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), The Unexplained (1996), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), 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), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is already considered to be his magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016), 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/index.htm

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!

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Monday, 10 September 2018

GOING WILD OVER GWR'S 'WILD THINGS' – THE ANIMAL WORLD'S MOST AMAZING RECORD-BREAKERS IN AN AWESOME NEW BOOK!



In addition to the 26 books that I have written myself and seen published (#26 is due out shortly), I have also acted as a consultant and/or contributor to a further 18 – click here to access a (currently) complete listing of all of my books.

I am delighted to announce that the latest volume with which I have been involved in the dual capacity of consultant and contributor will be published next month but can already be pre-ordered on Amazon USA, Amazon UK, and elsewhere. It is entitled Guinness World Records: Wild Things, and here is a taster of what to expect:

Whether it's the biggest, the smallest, the fastest, the deadliest, or just the downright weirdest, Guinness World Records: Wild Things turns the spotlight on the best of the beasts! From gentle giants to killer bugs, powerful predators to cunning prey, and backyard wildlife to species on the brink, the animal kingdom is crawling with record-breakers.

Spread featuring an interview with Steve Backshall - click image to enlarge for reading purposes (© Guinness World Records/GWR: Wild Things)

Wild Things is your ultimate guide to nature's super-star animals. There's a special chapter all about prehistoric record-breakers too. Unearth which ancient animals ruled over the real Jurassic world, from the tallest dinosaur and the dino with the most powerful bite to the largest flying creature ever to soar Earth's skies with a wingspan the size of an F-16 jet!

You'll also hear from zoology experts and some of the biggest conservation stars including Sir David Attenborough, Dr Jane Goodall, the Irwin family, and Deadly 60's Steve Backshall (who supplies a foreword too). In exclusive interviews, they share their standout wildlife experiences, favourite record-breaking animals, plus top tips for anyone hoping to follow in their footsteps.

Ready to find out where the real wild things are and the records that they hold? Then it's time to unleash the wildest GWR book yet!

My profile in GWR: Wild Things's Introduction - click image to enlarge for reading purposes (© Guinness World Records/GWR: Wild Things)

Full details can be found on this book's dedicated page here on my official website, which also contains direct clickable links to its page on the US and UK Amazon sites.

Also, don't forget to check out on my website its companion volume, GWR: Amazing Animals, published last year and once again featuring me as both its consultant and a contributor, which is packed throughout with fascinating record-breaking animal stars of the domesticated kind!

And click here to read about GWR: Amazing Animals on ShukerNature.




Thursday, 6 September 2018

THORNY-TAILED CATS AND A DOMESTIC MANTICORE


A winged manticore with a decidedly scorpionesque sting-tipped tail, depicted on the front cover of Piers Anthony's novel A Spell For Chameleon – one of my all-time favourite fantasy novels, and the first in Anthony's exceedingly popular, long-running Xanth series (© Del Rey Books – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational purposes only)

Quite apart from its mane in the male, the lion Panthera leo is also set apart morphologically from all other cat species, at least officially, by virtue of a remarkable characteristic of its tail. Not only does it terminate in a hairy tassle-resembling tuft, but sometimes concealed within that tuft is a thorn-like spine that measures just a few millimetres long.

This unexpected structure's function, if indeed it has one, is unknown, as is that of the hairy tuft. Known variously as a thorn, spine, prickle, or caudal claw, it is not present when a lion cub is born, but develops when the cub is around five months old, and is readily visible two months later.

Lion showing the very distinctive tufted tail-tip that is peculiar to this species among felids (© Rufus46/Wikipedia – CC BY-SA 3.0 licence)

Click here (then scroll down to the end of this zoo news report) to view a close-up photograph of a leonine caudal claw, normally hidden by the hairy tuft at the tip of the lion's tail. This particular caudal claw is sported by an adult South African lion named Xerxes at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington State, USA.

The most detailed coverage concerning caudal claws in lions that I have ever seen is an article originally published in Part 2 of the volume for 1832 of the now long-bygone journal Proceedings of the Committee of Science and Correspondence of the Zoological Society of London (it was subsequently republished in January 1833 within vol. 2, no. 7, of the third series of the London and Edinburgh Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science). Not only does this fascinating if nowadays exceedingly little-known report document the then-recent description of one such specimen by H. Woods to the Committee of Science and Correspondence of the Zoological Society of London, it also provides a detailed history of how such oddities were first brought to scientific attention and early thoughts as to what their function may be. In view of its scientific significance, therefore, I am reproducing this hitherto-obscure article in its entirety below:

