WELCOME TO THE CFZ BLOG NETWORK: COME AND JOIN THE FUN

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...

Search This Blog

Loading...

Friday, February 06, 2009

WANDERING ABOUT ON THE NATURE BLOG NETWORK

Last night I was quite unwell, and so I lay in bed, drinking brandy and coke, cuddling Spider the cat, and pootling about aimlessly on the internet. As regular readers will know we joined the Nature Blogs Network a few days ago, and I soent a happy couple of hours browsing some of our fellow blogs.

I found several of cryptozoological interest, so, just as a taster, here are just a couple of crypto-related bloggybits I found..

Ivory-bills Live!

By April 30 of this year it will be 4 years since Cornell made their incredible announcement beginning this long, bumpy, winding journey. Essentially, there are about 4 months left to move the Ivory-bill agenda forward. If nothing is found in these 4 months more substantial than what is already on record in support of Ivory-bill persistence, then official searching, funding, and most interest will die a solemn death (independent searchers will carry on their efforts as money and time allows). More individual sightings, blurry video, and auditory recordings won't do (so proclaimeth from on-high the skeptically-inclined). An indisputable photo or carcass are needed .....

Lord Geekington on architeuthis

I was under the impression that just about every (non-Nautilus) cephalopod has a life history which involves growing at a blazing speed, reproducing, and then dying in about a year or two. The implications of such an ephemeral lifestyle on the growth of giant cephalopods is staggering, although it is possible that giants have a considerably longer lifespan than the norm.

GUEST BLOGGER GLEN VAUDREY: Jellyfish japes

Glen is a very new recruit to Planet CFZ. Indeed, we had never heard from him until a few months ago when he wrote - slightly diffidently - to us, asking whether he could write a volume in our ongoing series The Mystery Animals of The British Isles. We asked him for a proposed synopsis and a sample of his writing, and were overawed by what we received. Here was a man who loved both words and the countryside, and could use one to describe the other in poetic but always down to earth terms. We were beginning to come to the conclusion that here was someone that Bob Marley would have described as a `Natural Mystic`, when the final manuscript arrived, and we knew that we were right. So we asked him to be a guest blogger..

But I’m not really thinking of swarms of little jellyfish, I’m not even considering big jellyfish, I’m thinking about those giant jellyfish that have occasionally been sighted.

There is, let’s face it, something so alien about the jellyfish that makes it hard to empathise or to make a connection with. Just consider, the fearsome mysterious big cat the Mngwa which hails from Tanzania might reach the size of a donkey but it did actually start its life as a rather cuddly kitten, and even the monster phantom black hell hounds that are rumoured still to plod along lonely country lanes at some stage would have been lovely little puppies, even if in their case they would posses cute blazing red eyes.

But jellyfish don’t go through that cute and cuddly phase, no big eyes staring up at you lovingly just a tentacle-waving lump. While they might start off small miniatures of their adult selves some have a fair bit of growing to do especially if they are destined to be a dirty great big man-eating leviathan.

In 1865 a lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) was recorded in Massachusetts bay as having a bell of seven feet in diameter with a fine set of tentacles measuring up to 120 feet in length, now I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t want to be in the sea when that one went by, and thinking about it it might take a while for it to actually go by.

But there are tales of even bigger jellyfish out there, a sighting made by two skin divers off the coast of Bermuda, Pat Boatwright and Richard Winer claimed to have observed a giant jellyfish swimming beneath them. They would later give a description of a very large jellyfish having a pink and purple bell that they estimated to be between 50 and 100 foot in diameter.

On other occasions the jellyfish isn’t below you, sometimes it lands on you! Such was the case in 1973 when a jellyfish landed on the deck of the 1,483 ton ship the Kuranda during a storm as it was sailing between Australia and Fiji. The Kuranda’s Captain, Langley Smith, described how after crashing through a large wave the receding water left behind an unwelcome present, a giant jellyfish.

He estimated it to have a weight of around 20 tons and it had ended up spread across the deck to a depth of two feet, if that wasn’t bad enough it also possessed a fine set of tentacles that the good captain believed would have stretch in excess of 200 feet. It would in the end take a water jet from a salvage tug to shift this great lump off the Kuranda.

If all these sighting weren’t bad enough what are we to make of the tale told of a French fisherman going by the name of Henri Baiselle who claimed that a giant jellyfish the size of a car ate not only his wife but his two children in the Bay of Biscay.

GIANT TRIOPS?

