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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, December 29, 2009

GOOD NEWS

Despite the bad blog-related news that awaited me upon my arrival in the office this morning, there is some good news. Or at least I think it is good news.

The bright red CFZ website of the last year has done its purpose. It ushered in a new and vibrant era for the CFZ online, and furthermore, one which has been almost entirely a success. However, it has served its purpose and its day has gone.

As of late last night there is a new CFZ website. The latest expedition reports (Ireland and Sumatra) have not been added, and there are some changes to make to the personnel pages, but basically it is fixed. You need to have javascript and flash enabled, but I personally think that these are small prices to pay for such a swish new site.

I managed to delete a couple of things of mild importance. For the past six years there has been a downloads section on the site. If anyone has either of the two mp3s or the bigfoot press cuttings, please email me. In the meantime if you guys can check all the links I would be grateful....

MUIRHEAD`S MYSTERIES: GIANT DRAGONFLIES

Hello. Today I feature a brief correspondence that appeared on the Fortean Times cryptozoology forum between myself and some others in June and July 2008 on the topic of giant dragonflies. In those days I called myself Dickydoubt_7. I now am known as Dickydevo. I have left the spelling as in the original.

Posted June 25th 2008: 'Hello! I wonder if anyone can help? I have obtained 2 reports of giant dragonflies from the United Kingdom, [one of these was from Oll Lewis; I believe Oll said it was in Wales, if my memory serves me correctly. See post by LividBullseye, below] from friends who I consider to be trustworthy. If anyone has any reports from their localities, please can they let me know on this Forum? Thank you. If I receive enough reports I will write a piece for Fortean Times.' [I never did]

gncxx: How big is giant? Like prehistoric, two-foot wingspan giant?
LividBullseye: Ask Oll Lewis he`s seen one. Find him here or on the CFZ.
nyarlathotepsub 2: I`ve seen these http://glzmodo.com/gadgets/gadgets/wowwee-dragonfly-on-sale-now-for-49-235178.php

disgruntledgoth: about the biggest I have seen had a 6 inch wing span
Dickydoubt_7: I should have said that the dragonfly seen in Oxford measured 12 inches from the tip of one wing to the other.
Peripart: I`m genuinely not being facetious or otherwise dismissive, but it wasn`t one of those radiocontrolled toy dragonflies, was it?Some of them are very lifelike (apart from their huge size) Waylander28 12 inches, that is big..

I had a dried carcass of a dragonfly, found on the sands of the lakes Blessington, (Pulaphuca Lakes to be exact) in Wicklow in Ireland. It was larger than my hand at the time, if I can remember it must have been at least 4 and a half to 5 inches long, with a similar wingspan.

I came across it just lying on the sand behind a rock, myself and my friend would not go near it until we were sure it was dead, (we threw a few stones gently around it) it was perfectly poised, full stretch, and wings splayed out to the sides. Long since been reduced to dust now! Shame it was a Rare perfect find.

R2800 In the UK? I doubt they could really get that Big honestly. What insects need to become monsters is mostly swamplike humid environments with lots of vegitation and shelter. That way there is no winter to kill them off or hinder their growth,plus the air in swamps seem to have higher Carbon content in the air itself...which seems to produce some pretty big bugs.

300 million years ago there we`re 6 foot wingspan Dragon flies and 6 foot centipedes. And if the world was still as warm as it was back then, they`d still be around.

R2800 wrote: In the UK? I doubt they could really get that Big honestly.

Waylander 28: No it was not in the UK, it was in Ireland. Regardless, they were that big, so much so that from a distance and watching them flying over head, we had mistaken them for sparrows. The body of the Dragonfly that I found was at least half 15mm at its thickest. (1)

1. Fortean Times website discussion.Giant dragonflies.June 25th 2008 to July 29th 2008.

The Cure Lullaby

I spy something beginning with s....

On candystripe legs the spiderman comes
softly through the shadow of the evening sun
stealing past the windows of the blissfully dead
looking for the victim shivering in bed
searching out fear in the gathering gloom and
suddenly!
a movement in the corner of the room!
and there is nothing I can do
when I realize with fright
that the spiderman is having me for dinner tonight!

DALE DRINNON: Comparisons between fossil hominids and yowies

Because of the vagiaries of the Internet, some of the pictures that should have accompanied Dale's last post didn't make it through. So when Dale re-sent them, I suggested that he write captions for them all, and we post them as a new stand-alone bloggo entry...

1)Yowie and Homo erectus

The most widely-circulated depiction of an Australian Yowie compared to a more standard reconstruction of Homo erectus from the Time-Life books Early Man foldout. The depiction of the Yowie is exaggerated as a sort of cartoon version of the other, yet the salient features are still identifiable. In particular, the shape of the head and the planes of the face and the relative smallness of the cranium, are all like the known fossil form.






















2) Yowie compared to Fossil Hominids, Ape and Modern Man
The shape of the Yowie's head is much like Homo erectus, reference skulls are Java (Trinil) man to the left and Pekin (Beijing) man to the right. Most notably the top of the head has a sagittal keeling causing the peaked appearance of the midline, low cranial profile, the erectus or Solo type of browridges, and the shape of the lower face is comparable. The Yowie is drawn with much exaggerated fanged canines: That is a severe exaggeration but as a matter of fact Javan H. erectus had outsized canines that projected into the lower row and created a gap (diastema) which in that sense made their dentition more primitive than the earlier Australopithecines.



