Well, what an interesting time I’ve had. Firstly, many thanks to everyone who left a comment – however silly or clueless – on the ‘novel Mesozoic archosaur’ I posted here a few weeks ago. As those in the know correctly stated, the cartoons depict the Brazilian Cretaceous theropod Irritator challengeri in its original guise as a gigantic flightless pterosaur. Now known without doubt to be a spinosaurine spinosaurid (Sues et al. 2002), Irritator was – astonishingly – first published (Martill et al. 1996) as a coelurosaur and as part of Tom Holtz’s Bullatosauria (a since-disbanded ornithomimosaur + troodontid clade).
Prior to that however, the authors have gone on record as saying that they first identified Irritator as a giant basal pterosaur (the skull had actually been modified by its original owner to make it resemble a pterosaur more than a theropod), and this is such a fun concept that Bob and I were inspired to ‘imagineer’ it. My version depicts the animal as a flightless basal pterosaur, whereas Bob’s might be a bit more pterodactyloidy. The scale is not tremendously accurate: the skull of Irritator is 60 cm long as preserved, not nearly 2 m long as shown in the drawing. Anyway…
As some of you know, while away I attended the CFZ’s Weird Weekend meeting, held at Woolfardisworthy (or Woolsery) in the north Devon countryside. As always, while Weird Weekend included talks on all manner of arcane fortean weirdness, it also included enough serious cryptozoological stuff to make it worth my while going. Matt Salusbury spoke about pygmy elephants from around the world, Mike Dash discussed his quest for Dr McRae’s lost Loch Ness monster film, Richard Freeman spoke about his expedition to the Causasus in search of evidence for the almasty, and Michael Woodley discussed his thoughts on the classification of aquatic cryptids (or sea serpents, if you like). It was a pleasure to finally meet Michael: a molecular ecologist and author of the much-discussed In the Wake of Bernard Heuvelmans (Woodley 2008) [cover shown below], Michael and I are going to be working on a few projects about aquatic cryptids in the future. Given the death of the International Society of Cryptozoology and hence the lack of any academic venue for cryptozoological research, Michael has been talking seriously about getting some academic cryptozoological society up and running once more. This might involve technical conferences and a peer-reviewed journal. Stay tuned.
Karl Shuker attended for the launch of his new book, Dr Shuker’s Casebook (Shuker 2008), and Jon McGowan and I made further progress on our paper about field evidence for British big cats. Long-time readers will know that I feel frustrated about the fact that British big cat researchers have done a very poor job of getting their data published in ‘mainstream’ literature (go here): a process which reinforces the idea that such data doesn’t exist. Having said that, Coard (2007) recently showed that bite marks seen on British livestock bones were made by large exotic felids, and British Wildlife and Ecos have both published recent articles that looked at the subject seriously.
I was also able to take good photos of the Durgan Beach ‘sea monster’ skull and confirm for myself that it is indeed a pilot whale skull: as you can see from the composite here (where the Durgan skull [at left] is compared with a Short-finned pilot whale Globicephala macrorhynchus skull, photo provided by Colin McHenry), the rostrum is too long for this to be G. macrorhynchus (there are other differences too, such as in the shape of the antorbital notches), so I assume it’s a Long-finned pilot whale G. melas. I don’t have photos of G. melas so can’t confirm this. Anyway, this is yet another cetacean skull that initially became involved in sea monster lore: collected on the Cornish beach in 1975, it was first reported in newspapers as part of an unidentified carcass perhaps relevant to the local sightings of Morgawr, the Cornish sea serpent.
And thanks to Jon Downes I was finally able to get hold of Steyermark et al.’s Biology of the Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina): I wrote about snapping turtles at Tet Zoo ver 1 here, here and here, so it’s great to finally see this valuable contribution. Incidentally, the talk of the town was not, as you might guess, the so-called Georgia gorilla: an alleged Bigfoot carcass unveiled to the media on Friday, but widely thought beforehand to be completely bogus on account of the fact that the ‘carcass’ looked exactly like the furry suit with rubber mask that it turned out to be. Well done to those involved, you’ve done a very good job of perpetuating the idea that the study of sasquatch is nothing more than fringe nonsense associated only with idiots, fraudsters and charlatans. Anyway, many thanks to Jon McGowan, Jon and Corinna Downes and everyone else who assisted in my attending this meeting.
After Weird Weekend I made the trek to Oxford where – as you’ll know if you’ve already looked at SV-POW! – I met up with Mathew Wedel and Mike Taylor for a day at the Oxford University Museum. Besides spending much time looking at the awesome amount of material they have on display (literally, everything from giant salamanders to babirusas to gorillas to shoebills [one shown here: for more on this bird go here on Tet Zoo ver 1] to eared nightjars to hadrosaurs to ichthyosaurs), we also looked at material in the behind-the-scenes dinosaur collections… and discovered something very interesting. Needless to say, we will be bringing it to light in due time. The complete, mummified baby sauropod discovered in the collections was quite a shock (Mike and I are posing with it in the middle image).
We then moved on to rural Gloucestershire (ironically, a big cat hotspot). But now I’m back, and with loads to catch up on, SVPCA to prepare for, and much else to worry about too. I’m afraid the posts will continue to be ‘text-lite’ for a bit longer yet… Oh, Tet Zoo The Movie hopefully coming soon, honest.
Refs – –
Coard, R. 2007. Ascertaining an agent: using tooth pit data to determine the carnivores responsible for predation in cases of suspected big cat kills. Journal of Archaeological Science 34, 1677-1684.
Martill, D. M., Cruickshank, A. R. I., Frey, E., Small, P. G. & Clarke, M. 1996. A new crested maniraptoran dinosaur from the Santana Formation (Lower Cretaceous) of Brazil. Journal of the Geological Society, London 153, 5-8.
Shuker, K. P. N. 2008. Dr Shuker’s Casebook. CFZ Press, Bideford.
Sues, H.-D., Frey, E., Martill, D. M. & Scott, D. M. 2002. Irritator challangeri, a spinosaurid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Lower Cretaceous of Brazil. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 22, 535-547.
Woodley, M. A. 2008. In the Wake of Bernard Heuvelmans. CFZ Press, Bideford.