Sunday, December 5, 2010

How Do Remipedes Disperse?

For those not in the know, remipedes are small, blind, saltwater cave-dwelling (pan)crustaceans remarkable for their 'primitive' polychaete-like body plan, possible close relation to insects, and discovery in 1979. Here's a video with lots of hot remipede action and commentary from the clade's initial descriptor, Jill Yager:



I'd recommend just going to YouTube.

Remipede biogeography has become quite the complex topic, and in retrospect my last post failed to give it any justice. 22 out of the 25 known remipede species* are present in the Caribbean, with 15 being found in the Bahamas alone; Caicos Bank has 4 species while San Salvador Island, Cuba, Hispaniola, and Yucatán all have a single indigenous species (Koenemann et al. 2009). The Bahamas remipedes exhibit remarkable sympatry, with up to 6 species from 3 genera inhabiting a single cave system (Koenemann et al. 2004). It has been speculated that the diversity of remipedes in the Caribbean, and particularly the Bahamas, is due to the complex geomorphology of the caves and changing sea elevation (and thus coastlines) throughout the Pleistocene (Koenemann et al. 2009). It should be cautioned that since remipedes were initially discovered from the Bahamas, sample bias may have exaggerated the disparity of diversity between the Bahamas and other Caribbean locales.

* Species count from Koenemann et al. (2009), which includes species with formal descriptions in preparation. Not included are unidentified and undescribed species, the number of which is ambiguous.


In the Bahamas and Caicos, individual remipede species are occasionally present on multiple islands, including G. robustus from Exuma Cays, Great Bahama Bank and North Caicos (Koenemann et al. 2009). Also notable is Speleonectes lucayensis, the first described remipede, which is present on Andros and Cat Island from the Great Bahama Bank as well as Grand Bahamas and Abaco from the Little Bahama Bank (Koenemann et al. 2009). Iliffe et al. (2010) took note of a pair of Godzilliognomus on either side of the Bahamas Banks, and speculated that dispersal may have occurred through open water, the deep sea, or cave colonization when the banks were forming during the Cretaceous. Very recently it was discovered that remipedes are not restricted to subterranean caves, but are present in sub-marine caves with similar properties located on shallow 'platforms', which apparently increases the potential range considerably and may explain occurrence on multiple islands (Daenekas et al. 2009). It is certainly an intriguing thought that islands which share remipede species have a contiguous, or nearly so, distribution of individuals in between. Since islands outside of the Bahamas and Caicos all have unique remipedes, it can be assumed this phenomenon has limited applicability for planetary-scale dispersal.

So what are those other Caribbean remipedes? All are members of the genus Speleonectes (Koenemann et al. (2009), and morphology-based phylogeny places S. epilimnius (San Salvador), S. gironensis (Cuba), and S. tulumensis (Yucatán) well within the genus (Koenemann et al. 2007). The Bahamas and Caicos are also home to several Speleonectes and other speleonectids (Koenemann et al. 2009), and I think it would be fascinated if all the divergent speleonectids were analyzed through molecular phylogeny to determine relations more certainly and calculate divergence times. If the Speleonectes from outside the Bahamas and Caicos are indeed closely related to those within, it would seem to suggest that colonization occurred very recently, presumably during or after the sea level changes of the Pleistocene.

Speleonectes are also present far outside of the Caribbean, as now two species are known from the Canary Islands. Both S. ondinae and S. atlantida were found in the Túnel de la Atlántida (apparently the world's largest lava tube), despite it being only 1,700 m (~ 1 mile) long, and much simpler in structure and more recently formed (~20,000) than the Bahamas locales which support remipede sympatry (Koenemann et al. 2009). Remipedes are also rarely seen in the tube despite ideal viewing conditions, and Koenemann et al. (2009) suggest they may be found outside the system, although this has not been confirmed. Morphological phylogeny tended to place S. ondinae around Caribbean Speleonectes (Koenemann et al. 2007) and limited examination of DNA demonstrated S. atlantida formed a clade outside S. ondinae, with a difference between the two being larger than a mean intraspecific distance for a few select species (Koenemann et al. 2009). It would be interesting to determine if the species are sister taxa, or if they managed to colonize the tube independently.

Incredibly, there is a species of remipede from Western Australia - and it isn't SpeleonectesLasionectes exleyi is still a speleonectid and is currently classified as congeneric with L. entrichoma (Koenemann et al. 2009) however morphological phylogeny generally shows Lasionectes to be paraphyletic, and places both species basally in Speleonectidae (Koenemann et al. 2007). Unlike the other cases, this evidence could suggest a relatively ancient dispersal.


Remipede biogeography is still an emerging topic, and for all I know, there could be remipede colonies in between the Caribbean and disjunct locales, or even worldwide. As the Canary Islands species occur in a very recently-formed lave tube, it would suggest that remipedes can occasionally disperse through open waters and colonize ideal locales. It could be possible they haven't been detected yet due to being rare, although confusion with polychaetes is possible. Hermaphrodites would be ideal colonizers, and since it is now known remipedes can live in caves off the mainland, it would greatly increase the chances of dispersal. The exact extent of remipedes and sub-marine caves is intriguing, but it seems likely that contiguous populations between islands are only likely to occur in the Bahamas and Caicos. Why only Speleonectes are dispersed throughout the Caribbean and Canary Islands is curious, so presumably there's some aspect of their life history which aids dispersal.


Instead of having to write on this topic again every couple years, I'm considering setting up one of those fancy blog 'pages' to keep everything strait on remipedes. Then again, I have no idea what that may be getting me into.





References:


Daenekas, J., Iliffe, T., Yager, J., and Koenemann, S. (2009). Speleonectes kakuki, a new species of Remipedia (Crustacea) from anchialine and sub-seafloor caves on Andros and Cat Island, Bahamas. Zootaxa 2016, 51-66. Available.


Iliffe, T., Otten, T., and Koenemann, S. (2010). Godzilliognomus schrami, a new species of Remipedia (Crustacea) from Eleuthera, Bahamas. Zootaxa 2491, 61-68. Available.

Koenemann, S., Bloechl, A., Martinez, A., Iliffe, T., Hoenemann, M., and Oromi, P. (2009). A new, disjunct species of Speleonectes (Remipedia, Crustacea) from the Canary Islands. Marine Biodiversity 39, 215-225. Available.


