Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. He is the 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), Dragons: A Natural History (1995), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings (1997), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Hidden Powers of Animals (2001), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), 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), The Menagerie of Marvels (2014), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is widely considered to be his cryptozoological magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016) - plus, very excitingly, his first two long-awaited, much-requested ShukerNature blog books (2019, 2020).

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

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Friday, 19 May 2023


The front cover of the new cryptozoology-themed Fortean Times bookazine Monster HuntersFortean Times/Diamond Publishing Limited – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)

Bookazines are increasingly popular and prevalent in bookstores and on news stands nowadays, constituting a handy publication format that, as its name suggests, is midway between a magazine and a book. They sell well too, which is why I am currently involved in what, if all ultimately transpires according to plan, will be a series of bookazines featuring various of my animal anomaly writings from down through the years – but more about that some other time.

Instead, this present ShukerNature blog article focuses upon what is to my knowledge the first UK bookazine concentrating specifically upon cryptozoological subjects, and with which I am extremely happy to be associated via my varied contributions to it.

Published by the UK's veteran strange phenomena periodical Fortean Times, its full title is Fortean Time Presents Monster Hunters: In Search of Unknown Animals, and contains 12 classic cryptozoology-themed articles published by FT down through the years. Some of these are the result of field expeditions, others the product of bibliographical researches.

Moreover, as its in-house cryptozoologist for over 30 years now, I was very kindly invited by FT to prepare not only a general introduction to this bookazine but also a concise summary/update for each of its articles, thereby fulfilling much the same role as performed by the late Arthur C. Clarke for each episode in his famous 1980s TV show Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World.

The authors and co-authors of the articles are: Neil Arnold, Loren Coleman, Edward Crabtree, Adam Davies (two articles), Richard Freeman, Martin Gately, Sharon Hill, Ruby Lang, Stu Neville, Todd Prescott, Benjamin Radford, Richard Svensson, Michael Williams, and yours truly (two articles).

To avoid spoiling the many surprises in store when you read Monster Hunters, I don't want to give too much away here, so I'll leave you to pair up the articles' authors with their subjects, but the subjects are: bigfoot, British mystery cats, Loch Ness monster, mokele-mbembe, Mongolian death worm, Nandi bear, Russian yeti, Scape Ore Lizard Man, Swedish lindorms, Tajikistan ghul, Trunko, and yowie.

All of the articles are reproduced here in all of their original full-colour glory, which together with my introduction yields an 80-page bookazine that surveys a vast, global range of cryptids in what is unquestionably one of the most engrossing crypto-compendia that I have read for a very long time. Consequently, I unquestionably recommend anyone who has an interest in mystery beasts, or knows someone else who does, to buy (at just £6.99 in shops, or online here at £8.25 including p&p directly from FT) this masterfully-compiled (and bargain-priced!) anthology of very notable crypto-creatures. I guarantee that you won't regret it!

To give you some additional ideas of what to expect, here is FT's own publicity blurb for Monster Hunters:

From the archives of FORTEAN TIMES, the world’s foremost journal of strange phenomena, comes a new collection exploring the world of cryptozoology – the search for unknown animals.

Join us on expeditions to far-flung Mongolia to find the dreaded DEATH WORM of the Gobi Desert, to the Congo in search of a LIVING DINOSAUR and to Tajikistan on the trail of TERRIFYING APE MEN. Explore the wilds of the USA on the track of BIGFOOT and the South Carolina LIZARD MAN, or venture to the marshes of Sweden to investigate sightings of GIANT SERPENTS. And sign up for closer-to-home hunts for NESSIE and BRITAIN’S MYSTERY BIG CATS, including the infamous ‘Essex Lion’. MONSTER HUNTERS takes readers on an exciting round-the-world quest to track the most amazing, elusive and sometimes unbelievable crypto-creatures. Plus, the collection includes an introduction and updates and commentary on each article by renowned cryptozoologist DR KARL SHUKER.

See also its own dedicated page here on my official website.

