Thursday, June 25, 2009
Now comes the wait for the results....
Good luck baby - everyone at the CFZ is rooting for you, as - I am sure - are people in the CFZ family across the globe....
Robert Schneck wrote:
"Hi Jon, I don't know anything about deer, but the stuffed head reminds me of a mule deer.
Do you know its size?"
Well the scientific way of answering this would have been to take measurements of all its statistics, and post them to Robert, together with a sample of hair. However, we pride ourselves on our unorthodox modus operandi as far as problem solving is concerned. So here is a picture of my lovely step-daughter Olivia showing off her new dreadlocks and waving the afore-mentioned dead deer in the vague direction of the camera.
Once again there is a problem with the new edition of Animals & Men. It is now available, and four large cartons of them are presently in my sitting room. I still sincerely hope that all subscribers will get theirs by the end of the week or beginning of next week, but I had not calculated for the fact that the magaziunes are now considerably bigger than they were, and therefore won't fit in any of the envelopes. However, that will be sorted soon, I promise.
The new issue is also, for the first time, available on Amazon at the link below:
I am sorry about the delay; it was partly down to circumstances beyond my control and partly due to me cocking up the template. The next issue should be easier and will be out more betimes....
“You should have seen it, Frieda,” said Ellie to her best friend. “I cannot believe you got me involved like this but since you helped me with my mum I have been so tremendously grateful and I love you very much. But I can tell you,” she continued, “that being involved with those loons has made me determined to help you more."
They were sitting outside the Minster Cricket Pavilion – built in 2004 by way of a grant from the Regional Development Agency – drinking water and eating sweets. Frieda gave Ellie a hug. There may be boys, Frieda thought, but Ellie was her best friend ever and loved spending time with her. Now, of course, things had got more serious and there was a lot of madness descending upon their home so they needed each other more.
Just then, the girls saw Jenny Pearman, their friend from the Minster Pub. Jen was now being called “Cat Girl”; a poor ‘in joke’. All the locals knew her utter horror at her involvement in the ongoing saga of mystery cats in the village for it was she whose loose talk – well that’s the way she now saw it – had been overheard by glass collector Tony East. From there, things had got out of control in a couple of days.
Now the weekend was approaching and stories in newspapers – from local rag to the Daily Mirror – an internet awash with stories, counter stories, hype and speculation and the god-forsaken efforts of Channels X’s Jeremy and Fawcett had made Upper Minster the place of choice for the curious, the uninitiated and the hardcore. The whole village was dreading it. Tonight there would be a special meeting in the Village Hall on Main Street to discuss matters and everyone would be there. Called by members of the Village Trust, this promised to be the highlight – some said the lowlight – of local affairs for many an age.
The last time anything similar had happened was in 1990 when a number of impressive crop circles had appeared in nearby barley and wheat fields. These were said to be ‘revolutionary’ as they broke the mould of simple circles and avenues that had appeared previously across the southwest. An ungodly host of pseudo “experts” had organised a CornCircleFest at the Hall. It turned out, much to the locals' glee, to the annoyance of landowners and to the utter contempt of those who insisted that the formations could only be made by a higher intelligence, that the culprits were a group of teenagers, including Jenny’s older brother James. James was a practical joker and budding artist and he had perfected the art of corn swirling. He had encouraged a few friends to join in the fun and they called themselves Team Sodom. They’d even let off helium balloons painted silver to suggest UFOs above the fields they were working in. Years later they were still at it. They’d made a lot of money making crop formations both at home and abroad and one of their designs had ended up on a beer label used by a famous brewing company. They’d made a lot of money but James’ mum Marcia still hoped he’d get a proper job and do some growing up.
Jenny, Ellie and Frieda discussed the latest excitement and whilst they detested The General – and all the more so since learning more of him and his crazy followers – they had to admit that they were looking forward to having fun at his expense. More than anything, though, they wanted to protect their way of life from outsiders and invaders, as they saw them. “When you go to London or Bristol or somewhere like that they’re soulless, selfish places,” said Ellie. “I go for gigs and music stuff there sometimes but I’m always so glad to come home here, and to you.” She hugged her friends and said, “I tell you, this man is mad and this weekend perhaps thousands of people are coming here because of him and that awful tart from the TV station. You should see them fawning all over each other, it’s truly sad.”
“One thing,” she continued, “your brother was talking about making a film about this for the internet. I am quite happy to take my make up off, tie my hair up and wear one of your pretty Laura Ashley dresses to appear as nice as pie and describe the extremity of their views and their excesses on camera. I could also mention the total lack of scientific method on site, and the way they try and recruit young girls like me. Can you believe that The General had the gall to call me a wayward kid, a rebel, someone needing direction in her life? Then he put his arm around me. I almost died. Vile man!”
