An exploration of our Earth's ever-captivating fauna through musings on the bizarre side of Zoology, Cryptozoology, Paleontology, and Paleoanthropology

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Remains of Possible Neanderthal and Homo sapiens Hybrid Remains Found

Recently discovered skeletal remains in Italy, which date 30,000 to 40,000 years old, are possibly those of a hybrid between a Neanderthal (Homo neanderthalensis or Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) and human (Homo sapiens). The individual's lower jaw is currently being examined, and it seems to indicate a hominin which had a face that looked intermediate between a Neanderthal and modern human. Genetic analysis has shown that this individuals' parents were likely a female Neanderthal and a male Homo sapiens. A rather disturbing theory which the research team has put forth is that the female Neanderthals may have been raped by the male Homo sapiens. Interestingly, these scientists also think that, although these two human species likely hybridized, Neanderthals continued to practice their own culture. The research team will likely reveal more exciting discoveries in the near future, but the information which has been released further enforces the incredible possibility that modern humans may have an ancestry which involved interbreeding with Neanderthals. For more information about this exciting discovery, read here: First love child of human, Neanderthal believed found.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Recent News in Zoology: Of Giant Squid and Vietnamese Salamanders

I've been very busy lately, and I was hoping to do a non-cryptozoological article this week. I've decided to share this article by anthropologist and cryptozoological researcher Dale Drinnon, where he shared some recent zoological discoveries. The first news that Mr. Drinnon shared is about the diversity of the giant squid species known as Architeuthis. Through the growing advancements in genetic analyses, we have been finding that animals which were thought to be one species are actually genetically different. However, it has been discovered that Architeuthis (which is a globally ranging species) from diverse locations vary little in their mitochondrial DNA.

The other zoological discovery which has been shared on the Frontiers of Zoology website, is the exciting discovery of a new species of Vietnamese salamander. It was originally thought to have been a specimen of the known Vietnamese crocodile newt, but further morphological and genetic analysis showed otherwise. The new species has been named Ziegler's crocodile newt, with the scientific name of Tylototriton ziegleri.

Please read this article by Dale Drinnon to learn more about these exciting zoological discoveries.
Frontiers of Zoology: Recent News in Zoology

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Waxahachie Black Panther Camera Project

Mike Mayes, the so-called 'Texas Cryptid Hunter', is a great research associate of mine who has been doing investigative work regarding reports of cryptozoological animals in Texas. As I have said previously, I have a great interest in reports of relict Eastern cougars and 'out of place' black panthers. My interest is mainly due to the fact that such animals have been allegedly seen very near to where I live; literally down the road from where I live in one case where an alleged Eastern cougar was observed. Mike has been contacted by some people in Texas who have allegedly seen black panthers on their property several times. He is currently setting up trail cameras to try to document the existence of these unrecognized  animals on the property. As I have discussed previously, I have suggested that several Southern black panther reports may actually be of jaguarundis. However, I also feel that it is possible that many reported black panthers in North America are melanistic mountain lions. I have high hopes for Mike's investigation, and he may assist in finally determining what these reported felids are.
Black panthers are reported all over North America.
Will Mike Mayes be successful in photographing one of these unclassified felids?
(Beautiful art by William Rebsamen)

Artifact Suggestive of Late-Surviving Caribbean Ground Sloths?

Here is a short yet interesting article by Dale Drinnon on a Taino artifact which may be a representation of a relict ground sloth. There has been anecdote-fueled speculation that the large ground sloths known as Megalocnus may have survived in the Cuban highlands into the 15th and 16th centuries, and this artifact may be suggestive of such an occurrence.