Finally: I mentioned above that I've written a summary/update for all 12 of this bookazine's articles, but due to reasons of space one of them had to be omitted – my piece for the Nessie article. So now, as a ShukerNature exclusive, I am including it here, together with the illustration (as seen in the bookazine) that it refers to:

Perusing this article, I noted two very different aspects that resonate with my own Nessie associations. First and foremost is his statement that "people can see the monster in anything". This is extremely pertinent, because just as I've documented elsewhere in this bookazine [regarding another cryptid], eyewitness descriptions of what they claim to have been the LNM are so immensely varied that it should be instantly apparent that no single type of creature is being reported. Instead, a diverse range of different animal species, plus all manner of non-living entities (boats, waves, atmospheric mirages, etc), have been sighted on the loch down through the decades but have been erroneously combined by media reports and others to yield a single impossibly-varied and therefore non-existent composite beast known to us all as Nessie. Having said that, some of the separate, component creatures that have been mistakenly united to yield Nessie may themselves be novel beasts – extra-large eels, for instance, much longer than officially-recognised specimens, and/or covertly-introduced specimens of the European giant catfish (wels). But what of the alleged LNM land sightings, where unfamiliar-looking beasts have supposedly been seen in their entirety? If genuine, these cannot be explained via a composite-identity theory, which is why they intrigue me so much, and deserve far more attention than they generally receive. This article's second aspect of personal relevance to me is its illustration of three people looking across the loch at a classic 'head, neck, and hump' Nessie swimming by. That very same illustration was contained in a book chapter that as a child first made me aware of the LNM – but that's not all. The book, Stranger Than People, published in 1968, also opened my eyes to many other mysteries, lighting within me the flame of fascination for all things Fortean that has burned unabatedly ever since [click here to read more by me re Stranger Than People]. So I have a lot to thank it for!

The LNM illustration in question, as contained in Monster HuntersFortean Times/Diamond Publishing Limited – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)


Saturday, 29 April 2023


A siphonophore fish depicted on an unofficial postage stamp released by the self-proclaimed Georgian state of Abkhazia in 1998 (NB – its erstwhile genus has been misspelled on this stamp as Kasidorom, instead of Kasidoron) (public domain)

Appearances can deceive, in more ways than one, as exemplified here by the truly remarkable case of two very different fishes that turned out to be one and the same. Let me explain.

In 1965, a small but spectacular fish called Kasidoron edom was described in a Bulletin of Marine Science paper by C. Richard Robins and Donald P. de Sylva from the University of Miami's Institute of Marine Science (click here to access this paper). Sole member of a totally new genus and taxonomic family (until a second, similar species, K. latifrons, was recorded in 1969, from the western Indian Ocean), it became known as the siphonophore fish.

Drawings by Catherine Hale of the siphonophore fish, from the above-mentioned Bulletin of Marine Science paper by C. Richard Robins and Donald P. de Sylva (© Catherine Hale/C. Richard Robins/Donald P. de Sylva/Bulletin of Marine Science – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial fair use basis for educational/review purposes only)

This was due to its astonishing pelvic fins. These were greatly modified, the third ray in each one having transformed into a long, multi-branched tree-like organ dubbed the pelvic tree, hanging underneath its body, terminating in a series of luminous(?), leaf-like sacs, and closely resembling the tentacular appendages of those superficially jellyfish-like composite creatures the siphonophores (exemplified by the famous Portuguese man-o'-war Physalia).

Known at that time only from waters of around 6-165 ft depth, about 150 miles east of Florida's Cape Canaveral and northeast of Bermuda, this 1.25-in-long velvet-black fish attracted appreciable interest, on account of its conjoined pelvic fins' unique, extraordinary structure. This was assumed to be a device for warding off predators, as they would be likely to mistake its harmless form for the deadly stinging tentacles of genuine siphonophores.

