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).

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Saturday, 10 May 2014


Zdeněk Burian's famous artistic reconstruction of Diatryma [=Gastornis] giganteus (© Zdeněk Burian)

It was back in July 1997 when a curious snippet that apparently featured a while earlier on the internet (possibly in the Virtual Bigfoot Conference website) was brought to my attention by English palaeontologist Dr Darren Naish. However, its mysterious claim is still unverified today, so I'm posting it here on ShukerNature in the hope that readers may be able to help me finally resolve this very curious but highly intriguing crypto-dilemma.

As far as Darren could recall, the snippet claimed that several sightings had been made, the most recent during 1975, of a 7-ft-tall bird in the Mount Adams area of Washington State, USA, and which had been likened to a giant brown bird, called the pach-an-a-ho' (variously translated as 'crooked-beak bird' or 'rough-looking bird'), from traditional Yakima legends.

Two Diatryma giganteus models photographed in Reutlingen, Germany, in 2003 (© Markus Bühler)

In addition, a party of Native Americans apparently visited a certain American museum not long before the snippet appeared online, and became very excited when they saw a life-sized reconstruction of a giant species of flightless, putatively predatory anseriform bird from prehistoric (mid-Eocene) North America called Diatryma [aka Gastornis] giganteus, because they claimed that this was the pach-an-a-ho'.

Sources informed me that issue #20 (August 1992) of the Western Bigfoot Society's newsletter, The Track Record, may include details concerning all of this. However, in April 2010 I learnt from American cryptozoologist Chad Arment that in fact this issue does not contain any mention of such a bird.

Diatryma giganteus (© Justin Case aka HodariNundu/Deviantart)

As for Diatryma reconstructions, the only one that I am aware of in the USA was a diorama featuring two adults and a chick that was housed at the California Academy of Sciences, but it is no longer on display there.

Needless to say, I don't believe for one moment that there is a contemporary Diatryma dynasty stalking the slopes and environs of Mount Adams in scientifically-undisclosed seclusion, but the whole saga is undeniably intriguing - curiouser and curiouser, in fact, as Lewis Carroll's Wonderland-exploring Alice might well have said, had she been aware of it. Consequently, if any ShukerNature readers can shed further light upon this mystifying case, I'd greatly welcome any details.

Diatryma giganteus portrayed upon a postage stamp issued by the Yemen Republic in 1990

For an extensive chapter devoted to Diatryma and other gastornithids plus the formidable phorusrhacids or terror birds, see my latest book The Menagerie of Marvels: A Third Compendium of Extraordinary Animals, to be published this coming autumn by CFZ Press, and featuring a spectacular wraparound cover by celebrated artist Anthony Wallis showcasing a pair of monstrous terror birds in all their magnificent ferocity!

This ShukerNature blog post is an expanded, updated excerpt from my book Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (CFZ Press: Bideford, 2010).

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating. I've always thought that if there was ever to be a 'Jurassic Park' style resurrection (re-creation?) of an extinct mega species it would be an Elephant Bird of Madagascar or a Giant Moa of New Zealand. They died out comparatively recently so the chances of discovering intact, usable DNA should be conceivably higher. Who doesn't love giant birds?