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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Friday, April 30, 2010

ON THE TRACK (Of Unknown Animals) Episode 32

The latest edition of a monthly webTV show from the CFZ and CFZtv, bringing you the latest cryptozoological, and monster hunting news from around the world. This episode brings you:

CFZ in springtime
Texas expedition
Crypto stuff at Bristol Zoo: Butterfly goodeids
Crypto stuff at Bristol Zoo: Cassowaries
Crypto stuff at Bristol Zoo: Paddlefish
Crypto stuff at Bristol Zoo: Prairie Dog
Crypto stuff at Bristol Zoo: Asiatic Lion
Mystery cat in Texas
Jon in Reading
Corinna looks at out of place birds
New and Rediscovered: New British Mammal
New and Rediscovered: New species in Devon
New and Rediscovered: New species of Orca

UNIDENTIFIED INSECT SEEN IN FRANCE

Any ideas what it is?

TONY LUCAS WRITES WITH SOME POTENTIALLY EXCITING NEWS

Received a report the other day of the sighting of a suspected moa chick - no, not historical: it only happened three years ago.

Now don't get all excited - I know I was too.


I'm looking into the possibility of it being an escaped emu as there are a lot in this country now. I wish I had the funding to shoot down there and take a look but that's impossible. If it does turn out to be a chick this will be the first one seen in decades and may well prove a healthy breeding population of these birds DOES still exist.

Kindest of regards
Tony Lucas

ROBERT SCHNECK: Insect artisans

Hi Jon,




Have you ever seen the work of French artist Hubert Duprat?

He gently removes caddis-fly larvae from their protective tubes and puts them in a tank containing gold, semi-precious, and precious stones. The larvae use these materials to construct new, more decorative, tubes.




Duprat's Wikipedia entry:


Hubert Duprat is a French artist known for his unusual work, an artistic intersection between caddisfly larvae and gold, opal, turquoise, and other precious stones.
Caddisflies naturally construct elaborate protective tubes from materials found in their environment. Left to nature, the caddisflies use twigs, snail shells, bits of sand and small stones - objects found in their stream bed homes. The tubes serve various purposes - they use stones to increase traction in fast-moving streams, and spiky twigs make the tube (and thus, the fly larva) more difficult for predators to swallow.


Duprat, born in 1957, began his work with caddisfly larvae in the early 1980s. He collects the larvae from their normal environments and he takes them to his studio. There he gently removes their own natural cases and puts them in tanks filled with his own materials, from which they begin to build their new protective sheaths. When he began the project, he only provided the caddis larvae with gold flakes. Since then, the larvae have enjoyed various semi-precious and precious stones, including turquoise, coral and lapis lazuli, as well as sapphires, pearls, rubies, and diamonds.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubert_Duprat

EDITOR'S NOTE: I think these are utterly exquisite. As a boy, when I used to keep aquatic inverts in the shed which is now the CFZ Museum (nothing much changes), I carried out experiments using little bits of plastic waste, and fine sand, and marvelled how caddis larvae, once ejected from their original homes, would make intricate new ones surprisingly quickly. But to use precious stones and gold leaf is the work of genius.


CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY NEWSLETTER

Center for Biological Diversity

No. 510, April 29, 2010

Rare Midwest Dragonfly Earns 26,500 Acres

Kangaroo Rat, Wildlife Preserve Saved From Development

Mega-sprawl Challenged for Birds, Lands, Climate

130 Protests Filed Against Harmful Nevada Water Pumping

Suit Gathers Force to Save Southwest Forest Species

Call In for the Climate: Demand Strong Global Warming Bill

Tell the Feds to Save the Frogs (and 247 Other Species)

Center Writer Named Pulitzer Prize Finalist

Review the Center -- Last Chance to Make Us Your Green Choice


Donate today to support the Center's work.

Take action now.

Stephens' kangaroo rat

Click here to SHARE Endangered Earth Online.

Follow the Center on Twitter.



Rare Midwest Dragonfly Earns 26,500 Acres

After two lawsuits by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, last Friday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service doubled the size of federally protected "critical habitat" for the endangered Hine's emerald dragonfly, upping the acreage from just 13,221 acres to 26,532. The insect, a 2.5-incher renowned for its aerobatic virtuosity and electrifying green eyes, is the only dragonfly on the U.S. endangered species list --and it still has only a few scattered breeding populations remaining in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, and Missouri. Yet when the feds designated critical habitat for the insect in 2007 -- after we filed suit over a delay -- they slashed their own proposed acreage by half, leaving out key national-forest lands in Michigan and Missouri. So we sued again and earned protection for those lands.

"Thanks to the designation, Hine's emerald dragonflies now have a chance to recover from the brink of extinction," said Center Senior Attorney John Buse. "Protecting habitat is the best way to bring back these spectacular insect predators." The Hine's emerald is primarily threatened by urban and agricultural development, off-road vehicles, road and pipeline construction, logging, and groundwater contamination.

Read more in Courier-Life.



Kangaroo Rat, Wildlife Preserve Saved From Development

With the settlement of a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and San Bernardino Audubon Society, last Thursday the endangered Stephens' kangaroo rat and its Southern California sanctuary were saved from industrial-development doom. Riverside County's 1,100-acre March Stephens' Kangaroo Rat Preserve -- also home to the least Bell's vireo, burrowing owl, southwestern willow flycatcher, and other imperiled species -- was set aside in 1991 for permanent protection. But despite federal officials themselves recognizing the preserve as critical to the survival and recovery of the Stephens' kangaroo rat -- confirmed by the Center through government documents we obtained -- in 2006 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opened the area to commercial and industrial development in exchange for protection of lands some 25 miles away.

Now, under the terms of our settlement agreement, the preserve will be preserved as it should be -- and any future proposals to release it for development must undergo strict environmental review.

Get more from the Southwest Riverside News Network.



Mega-sprawl Challenged for Sake of Birds, Lands, Climate

Last week, the Center for Biological Diversity and San Bernardino Audubon Society filed suit against Riverside County for its approval of the misleadingly named "Villages of Lakeview" -- a massive development of 11,350 homes and 500,000 square feet of commercial space -- for remote lands bordering the San Jacinto Wildlife Area. The sprawling mega-development would require long car commutes -- generating more than 175,000 tons of CO2 emissions -- as well as destroying habitat for many imperiled species, including more than 300 birds, such as the burrowing owl, California gnatcatcher, and yellow-billed cuckoo.

