Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cat Sightings

Strange felines recorded in North Carolina and Virginia here.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

UK: Black Feline

A large black cat has been reported from Horeb and vicinity in the Teifi valley. (News source.)

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Australia: OOP Gator

Turns out a 1.5 meter crocodilian found at a scout camp on Australia's South Coast is an alligator. Officials don't know where it came from. And the media doesn't seem to have any compunctions about calling a 4-5 foot alligator a "man-eater." (News source.)

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008 Abstract: Muntjac

Molecular evidence for the occurrence of the leaf deer Muntiacus putaoensis in Arunachal Pradesh, north-east India

Jiffy James, Uma Ramakrishnan and Aparajita Datta

Conservation Genetics
Vol. 9, no. 4 (August 2008): pp. 927-931

Abstract: The discovery of the leaf deer Muntiacus putaoensis in northern Myanmar has added to the growing list of large mammals recently discovered in remote, unexplored parts of south and south-east Asia. Its subsequent discovery in eastern Arunachal Pradesh, India, based on morphometric analyses of two skulls collected from local hunters, doubled the size of its known east-west range, which is significant for a newly-discovered and poorly understood species. However, ambiguity remained regarding several other partial skulls and dried skin samples collected during subsequent surveys. The sympatric occurrence of the Indian muntjac Muntiacus muntjak further complicates species identification based primarily on morphometry. In this paper, we develop molecular genetic analyses that can unambiguously identify muntjac species. Further, we test and apply our methods to unknown skin samples to confirm the occurrence of the leaf deer in Arunachal Pradesh. Finally, we use our samples and genetic data from three mitochondrial markers to establish phylogenetic affinities between these samples and other extant members of the Muntiacus genus. Our approach, which combines the use of specific primers and phylogenetic analyses, is generally applicable towards the detection of cryptic biodiversity in unexplored and species-rich areas like north-east India.

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2008 Abstracts: The Munzala

A Voucher Specimen for Macaca munzala: Interspecific Affinities, Evolution, and Conservation of a Newly Discovered Primate

Charudutt Mishra and Anindya Sinha

International Journal of Primatology
Vol. 29, no. 3 (June 2008): 743-756

Abstract: Sinha, A., Datta, A., Madhusudan, M. D., & Mishra, C. (2005. Macaca munzala: A new species from western Arunachal Pradesh, northeastern India. International Journal of Primatology, 26, 977989) discovered Arunachal macaques (Macaca munzala), a species new to science, in the eastern Himalaya of Arunachal Pradesh in northeastern India. They depicted the holotype and paratypes of the species in photographs, and a specimen of the species had been unavailable for preservation and examination. In March 2005, we obtained an entire specimen of an adult male Macaca munzala, which we propose as a voucher specimen for the species. We provide detailed morphological and anatomical measurements of the specimen and examine its affinities with other macaques. Macaca munzala appears to be unique among macaques in craniodental size and structure, baculum, and aspects of caudal structure, while exhibiting affinities with the other members of the sinica-group to which it belongs. We summarize our insights on the origins and phylogeny of Macaca munzala. Finally, we review the current conservation status of the macaques, which are threatened by extensive hunting in the only 2 districts of Arunachal Pradesh where they are documented to occur.


In search of the munzala: distribution and conservation status of the newly-discovered Arunachal macaque Macaca munzala

R. Suresh Kumar, Nabam Gama, R. Raghunath, Anindya Sinha and Charudutt Mishra

Vol. 42 (2008): pp. 360-366

Abstract: The recently-described Arunachal macaque Macaca munzala is so far known only from western Arunachal Pradesh, north-east India. Here we present the first conservation status assessment for the species. Our surveys enumerated a total of 569 individuals in the Tawang and West Kameng districts of the State. The species seems to be tolerant of anthropogenic habitat change but is vulnerable to hunting. A low infant to adult female ratio suggests that not all adult females reproduce at any given time, and females do not give birth every year. The macaques are persecuted largely in response to crop damage, with the practice of keeping them as pets providing an added incentive to hunting. The species is, however, able to attain remarkably high densities in the absence of hunting. Crop damage by the macaque is widespread; patterns of crop damage are similar across altitudinal zones and do not seem to be correlated with macaque density. The species will need to be protected in human-modified landscapes, and the issues of crop damage and retaliatory persecution need to be addressed urgently.

