Wednesday, April 30, 2008

More Cougar News

The Chicago cougar came from Wisconsin. (News source.)

Frankford, Ontario, has a cougar roaming the area. (News source.)

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bolivian River Dolphin Recognized

After a census of river dolphins in the Orinoco and Amazon River basins, the Bolivian river dolphin has been officially recognized as a separate endemic species (Inia boliviensis). "The Bolivian species is smaller and a lighter grey in colour than the other species and has more teeth. It lives only in the Bolivian Amazon and is isolated from the other Amazon River dolphins, separated by a series of 18 rapids between Bolivia and Brazil." (News source.)

This species has been declared a Natural Heritage by the Prefecture of the Department of Beni (northeastern Bolivia), with recognition that immediate steps for conservation is needed. (News source.)

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Brazilian New Species

From the Eurekalert:

"Researchers discovered a legless lizard and a tiny woodpecker along with 12 other suspected new species in Brazil’s Cerrado, one of the world’s 34 biodiversity conservation hotspots.
"The Cerrado’s wooded grassland once covered an area half the size of Europe, but is now being converted to cropland and ranchland at twice the rate of the neighboring Amazon rainforest, resulting in the loss of native vegetation and unique species.
"An expedition comprising scientists from Conservation International (CI) and Brazilian universities found 14 species believed new to science – eight fish, three reptiles, one amphibian, one mammal, and one bird – in and around the Serra Geral do Tocantins Ecological Station, a 716,000-hectare (1,769,274-acre) protected area that is the Cerrado’s second largest.
"The lizard, of the Bachia genus, resembles a snake due to its lack of legs and pointed snout, which help it move across the predominantly sandy soil formed by the natural erosion of the escarpments of the Serra Geral. Other suspected new species include a dwarf woodpecker (genus Picumnus) and horned toad (genus Proceratophrys)."

Image: Paula H. Valdujo/ USP Universidade de Sao Paulo/Pequi

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Monster Squid Speculation

A 10 meter squid is being thawed for study. (News source.)

"On a museum blog following the progress of the thaw, Chris Paulin -- who is projects manager at the museum, known as Te Papa Tongarewa, said Tuesday that the beak of the colossal squid has been exposed as the flesh defrosts.
"The size of the lower beak -- used to chop prey into bite sized pieces -- is around 43 to 45 millimetres.
"Colossal squid lower beaks previously found in the stomachs of sperm whales have been as long as 49 millimetres.
"Extrapolating the relationship between the length of the beak and body size from another smaller specimen being examined suggests the species could grow much bigger, Paulin said." ...
"One of the scientists leading the examination, Auckland University of Technology squid expert Steve O'Shea, said it was difficult to say how much bigger the monster squid could grow.
"'What we know from that one measurement is that the beak of this animal from the stomachs of sperm whales are considerably larger,' O'Shea told Radio New Zealand.
"'We make the leap to say the colossal squid grows considerably larger than the 495 kilogram one we are currently defrosting.'"

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Giant Sloth Lemurs

Genetic investigation reveals that the giant "sloth" lemurs of Madagascar were a sister group to the living indriid lemurs. Paper can be downloaded here.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Irish Shrew Introduction

White-toothed shrews have been found for the first time in Ireland, suggesting a recent introduction. (News source.)

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Charles Fort

A profile on Charles Fort here.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Rodent Rediscovered

A dwarf cloud rat species from the Cordillera, in the Philippines, was rediscovered after 112 years by a recent expedition. (News source.)

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Cave Dog Folklore from Eastern Europe

Added to BioFortean Review:

Tatra Cave Dogs and Other Cave Dog Myths in Eastern Europe

Tomasz Pietrzak vel Quatl

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Big Cat Hunts

A large black feline was reported in Keene, New York. The sighting account is fairly interesting, better than most. (News source.)

And, over in the UK, police search for the Beast of Hoddlesden, "dapple pale brown creature which had a white spotted face and a dark ringed tail." (News source.)

