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...

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

GUEST BLOGGER NEIL ARNOLD: REMEMBER THE DEVIL DOG?

It is with great pleasure that we welcome Neil Arnold to the CFZ bloggo with this first guest blog. I have known Neil for fifteen years now since he was a schoolboy with ambitions for adventure and I was an earnest young hippie who merely wanted to start a club for people interested in unknown animals. Nothing much has changed over the years. We are just both a tad older...

1963 – the year of the beast. A time when the Surrey ‘puma’ was making its name across the Home Counties, its legend however, obscuring another, more frightful mystery. That of the Hampshire Devil Dog.

Miriam Carroll recalled in ’63 how, whilst driving to Alton, she saw a terrifying black dog clasp a lamb through a barbed-wire fence. The monstrous hound tore at the victim, ripping its head off through the fence, leaving the witness shaken, as she drove to the nearby farm to report the incident. A year later a policeman, whilst chatting to two Irish tourists at 1:15 pm, saw a massive black dog heading their way. Without warning the beast leapt at them, pinning all three of them up against a bus shelter. One of the Irishmen could only react by swiping at the hideous form with his bag, which passed through the creature. The monster dog then vanished, leaving all three men stunned with disbelief.

In 1965, a few stories reached the local papers about the dog and when major building work was carried out at the Crown Hotel, situated in the local high street at Alton, there was some surprise when the bones of a large dog were found.

In 1987, Mr Duggan was driving through Basingstoke with his fiancée Yvonne looking for a place to set up a picnic. They found a clearing in the woods and began to set up their meal, and Mr Duggan decided to urinate in a thicket. Suddenly, whilst beginning to relieve himself he was confronted by a frightening snarling noise and the huge head of a dog, which protruded from the bushes. The couple fled the area, followed by the hellhound.

These incidents may sound like few and far between encounters with a local dog on the loose, but things become far weirder when we trace the origins of the Devil Dog back to the 1780s. Mr Thomas Newton, was a Hampshire socialite against slavery, and funded much to cease the awful treatment dished out against black workers in the West Indies at the time. One such slave was an Ottobah Cugoano who as a child, was captured in Africa. This man was said to own a monstrous dog, the size of a bear. Mr Newton offered £300 for the brute, the money aiding Cugoano’s cause.

It was said that the dog was a cross between a Doberman and a rottweiller, but it was the size of a small pony and didn’t take to any human being except Newton. In 1795 Newton died, but it took local authorities many days to get to his bed-ridden body, for it was guarded by the dog. Eventually, the dog was detained and tied to a tree but escaped when Newton was being buried. The beast was last seen heading off towards the woods.

The Morton family inhabited the Newton house. They were plagued by the beast. Six expensive Arab horses were found so severely injured that they were destroyed, strange howls emanated from the local woods, many animals were found in the shadows ripped to pieces, and large rewards were offered to anyone who could shackle the monster. The Morton family could no longer live in the house. Their farm was a non-existent business for fear of the demon, hen houses were damaged, chickens mutilated, and of 1023 sheep on the land, 887 were killed. The family moved on and the house remained uninhabited and the legend remained dormant, until 1834. A child was attacked and crippled by an enormous dog on the outskirts of Alton. The boy had to have a leg amputated, whilst his other limb was badly chewed. Despite a huge hunt there was no sign of the beast, and despite the dread of local legend, surely the same monster had no been to blame? Evidence mounted, however, that the Hampshire Devil Dog somehow had a life-span of 150 years. Cattle and sheep were often found in appalling state after severe attacks in the early 1900s, local fox hunts were often cancelled in fear of the dog, and the legend was revived in 1963.

Who knows when or where the Devil Dog will strike again.

