Monday, December 31, 2012

What Are The Giants of Alaska’s Lake Iliamna?

Alaska’s Lake Iliamna is the largest freshwater lake in Alaska and the second largest lake in the

 United States.It is over 80 miles long with a surface area of more than 1,000 square miles and an average depth of 660 feet.  It is connected to Bristol Bay by the Kvichak River.  Marine mammals such as beluga whales and harbor seals are known to reach Lake Iliamna by traveling up this river.

Many of the world’s large lakes are said to be the homes of lake monsters, and Lake Iliamna is no exception.  Aleuts and other indigenous people knew about these creatures, locally known as Illies, and did not venture to hunt them.

Although the Illies had been reported by early white settlers and other visitors to the lake, the creatures were relatively unknown until pilots began to report sightings from the air in the 1940s. The pilots described giant fish or whale-like creatures ranging in size from about ten to thirty feet long. Generally, they are described as being the color of dull aluminum, with broad, blunt heads. Their tails were vertical, unlike those of whales, and the creatures did not surface.

Some more recent reports describe the fish as black or very dark brown.

In 1959, oil tycoon Tom Slick funded a series of investigations around Lake Iliamna intended to establish the existence of the Illies.  He also offered a $1,000 reward to anyone who managed to catch one. No one claimed the reward. The Anchorage Daily News offered a $100,000 reward for physical evidence of the monsters, but so far the reward has never been claimed.

Based on the descriptions, any people believe the monsters are actually gigantic lake sturgeon, which are known to grow to lengths of 20 feet and weigh around 1,800 pounds. The white sturgeon, for example, is the largest freshwater fish in North America. These giant fish are bottom feeders and are rarely seen near the surface of the lakes and deep rivers in which they live.

It is not likely that the Lake Iliamna monsters are either whales or seals. The reports do not indicate that these creatures surface for air, and their tails are invariably described as vertical. Marine mammals’ tails are universally horizontal.

So far, no major expeditions have been mounted to find and identify the mysterious monsters of Lake Iliamna, although Animal Planet’s “River Monsters” series did conduct an investigation which failed to identify the creatures. So the mystery of the Lake Iliamna monsters remains unsolved, at least for now.
There are several stories of sightings of these monsters at this site

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

“Extinct” Whale Turns Up Alive

The pygmy right whale, which bears almost no resemblance to any whale on earth today, turns out to be the last living member of a group which was thought to have been extinct for about two million years.

The little whale, which measures only about 21 feet (6.5 meters) long, lives in the Southern Hemisphere and is rarely seen. As a result, very little is known about its social structure or its habits. In appearance, the little whales display arched snouts which set it apart from other whales.

Recently, DNA studies disclosed that the pygmy whales split from ancestors which later became the so-called baleen whales somewhere between 17 and 25 million years ago. The pygmy right whales' skulls, when compared with fossil specimens and the skulls of modern whales, suggest that these little animals are the last remnants of an ancient family known as cetotheres, which were thought to have gone extinct around two million years ago. So these rare and elusive whales can be considered living fossils.

It is still amazing to me how many “living fossils” turn up. It seems that every few weeks a new one is discovered. How many more are out there?

If you’d like to see more, including pictures, go here

Monday, December 17, 2012

Real Cases of Immaculate Conception?

The movie “Jurassic Park” featured a scene where the hero discovers dinosaur eggs and realizes that some of the previously all-male population of animals have become females. Is this possible in real life? It turns out that it is, sort of. In fact, one species of reptile has done away with males altogether.

The existence of the phenomena, known as parthenogenesis, was first discovered in the 1700s by Swiss scientist Charles Bonnet, who was studying aphids at the time. Since then, several other species have been found to be able to produce young without the help of a male. Most, but not all, are insects.

Sharks are sometimes known to produce young without the presence of a male. In December 2001, a shark pup was born to one of three female hammerhead sharks in an enclosed tank with no male present. The pup’s DNA was analyzed in 2007 and it was found that its mother was its only parent. Again, in 2008, a blacktip shark who died was found to have been pregnant. She had been in captivity for eight years and had never been in the presence of a male. For some reason, all shark pups born to virgin females are female.

Komodo dragons are also known to produce young through parthenogenesis. In fact, two different cases were discovered in England in 2006. Since Komodo dragons are a species with a WZ chromosome makeup, all of their offspring are male. This would enable an isolated female to repopulate her environment by mating with her own offspring.

