Fisherman discovers 13 foot giant squid... which is then devoured by a shark
7 June 2012
Reporters are meant to write the news - not make it. But there must be something in the water, because - for the second time in a month - a fishing writer has stumbled across something extraordinary. The Australian Daily Telegraph fishing columnist - and big-game fisherman - Al McGlashan was sailing off the coast of New South Wales, Australia, at the weekend when he came across the carcass of a 13-foot squid.
And when McGlashan got into the water to explore the carcass, he found he was not the only interested party - a large blue shark came and made himself known, before devouring parts of it. McGlashan, also writer of a book called the Fishing Bible, discovered the squid yesterday - but it was so big he could not bring it onto the boat.
He believes the squid has only died recently, as its flesh still had a vibrant colour - perhaps what attracted the shark. McGlashan told ABC News: 'They’re sort of one of those mythical things. You hear those stories about ancient mariners getting attacked in their boat ... and you only hear about the very occasional one being washed up down in Tassie [Tasmania].' Squid specialist Mandy Reid told the Telegraph the squid may have been killed by a sperm whale, or died of natural causes. She said: 'Most squid only live for a year, they grow extremely quickly.'
McGlashan found the squid 50km from shore off the coast of Jervis Bay. And, while he was in the water and filming, the shark came for a peek and a bit to eat. He said: 'It hoed into the squid straight away and didn't care a bit that it was right next to us. It was taking great chunks out of the squid in one bite. In all my time of fishing, I’ve never seen calamari rings so big. It was massive.'
Although giants squids are known to science, sightings are very rare.
Mass grave of giant 'wombats' found
21 June 2012
Wombats might have a reputation as comical, clumsy creatures - but you would not be laughing if you came across an oversized, 2.8-tonne version. Australian scientists unveiled the biggest-ever graveyard of an ancient rhino-sized mega-wombat called diprotodon, with the site potentially holding valuable clues on the species' extinction.
The remote fossil deposit in outback Queensland state is thought to contain up to 50 diprotodon skeletons including a huge specimen named Kenny, whose jawbone alone is 70 centimetres (28 inches) long. Lead scientist on the dig, Scott Hocknull from the Queensland Museum in Brisbane, said Kenny was one of the largest diprotodons he had ever seen and one of the best preserved specimens.
Pigeon-toed and with a backward-facing pouch large enough to carry an adult human, Hocknull likened diprotodon to 'a cross between a wombat and a bear but the size of a rhinoceros'. 'When we did the initial survey I was just completely blown away by the concentrations of these fragments,' he told AFP by telephone from the far-flung desert dig site, which he estimated at between 100,000-200,000 years old. 'It's a paleontologists' goldmine where we can really see what these megafauna were doing, how they actually behaved, what their ecology was. With so many fossils it gives us a unique opportunity to see these animals in their environment, basically, so we can reconstruct it.'
The mega-wombats appeared to have been trapped in boggy conditions at the site after seeking refuge there from extremely dry conditions during a period of significant climate change in ancient Australia, he added.
Diprotodon, the largest marsupial ever to roam the earth, weighing up to 2.8 tonnes, lived between two million and 50,000 years ago and died out around the time indigenous tribes first appeared. Human and climate triggers for its disappearance are hotly debated.
A huge array of other animal bones have also been found at the site, including the teeth of a six-metre long venomous lizard called megalania and the teeth and bony back-plates of an enormous ancient crocodile. 'We're almost certain that most of these carcasses of diprotodon have been torn apart by both the crocodiles and the lizards, because we've found shed teeth within their skeletons from both animals,' Hocknull said.
Towering super-kangaroos up to 2.5 metres tall called protemnodon have also been discovered at the location, along with the remains of tiny frogs, rodents and fish -- an important find in what is now an extremely arid region. 'Very little is known about arid zone fish and their evolution, and finding a fossil record for them is amazing,' said Hocknull.
A relative of the modern-day wombat, the herbivorous diprotodon was just one of a host of megafauna to roam ancient Australia including the tree-sized kangaroos and gigantic crocodiles. Megafauna are thought to have evolved to such large sizes to cope with inhospitable climates and food scarcity, with fossils found in Australia of prehistoric emus, tree-dwelling crocodiles and carnivorous kangaroos.
'Monster' washes up on New York beach The corpse of a mystery animal which washed up on the shore of New York's East River has sparked a wave of conspiracy theories with online debates asking whether it is the carcass of a dog, a pig or an altogether more sinister creature.
