Ever since I was nine, I have been terrified of freshwater stingrays. I read a fable by Horacio Quiroga, "El paso del Yabebirí".
Horacio Quiroga (1878-1937), a Uruguaya author, wrote several books about his life in Argentina's Northeastern province of Misiones. A land covered with jungles, and where the marvelous Iguazú falls are set.
In this story a man, wounded by a "tiger" (the name given to the South American jaguar), was saved by the timely action of the stingrays who "stung" the jaguars as they tried to cross the river to kill the man. He had protected the rays in the past so they helped him. The river's name means "river of stingrays".
Stingrays have always been on my mind, when I swam in the brown silty waters of the Paraná River delta and the River Plate during my youth I always wondered if a ray would sting me when I stood in the muddy river bed.
I posted about them and included them in my book... and today, came across a strange online article:
An online article
It was published in an site (The Anomalist [*]) , and mentioned the Patagonian Cuero. I quote it below (Bold font is mine):
Capture of the Cuero Frontiers of Zoology
Dale Drinnon features an article about television fisherman Jeremy Wade of "River Monsters" capturing a 280-lb giant freshwater stingray in the waters of Argentina's Parana River near Buenos Aires. Photos of the fisherman and his catch are included, and Drinnon takes the catch further to reveal what it has to do with cryptozoology.
It turns out Drinnon had identified freshwater stingrays as the origin of tales of plesiosaurs in the freshwater lakes and rivers of Patagonia. Drinnon's original report on the Patagonian cryptid is included along with some excellent comments from other cryptozoology bloggers, including Austin Whittall of Patagonian Monsters whose comments had sparked Drinnon's stingray identification.
Some reviewers should get their facts straight
You can imagine my surprise, I believe that the story should actually record that it was a Catholic priest, Father Molina in the late 1700s wrote about manta rays as the explanation for Chilean Cuero myth. While researching my book, I came across his work, and I mention it in my book and in a post written Over two years ago, in my September 30, 2009 post on El Cuero - Nahuelito I jotted down that:
...The ray theory is the most reasonable explanation, in fact the shape and size of the cuero are similar those of fresh water stingrays.
However these apparently do not live in the Patagonian lakes or rivers, their habitat is in the Tropical to Temperate regions of eastern South America....
South America is home to the only exclusively freshwater stingrays in the world, the family Potamotrygonidae. The closest to Patagonia live in the Paraná River basin. These rays have a sharp spike on the rear of their tail which they use for self-defense and, interestingly, their disk can be covered with small denticles, small to large thorns which are thooth-like in structure, and covered with a tough enamel.
For those interested, my Jan 20, 2010 post on the Cuero goes into plenty details and even includes a map on South American freshwater stingrays and mentioned the Paraná River stingrays:
There are only on family of freshwater stingrays in the whole world, these are the Potamotrygonidae and they live in South America, but the closest that they get to Patagonia is over 1.600 km (1,000 mi.) to the north in the Paraná River basin...
What Molina wrote was that the Cuero was:
“a monstrous type of Manta ray”, or perhaps a squid with cat-like nails; the 'Seppia unguiculata'" (its Latin name means “clawed” Seppia)
As there are no known freshwater rays in Patagonia, this is a possible explanation for them being there (If and when they are found there)
But there is another intriguing option: Potamotrygonidae are related to the Dasyatid rays who often venture into fresh water in several parts of the world; one of these species can be found off the Chilean Patagonian coast. Maybe these Dasyatids swam up the rivers into the Andean lakes and their denticles were taken for claws.
However let me make it clear that my tirade is not against Dale Drinnon who is an honest researcher and writer, who gets his facts straight before publishing them. It is an outburst born from my surprise at how "reviewers" can sometimes distort facts!.
[*] Note: The Anomalist is a daily online review of world news on maverick science, unexplained mysteries among other subjects.
Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia2011 International Year of Forests Copyright 2009-2011 by Austin Whittall ©