“Good Lord, he is a pig,” declared Jenny. “You should have seen him in the pub with Terrible Tony and his acolytes last night. They were all drunk and being obnoxiously loud. Awful creatures. The General even said, after several pints of Stella, that he loved being the leader because it “got him women”. So much for mystery big cats, heh?”
“The women must be desperate,” added Frieda.
Firstly, on June 10th the cheesy headline 'Can Roo believe it?' reported: “After years of speculation, it appears there ARE wallabies living in Swythamley.” The rest of the article says nothing significant to add to this but does describe the animals as being in the plural.
Later, in the Macclesfield Express for June 24th, there was more substantial evidence of wallabies in this part of the north-west, with some interesting historical information. I quote:
“Do these new photographs prove that wallabies are still living up in the hills near Macclesfield? Hiker Andy Burton said he captured one of the elusive creatures on camera while trekking up the Roaches with friends…Wallabies were introduced to the Peak District in the 1930s by the Brocklehurst family, when five of the animals escaped from their private zoo at Roaches Hall. It's believed up to 50 were living on the moors at one time, but many were hunted and fears arose they had completely died out...A spokeswoman for Peak District Rangers service said there had been no official or confirmed wallaby sightings in four years."
“Please could we have our whale teeth back
Callous looters hacked off the lower jaw of a rare whale washed up near Exmouth to steal its two front teeth. After the 20-ft long Cuvier`s beaked whale was found dead at Otter Cove on monday, Exeter's Royal Albert Museum and the British Museum in London sent experts to retrieve it for research. But during Tuesday night, the whale floated back out into Lyme Bay because nobody had secured it. In the meantime, Customs officers who had arrived to take charge of the carcase on Tuesday mornmg found that the teeth which are Government property were missing.
Mr. Kelvin Boot, from the Royal Albert Museum in Exeter, said: ''This whale is one of the rarest as far as beaching goes. There are no records of one being stranded in Britain this century. There was a sightng in the 1960's, but that is not like having the actual whale to investigate. It is a very significant find. Perhaps we should have chained it to make sure it didn't float away, but I am confident that it will turn up again on a beach along the coast. The Marines are on stand-by to tow it oft as soon as it is sighted.
We will then dissect the whale, taking samples of various organs to check for heavy metal pollution in the sea and to discover what it has bcen feeding on. So little is known about this particular beaked whale. I just hope we can get it back. We may never get the chance again.
Fortunately for the scientists the whale obliged on Thursday morning, when it was washed up at Budleigh Salterton. Mr. Keith Green, an Exmouth-based Customs and Excise officer, said:"We would like to hear from anyone who has any information on the whereabouts of its teeth - they are still the property of the crown. All whales, porpoises and dolphins stranded on the British coast are the property of the Receiver of Wrecks, a department of the Customs and Excise service.
Under its rules, the mammals' teeth have to be removed and sent to the British Museum to establish the age and sex of the whale.”
Here, we would like to note that whereas the newspaper`s conclusion that the lower jaw was hacked off by souvenir hunters is probably correct, this IS remarkably reminiscent of another scenario commonly reported in UFO related animal mutilations. The coincidence between the locations and the timing (as we shall see there were UFO reports in 1987 as well) is worth remarking upon.
As Nigel pointed out, they would have, made spectacularly uninteresting souvenirs and having come face to face as it were with another suppurating cetacean ten years later, he feels it unlikely that any but the most psychotic of curio hunters would have summoned up the intestinal fortitude to hack the jaw off the great beast. I have to agree with him, and would add that the task would have been a particularly onerous and time-consuming one, and would also add that Otter Cove is a particularly isolated spot that can only be reached by driving through the grounds of a local holiday camp. (14) (15)
If the mutilation was carried out at night (which it would have to have been in order to escape the prying eyes of gleeful holiday makers) it would seem almost impossible (having visited the location) that:
a. The operation (which would have needed a chainsaw to complete) could have been carried out without attracting attention.
b. That the perpetrators (whoever they were) could have taken the immense jaw up the treacherous cliff path without having incurred an unreasonable degree of danger.
c. Anyone would have bothered.
