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, February 04, 2011


MAX BLAKE: Taxonomy Fail Again



Glen Vaudrey and myself are presenting a two-part blog on a spur-dog shark allegedly found in the Micker Brook area of Cheadle in July 1986 originally reported in the Manchester Evening News of July 24th 1986. In mid-January 2011 I visited Stockport`s (near Greater Manchester ) Local Studies Library and asked if they had a file of local natural history cuttings. Lo and behold, they did and this story of the errant spur dog shark proved to be my favourite. Sadly, as Glen will show you in Part Two, the whole story collapsed into disastrous falsity. I was always far far more credulous than Glen was about the veracity of this story.

This is the story in the M.E.N. of 24-7-86:

“ Boys catch Jaws Junior – in Cheadle!”

“As fishermen`s tales go the claim made by 16 year olds Martin McIllwrath and David Cresswell stretched the imagination a bit far……They said they`d caught a shark…….in Cheadle!

Some people just didn`t believe it. But an expert from Manchester Museum has confirmed that the three-foot-long, 8lb fish they pulled from the Micker Brook – at least 35 miles salt water – is a spur-dog shark.

Said David, of Tarvin Road, Cheadle: “ We saw the fish going along with the current. Martin got in the water and flipped it out on to a sandbank with his foot.”

Martin, of Yew Tree Park Road, Cheadle Hulme, said: “ We thought it was alive – we weren`t sure- and that it could have been dangerous, so David hit it over the head.”(1)

Very soon after I first read this I contacted Jon and asked him if a bird ( not a robin,obviously!) could carry a fish weighing 8lb and Jon said no, increasing the likelihood in my mind that the shark had somehow got there by natural means, but Karl Shuker e-mailed me and said;

“ I`ve read a lot of reports of this nature. It was probably carried and dropped by a large predatory bird or even a large gull. (2)

A day before Karl contacted me, Mike Duddy of Salford Friendly Anglers communicated with me as follows:

“ Richard, you`ve set yourself a very interesting challenge! [in trying to find out more about the Cheadle shark-R] I`ve never heard of a dog shark in Micker Brook-though its now becoming a spawning site again for the recently returned Salmon population. With regards to the Irwell and surrounding rivers, the only strange/unusual fish sighted are those that have been washed out of ornamental ponds during periods of flooding, or which have been tipped into the river by people who no longer want the contents of their fish tank.

That said, I know for a fact that there are a couple of very large golden orfe swimming around in the Manchester Ship Canal, and also a 10lb+ lemon coloured Koi Carp- as I see them every year when the fish migrate upstream to spawn in the shallow water in Lower Broughton….

There is also a bright orange Koi Carp which resides in the River Irwell near Summerseat-again seen with my own eyes and not hearsay. However- the river in this area is very overgrown and I would doubt that I will ever see it again…Prior to the River Irwell being completely wiped out by pollution in the 1850s the river used to be the home of a special type of white fish locally called a graining (latin name – Leuciscus lancastrius). This species was a type of dace which was only found in the Mersey system. It no longer exists but can still be found in Switzerland. (3)

On January 22nd I received the following reply to a message of mine from our friend cryptozoologist and ichythologist Fran├žois de Sarre:

“ Dear Richard

Many thanks for sending me the spurdog story! I could good read it (sic)

I`m not sure that the fish was really alive, as it was caught by boys; and certainly it was not easy for a bird to pick it up, either alive or dead! Otherwise, it would not be impossible for a shark to swim up a river, even if I never heard of a spurdog in fresh water. In Mekong there are skates coming up from sea, and in East Africa (Victoria lake) there Carcharhinus leucas sharks coming from ocean.

Best wishes, Fran├žois (4)

Three days later Glen told me:

“ I haven`t found anything about the shark yet, I have been trying to find reports of out of place sharks in fresh water and I have tracked down a picture of my brother with a dog fish he found it in a car park ! I am starting to wonder if they were being teleported…..” (5)

The next day later Glen filled me in on the geography of the Micker Brook area;

“ The Micker Brook appears just before Cheadle weaves through the town before joining the river Mersey, the Mersey itself joins the Manchester ship canal at Flixton Falls. Any chance of the shark heading up river to Cheadle highly unlikely, it would have had to have travelled along the Ship canal and even as recent as 1986 that was so polluted that the chances of of anything living in it would be slim and that`s before it has to leap up Flixton Falls. From reading the report there does seem to be little doubt that the fish was alive when caught so I am thinking that it was placed in the water up stream and gently floated down stream. (6)

This concludes Part One, in Part Two Glen will explain how the story was exposed as a hoax and why this is important for cryptozoologists.

1. Manchester Evening News July 24th 1986
2. E mail from K.Shuker to R.Muirhead Jan 18th 2011
3. E mail from Mike Duddy to R.Muirhead Jan 17th 2011
4. E mail from Francois de Sarre to R.Muirhead Jan 22nd 2011
5. E mail from G.Vaudrey to R.Muirhead Jan 25th 2011
6. E mail from G.Vaudrey to R.Muirhead Jan 26th 2011



Join the John G. Shedd Aquarium Andros Iguana research expedition from April 29-May 8, 2011.

Join the John G. Shedd Aquarium Andros Iguana research expedition from April 29-May 8, 2011.
Join Shedd biologists on their spring visit to the Bahamas to study the charismatic but endangered Andros Iguana (Cyclura cychlura cychlura).

Since 1999, participants in these research excursions have been instrumental in our ability to collect crucial life history data on this endangered species. This year's participants will capture and tag iguanas alongside Shedd staff and also potentially witness breeding activity and nesting behavior. This species is the only iguana documented to deposit their eggs in termite mounds and this fascinating behavior has only been witnessed personally by a handful of people.

After a hard day's work, we will return to the R/V Coral Reef II, Shedd's comfortable research vessel, to enjoy a ship-cooked meal along with camaraderie and storytelling. Besides long days in the field, participants will also have opportunities to snorkel and swim, visit with local people, and travel to cays never before explored. This iguana research expedition is for anyone with a sense of adventure and a desire to make a difference for wildlife conservation. We've designed a field experience that is exciting, challenging, and entertaining while also safe, accessible, and meaningful. Shedd provides the expertise and equipment, but the volunteers provide the teamwork that makes the project possible.

For more information, please contact Nicole Pierson at iguanaresearch@sheddaquarium.org or view a brochure in PDF format at http://www.sheddaquarium.org/pdf/Iguana_Andros_2011.pdf

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1869 the largest alluvial gold nugget, 'The Welcome Stranger', ever found was discovered in Moliagul, Victoria, Australia, by John Deason and Richard Oats. The nugget weighted 109.593 kg and was so big that it had to be split up three times before it would fit on any scales.
And now, the news:

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Pet snake starts fire in Dorset house

Today's vaguely related video is 'as old as the internet' but there may well be some young whipper-snappers that haven't seen it as it was before their time, if this is your first time watching it be sure to keep watching to the end: