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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Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Three new sea-serpents waiting to be discovered

Three new large marine mammals, so-called sea-serpents, are extremely likely to be discovered according to researchers.

In a paper published today, a team of scientists conclude that three new unusual species might await discovery, all of which may belong to the group of marine mammals known as pinnipeds. The best known pinnipeds are seals, sea lions and walruses.

The team used a combination of statistical analysis and eyewitness reports to evaluate the existence of unknown large sea animals.

Led by doctoral student Mr Michael Woodley of Royal Holloway, University of London, who worked with Dr Darren Naish of the University of Portsmouth, and Dr Hugh Shanahan, also of Royal Holloway, the team used two different statistical models to estimate the number of unknown pinnipeds. The paper was published in the academic journal Historical Biology.

“While the low number of three possible new pinniped species matched our statistical expectations, there is a need for scepticism as all known pinnipeds are noisy animals with close ties to land”, said Mr Woodley.

“These pinnipeds would have to possess some exceptional characteristics, if they exist.”

One of the team’s two models suggested that 15 such species might remain to be discovered, however that was regarded as a significant overestimation, Mr Woodley said.

According to the researchers the discovery of several large marine animals during the last 30 years demonstrates that there are sea mammals in existence which have so far remained undiscovered.

Examples of these animals include the Lesser or Peruvian beaked whale, a strikingly marked whale from the eastern Pacific, which was discovered in 1975; the Megamouth, a giant, filter-feeding shark known from tropical seas worldwide, discovered in 1976; and the Indonesian coelacanth, a deep-sea fish with a striking metallic sheen, was discovered in 1998. Omura’s whale, a close relative of the gigantic Blue whale, was only discovered in the late 1970s.

The study of animals that have yet to be verified by science – sea-serpents and similar enigmatic creatures – is known as cryptozoology. According to Mr Woodley, cryptozoological literature includes hundreds of accounts of mysterious large marine animals, many going back hundreds of years.

“Many sightings have been made by trained observers, including military personnel and experienced naturalists,” he said.

“Over the years, cryptozoologists have suggested that several sea-serpents might be unusual types of pinniped.”

Among the best known of these is a creature sometimes called the merhorse. Supposedly a gigantic, long-bodied, deep-water animal 4 to 30 meters long, it is not only known from sightings, but also from a carcass found in the stomach of a whale in 1937.

A second relevant mystery animal is the long-necked sea-serpent, supposedly a plesiosaur-like sea lion with a 2-3 meter long neck. A third creature is the Tizheruk, a semi-mythological seal-like water monster of the Pacific Arctic is described as long-bodied, and with a snake-like head.

“We consider that if such creatures as the merhorse and long-necked sea-serpent exist, they must be extremely rare. They must also dwell in remote and seldom visited regions of the oceans,” said Mr Woodley.

It was actually me who introduced Darren to Michael last August at the Weird Weekend, so I can take some degree of credit for all this.

But that is what the CFZ, and in particular the Weird Weekend is all about. A Conference should be more than just a social occasion; it should be a place where new allegiances are forged and new working relationships made. This proves that the Weird Weekend and the CFZ are doing their job.


Tabitca said...

I have often thought that some sort of fresh water long necked pinniped would be the explanation for lake monster sightings.I just find the whole idea of new discoveries so exciting....maybe I am turning into a geek lol

Darren Naish said...

Yeah boyee!

Paul Juser said...

The coelacanth was discovered in 1938, not 1998. BBC's "Life on Earth" has the fish on video from the late 1970's. A new variety was discovered in 1998.

Oll Lewis said...

You're quite correct that the coelacanth was discovered in 1938 Paul, but that is Latimeria chalumna, which is found off the African coast. However, the article refers to the Indonesian coelacanth Latimeria menadoensis, which is a new species, not just a new variety.