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Posts Tagged ‘cryptozoology’

Another decomposing animal has brought about some wild speculation.

From the Toronto Star:

A snaggle-toothed, furry creature with a bald face and a rat’s tale has mystified natives in northern Ontario, but they have a name and a history for it.

“The elders used to see it a long time ago,” the manager of Sam’s Store in Big Trout Lake told the Star on Friday.

“No one has seen one for 40 years or so. The elders have a word for it: omajinaakoos. In English, it means ‘the ugly one’.”

Two Health Canada nurses training at the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Band reserve south of Hudson’s Bay said their dog Sam hauled out the 30-centimetre creature it found in early May floating face down near the causeway on the reserve, band spokesman Darryl Sainnawap told the Star.

“It looks like a mixed breed of an otter and a beaver,” he said. “We’re just as curious as everyone to find out what it is.”

One band member, 65-year-old John McKay, said he remembered his grandfather talking about such a creature that “feeds on beavers and otters.” Sainnawap’s 80-year-old grandfather had never seen anything like it, though.

Other elders “think it could be a messenger for bad news,” he said. “We’ll see.”

Well, I hate to shut everyone down here, but I know what this animal is.

It’s nothing really spectacular.

It is a mink.

This is what mink look like when they are alive:

The creature and this mother mink have the same fur color and the same head shape.  Otters really don’t have that same head shape or fur color, and the size of the animal, which is about a foot in length, sounds consistent with a mink.

The fact that a dog found this animal in creek  is further evidence that this animal is indeed a mink. Mink prefer to travel along waterways. One of their favorite prey species is the muskrat, but they will also fish.

However, they are not always found near water.  They have been known to travel some distance to raid chicken coops. (Which are not chicken coups. I can’t imagine what would happen if we had a chicken coup.)

Decomposition and hair loss on any animal that is normally furred tends to set the imagination off. The Montauk Monster and the various dead, hairless canids that have been called “chupacabras” are testament to this phenomenon.

But just because something has no hair doesn’t mean that it’s anything special. I suppose some of this comes from our own anthropocentrism. Hairlessness is a defining feature of our species, and when we see another mammal without hair, it sparks something in our imaginations. We just aren’t that accustomed to seeing other bald mammals.

***

Of all the weird hairless animals that have sparked wild speculation, my favorite is Gollum or the Cerro Azul monster from panama.

What was this creature? An alien? A goat-human hybrid?

Nope. It was a dead Bradypus.

Update: This is now the number one referrer to the blog.

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This video is hysterical. It is over 2.5 hours of absolute poppycock.

I once watched this whole thing.

I will only do that once.

Kent Hovind resources.

My favorite of his red herrings:

He doesn’t know where the grizzly bear’s historical range was. I haven’t watched all of this version, but in one version of this lecture, he asks how many grizzly bears were roaming Florida 200 years ago. He thinks there were lots of them. I can tell you with certainty that there were never any grizzlies in Florida.

Grizzly bear historical range map.

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LOL

And I bet you were expecting a fantastic primate!

The animal was said to have a head like a bear and a tail with a kangaroo.

This animal was captured somewhere in Central China. And it has gone viral. They are calling it the “Oriental yeti,” which I thought was a bit redundant, but it was found to the east of where we typically think of as the yeti’s range. So maybe it is okay to use that term.

After all, this isn’t really that much of a zoological discovery. They could call it the great pink lynx or the rat/cat hybrid. It is not anything new.

It is without a doubt a civet of some sort.

Without hair.

It seems that too many people don’t know what a mangy carnivore looks like.

But a civet is a Feliform Carnivore that is closely related to hyenas. Most of them are very small, and my guess is this animal is about cat-sized. It’s not really all that amazing.

One  does need to be a bit careful of Chinese civets. They are vectors for SARS.

***

I thought it was established that the yeti of legend was the Himalayan race of the brown bear.

And that is a rare animal in its own right.

But it is not a primate.

And certainly not a bipedal ape.

However, this is the first time I’ve heard of someone trying to promote a hairless civet as a yeti.

And although they may be elusive and nocturnal, surely everyone in that area would know what one is.

And China has civet farms where they are raised for public consumption. Because of the SARS outbreak, these farms have been outlawed, but they still exist underground.

So maybe a new rule should exist in zoology.

Call this Westfall’s rule:

Whenever a common animal loses its hair, it becomes something unbelievably fantastic to the world media.

*See the Montauk monster and the chupacabra.

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A regular dhole. The supposed gray one I'm talking about lives in Myanmar. It is not a pack hunter.

The gray dhole of Myanmar.

Of course, I’d rather not have to go to Myanmar if I could help it.

It’s not a nice place for human rights.

But it might be worth the risks for this.

***

One of the things about dholes is that they make more sense as an ancestor of the domestic dog than the wolf does.