"Putting this many houses this far from jobs will make it harder for California to meet its greenhouse gas-reduction commitments and will worsen traffic congestion and air quality in the region," said Center Senior Attorney Matt Vespa. "We need smart growth and livable communities, not dumb growth miles from jobs." The suit is one of a series brought by the Center to reduce greenhouse gases from new development through the California Environmental Quality Act.

Check out our press release and learn more about our work to uphold the California Environmental Quality Act.



130 Protests Filed Against Harmful Nevada Water Pumping

In defense of wildlands, species, and rural-dwelling people, this month the Center for Biological Diversity submitted 130 protests of water-rights applications for pumping groundwater from some of eastern Nevada's rare spring and riparian areas. The pumping would affect lifestyles and livelihoods in local communities and harm some of the state's most imperiled species, including the Bonneville cutthroat trout; the Moapa dace; the southwestern willow flycatcher; and many species of rare bats, plants, and springsnails. Nevada water agencies filed the water-rights applications more than a decade ago, and the state refused to give concerned citizens access to the hearings on approving those applications. Recently, the Nevada Supreme Court found the state had denied citizens due process and threw out the old applications, forcing the agencies to re-file them and opening the door to citizen protest.

"The biggest threat to the diversity and abundance of Nevada wildlife species is the export of nonrenewable ancient groundwater to fuel the unsustainable growth of far-away cities such as Las Vegas," said the Center's Rob Mrowka, who filed our 130 protests. "But unfortunately, Nevada's water agencies are still seeking to claim water from parts of the state that simply cannot support such water-intensive uses."

Check out our press release and learn about the Moapa dace and southwestern willow flycatcher.



Suit Gathers Force to Save Southwest Forest Species

In defense of at least nine federally protected Southwest species, this week the Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Forest Service for continuing to approve projects that destroy their habitats on national-forest land. Five years ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a formal "biological opinion" under the Endangered Species Act requiring the Forest Service to monitor the populations and habitat of endangered species on Arizona and New Mexico's 11 national forests, so that they weren't harmed by any destructive activities allowed under the forests' management plans. In October 2008, though, the Forest Service issued a report admitting it hadn't done the monitoring for the last three years . . . and that -- oops -- it might have exceeded the amount of endangered-species harm it's legally allowed to inflict. Then, instead of cleaning up its act, the agency simply requested that the Fish and Wildlife Service redo its biological opinion to accommodate the Forest Service's mistakes. Species affected include the Mexican spotted owl, Chiricahua leopard frog, Apache trout, and ocelot.

Meanwhile, the Forest Service has begun writing new forest plans for Arizona and New Mexico that roll back protections for imperiled species. A new draft forest plan for Arizona's Coronado National Forest in southeastern Arizona eliminates virtually all forest-wide protective standards for wildlife and habitat.

Get details in our press release and learn more about our work for responsible forest management.



Call In for the Climate: Demand Strong Global Warming Bill

It's not clear at this point whether Senator Lindsey Graham will make good on a promise to torpedo a climate bill he's been working on with John Kerry and Joe Lieberman. This much we do know, however: Their bill falls far short of what is needed to stop runaway global warming. It will allow atmospheric carbon dioxide to rise when we desperately need it to decline to at least 350 parts per million from its current 385 level. It will subsidize and encourage new oil drilling, new nuclear plants, and even new coal-fired power plants. It will provide vast loopholes for corporations to keep emitting dangerous greenhouse gases. And it will strip the Clean Air Act and states of their power to independently regulate greenhouse gases using scientific standards.

In short, the Graham, Kerry, Lieberman bill is no solution. And with a massive oil spill already ravishing the Gulf of Mexico, the last thing we need is to open more areas to offshore drilling.

Please call your senators today and urge them to enact legislation that will actually stop global warming. Call (202) 224-3121 and tell them that adequate global warming legislation must 1) preserve the full regulatory power of the Clean Air Act; 2) reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide to 350 parts per million; 3) rapidly phase out all coal-fired power plants; and 4) protect our coasts from offshore oil drilling.

The Nationwide Climate Call-in Day is being sponsored by the Center for Biological Diversity, Public Citizen, Friends of the Earth, and the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

Get talking points for your call on the Center's Events page and learn more about the climate legislation situation.



Tell the Feds to Save the Frogs (and 247 Other Species)

Frogs and salamanders are disappearing. Two hundred species of amphibians have gone extinct in the past 30 years, and one-third of the world's amphibian species are threatened with extinction -- while the federal government stands idly by. In fact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is still refusing to protect 12 U.S. amphibian species declared to qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act. These amphibians -- five frogs, one toad, and six salamanders -- are languishing on the "candidate" list, waiting indefinitely for the protections they need to survive. The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned for full protection for the candidate species in 2004, following up with a lawsuit in 2005; we're still in court to save all 252 animals and plants on the list, before they go extinct -- as 42 species already have due to delays in protection.

Tomorrow, April 30, is Save the Frogs Day: the perfect time to take action. Join our campaign by contacting Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and demanding full Endangered Species Act protection for all candidates, including 12 of our most threatened amphibians. Then learn more about our Candidate Project and Amphibian Conservation campaign.



Center Writer Named Pulitzer Prize Finalist

Center staff writer Lydia Millet, who's also a fiction writer on her own time, was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist last week for her recent short-story collection Love in Infant Monkeys (Soft Skull, 2009). The Pulitzer judges called the book "an imaginative collection of linked stories, often describing a memorable encounter between a famous person and an animal, underscoring the human folly of longing for significance while chasing trifles." Millet was one of three finalists for the United States' best-known literary prize, a runner-up to winner Paul Harding, who won first prize for the novel Tinkers, along with co-finalist Daniyal Mueenuddin, author of In Other Rooms, Other Wonders.

Read more in The New York Times and learn about Love in Infant Monkeys.



Review the Center -- Last Chance to Make Us Your Green Choice

There's no doubt the Center is doing well in the 2010 Green Choice Campaign, a nonprofit-rating contest hosted by organization-reviewing Web site GreatNonprofits.org. The glowing reviews have been flooding in, and we've been eagerly devouring every single one. Besides giving us helpful feedback on our work and fueling our drive to keep being the best conservation group we can be, your five-star reviews are helping us compete for placement on GreatNonprofits' prestigious list of the top green nonprofits in the country (plus $500 worth of funding). Last year, we won Best in the Southwest.

But if we hope to be dubbed Best in the Universe (or whatever they're calling the top winner), we'll need a lot more reviews -- so keep 'em coming. We promise not to let our egos get too big.