A refutation of the `callous souvenir hunter` scenario can be found in this folllowing account of the species:
“Cuvier's Beaked Whale. Order Cetacea : Family Ziphiidae :
Cuvier's Beaked Whale (Ziphius cavirostris) Description. A moderately small beaked whale with upperparts ranging in color from dark brown to lead gray or blackish in color; underparts paler, but not whitish; occasionally head and upper back whitish; beak moderately prominent and the forehead rising rather sharply; lower jaw longer than upper; pectoral fin relatively small and the dorsal fin placed on posterior third of body; prominent keel extends from dorsal fin to tail; skull with length of rostrum less than twice its breadth at notch; lower jaw of males with one large tooth (about 7 cm in length and 4 cm in diameter) at the tip; in females the teeth are small and seldom break through the gums so that the animal appears to be toothless; two converging grooves on throat. Total length of adults, 5-7 m. Weight, 2.5-4.5 metric tons.
Distribution in Texas. Sparsely distributed throughout tropical and subtropical waters of the world. In the western North Atlantic, these whales are found from Massachusetts to Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.
Habits. Little is known of this whale beyond information revealed by stranded specimens. They are often observed in groups of 10-25. These whales are deep divers and may remain below water for 30 minutes or longer. They are known to eat squid, fish, crabs, and starfish.
The reproductive habits are almost unknown. There does not seem to be a distinct breeding season as calves are born year round. Calves are about 2.1 m long at birth. The length of gestation is unknown.” (16)
D.J.Coffey (1977) also notes that:
“...the male has a pair of teeth at the point of the lower jaw. In the female these do not erupt” (17)
As every report on this particular stranding has stated the animal was a female. This satisfactorily refutes any allegations that it would have been mutilated by souvenir hunters even if they had had the time, the opportunity or the motive, which is very questionable.
Another story in the Exmouth Herald a week later proclaimed:
“Hankies out for whale
Exmouth foiled out a carpet of polythene to bring ashore its most unusual visitor. a rare Cuvier's beaked whale on Friday morning. The 20ft. whale had been washed up dead on rocks at Otter Cove near Exmouth, and became a television celebrity overnight. But before experts from the Royal Albert Museum in Exeter could begin examining the five-ton female whale, thieves sawed off part of her lower law and two front teeth.
The whale was then washed away on the tide but found again in the estuary of the River Otter, at Budleigh Salutation. On Friday's high tide, Royal Marines from Limestone Camp secured lines around the whale and towed her out to sea as staff from the Exmouth Dock Company laid out a polythene carpet down Mamhead slipway on the pierheard.
As the whale was brought alongside by the Marines a line was thrown ashore to waiting dockers. A crowd of more than 100 watched the whale being pulled up the polythene carpet until the line broke. It was then a case of the one that got away as the whale drifted out to sea before the Marines nudged her back on to the slipway with inflatable boats. A new line was attached to the whale, which was pulled slowly up the sllpway and on to the road.
Several people reached for their handkerchiefs as the whale was lifted on to a waiting lorry - not to wipe away a tear, but to cover their noses. The carcass was then taken to a knacker's yard at Newton Abbot where staff from the museum began the task of stripping off the flesh. Mr. David Bolton. one of the museum team, said.' "We now know that the whale had a number of broken ribs and there was evidence of internal bleeding. This points to it having been hit by a ship or thrown across some rocks. "The whale had a punctured lung and a more detailed examination of the skeleton will provide some idea of her age.” (18)
The Ziphiidae, the family to which Cuvier`s beaked whale belongs is poorly known and full of so many zoological surprises that it has excited cryptozoologists as well as their brethren in the more mainstream branches of the narural sciences for many years.
Bernard Heuvelmans, the Belgian zoologist known universally as “The father of Cryptozoology” (19) waxed lyrical on the subject in 1968:
“No family of whales is so mysterious as the Ziphiidae, or 'Beaked Whales', which are really dolphins. Hyperoodon is the only one of its five genera which is at all common and the only one which has been known since the beginning of the last century. There seem to be several different species of Hyperoodon, or Bottlenose, reaching a length of about 30 feet, but the one most unlike the others is known almost entirely from skulls washed up in the Southern Hemisphere. Yet Hyperoodon has been caught only in the North Atlantic.
Cuvier's Whale (Ziphius) was first thought to be extinct when Georges Cuvier described in 1823 a partly petrified skull that had been washed up in the Mediterranean in 1804. Nearly half a century after the first stranding another was washed up in the same place. Later a whole specimen with an identical skeleton was found in New Zealand. Oddly enough in old specimens the skull is almost petrified, fossilised before its time, and in other respects it seems designed to fool the naturalist, for it is light above and dark below, thus breaking all the rules of animal coloration.
