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These Rabbits Do Handstands and It’s Not Just For Easter

Paul Seaburn

Put your right foot forward

Put your left foot out

Do the Bunny hop

Hop, hop, hop

(The Bunny Hop by Ray Anthony & his orchestra)

DOES anyone really need a song to remind them how to do the Bunny Hop? According to a new study, there’s a strange species of rabbit that can’t be helped by the song, videos, visits from the Easter bunny or any other conventional rear-leg hopping guides because they get around just fine by hopping on their tiny front legs. And, for all of you disbelievers and ‘April Fools’ joke’ accusers (it’s still a few days away), there’s an actual scientific study on the phenomenon that gives the how’s and now the why’s of this strange mode of movement. Kids, don’t try this at home … at least not until you read the story of the Sauteur d’Alfort front-hopping bunnies.

HereHere, we take advantage of one strain of domesticated rabbits, the sauteur d’Alfort, that exhibits an abnormal locomotion behavior defined by the loss of the typical jumping that characterizes wild-type rabbits. Strikingly, individuals from this strain frequently adopt a bipedal gait using their front legs.

In a new study published in the journal PLOS Genetics, a team of a dozen researchers led by Miguel Carneiro, a geneticist at the University of Porto in Portugal, looked at the sauteur d’Alfort (the Alfort jumper), a species of domesticated rabbits discovered in 1935 in Maisons-Alfort, home of the famous National Veterinary School of Alfort. These rabbits caught the eye of Alfort residents because they appeared to be unable to use their unlucky rear legs for hopping but got around just fine doing a rabbit version of walking on their hands. (Watch a video here and see plenty of photos here.) Doing what anyone would do upon seeing such a sad situation solved by rabbits who refused to be disabled, the locals captured the rabbits and bred and sold them for fun and profit under the name Alfort Jumpers. While otherwise healthy (although some were also blind), no one could explain their unusual locomotion.

Using a combination of experimental crosses and whole genome sequencing, we show that a single locus containing the RAR related orphan receptor B gene (RORB) explains the atypical gait of these rabbits. We found that a splice-site mutation in an evolutionary conserved site of RORB results in several aberrant transcript isoforms incorporating intronic sequence. This mutation leads to a drastic reduction of RORB-positive neurons in the spinal cord, as well as defects in differentiation of populations of spinal cord interneurons. Our results show that RORB function is required for the performance of saltatorial locomotion in rabbits.

The researchers put their explanation in science-speak just to make sure you know it’s not an April Fools’ joke. As Carneiro explains to the rest of us in Gizmodo, by breeding the Alfort jumpers with normal rabbits, they were able to sequence the DNA of the offspring and trace the condition to a mutation on the first chromosome in the gene and protein RORB. The mutation caused these rabbits to have non-functioning interneurons that caused them to overflex their hind legs, rendering them incapable of hopping.

ThisThis has to be a trick.

OK, that explains the ‘why’ of why these bunnies can’t hop normally, but what about the ‘how’ as in “How did they switch to walking on their front legs”? Unfortunately, the researchers don’t comment on this ingenious development, so we’re left to speculate that a species smart enough to make humans buy billions of chocolate bunnies and make them believe they’re delivered by one rabbit in one night to celebrate an otherwise huge religious holiday is one smart species … despite what the tortoise says.

Dance this new creation

It’s the new sensation

Do the Bunny hop

Hop, hop, hop

All join in the fun

Father, mother, son

Do the Bunny hop

Hop, hop, hop

Put your right foot forward

Put your left foot out

Do the Bunny hop

Hop, hop, hop


The Mystery of the Lake Brosno Dragon

Brent Swancer

TUCKED away in the remote Tver region of West Russia is Lake Brosno, a deep, frigid lake that sits isolated and forgotten in a domain far from civilization. The area is forbidding and only sparsely inhabited in modern times, and its eerie, otherworldly ambiance is only enhanced by the crumbling ruins of a ghost town on its shores, as well as the remains of a church sitting underwater down in its gloomy depths. Looking over this wild and wind blasted icy place with its jagged ruins, it is easy to get the feeling that this is a forsaken land full of ghosts and monsters, and if the legend and lore are to believe the lake indeed is inhabited by a monster, by some accounts an actual dragon.

Stories of something very large and menacing lurking in lake Brosno go all the way back to the 13th century. One of the most popular early accounts concerning the so-called “Brosno Dragon” surrounds a Tatar-Mongol army that headed for Novgorod in the 13th century with the intent of conquering more territory, led by the Mongol ruler and grandson of Genghis Khan, Batu Khan. When the troops reached the shores of Lake Brosno, they stopped to take a rest and water their horses at the shore. According to the tale, as the horses and men gathered at the water, an enormous dragon came boiling up out of the depths to attack them, dragging horses and screaming men into the water to devour them. The creature was so formidable and fierce that it apparently sent the army into retreat, saving Novgorod in the process.