3) Homo erectus comparisons
Left: reconstruction of original Homo erectus finds by Dubois, under the name of Pithecanthropus erectus. This reconstruction statue was redrawn for Heuvelmans's book On the Track of Unknown Animals. On the right is the most complete find of erectus or a closely related species, the Turkana boy. The arms are actually long in comparison to modern man, but not excessively so. This was an individual that had not yet reached full adult growth and would have been over six feet tall as an adult.























4) Face reconstruction of Homo erectus (Pithecanthropus), for comparison to the Yowie's face.






















5) Solo skullcap from Java
For comparison to Rex Gilroy's purported piece of fossil Yowie skullcap


















6) Purported scrap of Yowie skull
From Rex Gilroy's collection, a fossil assumed to have been a very large form of Homo erectus (or 'Meganthropus') It does in fact resemble that part of the erectus skull and there is no known native Australian animal with that sort of a forehead.
















7) Purported Yowie Fossil footprint
From the blue mountains, another of Rex Gilroy's finds. I am not certain if he has the big toe correctly outlined on this one. The actual footprint would be smaller than the outlined space but still it is about eight inches wide and sixteen inches long by the ruler.
























8) Purported Yowie fossil molar tooth


Another find from Rex Gilroy's collection of possible Yowie evidence, a fossil tooth that has been completely mineralised and has become impregnated by iron ore. It does look to be exactly what Gilroy says it is but of course, I have not seen the original.

BAD NEWS

Well, I was feeling quite pleased with myself this morning when I came downstairs. But not for long. There was an email from Gavin Lloyd Wilson over on the newsblog to tell me that the blog had been deleted. I checked with blogger.com and apparently our new Press Releases blog has gone the same way.

I received notification from blogger on both accounts reading:

'Blogger's spam-prevention robots have detected that your blog has characteristics of a spam blog. (What is a spam blog?) Since you are an actual person reading this, your blog is probably not a spam blog. Automated spam detection is inherently fuzzy and we sincerely apologise for this false positive.

'We received your unlock request on 29 December 2009. On behalf of the robots, we apologise for locking your non-spam blog. Please be patient while we take a look at your blog and verify that it is not spam.

Find out more about how Blogger is fighting spam blogs.'

Spam is certainly a problem, and as events stand at the moment, one cannot take issue with blogger for having done what they have done. That is ASSUMING that normal service is indeed resumed as soon as someone realises that a collection of over 2,000 press stories, and another collection of 38 press releases are hardly spam in any sense of the word.

However, there is another more disturbing possibilty. Gavin asked me:

"Do you think someone may have maliciously 'reported' the blog?"

And I am afraid to say that I think that it is very likely. For various reasons (some of which I know, and others of which I can only guess at) we have fallen foul of various movers and shakers within the crypto-community. These people have, for the last year or so, done their best to cause us (and me in particular) as much trouble and distress as possible. Presumably this is working on the principle that they believe that if they carry on tormenting a manic depressive like me, then eventually I shall crack and close the CFZ, whereby more people will buy their books, and attend their conferences rather than ours.

That is what it all boils down to... money.

But it is not going to work. I am tougher than they think (I shudder as I write this, knowing that it will only heap more coals of opprobrium upon my head) and I have a bloody good team behind me. So bring on your worst. The CFZ is here to stay.

NB: Oh, how I hope that I am being paranoid, however, and that this latest problem is merely the result of an over zealous anti-spambot.

Watch this space.

DAVE FRANCAZIO: Demystifying the minhocao

The minhocao, like many purported cryptids, appears to be a mix of different species combined under one name. Heuvelmans postulates in On the Track of Unknown Animals that the name is applied to large water snakes (anacondas), an undiscovered primitive cetacean, as well as some relic species of amphibious glyptodont.

The identity of the minhocao as a glyptodont stems from observations of the creature being covered in scales with apparent burrowing habits. Lebino José de Santos was one of the first eyewitnesses of the animal and stated that its skin was thicker than pine bark and possessed scales similar to that of an armadillo. It is also described as an enormous worm-like animal. All observations describe the creature as a large serpentine beast covered in scales. It is important to note that these scales are similar to that of an armadillo rather than a snake, suggesting a mammalian identity for the animal. Heuvelmans suggests that the creature is some sort of glyptodont or armadillo but these animals are not serpentine, and are rather much more roundish in shape. In fact, the shape of a glyptodonts is more aptly compared to that of a tank than to the form of a snake. It appears more likely that the minhocao is a recently extinct of species of New World pangolin.

Although there are no extant pangolins in the New World, there is a fossil record describing such creatures. Record of these two families, Epoicotheriidae and Metacheiromyidae, has been found in the Midwestern United States where many fossils are discovered well preserved. These species are believed to be scansorial; adapted for an arboreal environment. However, not all pangolins are arboreous, as the extant giant pangolin (Manis gigantea) and the cape pangolin (M. temmencki) frequent the ground.