Koenemann, S., Schram, F., Honemann, M., and Iliffe, T. (2007). Phylogenetic analysis of Remipedia (Crustacea). Organisms, Diversity & Evolution 7, 33–51. Available.

Koenemann S., Iliffe T., and Yager, J. (2004) Kaloketos pilosus, a new genus and species of Remipedia (Crustacea) from the Turks and Caicos Islands. Zootaxa 618, 1–12. Available.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Adventure Time #0001 - Lawton's Valley

Holy crap does time fly by. I can't believe I managed to slip into my old posting frequency without noticing. To try and bump up activity, I'll start documenting some of my more ill-conceived - and hopefully interesting - adventures.

On the Isle of Aquidneck and in the village of Melville, there stands a forgettable 600 foot (180 m) stretch of trees along Rhode Island Route 114. This woody tract unceremoniously sandwiched between Raytheon and apartment complexes looks like any of the others intermittently present alongside the road. It is then shocking to learn the seemingly insignificant parcel reportedly contains old-growth forest. Resultantly, this has become a favorite haunt of mine.

As I appear legally incapable of pasting a map onto this blog, the best I can do is link to a Google map. The marker is questionably placed as it is south of the valley proper and some 400 feet (120 meters) southwest of the entrance. But hey, at least thanks to the Google Truck you can see how just how uninteresting Lawton's Valley* appears from the road!

I feel obliged to point out that Lawton's Valley is presently owned by Raytheon, although only the woodlands surrounding it are off-limits. There appears to be a drive to increase the legal protection of the area, but I have no idea what the current status is.

* Sources tend to vary between Lawton and Lawton's. The latter appears to have more frequent usage, so I'll go with it.


I wish my camera came with a level...
Southeast of Lawton's Valley and Rt. 114 is the Lawton Valley Reservoir, a ~85 acre (35 hectare) construct sitting around 108 feet (33 meters) above sea level, according to Daft Logic's Google Maps Find Altitude program. Thanks to the magic of the internet, I found a video which explains that the disturbance in the water is from aeration discs. Now I can sleep at night. There appears to be automatic control of the water level, as considerable amounts of water flow into Lawton Brook periodically, scaring the hell out of me in the process.



The north/northwestern border of the reservoir is a huge levee about half a mile long (0.8 km) and 30-40 feet (9-12 m) high at the peak. The office buildings in the extreme background are part of the Raytheon complex, northeast of Lawton's Valley. The culvert in the bottom photo is the mouth of Lawton's Brook, which can be followed to enter the valley. It is also possible to enter through the apartment complex, but the parking is lousy and steep slopes + slippery leaves can spell trouble.


Thanks, mysterious railing installer!
The woods between the service road and 114 are nothing special - as flat, swampy, and full of garbage as the majority of Rhode Island - until you hit this:



The water in the tunnel is normally shallow enough that shoes won't get wet... except during high flow when the depth reaches around 2 inches (5 cm). Thanks to canalization, the velocity (and noise) during high flow seems remarkable, but thankfully not dangerously so. Despite my newfound fear of tunnels under highways, it was all worth it to see this:



Lawton's Valley seems to occupy space in an improbable way. Even with a highway to my back, defense contractors to the right, and apartment dwellers to the left, it felt like a place apart. Perhaps it has to do with me spending a considerable amount of my life in the Midwest and thus being bewildered by even the slightest changes in elevation. Anyways, Lawton's Valley is surprisingly large considering the small profile from the highway: it runs about 3000 feet (0.57 miles, 0.9 kilometers) from the tunnel exit to Narragansett Bay and the non-fenced in portion is at least 20 acres (8 hectares). The bottom of the valley is about 110 feet (33 m) above sea level near the start, levels out to around 15 feet (4.6 m) halfway through, and then slopes down to sea level. The maximum depth of the valley seems to be at least 40 feet (12 m). Some portions of the valley have vertical rocky faces, which backs up the occasional description of 'canyon', at least in part.



A visual representation of the difference in flow rates. The latter of these seems to be around, or even slightly surpassing, the pre-reservoir norm - see here and here. As evidenced by the pictures, Lawton's Valley was built upon at some points, in spite of its physical layout, presumably because the (then) Wading River was attractive to mills. Richard Chaplin's article on the Valley's history mentions that a house was built on the site of an old mill by none other than Julia Ward Howe, author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Richard L. Chaplin's overview article notes both a grist mill and flax mill were present up until 1910, when they were washed away, which (to me) suggests the house was re-converted into a mill at some point. 



So is former mill site Lawton's Valley really an old growth forest? An article by James Johnson states that arborist Matthew Largess found a number of rare trees including American Beech (Fagus grandifolia), a large  Hornbeam (Carpinus), one White Ash (Fraxinus americana) which was both very large and unusually located in a stream bed, a Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis) among the largest in New England, and a Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) which may be the largest in New England, with a circumference of over 13 feet (4 m) and estimated age at least 300 and possibly 500 years old. The valley indeed appears to have many of the characteristics of old growth, but as yet this status appears unconfirmed.

Lawton's Valley was not included in a survey of an old growth forests in Rhode Island, almost all of which are found in the relatively sparsely populated Washington County, but interestingly the nearby Oakland Farms was. Despite being a 20 acre (8 hectare) area located near a subdivision and the sea, it is a functional old forest (not just old trees) which was either last disturbed early on by European settlers, or not at all. According to Matthew Largess, who had worked on preventing Oakland Farms from being developed, the two forests (about 1.3 miles/2.1 km apart) were at one point connected. I guess that gives them a sort of Fangorn-Old Forest connection.


Even if Lawton's Valley is not a true old growth forest, it is an amazing collection of specimens and history for a tiny obscure corner of a tiny obscure state. The latest publication by the Raytheon Employees Wildlife Habitat Committee indicates it is in good hands and may finally get the status and recognition it deserves.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sewer Turtles

Yes, really.

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Turtles are in serious trouble. The IUCN Red List investigated 207 out of ~300 species and arrived at these assessments:

Click to enlarge. This is an unofficial chart of my own construction - for a prior version see the Turtle Conservation Fund. The number of unassessed species is estimated.

95 of the species were last assessed over 10 years ago and are in need of updates (IUCN 2010); this unfortunately suggests the present situation could be worse than illustrated above. It also needs to be pointed out that 'Unassessed' is not necessarily synonymous with 'Least Concern'. For instance, the unassessed Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) is unprotected throughout most of its range and commonly assumed to be in no danger, but in reality requires conservation effort (Ernst and Lovich 2009).


