Rafinesque and the yellow anaconda

A photo of a yellow anaconda in its natural habitat, by Walter S. Prado (Wikimedia Commons, CC0 1.0). Constantine Rafinesque was an infamously eccentric naturalist and one of the most prolific taxonomists of all time, having named thousands of plant and animal taxa. He was also an early cryptozoologist, publishing the first ever attempt at … Continue reading Rafinesque and the yellow anaconda


“Hurdiidae” versus Peytoiidae

A phylogenetic tree of Peytoiidae (= "Hurdiidae") based on Moysiuk & Caron (2022). The silhouettes of Peytoia and Hurdia are by Junnn11 (Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0). The family "Hurdiidae" was first named by Vinther et al. (2014; suppl. info) for a clade of radiodont stem-arthropods (also known as anomalocarids) including Hurdia, Peytoia, and related genera. However, they … Continue reading “Hurdiidae” versus Peytoiidae

The nomenclatural status of the Alula whale

Willem Mörzer Bruyns' illustration of the Alula whale, from Mörzer Bruyns (1971). The Alula whale is an unconfirmed species first reported by Dutch sea captain and historian Willem Mörzer Bruyns (Mörzer Bruyns, 1971). It is named after the coastal town of Alula, Somalia, which is near where some of the sightings occurred. According to Mörzer … Continue reading The nomenclatural status of the Alula whale

The earliest discovery of a sawskate

The "sawfish horn" figured by Guettard (1783) (top), compared with rostral denticles from Sclerorhynchus atavus (middle) and Propristiophorus tumidens (bottom) from Cappetta (1980a;b). In 1783, French naturalist Jean-Étienne Guettard briefly described fossil fishes from Lebanon in the collection of the Duke of Orleans, Louis Philippe I (Guettard, 1783). Guettard stated that they were found on … Continue reading The earliest discovery of a sawskate

The lost Tarbosaurus mummy

The lost Tarbosaurus mummy: the whole specimen (left), a patch of skin impressions (top right), and tail vertebrae with skin impressions (bottom right). Photos from MNHN (1992). Previously I discussed the lost "throat pouch" of Tarbosaurus and Saurolophus skin misidentified as Tarbosaurus. This time comes a find that dwarfs them all - a lost Tarbosaurus mummy! A partial skeleton was … Continue reading The lost Tarbosaurus mummy

The USS Stein incident

The USS Stein (top) and the sonar dome of the USS Willis A. Lee (bottom), the same type present on the Stein. Images by PH2 Hensley (Wikimedia Commons, public domain) and the U.S. Navy (Wikimedia Commons, public domain) respectively. One of the most intriguing encounters in cryptozoology is the attack by an unidentified animal on the United States … Continue reading The USS Stein incident

The Oligocene Parotodus

Comparison between a syntype tooth (A) and referred tooth (B) of Parotodus oligocaenus. Both are in labial view and are not to scale. The hooked megatooth1, genus Parotodus Cappetta, 1980, currently contains three species: the early Eocene P. pavlovi (Menner, 1928), middle-late Eocene P. mangyshlakensis Kozlov in Zhelezko & Kozlov, 1999, and Miocene-Pliocene P. benedenii … Continue reading The Oligocene Parotodus

The origin of “sabre-toothed tiger”

A canine tooth of Homotherium latidens, the original "sabre-toothed tiger", from Owen (1846). Common names given to extinct animals are an interesting but understudied phenomenon. One of the most famous and misleading examples is "sabre-toothed tiger"1, which refers to machairodontine cats and usually Smilodon in particular. While still common in popular culture, in scientific literature … Continue reading The origin of “sabre-toothed tiger”

Fact-checking Planet Dinosaur’s Onchopristis

A size chart comparing Planet Dinosaur's Onchopristis with the real largest specimen. The sawfish-like silhouette is redrawn from Scott (2012). In 2011, Onchopristis numida made its onscreen debut in the television miniseries Planet Dinosaur. This has been the only significant appearance of a sclerorhynchoid in a documentary.1 As a result, Planet Dinosaur has shaped their public perception for … Continue reading Fact-checking Planet Dinosaur’s Onchopristis

The taxonomy of Myopterygius and Pervushovisaurus

The lectotype rostrum of 'Ichthyosaurus' (= Myopterygius) campylodon, from Fischer (2016) (CC BY 4.0). Fischer (2016) attempted a taxonomic revision of the platypterygiine ichthyosaurs 'Ichthyosaurus' campylodon Carter, 1846 and Pervushovisaurus bannovkensis Arkhangelsky, 1998. He concluded that both species are valid and belong to the same genus, proposing the new combination Pervushovisaurus campylodon. This taxonomy has been followed by recent papers … Continue reading The taxonomy of Myopterygius and Pervushovisaurus