Review us now at GreatNonprofits.org.



KierĂ¡n Suckling
Executive Director



Photo credits: Stephens' kangaroo rat (c) Mark A. Chappell; Hine's emerald dragonfly (c) Paul Burton; Stephens' kangaroo rat (c) Mark A. Chappell; coastal California gnatcatcher (c) Glen Tepke; Moapa dace courtesy USFWS; Chiricahua leopard frog courtesy Arizona Department of Game and Fish; oil spill courtesy USGS; Oregon spotted frog (c) Charlotte Corkran; Love in Infant Monkeys cover courtesy Soft Skull Press; bald eagle (c) William C. Gladish.

The Center for Biological Diversity sends newsletters and action alerts through DemocracyinAction.org. Let us know if you'd like to change your email list preferences or stop receiving action alerts and newsletters from us.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today

http://cryptozoologynews.blogspot.com/

On this day in 1954 Ray Parker Junior, the writer and performer of the theme song for the film Ghostbusters, was born.

(Yes, nothing very Fortean happened on this day so I have to scrape the barrel a bit).

And now, the news:

Wildlife TV 'ignores animal rights'
Kemerovo Region resident claims rescuing Yeti in spring flood
Gentle Jake is the world's tallest horse

Not the shortest, ‘neigh’, that was the horse story last week.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I AM LOST FOR WORDS

Why our society is doomed

DALE DRINNON: A Note On Nagas

Nagas are snake-like creatures from the legends of India, and the term is applied to merfolk and Weresnakes as well. In this case, the use of the term in question is as in 'Monster Water-serpent.'

The Naga-Sea-monsters and Freshwater-monsters are reported from all over the orient and in many cases they are distinctly parallel to Chinese dragons. On the other hand, Chinese legend also recognises monster serpents as distinct from the dragons, and so those are more like the limbless Nagas. The Nyans of Burma are likewise merely another local form of Nagas.

The point I am making here is that the reports do NOT describe big snakes; they do not undulate in the serpentine side-to-side manner. They are in fact the same as the more northerly sea-serpents and supposedly undulate up-and-down, producing the 'String-of-buoys' effect, reported as anywhere from several yards to a few hundred feet long. Doubtless this is the effect of waves in a wake (and because of that it has nothing to do with whatever creature might be making the wake, or tell us anything about what its shape might be under the water)

The same 'Giant Serpent' reports are worldwide in the tropics: one article in Fate magazine stated that the immense legendary South American Water-monster Serpent Siucuriju Gigante was also reported in Africa, the Phillipines, and in Australia. And so the same types of reports are indeed all over the southern regions. But they are all actually the same as the more northerly sea-serpents, and the terms should be understood as synonymous. Sea-serpents are world-wide. and their characteristic reported form is the result of a wave action, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the shape of any creature that might be making the waves in its wake. As a matter of fact there is very good documentation that several different animals can create the effect, as well as boats and sometimes natural waves that are not even generated by a live animal at all.

In other words, the names 'sea-serpent', 'naga', 'Sucuriju Gigante', or whatever, do not name any specific animal species, they are all describing an illusion created by a standing wave action and only INTERPRETED as being the body of a long animal undulating vertically on the surface.

JULIAN IS BACK AT THE WEIRD WEEKEND

One of the undoubted stars of last year's Weird Weekend was Julian Vayne from the North Devon museums service. He presented a Cabinet of Curiosities of weird and wonderful things from the museum collection. Well, it is good to be able to announce that he will be back this year with a totally different set of strange objects.

We are looking forward to it already....

Buy your tickets today





NEIL ARNOLD: Cats That Can’t Be Caught…Cats That Could Be Bought

I collected my first ‘big cat’ newspaper clipping when I was eight years old. It was 1982. I investigated my first eye-witness report when I was ten. I would’ve thought that after more than twenty years researching the subject, the age-old myths and theories would have been dispelled by now. The reality is the so-called ‘big cat situation', certainly in the UK, is as dull as dishwater. When I first read Di Francis’s Cat Country and The Beast of Exmoor, and also Janet & Colin Bord’s Alien Animals, I found them dated, despite at the time they were considered refreshing with their theories and coverage. Again, a few decades later nothing has changed.

With more and more websites devoted to exotic cat ‘research’ popping up, you’d have thought that the woods of Britain were full of ‘big cat’ enthusiasts. You would’ve also thought that the age-old theories would have been put to bed with so many minds at work. Sadly no.

There are countless websites and books, which mention that in the 1960s you could walk into Harrods Dept. Store in London and purchase a large exotic cat. This is indeed true, to some extent. I have records that lion and puma were purchased there, but no black leopards. Now, this doesn’t mean to say such animals were not purchased there, but I’ve read over the years from various ‘researchers’ that not enough people have come forward to admit they owned large cats (but let’s face it, not many people who released animals would come forward), and no receipts have been found etc. In the British ‘big cat’ situation, the naivety is astounding, and I truly believe that people are seeking a mystery that just isn’t there. It is a FACT that large exotic cats DO roam the UK. I’ve seen them; I’ve filmed them. Many other people have. But the constant conflict of theories is rather embarrassing to say the least. It’s as if people want these elusive animals to be supernatural; it’s as if they want them to have an origination beyond escapees/releases. But the reality is that the explanation is very simple. The mystery has taken over the mind.

Earlier in April 2010 I spoke to Harrods archive department regarding receipts etc, to prove that large cats were purchased. Now, apart from the story of Christian the lion and the occasional other case where press were interested, a majority of sales would have simply been destroyed as regards to receipts and archives. Any member of the public or celebrity who acquired an exotic pet would have been treated with strictest confidence and their sale filed but then destroyed after filling the archives for a few years. Harrods were not and are not responsible for the animals that roam the southeast today. And neither are those alleged circuses said to have dumped their animals, and neither are the zoo parks who may have lost the occasional cat. The ‘big cat’ situation will always be a sum of many parts because of the hilarious theories and attitudes of those involved in the research. Sadly, there is nothing enigmatic about as to why such animals roam the UK.