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Out-of-Place or Missing

Someone stole a monkey from Cherry Brook Zoo in Canada. (News source.)

A New Hampshire fisherman says he caught an alligator, but he wasn't able to reel it in. (News source.)

College students kidnapped a zebra and locked it in a campus building. (News source.)

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Monkeys Can Swim

Lowry Park Zoo (FL) imported a troop of Patas monkeys from Puerto Rico and placed them on an island surrounded by a 50-foot wide, 8-foot deep moat. They just forgot to check on whether the monkeys could swim. The monkeys are currently on the lam. (News source.)

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Roadrunner in Canada?

Two separate sightings of a strange bird on the Bruce Peninsula (Ontario) have some people thinking roadrunner. One witness used to live in Texas, and says he's familiar with the species. (News source.)

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ohio: Exotic Feline?

A Granville, Ohio, resident says she saw an unusual feline, "tan-colored with a long tail and very pointed ears and weighed 60 to 70 pounds." It was "sparring like a boxer" with her golden retriever. (News source.)

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Vietnam Turtle Controversy

A Vietnamese biologist contends that recent reports of the rediscovery of Rafetus swinhoei in the wild (by US zoo researchers) is not conclusive, and better evidence needs to be offered -- not just a picture. (News source.)

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sea Lion Migrates South

A Steller sea lion has been found in the waters near Newport Beach, CA, far south of its normal range. (News source.)

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Bigfoot Hoax in Montana

Not much to note, but it made the news...

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Bornean Elephants May Be From Java

A new paper supports the theory that the pygmy elephants found on Borneo originated in Java, and were introduced by an early sultan. (News source.)

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Floresiensis Dental Work?

One of the critics of Homo floresiensis suggests that there may be some recent dental work on one of the teeth. Proponents disagree. (News source, and here)

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More Chicago Cougar News

More sightings, by an Abbott Labs guard, and by some joggers.

And a note in the aftermath of the shooting.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

OOP Cavy

Oregon teens found a Patagonian cavy running loose. (News source.)

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Zoo Finds Mythical Turtle

From the announcement:

"Cleveland Metroparks Zoo today announced the discovery of a critically endangered turtle in northern Vietnam that previously was thought to be extinct in the wild. Experts from the Zoo's Asian Turtle Program confirmed they have identified the only known living specimen of a Swinhoe's soft-shell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) in nature.
"After three years of searching, Zoo-sponsored researchers focused on a lake just west of Hanoi after residents reported spotting the gigantic turtle there. Field biologists, along with Education for Nature in Vietnam, found and photographed the turtle, allowing scientists to verify it was the rare Swinhoe's soft-shell turtle, which is considered a national treasure in Vietnam."

From the news:

"
The discovery represents hope for the species, said Doug Hendrie, the Vietnam-based coordinator of the zoo program.
"Turtle expert Peter Pritchard, president of the Chelonian Research Institute, confirmed the find based on a photo Hendrie showed him.
"'It looked like pretty solid evidence. The animal has a pretty distinctive head,' Pritchard said.
"There have been rumors for years of a mythical creature living deep in the waters of a northern Vietnam lake. Some in a village west of Hanoi claimed to be blessed by catching a glimpse of it's concave shell as it crested above the surface of their lake.
"A national legend tells of a giant golden turtle that bestowed upon the Vietnamese people a magic sword and victory over Chinese invaders in the 16th century. Whether that sacred turtle has materialized in the 21st century will be a matter of cultural debate among the Vietnamese."

(And, yes, other bloggers' opinions notwithstanding, mythical is a perfectly proper word to use in the context of many mystery animals or animals with folkloric connotation. Further, the use of the term myth may be used in a derogatory manner in some popular usage, but in academic usage has no relevance to factual basis.)

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How Floresiensis Walked

Apparently, Homo floresiensis had a funny walk... (News source.)

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So Where'd It Come From?

That's the next question. Though Illinois state officials are eager to get their hands on the Chicago cougar carcase, they're not sure who actually has it. (News source.)