Dr Strangely Strange: "Kip of the Serenes Concert" Part One

What's this got to do with fortean zoology? I hear you ask. Well, quite a lot really. Not only are they the people who's music has graced `On the Track` since we first started in September 2007, but they sing songs about minotaurs, giant wasps, and girls who are really gulls. They also happen to be very good, and to have made some of the most fragile-ly (if that is a word) beautiful music I have ever heard.

Dr Strangely Strange are one of the greatest unsung heroes of the psychedelic folk music of the late 1960s and early 1970s. They split in 1970 after their second album, but have reconvened on an occasional basis ever since. On Saturday night, to mark the reissue of their debut album `Kip of the Serenes` they played a rare London concert (only the third, I believe, in 39 years) at which they played `Kip of the Serenes` in its entirety. CFZtv were there, and filmed the whole thing. With the band's permission we will be broadcasting the entire concert...





More on the British Beech Marten

Good Old Richard Holland, yesterday broached the subject of the British beech marten - which as he quite rightly says is a subject that has intrigued me for many years. For those of you unaware of this intriguing footnote to British cryptozoology, here is an edited excerpt from my 1996 book The Smaller Mystery Carnivores of the Westcountry.



There is a little known report from the 1979 volume of the Transactions of the Devonshire Association. An extremely puzzling corpse was found on the road between Exeter and Exmouth, where it had obviously been knocked over by a car. It was originally identified as a Pine Marten, but it was eventually found to be a Beech Marten, (Martes foina), a species that is not supposed to have existed in these islands since before the last Ice Age.

The corpse seems to have disappeared as so many important pieces of quasi fortean evidence are wont to do, and the matter for the moment must remain unsolved. There is at least one more M.foina escapee from Devon in my files. Ian Linn told me of an animal which escaped from a private collection during the Second World War, and which lived wild in Devonshire for several years, before being found dead in a barn near the home of its original owner.

M.martes and M.foina co-exist across much of their European range and there is little doubt that the species could easily live in Devonshire. The big question is, however, apart from two records of escapee specimens and one anomalous corpse, is there any reason to believe that the animal, which after all is not on the British list of resident mammals, was ever resident here? The answer, surprisingly, is ‘yes’.

A paper on the mammals of Devon published by the Devonshire Association in 1877 includes the following species of mustelids as resident in the county.

The Polecat (Putorious puro), the Pine Marten (Martes martes) and the Marten Cat (Martes foina). I make no apologies for quoting this entry for Martes foina in full.

“This species is now, I believe, nearly extinct as a systematic war is waged against it by preserves of game. Mr. P.F. Amery informs me that the last he has heard of was killed near Ashburton about six years ago”.

Writing in 1897 in his paper on the ‘Destruction of Vermin in Rural Parishes’, Brushfield describes the status of Martens as vermin in the Westcountry of the 17th and 18th Centuries:

“MARTEN: There are but few entries on the Parish Accounts of their destruction and all varieties are included under one term. According to Bellamy ‘Marten Cat’ is one of its names in Devonshire.

At Okehampton, a ‘martyn’ was killed in 1760, and a ‘marteil’ in 1787. Two were paid for at Wellington in 1609 and one (a ‘Marting’) in 1700. In each instance one shilling was paid. In 1744 ‘three marts heads’ are entered in the Ecclesfield accounts but from the context they are probably foumarts”.


There are several pieces of useful corroborative evidence here. Firstly, Brushfield himself stresses that there is more than one species involved by stating that ‘all varieties’ are under consideration.

Secondly, although it could be suggested that the variety in names could be mere regional variation, the fact that two separate names were used in the same town only twenty seven years apart, would imply that the townsfolk were used to dealing with two separate species and regarded them as such.

It is also interesting that as recently as 1897, Brushfield was referring to Polecats by their country name of ‘foumarts’.