I’ve just finished my new book, Mystery Animals of the British Isles: London, and whilst collating evidence I was shocked to find a startling number of incidents where people purchased large exotic cats oh so casually. Certainly over the last couple of decades it has been increasingly difficult to purchase a ‘big cat’ although the drug dealers across the United States and South America have proven otherwise as their black leopards and tigers continue to escape into the wilds. I thought it would be difficult finding any records of cat attacks on humans, cats escaping, purchases etc, but in fact there was an alarming regularity in the purchases of such animals. Most of these animals, such as puma, were purchased as cute, cuddly cubs. It seems that for every animal purchased pre-1976 (when the Dangerous Wild Animals Act was introduced), many went unrecorded, but thankfully, due to some newspaper archives and my own digging and delving, it proves that a majority of animals seen in the wilds today ARE offspring of animals released back then. And as we know, there are a handful of relatively modern cases of animals escaping or being released (2001 lynx in London and in 1987, four female pumas and two lynx released into Kent woodlands).

These kind of situations haven’t just gone on for decades but centuries, and that’s why there are large, exotic cats in the wilds. The Victorian era was a prime time for exotic beasts to be paraded through the streets, fields and in shops. And there exist records of purchases more than a century previous to this.

We must seek the consistency of reports rather than taking note of the occasional lion, tiger and jaguar sighting. Eye-witness reports must be taken with a pinch of salt when they are inconsistent. Only recently I read of several Kent-based sightings (and more fool the website owner for putting them up) in which one witness stated, “I don’t know if it was a fox or a panther…”, and another, “..similar to a tabby with a white belly. Slight hint of green in the fur...tail, bushy and same proportion to as a domestic cat”. Sounds to me exactly like a domestic cat, I’m afraid. It’s worrying to see such bizarre reports featured on websites.

Black leopard, puma, lynx and jungle cat are the main four species of cat in the UK wilds. Caracal and ocelot also feature but are of a far smaller percentage. However, before we start trudging through the woods looking for exotic cats with green fur, or lions and tigers, we must look at their origins to realise that there’s no mystery, and that any mystery created is simply down to bad research.

I hope my ‘…London’ book will provide the answers, certainly in respect for the southeast. And I believe that if the whole of the southeast can be explained, then surely so can the rest of the UK. Why create prehistoric survivors in one county, monster feral cats in another, supernatural demons in another, and lions and tigers somewhere else when there’s no consistency in this ?

‘Big cats’ in the UK have become an urban legend because the mystery surrounding them is false. Trigger cams litter the countryside because researchers everywhere hope they can find their Holy Grail, which in their minds, will earn them a badge of honour.

Recently the organisation called Natural England, according to the tabloids, stated that “Big Cats Are A Myth”. Sometimes I wish they were, although when you look at some of the theories and reports which are filed and methods used to ‘track’ them, it’s no wonder such animals have been filed alongside UFOs and ghosts.

In their Alien Animals book, Janet & Colin Bord called their ‘big cat’ chapter ‘Cats That Can’t Be Caught….’ I sincerely hope that statement rings true many years from now. However, despite the foggy lore created around these animals, I think it would be more apt updating the chapter title to ‘Cats That Could Be Bought…’ because that’s the answer to it all.

SAMUEL MANASEH: Moments from Brazil

Hello again Jonathan;

It's been a while since I wrote. I am still working on my theme of moments from Brazil, with an general theme of animals. But out of necessity, I have started including pet animals as well.

I have two recent blog postings that might be of interest to your biologists.

The first is a blog posting (with an accompanying video) about a pet crab named Johnny. Johnny is unusual in that it responds with affection to human touch, and will actually 'sleep' when its owner pats its back. And Johnny is by no means a tiny crab - very much the contrary!

The second is a blog posting (with two accompanying videos) that might have a wider appeal than just your biologists who are interested in animal behaviour, and in fact might interest sports fans, in particular, football fans.

Everyone loves watching Brazilian football players because of the way they juggle the ball in the game and so make it entertaining.

It appears that enjoying watching Brazilian football players is not a preserve of human beings, but even pet animals!

One of the videos is about Fred, a chicken that plays football. Fred started playing football by chasing the ball when it went out of bounds when its owner was having a game with his friends. The second video is about a border collie that not only enjoys playing football, it knows how to header footballs.

The general theme of this second blog posting is that it will never ever be easy to select the National Football Team in Brazil when even pets want to play. It might provide some form of humour to your readers who follow the decisions coaches make in selecting their National teams, especially with the World Cup approaching this June, and national coaches have to decide whether to include animals on the team.

The links to the blogs are:
http://momentsfrombrazil.blogspot.com/2010/04/johnny-pet-crab.html

(Johnny The Pet Crab)
http://momentsfrombrazil.blogspot.com/2010/04/selecting-brazilian-national-football.html

(Selecting the Brazilian National Football team will never be easy when even pets want to play.)

Cheers!

SO WE HAVE A NEW MAMMAL

Britain now has seventeen resident bat species plus another four known only as vagrants. Alcathoe's bat was only described as a separate species in Greece in 2001 and until now, was thought to have too weak a flight to have been able to cross the channel. However, relatively large breeding colonies have been found in Sussex and Yorkshire, and speculation is rising that it may be present here in relatively large numbers.

So how did it get here?

Back when the CFZ was no more than a conceptual glimmer in my eye, during the early 1990s I was working on a book (which I still haven't finished) about the mystery animals of Devon. In it I mentioned the Nathusius pipstrelle, a species then only known as a very rare vagrant most commonly found in Poland.

Since then this species has been found to be breeding in the UK in some numbers. The more I look into such things I realise that - like the other flying creatures for whom the English Channel is no great boundary, such as birds and butterflies - the precise status of the bat species on the British list has got to be seen as being in a state of continual flux. If nothing else, this keeps the cryptozoologists on their toes.

Good, huh?

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today

http://cryptozoologynews.blogspot.com/

On this day in 1812 the mysterious Kaspar Hauser was born. Hauser was possibly nothing more enigmatic than a bit of a liar who wanted to join the army, but conspiracy and intrigue seemed to follow the chap wherever he went. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaspar_Hauser

And now, the news:

Vietnam forest fires threaten rare crane
Crane chicks hatch
Asiatic lion census in Gir forests in India over, final tally in May
Beekeeper is killed by his own swarm
At last, it's monkey riding a goat walking on a tightrope
Found Alive: The Loch Ness Monster of the Northwest Prairie. Alas, It Disappoints (Idaho scientists find fabled "giant" worm)
Elephants Emit Special "Bee Rumble" to Warn Others About Marauding Bugs
Rattlesnakes Sound Warning on Biodiversity and Habitat Fragmentation
Young Salamanders' Movement Over Land Helps Stabilize Populations

Due to the poor nature of recent news-story-based puns I’ve been coming up with, today you can have a random but original joke I thought up a few days ago:

Q: What was the sheep’s biggest fear when it moved to the city?
A: Becoming a victim of ‘Bleat’ crime.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

SO WHAT IS THE ENDLER'S LIVEBEARER?

