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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Monday, April 28, 2014

CRYPTOLINK: Mysterious mermaid stripped naked

A word about cryptolinks: we are not responsible for the content of cryptolinks, which are merely links to outside articles that we think are interesting (sometimes for the wrong reasons), usually posted up without any comment whatsoever from me. 

Horniman merman
The Horniman merman. Photograph: Heini Scheebeli

Name: The Horniman merman
Species: Pseudosiren paradoxoides
Dates: mid- to late-19th century
Claim to fame: Iconic specimen
Where now: Horniman Museum & Gardens

I am fascinated by mermaids. But my fascination, I should add, is purely professional. It all began when, in my capacity as a curator of natural history at the Horniman Museum & Gardens, I was asked to help identify the composition of a mermaid in the collection. 

Horniman merman
What is it made of? The mysterious merman at the Horniman Museum & Gardens. Photograph: Heini Scheebeli

At that point, I was familiar with the idea that tales of mermaids most likely arose from the misidentification of real-world animals like the Sirenidae (a family of American aquatic salamanders that lack hind limbs) or Sirenia(the dugongs, manatees and now extinct Steller’s sea-cow). I was less familiar with fake mermaids, taxidermy chimera supposedly made by attaching a monkey to a fish.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as I peered into the case where the mermaid lurks in the Horniman’s Centenary Gallery, a space that struggles to strike a balance between the low light levels needed to preserve museum objects and the need for visitors to actually see the exhibits. With a torch, however, I was able to pierce the stygian gloom to reveal the suitably nightmarish visage of the “Japanese Monkey-fish” (as the museum’s register describes it). 

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