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2008 Abstract: Long-tailed Rattlesnake

A New Long-Tailed Rattlesnake (Viperidae) From Guerrero, Mexico

Jonathan A. Campbell and Oscar Flores-Villela

Vol. 64, no. 2 (June 2008): pp. 246-257

Abstract: A distinctive new species of rattlesnake is described from the western versant of the Sierra Madre del Sur of Guerrero, Mexico. This long-tailed rattlesnake cannot be confused with any other species of rattlesnake and is most similar to Crotalus stejnegeri and C. lannomi. The Guerrero species possesses a strikingly distinct color pattern and differs from all other rattlesnakes in aspects of lepidosis. Mexico continues to be the origin of newly discovered species that provide important insights into the evolution or ecology of particular groups. A few examples from recent decades include Exiliboa placata, a monotypic, relictual dwarf boa (Bogert, 1968), Rhadinophanes monticola, a monotypic, highland colubrid (Myers and Campbell, 1981), and Pseudoeurycea aquatica, the only aquatic bolitoglossine salamander (Wake and Campbell, 2001).

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2008 Abstract: Neofelis

Species distinction and evolutionary differences in the clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) and Diard's clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi)

Per Christiansen

Journal of Mammalogy
Vol. 89, no. 6 (Dec. 2008): pp. 1435-1446

Abstract: Based on examination of molecular data and pelage patterns, it has recently been suggested that the island populations of the clouded leopard, traditionally considered a subspecies, may, in fact constitute a separate species. In this paper, I demonstrate that the island populations deviate strongly from the mainland populations in a large number of cranial, mandibular, and dental characters. The differences far exceed those that have been documented for subspecies within other pantherine felids, and are congruent with a separate species, to which the name Sundaland clouded leopard, Neofelis diardi, has been given, although the name Diard's cat has priority based on historical precedence. I suggest that the vernacular name Diard's clouded leopard be adopted for Neofelis diardi. In contrast, mainland populations diverge less from each other, and are congruent with 1 species (Neofelis nebulosa) and 2 subspecies, the western (N. n. macrosceloides) and eastern (N. n. nebulosa) clouded leopard. Neofelis deviates from other large felids in many aspects of craniodental morphology, and most likely also in several behavioral aspects. Diard's clouded leopard appears more derived with respects to saber-toothed craniodental features than the clouded leopard, indicating that the former may have gone farther than the latter in convergently evolving craniomandibular features traditionally considered characteristic of primitive saber-toothed felids.

[Thanks to Kevin Stewart for the heads up...]

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Smallest Feline Spotted

A rusty-spotted cat was spotted in Bangladore, India. (News source.)

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Bigfoot Author

Profile and interview here on Kathy Moskowitz Strain, and her recently published book Giants, Cannibals, and Monsters: Bigfoot in Native Culture.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Albino Alligator Isn't

A white alligator spotted in Indian River Co., FL, is not an albino -- the coloration is due to mineral deposition on its skin. (News source.)

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Bringing Back the Dead

An article here on the possibility of reviving extinct species.

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

A (Pre-)Fortean Story (Merry Christmas!)

The Angel of the Odd—An Extravaganza

Edgar Allan Poe (1850)

It was a chilly November afternoon. I had just consummated an unusually hearty dinner, of which the dyspeptic truffe formed not the least important item, and was sitting alone in the dining-room, with my feet upon the fender, and at my elbow a small table which I had rolled up to the fire, and upon which were some apologies for dessert, with some miscellaneous bottles of wine, spirit, and liqueur. In the morning I had been reading Glover's "Leonidas," Wilkies' "Epigoniad," Lamartine's "Pilgrimage," Barlow's "Columbiad," Tuckermann's "Sicily," and Griswold's "Curiosities"; I am willing to confess, therefore, that I now felt a little stupid. I made effort to arouse myself by aid of frequent Lafitte, and, all failing, I betook myself to a stray newspaper in despair. Having carefully perused the column of "houses to let," and the column of "dogs lost," and then the two columns of "wives and apprentices runaway," I attacked with great resolution the editorial matter, and, reading it from beginning to end without understanding a syllable, conceived the possibility of its being Chinese, and so re-read it from the end to the beginning, but with no more satisfactory result. I was about to throw away, in disgust,

This folio of four pages, happy work
Which not even poets criticise,

when I felt my attention somewhat aroused by the paragraph which follows:

"The avenues to death are numerous and strange. A London paper mentions the decease of a person from a singular cause. He was playing at 'puff the dart,' which is played with a long needle inserted in some worsted, and blown at a target through a tin tube. He placed the needle at the wrong end of the tube, and drawing his breath strongly to puff the dart forward with force, drew the needle into his throat. It entered the lungs, and in a few days killed him."