M. gigantea is a prolific digger and has been observed to burrow up to 5 metres deep and 40 metres long. The giant pangolin lives in rainforests similar to the minhocao so it is certainly possible that convergent evolution selected for the two species to be physically similar. Also, pangolins are well-adapted swimmers as the three-cusped pangolin (M. tricuspis) is known to fill its stomach up with air before swimming to improve buoyancy. Thus pangolins are both
powerful burrowers and adept swimmers as the minhocao allegedly is. However, the minhocao is noted for having prominent external ears or horns whereas the African species possess no external ear and in the Asiatic species only a small ridge is visible. An internet search of Metacheiromyidae revealed a sketch of a creature with prominent ears, whether this is pure conjecture or based on the fact that some fossilised ear-print was found is unknown. In the sketch the creature does not possess any type of scales, which seems odd as it belongs to the family Pholidota, meaning 'scaled animals.'

It is most likely that the scales were not preserved in the fossil record and thus not included in the sketch. Ultimately, it is certainly possible that the minhocao is indeed a recently extinct species of New World pangolin as the description fits with many details known about extant pangolins. Unfortunately, there is so little information and an abundance of conflicting reports surrounding the minhocao that a precise identification is impossible.

References:

P., Walker, Ernest. Walker's Mammals of the world. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1983.
Heuvelmans, Bernard. On the Track of Unknown Animals. New York: Hill and Wang, 1959.
The Paleobiology Database: http://paleobackup.nceas.ucsb.edu

OLL LEWIS: 5 Questions on… Cryptozoology - Dr MIKE DASH

Our guest today is Dr Mike Dash. Mike earns his crust as a historian, author and editor and is the director of Deeper Media editing and publishing consultancy. He is best known to Forteans for his work with Fortean Times and his research into Spring-heeled Jack (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ter_XFaSWO4) as well as the search for Loch Ness’s Dr MacRae (http://www.youtube.com/user/cfztv#p/u/85/5IAKpNKhiRo). More information on Mike, his books and where to buy them (including his Spring-heeled Jack book, which will be published in 2010) can be found on his website: http://www.mikedash.com/.

So, Mike Dash, here are your 5 questions on… Cryptozoology:

1) How did you first become interested in cryptozoology?

Like many boys, I was completely obsessed with dinosaurs - I even built up a complete set of PG Tips dino cards. Then, aged 11, I stumbled across a copy of Tim Dinsdale's The Story of the Loch Ness Monster in a newsagent's shop in Bridgend. According to Dinsdale, the monster was a living dinosaur, so....

2) Have you ever personally seen a cryptid or secondary evidence of a cryptid, if so can you please describe your encounter?


The LNM is the only cryptid I have ever actively looked for (Loch Ness & Morar Project, 1983-87), and it was the negative evidence we turned up at Loch Ness (for instance anomalous sonar records progressively eliminated as we eliminated variables and introduced ever stricter controls) that set me on the path to my present scepticism. Well, that and the list of lakes with monster traditions in the Bords' Alien Animals.

Even when I was young and credulous it was hard to believe 260+ lakes could all be home to monsters, yet there was no obvious difference between the 'creatures' reported in the most and least likely locations. The results of Operation Deepscan in 1987 sealed it for me - you still read even now that the sweeps we did produced positive evidence, but the truth is that on the last day we sailed 25 boats all the way from Fort Augustus to Lochend and covered well over 60% of the loch's volume without recording a single trace.

3) Which cryptids do you think are the most likely to be scientifically discovered and described some day, and why?

I'm afraid very few of them. Perhaps the thylacine, which is only recently extinct - there have been quite convincing reports from Tasmania.

4) Which cryptids do you think are the least likely to exist?

I'm sorry to say that all the more exotic cryptids - Bigfoot, lake monsters, living dinosaurs and sea serpents – are highly unlikely to exist as physically real animals. Not that the numerous reports of them can't tell us a great deal. One can learn a lot about witness perception and psychology from them.

5) If you had to pick your favourite cryptozoological book (not including books you may have written yourself) what would you choose?

I have always loved Rupert Gould's The Case for the Sea Serpent, as much for its style as for its content. My favourite as a kid was Montgomery-Campbell and Solomon's The Search For Morag - even then I was drawn to the dustier recesses of the subject. And - though I don't now agree with a word of it – Holiday's The Dragon and the Disc was always a scary, thrilling read.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today

http://cryptozoologynews.blogspot.com/

On this day in 1170 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, was martyred by four knights in Canterbury Cathedral under the somewhat rash orders of King Henry II.

Britain's biggest bullock weighs 3,682lbs
Safari Visitors Enjoy A Really Wild Night
Lotto vultures resort to bird-brained scheme

A vulture walks onto an aeroplane. The stewardess says, "Would you like me to put your suitcase in the luggage compartment for you, sir?" The vulture says, "No thanks. It's carrion."

PS: As will be explained elsewhere in today's posts, the News Blog is (temporarily, we hope) unavailable. Let's hope that normal service really is returned as soon as possible.