliberately targeted and rammed. (News source.)

"Film taken of gangs of dolphins repeatedly ramming baby porpoises, tossing them in the air and pursuing them to the death has solved a long-term mystery of what causes the death of so many of these harmless mammals - but has left animal experts baffled as to the motive.
"Another mystery is that the animal 'murders' have only been reported in two parts of the world - along Scotland's East Coast and in America off the beaches of Virginia, where even more alarmingly, the victims were scores of the dolphins' own young."

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wisconsin Bigfoot Rumors

Nothing substantial, but rumors are flying in Sawyer Co., Wisconsin, of a large ape-like creature. (News source.)

"According to another reported sighting obtained by the Record, a Wausau man, who wishes to remain unnamed, and his nephew were snowmobiling on a trail just southwest of Seeley when they saw something unusual cross the trail.

"'I don’t know what I saw, but my nephew and I both saw something very real,' he said. 'We only saw legs from the hips down as it was caught in the headlights of our snowmobiles. It stepped out of the woods, walking upright, and stepped across the trail right in front of my nephew who was ahead of me 20-30 feet.
"'The legs were long (and) covered with long dark hair,' he continued. 'My first thought was it was a drunk walking through the woods after leaving the Sawmill Saloon, but that makes no sense. We were quite a ways west of the Sawmill and there is no trail or crossing anywhere near there for someone to be walking.'
"After gunning their snowmobiles past, the two turned around to explore the area and find tracks. But they had not marked the spot with a landmark and were unsuccessful at finding any sign when they returned to the area."


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Strange Tracks

Here's an oddball little story about some unusual tracks found in a Farmington, Wisconsin, resident's yard. They travel in a straight line, were about two feet in length with a four foot stride. The newspaper brings up Bigfoot, but that doesn't appear applicable here. They don't appear to be rabbit tracks (there have been cases where the body of the rabbit creates an impression, overmasking the trackway), but it doesn't look like the journalist bothered to follow the tracks to see where they led. No closeups are given, so it's difficult to determine if boots were involved.


Ivorybill Hunt Waning

Another article on the Ivorybill Woodpecker, noting that it's been three years since the "boom" of interest peaked. (News source.)


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Cougar in Wisconsin?

A cougar sighting in Rock County, WI, has the DNR investigating. Tracks were found consistent with a cougar, and other trace tests are pending. (News source.)


New Pitcher Plant

A new species of pitcher plant was discovered in Australia, which apparently is big enough to catch small rodents. It was discovered in a swamp near the Jardine river. (News source.)

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A non-native alligator gar was caught in Malaysia. This is the second caught in the region recently. (News source.)

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Carnivore Release Casualties

Turns out that only 30% of captive-born carnivores released into the wild actually survive. (News source.)

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Black Sheep

The famed Black Sheep of St. Kilda are losing their distinctive coloration, giving scientists opportunity to study their population's genetics. (News source.)


Capybara Tale

Residents of Grantville, Georgia, reported a large hairy animal roaming around which turned out to be a loose capybara. DNR refused to catch it, so the town got tips from a zoo and caught it themselves. It has now been sent to an out-of-state zoo that agreed to take it. (News source.)

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Big Rattlesnake

A six-foot eastern diamondback rattlesnake was killed when it entered a Florida resident's backyard. (News source, includes picture of snake.) (Which gives opportunity to mention again, Boss Snakes: Stories and Sightings of Giant Snakes in North America...)


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

New Uacari

A new primate, a uacari species, has been discovered in northwestern Amazonia, and described as Cacajao ayresii. (News source.)

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Coiling Snail

A new species of land snail, very small, is unique, having four separate axis in its coiling configuration. (News source.)

