Monday, September 29, 2014

The Prehistoric Survivor Paradigm (PSP)

One of the most common schools of thought within cryptozoology is a hypothesis known as the Prehistoric Survivor Paradigm (PSP). The PSP asserts that extant representatives of taxa presumed extinct are likely to be responsible for cryptid sightings. Some researchers, such as Roy Mackal, Karl Shuker, and Scott Mardis, have been sympathetic to the PSP, while others, such as Darren Naish, have been very critical of it. In this article, I will explain my views on the PSP.

We will start with an overview of some of the prehistoric creatures that have been hypothesized to survive as cryptids. Various sightings of winged, superficially-reptilian flying creatures have prompted some to suggest that pterosaurs might still be alive, and are responsible for such reports. I find this hypothesis unlikely, not because I am too closed-minded to accept that large flying animals could have survived to the present without being discovered, but because the reports that we have simply do not match anything we know about pterosaur biology. Most reports are very vague, and describe generic bat or bird-like flying monsters. Pterosaurs were not flying monsters. They were highly-specialized, bizarre animals that probably did not resemble anything familiar to the average layperson. We now know that they were quadrupedal, probably had an endothermic physiology, and were covered in superficially fur-like integumentary structures known as pycnofibres. None of this matches up with the reports, and it is very suggestive that the reports seem to describe inaccurate depictions of pterosaurs -- i.e., the depictions that the average layperson seems to have in mind when they think of pterosaurs. Many of the reports also sound like either bats or birds.
Taking this into account, I hypothesize that "pterosaur" sightings most-likely consist of misidentified bats and birds. However, it is possible that some of the bats and birds could potentially be unknown species.

Another group of Mesozoic sauropsids said to have persisted discreetly into the 21st century is the sauropods. As anyone familiar with dinosaurs or cryptozoology will already know, an African cryptid known as the Mokele-Mbembe is thought by many to be a relict sauropod. I used to subscribe to this hypothesis in the past, but I have now realized that it is flawed. As with the pterosaurs, reports do not match up well with modern depictions of sauropod anatomy and behavior. Sauropods were terrestrial animals with legs held directly underneath their bodies. By contrast, Mokele-Mbembe is usually described as a semi-aquatic creature with legs on the sides of its body. This description is more reminiscent of a reptile such as a monitor lizard or a turtle, rather than a dinosaur. Therefore, if Mokele-Mbembe exists, I think it is unlikely to be a sauropod.

At this point, it probably seems like I am anti-PSP. But in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. I strongly believe that science is all about pragmatism, not dogmatism or ideology, which are the domain of politics. Therefore, I take a pragmatic approach to my cryptozoological research, and the PSP is no exception.

Case in point: Plesiosaurs.

One of the most well-known hypotheses within cryptozoology is that plesiosaurs have survived to the present-day, and are responsible for reports of unidentified long-necked animals in oceans and lakes around the world. I used to think this hypothesis was unlikely, for various reasons. However, now that I have done some more research, I have arrived at a different conclusion. I now feel that the plesiosaur hypothesis fits well with the cryptozoological data, and is actually quite a plausible hypothesis. For more information on this matter, see the article that I wrote about plesiosaurs in May:

In addition to plesiosaurs, several other marine prehistoric survivors have also been proposed in the cryptozoological literature, including mosasaurs and archaeocete whales. I currently do not see any good evidence for these animals' continued existence, although I remain open-minded about the whole situation.

To conclude this portion of the article, I currently find that, of all the proposed prehistoric survivors, plesiosaurs are the only ones that I think marshal a relatively compelling case. However, my opinion could very well change if further evidence comes to light in the future.

I will now discuss my stance on the general concept of the PSP. One of the greatest criticisms of the PSP is that it is unreasonable to suggest that prehistoric taxa could have survived into the modern era without leaving a conspicuous fossil record between the time of their presumed extinction and the present-day. While this argument certainly does have merit, I don't think it completely invalidates the PSP. There are numerous examples of ghost lineages; gaps in the fossil record. While the lack of an intervening fossil record is, indeed, a major stumbling block for the PSP, I don't think it can be completely ruled out.

So this is my opinion on the PSP. I believe that it can be useful, and should not be completely discarded. However, in most cases, it does not fit the available data.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Dinosaur Porn

DISCLAIMER: This article is intended to be humorous. I do not, by any means, condone or support bestiality.

Two days ago, I wrote a very serious review of Abominable Science, so today I decided to have a little fun, and write a post that is paleontological in nature, rather than cryptozoological.

Many might not be aware of the fact that dinosaurian pornography has now been published. Ten novels featuring women having sex with dinosaurs are available for purchase on Amazon. They include Taken by the T-Rex, Ravished by the Triceratops, The Balaur's Delight, and Running From the Raptor, among other titles.

