Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Cryptozoology Comes Of Age

Long dismissed as the domain of Ufology and conspiracy theories, cryptozoology has come of age and become a legitimate science thanks to the discovery of various new animal speices previously unknown to science.

If you've read Scott Weidensaul's excellent book The Ghost With Trembling Wings (2002), you'll recall the story of Louise Emmons and the giant Peruvian rodent she discovered. But before I get to that, let me say that The Ghost With Trembling Wings isn't about ghosts at all, but about the search for cryptic or supposedly extinct species. Think thylacines, British big cats, Ivory-billed woodpeckers, Cone-billed tanagers, the resurrection of the aurochs, Night parrots, Richard Meinertzhagen and the Indian forest owlet. It begins with Weidensaul's search for Semper's warbler Leucopeza semperi, an enigmatic parulid endemic to St. Lucia, discovered in 1870 and last seen alive in 1969 (although with a trickle of post-1969 sightings, some reliable and some not so reliable). If you're interested in the hunt for cryptic species and zoological field work and its history, it is mandatory that you obtain and read this inexpensive book.
Louise Emmons is a highly distinguished, experienced mammalogist who has worked on bats, tree shrews, cats big and small, and rodents, and is also the foremost expert on the mammals of the Neotropical rainforests (she wrote the only field guide to Neotropical rainforest mammals: Emmons 1999a). On 15th June 1997, while on an expedition to the northern Vilcabamba range of Cusco, Peru, she was walking along a forest track when, lying dead on the track in front of her, she discovered a big dead rodent. Pale grey, but handsomely patterned with a white nose and lips, and with a white blaze running along the top of its head, it was over 30 cm in head and body length, and with a tail over 20 cm long. Its broad feet, prominent and curved claws, large hallux, and palms and soles covered in small tubercles indicated that it was a tree-climbing species. A large bite wound on the neck indicated that it had recently been killed by a predator, probably a Long-tailed weasel Mustela frenata.
And it was entirely new: no one had ever recorded anything like it before. In her description of the new species, Emmons (1999b) named it Cuscomys ashaninka (meaning 'mouse from Cusco, of the Ashaninka people') and showed that it was a member of Abrocomidae. This is an entirely South American group previously known only from Abrocoma Waterhouse 1837, members of which are sometimes called rat chinchillas, chinchilla rats or chinchilliones, and from the Miocene fossil Protabrocoma Kraglievich 1927. Abrocoma is known from eight species (A. bennetti, A. boliviensis, A. cinerea, A. vaccarum, A. uspallata, A. budini, A. famatina and A. schistacea), among which A. boliviensis was only recognised in 1990 and A. uspallata in 2002 (Glanz & Anderson 1990, Braun & Mares 1996, 2002). Incidentally A. bennetti has 17 pairs of ribs - more than any other rodent. Abrocoma produces midden piles, and Pleistocene rodent middens from Chile have been identified by DNA analysis as having been produced by Abrocoma (Kuch et al. 2002).

And speaking of unkown species here is a possible explanation for the Ogopogo.

Could unknown Okanagan creature be baby Ogopogo?
Kent Spencer, Canwest News ServicePublished: Monday, November 10, 2008
VANCOUVER - A TV documentary crew has added to the mystery surrounding Ogopogo by finding an unknown biological specimen in the depths of Okanagan Lake.
"I told a radio station tongue-in-cheek I thought it was the baby Ogopogo," monster-watcher Bill Steciuk of Kelowna said Monday after the History Channel completed a nine-day shoot.
"It was all curled up. The features were really hard to see. You could see a little head tucked in and a straight tail with no fins.

"It's a huge mystery. We have no idea what it is," said Steciuk, who helped organize the shooting locations.
The unidentified specimen has been shipped to the University of Guelph in Ontario for DNA tests, but Ogopogo buffs will have to wait until February to find out more, when the Monster Quest program weighs in on the legendary mega-serpent.
Ogopogo, first sighted in the 1870s, is reputed to be 12 metres long with multiple humps and a small head.
The History Channel, which had a bigger budget than previous expeditions, mounted a thermal infrared imaging camera on a helicopter for the first time. It picked up an unidentified shadow on the lake, while sonar spotted something over three metres long moving in the water.
"That's pretty big for a fish," said Steciuk.
But divers made the most interesting find in an underwater cave on the west side of Rattlesnake Island.
"I couldn't recognize it," said Steciuk. "Nor could anyone else. Maybe a new species has been found."

Sea Serpent
Die Vurm
Strange Sea Creatures
Chupacabra A Shunka Warakin
Cryptozology Part 1
Cryptozoology Part 2
They Walk Among Us

Find blog posts, photos, events and more off-site about:
, , , ,, , , , , , ,

No comments: