Monday, March 31, 2008

Tree Shrews in Zoos

After being used in a genome study, tree shrews kept at various universities have been donated to different zoos, including the one at Fresno. (News source.)


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cougar Reported in North Chicago

A large tan animal, either feline or canine, was reported seen in North Chicago. (News source.)

"Coleman was in her car around 8:30 a.m. at the southeast corner of Argonne Drive and Seymour Avenue when she looked across the street and spotted what appeared to be a very large cat.
"The tan-colored, 30-inch tall animal was slowly walking between two houses in the 1400 block of Argonne. Its long, thick tail dangling behind."

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Squid Beak Design

Engineers are fascinated by the composition gradient in a squid's beak. From the Eurekalert:

"The sharp beak of the Humboldt squid is one of the hardest and stiffest organic materials known. Engineers, biologists, and marine scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara, have joined forces to discover how the soft, gelatinous squid can operate its knife-like beak without tearing itself to pieces." ...
"The key to the squid beak lies in the gradations of stiffness. The tip is extremely stiff, yet the base is 100 times more compliant, allowing it to blend with surrounding tissue. However, this only works when the base of the beak is wet. After it dries out, the base becomes similarly stiff as the already desiccated beak tip." ...
"'I’d always been skeptical of whether there is any real advantage to "functionally graded" materials, but the squid beak turned me into a believer,' said co-author Frank Zok, professor and associate chair of the Department of Materials at UC Santa Barbara.
"'Here you have a "cutting tool" that’s extremely hard and stiff at its tip and is attached to a material –– the muscular buccal mass –– that has the consistency of Jell-o,' said Zok.
"'You can imagine the problems you’d encounter if you attached a knife blade to a block of Jell-o and tried to use that blade for cutting. The blade would cut through the Jell-o at least as much as the targeted object. In the case of the squid beak, nature takes care of the problem by changing the beak composition progressively, rather than abruptly, so that its tip can pierce prey without harming the squid in the process. It’s a truly fascinating design!'"


Ecosystem Changed by Beetle

From the Eurekalert:

"The mesquite girdler Oncideres rhodosticta may only be 13mm long, but it has a big role in shaping the landscape. Research carried out by Benjamin Duval and Walter Whitford at New Mexico State University has revealed that the beetle is speeding up the degradation of grasslands in the Chihuahua desert..."
"The mesquite girdler does this by regulating the growth of the mesquite shrub, ensuring their offspring have a plentiful supply of food. The beetles chew girdles around the older stems of the shrub, which forces the plant to regrow new stems the following year. The new stems supply the beetle larvae with food, but the mesquite shrub takes more nutrients from the soil for its increased growth, leaving less for the other plant species such as grasses.
"Up to 150 years ago, the North Chihuahuan Desert was completely covered in grassland. The picture today is very different – dunes and mesquite shrubs cover much of the landscape."

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Mystery Mummy

A mummified animal has been dug up on an eastern Alberta farm, about 9 meters below the surface. (News source.)

"What the canine discovered still isn't quite clear, but it's a mummified head, hooved leg and top torso of an animal newborn or fetus."...
"The dense, clay-like nature of the earth the critter was buried in is likely the cause of its preservation, he added." ...
"Nelson's find could be the remains of a bovine, or cow.
"It could also be from a wilder animal, such as an antelope, deer or buffalo of post-ice age vintage -- less than 9,000 years old -- said Milot."


New Shrew

From Sri Lanka, research published in Zootaxa: (News source.)

"A new, endemic species of shrew Crocidura hikmiya, has been described from Sri Lanka. The new shrew is presently only known from mid montane and lowland rainforests of Sinharaja.
"This shrew was previously been identified as Ceylon Long-tailed Shrew (Crocidura miya). However the latter species is now believed to be confined to the montane forests of the central hills. The researchers believe that the most frequently encountered shrew in Sinharaja is the new species."


Melanistic Coyote

A black phase coyote was trapped in Georgia, image here.

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Kokako Search

An alleged sighting of an extinct bird has New Zealand conservation officers off to look for it. An amateur ornithologist claims he saw a South Island kokako from about 20 meters. (News source.)