When I first read articles about these books, I was initially excited that dinosaurs were getting more attention in popular culture. However, I was pissed off when I saw one of the articles compare it to vampire and werewolf porn. Unlike vampires and werewolves, dinosaurs actually existed in the past, and still exist today in the form of birds. It is absolutely ludicrous to even mention them in the same sentence as mythical beasts such as werewolves and vampires.

In regard to the books themselves, there were some things I like about them, and some that I dislike. For example, I really admire the inclusion of Balaur, a recently-discovered dromaeosaur with two sickle-claws, in one of the books. It's nice to see a relatively obscure dinosaur get some attention.

On the other hand, there are also numerous things I was very disappointed with, including the inclusion of the pterodactyl. Pterodactyls are not dinosaurs; they are pterosaurs. There's nothing wrong with including the pterodactyl, but the author should have made it explicitly (no pun intended!) clear that pterosaurs are not dinosaurs, so as not to confuse readers.

The pterosaur also lacked pycnofibres, and likewise, the dinosaurs all lacked feathers. Velociraptor is known to have been fully covered in feathers, like a modern bird. And there is evidence that Tyrannosaurus rex might have also been at least somewhat feathered during some stage of its lifetime.

I think it's wonderful that dinosaur porn is being published, but these errors need to be addressed. If dinosaur pornographers wish to be taken seriously and have their work develop into a full-fledged, flourishing entertainment industry, then they need to make an effort to preserve scientific accuracy within their works.

I look forward to seeing more accurate dinosaur porn in the future. And perhaps pornographic movies and video games featuring scientifically-accurate dinosaurs might also be made.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Review of The First Chapter of Abominable Science!

In July 2013, a book called Abominable Science! was released. Written by prominent skeptics Daniel Loxton and Donald Prothero, it contained a critical treatment of cryptozoology. Several cryptids, including the Loch Ness Monster, Sea Serpents, Mokele-Mbembe, Bigfoot, and the Yeti were examined.
After the book was published, the authors challenged cryptozoologists to read the book and respond to it. On the SkepticBlog website, the authors pointed out that several cryptozoologists wrote one-star reviews on Amazon that apparently focused on insignificant details, while failing to address the wider issues raised by the book.
Well, call me crazy, but I have decided to take on the authors' challenge. I am going to give an honest, judicial review of Abominable Science! Before I start my review, I feel compelled to note that I did not read the entire book; I only read the introduction and the first chapter. So, since it would be dishonest of me to review the portions that I haven't read yet, I am only going to review those two parts.

The introduction, "Show Me The Body", was written by Michael Shermer. It stated that the discovery of new species is plausible, but a body is required to prove their existence. I had no problem at all with the introduction; in fact, I completely agree with it.

The first chapter, however, is a very different story. I detected many significant flaws in it. First of all, the authors noted that cryptozoology is not accepted by the scientific community, and then proceeded to list some exceptions: Roy Mackal, Darren Naish, Jeff Meldrum, etc. The entire premise struck me as flawed; it doesn't really matter whether or not something is accepted by the majority of the scientific community. Using the scientific community's approval to determine whether a field is acceptable or not is appealing to authority, which is a logical fallacy. It is also worth noting that several ideas, such as plate tectonics and the existence of meteorites, were not accepted by the scientific community in the past, but are common knowledge now. Now, I am not saying that cryptozoology is destined to become widely-accepted in the future; I'm just using these two examples to show that the appeal to authority is fatally flawed.

The authors then discuss discovery curves in large marine animals, and cite a study by Woodley, Naish, and Shanahan that estimated the number of pinnipeds remaining to be discovered. They stated that, while the authors initially estimated a relatively high number of around 47 or so, they later retracted their estimates, and found that only a few species of pinnipeds remain to be discovered. While this is true, it is also worth noting that at least one of the authors of the study actually used this argument to support cryptozoology! 
On Darren Naish's blog, Tetrapod Zoology, he stated that there might perhaps be one or two pinniped species remaining to be discovered, and that this -- surprisingly -- matched up with the cryptozoological literature on "Sea Serpents", which predicted that only one or two long-necked "Sea Serpent" species existed. (I am aware that Naish has now changed his opinion, but he supported it at the time that he participated in this particular study). So at least one of the authors felt that this study actually supported cryptozoology.
So Abominable Science! apparently took this particular study out of context, and used it against cryptozoology.

Another thing that caught my attention was when the authors claimed that the discovery of cryptids is implausible because all of the recently-discovered large species are similar to known species, are not radically different from most other animals, and are not very spectacular or striking. The authors claimed that the last spectacular, striking discoveries were the okapi, Komodo dragon, and mountain gorilla, and that these discoveries occurred more than 100 years ago, and in remote wilderness regions, not highly-populated regions like the Pacific Northwest and Loch Ness. They also point out that the aforementioned three creatures were eventually found and described, unlike cryptids such as Sasquatch and Nessie, which continue to elude detection after decades of searching.

I have to concede that the authors do bring up a good point here; it is true that the majority of undiscovered species are probably going to end up being similar to already-discovered ones. However, this does not preclude the existence of a few radical unknown species.