AnotherAnother old tale is that of a group of Vikings who set about rowing across the lake to reach an island, where they intended to bury a horde of loot. As the Vikings made their way over the lake, the dragon attacked, destroying the boat and killing all aboard. Indeed, this would become a running theme with the Brosno Dragon, that it had the habit of destroying or capsizing boats, to the point that fishermen were long terrified to even attempt to go out on the water here. Some of the more dramatic stories say that the dragon’s gaping maw is so massive that it can literally suck in whole boats and their crews. Historically, the Brosno Dragon would be described as an absolute behemoth, appearing like a “sand mountain” rising from the lake and often said to be hundreds of feet long.

Such amazing stories continued on well into more modern times, with a more concrete and somewhat less fantastical description of the beast becoming clear. Most reports would describe the creature as being around 20 feet in length, with a long tail, a reptilian head, an oversized, fish-like mouth, and the whole of it covered in bumpy scales like the skin of an alligator, with some reports even mentioning what seems to be a sort of bioluminescence. However, some of the reports still had the air of legend about them, describing how the creature could swallow people whole with its cavernous maw, and there is even a supposed case from World War II when it supposedly swallowed an entire fighter plane that had crashed into the lake. However, most reports began to describe the creature as rather shy, and prone to swimming away if anyone approached it.

AltAlthough the sheer remoteness of the lake means that sightings are rare, there have been some rather remarkable modern-day reports. In 1996, a family from Moscow was out at the lake when their young son began shouting and pointing out over the water. The parents managed to catch sight of something large and anomalous out on the water, and even purportedly took a photo of it, but it turned out to be too blurry to count as meaningful evidence. In 2002, an expedition to the lake was launched by the Kosmopoisk Research Association with the expressed mission to try and find evidence of the Brosno Dragon. To this end, they made sweeps of the lake using advanced echo location equipment and sonar, and as they did so they claim to have come across a very large organism of some kind down there in the depths, which prompted them to throw an incendiary device into the water. One team member by the name of Vadim Chernobrov would explain of what happened:

Echo deep sounding registered an anomaly. There was a huge jelly-like mass of a railway car size handing [sic] five meters above the bottom. The mass stood motionless. When the device blew up, the creature started slowly going up. We stared at the water, and it was clear; there was nothing resembling a monster, however something unusual was still felt in the lake water.

According to the team, they managed to retrieve a strange biomass from the water, which was believed to have been part of something alive at some point and was perhaps a piece of the creature removed by the explosion. Samples were supposedly taken from it, which matched no known creature inhabiting the lake. Of course, considering that nothing more is known about these supposed tests, and no photographs are known to exist, it is perhaps best to take these claims with a grain of salt. To this day there have been sporadic sightings reports of the Brosno Dragon, and we are left to wonder what it could possibly be. There have been many theories, including that it is an oversized fish, misidentifications of schools of smelt, or an animal such as a swimming moose, elk, wild boar, beaver or bear, as well as underwater volcanic activity or gas deposits bubbling up from the bottom. Of course, there are also the ideas that this could be an undiscovered species or a surviving dinosaur of some kind, but there is no real evidence towards any one theory. Whatever is in that lake has remained mysterious right up until this day, and until more evidence comes forward it will remain in the murky depths of speculation.


The Legendary Thunderbirds: The Largest Birds That Ever Lived?

Nick Redfern

IN October 2020, the Smithsonian Magazine ran a fascinating article on what may have been the largest bird that ever lived. In part, the article stated: “Imagine an albatross with a hacksaw for a mouth. Set that strange creature about 50 million years in the past and you’ve got the image of a pelagornithid, a group of ancient avians that included some of the largest flying birds of all time. And now paleontologists have uncovered in that group what may be the largest known flying birds ever, with wingspans of roughly 20 feet.” It’s possible, however, that there could have been even bigger birds in our skies. Welcome to the world of the Thunderbirds. Legends of America say: “Described as a supernatural being, the enormous bird was a symbol of power and strength that protected humans from evil spirits. It was called the Thunderbird because the flapping of its powerful wings sounded like thunder, and lightning would shoot out of its eyes. The Thunderbirds brought rain and storms, which could be good or bad. Good – when the rain was needed or bad when the rain came with destructive strong winds, floods, and fires caused by lightning. The bird was said to be so large, that several legends tell it picking up a whale in its talons.