Upon seeing this I fell into a great rage, without exactly knowing why. "This thing," I exclaimed, "is a contemptible falsehood—a poor hoax—the lees of the invention of some pitiable penny-a-liner—of some wretched concoctor of accidents in Cocaigne. These fellows, knowing the extravagant gullibility of the age, set their wits to work in the imagination of improbable possibilities—of odd accidents, as they term them; but to a reflecting intellect (like mine," I added, in parenthesis, putting my forefinger unconsciously to the side of my nose), "to a contemplative understanding such as I myself possess, it seems evident at once that the marvelous increase of late in these 'odd accidents' is by far the oddest accident of all. For my own part, I intend to believe nothing henceforward that has anything of the 'singular' about it.

"Mein Gott, den, vat a vool you bees for dat!" replied one of the most remarkable voices I ever heard. At first I took it for a rumbling in my ears—such as man sometimes experiences when getting very drunk—but, upon second thought, I considered the sound as more nearly resembling that which proceeds from an empty barrel beaten with a big stick; and, in fact, this I should have concluded it to be, but for the articulation of the syllables and words. I am by no means naturally nervous, and the very few glasses of Lafitte which I had sipped served to embolden me a little, so that I felt nothing of trepidation, but merely uplifted my eyes with a leisurely movement, and looked carefully around the room for the intruder. I could not, however, perceive any one at all.

"Humph!" resumed the voice, as I continued my survey, "you mus pe so dronk as de pig, den, for not zee me as I zit here at your zide."

Hereupon I bethought me of looking immediately before my nose, and there, sure enough, confronting me at the table sat a personage nondescript, although not altogether indescribable. His body was a wine-pipe, or a rum-puncheon, or something of that character, and had a truly Falstaffian air. In its nether extremity were inserted two kegs, which seemed to answer all the purposes of legs. For arms there dangled from the upper portion of the carcass two tolerably long bottles, with the necks outward for hands. All the head that I saw the monster possessed of was one of those Hessian canteens which resemble a large snuff-box with a hole in the middle of the lid. This canteen (with a funnel on its top, like a cavalier cap slouched over the eyes) was set on edge upon the puncheon, with the hole toward myself; and through this hole, which seemed puckered up like the mouth of a very precise old maid, the creature was emitting certain rumbling and grumbling noises which he evidently intended for intelligible talk.

"I zay," said he, "you mos pe dronk as de pig, vor zit dare and not zee me zit ere; and I zay, doo, you most pe pigger vool as de goose, vor to dispelief vat iz print in de print. 'Tiz de troof—dat it iz—eberry vord ob it."

"Who are you, pray?" said I, with much dignity, although somewhat puzzled; "how did you get here? and what is it you are talking about?"

"Az vor ow I com'd ere," replied the figure, "dat iz none of your pizzness; and as vor vat I be talking apout, I be talk apout vot I tink proper; and as vor who I be, vy dat is de very ting I com'd here for to let you zee for yourzelf."

"You are a drunken vagabond," said I, "and I shall ring the bell and order my footman to kick you into the street."

"He! he! he!" said the fellow, "hu! hu! hu! dat you can't do."

"Can't do!" said I, "what do you mean?—can't do what?"

"Ring de pell," he replied, attempting a grin with his little villainous mouth.

Upon this I made an effort to get up, in order to put my threat into execution; but the ruffian just reached across the table very deliberately, and hitting me a tap on the forehead with the neck of one of the long bottles, knocked me back into the arm-chair from which I had half arisen. I was utterly astounded; and, for a moment, was quite at a loss what to do. In the meantime, he continued his talk.

"You zee," said he, "it iz te bess vor zit still; and now you shall know who I pe. Look at me! zee! I am te Angel ov te Odd!"

"And odd enough, too," I ventured to reply; "but I was always under the impression that an angel had wings."

"Te wing!" he cried, highly incensed, "vat I pe do mit te wing? Mein Gott! do you take me vor a shicken?"

"No—oh, no!" I replied, much alarmed, "you are no chicken—certainly not."