Max sent me a very interesting article last night. He thought that because I am particularly interested in livebearers, and because the CFZ has just got hold of the nucleusd of what we hope will be a nascent colony of Poecelia wingei that I should see it.

It opens up a whole can of very wiggly worms for all of us livebearer enthusiasts, as well as opening up some moral questions which really should be debated.

Find out more

CFZ ARCHIVING PROJECT: General Forteana Part 9


As you know, Oll has been working on the archiving project since early February 2009 and he is now working on a general mish-mash of a section known as `General Forteana`. This ninth trenche is a real mixed bag. It is mostly religious phenomena, but with a few items on how the Vikings discovered the New World. Good stuff.

HERE

Mystery animal caught on CCTV





It looks like a mustelid of some description, but without knowing any more about where the video was taken it is hard to say.

LINDSAY SELBY: Barmouth sea serpent?

There has been a history of sea monsters in some areas of Wales; in particular the Menai Straits Barmouth area and further up the coast in North Wales.


In 1805 in the Menai Straits, A ship reported it had been attacked by a sea serpent, which wrapped itself around the ships mast until the crew attacked it and it fell into the sea. They claimed it followed the vessel for two more days before giving up.

In 1882 another sighting according to this letter from Nature Magazine:


About three P.M. on Sunday, September 3, 1882, a party of gentlemen and ladies were standing at the northern extremity of Llandudno pier, looking towards the open sea, when an unusual object was observed in the water near to the Little Orme's Head, travelling rapidly westwards towards the Great Orme. It appeared to be just outside the mouth of the bay, and would therefore be about a mile distant from the observers. It was watched for about two minutes, and in that interval it traversed about half the width of the bay, and then suddenly disappeared. The bay is two miles wide, and therefore the object, whatever it was, must have travelled at the rate of thirty miles an hour. It is estimated to have been fully as long as a large steamer, say two hundred feet; the rapidity of its motion was particularly remarked as being greater than that of any ordinary vessel. The colour appeared to be black, and the motion either corkscrew-like or snake-like, with vertical undulations. Three of the observers have since made sketches from memory, quite independently, of the impression left on their minds, and on comparing these sketches, which slightly varied, they have agreed to sanction the accompanying outline as representing as nearly as possible the object which they saw. The party consisted of W. Barfoot, J.P., of Leicester, F. J. Marlow, solicitor, of Manchester, Mrs. Marlow, and several others. They discard the theories of birds or porpoises as not accounting for this particular phenomenon.
F. T. MOTT.
Birstall Hill, Leicester, January 16th, 1883.

The Mawddach Estuary at Barmouth has been the place of a few sightings in the last 100 years. In “Mysterious Wales” by Chris Barber (Blorenge Books June 1999) a local woman claimed to have found four large footprints in the sand, described as being ‘as big as an elephant’s’. In 1937 a crocodile like animal was witnessed by a Harlech man as it walked along the river bank

Then in March 1975 six schoolgirls described a creature they encountered on Barmouth beach. ‘It had a long neck and a square face and a long tail with a flipper at the back and its skin was black and patchy’.. `It was like a dinosaur,'' said one of the girls. `The monster was about 10 feet long, with a long tail, long neck and huge green eyes. It walked towards the sea and entered the water.'' Its green eyes peered at them before sinking beneath the waves. The girls fled in terror.

(N.B. Sounds like the classic long necked pinniped description to me, but could just have been an ordinary large member of the seal family. They can appear to have long necks if they stretch it out).
It is not the only strangeness in that area though:

In September 1922 John Morris and William James saw an object fall into the ocean off Barmouth shore , so slowly that it was thought to be a plane. A boat was sent out, but nothing was found. (Magonia #45, Fort 639)

It is odd how places that report one phenomenon, such as sea serpents, also seem to have others occurring. Does the area attract strange things or does it just attract the sort of people who see strange things….one to ponder over.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today

http://cryptozoologynews.blogspot.com/

On this day in 1953 the first 3D television broadcast took place with a 3D showing of Space Patrol on KECA TV.
And now, the news:

New British moth found in Hembury Woods is world first
Llamas act as bouncers for chicks at Merseyside reserve
Chimps 'feel death like humans'
'Ancestral Eve' crystal could explain origin of left-handed amino acids
Lotus plant grown from 700-year-old seed
How chimpanzees deal with death and dying
Devon Wildlife Trust acquires new culm grassland reserve

“Keep ‘culm’ and carry on”
(As that annoyingly smug poster says)

`NEW HORIZONS` available now

New Horizons, the fourth volume of reprints of Animals & Men, the journal of the Centre for Fortean Zoology, is finally available. Those of you who pre-ordered copies will be receiving them shortly

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

HERMAPHRODITIC FISH MYSTERY




The Fish Mystery campaign launches to find out what could be causing male fish in the Potomac to carry eggs. Featuring Wendy Rieger of WRC-4, Dr. Vicky Blazer of USGS, John Hayes, river guide, and Hedrick Belin of Potomac Conservancy. By Andrew Schenkel and Robert Heimplaetzer for Kelley Campaigns.

RICHARD FREEMAN: Mystery of the dragon

As you may know my new book, The Great Yokai Encyclopaedia is due out anytime now. Among the many weird and wonderful creatures listed in it are Asian dragons. As anyone who knows me will tell you, dragons and their possible literal existence is somewhat of an obsession with me. Here is an excellent article about dragon sightings in China: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/content/view/30603/

NEIL ARNOLD: Glocester Ghoul

The Evening Hour, January 15th 1896


COW, MONSTER, OR GHOST ? – Reappearance of the Fearsome Thing that Pirate Hicks Discovered Fifty years Ago

Neil Hopkins, of Glocester, R.L. was returning from his work on Dandalion Hill, near Putnam, a few nights ago, when, at the darkest spot in the road, a strange beast gave him chase. He cannot exactly tell what it was, as he caught only a glance of it as he ran. Hopkins is certain that the creature was some supernatural beast that lives in Glocester forest.

“It seemed to be all a-fire; it had a hot breath”, Hopkins told his neighbours.
“There was a metallic sound, like the clanking of steel against steel. The beast didn’t seem to be strong in the wind, for it chased me only a short distance, and then plunged off into the woods. I could hear the dead branches and twigs crackling under the heavy tramp”.