Two siphonophore fish photographs discovered by me recently here on the Quora website (No copyright/ownership details for them are given there, and despite considerable online searches I have been unable to locate any either, so I am including these photos on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)

After a time, however, the remainder of this fish's anatomy began to receive attention too, and researches ultimately disclosed that in spite of its distinctive appearance the siphonophore fish was not a new species at all.

On the contrary, it was unmasked as the hitherto-unknown juvenile form of an odd little species called the gibber fish (aka gibberfish) Gibberichthyes pumilus, which had been formally described and named in 1933. It had been discovered in the waters around Bermuda and the Bahamas.

Sketch of the gibber fish G. pumilus (Haplochromis/Wikipedia – public domain); click here to view a colour photograph of a gibber fish.

Previously known only from four specimens, this deepwater denizen attains a total length of 4.5 in, and inhabits the western North Atlantic, as well as the South Pacific waters close to the Samoan Islands. With a very large head, a deep, laterally flattened body, and perfectly normal fins lacking any vestige of its juvenile's astounding tentacle-impersonating pelvic tree, the gibber fish is placed within a taxonomic family of its own, most akin to the squirrelfishes and slimeheads.

Moreover, as the second siphonophore fish species, K. latifrons, has also been reclassified as a gibber fish, it is now known as G. latifrons.

The full set of unofficial Abkhazia postage stamps, which includes not only the siphonophore fish stamp (bottom left) but also a stamp depicting the hairy fish [see below for details] (top left) (public domain)

Interestingly, a very similar scenario of extreme metamorphosis from juvenile to adult was more recently revealed with another enigmatic, highly distinctive little fish that had long puzzled ichthyologists – the so-called hairy fish Mirapinna esau. You can read about its own very intriguing history here on ShukerNature, and also here in an early cryptozoology article of mine reproduced on ShukerNature.

This ShukerNature blog article is expanded from my book The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals.

Tuesday, 28 March 2023


A Burmese dhole – this dhole subspecies was not scientifically described until 1941, when its existence was finally accepted (© Yathin S. Krishnappa/Wikipedia – CC BY-SA 3.0 licence)

Down through the decades, I have documented a wide range of canine cryptids, but two of the least-known examples are those presented here, making their ShukerNature debut. One is now a former mystery canid, the other remains an enigma.

A wild dog of once-controversial scientific status was a mysterious specimen discovered on Mount Popa, a dormant volcano in the region of Mandalay in central Burma (now Myanmar). Renowned British zoologist Reginald I. Pocock stated in 1936 that no specimens of Asia's very distinctive wild red dog or dhole Cuon alpinus had ever been obtained from Burma, but shortly afterwards he learnt that acclaimed mammalogist and animal collector Guy C. Shortridge had secured a specimen on Mount Popa.

Naturally, Pocock was anxious to examine this unique example, an adult female, especially as Shortridge alleged that it only had five pairs of teats (female dholes have 6-8 pairs), and weighed only 19 lb (unusually light for a dhole). However, after studying its skull, uncovered at the British Museum, Pocock recognized that it had been nothing more than an old, small domestic dog Canis familiaris, with a high crown and short muzzle. But, ironically, genuine Burmese dholes were obtained later, and in 1941 Pocock christened their subspecies C. a. adustus – a taxonomic classification still recognised today.

A dingo – the identity of Australia's elusive yokyn? (Katy Platt/Wikipedia – copyright-free)

As for the yokyn – this still-unexplained canine cryptid is a strange dog-like beast reputedly well-known to Australian aboriginals and farmers. Said to be approximately half the size of a full-grown dingo, with disproportionately long claws, a stocky, muscular  build, and a very variable pelage (sometimes brindled, sometimes even multi-coloured), a specimen has yet to be formally examined, so its identity remains uncertain (Fate, May 1977; also click here for additional details online).

An unknown species, an odd type of feral domestic dog, a dingo Canis dingo (aka C. lupus dingo aka C. familiaris dingo), a dog-dingo crossbreed, and even a surviving mainland race of the marsupial Tasmanian wolf Thylacinus cynocephalus are among those identities on offer. If anyone reading this ShukerNature article has further information concerning the yokyn, I'd love to receive details.