"Well, den, zit still and pehabe yourself, or I'll rap you again mid me vist. It iz te shicken ab te wing, und te owl ab te wing, und te imp ab te wing, und te headteuffel ab te wing. Te angel ab not te wing, and I am te Angel ov te Odd."

"And your business with me at present is—is—"

"My pizzness!" ejaculated the thing, "vy vot a low bred puppy you mos pe vor to ask a gentleman und an angel apout his pizzness!"

This language was rather more than I could bear, even from an angel; so, plucking up courage, I seized a salt-cellar which lay within reach, and hurled it at the head of the intruder. Either he dodged, however, or my aim was inaccurate; for all I accomplished was the demolition of the crystal which protected the dial of the clock upon the mantelpiece. As for the Angel, he evinced his sense of my assault by giving me two or three hard consecutive raps upon the forehead as before. These reduced me at once to submission, and I am almost ashamed to confess that, either through pain or vexation, there came a few tears into my eyes.

"Mein Gott!" said the Angel of the Odd, apparently much softened at my distress; "mein Gott, te man is eder ferry dronck or ferry sorry. You mos not trink it so strong—you mos put de water in te wine. Here, trink dis, like a goot veller, und don't gry now—don't!"

Hereupon the Angel of the Odd replenished my goblet (which was about a third full of Port) with a colorless fluid that he poured from one of his hand bottles. I observed that these bottles had labels about their necks, and that these labels were inscribed "Kirschenwasser."

The considerate kindness of the Angel mollified me in no little measure; and, aided by the water with which he diluted my Port more than once, I at length regained sufficient temper to listen to his very extraordinary discourse. I cannot pretend to recount all that he told me, but I gleaned from what he said that he was the genius who presided over the contre temps of mankind, and whose business it was to bring about the odd accidents which are continually astonishing the skeptic. Once or twice, upon my venturing to express my total incredulity in respect to his pretensions, he grew very angry indeed, so that at length I considered it the wiser policy to say nothing at all, and let him have his own way. He talked on, therefore, at great length, while I merely leaned back in my chair with my eyes shut, and amused myself with munching raisins and flipping the stems about the room. But, by and bye, the Angel suddenly construed this behavior of mine into contempt. He arose in a terrible passion, slouched his funnel down over his eyes, swore a vast oath, uttered a threat of some character which I did not precisely comprehend, and finally made me a low bow and departed, wishing me, in the language of the archbishop in Gil-Blas, "beaucoup de bonheur et un peu plus de bon sens."

His departure afforded me relief. The very few glasses of Lafitte that I had sipped had the effect of rendering me drowsy, and I felt inclined to take a nap of some fifteen or twenty minutes, as is my custom after dinner. At six I had an appointment of consequence, which it was quite indispensable that I should keep. The policy of insurance for my dwelling house had expired the day before; and, some dispute having arisen, it was agreed that, at six, I should meet the board of directors of the company and settle the terms of a renewal. Glancing upward at the clock on the mantel-piece (for I felt too drowsy to take out my watch), I had the pleasure to find that I had still twenty-five minutes to spare. It was half past five; I could easily walk to the insurance office in five minutes; and my usual post prandian siestas had never been known to exceed five and twenty. I felt sufficiently safe, therefore, and composed myself to my slumbers forthwith.

Having completed them to my satisfaction, I again looked toward the time-piece, and was half inclined to believe in the possibility of odd accidents when I found that, instead of my ordinary fifteen or twenty minutes, I had been dozing only three; for it still wanted seven and twenty of the appointed hour. I betook myself again to my nap, and at length a second time awoke, when, to my utter amazement, it still wanted twenty-seven minutes of six. I jumped up to examine the clock, and found that it had ceased running. My watch informed me that it was half past seven; and, of course, having slept two hours, I was too late for my appointment "It will make no difference," I said; "I can call at the office in the morning and apologize; in the meantime what can be the matter with the clock?" Upon examining it I discovered that one of the raisin-stems which I had been flipping about the room during the discourse of the Angel of the Odd had flown through the fractured crystal, and lodging, singularly enough, in the key-hole, with an end projecting outward, had thus arrested the revolution of the minute-hand.

"Ah!" said I; "I see how it is. This thing speaks for itself. A natural accident, such as will happen now and then!"