Hopkins says it was as big as an elephant, and that he is certain it had no tail. Opinion is divided as to what it was that scared Hopkins. Some think that it was only the escaped circus bear that held up several farmers and scared their horses…

The bear was seen in Buck Woods, near Webster, Mass., and as far south as Glocester. Others think that it was the famous Glocester monster, the “burning beast” that Hopkins saw. The “burning beast” has been seen only once before. That was 57 years ago last summer, when it appeared to four Glocesterites, John Jepp, Ben Cobb, Ben Saunders and Albert Hicks, the pirate, who was afterward hanged on Liberty Island in New York Bay. Hicks was a native of Glocester. He and his companions were dogging up the Page farm one night trying to find Capt. Kidd’s supposed buried gold, when the monster frightened them away. They dropped picks and shovels and run for life. Some Spanish doubloons had been previously found on the Page far, but the gold diggers never cared to searched (sic) further after their awful experience.

Hicks used to describe the beast thus – “It was a large animal, with staring eyes as big as powter bowls. The eyes looked like balls of fire. When it breathed as it went by flames came out of its mouth and nostrils, scorching the brush in its path. It was as a big as a cow with dark wings with dark wing’s on each side like a bat’s. It had spiral horns like a ram’s, as big around as a stovepipe. Its feet were formed like a duck’s and measured a foot and a half across. The body was covered with scales as big as clam shells, which made a rattling noise as the beast moved along. The scales flopped up and down. The thing had lights on its sides like those shining through a tin lantern. Before I saw it I felt its presence and I smelled something that was like burnt wool as it went by. I had a feeling of suffocation when it came near me. The monster seemed to come from nowhere and to go away in the same manner.”

There are many people in Glocester who believe that the beast still haunts the forest not far from the Providence turnpike, and that it was it that gave Hopkins his fright.’

MUIRHEAD`S MYSTERIES:SOME FORTEAN ZOOLOGY FROM THE DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY STANDARD AND THE STIRLING JOURNAL AND ADVERTISER 1788-1919

Folks, this list of Fortean zoological items is from copies of pages from the indices to the Dumfries and Galloway Standard, and Stirling Journal and Advertiser, which were found in the British Library Newspaper Library at Colindale, N. London. The list is not meant to be exhaustive. It is purely subjective, by which I mean I noted what interested me at the time.

What interests me will not necessarily interest you. If you have any queries as to what else may be on the list, please feel free to contact me on richmuirhead@ntlworld.com but I am in no position to provide you with the original articles as I have none of the ones in this list or any others.


I have copies of indices described as volumes 1-3 inclusive. Volume 1 is titled `Index of the Dumfries and Galloway Standard Vol 1. 1777-1833 p.82` Volume 2 is titled `Stirling Journal and Advertiser A Local Index 1870-1919 pp 272-273` and Volume 3 is titled `A Local Index of the Dumfries and Galloway Standard and Its Predecessors over 200 Years p.148`. Unfortunately the quality of my photocopy of the first volume, mentioned above, is very poor but I will do the best I can. Hopefully if any one is doing a `Mystery Animals of...` book for these parts of Scotland this will help.

In order of the items' appearance in each volume and in order I ticked each item, here we go:

Vol. 1 MISCELLAENEOUS

Dumfries, Rare mouse found in town, February 1st 1825, 4C.

(That is to say, February 1st 1824 column 4C)

Lochmaben, Vendace (prehistoric fish) in Castle Loch, March 25th 1788, 25/3, 4C
Kirkmahoe, Dalewinton, White hare sighted, July 19th 1825, 4D
Canonbie, White crow hatched, July 29th 1817 3E

Vol 2 NATURAL HISTORY ZOOLOGY

The only items of interest here are:


Kippen, Jackal escapes September 15 th 1899 5C
Stirling, Lions March 22nd 1917 5F

(This item and the one below are included because this could mean seen in a zoo, or escaped perhaps?)
Stirling, Lions and Bears, July 24th 1913 4G
Thornhill, Phenomenal eggs laid by hen. May 17th 1907 8B

Vol 3 BOTANY

Dumfries and Galloway, Carniverous plants, December 8th 1880, 3C

MISCELLAENEOUS

Clarencefield, A Rare Goose, October 21st 1865, 3C
Crossmichael, A Rare Avis, White Sparrow, July 8th 1876, 3E
Dumfries, Adder found at Pleasance, August 22nd 1874 4B
Dumfries, Rare Butterfly Seen, “Clouded Yellow” June 13th 1877 5C
Glenluce White sparrows, 1878, July 13th 4B
Mabie, Rare butterfly, Camberwell Beauty, Vanessa Antiopa, October 4th 1876, 6C
Maxwelltown, Shower of Frogs, August 19th 1865 3B
Newton Stewart, Adder robs bird`s nest, June 21st 1873 3D
Ruthwell, Solway, skull and horns of a deer,March 13th 1875, 3F

[doesn`t say what species,could be interesting]

Muirhead`s Mysteries will be appearing twice a week only from now on

David Bowie Big Brother



Don`t talk of dust and roses
Or should we powder our noses?
Don`t live for last years capers
Give me steel,give me steel,
Give me pulses unreal

He`ll build a glass asylum,
With just a hint of mayhem
He`ll build a better whirlpool
We`ll be living from sin,then we can really begin

Please saviour,saviour,show us
Here me,I`m graphically yours

Some one to claim us,someone to follow
Some one to shame us, some brave Apollo
Some one to fool us,someone like you
We want you Big Brother, Big Brother

NICK REDFERN REVIEWS ANDY'S BOOK

And he quite rightly surmises that I got the idea for a series of Fortean anthologies from Patrick Huyghe's very excellent Swamp Gas Times anthology of a few years ago....


http://forteanreviews.blogspot.com/2010/04/strangely-strangely-excellent.html

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today

http://cryptozoologynews.blogspot.com/

On this day in 1926 William Henry Johnson died (according to some reports, anyway; others place his death on April 9th). Johnson was better known by the stage names of ‘the missing link’ and ‘Zip the pinhead’ on the American sideshow circuit, and became most famous while he worked with P.T. Barnum. ‘Zip’ had an unusually shaped head with a long sloping brow and Barnum had the idea to emphasise this by styling Zip’s hair to a point. Zip was, by all accounts, an intelligent and articulate man despite the great show he made of acting like a savage in his show. His final words, spoken to his sister, were “Well, we fooled 'em for a long time, didn't we?”
And now, the news:

THE MOOSE IS OUT THERE . . . SOMEWHERE
Lilliput jumbos — a subject of debate
Lensemen [sic] claim sighting pygmy jumbo; experts skeptical
WHERE'S WALLABY?
Sightings of big cats 'are not a myth'
There are wild big cats
Big cats roam through Nebraska
Cougar sighting in Regina
'EXTINCT' GHOST ORCHID APPEARS FROM THE GRAVE
RIP Gordy the Gorilla
Elephant-speak for 'Beware of the bees'

‘phant-astic…

Bruce Spittle writes

Dear Jon

Could I mention that an account of claims of moa sightings in New Zealand has been published? Details and the introductory chapter are available at http://www.moasightings.com/ The 1993 claim is covered in some detail including an account written by one of the claimants, a transcript of a meeting of the claimants with the Skeptics Society, and the previously unpublished transcripts of the interviews by the Department of Conservation with the claimants. Some field investigations are also reported on.

