Wherefore art thou, cryptozoology? (teaser)

i-40804d8289e25c54fede15fc759f3a98-Carib map 5-10-2007.jpg

Time permitting... coming next: that cryptozoology stuff. If I say any more I'll spoil the surprise (there are a few technical errors in the map shown here - it's not meant to be totally accurate. It depicts various extant and recently-extinct Caribbean tetrapods. Well done to anyone who can name all the taxa).

More like this

Criptozoology on caribbean!!!!Very nice!!!

I'm guessing that the shrew on Puerto Rico is/was the...Puerto Rican shrew Nesophontes edithae. The owl on Cuba is the cursorial owl Ornimegalonyx. As for the other ones, hmm, I'll have to think some more. Is there a way to expand the map, or is that part of the fun?

[from Darren: sorry, in order to avoid potential copyright problems I need to keep things non-reproducible. But this just adds to the challenge, right :) ]

hmm are those Cyclura iguanas of some sort above cuba and dominica perhaps extinct forms thereof? Barefoot screech owl for Puerto Rico? Hutia for Jamaica?

I should know all these (I live in, and blog about interesting animals of, the caribbean for heaven's sake!) but I haven't got a clue on most. That big tortoise (Geochelone sp?) looks interesting!

PS - Cuban cryptozoo that doesn't include the Ivory-Bill? How novel!

[from Darren: yup, I deliberately avoided ivory-bills]

Lemme see... clockwise from top left... Megalocnus rodens (Cuban ground sloth), Cyclura iguanas (C. nubila on Cuba and C. ricordi on Hispaniola?), Quemisia gravis (giant hutia from Puerto Rico), some sort of extinct Hispaniola giant tortoise (?Geochelone), skull of ?Acratocnus from Puerto Rico, I have no idea what that brown critter is, Nesophontes edithae, ?Gymnoglaux, Jamaican hutia (Geocapromys brownii), , Ornimegalonyx, ?Gigantohierax

[from Darren: heeeey, that's pretty good! Not perfect, but close. All will be revealed in time, honest]

The Jamaican form could be "Xaymaca" or "Clidomys," both Heptaxodontids.

By Alan Knutson (not verified) on 05 Oct 2007 #permalink

The West Indies have/had really an amazing fauna. Especially all those now extinct sloth are really amazing. Sadly it is very hard to find information about them. I was for a long time searching for pictures of Megalocnus rodens, but I could find not much good pictures. I wanted to draw a reconstruction of this animal, but the drawings of the skeletons are all so small, that it is hard to see details, especially on the skull. When I´m already speaking about sloth skulls, the one on the upper right corner is not those of a sloth as Hai~Ren supposed, but of a rodent I think. Is the bird of prey Titanohierax borrasi or Gigantohierax?

The barn owl is of course Tyto cavatica, which might indeed still exist, seeing that Wetmore heard probable descriptions of it in 1912.
The big Cuban raptor is really undeterminable, being dependent on the stamp-drawer's whim, however it is supposed to be Aquila borrasi (which is not an Aquila by the way). It is however definitely a large diurnal raptor and exceedingly unlikely to still exist, as is the large flightless owl (Ornimegalonyx oteroi).
However I can think of at least three other credible Cuban avian cryptids:
The rail Nesotrochis picapicensis which is probably mentioned in early spanish sources as late as 1625, the nightjar Siphonorhis daiquiri (there has been rumors of strange nightjar calls) and the still undescribed Scytalopus, where the remains are seemingly quite recent,
and tapaculos are of course (in)famous skulkers.
Parts of eastern Cuba are really not that well explored ornithologically and neither are parts of the Zapata swamp.

[from Darren: I should add that the animals on the map are not meant to be cryptids - rather, they are recently extinct endemics. More explanation later]

By Tommy Tyrberg (not verified) on 05 Oct 2007 #permalink

P.S. I didn't notice the multiple lines to the Tyto. So I should add Tyto ostologa (Hispaniola) and one or more of Tyto noeli, Tyto riveroi and the as yet undescribed small cuban Barn-Owl.