I gave the matter no further consideration, and at my usual hour retired to bed. Here, having placed a candle upon a reading-stand at the bed-head, and having made an attempt to peruse some pages of the "Omnipresence of the Deity," I unfortunately fell asleep in less than twenty seconds, leaving the light burning as it was.

My dreams were terrifically disturbed by visions of the Angel of the Odd. Methought he stood at the foot of the couch, drew aside the curtains, and, in the hollow, detestable tones of a rum-puncheon, menaced me with the bitterest vengeance for the contempt with which I had treated him. He concluded a long harrangue by taking off his funnelcap, inserting the tube into my gullet, and thus deluging me with an ocean of Kirschenwasser, which he poured, in a continuous flood, from one of the long-necked bottles that stood him instead of an arm. My agony was at length insufferable, and I awoke just in time to perceive that a rat had ran off with the lighted candle from the stand, but not in season to prevent his making his escape with it through the hole. Very soon, a strong suffocating odor assailed my nostrils; the house, I clearly perceived, was on fire. In a few minutes the blaze broke forth with violence, and in an incredibly brief period the entire building was wrapped in flames. All egress from my chamber, except through a window, was cut off. The crowd, however, quickly procured and raised a long ladder. By means of this I was descending rapidly, and in apparent safety, when a huge hog, about whose rotund stomach, and indeed about whose whole air and physiognomy, there was something which reminded me of the Angel of the Odd,—when this hog, I say, which hitherto had been quietly slumbering in the mud, took it suddenly into his head that his left shoulder needed scratching, and could find no more convenient rubbing post than that afforded by the foot of the ladder. In an instant I was precipitated, and had the misfortune to fracture my arm.

This accident, with the loss of my insurance, and with the more serious loss of my hair, the whole of which had been singed off by the fire, predisposed me to serious impressions, so that, finally, I made up my mind to take a wife. There was a rich widow disconsolate for the loss of her seventh husband, and to her wounded spirit I offered the balm of my vows. She yielded a reluctant consent to my prayers. I knelt at her feet in gratitude and adoration. She blushed, and bowed her luxuriant tresse into close contact with those supplied me, temporarily, by Grandjean. I know not how the entanglement took place, but so it was. I arose with a shining pate, wigless, she in disdain and wrath, half buried in alien hair. Thus ended my hopes of the widow by an accident which could not have been anticipated, to be sure, but which the natural sequence of events had brought about.

Without despairing, however, I undertook the siege of a less implacable heart. The fates were again propitious for a brief period; but again a trivial incident interfered. Meeting my betrothed in an avenue thronged with the elite of the city, I was hastening to greet her with one of my best considered bows, when a small particle of some foreign matter lodging in the corner of my eye, rendered me, for the moment, completely blind. Before I could recover my sight, the lady of my love had disappeared—irreparably affronted at what she chose to consider my premeditated rudeness in passing her by ungreeted. While I stood bewildered at the suddenness of this accident (which might have happened, nevertheless, to any one under the sun), and while I still continued incapable of sight, I was accosted by the Angel of the Odd, who proffered me his aid with a civility which I had no reason to expect. He examined my disordered eye with much gentleness and skill, informed me that I had a drop in it, and (whatever a "drop" was) took it out, and afforded me relief.

I now considered it time to die, (since fortune had so determined to persecute me,) and accordingly made my way to the nearest river. Here, divesting myself of my clothes, (for there is no reason why we cannot die as we were born,) I threw myself headlong into the current; the sole witness of my fate being a solitary crow that had been seduced into the eating of brandy-saturated corn, and so had staggered away from his fellows. No sooner had I entered the water than this bird took it into its head to fly away with the most indispensable portion of my apparel. Postponing, therefore, for the present, my suicidal design, I just slipped my nether extremities into the sleeves of my coat, and betook myself to a pursuit of the felon with all the nimbleness which the case required and its circumstances would admit. But my evil destiny attended me still. As I ran at full speed, with my nose up in the atmosphere, and intent only upon the purloiner of my property, I suddenly perceived that my feet rested no longer upon terre firma; the fact is, I had thrown myself over a precipice, and should inevitably have been dashed to pieces, but for my good fortune in grasping the end of a long guide-rope, which descended from a passing balloon.