Best wishes
Bruce

Monday, April 26, 2010

RICHARD FREEMAN: Look what I found!

NAOMI DO NOT READ



Infernal sounds ... Illustration of a Katzenklavier from Gaspar Schott's Magia Naturalis (1657)

What is it? The Katzenklavier is, erm, a piano made out of cats. No, we're not making this up.

Who uses it? Despite the initial design having some vague specifications about ordering pitch, the Katzenklavier was never intended, really, for musical use. It was actually invented for psychiatrists. Wait, it gets weirder.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2010/apr/19/katzenklavier-music-piano-cats

DALE DRINNON: Item of interest

I found this while on a photo search for something else. It is from a site that advertises antique human skull memorabilia for sale. There is a section displaying several stone skull replicas from the orient, and in this case from Tibet, Chinese Turkestan and Mongolia. Most of them are not very realistic and mostly stylised. This one caught my eye because it was not only more realistic, it is decidedly Neanderthaloid. The teeth are somehat schematic, and not many individual teeth are indicated. But the shape of the forehead, brow and eye sockets are nicely done and very accurate if that is the type the sculptor is representing.

I'll tell you another thing: the nose as depicted does not show the nasal openings the way they really look on look on the skull. It shows a faithful representation of the Iceman's nose only at a smaller size.

The sculpture being done in stone, there is no way it can really be dated directly. The site says these skulls are from various periods but as far back as before the beginnings of Chinese history. This being one of the better made ones also makes me think it is more recent than that.

POSTSCRIPT: I have been trying to get this comparison photo to you for a while: it is a good shot of a Neanderthal skull in comparable position to put beside the jade representation. I had to screen dozens of candidate alternatives to get this one skull in this one view, and it would be a pity if it did not get to you. This is a museum display case view of the original (I think).

LINDSAY SELBY: The Black Bird of Chernobyl

Mothman was said to have been seen when disaster threatened. It is not the only winged creature to be seen before a disaster. The Black Bird of Chernobyl was said to herald the explosion at a nuclear plant in the Ukraine. On April 26, 1986, a massive explosion rocked the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Thirty people died immediately, followed by other deaths from radiation poisoning. For nine days the reactor continued to burn, resulting in tremendous environmental damage. The local population has suffered with the consequences ever since. The Chernobyl Disaster, as it was called, is considered the worst accident in the history of nuclear power.

In the days before the tragic occurrence several Chernobyl employees had reported seeing a large, dark/ black shape like a headless man with gigantic wings and red, fire-like, eyes. As with the appearances of Mothman, people who had seen the phenomena had been having nightmares and some received strange phone calls. Some of the employees reported the strange things to their supervisors at the plant. Whether any sort of action was taken is unknown. After the explosion helicopters were brought in to drop extinguishing agents on the flames. Some of the pilots and the surviving workers said they saw a giant black bird flying away from the smoking reactor. Described by many as “a large black, bird-like creature, with a 20-foot wingspan, gliding through the swirling plumes of smoke." The bird has not been seen again.

The theory out forward was that the bird was a rare black stork. However, the stork has a clear visible head and its wingspan is only about 6 feet (1.9 metres), and it stands about 3 feet (1 metre) tall. It also would not explain the strange dreams and phone calls. So was this winged creature a portent of the disaster? There are other tales such as (but not the only story) Mothman about winged creatures being seen before disaster. We can only wait and see if more tales surface, though I rather hope they don’t if it portends something bad happening.

MOTHMAN PERSPECTIVES

The following article by John C. Sherwood was originally published in Volume 26.3, May / June 2002 of the Skeptical Inquirer and was posted on the `Frontiers of Zoology` newsgroup by Dale Drinnon. I found it so interesting that I want to include it here.

Those who seek the elusive truth behind the “Men in Black” and “Mothman” myths should know that material touched by Gray Barker’s enterprising hand is tainted by self-serving deceit. He launched hoaxes, joined others’ deceptions, and manipulated people’s beliefs. “And I,” says our author, “was one of those who helped.”

In the film of The Mothman Prophecies, a phone rings and Richard Gere cringes. So does the informed moviegoer. Pseudohistory from the 1960s is twisted into fiction for the new millennium, and a questionable account of bizarre events is reshaped into fantasy. I say so because I have a good idea who’s making that phone call. I accuse Gray Barker....

Read on

BALD DOG DOWN UNDER






Interesting footage from Australia of what the Spanish TV dudes thought was a thylacine, but which obviously wasn't. However, it is of a thin and possibly hairless dog that appears, though emaciated, to be perfectly healthy.


Sound familiar?

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today

http://cryptozoologynews.blogspot.com/

On this day in 2002 the last successful contact from Pioneer 10, the first man-made object to leave the solar system, was made by NASA. Pioneer 10 has a plaque on it that can potentially show aliens where we are. However, as the next time it reaches another star system will be in at least 2 million years, even if by some fluke it is found by intelligent life and has actually survived intact we probably have little to worry about even if the aliens can actually decode our odd daubings correctly.

And now, the news:

Cameras capture secret life of the 'Highland tiger'
Australia's cane toad invasion gets sausage 'solution'
Restaurant fined for 'gay' guide dog ban
Cat 'survives trip in police car bumper'
Gored Bullfighter Battles For His Life
Loch Ness monster 'beyond doubt'
Is Einstein the world's smallest horse?

Should have called him Tim.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

SMALL MAMMAL SURVEY

Partly for scientific interest and partly to stop the bloody things eating our bird food, Oll L. is carrying out a mammal survey using humane traps. Hence what we believe to be a field mouse of no cryptozoological interest whatsoever, was caught in the conservatory (sounds like a game of Cluedo) and released near Barnstaple yesterday.

