Thursday, 29 July 2010

Tassie Tiger thriller coming Down Under

A feature film starring some big Hollywood names will be shot in Tasmania later this year.
The Hunter is billed as a psychological thriller.
Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe will play the lead: a mercenary sent to find the last Tasmanian tiger.
Alongside him will be another big name, Sam Neill, who has starred in a number of Hollywood blockbusters including Jurassic Park.

Aussie Marsupials share American ancestors

Aussie Marsupials share American ancestors

The characteristic koalas, kangaroos, possums and wombats of Australia share a common American ancestor, according to genetic research from Germany.

A University of Muenster team drew up a marsupial family tree based on DNA.

Writing in the Public Library of Science (PLoS) Biology journal, they suggest a single marsupial species moved from the Americas to Australia.

Marsupials differ from other mammals in that mothers carry their young in a pouch after birth.

As well as the familiar Australian species, the family includes the opossums and shrew opossums of North and South America, and also has a presence in Asian countries including Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

"I think this is pretty strong evidence now for the hypothesis of a single migration [to Australia] and a common ancestor," said Juergen Schmitz, one of the research team.

Tracing relatives

The research was made possible by the recent sequencing of genomes from two marsupials - the gray short-tailed opossum (Monodelphis domestica) from South America, and the Australian tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii).

The Muenster researchers looked for DNA elements called retroposons.

These are fragments that have been copied and inserted back into DNA in a random fashion at some point during the animal's evolutionary history.

They are among the "jumping genes" that can scatter genetic information along the genome.

If two species carry the same retroposon but a third does not, that indicates that the first two are more closely related to each other than they are to the third.

Sometimes one retroposon is inserted in the middle of another, again giving vital clues as to the sequence of events in a family's evolution.

Using this method, they showed that the American opossums separated from the main lineage first.

Then at some stage an ancestral species migrated to Australia and gave rise to the various families found there now.

When exactly this happened is still unknown, as this kind of analysis does not show when in evolutionary time the retroposons were inserted.

"Maybe it's around 30-40 million years ago, but we cannot say because jumping genes do not give this information," Dr Schmitz told BBC News.

"It's now up to other people, maybe from the palaeontology field, to find out when exactly it happened."

The overall marsupial history is virtually a circular migration.

The earliest identified species (Sinodelphys szalayi) is known from 125-million-year-old fossils found in China.

Subsequently the family - or perhaps a single species - moved across the super-continent of Gondwana into what is now South America.

The marsupial family began expanding about 70-80 million years ago.

After crossing into Australia, they penetrated north into the Indonesian archipelago - almost returning to their Chinese homeland.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Aussie's incredible giant lizard survival tale

The incredible survival story of Australian Hayden Adcock, the man who survived 11 days lost in the Laos jungle in 2008 and was attacked by giant lizards, is the feature of episode #3 of Miracles, and can be viewed on ABC's iView for a short time here:

The program includes interviews with Hayden and his family and actual rescue footage.

Hayden survived exposure, internal bleeding, multiple organ failure, various infections, blood poisoning, pneumonia, maggots and having his flesh and the skin on his feet eaten by giant lizards!

Seven months later, after learning to walk again, he returned to laos to meet and thank all of his rescuers. A miracle indeed.

NZ feather fetches more than $8000!

News in from New Zealand...

"A plume from the extinct huia bird has sold for a record sum at auction in New Zealand. The feather was bought by a family from Wellington who declined to be identified. The brown and white feather traditionally used to adorn Maori chiefs sold for £3,800. No huia bird has been since 1907" --
Daily Sport, 23 June 2010.

Thanks to Paul Screeton for passing it along to the CFZ UK.

A lion in the Outback?

During the compilation of the opus that is Australian Big Cats: An Unnatural History of Panthers,authors Michael Williams and Rebecca Lang were handed lots of intriguing video footage - and possibly one of the most puzzling was that of what appears to be a lioness roaming the Northern territory Outback.
'Shot' by NT resident Jan Donovan, this still from the footage (which featured this week on the front page of the Northern Territory News) could lend weight to the notion feral exotic cats are running around in Australia's wilderness.
You might recall the case of the recently shot pygmy hippo in the Top End, which appears to have been an escapee from a private zoo.
What do you think?
We'd love to hear your thoughts - and if you have a photograph or video footage, we'd be happy to have a look and venture an opinion.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Weird Weekend 2010 - Be There or Be Square!

Not long now!

CFZ Australia's Mike Williams and Rebecca Lang will be presenting a talk on Australia's big cat phenomenon at this year's CFZ Weird Weekend in Woolfardisworthy, Devon, during the weekend of August 13-15, 2010.

The Weird Weekend is the biggest predominantly cryptozoological conference in the English Speaking World, and has been presented every year since 2000. The 11th Weird Weekend also has the following confirmed speakers:

  • LARS THOMAS: Identifying hair samples
  • CARL PORTMAN: On the trail of the Australian whistling spider
  • RONAN COGHLAN: The Holy Grail
  • GLEN VAUDREY: The waterhorse
  • SAM SHEARON aka "Mr Sam": Redwoods Bigfoot
  • MATTHEW WILLIAMS: Crop Circles
  • ANDY ROBERTS: The Berwyn Mountain UFO crash
  • LINDSAY SELBY: Loch Ness adventures
  • RICHARD FREEMAN et al: Sumatra 2009 Expedition Report
  • Dr MIKE DASH: The Monster of Glamis
  • GARY CUNNINGHAM/RONAN COGHLAN: The Mystery Animals of Ireland
  • MAX BLAKE: Singular Species

If you're in the UK, you know where you need to be - Woolfardisworthy!