With the situation looking grim, it then comes as a shock that some turtles not only survive in anthropogenically-altered environments, but thrive.

Geoffroy's side-necked turtle (Phrynops geoffroanus) is a moderately-large (max SCL = 35 cm, 13.8") pleurodire which lives east of the Andes in the Orinoco, Amazonas, São Francisco, and Paraná rivers basins ('Turtles of the World', Baldo et al. 2007). Souza (2005), however, interprets the distribution as patternless, and coupled with the diversity of habitat, reiterated a prior suggestion that P. geoffroanus is a complex of sister species. For the sake of not having to construct awkward sentences for the rest of this article, I'll refer to whatever complex may exist as a single species. P. geoffroanus inhabits streams, rivers, lakes and lagoons* with soft bottoms and abundant vegetation ('Turtles of the World', Bonin et al. 2006). The diet is strongly carnivorous, including fish, aquatic insects, snails, and other invertebrates ('Turtles of the World', Bonin et al. 2006). The turtles are shy and flee from humans whom are less than 50 meters (165 feet) away (Bonin et al. 2006). They have been spared from large-scale hunting due to being generally unpalatable, but large numbers are still collected for the pet trade (Bonin et al. 2006). The IUCN does not list the species.


*Making this one of a surprisingly large number of turtles tolerant of saline conditions.


Phrynops geoffroanus from Wikipedia Commons. Phrynops species are commonly called Toad-Head Turtles thanks to their wide dorso-ventrally compressed head.


Souza and Abe (2000) investigated P. geoffroanus populations in Ribeirão Preto Stream, which runs through a town of over half a million and as a result receives an estimated 25-28 tons of sewage per day, as well as dead animals, pesticides, and assorted domestic waste including food scraps, furniture, and tires. The stream is muddy to the degree that at a 30 cm (1 foot) depth, the bottom cannot be seen. Only around 1 kilometer out of the 40 km stretch (0.6 out of 25 miles) is canalized, allowing the grass Panicum maximum to dominate the banks. Up to 75 turtles were present in a 0.1 hectare (0.25 acre) area surveyed; median figures gave a more modest 170-230 turtles/hectare (420-569/acre) or a biomass of 255-345 kg/hectare (1388-1878 lbs/acre). Thus, the 40 km stretch averaging 10 m (33 feet) wide has a population of around 3000 turtles. Surprisingly, neotropical turtles living in lakes may have much higher densities, but in comparison with other streams, the Ribeirão Preto turtles are extremely abundant. It is unfortunate Souza and Abe (2000) did not survey P. geoffroanus in unaltered streams to determine differences in abundance and life history.


So how were the turtles apparently thriving in what essentially amounts to an open-air sewer? Terrestrial prey such as snails and cockroaches were taken, along with carrion and items such as (chicken?) meat and rice from human residences. However, the chironomid Chironomus plumosus was found in 100% of the stomachs surveyed and appears to make up the bulk of the diet. Juvenile turtles - which have a more varied diet than adults - primarily consumed pupal C. plumosus, whereas adult turtles consumed the larvae, suggesting niche partitioning. Due to almost none of the original vegetation remaining in the region, the river otters that would typically prey on the turtles are either locally extinct or scare. Piranhas have been observed to mutilate P. geoffroanus at the stream mouth, but turtles with severe wounds, including damaged or absent forelimbs, can still apparently survive on carrion and/or their small insect prey.


Living in a polluted stream is obviously not without its risks. Souza and Abe (2000) warn that further pollution will eventually kill off C. plumosus and that future canalization will destroy nesting habitat - although it is unlikely the whole 40 km stretch will be so modified. Turtles from the urbanized Anhanduizinho River were found to have a huge mortality rate from roadways (Souza et al. 2008). Chironomid larvae have been observed to live on (and in?) turtles in polluted streams (Marques et al. 2008), but it is not clear what sort of impact this has. Urban P. geoffroanus were found to have a high rate of leech parasitism compared to those from agricultural areas (with no leeches) (Brites and Rantin 2003); another study found that individuals parasitized by leeches and injured by boat strikes showed no sign of disease, although it was suspected they were sub-clinical (Ferronato et al. 2009). Piña et al. (2009) studied P. geoffroanus individuals from the Piracicaba River and found the highest blood serum levels of Cu and Pb for any studied reptile, which was remarkable since there were no obvious clinical or reproductive impacts. The authors warned that the contamination may have been recent enough that any impact, which will likely disrupting reproduction, may eventual appear within a few years.


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For anyone disappointed about a more literal Sewer Turtle not showing up, there's hope. Actinemys marmorata, a vulnerable species, has lost habitat due to urbanization and other anthropic changes, but thrives in sewage treatment plants (Germano 2010). The author suggested the facilities could be used to stock up populations to re-introduce to more natural environments. I wish I have access to this one...






References:


Baldo, D., Martinez, P., Boeris, J. M., Giraudo, A. R. (2007). Reptilia, Chelonii, Chelidae, Phrynops geoffroanus Schweigger, 1812 and Mesoclemmys vanderhaegei (Bour, 1973): Distribution extension, new country record, and new province records in Argentina. Check List 3 (4), 348-352. Available


Bonin, F., Devaux, B. Dupré, A. (2006). Turtles of the World. Baltimore, Maryland: John Hopkins University Press. Partially Available.


Brites, V. L. C. and Rantin, F. T. (2003). The Influence of Agricultural and Urban Contamination on Leech Infestation of Freshwater Turtels, Phrynops geoffroanus, taken from Two Areas of the Uberabinha River. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 96(1-3), 273-281. DOI: 10.1023/B:EMAS.0000031733.98410.3c


Ernst, C. H., and Lovich, J. E. (2009). Turtles of the United States and Canada. John Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, Maryland. ISBN 13:978-0-8018-9121-2

Ernst, C. H., Altenburg, R. G. M., and Barbour, R. W. "Phrynops geoffroanus". Turtles of the World.

http://nlbif.eti.uva.nl/bis/turtles.php?selected=beschrijving&menuentry=soorten&record=Phrynops%20geoffroanus

Ferronato, B. O., Genoy-Puerto, A., Piña, C. I., Souza, F. L., Verdade, L. M., and Matushima, E. R. (2009). Notes on the hematology of free-living Phrynops geoffroanus (Testudines: Chelidae) in polluted rivers of Southeastern Brazil. Zoologia (Curitiba, Impresso) 26(4). doi: 10.1590/S1984-46702009000400027


IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. www.iucnredlist.org


Germano, D. J. (2010). Ecology of Western Pond Turtles (Actinemys marmorata) at Sewage-Treatment Facilities in the San Joaquin Valley, California. The Southwestern Naturalist 55(1), 89-97.


