Dr KARL SHUKER

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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Tuesday, 14 April 2020

COCK-A-HOOP OVER A COCKATOO – A SHUKERNATURE PICTURE OF THE DAY


One of the four colour sketches of the cockatoo owned by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II of Sicily and contained in his book De Arte Venandi cum Avibus, dating from the mid-13th Century AD (public domain / Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)

It's been a while since ShukerNature featured a Picture of the Day, but the one presented above is greatly deserving of that accolade, and here's why.

History scholars have long known that sometime between 1217 and 1238 AD, al-Malik Muhammad al-Kamil, the fourth Ayyubid sultan of Egypt, gave as a gift to the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II of Sicily a mysterious white parrot. However, the taxonomic identity of this latter bird had always remained controversial – until June 2018.

For that was when, via a paper published by the journal Parergon, Melbourne University researcher Dr Heather Dalton and a team of Finnish scholars revealed that while studying a Latin-language falconry book entitled De Arte Venandi cum Avibus ('The Art of Hunting with Birds') dating from the 1240s that had been written by Frederick II and contained over 900 pictures of animals maintained by him in his palaces, they discovered that it included no fewer than four colour sketches (plus a written description) of his enigmatic white parrot.

A sulphur-crested cockatoo (© Donald Hobern/Wikipedia – CC BY 2.0 licence)

These sketches conclusively identified it as a female of either the sulphur-crested cockatoo Cacatua galerita or the very similar lesser sulphur-crested (aka yellow-crested) cockatoo C. sulphurea - it was painted with red flecks in its eyes, like females of these species, whereas males have black eyes. Moreover, some specimens, particularly females, have much paler crests than others – not all have the striking golden-shaded crest that characterises their species.

Split into several geographically-discrete subspecies, Cacatua galerita is native to northern Australia, New Guinea, and certain Indonesian islands. Also split into several subspecies, C. sulphurea is native to Timor, Sulawesi, and the Lesser Sundas. Consequently, not only do these images constitute the earliest-known European depictions of a cockatoo, pre-dating by 250 years the previous holder of this record (an altarpiece artwork by Italian painter Andrea Mantegna dating from 1496 and entitled 'Madonna della Vittoria'), but also they provide proof of merchant trading between northwestern Australasia and the Middle East (as commented upon further by Dr Dalton in a June 2018 article published by Pursuit, a Melbourne University periodical), from whence exotic items would in turn be imported into Europe.

Frederick II's falconry book is housed in the Vatican Library.

Two more illustrations of Frederick II's cockatoo from De Arte Venandi cum Avibus (public domain / Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)



1 comment:

  1. Fascinating. All cockatoos can be taught to talk. I presume this one spoke Latin!

    ReplyDelete