Buy your tickets here:

See you there :-)

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Panther story resurfaces in new book - South Coast Register, July 21, 2010

Panther story resurfaces in new book
by Frances Rand
South Coast Register
July 21, 2010

FOR over a hundred years big cats have stalked Kangaroo Valley.

They scare people, kill stock and leave big paw prints.
However, when it comes to being photographed, they are very shy.
A new book, Australian Big Cats – An Unnatural History of Panthers, looks into the phenomena of panther sightings.
The authors, researcher Michael Williams and journalist Rebecca Lang, have collected stories about big cat sightings for over a decade.
They theorise that the cats could be the descendants of escaped zoo animals or World War II American military mascots. They could also be mutant monstrous moggies or perhaps marsupial lions never died out.
Various scat and fur samples sent off for analysis have come back as felis catus – domestic cat. The authors weren’t impressed and decided to test the experts with some genuine leopard fur. The result – felis catus – proved science could fail.
Other experts have taken panther sightings seriously and various government departments, including the NSW Department of Primary Industries, have compiled reports. They concluded that more evidence needed to be collected.
Former Kangaroo Valley resident Doris Blinman was responsible for reporting panther sightings in the early 1980s.
During the period her yard was visited up to three times a week by one or two huge black cats for a period of a few months.
According to Mrs Blinman, the cats came both at night and in daylight and delighted in eating the fruit from her grapevine as well as eating local wildlife, including a fruit bat.
Ms Lang said there were some interesting aspects to Mrs Blinman’s story, including a “smell of sulphur” associated with the sightings.
Another local, Clarry Hansen, also sighted big cats and paw prints with a 13 to 14cm diameter.
In 1981 the two shared their stories with a Channel 9 news crew.
“It’s a reasonably well-forested area, with plentiful food sources and also being well populated could account for more people seeing panthers,” said Ms Lang.
The last local panther sighting may have been the last forever.
On New Year’s Eve 2008, a local resident reported driving past a “deceased large feline” on the side of Forest Road.
A Sydney man also saw the deceased animal by the side of the road on the same day.
In a hurry he did not stop, but returned the next day where he could find no trace of the feline.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

CFZers on NZ's The Cryptid Factor

CFZers and authors interviewed on NZ's The Cryptid Factor. Our part starts @ 10.20...Mike chimes in later in the show talking about other Australian cryptids including the yowie!

CFZers in the news again (shameless, really...)

Book on big cat research released

REGION - Eight years of research has gone into the production of the newly released book Australian Big Cats - An Unnatural History of Panthers, by Michael Williams and Rebecca Lang.

Writer/photographer Michael Williams and journalist Rebecca Lang have travelled all over Australia interviewing farmers, hunters, hikers and ordinary Australians investigating sightings, unexplained stock deaths and looking into the history books to gather information for the book.
Their travels have also brought them to the Ararat and Grampians region in their quest for evidence.
The presence of big cats in the Australian bush is one of the country's biggest mysteries and for many years there has been talk of sightings.
''There has been evidence of big cats in Victoria since the 1870s,'' Mr Williams said.
This evidence is a mixture of rich folklore, sightings and video evidence.
''In putting the book together, we have spent eight years researching and travelling around Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland collecting reports, photos, video, scat and hair samples,'' he said.
''We want to prove the case that it's not just folklore, that these are valid reports.
''We want to prove the that evidence is overwhelming, that there is some mystery animal in Australia.''
The book is available online or through PO Box 5 Hazelbrooke 2779 NSW. The cost is $35 plus $15 postage.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Friday, 9 July 2010

'Native cat' fossil discovered in Queensland

AUSTRALIAN scientists have unearthed the remains of a small bizarre, prehistoric, sabre-toothed cat in an ancient former rainforest, where specimens stretch back 25 million years.

Lead paleontologist Henk Godthelp said it was the first time the carnivore - with fangs half the length of its skull, which fits into the palm of an adult human hand - had been seen in Australia, calling it an exciting and unique discovery.

"It's sort of like a native cat with a broad flattish head with large canines," Dr Godthelp said. "It's an animal we don't think we've seen before up at Riversleigh, so it was quite a nice find for us."

Thursday, 8 July 2010

CFZ's Mike Williams on ABC Radio

The debate over whether big cats, such as panthers or pumas, are roaming the Australian bush has gone on for decades but as far as Michael Williams is concerned, there's no room for argument.
Michael is convinced Australia is home to big cats and, along with partner Rebecca Lang, has written a book to prove it.
The book is called "Australian Big Cats - An Unnatural History of Panthers".
He spoke to Matt Dowling about researching the book and what inspired his fascination for big cats.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Thursday, 1 July 2010


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