Marques, T. S., Ferronato, B. O., Guardia, I., Longo, A. L. B., Trivinho-Strixino, S., Bertoluci, J., and Verdade, L. M. (2008). First record of Chironomus inquinatus larvae Correia, Trivinho-Strixino & Michailova (Diptera, Chironomidae) living on the shell of the side-necked turtle Phrynops geoffroanus Schweigger (Testudines, Chelidae). Biota Neotropica 8(4). doi: 10.1590/S1676-06032008000400019

Piña, C. I., Lance, V. A., Ferronato, B. O., Guardia, I., Marques, T. S., and Verdade, L. M. Heavy Metal Contamination in Phrynops geoffroanus (Schweigger, 1812) (Testudines: Chelidae) in a River Basin, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 83, 771-775. Available.


Souza, F. L., Raizer, J., da Costa, H. T. M., and Martins, F. I. (2008). Dispersal of Phrynops geoffroanus (Chelidae) in an Urban River in Central Brazil. Chelonian Conservation and Biology 7(2), 257–261. Available.


Souza, F. L. (2005). Geographical distribution patterns of South American side-necked turtles (Chelidae), with emphasis on Brazilian species. Revista Española de Herpetología 19, 33-46. Available.


Souza, F. L., and Abe, A. S. (2000). Feeding ecology, density and biomass of the freshwater turtle, Phrynops geoffroanus, inhabiting a polluted urban river in south-eastern Brazil. Journal of Zoology 252, 437-446. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7998.2000.tb01226.x

Turtle Conservation Fund. (2002). A global action plan for conservation of tortoises and freshwater turtles. Strategy and funding prospectus 2002–2007. Washington, DC: Conservation International and
Chelonian Research Foundation. Available

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cryptozoological Case File #0004 - The Hanoi Sea Serpent

I already discussed this encounter way back in my Many-Finned days, but I just thought of a novel explanation that segues into another topic I've got in the works.

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Conversions and hyperlinks are my own.

Heuvelmans (1968) citing Ouest-Eclair inquiry from unnamed Captain (possibly P. Merlees):
In June 1908 I was captain of the steamer Hanoi belonging to A. R. Marty of Haiphong and at about 6 in the morning was about 5 miles [8 km] east of the Norway islands which lie at the entrance to the Along Bay (Tongking), and I was steering to pass between these islands and the land when I saw it.
I saw, some way ahead, a black mass which at first I took for a capsized boat. On approaching and examining it with binoculars, I found it had a strange shape. This resembled a framework over which sail had been tightly stretched. The ribs were very marked. Seen from the side and from some way off it would certainly look indented, for the ridges were very sharp. I had a three-quarter view which enabled me to make a rough estimate of its size.
The colour was black; the length about 16 feet [4.9 m] and the width about 5 feet [1.5 m]. It was quite motionless.
 As I wondered what it could be I kept coming closer and clearly distinguished all its features. When I reached some thirty yards [27 m] away a huge head emerged some 4 or 5 yards [3.6 or 4.6 m] from what I could see, and therefore nearer to me.
Although surprised by this sudden apparition, I could observe it very well, and it was very like the head of a turtle, but longer and certainly 2 feet [0.6 m] wide by 3 feet [0.9 m] long; it had two very bright black and white eyes and large nostrils. It was blackish like the rest. I could not see the jaw, the mouth being shut, but the mouth was clearly marked on the sides of large dimensions.
 The head turned to look at the ship, blew noisily without spouting water and at once dived, the rest following and making a big wash. 
When I reached where the animal had been I could see nothing but the wash in the water, and that was all.
Given the dimensions of this animal it could not possibly be confused with a turtle. For one thing it certainly had no scales, of that I am sure. The skin was more like old tanned leather, and with my binoculars I could see it very well.
The head appeared for a few seconds only, and I did not look at it with my binoculars, but it was very close, perhaps 25 yards [23 m] away, and what struck me most were the eyes. The turtle has only very small eyes, veiled by a membrane, and not big bright eyes like these. And so far as I know there are no turtles of this size.
From the head to the end of the visible part was a good 30 feet [9 m]; so it was indeed an extraordinary animal. 
From the disturbance of the water at the moment when it dived and from the part of the body that I saw, the shape of the body must be: a very long and flexible neck, indicated by the distance of the head from the visible part of the body, and by the head which turned without the middle part moving; then a much broader part in the middle, the part that I saw; and finally a fairly long tail which did not show above the surface, but was clearly marked by the disturbance of the water.
Observation was hindered by the fact that the sun was partly hidden behind small clouds and made a white reflection on the surface which prevented one from seeing to any depth.






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Heuvelmans 1968:
The poor light may perhaps explain some of the differences between this and other reports of the Along Bay dragon. The projecting ribs and spine are certainly the most interesting feature here. They remind one of the parallel ridges on the leathery turtle and the basking shark, which had [sic] a stabilizing effect, except those are longitudinal-in any case the beast is too big for a leathery turtle, and the basking shark has no neck. It is, however, hard to believe that the ridges across the spine could be taken for a jagged crest, and one cannot help wondering whether the beast's condition was normal. Sea-mammal are, for obvious reasons, usually fat, protected against the cold by a thick layer of blubber. Might not this specimen be wasted away by age or illness? It is hardly likely. The explanation I shall be putting forward is that this emaciated appearance may be due to transverse bands of armour, as on the armadillos.


Heuvelmans' analysis is bullshit. It is painfully obvious he was guilty of the very 'pigeonholing' and 'mental gymnastics' he had scorned; the Hanoi encounter bears no resemblance to the Halong Bay cryptids and neither of them can be plausibly connected with encounters of 'Many-Finned' cryptids, namely by lacking multiple fins. This encounter appears to be the genesis of the 'armored Many-Finned' concept which, aside from the very surreal Tran Van Con report (or dream?), has gone unmentioned in other accounts. This doesn't indicate that cryptid categorizations are fundamentally flawed, but more critical focus is needed on individual reports is fundamental. Who knows, it may turn up something interesting, albeit non-cryptozoological...


It also needs to be repeated that reported size in an encounter should not be taken as an actual figure. With that in mind, I wondered if the encounter actually was of a Leatherback Seaturtle which was mistakenly interpreted as having transverse ridges and a long neck. It still is a possibility, but there is a more parsimonious explanation out there:




Florida Softshell Turtle (Apalone ferox) from Flickr user dotpolka.


Nile softshell (Trionyx triunguis) from Flickr user xor74.


Obviously neither of these non-Asian species is a candidate for a sighting in Vietnam, but they demonstrate that trionychids could fulfill most of the observed traits. A head quite some distance from the main body (and inferred long neck), leather-like skin, prominent nostrils, big eyes, 'ribs', and ridge all fit perfectly. The long tail is problematic, although since it wasn't actually observed, it could have been the wake. The reported body width (about 1/3 length) is much more narrow than the carapace width relative to SCL in a softshell (typically closer to 1/1), so explanations could be that the carapace was partially submerged, or the inferred length included a non-existent tail. The illustration shows a domed structure, which could either be a misremembered or exaggerated carapace. As for Vietnamese softshell candidates:


Palea steindachneri is moderately sized for a softshell (max SCL = 44.5 cm) and is apparently restricted to freshwater (Ernst and Lovich 2009). Pelodiscus sinensis is small to moderately sized (max SCL = 33 cm, possibly 40-45 cm formerly), and has not been recorded at sea (Ernst and Lovich 2009) - but is tolerant of brackish waterAmyda cartilaginea is large (max SCL = 83 cm) but only recorded from freshwater. Rafetus swinhoei reaches a max SCL of at least 80 cm - possibly much larger for the Hoan Kiem Lake individual - but is too poorly known to determine if its (former) habitat included oceans. Pelochelys cantorii reportedly can reach gargantuan proportions (max SCL = 200 cm), and has been found at sea according to Turtles of the World. Radhakrishnan and Badrudeen (1975) report an individual P. bibroni caught in a trawl 5 kilometers off Mandapam (India), which lived an additional 14 days in a saltwater aquarium. It is worth noting their specimen with a 57 cm carapace (39 cm bony portion) had a head that was 13.8 cm long by 8.2 cm wide - similar in proportions to the reported 3 foot long by 2 foot wide head of the Hanoi animal - eyes that were 1 cm wide, and a proboscis that was 0.2 cm long by 0.9 cm wide. Presuming P. cantorii is at all similar in habitat and appearance, which it is, its similarity with the Hanoi cryptid would be very striking indeed.

Aside from the reported length (explainable by the omnipresent human tenancy to exaggerate), the dark coloration (explainable by the lighting), and the shell proportions, the most parsimonious explanation for the encounter is a large softshell, probably Pelochelys cantorii.  It is possible the Hanoi encounter documented rare surface behavior in a marine setting for this species - possibly multiple - which is/are now endangered thanks to the ravaging Asian turtle market and habitat loss.



References:


Ernst, C. H., and Lovich, J. E. (2009). Turtles of the United States and Canada. John Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, Maryland. ISBN 13:978-0-8018-9121-2


Heuvelmans, B. (1968). In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents. New York: Hill and Wang.


Radhakrishnan, P. N., and Badrudeen, M. (1975). On the occurrence of the soft-shelled turtle, Pelochelys bibroni (Owen) in marine environment. Indian Journal of Fisheries 22 (1&2), 270-274. Available.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cryptozoological Case File #0003 - The Solimões River... Thing

Thanks to the number of comments for the prior Cryptozoological Case File, I've expanded a briefly mentioned - and exceptionally bizarre - cryptid encounter into a full-out post. Unlike the prior Case File sightings, this one is highly disreputable and admittedly just for fun. 'Tis the season, I suppose.

The account was originally published in the late New York Herald (a tabloid), but due to the lack of availability, I'll have to rely on a reprint from StrangeArk itself taken from an Indiana newspaper's reprint. The article's length is substantial - almost 5000 words - so I'll skip to the relevant parts knowing the full version is securely and freely available.


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Conversions are my own.




Anonymous and Schmidt, Franz Herrmann. Prehistoric Monsters in Jungles of the Amazon, New York Herald (N.Y., N.Y.) January 29, 1911. Section 5, Columns 1-5:
The Forests and the Snakes. 
There were hours when we would not hear the cry of a bird or the flutter of its wing or see a snake sliding away to hide. Again, on shelving ground particularly, or around waterfalls, animal and bird life would be abundant. It was at such a spot we saw our largest snake. The day had been oppressively hot, and just as the sun was getting down into the west we came to a fine waterfall about ten feet wide [3 m], with a fifty foot [15 m] pool below it emptying into a brook across which an active man could leap. 
Just where the brook left the pool a great brown log had fallen, making a natural bridge. One of the Indians was about to cross it, seeking some light wood for the night's fire, when he gave a queer cry and came bounding back. I saw Pfleng pick up his rifle and I did likewise. The Indian led us back to the point where he had stood and showed us what a mistake he had made. The log was a great sleeping boa constrictor. The terrible, creature had caught some sort of an animal by the pool, and having eaten it, as a lump one-third of the way down the body showed, grew sleepy and remained where it was in the sunshine, stretched across the brook. 
At first we thought the creature was dead, and came near enough to see that its sides were working either through respiratory or intestinal action. I was for having a shot or two into the parts of the body we could see, but Pfleng argued against it. The snake could be of no use to us, and if we wounded it its thrashing about would kill some of us unless we climbed the trees or got out of the vicinity. It was nearly impossible to kill it outright, so why discommode ourselves for the fun of putting a few holes in his snakeship's tough body? 
At least we had a fine opportunity for studying him. For fully a half hour he lay there until the shadows struck him, and then he began to draw forward slowly, and in ten minutes was gone into the jungle. I measured with my eye the thickness of the body as compared with a certain stone by which it lay. The two were the same. The thickness of the stone was twenty-two inches [0.56 m], yet the snake's body was thicker further up. From the spot where the head lay to where the plated tail had marked the ground when the snake started to crawl was forty-four feet [13.4 m], and there being two or three loops of the body in between we estimated his full length at sixty-five or seventy feet [20-21 m].

