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, July 04, 2014

The Sykes paper: A personal view

Last night I was sent a copy of Genetic analysis of hair samples attributed to yeti, bigfoot and other anomalous primates by Bryan C. Sykes, Rhettman A. Mullis, Christophe Hagenmuller, Terry W. Melton and Michel Sartori. And it was most enlightening.

There is nothing in it that anybody in the cryptozoological community could possibly object to.  At no point do Sykes and his co-authors claim (as they were quoted in the popular press some months ago) that they have hammered the last nail into the coffin of the yeti.  What they do say is: “While it is important to bear in mind that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence and this survey cannot refute the existence of anomalous primates, neither has it found any evidence in support” which is an entirely different thing.

After the television show last year it was suggested by Sykes that the unknown bear species in the Himalayas could be a hybrid between the brown and polar bears.  This rang alarm bells with me, because the nearest population of polar bears is thousands of miles away, and if so where did the daddy bear come from?  However, in this paper they qualify this statement: “If they are hybrids, the Ladakh and Bhutan specimens are probably descended from a different hybridization event during the early stages of species divergence between U. arctos and U. maritimus.”

This makes perfect sense, and I am quite prepared to admit that I could have just got the wrong end of the stick from the TV show. I have got the wrong end of the stick before, and no doubt will do so again.

Finally, the authors write:  “Rather than persisting in the view that they have been ‘rejected by science’, advocates in the cryptozoology community have more work to do in order to produce convincing evidence for anomalous primates”, I would again, agree with this totally.  And would like to say that in my opinion cryptozoology is not, and never has been, “rejected by science”.  Cryptozoological concepts have, on many occasions, been rejected by individual scientists – something of which I have had personal experience – and that is an entirely different thing. 

If Sykes et al do manage an expedition into the Himayalas to look for this unknown bear species, and it should be pointed out here that at least one unknown bear species has been postulated from the region for many years (Eberhert 2002, for example) I for one am very much looking forward to reading their results and findings.

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