This ShukerNature article is excerpted and updated from my book Extraordinary Animals Revisited.

Friday, 20 January 2023


Artistic representation of a giant toad (© Richard Svensson)

Today is the 14th anniversary of my ShukerNature blog's official launch (20 January 2009), so now, almost 800 ShukerNature articles later, here is my latest one, to mark this auspicious occasion, and inspired by a fascinating news report that I read just a few hours ago.

The news report in question (which can be accessed directly here) reveals the recent discovery and capture in Queensland, Australia, of a truly gigantic specimen of cane toad Bufo marinus (=Rhinella marina). Weighing a colossal 2.7 kg/6 lb (six times that of normal specimens), and dubbed Toadzilla, it may be the biggest toad of any kind ever officially recorded (but keep my use of the word 'officially' in mind, for reasons to be revealed here shortly).

Native to South America and recognized to be the world's largest toad species, the cane toad was introduced into Australia during the 1930s in a bid to control sugar cane-devouring beetles here. Alarmingly, however, it ultimately proved itself as serious an ecological blight as its intended prey. This is due not only to its skin being toxic but also to various toxin-secreting glands on its back and especially to the pair of very sizeable parotoid glands sited on its warty skin's shoulders, which secrete a potent cardiac toxin called bufotoxin  - this highly deleterious suite of secretions collectively causing anything attempting to eat one of these toads to die a swift and usually certain death, including Australia's various native (and mostly endangered) marsupial carnivores, and even creatures as large as goannas (monitor lizards). To make matters worse, this toad also actively preys upon the smaller marsupial carnivore species, such as the shrew-like marsupial mice.

Moreover, because of its very effective deterrent against potential attackers, the cane toad has no predators here, causing its numbers to swell out of all proportion and thereby posing an increasingly severe threat to this island continent's unique indigenous fauna.

A cane toad, with its lethal pair of shoulder-sited toxin-secreting parotoid glands clearly visible (© Froggydarb/Wikipedia – CC BY-SA 3.0 licence)

Having said that, in recent times one native Australian species, the black-necked ibis Threskiornis molucca, has seemingly conceived a remarkable means of side-stepping the cane toad's hitherto unassailable defence mechanism – these ibises have been seen throwing toads in the air, which distresses them, thus inducing them to release their skin glands' toxic secretions, after which the ibises wipe the toads on wet grass or rinse them in a water source, washing off the poison from the toads' skin, and then repeat the entire process, until the toads' glands and skin are eventually drained of toxin, after which the ibises swallow the toads whole, with no resulting ill effects.

Certain other canny avians, such as crows and hawks, have learned to flip the toads onto their back and then devour their internal organs, leaving their lethal shoulder and back glands untouched. Who said that birds are bird-brained?! More information on toad-tackling birds here.

Anyway, as noted above, the cane toad is officially the world's largest species of toad. Unofficially, however, there may be reason to question this assumption, judging at least from certain intriguing reports contained in the cryptozoological archives.

The native Indian peoples inhabiting various tropical valleys in the Chilean and Peruvian Andes frequently report the existence there of a greatly-feared, giant form of toad called the sapo de loma ('toad of the hills'). It is said to be deadly poisonous and capable of preying upon creatures as large as medium-sized birds and rodents.

Taxiderm specimen of Blomberg's giant toad Bufo blombergi (© Markus Bühler)

Science has yet to examine a sapo de loma, but as I have pointed out in my book The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals (2012) and its two predecessors (The New Zoo, 2002, and The Lost Ark, 1993), there is a major precedent for discovering batrachian behemoths in South America. Rolf Blomberg (1912-1996) was a Swedish explorer, photographer, and writer, and in 1950 he was instrumental in bringing to scientific attention a hitherto-undescribed species of giant toad native to southwestern Colombia. He achieved this significant feat by capturing a huge specimen there that he brought back with him to his home in neighbouring Ecuador, and which became the type specimen of this spectacular new species – duly dubbed Bufo blombergi in his honour a year later. Blomberg's giant toad (aka the Colombian giant toad) can attain a total snout-to-vent length of up to 10 in, which is greater even than that of the heavier, more massively-built cane toad.