... 
At this point I want to say that I know nothing of natural science or anything of the names of the animals and I do not believe that Pfleng did either, though he pretended to. We simply made up our minds that we would bag one if we could and have a good look at it; perhaps it was some now kind of gigantic alligator or some huge variety of water snake. At least it would be good sport. We had three guides from the waterside who remained with us sixteen days of travel quite as difficult as that which I have described. 
... 
The valley was like any other of many we had crossed, and we should merely have detoured the swamp if Pfleng, surveying it with his glasses, had not noticed in two or three spots on the shores of the lakes some huge swathes or crushed tracks such as the Indians had mentioned. We could not inspect these from solid ground. 
The only way we could get at them was from the water so we cut a tree, made a rude dugout, shaped up some puddles and the second day set it afloat, in the open water at the head of the lake. Ono thing we noticed at once. There was not an alligator, iguana, or even a large water snake to be seen anywhere. This in itself was queer. The swamps were full of floating islands where a tree or a big branch had fallen in, gathered a lot of water plants around it and gradually formed a structure on which even small trees grew. 
We had to steer in and out among these, often cutting a path for the dugout through masses of entwining plants on the top of the water. One of the Indians leaning over the bow would keep the machete swinging as we drove the dugout slowly forward with the paddles. At last, we got into a pool of open water from which one of the swaths led shoreward, and we put the boat, right up into it. 
There was no question but what it had been made by some enormous body being dragged from the water through the plants and mud until solid ground was reached, when a great circular wallow in a sunny spot was made. On the plants nearby were marks of waves two feet above mean level on the average and great, flaglike stocks as thick as my log were broken off short in the track and the tops mashed into the mud, while the movement of the body had carried quantities of the soft ooze from below the water and spread it like plaster on the crushed plants. 
A very large elephant or hippopotamus could have made a similar track. In making the return journey to the water practically another course had been chosen, the point of entrance being some hundred foot [30 m] to the east, and a little shelving bank there having been crushed in with the small trees that grew on it, in a way that showed that many tons of weight must have rested on it. The creature that had been able to make marks like these in the course of a peaceful progress must be a terrible thing if aroused to anger. 
The Indians in the dugout grew more and more frightened, and I confess that I began to watch the water and listen for movements along the shore or among the islands with feelings slightly more tinged with anxiety than I had felt before I saw these evidences. 
Leaving this spot, we proceeded slowly along and soon came to an island which was evidently a favorite sunning spot, as the plants were crushed down all over it and it was plastered with mud dragged up from the bottom. It took much time to get ahead any and it was very late in the day before we crossed one bayou about a half mile wide to examine some similar spots on the further shore. Here we found three spots where some amphibious animal had left the water and returned to it. One was very large and the other two only about half the size. 
Plainly there was more than one such creature in the lake. Another thing which we had not observed previously was that vast quantities of fronds, tender green leaves and broad stretches of flag growth had been ripped off. I have seen spots in which a herd of elephants has fed, and those looked very similar. One tree had a smear of mud on it fully fourteen feet [4.3 m] from the ground.
  
Encounter with Bullet Proof Monster. 
Now we hastened back, following the same track we had cut, and twice we stopped paddling to listen as both Pfleng and I were sure that we heard heavy splashing behind the islands to the east. The Indians were for leaving at once, and in their talks among themselves that evening it was easy to see that they were discussing the matter of remaining longer in such a dangerous region. They were badly frightened. We mounted a guard that night for the first time in weeks, Pfleng and I taking turns with an Indian each. I believe that our men would have deserted us if we had both slept. 
After breakfast, we set out again in the dugout, taking our heavy calibre Remingtons with us and a good supply of ammunition. Taking the southern shore we traversed the stretch that seemed to be most affected by the waters from the hot springs, and shortly before noon began to find more wallows as the ground along shore grew firmer. At last we came to one large one which had been used for leaving and entering the water, or else the animal was still on shore. We approached very carefully and a thrill shot through me as I saw that the mud on the weeds and water plants was still dripping. We were close to our quarry. 
With every precaution, the paddles making no noise at all, we advanced to the water line. To have left the boat would have meant going in the mud to our waists, perhaps, and yet we could see nothing but green stuff from where we were. We argued the question in a whisper and Pfleng had just announced his determination to follow the track inland if it was the very last act of his life, when a troop of monkeys was heard approaching, gathering some great blue-black berries from small trees that grew in the mud. We had just made them out when there was a sudden outcry among them, a large dark something half hidden among the branches shot up among them and there was a great commotion. 
One of the excited Indians began to paddle the boat away from the shore, and before we could stop him we were one hundred feet from the waterline. Now we could see nothing and the Indians absolutely refused to put in again, while neither Pfleng nor myself cared to lay down our rifles to paddle. There was a great waving of plants and a sound like heavy slaps of a great paddle, mingled with the cries of some of the monkeys moving rapidly away from the lake. One or two that were hurt or held fast wore shrieking close at hand, then their cries ceased. For a full ten minutes there was silence, then the green growth began to stir again, and coming back to the lake we beheld the frightful monster that I shall now describe. 
The head appeared over bushes ten feet tall. It was about the size of a beer keg and was shaped like that of a tapir, as if the snout was used for pulling things or taking hold of them. The eyes were small and dull and set in like those of an alligator. Despite the half dried mud we could see that the neck, which was very snakelike, only thicker in proportion, as rough knotted like an alligator's sides rather than his back. 
Evidently the animal saw nothing odd in us, if he noticed us, and advanced till he was not more than one hundred and fifty feet away. We could see part of the body, which I should judge to have been eight or nine feet thick at the shoulders, if that word may be used, since there were no fore legs, only some great, heavy clawed flippers. The surface was like that of the neck. For a wonder the Indians did not bolt, but they seemed fascinated. 
As far as I was concerned, I would have waited a little longer, but Pfleng threw up his rifle and let drive at the head. I am sure that he struck between the eyes and that the bullet must have struck something bony, horny or very tough, for it cut twigs from a tree higher up and further on after it glanced. I shot as Pfleng shot again and aimed for the base of the neck. 
The animal had remained perfectly still till now. It dropped its nose to the spot at which I had aimed and seemed to bite at it, but there was no blood or any sign of real hurt. As quickly as we could fire we pumped seven shots into it, and I believe all struck. They seemed to annoy the creature but not to work any injury. Suddenly it plunged forward in a silly, clumsy fashion. The Indians nearly upset the dugout getting away, and both Pfleng and I missed the sight as it entered the water. I was very anxious to see its hind legs, if it had any. I looked again only in time to see the last of it leave the land—a heavy blunt tail with rough horny lumps. The head was visible still, though the body was hidden by the splash. From this instant's opportunity I should say that the creature was thirty-five feet long, with at least twelve of this devoted to head and neck.


