Friday, February 29, 2008

Komodo Reports Just Stories, Gov't Says

PNG's investigation into supposed Komodo dragon sightings reveals nothing more than stories and rumors. (News source.)

"Even animals sighted by two informants from Butibam village did not resemble the Komodo dragon, they added.
"They said it was possible the reptiles sighted could be endemic to the local area and were sighted because they were disturbed by increasing human activity." ...
"Dr. Iamo also lashed out at the media for not consulting the appropriate agencies before publishing the story.
"'For example, the use of a komodo dragon from the Internet (in the newspapers) brought reality too much of the allegations, causing much panic and fear amongst the public in Lae,' he said."

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Bigfoot Exhibit

Berkeley has put together an exhibit on Bigfoot, centered around some track casts donated to the museum by the late Dr. Krantz. (News source.)

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Big Pliosaur

A fossil pliosaur discovered in 2006 has been confirmed as the largest marine reptile ever, with an estimated length of 50 feet. (News source.)

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Australian Mystery Animals

Northern region of New South Wales has a thylacine-like mystery animal: "Perhaps these animals are just mangy foxes or wild dogs. Farmers and other rural dwellers regularly observe these introduced species. However, the descriptions sound more like an animal that is supposed to be extinct. The strange, waddling gait, the kangaroo-like tail and the brown bands across the back remind us of the remarkable thylacine." (News source.)

The same writer records 50 sightings of thylacine-like animals, that he received during 10 years on an Australian radio program. (News source.)

And, a veterinarian opines that the mystery animals reported at Maraylya are possibly introduced black leopards. (News source.)

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Monday, February 25, 2008

UAV Potential?

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

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Feline Sightings Worldwide

A UK fisherman reported seeing "a dark grey animal the size of a fox, with a long thick tail," on the other side of a Snodland lake. (News source.)

A Crawton (UK) woman saw a 3-foot-long dark colored feline about to attack a neighbor's cat. The locals call the creature "The Beast of the Mearns." (News source.)

The Chicago Tribune has an article on cougar sightings in the US.

Washington County, IL, may be home to a cougar, according to some residents. (News source.)

More "black cat" sightings from Australia. (News source.)

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Two Lemurs Described

Two new species of "cryptic" nocturnal lemurs have been described after phylogenetic analysis. The paper (pdf) includes photos of the new species. (via Kevin Stewart)

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Missouri Monster

Stories of the Beaman Monster go back 100 years, according to a recent news article.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Antarctic Discoveries

More marine discoveries from the Antarctic (fish and invertebrates):

Nat Geo gallery

Daily Mail

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Big Stingray

A rare giant freshwater stingray was caught and photographed recently in Thailand, in the Ban Pakong River. (News source.)


Friday, February 15, 2008

Vanishing Jackrabbits

White-tailed jackrabbits have disappeared in Greater Yellowstone, forcing larger predators to focus on young ungulates. Reintroduction of the species is recommended, though biologists have no idea why the jackrabbits disappeared in the first place. (News source.)


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Recently Described Snakes

Two interesting snakes have been described recently in Zootaxa.

The first is a new species of false water cobra, called Hydrodynastes melanogigas. (At present, I've only seen the abstract, not the full paper.) From the abstract:

"A new species of Hydrodynastes is described from the State of Tocantins, Central Brazil. The new species is distinguished from all congeners by having a melanistic color pattern, with head and dorsum of the body mostly dark-brown to black; absence of postocular stripe; venter grayish-brown, with dark rounded blotches outlining two lateral stripes which become gradually paler towards the posterior region of the belly, disappearing after midbody."

The second is a species of Pseudoboa, a group of nocturnal prey-constricting colubrids. Pseudoboa martinsi is a "brightly colored species" in the Amazon basin of Brazil. (abstract)

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New Wobbegong Sharks

Here's the media release:

