Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Catfish Rising

At the CFZ it sometimes seems that we go for weeks and weeks with nothing more interesting to do than do admin work, mow the lawn, or argue with the Inland Revenue, and then along comes a day when everything happens at once. Today is one of those days. Not only have we had the saga of the Lincolnshire dolphin (see below), and the ongoing adventures of the boys and girls in The Gambia, the kids from the village who have dran the Ninki Nanka piccies but the plumber is here removing a downstairs toilet, and we have just taken receipt of a delivery of catfish. These were kindly donated to us by Helen Bond (our long-suffering housekeeper), and her family.

These catfish are of particular interest to cryptozoologists because they illustrate how new species are found all the time, and will be part of the South American exhibit in the museum when it is finally built later in the year. The saga of the "L Numbered Catfish" is an interesting one.

As my colleague David Marshall wrote in issue 9 of Tropical World magazine:

"In the late 1980's a small variety of loricarins new to the U.K. aquarium hobby began appearing in aquatic retail outlets. All of these fish were given exotic-sounding common names so a small white fish with black stripes was sold as the emperor or zebra peckoltia, a fish with wavy black and yellow markings the scribbled plec, and one with a dark black body and white spots was sold as the vampire plec.

From the scant information that could be obtained, mainly through friendly retailers, U.K. aquarists were led to believe that all of these fish had originated from the Rio Xingu area of Brazil and were vegetarian by nature. It would take sometime for this information to be corrected, and make aquarists realise that these particular loricarins’ natural range extended beyond the Xingu area and that their dietary requirements were actually very varied.

As more of these loricarins began to appear, the sales tickets on their aquaria (first seen in Yorkshire through L 018 - Baryancistrus niveatus 'golden nugget') began to show a sequence that began with the letter L"

There are now dozens of these fish, all still awaiting categorisation. We hope that our exhibit will illustrate what is one of the most interesting developments in contemporary aquaculture. However, back to the story:

This morning, chaos reigned at the CFZ, and so we got Graham to storyboard the events so we can share our activities with you all out there in Internet-land....

Helen arrives clutching a bucket containing four or five disgruntled catfish. Because tank space is at a premium here at the moment, she puts them into a sexagonal viv which we are reserving for treefrogs. Don't do this at home kids...

This may look unfortunate, but it is the best way of transferring these hardy little fish

The last fish in, we have two delightful (but unexpected) visitors.

Ross and Greg stare, fascinated, at the armoured catfish

They may look a little cramped, but they are happy and healthy

Mark North essembles a flat packed table for the tank to rest on

The kids help Mark and Helen get the equipment from the car. Ross demonstrates a firm grasp of the CFZ ethos..

It was only afterwards that Graham remarked that by happenstance both Mark and Helen were wearing almost identical clothes which made them look (or so he claimed) like a pair of deliverymen from B&Q

Helen enjoys a cigarette as she admires the aquarium she has gifted to the CFZ

Another mystery solved

Over the years I have discovered a fascinating fact about cryptozoology, or rather about cryptozoological researchers (and, I suppose, fortean researchers in general). Newspapers around the world are full of stories about local mysteries. Often this is the first (and the last) that anyone has ever heard of the story.

This week saw a case in point. The Louth Leader in Lincolnshire ran this story yesterday:


A MYSTERIOUS skull has been found in woodland in Little Cawthorpe.

The skull - thought to be from a marine animal - was discovered by
Graham Houlden of Haugham Pastures lying on the ground in an isolated
area on Wednesday. Mr Houlden said he was not nervous when he came across it even though he originally thought it was a human skull.

Mr Houlden, a game keeper, carried it home to his cottage and after
showing it to his wife Nancy, the pair decided it could be from a dolphin. Eager to find out more about their find, Mrs Houlden took the skull along to Louth Museum where the opinion was also that it came from a dolphin.

Local naturalist, Phil Trevethick who viewed the skull said he was
fascinated by the find and said: "I think it belongs to a bottle nose

Mr Trevethick also pondered on how it got to the wood, adding that it didn't swim or fly there".

This story was intriguing, particularly becauseif left unsolved, it is precisely the sort of story that would end up - years down the line - in some book on British mysteries. To make sure that this did not become the genesis of some convoluted Lincolnshire seaserpent story in years to come I contacted the newspaper.

I am used to such email enquiries going unanswered, so I was very pleasntly surprised to receive the following email this morning:

Dear Jon

We have found out that the doplhin skull was found on a beach in Lincolnshire two years ago by a local man. He then buried it in the woodland because it was so smelly and fleshy. Please find attached a photo of the skull. Thanks for your interest.

Kindest regards
Beverley Peck.

So, the mystery has been solved, and more importantly I have managed to banjax the best selling book which would (on an alternate time-stream) have been written several decades since: The Lincolnshire Seaserpent - a nameless horror in blood.