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Monday, 9 September 2013

Giant Salamander Ogopogo

It has just come to my attention that there are specific reports of giant salamander or "Water Lizards" at BOTH lake Okanogan and Lake Champlain and I am waiting for a firsthand account of the Lake Okanogan version to be published here. The firsthand report specifies small ones of 18 inches to 6 feet (Half a meter to two meters) long, but the report falls into the greater category of Canadian Alligators as listed by George Eberhart in Mysterious Creatures (Listing follows). Although the name specifies "Canadian", the most of these reports are right along the US/Canadian border and several reports also take place on the US side of the border. (See Map)

Canadian Alligator

Supposed Crocodilian of western Canada. Variant name: Pitt Lake Lizard. Physical description: Length, usually 5–10 feet , with a maximum of 20 feet . Relatively smooth, dark skin. Horns or ears are sometimes reported. Long snout . Jaws 12 inches long. Four legs, 10 inches long. Behavior: Aquatic but seen on land occasionally. Tracks: Webbed.
Distribution: Pitt Lake, Kootenay Lake, Chilliwack Lake, Cultus Lake, Nitinat Lake, and the Fraser River , in British Columbia. Significant sightings: On October 10, 1900, George Goudereau saw an animal like a 12-foot alligator crawl out of Crawford Bay on Kootenay Lake and root for food in a garbage heap. Later , a trail of large, webbed tracks was found. In 1915, Charles Flood, Green Hicks, and Donald Macrae found some black, alligator-like lizards in a small mud lake south of Hope, British Columbia.
Possible explanation: An unknown species of cold-adapted crocodilian. The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is the most northerly American crocodilian and is found as far north as t he North Carolina coast . It was reported in southern Virginia in colonial times. Crocodilians depend on their environment to provide body warmth, and their hatchlings are more susceptible to chilling than adults. In fact , eggs incubated at temperatures lower than 88°F will tend to produce only female offspring and ultimately threat en the viability of the population. Nonetheless, both the American and the Chinese alligators (A. sinensis) dig burrows into which t hey can retreat dur ing cold spells. They can also survive in lakes that are frozen by keeping their nostrils above the surface as their metabolism and body temperature drop. In warmer times, at least three species of crocodilians lived in Canada: Leidyosuchus canadensis and Stangerochampsa in Alberta during the Late Cretaceous, 65 million years ago, and Borealosuchus acutidentatus in Saskatchewan during the Paleocene, 60 million years ago.
Sources: Ivan T. Sander son, Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life (Philadelphia: Chilton, 1961), pp. 39–41; John Kir k, In the Domain of Lake Monsters (Toronto, Canada: Key Porter Books, 1998), pp. 176, 185–186; Chad Arment and Brad LaGrange, “Canadian ‘Black Alligators’: A Preliminary Look,” North American BioFortean Review 1, no. 1 (April 1999): 6–12,
.[The commonly- reported slick smooth skin rules out crocodylians altogether and could rule out reptiles altogether-DD]

Pitt Lake Lizard

Large LIZARD of western Canada. Variant name: CANADIAN ALLIGATOR.
Physical description: Length, 5–10 feet. Smooth skin. Horns behind the head. Two rows of sharp teeth. Distribution: Pitt Lake, British Columbia. Significant sighting: On June 3, 1973, Warren and Sharon Scott observed a number of huge reptiles in the lake. Warren captured three smaller specimens and sent one to the biology department of Simon Fraser University, but there is no record of its receipt.
Possible explanations: (1) The largest lizardlike animal in British Columbia is the Pacific giant salamander (Dicamptodon tenebrosus), but this amphibian has a marbled appearance with dark spots and only grows to about 11 inches. (2) An unknown species of Monitor lizard (Family Varanidae).
Sources: “Is a Lost World Waiting to Be Found near Pitt Lake?” Vancouver (B.C.) Province, May 12, 1978, p. 4; John Kirk, In the Domain of Lake Monsters (Toronto, Canada: Key Porter Books, 1998), p. 176; Chad Arment and Brad LaGrange, “Canadian ‘Black Alligators’: A Preliminary Look,” North American BioFortean Review 1, no. 1 (April 1999): 6–12,

I only count the sightings under 6 feet in this category. the larger "Water Lizard with horns or ears at about 10-12 feet long (But sometimes reported as up to 20 feet long) I count as the giant otters instead. Those ones could have jaws a foot long, but that statement alone does not give any sense of proportion.

