Guest bloggers are coming out of the woodwork. It seems that young Max had no idea what he started with his guest blog from the other day. Links to the guest blogs are proliferating wildly with the latest being from our good friends at The Anomalist. Now its the turn of Oll Lewis, the CFZ ecologist (who also happens to be the bloke living in my spare room) with an interesting tale of whales and tube web spiders...
As Max said in his article below, while quoting Bernard Heuvelmans; 'There are lost worlds everywhere'. Animals have a habit of turning up in places where you’d least expect to encounter them because we get complacent. It’s not just new species that can turn up out of the blue either, out of place examples of well known species show up all over the world with quite some regularity.
Sometimes this can be simply because an animal has taken a ‘wrong turn’ like the whale that swam up the River Thames and into central London a few years ago, or sun fish that have started to occasionally turn up in British waters most likely due to climate change. There have even been claims that a manatee was spotted on a slipway in Milford Haven in Wales having travelled from the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico along the Gulf Stream, although it is thought more likely that it could just have been a misidentified seal.
However, more often than not these animal displacements are because of humans usually as escapes or releases from menageries and irresponsible pet owners. Sometimes the numbers of the escaped or released animals are high enough to breed and start a colony. The most well known example of this happening is probably the big cats that are often seen in Britain and Ireland; it is thought that a large number of these creatures were privately kept pets which were released into the wild to avoid the high costs associated with the dangerous wild animals act and having to obtain a zoo licence. There is no doubt that big cats roam the British countryside, due to evidence collected by police officers in Baglan South Wales, which I examined after a freedom of information act request and is chronicled in the 2008 CFZ yearbook, and the release this month of night vision photographs of a big cat taken by the forestry commission in the Forest of Dean.
Going back to Heuvelman’s ‘lost worlds’ quote though no out of place animal provides a better example of how unusual animals can pop up anywhere than the case of the tube web spider (Segestria florentina) in London. The species was first recorded in the capital in the 19th century and was then thought to limited to only a few individuals that had established themselves in the dark recesses of the capitals docks having stowed away in cargo ships. Soon the spiders started turning up in other port towns like Cardiff and Bristol and nowadays these populations are very well established. Because of the spider’s love of cracks and crevices though, thousands of people walk past these beautiful animals every day without even an inkling that an out of place animal might be lurking only centimetres from their fingertips.