All those strange animals that only come out beside lonely roads at 3am in the morning

The Natural History of the European Werewolf

The werewolf is one of the most famous creatures of the horror genre, up there with vampires (both of which were sadly combined in the Twilight movie series). But throughout history there have been real-world reports and accusations of people actually being werewolves - in this lecture skeptic Deborah Hyde (aka 'Jourdemayne') considers what people during the witch-hunt of sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe really meant when they accused someone of ‘lycanthropy’.

Gorilla in the Midst of Butterflies

Gorilla among butterflies

From New Scientist:

In the Central African Republic, a female western lowland gorilla runs through a cloud of butterflies. She capers, if a gorilla can be said to caper. The other gorillas in her group carry on feeding, ignoring her.

It is in stark contrast to the week before: the capering gorilla, named Malui, had given birth to a stillborn fetus. It would have been Malui's fourth offspring, and Makumba, the silverback's, thirteenth. "Malui tried to revive the baby and even tried to get it to suckle," says wildlife photographer Anup Shah, who was watching the animals at the Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve. What happened next was unusual. Malui's daughter, Mosoko, started grooming her. "Since grooming is rare, it probably signifies something profound," says Shah. "Was the daughter telling her mother that she understood her grief?"

Any crossover there with humans, death, and butterflies as a symbol rebirth? Doubtful, but a nice thought.

(via @levitatingcat)

Monster Roll

Who doesn't love a fun Japanese monster movie? Written and directed by Dan Blank, Monster Roll is a proof-of-concept short feature about sushi chefs fighting sea monsters. Says Blank: "It's a crazy idea, but one we just really wanted to see made. So, we made it."

Aliens on Earth: The Blob from the Abyss

Check out this minion of Cthulhu captured on a deep sea camera, about a mile beneath the surface of the ocean:

While I'm tempted to say that it's just swamp gas from a deep sea balloon trapped in a thermal pocket and reflecting the light from Venus, the blob has apparently now been identified as a rare specimen of the deep sea jellyfish Deepstaria enigmatica. Cool name, crazy-looking creature!

Journal of Cryptozoology

Interesting development in the hunt for strange beasties: the Journal of Cryptozoology. Here's the announcement from cryptozoologist Karl Shuker:

[A]lthough some mainstream zoological journals are beginning to show slightly less reluctance than before to publish papers with a cryptozoological theme, it is still by no means an easy task for such papers to gain acceptance, and, as a result, potentially significant, Journal of Cryptozoologyserious contributions to the subject are not receiving the scientific attention that they deserve. Now, however, they have a journal of their own once again, and one that adheres to the same high standards for publication as mainstream zoological periodicals.

To that end, a distinguished peer review panel has been assembled, currently numbering ten members in total* (although this may increase in the future), consisting of some of the world's most eminent zoologists and associated researchers in their respective fields. And I am honoured to have been invited by the journal's originator and publisher, CFZ Press, to become Editor - an invitation that I am delighted to accept.

It is planned that each volume of the Journal of Cryptozoology should contain at least four papers. These can be discussion or review articles concerning a given cryptozoological subject, research-related papers, or field reports...

...It is always exciting to be part of a major new development, and I believe that the Journal of Cryptozoology marks a major new development in the advancement and mainstream awareness of cryptozoology. I hope that you will too.

Consequently, I now wish to take this opportunity to make a formal call for papers for publication in the journal's inaugural volume, scheduled for publication later this year.

See the ShukerNature blog for full details concerning the guidelines and requirements for submission of papers to the journal, as well as the JoC's definition of the word 'cryptid'.

Does a Mammoth Crap in the Woods?

The latest cryptozoological sensation on teh intartubes. Is this video of a live woolly mammoth?

Mammoth, or just a bear carrying a fish in its mouth? Mr. Snuffleupagus perhaps? As with all anomalous videos, the questions that need to be asked are things like: what happened before and after the video? Did they follow it, or at least alert authorities who would be able to track it?

In short: fun video, but a lot more information and context needed from serious investigators before anyone should treat it seriously. In the meantime, here's a tabloid report.

(thanks for the heads-up Kapryan Kennedy)

An Octopus in my Garden

Octopus: "Greetings humans, I bring offerings from the lord of R'lyeh. May you feast upon this crab carcass as if it was your last night on Earth. Because remember, ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthugha R'lyeh n'gha-ghaa naf'lthagn!"

And I for one welcome our new cephalopod overlords. Mmm, crab.

Regulations for Hunting the Yeti

From the National Archives, here's a 1959 letter from the US embassy in Kathmandu to the State Department, outlining the regulations to be adhered to for mountain climbing expeditions in search of the Yeti. Seems that while the Nepalese government was concerned for the safety of the legendary monster, they also sought to control the flow of any news and images (and actual specimens) confirming the creature's existence:

Yeti letter

Text from the letter:

There are, at present, three regulations applicable only to expeditions searching for the YETI in Nepal. These regulations are to be observed in addition to the 15 clauses as listed in Mountaineering and Scientific Expeditions in Nepal.

The three regulations are as follows:

  1. Royalty of Rs. 5000/- Indian currency will have to be paid to His Majesty's Government of Nepal for a permit to carry out an expedition in search of 'Yeti'.
  2. In case 'Yeti' is traced it can be photographed or caught alive but it must not be killed or shot at except in an emergency arising out of self defence. All photographs taken of the animal, the creature itself if captured alive or dead, must be surrendered to the Government of Nepal at the earliest time.
  3. News and reports throwing light on the existence of the creature must be submitted to the Government of Nepal as soon as they are available and must not in any way be given out to the Press or Reporters for publicity without the permission of the Government of Nepal.

Skeptical Take on Bigfoot

Eugenie Scott is an important player in the creationism-evolution school battle in the United States, and numerous other aspects of the teaching of science, via her role as the Executive Director of National Center for Science Education (NCSE). She is also intimately involved in skeptical groups such as the Bay Area Skeptics and CSI(COP), and is the author of Evolution vs Creationism and co-editor of Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools. Scott has been criticised in the past by the more 'militant' atheists for not being outspoken enough against religion and creationism.

Scott is also a physical anthropologist with an interest (of the skeptical kind) in the existence of large primate cryptids such as Bigfoot and Yeti. In the following talk, "Bigfoot and Other Wild Men of the Forest", she puts forward her views on the topic:

Bigfoot, Yeti, and hordes of other cryptoid missing links have been igniting human imagination for ages. Even the most skeptical of us must wonder if it's possible there really could be large, undiscovered primates on earth, still unknown to us humans.

Can we be so sure we've found them all? And if some enticing evidence presented itself, how would we test it scientifically?

Tonight physical anthropologist Eugenie Scott will help us answer the question of whether or not we might one day be able to welcome some long lost relatives to the family tree.

H/T to @Daniel_Loxton.

Mimic Octopus - Wizard of the Sea

Paul is dead, but there are more wonders in the cephalopod world than just a psychic octopus. While we all know that these amazing creatures can change colour and texture to camouflage themselves as parts of the ocean environment, the Mimic Octopus takes things a step further:

Having studied many octopus species in the wild, I am never surprised by the color and shape change capacities of these animals," said Mark Norman of the Melbourne Museum in Australia. "However, this animal stood out as it was the only one we've encountered that goes beyond camouflage to take on the guise of dangerous animals."

Behold the craziness (especially the weird turkey-like thing at the end)!

Makes you wonder about animal consciousness and intelligence a little doesn't it...

(via Derren Brown's blog)