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

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Hagan Mystery Carcass: An Examination of an Intriguing Unknown Carcass Report

A depiction of the Hagan Mystery Carcass which is based off of the description given by a witness.
 (Hagan Mystery Creature by Thomas Finley 2013) 
Update ~ Especially when dealing with data and views so circumstantial as those of cryptozoology, scientific lines of thinking are constantly changing. As my research delves further into the bizarre realms of zoology, my own thoughts have evolved substantially and will most likely continue to do so. I feel that this change does not reflect poorly on my own reputation but rather shows that I am willing to adapt my own hypotheses when met with contrasting data. With this having been stated, I have since come to disagree with some of the material presented in this article. The notion of the Hagan carcass as a primitive cetacean is quite tantalizing if the description is taken to be entirely accurate, and multiple other zoological academics such as Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans have written on the supposed persistence of archaeocetes. However, the presupposed gap in the fossil record necessary for such an occurrence contradicts our current understanding of paleozoology, with the bones of archaeocetes being much denser and more diagnostic than those of commonly cited living fossils such as the coelacanth. Anecdotal accounts of animal carcasses are also infamously poor, with decomposition often hindering the ability of an eyewitness to accurately record the animal's true appearance or identity. Nonetheless, I will leave the publication as it stands for the benefit of those interested. Please refer to this article for my more recent position on the Hagan carcass.
Thomas Finley, a cryptozoological artist and good friend of mine, has recently shared an interesting report with me and other researchers. This report involved the discovery of a carcass belonging to an unknown animal off the coast of Southern California by Julie Hagan. The event allegedly happened on April 20, 1978 in La Conchita, California. I had the pleasure of interviewing Julie Hagan about the occurrence on Facebook, and I have permission to share the details she gave me. Ms. Hagan described the unidentifiable carcass as being that of an aquatic mammal which had a body that was comparable in its bulkiness to that of an elephant seal. According to Ms. Hagan, the color of the skin was leathery and dark brown like that of a walrus, but was much darker and had little wiry hair. The animal reportedly had a blowhole and a flat tail like a dolphin. This carcass also had several unique features such as a large bite mark on its side, two sets of flippers (the hind flippers were firm and not vestigial), and a head which was described as having a flat, leathery "billed" snout like that of a platypus. Other than the large wound on its side, the carcass was fully intact, and Ms. Hagan feels that it had recently washed ashore. Julie was able to measure the carcass and estimated that its body was ten feet long, approximately four feet high, and possibly 3.5 feet wide. Julie also measured the length of the eyes from the blowhole, and found that they were approximately six to eight inches away and were slightly above the bill. However, Julie was unable to take photographs due to her absence of a camera and she did not take samples of the body because she could only think to use her senses to observe the carcass, due to her lack of tools for sample collection. Two other people also apparently witnessed the carcass on the beach but did not remove it due to its powerful odor, and it was reportedly last seen being removed from the beach by people from the local Santa Barbara Museum. Although the carcass was never publicly identified, it does share some features with a known species, although this species is not supposed to exist in modern times.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

New Primitive, Knobby-Skulled Pareiasaur Discovered

A new Permian era (266-252 million years ago) reptile has recently been discovered in northern Niger, suggesting that an isolated desert on the supercontinent Pangea had a unique fauna of its own. The newly discovered animal was a pareiasaur, a form of herbivorous reptile common to Permian ecosystems. This animal had a body which was about the size of a cow's, with bony scutes called osteoderms on its back. The feature which especially made this reptile unique were the large, bony knobs which adorned its head; the largest of any known pareiasaur. These large cranial knobs were likely covered in skin, similar to those of giraffes. Due to this strange feature, the new pareiasaur genus was named Bunostegos, meaning "knobby [skull] roof." Even more intriguing is a discovery made through analysis of the specimen, which revealed that the pareiasaur was part of a primitive lineage isolated in the region for millions of years. It appears that several Permian reptiles, amphibians, and plants were isolated in this centrally located desert of the Pangea supercontinent due to its unique hyper-arid conditions which discouraged other species from entering. Due to this isolation in such a harsh climate, the animals living in the region possessed novel adaptations and anatomical features which are evident in their fossilized remains; thus helping us gain a better idea of what some of the truly bizarre fauna during the Permian period was like. To read more about this intriguing discovery, go to this link: Pareiasaur: Bumpy beast was a desert dweller

Monday, June 24, 2013

My Book Review of Nick Redfern's 'Monster Files'