However, it is not true that the okapi, Komodo dragon, and mountain gorilla were the last large, spectacular discoveries. Since the 1990s, various large mammals have been discovered in Vu Quang, Vietnam. These include the Saola or Vu Quang Ox, discovered in 1992, and the Giant Muntjac, discovered in 1994. It is worth noting here that the Saola is actually a unique and specialized ungulate that displays characteristics of both antelopes and cattle. It is therefore placed in its own monotypic genus. Various other large, distinctive, and unusual mammals have also been reported from Vu Quang.
I also found it rather strange that the Komodo dragon was used as an example of an unusual, spectacular species outside the normal range of zoological diversity, while the Saola wasn't mentioned at all.
The dragon belongs to the genus Varanus, which numerous smaller lizards belong to, and all varanids are believed to be genetically very similar. Apart from size, the Komodo dragon isn't really unique at all.
Meanwhile, the Saola is so unique that it is classified in its own monotypic genus, and, as I said, it shares characteristics of both bovines and antelopes.
And it was discovered 80 years after the Komodo dragon.

In addition to the Vu Quang animals, there are also numerous other examples of substantially-sized animals that have been discovered recently. Since I can't possibly list them all here, I recommend that readers should peruse other resources for more information. The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals, published by Dr. Karl Shuker in 2012, is an excellent book about this topic. It contains information about practically all of the large, spectacular species that have been discovered in recent years.

The time discrepancy of 100 years is somewhat of a red herring. As pointed out in an article on the Tetrapod Zoology blog, the vast majority of recently-discovered large mammals have been discovered using old-fashioned methods; in only a select few cases did modern technology play a significant role in their discovery. The same techniques that were used to discover large animals in the early 20th century are still being used today. It is true that the world's population has vastly increased over the past 100 years, but there is still plenty of unexplored wilderness left in the world. So the time difference doesn't even really matter as much as the authors think. But in any case, even if the time span did make a difference, we still have the various Vu Quang discoveries from the 1990s, as stated above.

In regard to cryptids inhabiting highly-populated regions, I should note that the amount of uninhabited wilderness in western North America is vastly underestimated by many people. I do agree that there probably isn't enough wilderness in the eastern half of North America, but the western half still provides plenty of wilderness for large animals to be able to successfully remain hidden.
And the Loch Ness example is also ineffective, simply due to the fact that the cryptids in Loch Ness, if they exist, do not have to inhabit the loch all the time. It is not necessary for an isolated breeding population to have existed in the loch for millennia. It is possible that individuals occasionally swim into the loch from the ocean, become trapped, and then spend the rest of their lives there. This could potentially apply to other reported lake cryptids, as well.

And finally, it should be noted that not all new species are discovered quickly and easily, and in fact, this is supported by historical precedent. The Giant Forest Hog, Hylochoerus meinertzhageni, was first sighted in Liberia in 1688, but was not officially proven to exist until two specimens were found in Kenya in 1904, a whopping 216 years after it was first sighted. For comparison, serious investigation of Sasquatch only began in the late 1950s (around 55 years ago), and serious investigation into Nessie sightings only began in the early 1930s (around 80 years ago).

In conclusion, Abominable Science! sounds like it had great intentions, but it was ultimately poorly executed. In any case, I applaud the authors for bothering to write an entire book on cryptozoology; no matter what their opinions of the field are, it is refreshing to see that scientists are actually bothering to take a look at the field, rather than just ignoring it. I was ultimately disappointed with the parts of the book that I read, but I still give the authors credit for trying, and they do raise some good points.
Therefore, if I had to rate the first chapter of the book on Amazon, I would probably give it 2.5 stars.

In the future, I might read other sections of the book, and review them on this blog accordingly.


  • Naish, Darren. (2009). Statistics, seals, and sea monsters in the technical literature. Tetrapod Zoology. Accessed September 4, 2014.
  • Eberhart, George M. (2002). Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, Inc. Print.
  • Naish, Darren. (2009). Over 400 new mammal species have been named since 1993. Tetrapod Zoology. Accessed September 4, 2014.
  • Coleman, Loren and Clark, Jerome. (2012). Cryptozoology A to Z: The Encyclopedia of Loch Monsters, Sasquatch, Chupacabras and Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature. New York, NY: Fireside. Print.

This illustration from the Woodley et al. analysis shows several crypto-pinnipeds nonchalantly swimming alongside a human diver.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Conservation and Cloning

While browsing the Internet recently, I stumbled upon this article. According to the article, scientists could be able to clone the Woolly Mammoth back to life within the next three years. This has led me to start thinking about something.

It is plainly obvious that genetic engineering and cloning technology is now accelerating in complexity at a rapid pace. Meanwhile, it is commonly-accepted that humans' activities have caused the extinction of numerous species in the past, and might cause many more species to become extinct in the future.