Frontiers of Zoology: Caribbean Ground Sloth?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Mississippi Man Shares Encounter With Purported Out of Place Jaguarundi

I recently received an email which contained a striking subject line titled "black cats". I have been welcoming people to share their reports of unidentified and out of place animals for quite some time now, and I have finally received an email regarding a related sighting. I have received permission to share the person's name, the location of the alleged encounter, and the report here. The eyewitness is James Francis, a 40 year old man from Mississippi. He told me that he has had a lifelong interest in animals, nature, and cryptozoology, but was contacting me this time to share two encounters which he has had with a large black-colored cat. I have a great interest in reports of "black panthers" and relict Eastern cougars in North America, so I was extremely excited to receive this report and be able to share it. Here is his report:
I have seen a large black cat on my wooded rural property twice. I called the Dept. of Wildlife and they said they get reports of them all the time. This cat was quite large but nowhere near the size of a full grown mountain lion, leopard, or jaguar. I would estimate it under 2' tall and maybe around 4' plus long. It had a very long tail. It looked like a miniature mountain lion. It wasn't built as heavily as a leopard or as boxy as a jaguar. After doing much research, I'm convinced that what I saw was a jaguarundi. While I have been passionate about animals all my life, this is a cat that I had never heard of before. They are from South and Central America, and do resemble a small mountain lion. They come in a tawny color very similar to a mountain lion and a very dark grey that can look black. The first one (sighting) was probably about 3 years ago. It was sometime in the fall probably late October or early November. That's about the best I can remember. My living room has a wall of windows that look out to my backyard and several wooded acres of my own and neighbors' property. I simply looked out the window and saw it crossing the yard as clear as day. It was maybe 100 feet away. It walked out of the woods and walked across an open area of my yard. I ran outside, but it was long gone by the time I got there. I do remember that it was about 3:30 in the afternoon. I really can't remember when I saw the second one. It might have been a little over a year ago. I do remember that it was about the same time of day. It was in the same area of my yard and looked like it was sniffing around underneath a big cedar tree in my yard. Again, I ran outside just hoping for a closer look. I got a little closer, maybe 70 feet from it. I saw it run away this time. It topped a little rise in my yard that leads into the woods and it was just gone, which doesn't really surprise me since it's a cat.

The image which James Francis included in his email

Mr. Francis claims that the animal which he had seen looked exactly like a jaguarundi. Jaguarundis (Puma yagouaroundi) are a small species of cat which are known to live in South and Central America, and possibly in some regions of Texas. These felids have an appearance which is similar to a weasel with short legs, a small and flattened head, rounded ears, and a long tail. Jaguarundis have very large home ranges compared to other felids, and live in environments such as rain forest, swamp and savanna woodland, savanna, thickets, and semi-arid thorn scrub. They are also a largely diurnal species which has about thirteen distinct vocalizations. I emailed the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks regarding whether jaguarundi were a recognized species of Mississippi or not. Robert L Jones replied, saying that there are no records of jaguarundi in Mississippi so they are not considered a species which lives there. So Mr. Francis did allegedly spot an animal which is not supposed to exist in his state; an animal that would be considered an "out of place" animal of cryptozoology.

A map showing the regions where jaguarundis are recognized as a native species;  Mississippi is not on this map.
Different images of jaguarundi individuals and a jaguarundi skull.
 Jaguarundi video - Puma yagouaroundi - 01 - ARKive

An interesting theory which has existed in the cryptozoological community is that some of the sightings of black panthers in the Southern and Southwestern United States are actually of Jaguarundis. On the Texas Cryptid Hunter blog, an interesting trail camera photo which seems to show a relatively large and dark colored felid was posted. The photograph was taken in the Hill Country of Texas, and seems to show a jaguraundi (according to Mike's analysis). After examining the photograph and different models of game feeders, Mike came to the conclusion that the cat is smaller than a jaguar or cougar but is likely larger than a feral cat. Chester Moore, a naturalist of the Southern Panther Search, has concluded that the animal's dark color, body position, and short legs likely point to a jaguarundi. Jaguarundis are not supposed to exist in this area, so this may very well be photographic evidence for the existence of jaguarundis in a region in which they aren't recognized.

Surprisingly, Mr. Francis' sighting of an out of place jaguarundi is not the first. Eyewitnesses and investigators continue to work towards the existence of these species to be recognized, and hopefully it won't be long until people like James Francis (whom I would like to readily thank for emailing me) will be proven correct.
A possible jaguarundi track from an area of Texas where they are not a recognized species