Dr KARL SHUKER

Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. Author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), and more recently Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), and Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), his many fans have been badgering him to join the blogosphere for years. The CFZ Blog Network is proud to have finally persuaded him to do so.

Dr Karl Shuker's Official Website - http://www.karlshuker.com

IMPORTANT: To view a complete, regularly-updated listing of my ShukerNature blog's articles (each one instantly clickable), please click HERE!

IMPORTANT: To view a complete, regularly-updated listing of my published books (each one instantly clickable), please click HERE!

IMPORTANT: To view a complete, regularly-updated listing of my Eclectarium blog's articles (each one instantly clickable), please click HERE!

IMPORTANT: To view a complete, regularly-updated listing of my Starsteeds blog's poetry and other lyrical writings (each one instantly clickable), please click HERE!

Search This Blog

Loading...

PLEASE COME IN, I'VE BEEN EXPECTING YOU...

PLEASE COME IN, I'VE BEEN EXPECTING YOU...
WELCOME TO SHUKERNATURE - ENJOY YOUR VISIT - BEWARE OF THE RAPTOR!

Saturday, 6 June 2015

MARSUPIAL SABRE-TOOTHS, QUEENSLAND TIGERS, BLUE MOUNTAINS LIONS, AND A MOST ELUSIVE CRYPTO-CUTTING


Screen-shot of the elusive and highly bemusing Australian newspaper cutting containing a Thylacosmilus-like sketch (source and copyright owner unknown to me)

A great many cryptozoological mysteries have crossed my path down through the years, and I've managed to provide answers to quite a number of them, but some still perplex me to this day – and this is one of them.

In 1980, a very popular television series screened in the UK was Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World, produced by Yorkshire TV, in which the renowned, eponymous science-fiction writer presented a wide range of unexplained phenomena. Four episodes in this series were devoted to cryptozoological subjects. One of these dealt with sea monsters, one with lake monsters, one with man-beasts, and one (entitled 'Dragons, Dinosaurs and Giant Snakes' and viewable online here) with a wide assortment of other mystery creatures – including giant snakes, the king cheetah, the New Guinea dragon, the mokele-mbembe, and the thylacine or Tasmanian wolf Thylacinus cycnocephalus.

Vintage illustration from 1919 of the very canine thylacine (public domain)

The very short thylacine section included the briefest of shots (viewable at 6.43 to 6.44 in the online version linked to above) revealing an assortment of newspaper cuttings, one of which caught my eye due to the extremely intriguing sketch that it contained – bearing a remarkable resemblance to the long-extinct South American 'marsupial sabre-tooth' known as Thylacosmilus. Yet because this cutting was shown immediately before a clip of film depicting the last living thylacine (with all of the other cuttings in that shot dealing specifically with the thylacine), the creature that the sketch represented had evidently been reported from Australia, not South America. Indeed, during that same brief shot the narrator actually stated: "Who would believe the current stories of a sabre-toothed killer loose even now in the Australian bush…?" before moving on to introduce the thylacine clip.

Consequently, I could only assume that the cutting concerned the Queensland tiger (aka the yarri), because this is the only notable big-toothed feline cryptid reported Down Under (Australia's so-called mystery pumas and black panthers appear little if any different from their official namesakes), and that the sketch was therefore meant to represent (accurately or otherwise) an eyewitness description of one such animal.

Artistic impression of the very feline yarri or Queensland tiger, but given enlarged canines, not enlarged thylacoleonid incisors (© Dami Editore s.r.l.)

I have long been fascinated by this particular cryptid and have amassed a very sizeable file of sighting reports (many of which have been documented by me in various of my books, particularly Mystery Cats of the World, In Search of Prehistoric Survivors, and Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery), but I am only aware of a single yarri eyewitness who has ever compared what they saw to a sabre-tooth, and even then, as the eyewitness specified, the comparison merely concerned the shape of its teeth, not their size.

Australian cryptozoologist/author Rebecca Lang's spectacular Thylacoleo carnifex figurine, created by Sean Cooper, and constructed/painted by Jeff Johnson (© Rebecca Lang/Sean Cooper/Jeff Johnson)

Equally, the most popular identity for the yarri that has been proffered by cryptozoologists is a living thylacoleonid – characterised in its most famous, biggest, and most recently-surviving species, the marsupial or pouched lion Thylacoleo carnifex, by greatly-enlarged, tusk-like incisors (whereas in true, placental sabre-tooths it was the upper canines that were greatly enlarged).

Reconstruction of the yarri with thylacoleonid enlarged incisors (© William Rebsamen)

Moreover, even true, placental sabre-tooths did not possess the extremely pronounced, paired, scabbard-like lower-jaw flanges sported by the creature portrayed in the cutting's sketch. Only South America's marsupial sabre-tooth Thylacosmilus exhibited these very distinctive attributes, composed of bone, which served to sheath and protect its huge curved upper canines.