Therefore, I propose that zoologists and geneticists all over the world should start a global DNA-collecting effort. We should try to sequence the genomes of many extinct species, as well as endangered species that might be in danger of becoming extinct in the near future. We should try to clone species that have become extinct as a result of human interference (such as the thylacine, the dodo, and the passenger pigeon), and if endangered species (such as the tiger) become extinct in the future, we should try to clone them, as well.

It is widely-recognized that humans are irresponsibly destroying the environment, and that this may have dire consequences if we don't change our behavior. In the worst-case scenario, almost all substantially-sized animals on Earth might become extinct within the next 500 years. If we can clone them back to life, perhaps we can help circumvent this worst-case scenario.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Role of Anecdotal Evidence in Zoology

One of the most controversial and divisive topics in the field of zoology is the role that anecdotal evidence plays in the discovery of new species. Some eager believers readily accept every claim, no matter how far-fetched or sketchy it is. Meanwhile, some militant skeptics claim that anecdotes are worth nothing at all. In my opinion, both of these opinions are erroneous. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.
Contrary to statements by many science journalists, anecdotal evidence has, indeed, had a significant role in the identification of several new species in the past. People who had been to Indonesia spoke of an enormous "land crocodile" that would devour large animals, including humans. In 1912, their claims were vindicated when the beast was finally identified by scientists. We now know it as the Komodo Dragon, Varanus komodoensis.
Likewise, travellers in equatorial Africa told stories about a tribe of giant, hairy men who would kidnap people and kill them. In 1847, these claims were confirmed when the Gorilla was discovered.

However, the skeptics are definitely right when they say that anecdotal evidence cannot be used to prove the existence of a species. According to accepted scientific protocol, the only way that a species's existence can be definitively proven is by obtaining a specimen -- either dead or alive.

So I conclude that anecdotal evidence can help indicate the existence of a given species, but it cannot prove the existence of a given species. 
A good analogy that I like to use is the smoke analogy; if a person sees smoke in the distance, the smoke indicates the possible existence of a fire, but the existence of a fire cannot be definitively proven unless the person walks up to the region where the smoke is emanating from, and checks to see if there is a fire.
When there is smoke, it is not unreasonable to suggest that there might be a fire that the smoke is emanating from. And when there is anecdotal evidence of an unknown animal, it is not unreasonable to suggest that there might, in fact, be an unknown animal behind the reports. However, the existence of a fire cannot be proven unless someone checks to see where the smoke is coming from. And the existence of an unknown animal cannot be proven until a specimen is obtained.

So anecdotal evidence is not total proof, like the true believers claim, but it is also not worthless, like the militant skeptics claim. As is so often the case in life, the extremists are wrong. It is the middle position that is the most scientific and reasonable.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Tetrapod Zoology Blog

One of my favorite blogs on the Internet is the Tetrapod Zoology blog. Tetrapod Zoology (also known as 'Tet Zoo') is an excellent zoological blog. It belongs to Dr. Darren Naish, a British paleontologist who has done extensive research on theropod dinosaurs and Mesozoic marine reptiles. Naish also used to be involved in cryptozoology, but has since become less supportive.

Tet Zoo has had three different versions over the years.
The first version of Tet Zoo was hosted on Blogspot (like this blog), and was created in January 2006. The first-ever article on the blog was about eagles attacking and killing much larger prey, and was titled "When Eagles Go Bad".
The second version of Tet Zoo was launched in January 2007, and displaced the first version. It was hosted on ScienceBlogs.
The third version of Tet Zoo was launched in July 2011, and it displaced the second version. It is hosted on the Scientific American blog network, and it is currently active.

One of the main reasons why I love Tet Zoo so much is because the blog is unashamed to deviate from the prevailing scientific orthodoxy. For example, at the time when the "When Eagles Go Bad" article was written, the idea of eagles killing much larger animals was widely considered to be a "fringe" topic by the scientific community. However, Naish successfully showed that eagles have been documented killing animals such as deer, pronghorn antelope, wolves, and even 100-kilogram juvenile cows.
Likewise, Naish also wrote an article about the origins of the Domestic Dog, Canis familiaris. The most commonly-accepted hypothesis within the scientific community is that the Domestic Dog is a direct descendant of the Grey Wolf, Canis lupus. Some authors have even gone so far as to reclassify the Domestic Dog as a subspecies of the Grey Wolf, Canis lupus familiaris, rather than as a distinct species. In his article, Naish presented an alternative hypothesis that the Domestic Dog is not actually descended from the Grey Wolf, but is instead descended from a wild Canis familiaris. I found this alternative hypothesis to be a very interesting and refreshing take on the story of dog origins.

In conclusion, Tet Zoo is a wonderful blog, and I really hope everyone here can enjoy it.
Here are the links to all the versions:
Version 1:
Version 2:
Version 3:

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Long-Necked Sea & Lake Monsters – The Turtle Hypothesis

This photograph from Wikimedia Commons shows a leatherback sea turtle swimming in the ocean. Could this turtle possibly be a relative of sea and lake cryptids reported from all around the world?