GOODNESS ME

Steve Jones writes:

Jon dear boy,

I have just been catching up on CFZ posts, and spotted
the one about your Gambia movie being ripped off, and something called TSM doing a mod. Well, this link might explain it: http://www.theriseoftsm.com/

A mod is a gaming term, and is short for "module" i.e. something put together by a gamer as a level to be played in a game, or as an add on to an existing D&D type stuff; someone obviously thought doing a monster hunt Gambia module might be fun.

Steve Jones

CFZ alumni as computer games characters? I can't see it m'self



MIKE HALLOWELL: The giant flea of Gateshead

Now this is just weird; an amazing piece of synchronicity. Totally independent of each other, Richard Freeman and Mike Hallowell recount the same very obscure story in blog postings submitted to me on the same day. I am posting both of them because they are both fine and entertaining writers with slightly different takes on the same peculiar tale.

This must be the strangest story I've covered for a while, but it's a good one; superb, in fact. I just hope it doesn't make you itch.

My good friend and fellow explorer of the unknown, Richard Freeman, Zoological Director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology, recently sent me a curious tale involving a Doctor Backhouse from Gateshead.

Backhouse awoke early one morning in 1857 and to his consternation, discovered a flea in his bed – not an entirely unknown occurrence in Geordieland back then. He killed it – we know not how, although legend has it that he twatted it with one of his boots – and on closer examination was taken aback by the creature's size. As fleas went, this one was gigantic. At first Backhouse thought the critter was simply a very healthy specimen of Pulex irritans, the common human flea, but the more he looked the less convinced he became.

Backhouse sent the creature off to the legendary entomologist Professor John Westwood, (that's him, on the left) who examined it thoroughly. 'The Gateshead Flea', as it later became known, was no less than twenty times the size of an ordinary flea.

It should be mentioned here that Westwood was a genius in his field. He was a professor at Oxford University and also a Fellow of Magdalen College. He later became president of the Entomological Society of London and a Fellow of the Linnean Society. If Westwood thought there was something odd about this flea, then you could stake your life on it. Either that or you could forfeit your life deliberately by taking on the flea in a punch-up in the back lane.

Westwood became convinced that what Backhouse had captured and killed was a new species of flea, which he promptly named Pulex imperator – the Supreme Commander of Fleas, if you will. The Gateshead Flea became a sensation. Geordie cryptozoologists later renamed the creature Geordicus maximus hardarsii. Although its possible I just might be making this bit up.

Truth to tell, Backhouse and Westwood brought the flea to the public's attention at just the right time. The eminent scientist Robert Hooke had in 1865 published his magnum opus, a book called Micrographia. There, for the first time, readers could see a detailed illustration of a flea in all its horrible glory.

Hooke's book catapulted the common flea to superstardom and for the next two hundred years poems were written about them and ballads sung in their dubious honour. When Westwood claimed to have discovered a new giant flea then, the nation was captivated.

Until, that is, John Obadiah Westwood took a deep breath, ignored all the excitement and privied himself a closer, more dispassionate look at the insect Dr Backhouse had sent him. That bit that looked like a huge proboscis actually turned out to be an antenna of some sort, and the body wasn't…well, it wasn't actually flea-shaped, really.

Before long Westwood addressed a packed meeting of the Entomological Society of London. With great candour he told a stunned audience that there was really no such thing as the Giant Flea; what the good Doctor Backhouse had killed and forwarded on to him was nothing more than a Blatta nymph; in common parlance, a young cockroach.

To say that the scientific community was disappointed would be an understatement. Still, even though Pulex imperator never got off the biological drawing board the story was good while it lasted. Even now, in Entomological circles, the legend of Backhouse, Westwood and the Giant Flea of Gateshead still crops up in conversation from time to time.

What Dr Backhouse thought of the affair I do not know but his professional reputation seems to have remained intact or at least undamaged by the Giant Flea. In his latter years he probably looked back upon the affair with some amusement.

Westwood continued his career without any tarnish on his record. He died at the ripe old age of 88 on January 2, 1893. Neither he nor Dr Backhouse will ever be forgotten, nor will Pulex imperator, the Giant Gateshead Flea.

WARNING: Geordicus maximus hardarsii may contain nuts. It may also eat nuts, like John Obadiah Westwood, Dr Backhouse and the author of this blog.

RICHARD FREEMAN: THE GIANT FLEA OF GATESHEAD

Now this is just weird; an amazing piece of synchronicity. Totally independent of each other, Richard Freeman and Mike Hallowell recount the same very obscure story in blog postings submitted to me on the same day. I am posting both of them because they are both fine and entertaining writers with slightly different takes on the same peculiar tale.

Back in the 1970s I read an excellent short story. It was in a freaky anthology called either Horrors Horrors, Horrors or Terrors, Terrors, Terrors. I can never remember which of these anthologies it was as I read them pretty much back to back. They are notable for having stories with very odd premises. There is one about a man who, like me, has a dread of large moths. He transforms into a bat and eats them. In one sequence he wakes and thinks that he is tucked tightly in bed when in fact the tight sheets are his own wings wrapped around him.

In another story, narrated in the first person, a boy's little sister begins talking about strange things and places she has never seen or been to, like the grandfather moon and the dark woods. When she meets an old man whose family name is Moon she dies of fright. The strangest story was The Bakerloo Flea by Michael Rosen, which deals with a giant flea that terrorises the Bakerloo line on the London underground. Like an urban legend, it is told second-hand. Cleaning ladies who work in the tunnels each night relate the story to an acquaintance of the narrator. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across an account of a giant flea in Karl Shuker’s book From Flying Toads to Snakes With Wings. A lot of internet digging brought some sparse information on this odd case.

In 1857 the eminent entomologist Professor J. O. Westwood was sent a dead flea that had been found squashed flat in a bed in Gateshead by a Dr Blackhouse. He saw that the monster was twenty times larger than Pulex irritans, the common flea. Professor Westwood named the giant bloodsucker Pulex imperator, the Imperial flea. Upon closer examination, however, it was found to be the distorted carcass of a young cockroach. It goes to show how anyone can make a mistake.

VIRTUAL TAXONOMY FAIL (from Max Blake)

Hmmmmmmmm

I don't know whether it counts as a bona fide taxonomy fail when it is a computer generated image from some stupid game rather than a real incidence of someone being idiotic, but I suppose it does.


Or that's what Maxy says.