Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Unexpected Porpoise Predators Revealed As Formidable Gray Seals

Your typical gray seal, Halichoerus grypus, a hunter of small cetaceans? (Source)
Following the regular discovery of mutilated harbor porpoise carcasses on Dutch beaches since 2003, a group of biologists began a ten year investigation into the situation's cause.1 The usual suspects of boat propellers or hostile fishermen were dismissed after the deaths regularly continued their toll, and the enigma continued until a group of Belgian researchers came to a startling conclusion.1 In 2012, these researchers took note of apparent bite marks present in some of the wounds inflicted upon the thousands of porpoise carcasses.1 These matched the canine teeth of an unexpected yet certainly capable mammalian predator: the gray seal Halichoerus grypus. With bulls reaching up to almost eleven feet in length and weighing as much as 310 kilograms this was no huge surprise, especially considering their being relatives of animals like the formidable leopard seals. Further examination of the carcasses showed the marks of pinniped claws and signs of the seals having gone after the nourishment of a porpoise's blubber1, yet the proposition was still subject to some debate.
Harbor porpoise carcass with wounds indicative of gray seal predation. (Source)

Monday, November 24, 2014

New Findings Suggest Odd-Toed Ungulates Originated On Continental "Noah's Ark"

Illustration of the compelling Cambaytherium thewissi by Elaine Kasmer.
As recently reported on the Science Daily website, John Hopkins University researchers excavating fossils at the edge of a coal mine in India have recently made a discovery which brings revelations on the origins of odd-toed ungulates. Although past research has traced the presence of these animals back to the early Eocene epoch fifty-six million years ago, details on their earlier evolution is shrouded in mystery. The odd-toed ungulates, classified in the order Perissodactyla, include modern day horses and rhinos and are distinguished from other orders due to their uneven number of toes and unique digestive system. Following the proposition of perissodactyls having their origins in Western India, the John Hopkins University research team took to Eocene sediments in this region and unearthed several remains of the little-known ungulate Cambaytherium thewissi. According to these researchers, the teeth, number of sacral vertebrae, and hand and feet bones of Cambaytherium suggest that it is the species most like a common ancestor to all members of Perissodactyla yet discovered. Apart from filling an evolutionary gap, this finding also supports the notion that a diverse number of early mammal groups might have evolved in India while it was still an isolated island continent. This isolation would allow the groups, which included lemur-like primates and both perissodactyls and the even-toed artiodactyls, to evolve without competition from other Paleocene animals.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Scrutiny of Dennis Hall's Alleged 'Champ' Video Evidence

Although they are a minority in comparison to anecdotal data, various alleged photographs of unknown aquatic animals do exist,
although much dissention surrounds them. The illustration above is Peter Loh's wonderful interpretation of one of the 1975 Rines
photographs from Loch Ness, one alleged 'lake monster' image which continues to be viewed as compelling by some.
With the seasons of cross country and my job at the zoo having subsided, I anticipate more time to contribute to this blog and also revise older publications as my research into the bizarre realms of zoology furthers. While my blog is currently recovering, I have decided to post yet another publication sent to me from my colleague Scott Mardis. This particular article is a sort of follow-up to the previous one on Dennis Hall's juvenile 'Champ' capture claims. While it is set in a rather humorous tone at times, it makes no labor of getting to the point, which is a rather critical one at that. Here, Scott examines some of Dennis Hall's alleged images of Lake Champlain 'monsters' in light of his recent investigations into their origin. Dennis has recently teamed up with Katy Elizabeth in his expeditions to Lake Champlain, and the two have made allegations which fall when met with the scientific scrutiny necessary if we are to hold cryptozoological research up to the standards of other zoological sciences. Renowned astronomer Carl Sagan, who has not shied away from the topic of alleged aquatic mystery animals himself, once stated that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." Keeping this doctrine in mind, take note that the aforementioned duo is claiming to have regular interactions with a species of reptile which is supposed to have gone extinct some 220 million years ago yet have no better evidence than ambiguous videos to support their assertions. I feel that Dennis and Katy's claims are lacking in the objective, scientific reasoning warranted in a field so troubled as Cryptozoology and thus such criticism as Scott's is well justified. That being said, I am not making slanderous remarks towards the individuals in question and neither is Scott, although he is entirely responsible for the content reproduced here. Hopefully, more objectivity can be brought to such amateur field work and aquatic cryptozoology will be brought to a better standing in scientific focus.

This is a guest post by Scott Mardis. Scott has been an active field investigator of the Lake Champlain “Monster” since 1992. He is a former sustaining member of the defunct International Society of Cryptozoology and a former volunteer worker in the Vertebrate Paleontology Dept. of the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences (1990-1992). He co-authored a scientific abstract about the Lake Champlain hydrophone sounds for the Acoustical Society of America in 2010. He currently lives in Bradenton, Florida.

by Scott Mardis
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