Dholes are much more socially tolerant than wolves are. There are reports of dogs running with dhole packs, and dhole are not normally aggressive toward each other.

They also come in a red coloration that is virtually uknown in wolves, but it is common in every virtyually dog population, including so-called primitive dogs. Dhole puppies often have black muzzles. This makes them look a bit like Malinois.

Dholes are much more easily tamed than wolves. Brian Houghton Hodgson, the British ethnologist and naturalist who worked in India in the 1850’s, believed that they were the ancestor of the domestic dog, because he had known several that were kept as pets. They were as tame as any domestic dog.  Hodgson noted that the skull of a dhole is very similar to a generic domestic dog, but the dhole has much larger teeth.

Yes. That would all make sense. It also lay credence to Peter Savolainen’s research on dog mtDNA haplotypes that suggests that domestid dogs are derived from Southeast Asian wolves. Although wolves existed in India and Southern China, they really aren’t well known in Southeast Asia. In fact, it may be that there were never any wolves in Southeast Asia– and there aren’t any right now. But if the dhole had been the ancestor, we would be able to make lots of sense of it.

However, dholes have never produced a litter of hybrids with dogs or any other version of Canis lupus. They are not interfertile with any members of the genus Canis. It turns out that dholes are more distantly related to dogs than they are to black-backed jackals, which are one of two jackal species that cannot interbreed with domestic dogs/wolves/dingoes, golden jackals, Ethiopian wolves, or coyotes.

The dhole theory all makes sense.

Too bad there’s just one that one little glitch there.

***

Wolves historically lived in the northwest of Burma, but these gray dholes are said to be smaller than red dholes. I doubt that these are wolves.

Golden jackals are grayish compared to the dhole, but I’ve never heard of one that was very dark gray with a black muzzle. I’ve heard of dark gray ones.

It could be a golden jackal/dog hybrid.

Black muzzles are almost exclusively a dhole and domestic dog trait.

I don’t think dholes can crossbreed with anything. It would be interesting if they could.

But I’m not so sure that one could say that this animal is a dhole/wolf hybrid. I can’t imagine what one would look like, but the real problem is that wolves had a very limited range in Myanmar/Burma. They are currently extirpated from that country.

Could it be a new species?

Maybe.

And that’s why I think its worth exploring.

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One of my favorite episodes of History’s Mysteries:

Source.

I don’t believe in bigfoot. I certainly don’t believe in the Gigantopithecus theory. It makes no sense.

However, I’m an unreconstructed cryptozoology nerd.

My favorite cryptzoology site is the Centre for Fortean Zoology (See Eff Zed). You’ll note that the director of the CFZ is the most skeptical person about the existence of bigfoot in the clip. I’m very, very skeptical about the existence of a bipedal ape in the US.

I know this stuff isn’t well received in scientific circles. That’s fine. It probably shouldn’t be.

But this stuff gets my blood flowing. It blows my hair back.

If you think I’m crazy, just indulge me.

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Listen to the whole interview.

I regularly comment on the CFZ’s blog. I’m most often a skeptic. In fact, it’s hard to get me entirely sold on a theory in cryptozoology.

And I’m more than a little bit skeptical about some of this.

Some points:

1. The only dogs that climb trees are gray foxes (which live in North, Central, and South America. They are found in Texas) and raccoon dogs, which are entirely out of the picture.

2. Mexican wolves are not the most primitive subspecies of wolf.  We actually don’t know which one it is, but it is usually suggested that the red wolf or the Indian wolf is. (I’m reviewing something that talks about this issue, but I’m not at liberty to discuss it right now.) Those two animals are sometimes called a separate species, but if one considers them to be the same species as the rest, then they become the most primitive. They look very similar to each other for a reason!

3. It is very possible that a coyote might have Mexican wolf DNA.  This doesn not surprise me at all. In West Virginia, coyotes have been found with domestic dog mtDNA. The red wolf commonly has something like coyote mtDNA, although at least one specimen had wolf mtDNA. These critters exchange genes. It’s only now that we’re starting to look at it. For example, black wolves got their coloration from crossbreeding with black domestic dogs. Maybe those hairless dogs from Mexico have exchanged genes with the coyotes in Texas. Or maybe the coyotes are developing a hairless adaptation to live at high densities in Texas. This one reason why Latin American dogs developed the hairless trait. It was a defense against ectoparasites.

4. I don’t think some sort of skin disease can be ruled out. I’m not sure of which one.

5. It sounds like several species are involved. Gray foxes in subtropical and tropical populations often shed out and look like this or like this. Gray foxes could also explain the tree climbing behavior.

I’ve always found this stuff interesting, and I’ve always found the people who do this professionally even more so.

But I’m skeptical.

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Source.

This is a parody.

Don’t go hunting mammoths in the Commonwealth.

You won’t find them.

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