Mesoplodon is perhaps the most puzzling genus of all. It was first known from a carcase washed up at Elgin in Scotland and examined by Sowerby. It was brown and had a strangely curved lower jaw with only two teeth. In 1825 a similar beast, but with no teeth at all, was stranded alive at Le Havre. It lived for two days, and sightseers who had odd ideas about cetacean's diet-tried to feed it on bread soaked in water. Henri Ducrotay de Blainville studied it and christened it Aodon dalei on account of its absence of teeth, but subsequent scientists have said that it was just a Sowerby's Whale that had lost its teeth with age. It could well have been a female, for they are often found to be toothless. In 1850 Paul Gervais gave the species the name Mesoplodon bidens, which it has kept ever since. Meanwhile several different species of Mesoplodon have been reported, but their descriptions are based on so little evidence that it is hard to say whether there are ten or fifteen of them. One of the rarest is Gervais's Whale (Mesoplodon europaeus) of which only six specimens are known. The first was found floating in the English Channel in 1840; but the next three were washed up on the coast of New Jersey in 1889, 1933 and '935, and the last two, a mother and child, in Jamaica in 1953, which was rather unfortunate for a supposedly 'European' animal. Blainville's Whale (M densirostris) has an even more bizarre distribution. Only seven specimens have been found, but they could hardly have been farther apart: in the Seychelles, on Lord Howe Island, south of Africa, near Massachusetts, in Madeira and New Jersey. M stejnegeri is known only from two specimens from the Pacific coast of North America, and M. hectori from two specimens in New Zealand. The description of M bowdoini is also based on two New Zealand specimens, but as they were only skeletons we still know nothing about their external appearance. And I need hardly say that we know absolutely nothing about the habits of the various Mesoplodons, which are sometimes more than 15 feet long.
We hardly know more about the two species of Berardius, Arnoux's and Baird's Whales, which were first described in 1851 and 1883, and which may be over 40 feet long. The second has teeth which no mammalogist would have believed in had they been described by a layman, for they are embedded in cartilaginous sacs, and it seems that they can be erected at will. New species of Ziphiidae continue to be discovered. As recently as 1937 Oliver had to create a new genus, Tasmacetus, after three Beaked Whales of a hitherto unknown type were stranded in New Zealand. They were between 23 and 29 feet long; yet people still say that the sea cannot hold any large unknown animals.” (20)
In the thirty years since Heuvelmans wrote the above passage, the Ziphiidae have given up a few of their secrets and presented us with many more.
15 COFFEY, D.J. An Encyclopaedia of Sea Mammals (Hart davis/McGibbon, London, 1977)
16 The Exmouth Herald October 2nd 1987
17 I don`t know who first coined this appelation but I think it was French cryptozoologist Michel Raynal
18. HEUVELMANS B In the wake of the Sea Serpents (Hart-Davis, London, 1968 1st English ed.)
19. Chris Basford pers.comm.
20. As cited in Sightings, Dec 1997
It is just the latest event in a long, and tortuous saga, which was partially my fault in the first place. As I am sure every British reader of this bloggo will know, there are only three species of lizard known in these islands; the sand lizard, the common lizard and the slow-worm. However for nearly two hundred years now there have been reports of bright green lizards, considerably larger than any of the native species, which have been reported along the coast of East Devon and parts of Dorset. These animals are not just known from anecdotal reports but have been described in such august journals as the zoological society report from the Devonshire Association.
The scientific luminaries of the 19th Century were convinced that there was in fact a relic population of a fourth species of lizard living on the south coast of England, but after about 1920 everyone forgot about it until I rediscovered the old scientific papers a few years ago in a museum basement! After having investigated these reports for a number of years it seems (although I cannot prove it) that I am now pretty sure about what these creatures are.
There is a large and beautiful lacertid called the Western green lizard (Lacerta bilineata) which is found across much of Europe and is even found in the Channel Islands. Until very recently there was a thriving trade between the Channel Islands and the Dorset port of Weymouth (where boatloads of tomatoes and other delicacies were often unloaded before being transported into the hinterland for sale). I am sure that it is not a coincidence that when one plots the sightings of these green lizards over the years on a distribution map that Weymouth proves to be the epicentre. This suggests that over a period of perhaps two hundred years Lacerta bilineata as been an unwary stowaway to this country inside baskets of fruit and vegetables. Upon disembarking on the UK mainland they have spread into the surrounding areas where they have become established, and may even have bred.