Over the decades, there have been numerous hypotheses advanced to account for sightings of unidentified creatures in oceans and lakes all around the world. One of the most popular hypotheses is that these animals are living representatives of plesiosaurs that survived the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event 66 million years ago. I have already discussed this hypothesis in an earlier article, and I have found it to be one of the best hypotheses for the identity of these animals.

However, there is also an alternative to the plesiosaur hypothesis that is almost as good, and that is the turtle hypothesis. According to cryptozoological investigator Chuck Pogan, many reported anatomical and behavioral characteristics of long-necked aquatic cryptids match up remarkably well with a chelonian identity.

According to several lake monster sightings, the length of the animals' necks is sometimes said to be variable. And, indeed, some turtles actually have the ability to retract their necks, making them appear shorter than they actually are.
A common objection against the hypothesis that these creatures are air-breathers is that they would be seen more frequently as they surface for air. This argument has been used against the plesiosaur hypothesis, as well as the long-necked pinniped. However, some turtles have evolved a very unique ability; the ability to breathe underwater via their cloacas. To put it into a layman's terms, they literally breathe through their butts. And this might actually allow them to remain underwater without having to surface for air as frequently as they would otherwise.

And finally, here's the kicker: In 2003, the Fauna Communications Research Institute recorded sounds that appear to be reminiscent of echolocation in Lake Champlain. This has led some people to propose a cetacean (or, more generally, mammalian) identity for these animals. However, this need not be the case. It is relatively little-known that some turtle species also have the ability to use echolocation, much like cetaceans and bats. And echolocation would appear to be especially helpful in navigating through the perpetually dark, peat-stained waters of lakes such as Loch Ness.

As you can see, the turtle hypothesis definitely has quite an impressive case. As I stated above, the most prominent and vocal proponent of this hypothesis so far is a man named Chuck Pogan.

Pogan has even proposed a name for this hypothetical cryptid turtle; he calls it the "Plesio-turtle". It is a turtle that has evolved to resemble a plesiosaur, due to convergent evolution. It has a long neck, four flippers, and a long tail. It also has a greatly-reduced (or possibly even nonexistent) shell. One of the concepts that interests me most within cryptozoology is the possibility that extant taxa have evolved to resemble extinct taxa, via convergent evolution. I have already invoked this paradigm before as an explanation for reports of Troodons that have occurred throughout North and South America.

Therefore, I am partial to the turtle hypothesis. It is currently my second-favorite hypothesis, after the plesiosaur. Anyone seeking further information on it can see Chuck's post about it on his own blog, as well as cryptozoological investigator Jay Cooney's interview with Chuck about the hypothesis.


Since I have now been writing on this blog for over a year, I feel that it is time for some updates.

First, some of my readers might remember an article I wrote in September 2013 called "Sightings of Large, Flightless Dinosaur-Like Birds". In that article, I proposed that the bipedal dinosaur cryptids reported in North and South America could perhaps be giant, flightless birds that have evolved features which resemble those of non-avian dinosaurs.
Now I no longer support this hypothesis. I still think it's possible, but I just don't think it's as likely as I thought before.

Also, I think I need to clarify something about my blog's style. I have always been somewhat interested in speculative biology, and I have a vivid imagination. Therefore, when I formulate a new hypothesis about what a particular cryptid might be, I like to pursue my hypothesis to the fullest extent, as if it were true, and create a picture of the animal in my mind.
For example, in the article about flightless dinosaur-like birds, I said that they are "5 feet tall, 9 feet long, and are omnivores that eat nuts, seeds, and insects, as well as occasionally taking larger prey". I don't have direct evidence of this; I was just speculating.
Like paleontology, cryptozoology is a field that is very often prone to speculation, simply because the reports we have usually cannot tell us very many details about the nature of the unidentified animals that we are pursuing. So whenever I think of a new hypothesis, I don't just put the idea out there; I also create a mental picture of what the animal might look like, and describe it in my article.

A recent book that is somewhat similar to this is The Cryptozoologicon

As a final note, I have been planning to write an article about unidentified primates all over the world, but I have decided to postpone it until the currently-ongoing consternation within the "Bigfoot Community" dies down. When that happens, I shall be posting the article.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Happy Birthday to Mysterious Zoology!

Incidentally, I just realized that today marks the first anniversary of the creation of this blog. Exactly one year ago today, on June 16, 2013, I created Mysterious Zoology, with my very first post:
Hidden Animals
So today, on June 16, 2014, I would like to wish a very happy birthday to Mysterious Zoology, and all the cryptids of the world!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Bipedal Lizard Update

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you probably remember my posts about bipedal lizards that I wrote last year. Those posts were a combination of fact and speculation. And now, my opinions have changed, and I no longer agree with some of the things I wrote back then.
In my original posts, I said that they were iguanids, and possibly members of the genus Iguana. Now I am no longer so sure about that. I now think it is too early to identify what family or genus they belong to, and we don't have enough information yet to be sure.
As I have stated in other posts since then, we're not even sure if they're lizards. They could also be theropod dinosaurs or birds. Therefore, it should be noted that most of the ideas and hypotheses proposed on this blog regarding the possible identity of these animals is highly speculative. We simply don't know for sure yet what these animals are, and we probably won't know until they are discovered. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Reptile Intelligence: A Paradigm Shift?