The Flight.
In three seconds there was nothing to be seen except the waves of the muddy water, the movements of the waterside growth and a monkey with its hind parts useless hauling himself up a tree top. As the Indians paddled frantically away I put a bullet through the poor thing to let it out of its misery. We had not gone a hundred yards before Pfleng called to me and pointed to the right. 
Above the water an eighth of a mile [200 m] away appeared the head and neck of the monster. It must have dived and gone right under us. After a few seconds' gaze it began to swim toward us, and as our bullets seemed to have no effect we took to flight in earnest. Losing sight of it behind an island, we did not pick it up again and were just as well pleased. 
Since it was apparent that our Remingtons, heavy enough to drop a lion or an elephant in its tracks, were no defence at all against such animals as we had seen, and from the tracks we had reason to suppose there were larger ones in the region, the wisest thing for us to do was to be content, move on as soon as possible, and return with a rapid fire gun or something like that. Also it, would have been impossible to got the Indians into the dugout again even with a gun muzzle at their heads. 
When we struck the Madeira we encountered a bunch of the white men on the railway project. They were mostly young engineers and were Canadians who had not been out long. When we told what we had seen they were very polite about it, but it did not take us long to find out that they thought we were liars or had been crazy from fever or were trying to [trick] them. 
That was the first of the disagreeable experiences I have had, and when Pfleng and I separated at Para we agreed to forgot the whole thing and say no more about it. He has since died, succumbing to fever March 4, 1909, in Rosario. As I said on beginning this story, I tell it just as it happened, and anybody who reads it may think what he pleases about it. 
I should say that I have been asked to locate the region and so have worked the matter out as carefully as I can. It is about five degrees thirty minutes south and seventy degrees five minutes west, and can be most easily reached by ascending the Solimoes River.


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Self-admitted poor naturalists spotting multiple cryptids with an account written in a novelistic style and published in a tabloid sends up more red flags than a Soviet military parade. Debus (2002) interpreted the account as being "sensational, yet most decidedly fictional". Coleman and Huyghe (2003) appear to concur ("[o]f course, the encounter with the creature itself may be little more than a fantasy"), although note that Roy Mackal thought it rang true because the description of the landscape and manner of expedition were apparently accurate. I unfortunately lack access to Mackal's book (the price is insane), but Smith and Mangiacopra (2004) mention that Mackal was unable to confirm the existence of Schmidt, and the authors speculate that it may have been a pen-name. Presently, internet searches for "Franz Hermann Schmidt" only turn up cryptozoology articles.

The account identifies the colossal snake as a Boa constrictor, a species with a maximum length of about 12 feet (3.65 m) (Hornaday 1904) or 4 meters (13 feet), for a southerly subspecies (Bertona and Chiaraviglio 2003). Perhaps the observers used 'boa constrictor' broadly and in fact referred to the green anaconda, a species that does get very large... but certainly nowhere close to 70 feet (21 m)! As I wrote in a prior post, estimating snake length can be very difficult, especially when the body is in 'loops', so it is perfectly plausible that the actual length of the individual could be a fraction of what was reported... that is, assuming there was a large snake at all.

Curiously, the Indiana reprint gives the location of the second sighting as five degrees thirty minutes south and seventy degrees five minutes west, that is, next to Rio Itaquai, a tributary of the Amazon/Solimões south of Tabatinga, Brazil; Coleman and Huyghe (2003), and thus presumably Mackal and the original N.Y. Herald article, give the coordinates as 5°30' S, 75°5' W, in the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve of Peru and between Rio Marañón, Rio Ucayali, and the Amazon/Solimões flowing out from their convergence. Judging by the description (islands, hot springs), the Peruvian locale is the correct one. Herrmann strangely referred to the expedition as a "mission in Colombia" - which led some to assume it took place in that country - but this must be a reference to the starting point (Bogotá) and/or bulk of the trip; alternately, it could have been an archaic reference to the former Gran Colombia.

As for the actual sightings, it has the following bizarre reported traits:

* Head 10 feet (~3 m) off ground, size of beer keg, tapir-like (w/ trunk)
* Eyes small and dull, "set in like those of an alligator"
* Neck snake-like but thicker, rough in texture, covered in mud
* Head and neck ~ 12 feet long (~4 m)
* Body 8-9 feet (2.4-2.75 m) thick at shoulders rough in texture
* Heavy flippers with claws
* "heavy blunt tail with rough horny lumps"
* Total length 35 feet (10.5 m)
* Clumsy locomotion
* Unharmed by firearms
* Apparently attempted to eat monkeys, may have injured some
* Large tracks out of the water, one large and two smaller.
* Evidence of grazing.
* Mud on trees up to 14 feet (4.3 m) high.
* Took place at 5°30' S, 70°5' W

The extrapolation that many animals were present based on areas of crushed vegetation alone is silly. The blogger Cryptodraco suggested these 'tracks' may be due to hot spring activity. The observation of possible grazing of course does not necessarily correlate with whatever the gentleman saw, and it would seem very odd for a grazer to going around attacking monkey, presumably for food!

It goes without saying that this encounter is fictionalized, but could it have some factual nucleus? Dale Drinnon and Cryptodraco speculated that the animal may have been an elephant seal, and I agree that it is the most parsimonious candidate.


Male Southern Elephant Seal (Mirounga leonina) from Flickr user man_with_nonname

Definite fits include the rough skin texture (like an alligator's sides), foreflippers, tapir-like snout, and clumsy terrestrial locomotion. Possible fits include the size and proportions (eyewitness estimates should not be considered set in stone), long and thin neck (the appearance of one could be suggested in a starving individual), and the 'tail' description which could be applicable to hind flippers. Details that don't fit include the small and dull eyes, not being harmed by large caliber firearms, attacking monkeys, and nearby grazing.


The location is interesting since Southern Elephant Seals are occasionally visitors to tropical South America - the last post discussed 2 Ecuadorian sightings and mentioned several dozen Brazilian ones - but this sightings reportedly took place thousands of kilometers into the Amazon drainage, which seems like an impossible marathon even for an elephant seal. The sighting is closer to the Pacific (i.e. only hundreds of kilometers), but the Andes would surely be an insurmountable barrier for a seal.


This leaves us with the possibilities that:


* The sighting is a total fabrication.
* An elephant seal was observed, but not in the reported location
* An extremely wayward elephant seal was observed in the reported location.
* The party saw something else.