"Cook County Animal and Rabies Control administrator Donna Alexander said Tuesday the cougar was a male with no identifying marks showing it was privately owned. An examination found it weighed 122 pounds and was 3½ feet long."

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mystery Animals of South Sudan

Sudan has monsters of its own, for certain. They swim in the Nile, lurk in the swamps and hide in the forests awaiting stray travelers to prey upon. In the fertile South, contrasted by the more arid regions of the country with which Sudan is commonly affiliated, the landscape remains largely undeveloped and human settlement is restricted to a handful of well spaced towns with a countryside sparsely populated by tiny hut villages. Much of the land remains untamed, unconquered and in some areas, much feared for its wildlife. There are areas even today where villagers will not enter for fear of the monsters believed to inhabit them.

Normally in my research I take lengths to avoid the word monster. It’s a primitive term, suggesting something outside the boundaries of the natural world. But since being here, “monster” seems appropriate when contemplating the dangers lurking about in this post-war frontier. Monsters will snatch you from the river bank if you linger too long. Others threaten to encoil you until you’re constricted to death. Then, there are the ones you don't notice at all until, following bouts of illness, you eventually find the protruding shape of a large worm coursing beneath your skin. When faced with such real threats it doesn’t seem to matter how many times one has seen documentaries on crocodiles or pythons or the horror that is Guinea Worm, the realization that one could be dispatched, or in the case of the latter, infected as such, sends a spark into the primitive realms of the mind and quickly we recall what it’s like to be prey, again. What were animals on television become monsters as one nervously fumbles to hasten their bathroom excursion in the secluded bush.

Speak with a local Nuer or Dinka and one finds a curious thing. Their list of recognized fauna doesn’t end with those we as Westerners would be familiar with from zoo visits and Discovery Channel. Each cultural group has their own cultural-zoology, or “ethnozoology.” And it’s here, in the folklore of an indigenous group, that the hunt begins by sifting through tribal lore. As always one must learn to better understand a culture before one can best understand their extra-animals. What is intended to be mythical or serve as a boogey man (as every culture has one) vs. an animal that is regarded as extremely rare? What is only known from oral tradition vs. something that is encountered in recent times? What given traits described to a creature are likely based on a fearful superstition vs. actual observations? In the case of animals like frogs or crocodiles being described as being of extraordinary size or unexpected color (many allusions can be found to “black” crocodiles) do these represent unique specimens or a potentially new species?

There’s also the matter of being a layman to the field of zoology—my having to find out if a seemingly extraordinary animal is necessarily ‘new’ to science or already recognized. One Dinka man described to me a type of antelope that lived mostly in the swampy parts of the Nile and had the ability to swim underwater when startled. He’d heard stories of them but had the rare fortune to briefly observe one during the war while being ferried on a small fishing boat. A diving antelope? Seems remarkable enough but Googling those two words we find this incredible animal (the Sitatunga) can be found within zoos. This strange elongated fish I saw a villager carrying while I was riding along on a supply convoy far into the countryside, was that also recognized species? The basketball-sized frogs from the swamps of the Bor region, could those be of a known species reaching exceptional size or does their given color combination not comply with any of the already recognized frogs in Sudan?

At present I’ve invested a total of seven long months in the semi-autonomous South Sudan. Within my time here I’ve gathered bits and pieces of folklore pertaining to potential mystery critters from various sources. First though, a review of what’s already been written in cryptozoology literature about Sudan’s potential mystery animals. With the assistance of a small but effective circle of email-based research colleagues, we thumbed through our books for anything to do with cryptids in Sudan. Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans includes the following in his “Track of Unknown Animals”:

Chepekwe: Described as a ‘giant Iguana’ which supposedly attacks Rhinos, Hippos, and Elephants. This is mentioned as haunting the basin areas of Sudan and surrounding countries.

Dingonek: Something of a hodge-podge of a saber-toothed tiger with some sort of armor-like hide and as big as a hippo, seen near Mara River or Ngare Dubash which runs into Lake Victoria.