At first glance, it might appear that I am going on a little sabbatical here by discussing a non-cryptozoological subject. However, it is worth noting that I never meant for this blog to be exclusively cryptozoological in nature. I meant for it to cover any zoological topic that interests me. And the topic of intelligence in reptiles certainly interests me. And in fact, since the name of my blog is "Mysterious Zoology", this post is especially appropriate given that the topic of reptilian intelligence is definitely mysterious among the scientific community.
Indeed, it is only recently that major cognitive experiments have been conducted on reptiles. Numerous other animals, including mammals, birds, and even fish and cephalopods had been tested, but not reptiles.
There are probably many causes of this, but the fact that reptiles do not have good public relations probably plays a major role. Since cognition in animals first began to be studied, reptiles have always been assumed to be primitive and stupid creatures, vastly inferior in intellect to mammals and birds. And for many centuries, humans have hated reptiles. They were widely seen as abhorrent, and they were often associated with evil. In fact, the following quote is attributed to Carl Linnaeus, widely credited as the father of modern taxonomy: "Reptiles are abhorrent because of their cold body, pale color, cartilaginous skeleton, filthy skin, fierce aspect, calculating eye, offensive smell, harsh voice, squalid habitation, and terrible venom; wherefore their creator has not exerted his powers to make many of them."

Therefore, studies on reptilian cognition were not really in existence until the late 2000s and early 2010s. And the results of these studies are very different from the stereotypes that most people have about reptiles. Instead, the results paint a very different picture from the slow, dim-witted, unsuccessful reptiles of popular culture.
In one study, anoles were found to perform as well as birds on an experiment which involved hiding food behind a lid, and having the animals find a way to get to it. Anoles usually capture their prey by striking at it from above, but in this situation, the lizards were forced to innovate, and find other ways to gain access to their food. For example, some of them used their snouts as a lever to lift the lid off. This experiment shows that anole lizards are capable of problem-solving.
In other experiments, tortoises were shown to be capable of navigating mazes at least as well as mammals, and monitor lizards have been shown to be capable of counting.
In addition, there is also plenty of anecdotal evidence from pet owners that iguanas are very intelligent, and are capable of being trained, like dogs.

All of this new evidence is startling to most people, who used to underestimate reptiles' intelligence.
And this leads me to ask a question: Are we currently in the midst of a paradigm shift? A paradigm shift is when a major revolution occurs regarding the way the majority of people think about a scientific topic. Charles Darwin's theory of evolution via natural selection in the 19th century was a paradigm shift, as was Albert Einstein's discovery of quantum mechanics in the 20th century. It appears to me that another paradigm shift is currently underway with regard to reptilian intelligence; in the direction of increased intelligence. Rather than slow, dull, primitive creatures, reptiles are now being transformed into intelligent, successful, and elegant animals. And that's good, because that is what they are.

Sunday, May 18, 2014


A reconstruction of Cryptoclidus oxonensis, a plesiosaur from the Middle Jurassic of England. (Dmitry Bogdanov, 2000). New research suggests that longnecks might, in fact, be extant plesiosaurs, closely resembling Mesozoic plesiosaurs such as this one.

Recently, my friend Jay Cooney has been talking to me about the possibility of relict plesiosaurs. According to him, researchers such as Scott Mardis and Dale Drinnon have provided convincing arguments that extant post-Mesozoic plesiosaurs might be at the heart of longneck reports, both in the oceans and in freshwater lakes and rivers. After doing some more research on the topic, I have come to agree that the possibility of surviving plesiosaurs is a compelling one, and certainly deserves more attention than I have paid it thus far.

Many of the arguments provided by skeptics against the plesiosaur hypothesis fail if one examines them more closely. A common argument is that, since plesiosaurs were ectothermic reptiles, they would not be able to withstand living at lower temperatures, such as in temperate oceans and cold, deep Caledonian lochs. However, being ectothermic does not necessarily preclude an ability to tolerate lower temperatures. Indeed, many reptiles can tolerate colder environments very well. For example, leatherback turtles are famous for their ability to swim in freezing water, and this ability has captured the attention of marine biologists for many decades. Alligators have also been known to survive completely frozen in ice, with no apparent ill effects.
Besides, we don't know everything about plesiosaur physiology and metabolism yet. It is certainly possible that some plesiosaurs might have evolved some degree of endothermy, or something similar to it.