It is interesting to note that a 19th Century account of the Mammals of Somerset includes M.foina but not M.martes. In Cornwall, too, an 1867 resume of the mammals of the county mentions only M.foina, although M.martes undoubtedly existed in the county at the time:

“‘Rare and Local’. I do not know of any recent notices of its capture, and Mr. Crouch, writing in 1854, believed it to be no longer an inhabitant of the county. ‘The last specimen’, he says, ‘I have been aware of, was killed near Liskeard in the first quarter of the present century, and its loss (for it was in ancient times classed with animals of the chase, and its fur was in high esteem), may be ascribed to the change of habits in society, by which the common use of mineral coal was introduced among farmers. Before that time a large number of pollard trees were permitted to grow in the neighbourhood of ‘town places’ or farm yards, for the purposes of supplying the house with fuel, and the cavities which most of them contained afforded a safe shelter to these, and the others of the weasel tribe. When such fuel became of less importance these hollow trees were gradually cut down, or suffered to fall, to the great diminution of the numbers of the weasel tribe”. Report Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society, 1854. pp.25, 25.”

In a late nineteenth century paper on the Mammals of Dorset, two species of marten are again mentioned. Again, I make no apologies for quoting the references, this time for both species in full!

“Marten Cat (Martes foina)

The Reverend William Chafin in his ‘Anecdotes of Cranborne Chase’, records Marten Cats as one of the animals hunted there but believes them (1816) to be nearly extinct, their skins too valuable for them to be allowed to exist. In 1836 one was caught alive near Stock House by the Rev. H.P. Yeatman’s hounds but biting the huntsman’s hands severely was kept alive for some time”.

Whilst the entry for the Pine Marten merely read:

“One was shot near the Down House, Blandford by Sir John Smith’s keeper in 1844”. (14)

This places both species firmly within the Dorset fauna, and interestingly implies that M.foina was, at the time, the better known animal. A 1916 record of a Dorset Pine Marten is even more sceptical:

“Mustela martes. (sic) The Pine Marten. A record of this interesting little animal was sent in during the year but I am regretfully compelled to reject it for want of preciation (sic). As the animal has been recorded from Hampshire fairly recently the record is possibly correct but as the animal was only seen for a fairly short time and is unfamiliar I should prefer before admitting a record to see a skin of a Dorset specimen”.

It was not until 1879, when Edward Alston published an article entitled “On the Specific Identity of the British Marten” for the Royal Zoological Society, that what had hitherto been described as two separate species, became lumped together as one.

Within only a few years, the mammal reports of each of the regional societies that we have examined contained a sentence reading:

“Animals formerly supposed to belong to the species M.foina or Marten Cat are now considered to be Pine Martens”.

Alston gave few reasons behind his decision to ‘lump’ the two species together as far as Great Britain was concerned. This was only one of several similar occasions in Victorian zoology.

Taxonomists were, and in some ways still are, either ‘lumpers’ or ‘splitters’ and in the days before mitochondrial DNA analysis made the whole process of species definition a less arbitrary matter, were prone to ‘lumping’ together animals previously considered to belong to several different, though closely related, species into one larger species. ‘Splitters’, conversely created several ‘new’ species from one ‘old’ species on the basis of tiny, and often arbitrary differences. On many occasions during our researches, we have found animals described as individual species by Victorian explorers and zoologists, which now are not considered to be distinct even at sub-specific level.

In this case, however, the situation is somewhat different. Alston was not ‘lumping’ together two closely related species, but was, essentially, denying all the historical records of an animal, which as we have seen, were well-known to generations of naturalists, trappers, hunters and churchwardens. There is also no doubt, whatsoever, that M.foina was distinct at a specific level. Even Alston did not contest this, which makes his findings in this little known paper, which has, after all, shaped the face of British mustelid taxonomy for well over a century, all the more puzzling.

Even Alston’s conclusions were not definitive, as he contradicted his own findings by noting one definite 19th Century record of M.foina from Northern Ireland. Unsurprisingly, when I contacted the mammal department at the British Museum (Natural History), they were adamant that they had no knowledge of any specimens of M.foina from the U.K.