Ivan T Sanderson introduced the topic of these "Canadian Alligators" along the way in his book Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life, and he thought the creatures were giant salamanders such as occur in China and Japan naturally. This information was promised to be added to future editions of the book, but it never was actually added in.
The reviews above from Eberhart, Mysterious Creatures (2002) also do NOT mention there are similar "Canadian Alligator" reports further East, around the Great Lakes. That information IS found in Sanderson's files. There are other mentions of these giant salamanders found earlier on this blog. One entry concerning a style of Native artwork representing the creature is found here:

Giant Salamanders Terrestrial Hunters of the Palaeogene

Research Shows that Giant Salamanders Were Once Land Dwelling Hunters

Extant Specimen of Japanese Giant Salamander
The increasingly rare Giant Salamander of Japan.
Picture Credit: BBC News
There are several species of giant Salamander living today, the largest Megalobatrachus [Andrias]japonicus grows up to 1.5 metres in length.  Like all giant Salamanders this species prefers fast running, well-oxygenated streams and they are all very much aquatic creatures.  However, a team of scientists studying ancestral giant Salamander fossils found in the Gobi desert; suggest that during the Palaeogene, these amphibians were very much at home on the land.  Not only were these giant Salamanders terrestrial, but studies of the skull fossils and teeth indicate that these animals probably hunted on land too.
Giant Salamanders are found today in Asia, with one species known from the United States.  The heads and bodies of these creatures are flattened, the tail is laterally flattened and the paired limbs are relatively small and weak when compared to the rest of the body.  Modern giant Salamanders lack eyelids and the larval teeth are retained into adulthood.  In fact these amphibians only undergo a partial metamorphosis from the larval stage and retain larval characteristics as mature animals (a form of neoteny – when traits of juveniles are seen in adults).

Scientists studying the fossilised remains of the oldest known member of the Giant Salamander group (Cryptobranchidae), fossils found in Mongolia and dated to around fifty-five million years ago, have proposed that these animals were adapted to a life on land.
Four specimens of the Palaeogene species Aviturus exsecratus located at the Moscow Palaeontological Institute reveal that these amphibians had robust limbs, strong backbones and powerful jaws that suggest adaptations to a terrestrial environment.
Vertebrate palaeontologist Davit Vasilyan of the University of Tübingen (Germany) who helped write the scientific paper on this study states that Aviturus exsecratus had the strongest head muscles of any giant Salamander, suggesting it went on land to hunt.  Supporting this idea is the fact that fossil remains of this salamander were found in rock typically formed from water’s-edge sediments.  Unlike their modern descendants, these early Cenozoic amphibians went through extra stages of metamorphosis and lost some of the juvenile traits that are retained in adults today.  The teeth for example, were much more developed than the teeth found in the large, wide mouths of their modern counterparts.
The evolution of terrestrial giant Salamanders coincides with a period of dramatic global warming (Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum), a time when much of the Earth became covered in tropical rain-forest and global temperatures rose to an average of around 26 degrees Celsius (compared to an average today of just 14 degrees Celsius).
Dr. Vasilyan proposes that giant Salamanders first appeared as land based carnivores during this warm era, perhaps exploiting niches in the ecosystems that had yet to be properly filled after the mass extinction event that ended the Mesozoic some ten million years earlier.  When global temperatures began to drop, these amphibians abandoned their more complete adult forms adapting to an entirely aquatic existence which still persists today.

Giant Salamanders Once Hunted on Land

Terrestrial Predators
Picture Credit: Davit Vasilyan
It seems that these rare, aquatic creatures that we know today, were once powerful, land-based hunters.

This news item definitely puts the reports of the Giant Salamander-like Tatzelwurm which is said to move freely on land and acts most fearlessly and aggressively into a new light, and the fact that fossils are also found in Mongolia is also good news as far as the stories about the most similar cryptids go. Small "dragons" reported in both Eastern Europe and in Siberia also answer to this description [which is about what Ulrich Magin claimed about the Tatzelwurms in PURSUIT.] Some of the extinct forms were also bigger than the extant species, probably in the range of 2 to 3 meters long.-DD.

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