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Kansas Cougar Killed

A mountain lion pelt, from one shot late last year, was confiscated from a Kansas resident, and genetic testing should determine if it comes from a wild population. (News source.)


New Parasite for Waterfowl

A myxozoan parasite has been found in waterfowl here in the US, the first time a typically "cold-blooded" parasite has been found in "warm-blooded" animals. (News source.)

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Another China Tiger Hoax

China is unhappy with a tv reporter who apparently faked a wild tiger video, using a circus animal. (News source.)

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Recently published, a collection of almost 100 of Maryland naturalist Bob Chance's long-running newspaper columns. Stories of local history, wildlife, and friends offer a backdrop to Bob's message of environmental responsibility. There's even a chapter on Bigfoot, Bob being one of the early researchers of East Coast sightings. (Bob will be speaking at the 2008 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society conference.) Buy an autographed copy of Earthline direct from Bob here.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Ontario Cougar Sightings

Cougar sightings continue in the Brantford region.

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Friday, March 21, 2008


Here's a short piece on a Japanese folkloric creature, the Ogama (or giant toad).

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Old Lemur

Bones of a 2,000 year old lemur found in a Madagascar cave have an intriguing anatomical distinction on the little finger. (News source.)

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Unknown Mouse-Deer?

An article from Sri Lanka notes the first photography in the wild of a rare recently discovered endemic mouse-deer on that island. Of particular note, is speculation that an unknown species still remains to be discovered: "Colin Groves in his paper on mouse-deer from India and Sri Lanka also stated that 'a single skull from Sri Lanka's Hill Zone may prove to represent a fourth species'."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Loch Ness

Gordon Holmes is back on Loch Ness with sonar and video equipment. (News source.)

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Sure, Now the Controversy's Over

The latest "conclusive" research on Homo floresiensis is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (News source.)

"GW researchers Adam Gordon, Lisa Nevell, and Bernard Wood developed a novel way to compare the shape of the 'Hobbit's' skull with what the shape of modern human skulls would be like in individuals as small as the 'Hobbit.' Using these new methods, they have shown that the 'Hobbit's' skull is shaped nothing like that of a modern human, whether or not size differences are taken into account. Instead, it is similar to our possible ancestors belonging to the species Homo erectus and Homo habilis found in Africa and the Republic of Georgia, which are about 1.7 million years old."


Not a Cougar

A reported cougar struck by a car and put down by police in Ontario was actually a coyote. (News source.)

A professor who investigates cougar sightings was uncertain how people could confuse a canine with a cougar; but as an article in Cryptozoology years ago pointed out, there is a significant percentage of mistaken identities in cougar reports, including both live and dead dogs mistaken for cougar.


Wolves in France

A wolf has been found in the Massif Central mountains in France. (News source.)

"France's wolves were eradicated in the 1920s, but lone animals started crossing back into the French Alps from Italy in the 1990s, and there are signs they are now venturing deeper inland.
"Two hikers photographed a large dog-like animal wandering in the town of Lavigerie, in the central Cantal region, on January 20.
"The National Office of Hunting and Wildlife confirmed on Monday it was a male grey wolf after carrying out tests on the animal's prints and excrement."


Monday, March 17, 2008

New Bird

Some details here on the Togian white-eye and its discoverer. And a quote of interest:

"Joel Cracraft, the curator in charge of the Department of Ornithology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, said there's a popular perception that most bird species are widespread, that, like the American robin, they inhabit huge ranges.
"'But, in fact, most birds, most organisms are very narrowly distributed,' he said. 'They're found only in small areas and nowhere else in the world. When you have a situation like that, then you are likely to discover new species.'
"And, he added, 'There's just so much on this planet that hasn't really been investigated scientifically, lots of areas in the Andes, in Himalayas, in southeast Asia, in the big, big rainforest areas of South America and Congo.
"'We have not truly explored this earth, in terms of all the life forms that are on it. We are nowhere near complete in that effort.'"

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NG has an article on engineering following in nature's footsteps.