Alston also noted that even in 1879, Martens (of whatever species) had an uncanny habit of turning up in areas where they had previously been considered extinct.

“In the north of England, Mr. W.A. Durnford says the species is ‘still plentiful’, and in Lincolnshire several have been recorded, the latest, killed in 1865 by Mr. Cordeaux.

In Norfolk one was shot last year; and I have myself examined a fine example which was shot in Hertfordshire, within twenty miles of London, in December 1872. In Dorsetshire, the last is said to have been killed in 1804, but a specimen occurred in Hampshire about forty years ago, and another in Surrey in 1847.

A marten is said to have been ‘seen’ in the Isle of Wight, and one was recorded from Cornwall by Mr. E. Hearle-Rod; but this proves, on investigation, to be an error, the specimen having been brought from North Wales, where Martens appear to be still not very rare”.


This is, incidentally, the only reference we have been able to unearth to a ‘Welsh’ specimen turning up in Cornwall. It is interesting to compare Alston’s attitudes towards the British distribution of Martens with those equally fallacious figures presented by Langley and Yalden ninety years later. Both authorities, though nearly a century apart, were happy to accept records of the animals in Scotland, Wales and Ireland, but were less optimistic about their distribution in the counties of England. Interestingly, however, Alston was prepared to include some records which, in the light of the main argument of his paper, might have seemed somewhat anomalous. He did accept, however, that some authorities had allowed a greater degree of survival in some English counties than had others.

In the light of Alston’s decision to combine the two species within the British Isles, we should examine the basic anatomy and physiology of the Beech Marten. Morphologically, the Beech or Stone Marten is very similar to the Pine Marten, but it is slightly heavier in build. It has short legs, and a lighter muzzle. The ears are also smaller and narrower than those of the Pine Marten. The soles of the feet of M.foina are not as hairy either, although, unless examining a dead, very tame or anaesthetised specimen, this might be hard to ascertain.

The head and body length is 42 – 48 cm (M.martes 38 – 48 cm), the tail 23 – 26 cm (M.martes 25 – 28 cm), the height at the shoulder 12 cm (M.martes 15cm), and the weight between 1.3 and 2.3 kg (M.martes 0.5 – 1.5 kg).

It ranges across most of Europe except for the Mediterranean islands (they are found on Crete), and supposedly the British Isles. It is found as far north as the southern shores of the Baltic and ranges across Asia to the Himalayas and Mongolia.

The habitats and behaviour of M.foina are where it differs most from M.martes. It is tempting to suggest that the main reason that the two species do not appear to have hybridised in the wild is that, although they occupy the same geographical area, they live in a completely different ecological niche. (See Appendix Two). Its habits are more similar to those of the common Polecat. It prefers more open country and is sometimes seen sitting up on its hind legs.

Here, one should note that the 1992 report of Martens from Exmoor specifically noted that they were seen in open country and mentioned an animal which ‘sat up’ like a Polecat or Ferret.

Unlike any other species of mustelid found in Britain, (with the possible exception of some populations of Badgers), M.foina often lives in surprisingly urban environments and has even been known to live in lofts, garages and warehouses. Like the Urban Fox and like some of the species of Palm Civet from South-east Asia, a shy and adaptable carnivore has changed its lifestyle completely to live alongside man in a new and artificial environment.

The prey of the Beech Marten is more varied than that of the Pine Marten. Urban animals scavenge for rubbish as well as living off smaller urban rodents, and the animals in the more southern parts of its range eat a large proportion of amphibians.