Honeybees practice an interesting form of parthenogenesis. Queen bees mate only once in their lifetimes. Progeny born as a result of mating are females. But they also produce offspring from otherwise unfertilized eggs. These bees become male drones. . This brings the concept of gender selection to a whole new level.

The lizard called the New Mexico whiptail has taken parthenogenesis to the extreme. There are no male whiptails. It is interesting, though, that the female members still practice mating behaviors, with some females known to mount ovulating companions in the same way a male might. When two whiptails are placed together, they synchronize their ovulation cycles so that only one is producing eggs at any given time.

There’s more information on this amazing phenomena here

Monday, December 10, 2012

Superstrong Babies - What’s Behind the Story?

A baby born in Germany in 1999 could stand up when he was two days old. By the time he was

 three, he could lift a couch. In 2005 in Michigan, a couple adopted a young baby named Liam.
 By the time Liam was five months old, he could hang in a cross position on rings. He was
 performing pull-ups by the time he was nine months old. What is the secret behind these

It turns out that both boys have a genetic condition called myostatin-related muscle hypertrophy.  It results when a gene intended to restrict the production of myostatin, which limits muscle growth in “normal” humans, is somehow mutated to allow a decreased production of myostatin. The result is that muscle production is virtually unlimited.

In the case of the unidentified German child, the condition may have been inherited. The boy’s parents, uncle, and three other close relatives all share the mutation. But in the boy’s case, both copies of the DNA segment were mutated, possibly because both his parents shared the mutation. Liam apparently has only one mutated copy of the gene.

There is a downside to the boys’ condition. There is a danger that they may suffer from heart problems or other diseases as they grow older.

Humans are not the only species vulnerable to the effects of lowered myostatin. An entire breed of cattle known as Belgian Blue apparently are predisposed to the condition. Laboratory mice have been deliberately altered genetically to reproduce forms of myostatin-related muscle hypertrophy. The condition has also shown up naturally, though rarely, in other species.

Photos of the German boy, along with other pictures of animals suffering from myostatin-related muscle hypertrophy can be found here. Warning: Some of these photos are not easy to look at.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Has a Veterinarian Confirmed the Existence of Bigfoot?

A team led by veterinarian Melba S. Ketchum believes they have discovered physical evidence that proves the existence of Bigfoot. And their evidence suggests that the elusive creature is a human-ape hybrid.

Dr. Ketchum and her team, consisting of experts in genetics, forensics, imaging and pathology, conducted their studies at DNA Diagnostics in Nacogdoches, Texas. Dr. Ketchum has nearly thirty years of experience in genetics research and forensics. She is now staking her professional reputation on the team’s findings.

The study took place over a period of five years. Initially, Ketchum analyzed hair samples found following an alleged Bigfoot encounter. They found unusual characteristics during DNA sequencing, but they could not conclusively verify their findings. They then studied more than 100 DNA samples believed by some to have been left by Sasquatches.

Dr. Ketchum said in an interview that she did not believe in Bigfoot before she began analyzing the evidence. Nevertheless, after analyzing the first samples five years ago, she was intrigued enough by the anomalies in the sample that she decided to follow up with more testing. Over the next several years, the DNA Diagnostics team received more samples of hair, blood, saliva and urine, all obtained from the sites of alleged Bigfoot sightings.

The team claims to have found three nuclear genomes that suggest the creature is not only real, but is actually a human hybrid. They believe that a human female mated with an unknown primate, creating the iconic mystery creature. They believe the mating took place about 15,000 years ago, although that date seems to be a bit young since the creatures are believed to roam an extensive range spanning at least two continents.

Dr. Ketchum said that they began getting human results on the mitochondrial DNA, which comes from the female side of the family. Other labs which had gotten human results from their tests assumed that the samples had been contaminated and destroyed them. Her team split their samples with another forensic lab, one working by hand while the other relied on robots. In many cases, their samples showed human DNA sequences.

Other laboratories are also testing alleged Bigfoot samples for unusual DNA. Researchers from both Oxford University and the Lausanne Museum of Zoology are planning to submit their results to a peer-reviewed scientific journal at some time in the future.

What happens if Dr. Ketchum’s team, or one of the other research teams, can definitely prove through DNA testing that Bigfoot really exists? And what if it turns out that they are at least partly human? Should they be left alone to work out their own destiny? Should they be granted the rights of other humans? Should attempts be made to contact a long-lost cousin? It may be that these questions will become relevant very soon.

For more information, go here