By Tommy Tyrberg (not verified) on 05 Oct 2007 #permalink

Actually, this is a question for you.

What do YOU think the Set animal is? I've been involved in a project re: Egyptian mythology for several months now, and I'm tired of the speculation from scholars who clearly have no actual interest in actual scampering quadrupeds/animal life. Do you think there is such a thing as a Salawa? Do you think the Set animal could be it?

Inquiring minds want to know, and who, beyond Tetrapod Zoology, is there to ask?

Katya: a lot of ink has been spilt on the identity of the set animal. I don't know what it was meant to be, and nor does anyone else really. It doesn't really resemble any of the proposed identifications.. aardvark, canid, bovid, okapi (!), jerboa (!!), elephant-nosed fish (!!!), whatever. Was it ever really based on a real animal? I don't know. I most like the idea that it represents a hitherto unknown afrotherian lineage (go here, but let me add this is probably not relevant to the Egyptian deity). If you haven't seen them, reviews of the set animal were provided by Te Velde (1967) and Swords (1985).

Ref --

Swords, M. 1985. On the possible identification of the Egyptian animal-god set. Cryptozoology 4, 15-27.

Te Velde, H. 1967. Seth, God of Confusion: A Study of His Role in Egyptian Mythology and Religion. E. J. Brill, Leiden.

Set Animal

It is an okapi. How do I know this? That you'll have to wait a long time to learn, if you have a decent life expectancy ahead of you. :)

Interesting Darren and I'm sure you'll reveal all in the (hopefully near) future.

You could also have included the various possible and likely macaws,amazon parrots and conures in this map, but that might have made things rather complex and perhaps more speculative, even though it is likely that several such species indeed existed.

I'm intrigued by the Seth-animal and must admit I've never heard of it. Still, isn't saying it represents a hitherto unknown afrotherian lineage a rather big leap to make from so little evidence?

On the set animal, Alan wrote...

It is an okapi. How do I know this? That you'll have to wait a long time to learn, if you have a decent life expectancy ahead of you. :)

Err... what? As early as 1902 (i.e., right after the scientific discovery of the okapi) it was suggested that that the set animal might have been based on okapis. But I've never taken this seriously - the two couldn't look more disimilar!

Brian: the afrotherian suggestion is a joke, based on a hypothetical creature that inhabits spec-world (did you follow the link?). The map shown above isn't meant to be a 'map of Caribbean cryptids': it just shows various recently extinct taxa. I'm going to change the text to reflect this, sorry for confusion.

Not in the map, but critters which I find amazingly interesting (and yet so poorly known): native monkeys of the Caribbean!

Darren, thank you for the answer about giraffes at the "Ask a Biologist" forum. But can you tell in detail about the evolution of giraffes? I had seen the mention, that in earlier epochs even longer-necked giraffes, rather than recent ones, lived on the Earth. Is it true?
And next, I want to know more about Dinocerata... And about astrapotheres, and about... about... about...
So, it's partly a joke. I know you are not a cyborg to prepare answers to our questions and wishes till 24 hours a day. But as for me, I read with great pleasure your articles.
So, once I read an article mentioned that a little time ago in Antarctica fossils of litoptern Victorlemoinia were found. Is it true?

The only way Setukh could be an okapi is if the tail gets longer, and someone mistakes a tongue for a snout (at 18 inches long, that is vaguely possible)

By Anthony Docimo (not verified) on 06 Oct 2007 #permalink

Oh damn!

I guessed one or some of the critters in the pics was find alive or sighted....:(

Paul: after writing that AAB answer (for those of you wondering what we're talking about go here), it occurred to me that there is a real need for more internet stuff on giraffe evolution: most of what's there (like my article here) is theoretical, and not about the fossils. So I will definitely rectify this - I had already planned to cover sivatheres some time, but now I'm definitely going to do an article on giraffines. And astrapotheres and dinoceratans (and pyrotheres) are all scheduled to be done soon - it's all about time (or lack of it!).

And, yes, Victorlemoinea Ameghino, 1901 was reported from the Middle Eocene of Antarctica by Bond et al. (1990) and Marenssi et al. (1994) (that's available here). A second sparnotheriodontid litoptern, Notolophus arquinotiensis, was described last year by Bond et al. (2006). Some workers doubt that sparnotheriodontids are litopterns (Vizcaíno and colleagues have published papers doubting their litoptern affinities; they described them instead as of enigmatic relationships), but litoptern affinities were supported by Bond et al. (2006).

Refs --

Bond, M., Pascual, R. Reguero, M.A. Santillana, S.N. & Marenssi, S.A. 1990. Los primeros ungulados extinguidos sudamericanos de la Antártida. Ameghiniana, 16, 240.

Bond, M., Reguero, M. A., Vizcaíno, S. F. & Marenssi, S. A. 2006. A new 'South American ungulate' (Mammalia: Litopterna) from the Eocene of the Antarctic Peninsula. Geological Society, London, Special Publications 258, 163-176.

Marenssi, S. A., Reguero, M. A. Santillana, S. N. & Vizcaíno, S. F. 1994. Eocene land mammals from Seymour Island, Antarctica: Palaeobiogeographical implications. Antarctic Science 6, 3-15.


As I said, you have a long wait ahead of you. To paraphrase a saying; not only is the universe weirder than we imagine, the universe is weirder than we are currently capable of imagining. :)

Is it the right time to mention, yet again, that "wherefore art thou" (from Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet") refers not to Romeo's immediate whereabouts, but to Juliet's fascination at his existence, and his origin among her family's blood enemies, the Montagues. I.e., "wherefore" means something like "how come", or "why", not "where".

Full disclosure: I first learned this from Linus van Pelt in Charles Schulz's comic strip "Peanuts".

By Nathan Myers (not verified) on 06 Oct 2007 #permalink

While we're at the subject of mystery animals, do you know about the supposed Italian shorebird called corrira? I've done some research on it on the web, and none of the proposed identifications make much sense to me. It simply seems to have been forgotten or dismissed as fictitious during the 19th century, but I guess Aldrovandi knew what birds occurred in Italy in his time. It would be great if there was an otherwise completely unknown charadriiform with no close relatives in 17th century Europe, but then I don't know...

By Lars Dietz (not verified) on 07 Oct 2007 #permalink

Coming from the other direction (German), I thought the title was meant to mean "what for do you exist, cryptozoology". "Wherefore" is the question answered by "therefore".

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 07 Oct 2007 #permalink

And "wherefore art thou Romeo" does not have a comma. Juliet laments the fact that Romeo is Romeo Montague.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 07 Oct 2007 #permalink

Thanks. I was finding the Egyptologists unhelpful. When I made the mental (as opposed to Googled) leap to your blog, it just seemed the natural place to make the query.

This said--my apologies (even if unnecessary) for having veered off-topic in an otherwise interesting thread--I enjoy very much the on-topic discussions, which I have been following since before the D.Phil was in hand...

P.S. The picture of the Sut (Setech occultus) was extremely cute.

I guess I'm a bit late finding this post. Anyway, I'll give it a try:
Cuba: Megalocnus rodens, Cyclura nubila, Caracara creightoni, Ornimegalonyx oteroi, Tyto sp.
Jamaica: Clidomys osborni
Hispaniola: Cyclura cornuta, Tyto sp., Plagiodontia sp., Geochelone sp.
Puerto Rico: Tyto cavatica, Nesophontes edithae, Elasmodontomys obliquus, Heteropsomys antillensis or Puertoricomys corozalus

You excluded the primates, was it on purpose?

Well done Jorge, that's pretty much it, but the big Cuban raptor is meant to be Buteogallus borrasi, not a caracara. The brown Puerto Rican rodent on the far right is meant to be Heteropsomys. Why no primates? Because I couldn't find pictures of them!

I worked in Jamaica for a while, and was lucky enough to meet the Hutia. Sadly, it is a spectacularly stupid and short-sighted animal. Having evolved without significant predation, it's on the verge of extinction. If you showed it a plate, it would probably sit in the middle of it, prepare a tasty curry mix and show you where to start the marinade.

By Kattato Garu (not verified) on 14 Jan 2011 #permalink