The voice is also more varied and they can make a wide variety of chattering and growling noises. They will sometimes squeal when very excited. The main external differences between the two species is that M.foina has a white patch or bib, rather than a cream patch on its chest. Maurice Burton’s guide to the ‘Mammals of Britain and Europe’, (1990 edition), notes that the ‘bib’ is divided into left and right parts. This is undoubtedly the case, but as we have already seen the ‘bib’ of the Pine Marten can be equally bifurcated in some populations and so therefore the sight of a Marten with a fragmented ‘bib’ is not necessarily a bona fide sighting of M.foina rather than M.martes. The colouration is not necessarily a definite sign either as, although the ‘bib’ of M.foina is always white, the ‘bib’ of M.martes can be such a pale fawn as to be indistinguishable from white, especially at any distance.

There are also minor osteological and dentition differences as well as genetic differences, and it is interesting to note that, although the two species co-exist over much of their range, they do not seem to interbreed. As we have seen, the naturalists of the late Victorian and early 20th Century eras were renowned for both their arbitrary ‘lumping together’ of disparate species and their equally arbitrary creation of new ones, simply in order to make life easier for the taxonomist.

It is an indisputable fact that, whereas a hundred and fifty years ago there were two species of Marten recognised in Britain, only one has ever made it into the history books, and it also seems reasonable that utilising cryptozoological methodology, giving credence to eyewitness reports, and to the etymological evidence, the people who were actually familiar with the creatures considered them to belong to two separate species, which seems to be valuable circumstantial evidence pointing towards them being two separate species.

Buy a copy of the Smaller Mystery Carnivores:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Smaller-Mystery-Carnivores-Westcountry/dp/1905723059/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1235480804&sr=1-1

BIGFOOT: A matter of semantics

This arrived in Corinna's in-box yesterday, and is so peculiarly phrased that it is difficult to know what to make of it.

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 16:35:43 -0500> Subject: [chupacabra] Body found in Mississippi "not human"> > From the Vicksburg (MS) Post: 17 Feb. 2009> Sheriff says remains not ID'd>

By Pamela Hitchins> > A body found in the Big Black River near U.S. 80 late Monday and believed to > be human was determined this morning to be that of an unidentified animal.> The determination came as an autopsy began at the Mississippi State Crime > Lab in Jackson.> "It is not human," Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said. "I repeat, it is > not human."> The body was found by a father and son looking through scopes on rifles on > U.S. 80 just east of Warren-Hinds county line at about 3 Monday afternoon.> Speculation Monday and early this morning had centered on Benjamin Bearrick, > a 55-year-old Warriors Trail resident who has not been seen since Jan. 25, > two days after he drove his next-door neighbor and tenant to a hospital with > fatal stab wounds.> The death of Shawn Sponholz, 50, 5125 Warriors Trail, was ruled a homicide.>

Hmmmmm. I have left all the chevrons in because this is the way that the story appeared when it turned up in my email in-box. The rest of the story goes on to detail a rather tedious homicide investigation.

But we are left with a tantalising question, and furthermore one which I have a sneaking suspicion will come back to bite future generations of cryptozoologists on the bum. Whereas it is almost certain that the cadaver which was fished out of the river was that of a deer or some other creature, and was do badly decomposed that by the time the fishermen found it, it had become just a decaying mass of organic matter that could have been anything.

However, there remains the gloriously tantalising possibility that the reason that the people who first recovered the cadaver thought it was human because it was humaniform in appearance. This is almost certainly not the case. Indeed there is no evidence at all that this is the case, and the whole thing rests on a matter of semantics.

But I will place a small bet that someone will dredge this story up in years to come and concoct a conspiracy theory around it.

A round-up of some newly discovered fish species

New species of animal are discovered a lot more regularly than you might think. Bringing joy to Max and Jon's hearts are several new species of freshwater fish, which will - no doubt - turn up in the pet trade before long. As Max pointed out some weeks ago, the pet trade has new and undescribed species in on a regular basis.

1) Apistogramma erythrura
Location: Mamoré River, Bolivia.