Another anti-plesiosaur assertion is that the reports do not match plesiosaur anatomy. This cookie also crumbles under closer examination. This is because the people who make this argument are usually assuming that all sea serpent and lake monster reports are referring to the same thing, and that is simply not true at all. The majority of sightings are probably just misidentifications of common animals and inanimate objects. The reports which specify "hair", "fur", or other mammalian characteristics are most likely referring to misidentified common mammals, such as moose or otters. It's also possible that there could be some kind of unknown mammal behind the reports, as well (such as a giant otter, or an atypical pinniped). However, it should be noted that, even if this is the case, these sightings would still be distinct from the long-necked, plesiosaur-like reports.
Many reports also describe "manes" on the animals. These manes are usually described as being floppy in appearance, and sometimes green in color. According to some researchers, including Jay Cooney and Dale Drinnon, this mane could simply represent seaweed, kelp, or algae that got stuck around the animals' necks. This might give the appearance of a mane.
Some critics also claim that the plesiosaur hypothesis is impossible because plesiosaur neck flexibility cannot be reconciled with the neck flexibility which is apparent in the reports. However, in my opinion, this cannot be considered a viable argument, simply because we do not know enough about the neck anatomy of all plesiosaur species to say for sure that this is the case (although there have been numerous detailed studies conducted on certain species of plesiosaurs). And not all of the studies have come to the same conclusions. In fact, according to some of the studies, there does appear to be some evidence that the necks of some plesiosaur species might have indeed been flexible enough to account for the degree of flexibility observed in the longneck sightings. So, while this argument is interesting, it cannot be used to completely rule out the plesiosaur hypothesis.

One additional common objection which I feel the need to address right now is that, if plesiosaurs had survived to the present-day, they would have left fossil evidence between the end of the Cretaceous and now. But, just like with the neck flexibility issue, we simply do not know enough about the situation yet to assert that this necessarily has to be the case. There are many factors and variables that affect whether or not fossilization can successfully occur. As an example, the coelocanth is another marine animal which was believed to have died out at the end of the Cretaceous, but has now been found to be extant. And, as far as I know, there aren't any coelocanth fossils left between the end of the Cretaceous and now. 
Scott Mardis has also provided another, very intriguing possibility. According to him, there have been numerous plesiosaur fossils found in geological formations dating to the Cenozoic Era. These range from the Paleocene all the way to the Pleistocene. Most paleontologists consider these to be reworked fossils. However, Scott has argued that they might actually represent genuine evidence of plesiosaur survival past the end of the Cretaceous.

Many sightings also describe the animals moving on land. Some plesiosaurs, such as the aforementioned Cryptoclidus, as well as Plesiosaurus itself, are also thought to have been capable of locomotion on land, like pinnipeds.
There is also some evidence that plesiosaurs might have occasionally lived in freshwater habitats, as well as marine ones. This would explain why sightings occur in freshwater lakes and rivers (such as Loch Ness, Loch Lochy, and Loch Morar in Scotland, Lake Champlain in the United States/Canada, and Nahuel Huapi Lake in Argentina), as well as in the oceans.

In conclusion, I feel that the plesiosaur hypothesis is definitely a very interesting and reasonable possibility, and I shall probably be writing more about it on this blog in the future. And, once again, if you are seeking more information on this topic, I highly recommend that you read some of the work by Scott Mardis and Dale Drinnon.
Much of Scott's writing regarding relict plesiosaurs can be found here, on Jay's blog:
Meanwhile, Dale's writing can be found here, on his own Frontiers of Zoology blog:

P.S. It is also worth noting that I am still open-minded about the whole situation, and I am not a dogmatic supporter of the plesiosaur hypothesis, by any means. There are still many other options. For example, they could also be mammals, such as long-necked pinnipeds or relict archaeocete whales. I still remain open-minded, and my thoughts and opinions on the identity of longnecks could change in the future.
Update: July 6, 2016 Since I wrote this article, I have found out that coelacanth fossils dating from between the end of the Cretaceous and the present-day have, indeed, been found. So the survival to the present-day of the coelacanth can no longer be used to corroborate the possibility of surviving plesiosaurs. However, it should be noted that numerous other examples of ghost lineages (gaps in the fossil record), including sizable ones lasting many million years, are known to exist. An obscure example that probably has the most relevance to this article is the 66-million-year-long gap between the Early Jurassic and the Early Cretaceous that exists for the ichthyosaur family Ichthyosauridae, exemplified by the discovery of the ichthyosaurid genus Malawania, which dates from the Early Cretaceous period, in Iraq in 2013. This particular gap is significant due to the fact that it is the exact same length of time as that which exists between the end of the Cretaceous (which has recently been recalibrated to 66 million years ago, after previously thought to be 65 or 64 million years ago) and now. So I now know my use of the coelacanth as an example of a gap in the fossil record to corroborate the possible existence of plesiosaurs is erroneous. It is also worth noting that it has been pointed out by paleontologist Darren Naish that coelacanth bones are fragile and rarely-fossilized, while bones of substantially-sized marine reptiles such as plesiosaurs are dense and resistant to erosion, and therefore, gaps in the fossil record are less likely. However, the gap in the fossil record of the family Ichthyosauridae, demonstrated in a 2013 paper co-authored by Naish himself, demonstrates that it is, indeed, possible. So no, coelacanths can no longer be used to corroborate the possibility that plesiosaurs could have left a 66-million-year-long gap in the fossil record between the end of the Cretaceous and now. But ichthyosaurids can.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Surviving Descendants of Troodontids: A Possible Explanation for Bipedal Dinosaur Sightings?