"Two new wobbegong shark species have been found off the South West coast of Western Australia, during catch monitoring of the regional commercial shark fishery.
"Details of the new wobbegong species have recently been published in the taxonomic journal Zootaxa, following a collaborative project by CSIRO taxonomist Dr Peter Last and WA Department of Fisheries shark researcher Justin Chidlow.
"Mr Chidlow said wobbegongs were not as sleek looking as some of the better-known sharks and the new species helped reinforce the importance of the continental shelf off WA as an area where a large range of wobbegong species could be encountered.
"'Specimens of the new floral banded wobbegong (Orectolobus floridus) have been found between Geraldton and Augusta and specimens of the dwarf spotted wobbegong (Orectolobus parvimaculatus) were found in shark fishery catches between Green Head and Mandurah,' Mr Chidlow said.
"'When I first saw the floral banded wobbegong it looked similar to the species many fishers know as the cobbler wobbegong (Sutorectus tentaculatus), but on closer inspection there were some very obvious differences that help define it as a separate species.
"'Identification of the dwarf spotted wobbegong was a little more complicated, because we initially thought the specimens we had were juveniles of the spotted wobbegong species, or Orectolobus maculatus.
"'However, we also noticed some distinct differences in sizes at maturity in the specimens we had observed, so it became obvious that the new species was more like a dwarf form of the known species. The word parvi is latin for small, hence the name parvimaculatus for the new species.'
"Mr Chidlow said the colour of the floral banded species was mainly dark brown with yellowish blotches on the upper surface and white on the underbelly, whereas the adult of the dwarf spotted was a lighter yellowish brown with large white blotches on top and creamy coloured underneath.
"'Wobbegongs, which are often sold in fish shops under the name of carpet shark, are probably the most common shark species seen by divers. Itís amazing to think that the new species have been present off our coast, but that itís only now that they have been formally identified as separate and been added to the list of known wobbegong species,' he said.
"'Our greater understanding of all species increases our knowledge on the sustainability and management of Western Australiaís shark fisheries.'"

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Australian Panther Sighting

A Maraylya, Australia, man reported an encounter with a large black feline:

"'It was just before nightfall on Wednesday, January 23,' Mr Illingworth said.
"'When I first saw it, it was 40 paces away. I was walking along with the wheelbarrow with my eyes down towards the ground watching for snakes. In my higher peripheral vision I saw a movement so I raised my gaze to see an enormous black cat coming towards me.'" ...
"'The most unforgettable thing was its tail, about a metre long, no noticeable taper and perhaps two inches in diameter,' he said."

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Alabama "Black Panthers"

A sighting reported in the column of a small Alabama newspaper:

"While trying to finish my Christmas shopping in late December, I got a phone call from Dave in north Alabama. 'I need to tell you what I saw last night,' Dave said. 'Iím a painter, and I had just finished a job outside town. It was dark, and as I pulled out of the driveway, about 50-60 yards in front of me, four deer ran across the road. My headlights were shining right on them. Then, about 30 yards behind the deer were two big black cats. They looked like they were about four feet long and their tails were about four feet long. I got a good look at them. Because Iím a painter, I know all about colors and hues. These cats looked like a cougar that had been spray-painted black.'"

And, of course, the columnist talks to Alabama DCNR and gets the standard response: no wild cougars in Alabama, and no cougars are black.


PNG Lizard Hunt Called Off

The search for a "Komodo dragon" reportedly roaming loose on the west coast of PNG has been called off, as it appeared to be a case of hysterical rumors with no substantial evidence that such a lizard was actually present. It may have been a hoax, or a misidentification. (News source.)

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Irish Big Cats

From Ireland, sightings of a "family dog"-sized black feline continue. (News source.)

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Ethnoknowns from the Philippines

There's a report of species newly recorded from Mindanao island, which includes two folkloric accounts of animals that may or may not be recognized species (and may or may not be something as yet undescribed). The first is a "red-faced monkey":

A group of red-faced monkeys that can mimic human laughter has been sighted in the mountain ranges of Sal-dab, a sacred mountain in Northern Mindanao, The STAR learned recently.
"The monkey that mimics human voice is known to natives as Uma-ay and is believed to bring a curse on whoever sees it.

"According to local folklore, whoever sees the creature will lose his way in the jungle or may encounter misfortune, accident or even death along the way." ...
A tribal trapper interviewed by The STAR last year said the Uma-ay looks human because they do not have hair on their faces and can mimic the human voice. They grow up to the size of the native monkeys in the area.
"'The laugh of an Uma-ay is an ominous sign, it means misfortune or even death,' the tribal hunter said in the Hiliga-onon dialect.

"The hunter declined to name the location of the place where the Uma-ay can be found but said it is sacred ground where tribal elders offer sacrifices and perform yearly rituals to appease their gods."

Now, Mindanao has one recognized monkey species, the common crab-eating macaque. That species isn't known for a bright red face (though that trait is known in the related Japanese macaque). So, might these red-faced monkeys be something new? A variant of the recognized macaque species? Or just a bit of local folklore? Another ethnoknown is briefly noted:

Aside from the Uma-ay, the tribal folk also mentioned that they sighted an unnamed feathered bird that has mammalís hair.
"Just like the Uma-ay, the bird also mimics the human voice but its favorite sound is the cry of a newborn baby.

"The natives call the creature Ukang (owl) or gulus (ghost). This nocturnal bird is often heard making noise at night but only a few elders have actually seen it.