Thylacosmilus skull at London's Natural History Museum (© Alexei Kouprianov/Wikipedia)

Formally described and named in 1933, known to exist in Argentina from the early Miocene to the late Pliocene epoch, and believed to have been as large as a modern-day leopard or jaguar, the single but highly impressive species Thylacosmilus atrox is popularly referred to as the marsupial or pouched sabre-tooth (the translation of its generic name), due to its deceptively similar outward appearance to the true, placental (eutherian) sabre-tooths or machairodontids but much closer taxonomic affinity to the marsupials as a fellow metatherian. Indeed, it was long classed, along with the morphologically more canine South American borhyaenids, within the same taxonomic order, Marsupialia, as the New World's opossums and caenolestids (rat opossums) and all of Australia's marsupials too. Nowadays, however, Marsupialia is split up into several separate orders, and Thylacosmilus plus the borhyaenids are now housed within the wholly-extinct taxonomic order Sparassodonta.

Restoration of Thylacosmilus atrox in life (with glyptodont in background) – interestingly, it has been portrayed here with very thylacine-like stripes (public domain)

Contrary to former belief, Thylacosmilus became extinct at least one million years before South America was invaded by the eutherian sabre-tooth genus Smilodon (during the mid-Pleistocene), following the latter continent's connection to North America via the appearance of the interconnecting isthmus of Panama. Consequently, the two forms never encountered one another, thereby dismissing prior claims that, as has often happened in instances when metatherian and eutherian counterparts have been brought together, Thylacosmilus was out-competed and thus annihilated by Smilodon.

What if…? – Thylacosmilus vs Smilodon, an imaginary confrontational scenario, as these two mighty feline forms never met in reality (© Hodari Nundu)

All very interesting, undoubtedly, but unfortunately it doesn't shed any light upon the mystery of why this highly-specialised and exclusively South American feline carnivore had inspired a sketch ostensibly depicting a Queensland tiger in an Australian newspaper cutting.

Shortly after the Arthur C. Clarke-presented TV series was screened in Britain, I wrote to its producers Simon Welfare and John Fairley requesting a copy of this particular cutting (it had not been included in the bestselling book of the series), but I learnt from them that they hadn't retained any of the cuttings in that shot, and had no idea what had happened to them. The series' principal researcher, Adam Hart-Davis (now famous as an author, TV presenter, and producer in his own right), very kindly sent me for my own personal research use a videocassette containing all four of its cryptozoological episodes, and by pausing the video at the exact shot showing the cuttings I could just about read the cutting's heading (though as was often the case when freeze-framing video tapes, the picture shook quite considerably).

It's that missing cutting again! (Copyright owner and source unknown to me)

With the advent of the internet, these episodes are now available to view online on YouTube, so I have been able to obtain a slightly better screen-shot of the cutting, as included at the beginning of this present ShukerNature blog article, but it is still not clear enough for much of its its text to be read, and the cutting was not included in its entirety within the shot anyway. However, I can pick out the words 'New South Wales' in the second line of main text beneath the heading, which makes things only more confusing still, because the yarri is apparently confined to Queensland, whereas NSW's feline cryptids are supposedly of the more prosaic puma and black panther varieties – but with one very notable yet little-known exception, documented by me as follows in my book In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995):

"Speaking of out-of-place felids, one or more African lions on the loose is the conservative explanation generally offered by naturalists when faced with the enigma of the Blue Mountains' maned mystery beasts. West of Sydney, New South Wales, the Blue Mountains have long been associated with rumours and reports of huge cat-like beasts of ferocious temperament. Interestingly, they are not confined to modern reports but were well known to the aboriginals who once inhabited this range. They called them warrigals ('rock dogs') - a name sometimes applied nowadays to the dingo, but it is clear from their descriptions that their warrigals were something very different from a dingo.

"Rex Gilroy has made a detailed study of the Blue Mountain lions, and according to his published account (Nexus, June-July 1992) the aboriginals described these animals as 6-7 ft long, around 3 ft high, with a large cat-like head, big shearing teeth that protruded from their jaws, brown fur (sometimes light, sometimes dark - sexual, or age, differences?), and a long shaggy mane. Testifying to these animals' continuing presence here, this is also an accurate portrait of the terrifying leonine beast that approached three young shooters in the Mulgoa district south of Penrith, close to the Blue Mountains' eastern escarpment, one day in 1977 - fleeing into nearby scrub only when the alarmed trio fired at it. A similar creature had been reported from this same region in 1972, where it had allegedly been killing sheep.

"Back in April 1945, a bushwalking party clambering down Mount Solitary's Korrowal Buttress made good use of their binoculars to watch four warrigals moving across Cedar Valley. And as recently as 1988, some campers near Hampton, west of Katoomba, saw one for themselves - this area had been experiencing some severe cases of cattle mutilation, a feature that crops up time and again when charting sightings of warrigals.