As for the last option, the anonymous commentators variously suggested: Astrapotherium descendant, giant Matamata, and Carettochelyid. No offense to the commentator, but the astropothere suggestion was textbook phylogenetic roulette, as there is no reason to think they were aquatic, and if alive they would probably be interpreted as a weird tapir, not just an animal with a tapir-like head. The turtle suggestions were interesting, but it seems unlikely anyone would be unable to recognize a turtle (being some of the most distinctive vertebrates around), and it would require the usage of the prehistoric survivor paradigm. I'm going to say that invoking a prehistoric survivor is a huge strike against parsimony, and could only be plausible when there are absolutely no extant animals that come close to matching and a hoax is unlikely. I probably shouldn't even dignify the suggestions that the sighting was of a 'dinosaur' or 'plesiosaur' - it should be clear to everyone why they don't fit and why they were suggested.


The conclusions that can be drawn from Herrmann's story are limited. It obviously contains elements of both fact and fantasy - but to what degree has it been dramatized? The snake encounter isn't too dramatic and seems like a plausible story naïve explorers would tell. The latter one is either a poor attempt at telling a 'Lost World' story or one incredibly lost seal.


"Artist's" "Impression", or crime against humanity.


References:

Bertona, M., and Chiaraviglio, M. (2003). Reproductive Biology, Mating Aggregations, and Sexual Dimorphism of the Argentine Boa Constrictor (Boa constrictor occidentalis). Journal of Herpetology 37(3), 510-516. Available.

Coleman, L., and Huyghe, P. (2003). The Field Guide to Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents, and other mystery denizens of the deep. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin

Debus, A. and Debus, D. (2002). Dinosaur Memories: Dino-Trekking for Beasts of Thunder, Fantastic Saurians, 'Paleo-People,' 'Dinosaurbilia,' and other 'Prehistorica'. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, In.

Hornaday, W. (1904). The American natural history: a foundation of useful knowledge of the higher animals of North America. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. Available.

Smith, D. and Mangiacopra, G. (2004). Rescued from the Past - #3 An 1900s Prehistoric Amazon Monster - An Explorer's Encounter, Crypto Fiction, or a Combination of Both? North American BioFortean Review #14 6(1), 19-27. Available.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cryptozoological Case File #0002 - The Elephant Seals Of Ecuador

The following reports admittedly stretch what can be considered cryptozoological. There is no doubt the animals in question are of a known species, but the identification is uncertain, the location in which they were observed was unusual, and no physical evidence was collected. I hope the authors don't take offence to my categorization, it is merely to demonstrate that investigating unusual reports is not some joke, and even without 'hard' evidence the investigation can be worthy of publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

My thanks to Markus Bühler for directing me to this story. All references from Alava and Carvajal (2005) until otherwise noted:


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In December 1998, communities along the Babahoyo River, (Ecuador) were alarmed to see an unusual animal in the water, which a local television station managed to tape. The animal appeared to be a pinniped, and with a large head, large eyes, and absence of external pinnae, the authors and a marine mammal specialist identified it as an elephant seal (Mirounga), probably an immature male 4 years of age. A subsequent 8 hour survey of the river failed to locate the animal.


In February 2002, an elephant seal was observed in an estuarine area in Guayaquil city, first near a power plant and then in a shrimp farm. The individual was lying on the bottom of the shrimp pond (partially submerged), and was estimated to be 3 meters long by workers. The authors observed the animal while in a narrow creek near the farm and took photographs for future identification, where they once again reasoned that it was an elephant seal.


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For those out there that didn't click on the maps, the first sighting occurred about 75 miles (120 km) upriver, while the second was about 50 miles (80 km) up but was over a mile (1.6 km) into a salt marsh.


How many animals were involved? The authors don't bring it up directly, but say "these two individuals" at one point. It would seem remarkable for two separate individuals to wind up in the same river system, although it is more parsimonious than assuming one individual survived the excursion and for some reason returned. As for the species...


Both events took place during the Southern Elephant Seal (Mirounga leonina) moulting season and La Niña events (Alava and Carvajal 2005), which was previously linked to the presence of Otaria flavescens in the region (Felix et al. 1994). Elephant seals are of course far from indolent beach blobs, and Alava and Carvajal (2005)'s review of the literature reveals both species can migrate thousands of kilometers, although the Southern species (M. leonina) appears to migrate more extensively and the Northern species (M. angustirostris) has not been observed to wander out of the North Pacific. Southern Elephant Seals have been observed off the coast of Sawqarah, Oman (Johnson 1990) and 46 (!) records are known from Brazilian coastal states, up to Pernambuco and the Fernando de Noronha archipelago (de Moura et al. 2010)), which demonstrates that the species can reach the equator. The authors cautiously suggest their records are the northernmost yet of juvenile southern elephant seals, but cannot reject the possibility of the southernmost record of the northern elephant seals (Alava and Carvajal 2005). It could be possible that both occurred, but in all likelihood the same species was drawn to the same region for some obscure reason.




As far as other instances of elephant seals in cryptozoology, Roy Mackal once hypothesized that the White River monster was a very wayward elephant seal - wayward in that the sightings were in Arkansas! One blogger hypothesized that a monster seen in the Solimões River was a wayward northern elephant seal (thanks to geographical confusion), but it could be possible for southern elephant seals to enter South American rivers - it still doesn't explain the reported small eyes, snake-like neck, and incorrectly reported country for the river.




References:


Alava, J., and Carvajal, R. (2005). First records of elephant seals on the Guayaquil Gulf, Ecuador: On the occurrence of either a Mirounga leonina or M. angustirostrisThe Latin American journal of aquatic mammals 4(2): 195-198. Available.


de Moura, J., di Dario, B. Lima, L., and Siciliano, S. (2010). Southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) along the Brazilian coast: review and additional records. Marine Biodiversity Records 3, doi: 10.1017/S1755267209991138






Secondary References (cited by Alava and Carvajal 2005):




Felix, F., Haase, B., Samaniego, J., and Oechsle, J. (1994). New evidence of the presence of the South American sea lion Otaria flavescens (Carnivora Pinnipedia) in Ecuadorian waters. Estudios Oceanológicos 13, 85-88.


Johnson, D. (1990) A southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina) in the Northern Hemisphere (Sultanate of Oman). Marine Mammal Science 12: 242-243.