Darren takes up the story:
On the basis of these historical records, Jon Downes (1994) proposed that viable feral colonies of green lizards existed in Devon and Dorset, and that they were probably introduced from either France or the Channel Islands. He became disappointed that his idea was ‘ignored by the zoological establishment’ and that ‘two famous zoologists (who shall remain nameless) told us that the theory was arrant nonsense. The paper was returned with a brusque letter from several zoological magazines and after a while we just gave up’ (Downes 2003, p. 13). Given that, as noted above, relatively long-lived feral colonies had been reported earlier from the Isle of Wight, however, it would seem likely that Jon was right.
The presence of what appears to be a viable, breeding colony, this time at Bournemouth, led Jon (Downes 2003) to write an article titled ‘Told u so’ [sic]. However, because there’s no evidence that the Bournemouth colony is anything to do with the historical Devon and Dorset records discussed by Jon, it’s not entirely satisfactory to claim that his contention has been vindicated. Then again, the fact that the Bournemouth colony is apparently viable and spreading (breeding is thought to have occurred) suggests that other colonies in southern England may well have been capable of this too. The Bournemouth colony was discovered by herpetologist Chris Gleed-Owen of the Herpetological Conservation Trust when he was on his way to work one day, and the colony is located just a few hundred metres away from Gleed-Owen’s office (Gleed-Owen 2004).
Why are the lizards there? Gleed-Owen has suggested that they are dumped pets that have since bred. Could they have been introduced accidentally from the Channel Islands, or the continent, as Jon suggested for the other possible colonies? To answer this you’d need to know what sort of imports Bournemouth receives from abroad, and I haven’t bothered to check that out. Finally, could they be late-surviving, hitherto-overlooked natives? This possibility has been inspired by the recent discovery that the (now extinct) British Pool frogs Rana lessonae of Norfolk and Cambridgeshire were almost certainly natives, and not continental introductions as usually thought. It’s also now being suggested that the European tree frog Hyla arborea colonies of the New Forest are also natives. Gleed-Owen regards the possibility of native status for the Bournemouth lizards as ‘unlikely, but not impossible’.
Leaving aside the mildly embarrassing reminder, that a few years ago I didn't suffer fools as gladly as I do now, and I was much more pugnacious and combative in my professional outlook than I have been since, I would suggest that the discovery of a specimen inland in Dorset; in Dorchester, does up the ante a little bit for those who either support my earlier theory that these lizards have been here much longer than just as a result of being 'dumped' exotic pets, or those who support the theory that Gleed-Owen describes as 'unlikely, but not impossible', that they are actually hitherto unsuspected natives.
Darren's article on the species can be found in the original version of Tetrapod Zoology:
He had an idea for a new series for the bloggo. Quite simply he has an enormous collection of macabre, fortean, odd and disturbing magazine and newspaper articles, and he proposed to post them up on the bloggo.
Alan Writes: "Yes! Welcome to Friswell's Freaky Features, an ongoing spot on the CFZ blog page where you will encounter the fun, the freaky, the frightening and on occasion, the downright horrifying. Many of these items are from almost forgotten archives and no doubt should, in many cases, have stayed forgotten. But no chance of that on this site! So be prepared to be amazed by the bizarre manifestations of nature, the abberations of the natural world and the complete (on occasion) mind-bending insanity of collective humanity. Read on...."
What a smashing idea, we thought, and so with a burst of alliteration that will - I hope - make Dr Shuker proud of me, here we go....
I'm not a vegetarian, so hunting animals for food is a pastime that I cannot be too critical of, for fear of being a hypocrite; but hunting animals purely for sport, and gloating over heads mounted on the walls of people who I always suspect of being wannabe serial killers who are too gutless for the real thing, doesn't sit well with me at all. So for the kindred spirits out there, this article from October 1951 should warm the cockles somewhat.....
What do I write about in this preamble bit on Thursdays? Tea? Well, not today, because Thursday is now Trivia Thursday. See if you can work out the answer to this question without cheating and googling it. I’ll tell you the answer tomorrow....
Other than in the movies, where the villains usually get their comeuppance, only one Disney character has actually been given a date upon which they died. Who were they?
And now, the news:
Hex the kitty was born hexed.
Fallow fawn born at Wildwood
You don't want to mess with Hoppy.
Paradise-flycatcher breeds on second island for first time in 60 years
Royal Mail threat after kitten attacks postman
Man digs 50ft hole to fish - in his kitchen
Water voles to return to inner London river?
Three chicks spotted in Kielder osprey nest
20,000 humpbacks start migration up Australia’s west coast
Return of the royal Barbary lion
I’d be ‘lion’ if I said this didn’t interest me.