"Based upon the longstanding history of these animals, I find it difficult to believe that they could be escapee lions or suchlike. An undiscovered native species is the only tenable explanation - echoed by Gilroy, who proposes that the warrigal is a surviving species of pouched lion. As it differs markedly in appearance from the yarri, however, we can only assume that if Gilroy's hypothesis is correct there are two separate species of pouched lion currently prowling various portions of Australia's wildernesses - a remarkable concept, but nonetheless the only one that offers a satisfactory conclusion to this extraordinary saga."

So could the elusive cutting be referring these very mysterious protruding-toothed warrigals and be suggesting that they may be marsupial sabre-tooths, or at least comparing them to such creatures? This could then explain the presence within it of the otherwise-anomalous Thylacosmilus-reminiscent sketch.

Portrayal of Thylacosmilus revealing its characteristic lower jaw flanges (public domain)

Needless to say, I have spent quite some time seeking this very bemusing, tantalising cutting online, but as I have neither a source nor a publication date for it (other than the knowledge that it must have been published sometime prior to the TV series' original screening in 1980), it is not proving an easy task. Not even lengthy periods browsing through the archives of Trove, the invaluable website granting access to countless newspaper reports from Australian newspapers, has unfurled it so far (although during the process of searching for it on Trove, I did uncover a number of yarri articles previously unknown to me!).

And so, gentle reader, here is where you come in. If by any chance you have a copy of this highly elusive cutting, or any information concerning it, especially its date and/or source of publication, I would very greatly welcome any details that you could post here, and a scan of the cutting itself if you do happen to have the original to hand. Thanks very much!


UPDATE: 6 June 2015

Not long after posting this ShukerNature blog article online, I learnt independently from two of my longstanding Australian crypto-colleagues - Dr David Waldron and Paul Cropper - that the Thylacosmilus-like sketch featured in the mystery newspaper cutting had actually been prepared by none other than Australian cryptozoologist Rex Gilroy, who had brought to popular attention the previously-obscure Blue Mountains lions or warrigals. They also both revealed that this same sketch had featured in an article by Rex Gilroy on Australian cryptids that had originally appeared in the December 1976 issue of Psychic Australian, and which can be read online here. Here is the sketch as featured there, and which, as revealed in the article, is his impression of the possible morphology of the Blue Mountains lion based upon eyewitness accounts from the New England area of northern New South Wales:

Rex Gilroy's sketch of the Blue Mountains lion or warrigal from his Psychic Australian article (© Rex Gilroy/Psychic Australian)

Presumably, therefore, eyewitness claims that this cryptid possesses protruding teeth coupled with the fact that with the lone exception of the dingo, all of Australia's large confirmed mammalian species are marsupials, suggested to Rex that the Blue Mountains lion may resemble a marsupial sabre-tooth (and thence Thylacosmilus?), thereby influencing his resulting sketch of its putative appearance.

Out of the Dreamtime: The Search For Australasia's Unknown Animals (© Rex and Heather Gilroy/Uru Publications)
  
His very extensive (43-chapter) self-published book Out of the Dreamtime: The Search For Australasia's Unknown Animals (2006?), co-authored with his wife Heather, contains an entire chapter on the Blue Mountain lions, but all attempts by me to locate a copy to purchase have so far failed (his website, click here, from which copies of all of his books could formerly be purchased, hasn't been updated for some years, and there does not seem to be any functioning facility on it now for book purchasing). So if anyone can suggest a source for his book, I'd greatly welcome details.

Reconstruction of the yarri (top), inspired by the controversial Ozenkadnook tiger photograph (bottom) snapped in 1964 by Rilla Martin near Goroke in Western Australia (© Markus Bühler/© Rilla Martin)






9 comments:

  1. Very interesting. Great post like always, Karl.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Have you tried emailing the Gilroys with the email on that page you linked? Failing that http://www.paraconaustralia.com/ or http://www.cfzaustralia.com/ may be able to contact them.

    ReplyDelete
  3. His site does seem to be active. I see he's published quite a few books now. Overseas buyers are asked to contact him first for postage costs @ randhgilroy1044@gmail.com.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I've tried all of your suggestions, Pat and Campbell, and received no response via any of them. It seems a strange way for someone to do business, not replying to customers wanting to buy your books.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The other option is to keep an eye on Australian Ebay. One of his books is currently on offer, the others will appear in time.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Any idea what the source of the 1919 illustration above is?

    ReplyDelete
  7. The Gilroys appear to have an currently active Facebook presence "Rex and Heather Gilroy's Blue Mountains UFO Research Club". They posted there Aug.12, 2015. It may be possible to correspond with them there.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Dr. Shuker this book (apparently) can be purchased here http://www.lulu.com/shop/rex-heather-gilroy/out-of-the-dreamtime/paperback/product-22827749.html

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Dr. Shuker this book (apparently) can be purchased here http://www.lulu.com/shop/rex-heather-gilroy/out-of-the-dreamtime/paperback/product-22827749.html

    ReplyDelete