Friday, October 15, 2004

Everybody loves el chupacabra

Lots of folks paid a visit to my humble blog yesterday to gawk at the strange creatures from Pollock and Elmendorf, and still more are showing up today. Welcome one and all. Lots of interesting comments coming in from different points regarding the identity of the creatures and the causes of its pitiful condition.

At this point, it is pretty much irrefutable that these are some variety of canid we're looking at. Not mutant muntjac, not monsterous kangaroo rats. The remains seem too small to be a coyote, too large for a fox. The skull shape suggests a domestic dog, but gangly limbs suggest coyote. After talking with more people, the most plausible explanation or origin seems to be a coyote-dog cross with congenital defects and bad skin afflictions. That could explain the size and weight of the animal, as well as the bone and skull structure. It doesn't necessarily explain why these animals are being spotted in such disparate locations. What are the odds of the exact same coyote-(insert specific dog breed) cross 300 miles apart, coming down with the same skin ailments? The bizarre underbite of the Pollock beast could either be a congenital defect or the effect of long-term malnutrition, when the body begins reabsorbing bone.

Someone else suggested to me the animal's condition could be the result of exposure to a variety of toxins. Again, this could indeed explain any number of questions about the animal, but isn't one of those "eureka!" solutions--what are the odds of similar animals running into the same exposures 300 miles apart? Possible, yes. Probable? I dunno.

To really, definitively get to the bottom of the creature's identity, Elizabeth Moon outlined a number of steps earnest cryptozoologists could take. The first is to take get accurate measurements of the animal, and take samples from which DNA could be extracted for analysis. This would be a nasty task at this point, as I'm informed by Sharon that the carcass is decomposing rapidly at this point, and infested with maggots. The measurements to be taken should include actual weight (not estimated), head and body length, tail length, lengths of leg bones, and tooth size, number and type as mammal classification is partly based on the number and type of teeth in the upper and lower jaw. Canids generally have 42 teeth, but the spacing, size, etc. vary among species. Moon's got a wicked mind for analytical detail, and when it comes to environmental matters, knows her stuff.

The debate may soon be put to rest, however. Whitley Strieber and his Unknown Country website sent "bones and a tooth from the Elmendorf animal to the University of California, Davis, testing facility" a few weeks back. Reading the Unknown Country story, I'm particularly annoyed by the fact that I never thought to suggest this might be a thylacine (marsupial wolf). It's not, of course, but it annoys me when cool ideas don't occur to me. One way or another, we should have a definitive answer on the identity of the creature(s) by Thanksgiving.

Now Playing: Pink Floyd Scratch the Silence

1 comment:

  1. Random side note: something about your html or css is causing the rightmost part of your blog page to be annoyingly and seemingly unnecessarily scrolled off the right side of browser window (whether maximized or smaller), in Firefox 0.9 and MSIE 5.5, so that horizontal scrolling is necessary to read the right column of text.