I recently had the great pleasure of receiving a copy of Monster Files: A Look Inside Government Secrets and Classified Documents on Bizarre Creatures and Extraordinary Animals by cryptozoological author Nick Redfern from the New Page Books publication company. I was very honored (and surprised) to be asked to write a review of Redfern's book on my blog, and I hope that my review influences more people to purchase this intriguing publication. This new publication deals with bizarre cases involving government establishments and cryptozoological animals. Throughout the book he chronicles cases which imply that government authorities have shown interest in such reported creatures, and feels that officialdom may have dubious reasons for examining such reports. While some alleged cases imply that government establishments have spread false rumors of monsters to terrify enemies into submission or cover up covert missions, others indicate that government establishments may have examined cryptozoological animals in the past to learn of their alleged bizarre abilities. In my opinion, one of the most attention grabbing details in Redfern's book was a claim that the United States government had an interest in the identity of the unknown beasts reported at Loch Ness and, upon examination of the Loch, had discovered that the creatures were ghostly forms of plesiosaurs which could materialize and vanish at will! Several more bizarre cases similar to this one are included in Monster Files, from soldiers' reports of encountering giant reptiles in the Australian bush to a man's claim of finding government files documenting the autopsy of a giant, gorilla-like beast killed in Ohio! However, it is important to note that many of the cases contained in this intriguing book are simply stories and rumors which may or may not have any truth to them. While I personally wouldn't put any stock in several of the suggestions in this book, they certainly were interesting and kept me deep in thought. The way which Redfern presented the information contained in the book kept me constantly reading with intrigue, and some of the more evidenced claims of government operations involving cryptozoological beasts make you truly wonder if they may know something that we don't. Overall I greatly enjoyed reading this book, and although I felt that some of the claims were far-fetched, I certainly recommend it to viewers of this blog!
Nick Redfern's book is an excellent and worthy addition to any cryptozoological researcher's resources

Saturday, June 22, 2013

New Book on the Natural History, Evolution, and Anatomy of Pterosaurs

Thalassodromeus sethi shown consuming a juvenile spinosaur, by paleoart genius Mark Witton.
Paleontologist and remarkable paleoartist Mark Witton has recently announced that his new book Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy has been published. The book regards the evolution, anatomy, functional morphology, and taxonomy of pterosaurs, and contains 200 illustrations throughout 26 chapters according to Witton's website page on this exciting publication. Thankfully for paleontology interested amateurs like me, Witton's new book is meant to be approachable for people who do not have intimate knowledge regarding these intriguingly bizarre flying reptiles. Mark's stunning looking book is apparently the most up to date publication on these animals yet, and it even features new proposals on the hypothetical ancestral species of pterosaurs! As a fan of Mark's beautiful paleoart, I was very excited by his statement that the amount of new illustrations which he had created for this book was partly the reason for the two and a half year wait for its publication. Many of these illustrations apparently depict pterosaurs in never-seen-before situations, and do take an All Yesterdays approach according to Witton. This new publication is also stocked with diagrams and graphics, such as skeletal diagrams and muscle reconstructions.
A diagram depicting the intriguing structure of pterosaur wings, as evidenced by fossils.
(From Mark Witton's book)
Mark has generously shared Chapter 1 and Chapter 17 of the book as sample chapters, which preview how truly remarkable this book is. I have yet to purchase a copy, but I certainly will as soon as possible. I think this book will be definitely worth obtaining, and I have shared a link to where you can purchase the book on Amazon here. To read more about this exciting, new book by great paleoartist and pterosaur specialist Mark Witton, check out this post on his blog: Mark Blog: Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy: o...

Friday, June 21, 2013

My Appearance on the Squatchers Lounge Podcast~With My Comments on the Discussion

On Wednesday night, I had a wonderful time talking with Reverend Jeffrey Kelley and David Batdorf of the Squatchers Lounge Podcast. Jeff and David were very welcoming and asked some great questions while we talked about the "Sierra Kills" incident (Justin Smeja's claims of shooting two wood apes) and the hypotheses and evidence for sea serpents. I have shared the YouTube video of our session above, and I urge you to watch it if you enjoy the kinds of things which I generally write about here! However, I do wish to clear some things up regarding what I had said during the show. At one point of our "round-table discussion", I had said that the fat deposits which possibly exist on the backs of longnecks could appear to be humps as the animals "undulate" through the water. When I said this, I think I had confused Mr. Kelley as to what I had meant by undulate. I did not mean undulation as in movement resulting in several sections of the animal's back visible above the water in the classical manner portrayed in popular culture for sea serpents, but rather as in the general body movement in the vertical plane which all marine mammals exhibit. In regard to the reports of several (more than two or three) humps undulating through the water at the same time, resulting in a report of a serpentiform sea serpent which can form its body into several humps or "hoops" visible above the water, I think that these are most likely cases of misidentified animals such as dolphins and whales swimming in a row. I also feel that some of these reports, specifically the ones which entail an animal with a head and long neck raised above the water, may be of actual longnecks which are creating wakes and waves that trail behind them as they swim (creating the appearance of undulating humps).
An example of how dolphins can result in an apparent serpentiform sea beast, using the St. Olaf "sea serpent" sketch.
(More examples in this post at Frontiers of Zoology)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Reported Interactions Between 'Sea Serpents' And Cetaceans: Predator or Perhaps Playful?