The following photographs surfaced some months ago. The story accompanying them which was printed on several Russian websites was:
"Look what they have found in Chelyabinsk city. The story is that there was a construction site with a deep foundation ditch. They have touched some underground river in that place so the water in the ditch didn’t get away so it stayed there full of water. Then some workers a few months later spotted some movement in this water, they threw some pieces of their lunch in the trench which caused a big activity inside. They were puzzled who is there?
And caught one thing up then in big panic stepped away cause it tried to bite them so they had to kill it with some equipment and here are the remains of it. It was around 5 feet length. Nobody of them got any idea of what’s that"

We have been puzzled to for several months. Today, however, we received this email from Liam Proven:
"Reminds me of a horseshoe crab, although I thought those were exclusively marine.
It's also reminiscent of a Triops, but it looks/way/ too big - although Notostracha fit the bill, inasmuch as flooding a long-dry ditch might cause hatching and rapid growth.For all that they claim it was 5' in length, which I find implausible,it looks like someone whacked it with a drain cover and those are fairly large. Perhaps they have confused 5' with 5"? Even so, big for a Triops..."

Well, as far as I am aware, Liam, horseshoe crabs are exclusively marine creatures and the animal pictured does look somewhat like a triops or tadpole shrimp, These are peculiar crustaceans which are found in every continent of the globe except Antarctica.
They are very ancient, and - indeed - Triops cancriformis first appeared around 220 million years ago, and may be the "oldest living animal species on earth."
But all known triops species are tiny, and the largest (from memory a North African species) is only a few inches long. Unless this series of photographs (and the reason we have chosen to revisit this case from 2008 now, is that the website to which Liam directed us had more pictures than we had seen before) is of an extremely small manhole cover, or has been faked, then it shows a bloody big triops.
Over to you guys/ What do you think?

MAX BLAKE IS ON GEOFF WARD'S `MYSTERIOUS WEST`

Our old friend Geoff Ward of the Western Daily Press has a regular podcast called `Mysterious West`. Every week he covers the weird and the wonderful, the freaky and the fortean, the creepy and the cryptozoological, and (dammit I've run out of alliterations...)

This week he interviews none other than our very own Max Blake who talks cheerfully about his ongoing hunt for the `Beast of Wells`. Check it out..

THE ONGOING APPEAL

Guys, this bloggo is going from strength to strength. However, there is an awful lot to do if we reach our goal of making it as good as I want it to be. My last appeal for volunteers brough forth some great results, but there is always room for more.

More specifically, I am looking for the following people..

A GRAMMAR NAZI who can go through each day's blog postings looking for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and broken links. We are working to such a tight schedule, these things do slip through.

BLOGGO PIMPS who can do all the chicanery which every blog seems to have to do in these debased times. If we are to compete with some of the other kids on the block, we need to use the same tactics they are. If we can quote from our friends at the Nature Blogs Network:

Nature bloggers have yet to effectively leverage the power of social promotions networks like Digg, del.icio.us, or StumbleUpon. Yet, as anyone who's been on the receiving end of this level of publicity can attest, social promotion makes a difference. Publicize quality nature blogging by joining one or more social sites (We recommend StumbleUpon) and bookmarking posts you enjoy during your daily browsing.

This is something I know little about, but is something that we are going to have to start doing.

REGIONAL REPS: We are always looking for people to represent the CFZ in their specific area. At the moment we are carrying out a recruitment drive in the United States and the UK, but we are looking for people from all over the world
GUEST BLOGGERS: You have something that you want to say that is cryptozoological, conservational, or fortean zoological in nature? Well here's your chance...

If you feel that you can do any of these, please do not hesitate to email me on jon@cfz.org.uk

GUEST BLOGGER JAN EDWARDS: Searching for spiders

We have been in contact with Jan for ages, and it is with great pleasure that we welcome her aboard, not only as a guest blogger, but as a Co. Durham representative for the CFZ. With Davy Curtis already at the helm in the country, the two of them will make a dream team par excellence...

You’ve probably noticed we’ve had a bit of snow in the UK of late. In the frozen North here in the High North Pennines, it is 3 foot deep in the fields, drifting to 5 foot by the dry stone walls. The sanctuary cats are sleeping in the warmth of the kitchen, dreaming of summertime, but outside its below zero.

With the cats all snug and snoring indoors, it’s a good time to catch up on what birds are visiting the sanctuary’s nuts (so to speak) and the other bird-feeding stations we have round the place.

We have the usual suspects – from robins to starlings; jackdaws raiding the bird table; occasional sparrow hawks, various songbirds... but it’s the wrens I find the most amazing.

These little brown specks of bird-kind weigh around the same as a £1 coin (as opposed to the blue tit which weighs the same as a £2 coin, or the diminutive goldcrest at a mere 20 pence) and they live life at a fast rate. They sing at a fast rate too – putting everything into it with enough effort to actually make the bird tremble, and it’s surprisingly loud for the size of the bird.

They are insectivores – eating spiders, tiny insects and the odd caterpillar, which it finds by poking around in the dry stone walls, crevices and under guttering... and here’s the thing that I find totally amazing.