A new dwarf cichlid, related to the well-known `ram` or Ramarezi dwarf cichlid, beloved of aquarists over the years. It is very similar to the `ram` in appearance, although is slightly smaller.
This one spawns in caves and measures less than 4 cm in length. It was described by Wolfgang Staeck and Ingo Schindler in 2008.
2) Australoheros spp
Location: Southern Brazil

Felipe Ottoni and Wilson Costa have recently described nine new species of Australoheros cichlid: Australoheros autrani, A. barbosae, A. ipatinguensis, A. macacuensis, A. muriae, A. paraibae, A. robustus, A. Saquarema. There are currently no photographs available, not even any that we could steal citing `fair use` (which covers a multitude of sins), but PFK have a series of technical descriptions of the fish HERE
3) Crenicichla tesai and Crenicichla mandelburgeri
Two new pike cichlid species have been described from tropical South America. C. tesai was taken in the Iguazú River, Argentina. This species was described last year in the journal Revue Suisse de Zoologie 115 by Cisciotta, J and A Almiron in the article Crenicichla tesai, a new species of cichlid (perciformes: Labroidei) from the Rio Iguazu basin in Argentina.

Pike Cichlids are a group of South American fishes of the genus Crenicichla. They inhabit the freshwaters lakes, streams, rivers and pools of most of the Amazonian rivers, but there are many species found in Colombian, Venezuelan and Guyanan waters to the north of the Amazon. To the south, there are representatives of the genus all the way down to coastal regions of central Argentina. Basically, they are found east of the Andes, from the island of Trinidad in the north to the area around the Argentinian Rio Negro just north of Patagonia.

This species is named after the tear-shaped suborbital stripe (the name comes from the Guaraní word for tears) and is known from the Iguazú River upstream of Iguazú falls in Argentina. According to the authors, the species was caught in streams whose bottoms were composed of mud, sand and mostly stone; the streams had falls and pools, with clear, rapidly-flowing water.

Crenicichla mandelburgeri however comes from the Paraná River, Paraguay, and was discovered in two different habitats, one with rapids and brown muddy water with a depth of 1 meter and the other with shallow water where visibility regularly fluctuated. Some of the specimens were collected from rapids in a large stream, 5–10m wide, to 1m deep, with turbid, brownish water, while others came from small, shallow brown-water streams up to about 3m wide, with varying velocity and transparency, with bottom of sand and stones, and generally without vegetation.

4) Hyphessobrycon spp
Location: Northern Venezuela

Two new species of tetra, Hyphessobrycon paucilepis and H. tuyensis were described in the journal Vertebrate zoology 58in 2008. Hyphessobrycon paucilepis originates from the small drainages in Lara state, northern Venezuela. H. tuyensis from the Tuy River drainage in northern Venezuela. Again, at present, there are no photographs available.

5) Puntius kelumi
Location: Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan scientists have described a new species of barb from southwestern Sri Lanka in a recent issue of the journal Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters. Puntius kelumi is found in the south west of Sri Lanka, mainly in large, clear-water streams flowing from mountains that contain a granite, pebble or sand substrate and are often strewn with boulders.


6) Lithogenes wahari
Location: Cuao River, Venezuela.

This species of catfish was first observed over 20 years ago, but not found again until 2001.
As described on the bloggo earlier this year, recently a type specimen was obtained and it was described in the journal American Museum Novitates. It has also been proposed by ichthyologists that an ancestor of this species may have been capable of climbing rocks.




OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s news today

I’m off to bed now (although as you’ll all be reading this tomorrow morning I feel I must point out that I’m writing this last night), but there’s just enough time before I do for me to write an update on our new Daily news blog.

So far in February there has been 145 news stories uploaded to it from the various corners of the information-super-net, 38 of them yesterday; the latest news being a report of a big-cat seen coming out of Stone cricket ground in Gloucestershire. Howzat for a sighting? witnesses must have been bowled over… no, honestly, I’ve got a million of these.

Check out the latest cryptozoology related news, or submit your own finds here:http://cryptozoologynews.blogspot.com/