As soon as I sufficiently recovered my senses to comprehend the terrific predicament in which I stood or rather hung, I exerted all the power of my lungs to make that predicament known to the aeronaut overhead. But for a long time I exerted myself in vain. Either the fool could not, or the villain would not perceive me. Meantime the machine rapidly soared, while my strength even more rapidly failed. I was soon upon the point of resigning myself to my fate, and dropping quietly into the sea, when my spirits were suddenly revived by hearing a hollow voice from above, which seemed to be lazily humming an opera air. Looking up, I perceived the Angel of the Odd. He was leaning with his arms folded, over the rim of the car, and with a pipe in his mouth, at which he puffed leisurely, seemed to be upon excellent terms with himself and the universe. I was too much exhausted to speak, so I merely regarded him with an imploring air. For several minutes, although he looked me full in the face, he said nothing. At length removing carefully his meerschaum from the right to the left corner of his mouth, he condescended to speak.

"Who pe you?" he asked, "und what der teuffel you pe do dare?"

To this piece of impudence, cruelty, and affectation, I could reply only by ejaculating the monosyllable "Help!"

"Elp!" echoed the ruffian— "not I. Dare iz te pottle—elp yourself, und pe tam'd!"

With these words he let fall a heavy bottle of Kirschenwasser which, dropping precisely upon the crown of my head, caused me to imagine that my brains were entirely knocked out. Impressed with this idea, I was about to relinquish my hold and give up the ghost with a good grace, when I was arrested by the cry of the Angel, who bade me hold on.

"Old on!" he said; "don't pe in te urry—don't. Will you pe take de odder pottle, or ave you pe got zober yet and come to your zenzes?"

I made haste, hereupon, to nod my head twice—once in the negative, meaning thereby that I would prefer not taking the other bottle at present—and once in the affirmative, intending thus to imply that I was sober and had positively come to my senses. By these means I somewhat softened the Angel.

"Und you pelief, ten," he inquired, "at te last? You pelief, ten, in te possibilty of te odd?"

I again nodded my head in assent.

"Und you ave pelief in me, te Angel of te Odd?"

I nodded again.

"Und you acknowledge tat you pe te blind dronk and te vool?"

I nodded once more.

"Put your right hand into your left hand preeches pocket, ten, in token oy your vull zubmission unto te Angel ov te Odd."

This thing, for very obvious reasons, I found it quite impossible to do. In the first place, my left arm had been broken in my fall from the ladder, and, therefore, had I let go my hold with the right hand, I must have let go altogether. In the second place, I could have no breeches until I came across the crow. I was therefore obliged, much to my regret, to shake my head in the negative—intending thus to give the Angel to understand that I found it inconvenient, just at that moment, to comply with his very reasonable demand! No sooner, however, had I ceased shaking my head than—

"Go to der teuffel ten!" roared the Angel of the Odd.

In pronouncing these words, he drew a sharp knife across the guide rope by which I was suspended, and as we then happened to be precisely over my own house, (which, during my peregrinations, had been handsomely rebuilt,) it so occurred that I tumbled headlong down the ample chimney and alit upon the dining-room hearth. Upon coming to my senses, (for the fall had very thoroughly stunned me,) I found it about four o'clock in the morning. I lay outstretched where I had fallen from the balloon. My head grovelled in the ashes of an extinguished fire, while my feet reposed upon the wreck of a small table, overthrown, and amid the fragments of a miscellaneous dessert, intermingled with a newspaper, some broken glass and shattered bottles, and an empty jug of the Schiedam Kirschenwasser. Thus revenged himself the Angel of the Odd.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Squid Reproductive Behavior

A wide range of strange reproductive behavior is noted here.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Googling for Species

Scientists have used Google Earth to locate an unexplored habitat, leading to the discovery of new species in Mozambique. (News source.)

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Puerto Rico: Monkey Hunts

Introduced patas and rhesus monkeys are the target now in Puerto Rico, as authorities are trying to stop their spread across the entire island. Primate researchers don't think it's likely they'll be successful. (News source.)

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Giant Irukandji Described

A "giant" in the dangerously venomous Irukandji jellyfish family has been described. Morbakkafenneri has a body up to 15 cm and tentacles up to a meter long. The species was discovered in 1985, but hasn't been officially described until now. (News source.)

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Frog: Blue Bones, Green Blood

A new Cambodian bush frog has been discovered, this one having green blood and turquoise bones. Biliverdin (metabolic waste usually processed in the liver) is passed into the bloodstream, which may help with camouflage (the skin being translucent) and also might make the frog unpalatable to predators. (News source.)