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South African "Mermaid"

A group of friends "on the banks of the Buffelsjags River at Suurbraak, a village close to Swellendam in the Western Cape" (South Africa), believe they saw a Kaaiman, or mermaid-like creature. From the news:

"Suurbraak resident Daniël Cupido said he and a group of friends were relaxing next to the river last weekend when, at about 11.30pm, he heard something which sounded like someone 'bashing on a wall'.
"Cupido walked toward the sound. At a nearby low water bridge, he said he saw a figure, 'like that of a white woman with long black hair thrashing about in the water'.
"Thinking to save her, he waded toward her, but said he stopped in his tracks when he noticed a reddish shine in her eyes. The sight sent 'shivers' down his spine, yet he was pulled forward as if hypnotised.
"He called for his child, Deidrian, 13, and his nephew, Werner Plaatjies, 11, to help him, breaking his trance. He then shouted to his friends to take a look as well. Martin Olckers said he saw a female figure swimming, first on one side of the low water bridge, then on the other, and then standing on the bridge before diving back into the black water.
"He said the figure made 'the strangest sound', like a woman crying. His mother, Dina, said the figure sounded so sorrowful 'my heart could take it no more'. Her husband Martinus said their parents had warned them about the Kaaiman, but they never believed it existed.
"The Kaaiman is described as a half human, half fish creature which lives in deep pools. It is white and has long black hair and red eyes."

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Bigger Than Your Hamster

A Uruguay fossil rodent, recently described as Josephoartigasia monesi, weighed over 1000 kilograms. (News source.)


Cougar Rumor Resurfaces

The (idiotic) notion that wildlife officials are secretly releasing predators has popped up again. This time, it's in Ontario, where rumors of released cougars are spreading. (News source.) For a discussion of this predator-release folklore, see Cryptozoology: Science & Speculation.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Boss Snakes

Now available, Boss Snakes: Stories and Sightings of Giant Snakes in North America. More details here.

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Scottish Wildcats

The Aspinall Foundation is planning to breed-and-release hybrid-free Scottish wildcats into various parts of the U.K. (News source.)

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Man Who Lives With Crocodiles

A story from South Africa:

"The most amazing story was told to me by Boy Hancock, the ranger who took over Ndumu Game Reserve after we left. It was reported to him by the game guards, and Sigohlo was one of them — a trusty and reliable man.
"The guards were on patrol in the Reserve on the Pongolo where the new channel cuts through into Baga-Baga pan and past Nangri, an island, which the amaTonga swore was haunted. Dusk was falling as they made their way through the riverine forest when Sigohlo pointed to the river and they saw a man floating downstream with only his head above water. The guards shouted at him to get out quickly, for the river was alive with crocodiles. When the man was directly opposite the guards he grabbed an overhanging branch and half pulled himself out of the water. At that moment a crocodile head popped up behind him, and the guards watched in horror, expecting to see him pulled under. But the croc merely bumped its head against the man’s back. He turned round, gave the crocodile a gentle push with his hand, then climbed out. He looked at the guards once, grunted, and vanished into the reeds.
"An almost incredible story, but what made it ring true to me was the guards’ description of the crocodile bumping its head against the man’s back. This is how the crocodile behaves in the water. I had seen it on other occasions at Umfolozi when zebra had been taken in the Black Umfolozi River. There was also no earthly reason why three guards should make up a story like this. Boy Hancock questioned each one individually, but there were no discrepancies in their story.
"Boy also spoke to amaTonga living on the edge of the Salene forest, and they said this man was well known to them; he had merely gone wild and was living with the crocodiles."

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

An Octopus and Its Toy

A UK aquarium has a giant Pacific octopus who loves his Mr. Potato Head. A Christmas gift, the toy is a big hit; the octopus seems fascinated with it, and turns aggressive whenever staff tries to remove it. (News source.)

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Guam Rail on Cocos Island

There's a plan to introduce the endangered Guam rail onto Cocos Island, where it would have better protection against predators. Snakes and cats have been devastating to the bird on its home island. (News source.)

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Bald Ibis

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

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Bigfoot CryptoFic

Another cryptofiction novel from Clint Romag, The Ape Cave Horror: The Sasquatch Encounters Two. From the news release:

Three years have passed since Chad Gamin escaped the massacre in Canada. Thinking he was safe in Longview, Chad didn't realize that the danger was so near. Over the last year, hikers and campers have gone missing around the Mount Saint Helens area. Andrew Bridgeston, a Sasquatch enthusiast, is positive that one of these legendary creatures is involved with the disappearances. With his team of Sasquatch hunters, he is determined to capture one and volunteers the help of a reluctant Chad. "They discover a hidden cave system and what they find in the depths is an unimaginable horror. Attacked and hunted, their only chance to survive is to find a way back to the surface. Even then, it may already be too late."