There's an independent documentary-style movie out, Woodpecker, on the ivorybill.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Beast of Bladenboro

It's Beast Week again, in Bladenboro. (News source.)


Seven-Colored Snake

There's a strange report of a "seven-colored" snake from Nepal, found in a well. (News source.) "Another local Jagat Raj Khanal said the snake has already changed four colors." Not sure what that means, as snakes don't change color like that... (shades, sometimes, but that obviously isn't the case here). In any case, the snake is becoming a tourist attraction and religious icon. There are a number of species of snakes in Nepal, so hard to say what exactly is responsible for this. Of course, it's possible that several snakes are taking refuge in the well, confusing the issue.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Irish Mystery Cat

A large black cat has been seen prowling the Ballylawn area of Manorcunningham, Co Donegal. Details here.

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New England Wolves

Here's some commentary on the appearance of a wolf in Connecticut.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Florida Panther North of Usual

A Florida panther has been confirmed in Tomoka State Park, Volusia Co., FL. (News source.)

"Rangers at Tomoka State Park, with more than 8,000 acres in northeast Volusia, have had several panther sightings during the past two years. Some park employees have even seen the cat crossing the road near the entrance to the campgrounds.
"On Feb. 17, Lohde checked on a panther sighting by a local man, who is a skilled hunter and an experienced woodsman.
"Lohde ventured to the northern stretch of the park, near Old Dixie Highway, when he found the tracks and followed them for nearly a mile." ...
"The cat tends to stay on the land north of the Tomoka River, where feral hogs and deer are plentiful. The most recent sighting was last weekend on Walter Boardman Lane, a scenic road lined with marshes and massive oaks that makes up part of 'The Loop,' a scenic highway in north Volusia."


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Harlequin Frog Rediscovered

From the Eurekalert:

"After 14 years without having been seen, several young scientists supported by the Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP), have rediscovered the Carrikeri Harlequin Frog (Atelopus carrikeri) in a remote mountainous region in Colombia.
"The critically endangered Carrikeri Harelquin frog was recently rediscovered by the Project Atelopus team in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountains in Colombia’s Magdalena department. Colombia is one of the world’s richest countries in amphibian diversity with more than 583 species. Unfortunately, in the past several years, there has been a decline in amphibian populations especially in higher elevations in Colombia."


Palau Documentary

National Geographic Channel will be airing "Mystery Skulls of Palau" on Monday, March 17. For some debate on whether Palau officials were given notice about the study, and the preservation of the PLoS embargo, see here.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Giant Squids

Here's an article on searching for the largest giant squids...


Monday, March 10, 2008

Palau's Pygmies

About a year or so ago, National Geographic Channel set out their schedule of programming for 2007-8, noting that one would be on fossil pygmies found in Palau. Nothing showed up in the literature until now, as reported by Reuters. Obviously, the find is of interest due to the ongoing debate over H. floresiensis.

"The Palau skeletons, which date to between 900 and 2,800 years ago, appear to have belonged to so-called insular dwarfs -- humans who grew smaller as a result of living on an island, the researchers said.
"They said their findings, published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE, show it is possible the same thing happened on the Indonesian island of Flores, where small skeletons dating back 15,000 to 18,000 years ago have intrigued scientists since they were discovered in 2004." ...

I would assume the NGC program is soon to follow...

The PLoS journal article is here.

Additional: Another recap from the NYT, and a rebuttal from the H. floresiensis proponents.

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Pygmy Hippos in Liberia

The pygmy hippo still survives in Liberia, according to a camera trap in Sapo National Park, after fears that civil wars in that country may have wiped it out. (News source.)


Sunday, March 09, 2008

Hibernating Fish

An Antarctic fish, Notothenia coriiceps, essentially goes into "hibernation," entering a dormant state, during the polar winter. (News source.)


Saturday, March 08, 2008

Scot Polar Bear to be Tested

An Ice Age polar bear skull found in a cave in the Scottish Highlands in 1927 is undergoing genetic tests to determine how it relates to modern day ursines. (News source.)

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Beck's Petrel Rediscovered

There hasn't been a confirmed sighting since the 1920s, but a British ornithological expedition to PNG has rediscovered Beck's petrel. (News source.)