A reconstruction of what a modern, featherless descendant of a Troodon might look like.

After thinking some more about the topic, I have come up with a new hypothesis about sightings of bipedal dinosaur-like creatures in the United States. I now think it's possible that they might actually be surviving descendants of troodontid or dromaeosaurid-like dinosaurs. I will now explain what led me to this conclusion.

First of all, after reading this fantastic article by Scott Mardis, I have become much more open-minded about the Prehistoric Survivor Paradigm (PSP).

As Scott pointed out in his excellent article, there are many examples of Lazarus taxa (creatures which disappear in the fossil record, only to appear again much later) and ghost lineages (the missing fossils that are in between the Lazarus taxa). A good example from Scott's article was the megachasmids (a group of sharks which includes the modern Megamouth Shark). Fossils of megachasmids are found in the mid-Cretaceous, but then they disappear. They do not appear again until the Miocene, 70 million years later. So there's no reason why dromaeosaurids or troodontids also could not have left a 66-million-year ghost lineage from the end of the Cretaceous until now.

And actually, according to this article, a fossil tooth of a Velociraptor-like dinosaur was, indeed, discovered in Miocene deposits in Louisiana. It is possible that it was just reworked from older sediments; however, there still remains a distinct possibility that it actually was native to the Miocene, and that it is evidence of the survival of small theropod dinosaurs beyond the end of the Cretaceous.
(By the way, it is worth noting that there are actually a lot of plesiosaur remains from the Cenozoic that are supposedly "reworked". These remains range from the Paleocene to the Pleistocene, and according to some researchers, such as Scott Mardis and Dale Drinnon, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that they are not really reworked, and that they are actually native to the Cenozoic.)

For the most part, the creatures described in the sightings very much resemble a Troodon-like dinosaur, except for one major difference: they lack feathers. It is now believed that troodontids, dromaeosaurids, and their relatives had feathers, like modern birds. And almost all sightings of these bipedal dinosaur-like animals describe them as having scaly, featherless skin.

However, I have found that even this difference is still reconcilable with a troodontid identity. Many birds alive today have lost their feathers and replaced them with scales, so there is no reason why troodontids also couldn't have done the same. There could be many possible reasons for the loss of feathers.

One hypothesis, which I think is the most likely, is that they lost their feathers due to adaptations to a semi-aquatic lifestyle. These creatures are said to live around bodies of water, and are said to be somewhat semi-aquatic. This is why they are often referred to as "River Dino" and such.

When animals start to live in the water more, they often lose their fur or feathers. For example, whales are descended from furry ancestors, but they have now lost almost all of their fur. Penguins are an example of modern birds which are semi-aquatic, and they already have shorter feathers than other birds.

And it's possible that not all of the feathers have been lost, and some of them still remain.
Perhaps they still have some feathers left on their backs, for example. This could explain why so many witnesses claim that they have spine-like structures on their backs.

So this is my hypothesis. I would very much appreciate any constructive critiques or suggestions.

P.S.: I am not completely in support of this hypothesis. It's just a possibility that I'm throwing out there.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

New Bipedal Lizard Sighting From Utah

I have recently been informed of a new bipedal lizard sighting. It happened in Arches National Park near Moab, Utah in the Summer of 2011. A man saw several bipedal lizards in a pack. They were about 4 feet tall. He then drew a sketch of the animal that he had seen. It was lightly-built, with long legs and a long neck.

Here is the sketch:

Using this sketch and the information from this sighting, I have been able to come up with a new hypothesis about these lizards. I have modified the ideas that I previously had about them.

I now think that they are closely-related to the Collared Lizard. They are around 4 feet tall, 10 feet long, and weighing around 32 pounds (possibly up to 40 pounds or so in the largest specimens). They are lightly-built, with long legs, a long neck, and a long tail. They are capable of running very quickly on their hind legs.

They are vicious predators who hunt in packs, and there are stories of them killing humans. Both the predatory behavior and the pack-hunting behavior leads me to believe that these lizards might possibly be related to the Collared Lizard, which also lives in the Southwestern United States. Collared Lizards are also vicious predators, and they have also been observed using pack-hunting tactics to flush out their prey.
This lizard would pretty much be a gigantic and more strongly-bipedal version of the Collared Lizard.

This is probably the best sighting report I have ever heard of. I am looking forward to receiving more sighting reports of these fascinating animals in the near future.