Available from the usual online bookstores.

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Iowa Cougar Photo Debate

Offhand, I don't recall if I've seen the pic, but there's some debate between the photographer/witnesses and the Iowa DNR over whether a photographed feline was a housecat or a cougar. I've seen a number of photos of domestic cats or bobcats that the photographers were convinced were cougars, so that's certainly a possibility. But, without seeing the photo, can't personally say it's one way or the other. (News source.)

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Psittacosaurus "Feathers" Debate

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

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

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Chimp Geophagy

An interesting press release here, on geophagy (soil eating) in chimpanzees. An excerpt:

"The deliberate ingestion of soil, or ‘geophagy’, has important health benefits for chimpanzees, according to Sabrina Krief and her colleagues from the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, France. Far from being a dysfunctional behavior, geophagy has evolved as a practice for maintaining health amongst chimpanzees. In this particular study (1), to be published online this week in Springer’s journal Naturwissenschaften, geophagy increases the potency of ingested plants with anti-malarial properties."

1. Krief S, Klein N & Fröhlich F (2008). Geophagy: soil consumption enhances the bioactivities of plants eaten by chimpanzees. Naturwissenschaften

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Another Australian Big Cat Sighting

From Harcourt, Victoria, Australia, comes a big black cat report:

"Coliban Water bailiff Dennis Clapham spotted the large animal while on his way to turn on channel water for Harcourt Valley Vineyards shortly before 7 am on Sunday." ...
"Mr Clapham said from a distance of less than 100 metres he estimated the animal to be about 60 cm high and with a body length of up to a metre that moved with a distinctly feline quality." ...
"Harcourt Valley Vineyards owner Kye Livingstone said his brother had first sighted the paw prints at the dam’s edge on the weekend, but had suspected them of being a neighbour’s dog.
"But, he said his neighbour’s dogs tended to wander off together and the single set of prints, each measuring eight centimetres across, indicated something much larger."

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Arkansas "Beasts" Kill Dog

A Faulkner Co., Arkansas, man was walking his dogs when they ran into four "wolflike" creatures. He doesn't think they were coyotes, but suggests they might be wolf-dog hybrids, though he hasn't found any photos matching what he's seen. They killed one of his dachshunds, and attacked him before being chased off by another of his dogs. (News source.)

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Two Reprints

I've added two brief reprints to BioFortean Review:

An Ohio What-Is-It: a letter to the editor of a sporting magazine in 1899 describes a white animal seen by a hunter.

The Dingonek: a described encounter with a large spotted "beast-fish" in Africa.


Friday, January 04, 2008

H. floresiensis Debate Continues

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

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

WV Cougar

A couple of opinion articles here and here by the same writer on West Virginia cougar sightings.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

True's beaked whale in New Jersey

A 15-foot-long True's beaked whale washed up on shore in Beach Haven, New Jersey on December 31, 2007.

True's beaked whale (Mesoplodon mirus ) are rarely seen in the wild, and what is known of this species (described in 1913) comes primarily from strandings. Strandings themselves are rare as well.

South China tiger - footprints and skeleton?

Despite a highly suspect picture earlier in 2007 of a South China Tiger, further searches in the Shaanxi Province of China have continued under the State Forestry Administration .

Over 100 footprints have been found in Zhenping County , ranging from 12 to 16 cm in length.

A potential skeleton of a tiger cub has also been discovered, and its bones have been sent to Beijing for DNA analysis.

Big Cat Sighting in Australia

From the Geelong Advertiser:

"LORNE visitor Simon Raik-Allen said he would think twice about hiking in Otway forest after having seen a puma-like cat near Erskine Falls.
"Mr Raik-Allen said he was startled by the sighting 100 metres away in clear conditions on Erskine Falls Road at 5.30am.

"'When I saw it I thought what the hell is a panther doing in Australia,' Mr Raik-Allen said.

"He estimated the cat, with long looping tail, was about 1.5 metres long and half a metre high."