"Mr Shirihai photographed more than 30 individual Beck's petrels on the voyage, Mr Askew said.
"He also observed young juveniles in flight, which indicated the birds were breeding nearby, and recovered a dead Beck's petrel from the sea - now only the third museum-held specimen." ...
"The Beck's petrel is a sea bird that may be nocturnal and is thought to breed in the Bismarck Archipelago, in an area of circular, mountainous islands."

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Colorado Critter Long Gone (Probably)

A brief note in the Colorado news about the "pond creature" (caiman or whatever it was) probably didn't survive the winter.


White Killer Whale

NOAA scientists ran across a white killer whale while in the Aleutian Islands. Photos here, here, and here. (News source.)

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Australian Panther a "Pest"

Large black cat sightings are raising more concerns in Hawkesbury, Australia. (News source.)

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Butterflies Remember

Turns out that a butterfly can remember training (shock-associated smells) it went through as a butterfly. (News source.)

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The Scott Norman Sighting

Loren has posted info on the sighting of a pterosaur-like animal in California by the late Scott Norman. I've just added Scott's own report and thoughts to BioFortean Review.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Hexapus Captured

An octopus caught off north Wales has only six legs, rather than the standard eight. It appears to be the result of a birth defect. He will be displayed at the Anglesey Sea Zoo. (News source.)


More Debate with H. floresiensis

A group of Australian scientists have published an article claiming that Homo floriesiensis' morphology is explained by dwarf cretinism, caused by a non-functioning thyroid. (News source.)


Sunday, March 02, 2008

Dubai Beast Sighting

Whether an escaped pet, a misidentified native species, or something else, reports from Dubai claim that a "lion" or some other large animal is roaming the area around Fujeirah. (News source.)

"A woman collecting wood near mountains in Fujeirah said she was nearly scared to death after being confronted by a lion. The Emirati was with two female helpers collecting woods to burn at their home when she saw the animal staring at the three while perched on rocks ahead of them.
"She said: 'Suddenly I saw the animal just standing there. We were terrified and rushed to hide from it behind rocks fearing it would attack us. I was so scared and thought it would kill us. After a few minutes the animal disappeared and we could no longer see it. I know it was a lion as I can recognise them from other animals.'
"Police were immediately alerted to the area and conducted a search for the animal although no trace was found."

There were also reports of sheep being mutilated and killed in the area.


Saturday, March 01, 2008

In Memoriam

Loren Coleman posted information on the unexpected passing of Scott Norman, a California cryptozoology enthusiast who was particularly involved in the search for Mokele-mbembe.

Scott was a friend, and an active participant in a small discussion-investigation group with myself and a few others focusing on the stranger mystery animal sightings here in North America. You can see more about his life, his interests, his photography, and more at (I don't know how long that site will remain up.)

I never met Scott face-to-face, but enjoyed speaking with him when he phoned after returning from his trip to Africa to search for M-M. Scott was a Christian and prepared for whatever life had in store, even this; he made his life count for something, and for those of us who knew Scott, his impact even in something like cryptozoology won't be quickly forgotten.

More UK Feline Sightings

Two more reports of black felines. (News source.) The first:

"Marketing and PR consultant Elma McMenemy, who lives at Barras, had a close encounter with the beast, which she described as similar to a panther, on Cheyne Hill while out walking her dogs on Tuesday morning.
"Mrs McMenemy's suspicions were first aroused when her dogs, both deerhounds, began scratching at a stone wall.
"She told the Leader: 'They were terribly attracted to the wall. One of my dogs jumped over it. I looked over to see what was happening and the cat stood up. It was right there, about three or four feet away from me.'
"Mrs McMenemy (56), said the cat was 'completely black, with a shiny, smooth coat' and the same height as one of her deerhounds - about 28 inches tall.
"'The dogs appeared to have interrupted its breakfast,' she continued. 'It had been gnawing at what looked like a deer's leg. My dogs gave chase, and it ran. It tried to take its meal with it, but dropped it a few seconds later'."

Another sighting involved a "cocker spaniel" sized, dark colored feline.

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