Artwork by Aleks Mats, depicting a long-necked 'sea serpent' which was reported to have been chasing dolphins.
I had recently asked cryptozoology enthusiast Aleks Mats, who has created artwork for this blog before, if he would be willing to do a painting based off of an intriguing 'sea serpent' sighting for me. The sighting involved a pod of dolphins which appeared to be fleeing from a longneck (a term used by cryptozoological researchers to refer to the long-necked mystery animals reported in the ocean and lakes). As Dale Drinnon pointed out in an article which he wrote on the subject, there were three specific reports involving such alleged predation habits in Anton Oudemans' comprehensive book The Great Sea Serpent. The first report of such a manner in Oudemans' book was near Northern Ireland, where an animal which was estimated to have been around fifty eight feet long with a long neck and head held above the water was reportedly seen swimming between a group of porpoises. The animal allegedly had smooth skin, eyes situated over its jaw, and eight "splits" which were interpreted by Oudemans as likely being folds in the skin on the neck. The second report occurred in Margaret's Bay, Novia Scotia, where a long-necked 'sea serpent' which had a skin coloration of dark brown or black with irregular streaks of white was seen in apparent pursuit of a pod of 'grampuses' (another name for Risso's dolphin). The third report in Oudemans' book occurred between Ireland and the Faroe Islands, where a longneck was reportedly seen in apparent pursuit of a pod of porpoises until it dived "head foremost, like a duck." This interesting and in-depth report involved a description of the 'sea serpent' as having a head like that of a horse, a neck estimated as being as thick as a man's waist, neck movement "like that of a swan", neck posture of a right angle when surfacing, and nostrils which may have been held wide open. Zoologist Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans also included such reports of dolphins and porpoises being 'chased' by longnecks in his book In The Wake of Sea Serpents. But could the cause of such intriguing reports of dolphins and porpoises being 'pursued' by longnecks be something other than predation by the longnecks? It seems that this is likely the case, which was the subject of a discussion that I had with two great cryptozoological minds: Matt Bille and Dale Drinnon.

Friday, June 7, 2013

What was the Naden Harbor Carcass?

Painting depicting the proposed appearance of a 'cadborosaurus', based off of eyewitness accounts and the Naden Harbor carcass, by cryptozoological artist Thomas Finley.

In the summer of 1937, men flensing a sperm whale at the Naden Harbour whaling station located in the Queen Charlotte Islands made a remarkable discovery. As described in Dr. Paul LeBlond and Dr. Edward Bousfield's 1995 Cadborosaurus: Survivor from the Deep, the remains of an unidentifiable animal were removed from the whale's stomach and laid out on a five foot table to be photographed. The carcass possessed a discernable head said to "bear resemblance to that of a large dog with features of a horse and the turn down nose of a camel", a smooth (although one witness described it as being covered by a "fur-like material") elongate body stretching around twelve feet in length, signs of a dorsal crest or vertebral column, short foreflippers, and a fluke which was "spade-shaped" or resembled "a single blade of gill bone as found in whales' jaws". The individuals at the whaling station claimed that the body was not that of any marine fauna previously pulled from the stomach of a sperm whale, such as a six-gilled shark, ragfish, or giant squid. Unfortunately, the carcass was disposed of after zoologically-untrained taxidermist Francis Kermode suggested the remains to have been those of a fetal baleen whale. Still, three photographs of the so-called Naden Harbor carcass remain and have puzzled both laymen and zoologists alike. Hoping to obtain a fresh take on the matter, I spoke to correspondent and brilliant researcher Scott Mardis as to the possibility of his writing a guest article for this blog. He graciously accepted the inquiry and wrote the exceptional text below. Thus, my sincere thanks go out to Scott for this article and for his mentorship in the field of 'aquatic cryptozoology'. I encourage you to read his lengthy work in full as it is filled with cutting edge information regarding what has been alleged to be the carcass of a bonafide 'sea serpent'.

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.

What Was The Naden Harbour Carcass AKA Cadborosaurus Willsi?

By Scott Mardis

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Living Fossil Frog Rediscovered in Israel

After being considered extinct for sixty years, a species of frog known as the Hula painted frog has been rediscovered. Although this species was actually the first amphibian to be declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a living female specimen was discovered in northern Israel in 2011. This enigmatic frog species was first discovered in the 1940s and was thought to have died out due to the drying up of Hula Lake, but now a team of scientists have published an in depth analysis of the species in the scientific journal Nature Communications. The analysis compellingly concluded that the Hula painted frog differs so strongly from its living relatives that it is likely the sole extant member of an ancient genus of frogs known as Latonia. Thus, this frog is a true living fossil of a genus which was thought to have gone extinct around a million years ago, making this an exciting discovery for zoologists! Thankfully, plans to restore some of the swamp habitat in the Hula Valley are in placement, which could help support larger populations of this relict amphibian. To read more about this discovery, see here: An 'extinct' frog makes a comeback in Israel