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Escaped Monkeys Rounded Up

The last of the escaped Patas monkeys from a Florida park have been captured. The political/legal fallout continues... (News source.)

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I Never Saw a Purple Squirrel...

Until now... an odd-colored squirrel was seen outside a UK school. It's not known yet whether it's a dye job or a genetic freak. (News source.)


Thursday, December 18, 2008

More Mississippi "Cougar"

Another "cougar" sighting from Natchez, MS. Still no photos. (News source.)

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fossil Wings Studied

X-ray fluorescence imaging is being used to determine what the wings of the Archaeopteryx actually looked like before fossilization. (News source)

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Vanuatu Species

NG has a photogallery of a few species from the Pacific island: In 2006 a biological survey collected 10000 specimens, 2000 of which may be new to science.

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Tree Lobsters Split

Three Pacific island stick insects, including the endangered Lord Howe Island stick insect, are distinct species, new genetic investigation shows. (News source.)

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Black Cat in Arkansas

An Arkansas couple think there's a "black panther" in the neighborhood; a Game and Fish officer saw the animal, and says it's a house cat. A police officer saw the cat and says he thinks its as big as a rottweiler. Images and video were taken of the cat, but are not posted online, as far as I can see. (News source.)

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Mekong Discoveries

The WWF is noting that over 1000 new species have been discovered in the Great Mekong region of southeast Asia, over the last decade. (News source.)

And video of the Laotian rock rat (one of those discoveries) here.

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Puerto Rico: Black Panther?

Sightings of a "black panther" and livestock kills around San Juan, PR, have triggered hunts and traps set for the animal. (News source.)

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Friday, December 12, 2008

New Crocodiles

The African dwarf crocodile has been split into three species, after genetic investigation. These are now Osteolaemus tetraspis, from Central Africa's Ogooué Basin, Osteolaemus osborni, from the Congo Basin, and an as-yet unnamed species from West Africa. Details here.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Croc" Sighting in Massachusetts

Police responded to a man's sighting of an "8-foot crocodile" in Fiske Pond, Massachusetts. Nothing's been found yet. Sounds like an exaggeration in size, misidentification, or both. (News source.)

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1914 Sea Monster

A Virginia newspaper notes a sighting report from the past, "another 1914 story about Capt. George Brooks of Weymouth who with his crew saw a sea monster as they approached Gloucester. It was 'the worst looking animal' he had ever seen, and the captain resented any suggestion that it may have been a whale or a porpoise." (News source.)


Sponges as Dolphin Tools

PLoS has an interesting research article on some Australian dolphins that use conical sponges to disturb the seafloor in an effort to locate prey.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Sea Monsters in Fiction

Now available, Cetus Insolitus: Sea Serpents, Giant Cephalopods, and Other Marine Monsters in Classic Science Fiction and Fantasy. This 391-page anthology has 26 stories of strange creatures from the deep, ranging from humorous to horrific. Some will be familiar to those who have seen my online cryptofiction collection, while other stories are more difficult to find. Many are of interest to cryptofiction fans, though a few are just sci-fi/fantasy or adventure with monstrous protagonists. (Out of the Deep, for example, is an apocalyptic story of attacks by intelligent man-eating fish.)

A few gems: From the Darkness and the Depths, a discussion of photography leads to the story of an encounter with an invisible octopus; The Tail of the Big Sea-Serpent, a very early story in comedic "tribute" to the well-known Daedalus sea serpent sighting; The Finless Death, a fantastic twist on dangerous creatures from the bottom of the ocean.

Available at your favorite online bookstore, contents at
Coachwhip Publications (retails $14.95, but is showing up a bit cheaper for B&N members).

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It's Not the Yeti that Gets You...

It's the brain swelling. A medical condition due to low oxygen levels may be responsible for numerous deaths on Mt. Everest. (News source.)


Monday, December 08, 2008

Name a Species Auctions

Purdue has a bat for naming-rights auction, and will have some turtles up soon, also. (News source.)

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Two BioFortean Folklore Papers from 2008

Siren canora: the mermaid and the mythical in late nineteenth-century science
H. Brink-Roby

Archives of Natural History

Vol. 35, pp. 1-14


Abstract: "This paper argues that, for a number of naturalists and lay commentators in the second half of the nineteenth century, evolutionary – especially Darwinian – theory gave new authority to mythical creatures. These writers drew on specific elements of evolutionary theory to assert the existence of mermaids, dragons and other fabulous beasts. But mythological creatures also performed a second, often contrapositive, argumentative function; commentators who rejected evolution regularly did so by dismissing these creatures. Such critics agreed that Darwin's theory legitimized the mythological animal, but they employed this legitimization to undermine the theory itself.