"Tribe members believe that the Uma-ay mimics the human voice to drive away the Kalumbata (monkey-eating eagle), which regularly hover in the area in search for food.

"It is said that Uma-ays would simultaneously sound their laughter to confuse the marauding eagles."

Not enough details, and most of this might be superstition masking the description. Whenever you have strange nocturnal calls, there's a potential for mistaking the identity. (News source.)

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Robert Rines

The Boston Globe has a profile piece on Robert Rines, the Loch Ness investigator.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Australian Mainland Sighting: Thylacine?

From the news:

"Victorian farmer Harry Cook owns a property bordering the Otway Ranges south of Melbourne.
"Late last year he was with a mate inspecting crop damage caused by rabbits when they spotted three wedge-tailed eagles circling the paddock.
"'They were circling over an animal -- we got within 12 foot of it. It was about the size of a large dog with a very long tail that was sticking straight up in the air as if it was fending off the wedgies,' Mr Cook said.
"'There were white stripes on its chest and it had a boofy head with round ears and the side of the muzzle was white.'
"He copped a lot of flak for reporting the peculiar sight, but not because no one believed him.
"'Farmers around here told me I had broken the code of silence -- that they had seen things too, but as soon as it is reported all the townies come with their rifles trying to shoot it.'"


Kentucky Black Feline

A cell phone photo is the only evidence for a "black panther" reported in Whitley County, Kentucky. The photo, on the news site, shows a feline with a profile matching that of a domestic housecat. (It does not match that of larger species: cougar, leopard, etc.) Nothing in the photo gives an accurate idea of size, so I don't know why anyone is saying that it is larger than that of a housecat. (Or, one of the ever-present large feral barn cats.)

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Lynx in Wales?

From the news:

"A big cat spotted by a family as they drove home through Radnorshire was probably a lynx, according to an expert. The beast was spotted near Felindre by Anne Owen, of Newtown, who was travelling home with her family after an evening in Knighton.
"She has described the cat as being the same size as a big dog, but with cat-like ears and a flecked white coat.
"Anne said: 'It happened near Felindre at 10.45pm last Saturday. My husband was driving and got a better view of it as I had just turned around to talk to our son, but we saw a very unusual creature.
"'It was the size of a large dog, long and thin, with mainly a dull white coat, but with large, long grey and black flecked markings, with cat like ears.
"'I thought it had a long curled tail and it certainly didn't seem bothered about the car. It just looked at us and sauntered on past.' ...
"The sighting Ė the latest in a long list in Mid Wales Ė has excited big cat expert, Danny Bamping, who suspects the animal Anne saw was a lynx ...
"He said: 'It sounds very much like a lynx with the exception of the mention of the long tail, as they have only very small ones, but this is a good sighting by all accounts.'"


Komodo Rumor in PNG

Lae city, in Papua New Guinea, has Komodo dragon rumors, as stories of a giant lizard are being passed around, along with the rumor of an expatriate offering a bounty on a Komodo dragon that was supposedly smuggled into the country as an egg, raised up, and which got loose to terrorize the countryside. (News source.) (Rumor story here.) PNG has several native varanids, so the stories are likely based on misidentifications.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Hairless Coyote Back in News

The hairless coyotes from Cuero, Texas, are back in the news now that someone found Mexican wolf genes in their coyote DNA. (News source.)

Now, this isn't particularly unexpected, as we know that a) eastern coyotes have wolf genes, and b) Mexican wolves are the smallest of the gray wolf subspecies and there may be more likelihood of genetic transfer between them and coyotes. For some reason, this genetic oddity keeps gaining media attention, which would be fine if they wouldn't keep calling the animals "chupacabras." That's just ignorance playing on fears. (Further, there's been no confirmation, from what I've seen, that these coyotes are "draining blood" from their prey. So far, it's all speculation.)

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Northern Grizzly

A young grizzly has been seen on Melville Island in Canada's High Arctic region, further north than the bears usually migrate. Previous sightings suggest that it has been on the island for three years. (News source.)


Saturday, February 02, 2008

Scottish Wildcats

An independent film-maker has shot what may be only the second documentary on the rare Scottish wildcat. (News source.)

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Albino Weka

An albino specimen of the New Zealand endemic flightless bird, the weka, may be more vulnerable to predators. (News source.)

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Attenborough's Ten Rules

David Attenborough offers ten rules for wildlife presenter hopefuls.


New North American Frog

A recent study has described a new species, the Cajun chorus frog, Pseudacris fouquettei, from "Louisiana, Arkansas, western Mississippi, eastern Texas and Oklahoma and far southern Missouri." (News source.) (Color photo.) (Description abstract.)

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