Outdoors, in sub-zero temperatures, with gale force something winds blowing the snow into all those nooks and crannies, HOW can it find enough food to keep it going? I know that in times of hardship, they will take seeds and/or cheese, but they are by nature invertebrate eaters, and would do themselves harm if they ate too much of the wrong sort of food.

I am starting a new business over the next 12 months, focusing on helping people deal with animal-related phobias, and I have been looking for various spiders, slugs and similar beasts in preparation for this venture... and can I find even ONE spider out there in the winter weather? And yet this tiny Troglodytes troglodytes not only finds enough food to keep itself alive, but builds up enough surplus body weight and condition to be in prime breeding condition in just 10 weeks time!

Is it just me, or is this just fantastic?


Jan Edwards, Head of Animal Care
Farplace Animal Rescue - the no-kill animal sanctuary
Farplace, Sidehead, Westgate, County Durham, DL13 1LE
www.farplace.org.uk

14ft Mammoth tusk

This amazing picture appeared on Usenet today and shows a true relic from prehistory. Chuck Leake writes: "This mammoth tusk was found by my Yupik friend, Johnny (pictured). It washed out of the permafrost during a flood last year. I have bought and sold mammoth tusks in Alaska for over twenty years. At 14 feet long, this is the longest one I have ever purchased."

The fact that they turn up so often, so many thousands of years after their extinction never ceases to amaze me..

GUEST BLOGGER COLIN HIGGINS: Lovely lampreys

One of my favourite guest blogs over the last few weeks has been Colin Higgins from Yorkshire, who - incidentally - was the winner of the compy in last month's `On the Track`.

As I have written elsewhere his article on the burbot awakened various childhood memories for me.

His article on tench did likewise, because it made me recollect a passage on the subject in T.H.White's glorious `The Sword in the Stone` (don't get me started on the execrable Disney version), and his latest article is no exception. Lampreys were one of my favourite fish when I was a child, and I HAVE kept them as pets, so just for you Colin, there will be some more lamprey related high-jinks in the next few days..


There are few animals so closely associated with regal self-harm as the lamprey. The only culinary surfeit I’ve come close to OD’ing on is Black Jack and Fruit Salad chews one Friday night in the late 60s while listening to Desmond Dekker on my friend Wayne’s Dansette. Henry I dug the taste of petromyzontiformes so much they dug him in return sending the dyspeptic Conqueror’s youngest son to meet his maker (I just get a vestigial sugar rush from early reggae).

Apparently the RAF made the current Queen’s coronation pie from lamprey which may not have been in the best possible taste given its latent regicidal tendencies. I couldn’t say, I’ve never fancied them with peas and chip or sushi style because however you look at it lamprey are very weird indeed.

As the most primitive living vertebrates lamprey go back 450 million years and exist on the very edges of taxonomy under the charmingly titled ‘stone sucker’ group. They have a single nostril on top of their head, a row of gill holes where proper fish have polite covers and a toothed, funnel like mouth with which they relieve other fish of their blood. Zoologically they’re not even true fish but occupy the same general space like an evolutionary remnant, an end-of-roll creature from an earlier earth, a forgotten subject in Darwin’s waiting room.

Although jawless the mouth - which vaguely resembles Flukeman from the X-Files but with extra barbs - has prodigious strength and they’ve been known to carry two pound stones while excavating a trench for spawning by the power of vacuum alone. Follow that Mr Dyson.

There are three British species; the sea lamprey, the river lamprey and brook lamprey. All spawn in freshwater and spend their first 5-8 years there as blind, toothless prides - we used to catch these on the way to school in the mistaken belief they were leeches. Only the brook lamprey spends its short life wholly in freshwater and is non-parasitic, the rest live an anadromous existence feasting on the vital juices of their host sea trout, cod, basking shark or whatever.
There are a few landlocked populations in Finland, Russia and Scotland and when CFZ set out to discover if a giant eel was at the root of lake monster legends it passed through my mind whether a sterile lamprey might be the cause, particularly for the horse-headed attitude eye witnesses sometimes describe.

In a fishing context they are mainly used as dead bait for pike, giving off a gory cloud as an added scent attraction. One always imagines them as a sedentary species but I know a chap who caught a large lamprey, cleanly hooked in the mouth while trolling artificial lures at speed so that primitive cartilagous form is no slouch. Although rare, there are instances of lamprey attack on humans while sea bathing, leaving their trademark seal-stamp marking on the hapless swimmer. “No bite marks officer, but it gave me a nasty suck.” They also have a unique immune system with biomechanical defences to detoxify iron - handy for Top Trumps or Pokemon spin-offs - which along with other bio-armoury makes them an exemplary medical research subject.

Nevertheless because of its decline across Europe, the sea lamprey is now given some legal protection. Failing acquisition of a pangolin, a gremlin or Top Cat, a lamprey is top of my list for future pets. Ugly it may be but it’s also slightly scary and rather cool. I’ll call it Norman De’Ath.