"The mermaid, in particular, was a focus of attention in this mytho-evolutionary debate, which ranged from the pages of
Punch to the lecture halls of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Crossing social boundaries and taking advantage of a range of venues, this debate arose in response to the indeterminate challenge of evolutionary theory. In its discussions of mermaids and dragons, centaurs and satyrs, this discourse helped define that challenge, construing and constructing the meanings and implications of evolutionary theory in the decades following Darwin's publication."

The Octopus in the Sewers: An Ancient Legend Analogue

Camilla Asplund Ingemark

Journal of Folklore Research

Vol. 45, no. 2, pp. 145-170

(paper not online)

Abstract: "This article outlines two ancient analogues of the contemporary legend of the wild beast in the sewer, often known as the alligator in the sewer. These stories are preserved in Aelian’s (AD 165/170–230/235)
On the Characteristics of Animals and Pliny the Elder’s (AD 23/24–79) Natural History and feature octopuses rather than alligators as the transgressors of the vulnerable boundary between wild nature and the urban, manmade environment. I begin by proposing that the narratives represent two distinct versions of the same legend. Aelian’s conforms more closely to the pattern of the modern legend by including the motif of the ascent of the octopus through the sewers of the city, whereas Pliny the Elder’s replaces this theme with the descent of the octopus from a tree, a feat which is viewed as equally anomalous for a marine animal. Regardless of these differences, both texts hinge on the contradictory and ambivalent conceptions of octopuses current in the ancient world. I proceed to analyze these notions in order to unravel the symbolic qualities of the stories. The settings of the narratives and ancient attitudes to sewers, sewage, and dirt are also discussed. The ancient texts are then juxtaposed with later legends in the same vein. Emphasis is placed on the Victorian legends of swine in the sewers of Hampstead, as these might be less familiar to readers. Ancient, Victorian, and contemporary legends are compared and their similarities and dissimilarities are examined."


Rumors of an Extinct Bird

Another article on the search for the South Island kokako in New Zealand.

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Killer Whales in the Gulf of Mexico

Not unheard of, but uncommon: video here.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Dingos Disappearing

Purebred dingos are becoming scarce, as domestic canine hybridization is polluting the gene pool. (News source.)

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Mississippi Cougar Sighting

Another sighting of an alleged cougar from the Natchez region of Mississippi, here.

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Tonkin Snub-nose Monkeys

A new population of this rare monkey (Rhinopithecus avunculus) has been discovered in a remote forest of Vietnam. (News source.)

Bigfoot News

From British Columbia, a track is found, and a few other reports are noted.

And a generic Bigfoot article from the same region here.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Lots of Felines in the News

Big black "feline" sightings continue in Australia. (News source.)

Mountain lion sightings alleged in Virginia, North Carolina, and Ohio (see image). [I tracked sightings of a probable released cougar in that same area of Ohio, Warren County, a number of years ago. Not a great area for an actual population, though there is farmland game.]

A mountain lion killed in Louisiana is being tested genetically to see if it is a Texas wanderer.

A black feline is reported from New York.

A tiger escaped from a West Virginia exotic game farm was killed after it tried to ambush its owner in the woods. (News source.)

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White Raccoon

A rare white-furred raccoon in Florida has the woman who feeds it worried that hunters might come along and kill it. (Apparently, she's less concerned about the dangers of habituating the animal to human presence by feeding it.) (News source.)

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More Ivorybill Hunt Details

From Arkansas, ongoing searches in alleged ivorybill woodpecker territory... (News source.)


Monday, December 01, 2008

Indonesian Bones

Some "fossil bones" found in Muara Gembong while a fish pond was being dug are stirring the interest of local residents. Many theories have been voiced. Several articles so far:

The initial find here.
The bones sent to experts for identification here.
Residents hope the bones bring some tourism interest here.

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Cougar Controversy in Minnesota

The sighting of two "cougars" eating from their downed deer by a pair of hunters is being denied by MN DNR. They don't see any evidence of predation beyond some holes in the throat. (News source.)

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