WOODS, H., 'On the Claw of the Tip of the Tail of the Lion (Felis leo, L.)', Proc. Comm. Sci. and Corres. Zool. Soc. London, pt 2: 146-148 (1832) – please click pages to enlarge them for reading purposes (public domain)

Although caudal claws are widely claimed to be sported only by the lion, I have encountered occasional reports of thorny-tailed tigers and leopards too (indeed, two such examples from leopards are briefly mentioned in the above-reproduced 1832 article). Although I have never seen an illustration of a caudal claw from either of these two latter species, the tail tip of such an animal must look very unusual – for as these species lack the lion's hairy tail tuft, the thorn of a thorny-tailed tiger or leopard would be visible, and may therefore resemble a scorpion-like sting!

In turn, such a bizarre image inevitably inspires speculation and theorising as to whether the sight of so oddly-equipped a big cat may have helped shape the legend of the fearsome if wholly fictitious manticore (click here to access my ShukerNature coverage of the manticore).

Close-up of the tufted tail-tip of a lion (public domain)

If so, then what might surely be dubbed 'the littlest manticore' is a certain domestic cat documented as follows by a Mr R. Trimen within a letter published on 3 March 1908 in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London:

My cat (pale grey with ordinary narrow black stripes much broken up into short streaks and spots) presents the remarkable peculiarity of a long spur or claw-like horny excrescence at the very tip of its tail. This appendage is firmly seated quite at the extremity of the last vertebra; its base appears to be expanded, and is covered all round by an elevation of the skin. It projects posteriorly in the line of the tail, is rather slender, gradually tapering, almost straight for about two-thirds of its length, and thence moderately curved downward to its moderately acute tip. In length it is nearly 7 lines [1 line = 1/12th of 1 inch], and more than a third projects beyond the surrounding fur. The colour of this spine or spur is dull reddish-brown varied with dull ochry-yellowish, here and there crossed by some broken, thin, whitish lines.

The cat in question is a female, small, but rather thick in body; the limbs are all rather short and the feet small, but the tail is noticeably long and broad with long dense fur. I am informed by the donor that it was born at Witney, near Oxford, and is now between seven and eight months old. I have endeavoured, with the kind aid of the donor, to ascertain from the original possessor of the animal whether any kitten of the same litter, or the mother, or other known relation, exhibited the peculiar appendage or any traces of it; but without success.

I may add that I have found the cat unexpectedly sensitive to any handling of the caudal claw, however gentle; she first endeavours to jerk her tail away, then gives a mild vocal remonstrance, and if the handling is continued employs her paws to stop it.

Perhaps this cat's tail thorn or caudal claw was a deformed supernumerary caudal vertebra whose exposed site rendered it vulnerable to being caught against objects as the cat moved, causing the flesh surrounding it to be abnormally sensitive to pain.

Mystery Animals of Ireland by Gary Cunningham and Ronan Coghlan (© Gary Cunningham and Ronan Coghlan/CFZ Press)

What may have been either a large domestic tabby or, more remarkably, a bona fide Irish wildcat (itself a feline cryptid of no little controversy that I documented comprehensively in my very first book, Mystery Cats of the World, 1989), was encountered during the 1940s or 1950s by the uncle and father of Pap Murphy in a shed at the end of the uncle's house on the Mullet, an island in northwest County Mayo, as documented by Gary Cunningham and Ronan Coghlan in their book Mystery Animals of Ireland (2010). Entangled in some fishing nets, the cat had growled at the men, who subsequently killed it. Examining its body, they were surprised to discover that it possessed a very sharp nail-like structure, possibly bony in composition, at the end of its tail.

It would be interesting to discover if any additional cases of 'domestic manticores' have been recorded.

Exquisite vintage engraving of a lion showing its characteristic tufted tail-tip – Plate 81 from General Zoology, or Systematic Natural History, by George Shaw, with plates engraved principally by Mr Heath; published in 1800 (public domain)

Finally: I have succeeded in tracking down a copy of the original article by German naturalist Prof. Johann F. Blumenbach that was extensively referred to in the above-reproduced 1832 article re H. Woods's description of the young Barbary lion's caudal claw. Blumenbach's article had been published in 1823 within the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal.

Accordingly, for the sake of completeness, I am reproducing it in its entirety below:

BLUMENBACH, Johann F., 'Art. VI. – Miscellaneous Notices in Natural History. 4. On the Prickle at the Extremity of the Tail of the Lion', Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, vol. 8, no. 16: 266-268 (1823) – please click pages to enlarge for reading purposes (public domain)

This ShukerNature blog article is excerpted and expanded from my book Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery.