Tetrapod Zoology

Another mystery photograph

i-57e6940b79ac62ec4e53de64da1e2442-POTD 9-8-2007.jpg

I figured: if I just keep calling them ‘picture of the day’, you might be less inclined to come have a look. So here’s another mystery photo: can you identify the animal involved? Some people who visit Tet Zoo (that includes you Tommy Tyrberg, as well as members of a certain research organisation that involves a certain group of animals) have already seen the image in its entirety, so no cheating please.

All is still progressing slowly on the conference preparation front. I booked my flight for SVPCA Glasgow yesterday, so that’s one less thing to worry about; all I have to do now is prepare the talk. Before that I have a cryptozoology conference to contend with (I try not to use the conference’s proper name, as it’s pretty embarrassing: please don’t mention it here if you know what it is). I’m now fully prepared for that, pending some art that Nemo Ramjet is doing for me: all of this (including Nemo’s art) will appear here at Tet Zoo in due time. As for the Munich pterosaur meeting, all I can say is: yikes. Anyway, back to the day job…


  1. #1 Mike
    August 9, 2007

    “I try not to use the conference’s proper name, as it’s pretty embarrassing: please don’t mention it here if you know what it is”

    You know if you don’t tell us but just tease us like that, we may start making up names until we come up with one even worse.

  2. #2 chris wemmer
    August 9, 2007

    I would say felid or viverrid. Or one of those furry Russian hats.

  3. #3 Michael P. Taylor
    August 9, 2007

    You know if you don’t tell us but just tease us like that, we may start making up names until we come up with one even worse.

    Oh, excellent — a party game! All right, me first!

    “The Loch Ness Monster: Relict Plesiosaur Or Visitor From Another Dimension?”

    Your move.

  4. #4 Greg Morrow
    August 9, 2007

    Outside chance that it’s feathers or butterfly scales; my eyes aren’t good enough to tell.

    But it looks more like fur. The spots don’t look to me like the body fur of any of the big spotted cats (cheetah, jaguar, leopard varieties); could be muzzle spotting, potentially.

    But more likely, it’s a small cat or cat-convergent. I don’t have detail info on the many small cats and cat-convergents out there, so I can’t guess further.

  5. #5 Jerry D. Harris
    August 9, 2007

    “The Study of Things That Don’t Exist: Are We Just Full of $#!% or What?”

    OK, so that’s not how I feel about cryptozoology, though I admit to being rather skeptical…but I do try and keep an open mind. But it is how a lot of people seem to feel about the subject… Of course, a good number of utter nutjobs would say the same thing about those of us that study dinosaurs!

  6. #6 Dave Hone
    August 9, 2007

    My turn, my turn!

    “British Big Cats: leopards, pumas, or just fat moggies”.

    As to the photo – they look more like feathers to me. Close to the beak / eye the way they seem to overlap. Not much else to go on!

  7. #7 johannes
    August 9, 2007

    Fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus)?

    And I really, really look forward to see the results of the Darren/Nemo collaboration on cryptids!

  8. #8 Luis Daniel
    August 9, 2007

    It’s part of the actual Macintosh OS envelope.
    I’ll say jaguar, but the hair looks too soft. Maybe it’s the image.

  9. #9 knobody
    August 9, 2007

    it’s really hard to tell with such a low resolution image, but it looks like a feather pattern to me.

  10. #10 Mike Keesey
    August 9, 2007

    Wow, it’s really hard to tell if it’s fur or feathers.

    I’m going to guess feathers, based on the coloration pattern (even if the texture seems to suggest fur). Further, I’m going to guess it’s an owl (strigiform). What kind? No idea.

  11. #11 Dave Godfrey
    August 9, 2007

    Weekly World News’ Yeti Symposium VII?

  12. #12 Trip the Space Parasite
    August 9, 2007

    Obviously comments 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 9 are all correct, and it’s a gryphon.

  13. #13 Nathan Myers
    August 9, 2007

    When I looked at it, I first thought “cat”. But that’s too obvious, so I looked closer. Then I thought “owl”. But what kind of owl?

  14. #14 Susan
    August 9, 2007

    The resolution on my computer is really bad. I don’t think I’m seeing feathers, I can’t make out any of the veins you’d normally spot on feathers. I’s say it’s a cat. Felis marmorata, the marbled cat.

  15. #15 Stevo Darkly
    August 9, 2007

    That looks like a mammalian eye and brow to me. The coloration pattern suggests feathers … but the texture looks like fur. What dark mammal has a dense pattern of spots (almost reticulated?) like that around the eyes?

    I’m going to guess “a melanistic leopard, region below the eyes and behind the muzzle.” With maybe the coloration/lighting of the photo a bit biased toward a reddish tint.

    Or else possible a late-surviving gorgon, which I have studied expensively.

    Oh, and as for the name of the cryptozoology conference, I’m guessing it’s “Bigfoot Stole My Wife.”

  16. #16 S. Fisher
    August 9, 2007

    (Oncifelis guigna)

  17. #17 Alan Kellogg
    August 10, 2007

    I can identify it right off, it’s bad photography. Well, bad in the sense the photographer has no idea what a resolution of 72 pixels an inch means to the quality of an image.

    Then again, an intoxicated Scotsman would identify it as … … … brown.

    [from Darren: the resolution is down to me. I have zoomed in on one part of a larger image, and then resized it to width of 240 px or so to get it to fit. Sorry]

  18. #18 Brian
    August 10, 2007

    I think it is the second species of Clouded Leopard, I can slap myself for not knowing its scientific name right now, but it’s definitely that one.

  19. #19 Anthony Docimo
    August 10, 2007

    my guess: either a butterfly, cat of one genus or another, or a moth.
    then again, knowing that some novel (and all too real) creatures get introduced here…is it an ungulate?
    ps: thanks.

  20. #20 Steve Bodio
    August 10, 2007

    Bird– but what? LOOKS like cat, but bird.

  21. #21 DDeden
    August 11, 2007

    Looks a bit like a pelt of a tropical small wild cat, there are so many. But this time, I won’t even claim it as a tetrapod for sure, it might be an insect. or a plant… nature is funny that way.

    (btw, a double nosed dog photo & story if you click DDeden)

  22. #22 Drugmonkey
    August 11, 2007


  23. #23 neil
    August 11, 2007

    I keep getting this weird feeling of Kakapo, but it looks so furry so I’ll go with the felid consensus, neofelis or some such..

  24. #24 Pedro Andrade
    August 11, 2007

    I’ll go with some kind of nocturnal bird of prey. Perhaps an owl…

  25. #25 Mike
    August 11, 2007

    I wonder if the pic’s not an octopus. They can look like damn near anything.

    And the conference is ‘Unicorns, Sasquatch and Yeti, Oh My!’ One of the most heavily booked seminars is ‘Didn’t You Used to be a Scientist?: How to justify your current research to family and friends who once thought you promising’.

    [from Darren: err, ‘ouch’, I think. I know you aren’t being serious, but most people who do cryptozoological research are actually qualified scientists, not fringe nut-jobs. I’ll come back to this area later on…]

  26. #26 Mark Lees
    August 13, 2007

    I was planning to go to the cryptozoology conference you refer to, but unfortunately family obligations prevent it. I didn’t think that the name was embarassing, just a bit odd. Your talk sounds intriguing, any plans to cover the material on line subsequently?

    [from Darren: yes, I’ll publish a version of the talk on the blog… and a movie of my talk will be available online I think]

  27. #27 Allen Hazen
    August 13, 2007

    I’m sticking with the cat or the owl, or something else mammalian or avian: a lot of fibrous-appearing structure that suggests fur or feather to me, not octopus skin. And do underwater photos typically show highglights the way this one does? (Can’t think of why they wouldn’t, but — having looked at cuttlefish in the local aquarium (they are BEAUTIFUL!), the highlights in this photo make me think it was taken in air.)

    Anyway, if it is an octopus, Darren is cheating: this is the TETRAPOD zoology blog, not OCTOpod!

  28. #28 Jerzy
    August 13, 2007

    Lion pup?

  29. #29 Mike
    August 13, 2007

    Darren: I was indeed kidding. Afterall, the idea was to come up with something worse than whatever it was you were being coy about. I don’t actually picture you sitting stoically bearing the embarrassment among folk accoutered in tin foil hats or passing by the presentation by the inventor of the perpetual motion machine or the Raelian booth, or the dotty old lady selling kitschy pink unicorn figurines. I’ve read enough of your cryptozoology posts to know its not crackpottery.

    And who am I to say anything when my first misreading (I was just skimming) of the title of your post “The surprising and hitherto undocumented late survival of non-dinosaurian dinosauromorphs” had me thrilled to think that someone might have found a living dinosaur. I was disappointed (initially) to find out that the late survival wasn’t nearly as late as that. I recovered from my disappointment to read on and learn how the fauna of that time was more diverse than I’d thought (my ignorance, thankfully, means I’m constantly discovering things here).

    Anyway, my apologies if that one cut it a bit too close.

  30. #30 TheBrummell
    August 13, 2007

    “Cryptozoology 2007: We Need A Better Conference Title With Larger Polysyllabic Words”

    And I’m completely stumped on the picture. I’ll go with “Tetrapod” as my guess, based primarily on the title of the blog. Close inspection does not allow me to decide between fur or feathers.

  31. #31 johannes
    August 15, 2007

    > Or else possible a late-surviving gorgon,
    > which I have studied expensively.

    This finally proves that gorgonopsians were furry… 🙂

  32. #32 Dawn
    September 11, 2007

    If you consider the variations in individual animals, I think it looks very much like this:


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