Nyokodoing: a sort of “water panther,” amphibious, large-fanged.

Lukwata: A large aquatic creature supposedly encountered in Lake Victoria (which flows into Sudan).

Lau: An enormous super-snake or aquatic reptile of some sort reputed to dwell in Nile swamps. Possibly the same animal as the Lukwata.

Additionally Michael Newton’s extensive Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology includes for Sudan:

Woadd-El-Uma: described as an unknown hominid or merbeing. Amphibious, covered in brown or red hair. June 1832, Joseph Russeger found strange footprints (identified as this creature by a guide) near the third cataract of the Nile. They were 10 inches long, with four long toes and one opposed big toe.

Netwon also makes reference to a primate-like being referred to as the “Waab” and a single-horned rhinoceros.

My own list of odd critters described to me by locals would include black “mutant” crocodiles, river-dwelling octopus, man-eating humanoids, frogs the size of basketballs, gigantic crocodiles, horned snakes, snakes with feathers on their tails and a gigantic, black, swamp-dwelling, gold-vomiting super-snake.

It’s that last one, known as the lau, that I’ve applied the most effort into exploring through regional folklore. And in the process of learning about the lau we find an inescapable relevance to a certain aerial photograph from 1959 in neighboring Zaire (now Congo).

—Nikolai Sucik
Juba, Sudan

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Chicago Police Kill Cougar

The recent sightings of a big tawny cat in Chicago's North Side proved true. Police shot and killed a 150-lb cougar in the Roscoe Village neighborhood. They were attempting to contain it when it turned on officers, forcing them to shoot. (News source.)

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Black Panther

Interesting report from California of an alleged black mountain lion: (News source.)

The Bay Area's ultimate wildlife mystery, the mythic black panther, may have been solved by a local wildlife expert who said he and a friend sighted an anomalous black mountain lion at Point Reyes National Seashore.
"'This lion was not darkish, not a brownish-tawny like some I've seen since, but jet black,' said John Balawejder, a longtime reader and avid hiker and wildlife watcher whose daughter, Alani, has written an academic paper about the sighting." ...
"Balawejder has seen more than 10 mountain lions (that beats my six in 25,000 trail miles), so he knows what he's looking at. Like many landmark wildlife encounters, his episode came by complete surprise. On a spring day, he was hiking with a pal, Burke Richardson, out at Pierce Ranch, located at the north end of Point Reyes, on an adventure to see elk, wildflowers and views of the ocean and Tomales Bay.
"'We came up a short rise through a grassy swale, and then, looking up, saw a large, jet-black mountain lion calmly sitting, eyes half asleep looking out at us from about 30 yards away,' Balawejder said. 'My friend and I stood there, stunned. It then started to slink away from us in a large semi-circle, attempting to hide in the grass.'"

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Borneo Clouded Leopard

Here's an interview with a researcher, trying to protect the recently described Borneo clouded leopard.

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Introduced Kookaburras

A New Zealand researcher is trying to determine why introduced kookaburras haven't expanded their range like other invasive birds. (News source.)

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Hoax?

An odd little story out of Mississippi: (News source.)

"According to police, two postal workers and two parents picking their children up from school claimed to have seen a huge primate run into the woods behind the post office shortly after 2 p.m.
"Because all the accounts were separate instances, School Resource Officer Lt. Terry Sanford said he doesn’t doubt that people saw something, but he’s almost sure it wasn’t a gorilla.
"'We got a few calls about the gorilla, but we didn’t see anything,' said Sanford. 'People said they saw the animal run into the woods. I think what they saw was a person dressed in a suit trying to get a reaction out of people.'
"A local costume dealer said a man and a woman bought a gorilla head and hands Tuesday, stating that they already had a suit."

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Tennessee Cougar?

Here's a column on cougar sightings on the grounds at the Oak Ridge reservation.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Rediscovered Fly

A strange little Drosophila fly that lives on Caribbean crabs has been rediscovered after 40 years. Of course, no one was actually looking for them until a recent expedition... (News source.)