There is this, also, from Native Languages: “The Thunderbird is a widespread figure in Native American mythology, particularly among Midwestern, Plains, and Northwest Coast tribes. Thunderbird is described as an enormous bird (according to many Northwestern tribes, large enough to carry a killer whale in its talons as an eagle carries a fish) who is responsible for the sound of thunder (and in some cases lightning as well.) Different Native American communities had different traditions regarding the Thunderbird. In some tribes, Thunderbirds are considered extremely sacred forces of nature, while in others, they are treated like powerful but otherwise ordinary members of the animal kingdom.

CuyCuyamungue provide data, too: “The wingspan of the Thunderbird was described to be twice as long as a Native Indian war canoe. Underneath its wings are lightning snakes which the Thunderbird uses as weapons. Lightning is created when the Thunderbird throws these lighting snakes or when he blinks his eyes that glow like fire. Sometimes these lightning snakes are depicted in Native American art as having wolf or dog-like heads with serpent tongues. They are occasionally referred to as the Thunderbird’s dogs. Native American art portrays the Thunderbird with a huge curving beak and prominent ears or horns.” Now, let’s get to to a very mysterious aspect of all this. It’s the matter of a vanished photograph of just such a creature that numerous people in the fields of Cryptozoology and the paranormal swear they have seen, but which can no longer be found. Anywhere. It’s as if the photo has been erased from our time-line – something that, you may recall, almost happened to Marty McFly in Back to the Future. That may be precisely what happened in the real world. We might say that while portions of the time-line are gone, the memories and recollections of those who saw the Thunderbird picture before it vanished are not gone.

TheThe picture is said to have originated in the 1800s. Searches for the photo have not resulted in the discovery of anything relevant. Magazines like Argosy, True, and Saga have been scrutinized to the ultimate degree. The picture still remains missing. How can so many investigators of the supernatural and the cryptozoological have seen such a photo, but which now cannot be found anywhere? Josh Warren has a fascinating theory: “I get the impression that there might be a shifting timeline that we are passing through on a day-by-day basis. One day UFOs might be real, and the next they’re not. The next day Bigfoot is running around your backyard, and the next day he doesn’t exist. One day the Thunderbird photo is in a magazine, and then when the timeline is played with again, it’s no longer in the magazine. And it may be that, day by day, hour by hour, or even minute by minute, small changes to the timeline are being made.” The Thunderbird: an incredible creature, revered by Native Americans, and possibly with a connection to time-travel. Amazing, to be sure.


Dark Slow-Moving Shape Spotted in Fifth Nessie Sighting of the Year

Jocelyne LeBlanc

IN the fifth Loch Ness Monster sighting of the year, a dark object was seen moving slowly through the water. In the late afternoon hours of March 17th, Kalynn Wangle spotted something very strange in the water while she was watching the loch’s Live Webcam feed.

She explained what she saw, “On March 17th at 16:15pm a very large dark shape appears to be swimming from left to right at the very front of the shore.” “It seems to be making a wave for a bit, and either surfaces for a second or is just under the surface.” “At 16:17pm it goes behind the tree on the right, and doesn’t pop back up.

Her sighting was documented on The Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register. The video of Kalynn’s sighting can be seen on YouTube as well as here.

It’s not even the end of March and there have already been five sightings of the elusive creature so far this year – perhaps it’s not so elusive after all…?

The first three sightings of the year all occurred in January. It was Kalynn Wangle who also made the first sighting at 11:42 am on January 11th when she noticed a “V-shaped wake” followed by “something black” coming out of the water for a short amount of time before disappearing back under the surface.

Eight days later, at 2:20 pm on January 19th, Eoin O’Faodhagain was watching the webcam when he noticed an “unexplained” object lurking around the water for about 20 minutes when no boats were around.

Then just three days later, at 2:11 pm on January 22nd, O’Faodhagain again saw something strange in the loch when he noticed “two objects splashing around in the bay about 100 feet apart.” “They were two black objects throwing up a lot of water, and from the distance were large looking in the water,” he explained. “Then the one on the right submerged, and then came up again. The one on the left did the same thing intermittently.” “They were visible for up to three minutes, and then there was nothing.” “They could have been a couple of feet out of the water and maybe a dozen feet long.

The clFebruary was a quiet month, but another sighting took place on March 12th – just five days before this most recent sighting. O’Faodhagain witnessed two objects about 10 feet apart “rising up and down” in the water. Despite there being no boats in the water, there were still visible ripples and the two large “humps” appeared on the surface for quite a while before disappearing back under.

Pictures from the first four sightings of this year can be seen on The Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register. MU

The Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register | Sightings from 2021 on