Incidentally, German cryptozoological correspondent Markus Bühler has informed me that while browsing through a series of yearbooks from the 1970s for Stuttgart's Wilhelma Zoo, he noticed that the 1971 volume mentioned the chance birth at the zoo some years earlier of hybrids between a female B. blombergi and a male B. marinus. They were apparently indistinguishable from the paternal species, but exhibited unusually strong growth – no doubt a result of hybrid vigour. Bearing in mind that they were crossbreeds of the world's longest toad species and the world's largest toad species, it is a great pity that the book did not contain any additional information concerning them, because they must surely have had the potential to become veritable mega-toads!

In any event, mindful of the relatively belated scientific discovery of Blomberg's giant toad, it would be rash to rule out entirely the possibility that a comparable species still awaits discovery in remote, rarely-visited Andean valleys not too far to the south of the latter species' distribution range.

Moreover, there are also claims among the Mapuche people relating to a supposedly immense species of toad indigenous to various lakes, lagoons, and irrigation channels in southern Chile and southwestern Argentina. Known as the arumco ('big water frog') in Argentina and the vilú in Chile, it is said to measure up to 3 ft long. One such creature, dwelling in a lake, reputedly devoured a horse that was attempting to wade across, but whether this story is true or merely native folklore or hyperbole remains unresolved.

Unidentified newspaper article published on 11 August 1987, p. 11, regarding the mystery Wuhan giant toads (or frogs?) please click picture to enlarge for reading purposes (source unknown to me despite many searches for information concerning this article – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)

However, it does remind me of a comparable report that emerged from China. A team of nine scientists from Peking (now Beijing) University, led by 58-year-old biologist Prof. Chen Mok Chun, travelled to some very large, deep mountain pools (one of which is named Bao Fung Lake) near Wuhan in China's Hubei Province during August 1987 in order to film the area and its wildlife. While setting up their television cameras, however, they were allegedly treated to an exhibition of local wildlife far beyond anything that even their wildest imaginations – or worst nightmares – could have conceived.

In full view of the scientists, three huge creatures supposedly rose up out of one of these pools and moved towards the pool's edge nearest to them. Their stunned eyewitnesses likened these grotesque monsters to giant toads or frogs, with greyish-white skins, mouths that were said to be about 6 ft wide, and eyes "bigger than rice bowls".

According to Prof. Chen, they silently watched the scientists for a short time. Then one of them opened its huge mouth and swiftly extended an enormous tongue, estimated at 20 ft long, which it wrapped around the cameras on tripods. As it promptly engulfed the tripods, its two companions let forth some eldritch screams, and then all three monsters submerged, disappearing from view. The delayed-shock reaction experienced by the scientists was so great that one of them dropped to his knees and was physically sick, according to Chinese reports, summarised in various overseas media accounts, including an unidentified American newspaper report included here (if anyone can identify its source, please let me know, thanks!)

This incident seems so utterly incredible that one would surely feel justified in dismissing it entirely as a hoax of the sensationalist supermarket tabloid kind – were it not for the fact that the eyewitnesses in question were all trained scientists, including a major name in Chinese biological research, and all from the country's leading university. Moreover, reports of such creatures being sighted in this same locality by local fishermen date back at least as far as 1962.

Finally: included here for no reason whatsoever other than I happen to like it is a bizarre sculpture from the late 1800s of a hook-beaked, warty-skinned, rabbit-eared frog – or toad! (© Markus Bühler)

For more information concerning mega-toads, not to mention mega-frogs too (and click here for one such example of the latter category of amphibian cryptid as documented by me on ShukerNature), be sure to check out my book A Manifestation of Monsters.