Mark Hughes, New York
26 Jul 2012
The apparent 'monster' was found and pictured by an amateur photographer who was walking under the Brooklyn Bridge in Manhattan on Sunday. The lady who captured the images, Denise Ginley said: "We were horrified by it and we took some camera phone pictures and then finally we decided to come back with my camera and I got up the courage to climb over the fence and get closer to it."
On first glance it appears that the animal is simply a bloated pig – a theory the New York Parks Department insist is correct – but closer inspection reveals that the animal appears to have toes rather than hooves. Online theorists speculated it may be a dog or, even more worrying, a giant rat. Other online comments suggest it could be an aardvark, a raccoon or something related to a possum.
One online commentator suggested the beast was from a nearby government-run animal disease centre.
The poster, identified only as L13, wrote: "I don't think it's purely coincidence that these unidentifiable creatures have washed up on shores around Plum Island where the government has their Center for Animal Diseases. "I think these poor things are lab experiments the govt doesn't want us to know about." The New York's magazine's Daily Intel blog has cranked up the conspiracy with a blog post entitled: "We're Supposed to Believe the New East River Monster Is Just a Pig?"
Mrs Ginley told the Daily Intel blog: "I definitely agree that the feet are not pig-like at all. No hooves or cloven feet to be seen it definitely had five toes on all its paws, front and back. I think it could be a monstrously huge rat, but it could also be a monster. A rat that big would pretty much be a monster anyway, wouldn't it?"
The blog compares the animal, which appears to have part of its jaw missing, to something from the X-Files. But the New York Parks Department is not budging from its initial identification of the animal. "It was a pig left over from a cookout," a spokesperson told the Animal NY website. "We disposed of it." Pressed further, the spokesman added: "It was a roasted pig we threw it out. We didn't count its toes, we just threw it out."
But the blogosphere was not convinced. "Hopefully by 'threw it out' they mean transferred to a top-secret lab for more testing, because we are not yet done demanding answers," the Daily Intel poster wrote.
Giant Isopod Fasts For 4 Years
February 25, 2013
From Japan comes news of a giant isopod that knows all there is to know about the hunger game. How else to explain the fasting behavior of the animal that, his minders say, hasn't eaten in more than 1,500 days? The male giant isopod, known simply as No. 1, last ate on Jan. 2, 2009 — or, to put it in perspective, 18 days before President Obama began his first term.
The giant isopod's last meal at the Toba Aquarium, reports Japan Times, was a horse mackerel, which it devoured in just five minutes. But that was four years ago. Since then, No. 1 has only pretended to eat — going so far as to rub its face on dead fish before walking away, according to reports. The aquarium's Takaya Moritaki says he has tried everything he can think of to get the finicky giant isopod, which was caught in the Gulf of Mexico, to eat.
"I just want it to eat something somehow. It's weakened in this state," he tells the Japan Daily Press. He recently invited the media to witness the giant isopod's hunger strike, as it spurned several pieces of fish. The mysterious behavior has not taken an obvious toll on No. 1, which has reportedly remained healthy during its long period of abstaining.
Giant isopods are close relatives of rolly pollies and "pill bugs," with a few adaptations for living on the ocean floor in the deep, cold waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. They have seven pairs of legs and four sets of jaws and can grow to more than two feet in length. As scavengers, the animals are built to survive long periods between meals.
"Giant isopods are always in a state of semihibernation because they don't know when they can eat, so they limit their energy on breathing and other activities," marine ecologist Taeko Kimura tells Japan Times. "For that purpose they sometimes keep a large amount of fat in their livers, so maybe No. 1 still has a source of energy in its body, and that's why it still has no appetite."
But aquarium staff are concerned, especially as the tank No. 1 is in previously housed a healthy, and hungry, giant isopod. The artificial seawater it contains is "highly unlikely to generate organic substances" to sustain the animal, Japan Times notes.
Could someone be sneaking food to No. 1 — perhaps in an odd show of allegiance to the old British TV show The Prisoner? Or could it somehow be living on the err... effluvia of its fellows? Somehow, this mysterious animal, which Sea and Sky calls "without a doubt one of the strangest creatures found in the deep sea," has managed to keep some of its secrets.
Fresh Bigfoot mystery police admit they are baffled by giant decomposed foot found in Massachusetts wood
22 April 2013
It sounds like the plot of a childhood adventure movie. Two young boys stumble across a giant, decomposing foot in the woods, leaving local police to wonder whether the grisly find is evidence of the fabled Bigfoot. But that's exactly what has happened in Massachusetts, U.S., where tests are being carried out on the mysterious remains amid speculation over exactly what kind of creature it belonged to.
According to a report on Discovery.com, the boys found the decomposing foot in woods in Quincy last month. Baffled officers at the Lakeville Police Department sent the foot to medical examiners to see if they can shed any more light on its origin.
'On March 29, Sgt Steven Leanues picked up what appears to be a decomposed foot that the boys found in the woods off Pantheon Road,' it said, citing the Patriot Ledger newspaper. 'Police Chief Frank Alvihiera sent it to the medical examiner, who determined it is not human, although it appears to have five toes.'
Also known as Sasquatch, Bigfoot is the name given to the hairy, ape-like creature that some believe live in forests in North America. Sightings of the beast have been reported over decades by people who have pointed variously to mysterious sightings, inexplicably huge footprints, and giant nest-like structures as evidence that the elusive creature does in fact exist.
Believers who claim to have spotted the legendary creature - which was immortalised in the 1987 film Bigfoot and the Hendersons - say it stands between 6ft and 10ft tall, is covered in reddish brown fur, and has a distinctive, unpleasant odour. While fans are likely to seize upon the find as further proof of the beast's existence, sceptics might predict the tests will reveal the foot belonged not to Bigfoot, but to a big bear.
Stork sets siege to village with car attacks
12th July 2013
A stork has been causing thousands of euros of damage in a north German village by attacking parked cars and pecking at windows. It is said to be confused and thinks every reflection of itself is a rival bird.
Stork expert for the Mecklenburg Western-Pomeranian Bergholz area Jens Krüger believes that the bird is having an identity crisis. It has been, he said, catching a glimpse of itself in car windows and thinking it is a rival stork. So out of anger, or possibly confusion, the stork has been viciously pecking at the reflection and in some cases has caused serious dents in cars. “At least four vehicles in the areas have been attacked,” mayor Ulrich Kersten confirmed on Friday. The damage to more expensive cars has been estimated at €1,000 a time. The bird has also been pecking at windows and glass doors, leaving some residents scared to leave their homes.
“How do we protect ourselves?” local woman Johanna Preuß asked the Nord Kurier newspaper. She was woken up at 5am on Friday by the large white bird, beak pressed against her terrace door. “We saw the bird hacking away at our family car,” Bergholz resident Kerstin Werth told the newspaper. “After we scared it away there it was, going at our neighbour's car,” she said. In some houses, Bergholzers have been hanging up blankets across doors and windows to avoid late-night feathery disturbances.
The bird is thought to have a nest with three young babies which are not yet of flying age. The entire village is, Nord Kurier said, waiting patiently until migration season rolls around and the troublesome family head south.
"Stork expert for the Mecklenburg Western-Pomeranian Bergholz area" - now there's a job to aspire to!
Olinguito: New Mammal Is Identified The raccoon-sized creature, which lives in South America, had previously been discovered but was mistaken for a sister species.
15th August 2013
A raccoon-sized creature with a teddy bear face has been identified as a new species of mammal. The olinguito lives in the mountainous forests of Ecuador and Columbia, where it leaps through the trees at night. It eats mostly fruit, weighs about two pounds (0.9kg) and is about 2.5ft (76cm) long, according to a Smithsonian researcher who has spent the past decade tracking the animal.
The olinguito belongs to a grouping of large creatures that includes dogs, cats and bears. The creature was known - one of them once lived at the National Zoo in Washington - but it had been mistaken for a similar animal. "It's been kind of hiding in plain sight for a long time," said Kristofer Helgen, the Smithsonian's curator of mammals who made the announcement in Washington.
The Washington zoo's olinguito, named Ringerl, was mistaken for a sister species, the olingo. Ringerl was shipped from zoo to zoo in the US from 1967 to 1976 to try to get it to breed with other olingos – but it never did. "It turns out she wasn't fussy," Mr Helgen said. "She wasn't the right species."
Mr Helgen first figured olinguitos were different from olingos when he was looking at pelts and skeletons in a museum. He later led a team to South America in 2006. "How is it different? In almost every way that you can look at it," he said, adding that olinguitos are smaller, have shorter tails, a rounder face, tinier ears and darker bushier fur. "It looks kind of like a fuzzball," Mr Helgen said. "Kind of like a cross between a teddy bear and a house cat."