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Monday, April 07, 2008

First Lungless Frog

A rare aquatic frog, Barbourula kalimantanensis, from Borneo has been confirmed as the only known (so far) lungless frog. The frog "lives in cold, fast-flowing water, they noted, so loss of lungs might be an adaptation to a combination of factors: a higher oxygen environment, the species’s presumed low metabolic rate, severe flattening of their bodies that increases the surface area of their skin, and selection for negative buoyancy—meaning that the frogs would rather sink than float." (Eurekalert)

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Species Names for Sale

Scripps Institution of Oceanography is offering the chance to name various new species in a fund-raising effort. For $15,000 you can name a sea slug; or there are any number of marine worms... (News source.)

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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Historic Illinois Cougar Sightings

The recent cougar sightings in Chicago brought to mind (to one journalist) sightings from Des Plaines in the 1950s. (News source.)

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Friday, April 04, 2008

More from Illinois

A paw print from North Chicago that was cast turned out to be from a large dog, but a police officer over in Round Lake Park thinks he saw a large feline. (News source.)

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Search on for Strange Fish

Another case of an unwitting cryptozoological investigation in mainstream science: sightings and photographs of a strange anglerfish have been taken, but the species (perhaps the family) is still unknown. (Eurekalert.) [Image: M. Snyder, starknakedfish.com/divingmaluku.com]

"The fish, sighted in Indonesian waters off Ambon Island, has tan- and peach-colored zebra-striping, and rippling folds of skin that obscure its fins, making it look like a glass sculpture that Dale Chihuly might have dreamed up. But far from being hard and brittle like glass, the bodies of these fist-sized fish are soft and pliable enough to slip and slide into narrow crevices of coral reefs. It’s probably part of the reason that they've typically gone unnoticed – until now." ...
"Husband and wife Buck and Fitrie Randolph, with dive guide Toby Fadirsyair, found and photographed an individual Jan. 28 in Ambon harbor. A second adult has since been seen and two more – small, and obviously juveniles – were spotted March 26, off Ambon. One of the adults laid a mass of eggs, just spotted Tuesday." ...
"The newly found individuals have no lures so they seek their prey differently, burrowing themselves into crevices and cracks of coral reefs in search of food." ...
"With its unusual flattened face, the fish's eyes appear to be directed forward, something Pietsch says he's never seen in 40 years as an icthyologist, a scientist who studies the structure, classification and habits of fishes. Most fishes have eyes on either side of their head so that each eye sees something different. Only very few fishes have eyes whose radius of vision overlaps in front, providing binocular vision, a special attribute well developed in humans that provides the ability to accurately judge distance." ...
"Whether the new fish represent a new family will entail DNA testing and a close examination of a specimen, says Pietsch, whose anglerfish work is currently funded by the National Science Foundation. Scientists have already described 18 different families of anglerfishes and this is probably a 19th, Pietsch says. Families are large groupings, for example, all dog species belong to the larger family that includes wolves, coyotes and, even, hyenas. One can see an example of an anglerfish family, the one named Antennariidae, at http://www.tolweb.org/Antennariidae/21993, a part of the Tree of Life Web project.
"When only a single fish had been sighted, Randolph and Andy Shorten, co-owner of Maluku Divers, kept the find quiet to protect the animal. With more individuals being found, and having a better idea of where to look to find others, the two became comfortable enough to post images on the firm's Web site, see http://www.divingmaluku.com/new-frogfish."

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

April Fool's Roundup

Why, yes, Virginia, there are April Fool's monster stories out today...

The Loch Ness Monster was captured.

Welsh yetis are on the rampage.

Crocodiles have invaded the Tennessee River.

Now, if only Amazon's hijacking of the print-on-demand book industry was a joke...

[Update: and more... an Alaskan bigfoot, and a Michigan crocodile.]

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Illinois Cougar Sightings

More reports coming from North Chicago. (News source.)

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