Another day, another deceased horned sea monster washed up on shore
To quote local authority Maria Sanchez: "We have no idea of what [it] can be, but it smelled bad." The corpse of a mystery demon fish creature washed up on a beach in Spain, and nobody can figure out what the thing is (though the word "dragon" has been thrown around).
The decaying corpse, said to be 13 horrifying feet long, was forced to be buried due to health concerns, robbing biologists of the chance to assure the public that it's just a really ugly shark or something. For now, the conspiracy theories live on. Horned mermaid. Promotion stunt for the upcoming season of "Game of Thrones." The Loch Ness Monster's love child. We can keep going ...
Hallucigenia revealed: The most surreal creature from strangest period in history of life on Earth
Saturday 16 August 2014
If Salvadore Dali were God, he would surely have designed an animal that looked like Hallucigenia. It has been described as the most surreal creature that lived in the strangest period in the history of life on Earth, more than 500 million years ago. After more than four decades of studying fossilised imprints, scientists believe they have finally nailed Hallucigenia’s position in the tree of life, and in the process discovered its only living descendants.
Hallucigenia, named because of its dream-like, trip-inducing appearance, is one of the many marine animals that rather abruptly appear in the fossil record during a period in pre-history known as the Cambrian explosion, a biological bang that detonated the evolution of complex life-forms about 542 million years ago.
Until the Cambrian explosion, life had been bumbling along for about three billion years, with evolution producing nothing much more animate than a bath sponge. After the explosion, creatures with complex body plans evolved that walked, crawled, swam and burrowed – and Hallucigenia was one of them.
Scientists were so thrown by Hallucigenia when its small fossils were first analysed 40 years ago that they thought its front end was its back end, and its top was its bottom. They even thought it was an evolutionary one-off that had left no descendants alive today. However, scientists now believe they have finally been able to locate Hallucigenia’s position in evolutionary history by showing that it is the ancestor of a small group of worm-like creatures with short, stubby legs that can be found today, living unobtrusively in the undergrowth of tropical forests.
Martin Smith and Javier Ortega-Hernandez of Cambridge University have detected key physical similarities between Hallucigenia and the so-called velvet worms, known more formally as the onychophorans – the first time zoologists have been able to rule conclusively on the creature’s true role in history. Their study, to be published in the journal Nature, is based on a detailed analysis of high-magnification images of the fossils of Hallucigenia, which grew no bigger than about 3.5cm long, showing five key characteristics that link the species to the velvet worms.
Among the most important features is the way the claws at the end of its limbs are arranged. Under an electron microscope, each claw has two or three successive layers of cuticle nestled one within the other, like the layered skins of an onion.
Dr Smith said: “We think this enabled them to grow a new set of claws before they shed their skins, which they had to do to grow. A very similar feature is found in the claws and jaws of the velvet worms, and no other animal shares this particular characteristic. It means that the animals do not have to wait for a new claw to form after shedding their skin to grow – they already have one ready formed,” he explained.
Zoologists have also not always been completely sure which end of Hallucigenia is the front and which is the back, although Dr Smith said his research clears this up – the front has two or three pairs of appendages and the back has a rounded end where its body-length gut probably terminates. It is now clear that the fearsome spikes on Hallucigenia’s back, which were once confused for stilt-like legs, are almost certainly a defensive mechanism against the increasing number of predators that emerged during the Cambrian explosion.
The Cambrian explosion is named after the geological period that began about 541 million years ago, when a remarkable variety of marine animals first appear in the fossil record. Most fossils are formed from the hard parts of living organism, such as bones or shells. However, details of the soft body parts of Cambrian creatures can be seen in a rock formation known as the Burgess Shale in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Hallucigenia was just one of many bizarre animals to live at this time. Other creatures included a fearsome predator called Anomalocaris, armed with two vicious-looking jaws and large eyes, and Wiwaxia, which looked like a Viking helmet with spikes.
For evolutionists, this period is one of the most interesting in the 3.5-billion-year history of life on earth because this was when many of the complex body plans seen in today’s animals are first detectable, even though they must have evolved from something earlier in history.
“It’s often thought that modern animal groups arose fully formed during the Cambrian explosion. But evolution is a gradual process,” said Martin Smith of Cambridge. “Today’s complex anatomies emerged step by step, one feature at a time. By deciphering ‘in-between’ fossils like Hallucigenia, we can determine how different animal groups built up their modern body plans,” he said.
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