Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall

Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Cabralito" a lake creature in Salta Argentina


Cabralito lake creature
Cabralito lake Creature. From [1]

Todays news reports that in Northern Argentina, in the province of Salta, a mysterious lake creature was filmed. The photo above is a still from the video. The press quickly named it "Cabralito" after the lake it lives in (it is a cute diminutive of the lake's name similar to Nahuelito of Nahuel Huapi fame or Nessie of Loch Ness).

The footage was taken close to a pier known as El Préstamo by Leo Bonino, on the lake of Cabra Corral. The lake is man made, as a dam was built in 1972 on the Juramento River. It has a surface of about 127 km2 (49 sq. mi.) and its water flows all the way to the Paraná River north of Buenos Aires.

The dam is 65 km from the city of Salta, captial of the province of Salta in Northwestern Argentina.

Jorge Santi, a diver of the Lake Division of the Salta Provincial Police, said that:
"There have been rumors about this for years. Some say that they have seen a reptile similar to a yacaré and others swear that they have seen a great snake moving with its head above the surface".

Nevertheless, a local named Roberto Eduardo Portal, says that "Cabralito" skeptically said that "'Cabralito' is nothing more than a family of otters who have lived in the lake for the last 30 years".

Below is the video (from Youtube) and the map showing the location of Cabra Corral dam.

The Video:

The Map:

View Larger Map

Since this may be my last post for 2011, I wish you all a very Happy New Year and an excellent 2012 (may the Mayan doomsday myth be proven wrong!).

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2011 International Year of Forests
2011 International Year of Forests Copyright 2009-2011 by Austin Whittall © 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Setting the Stingray Hypothesis straight

 Rewritten on 14 Dec. 2011.

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):

December 3

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 Patagonia
2011 International Year of Forests
2011 International Year of Forests Copyright 2009-2011 by Austin Whittall © 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gualicho & Kollon myths: based on Neanderthal?

toqui axe
Image of Mapuche “Lightning Stones” or “Toki Kurá”. From [8]

The late Rodolfo Casamiquela wrote his En pos del Gualicho (“In search of the Gualicho”) in between 1975 and 1984, and published it (Eudeba, Fondo Editorial Rionegrino) in 1988.

It is in his own words "...a continuous juxtaposition of new topics, that rose from the central theme... the thing gets complicated because both the original core and the addenda were corrected and interpolated more than once... over a period of ten years".

The book is quite complicated to read as it is a blend of interconnected topics, where Casamiquela jumps from one to the next, branches out along a path, and, once he gets back to the fork, then forgets to carry on with the original thread, leaving the reader waiting for more information! It includes many complex etymological comments on the Mapuche and Tehuelche languages, which explain some things but, regrettably obscure others. If you are not into Patagonian natives and their myths, you will surely fall asleep reading it!.


However it is an interesting source for those interested in the Patagonian evil creature "par excellence", the Gualicho. It is a pan-Patagonian myth, a monster, night creature, child kidnapper, a creature that had to be appeased so that it took its evil powers somewhere else.

From Patagonia the myth spread out through Southern Chile and the Pampas, borne on the hordes of Mapuche and Mapuche language speaking Puelches, into Buenos Aires and Uruguay. The myth still exists today and is a common household word (for instance: lovers are often said to be "engualichados" -bewitched) in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.

The actual word “Gualicho” is Mapuche but its origin can be traced to the Tehuelche language for it is actually a Tehuelche myth. There are several Tehuelche words for this monster. One of its many names is Ajchüm, another is Elëngassën. The Mapuche blended their own “monster myth” of Kollón with Gualicho.

This is a genuine Patagonian myth. But, what is this creature supposed to be?
In my book, I mention the myth, and note that it has two different personifications, one human-like, the other, an animal:

As described by Claraz and Moreno, the Elëngassën at Segunda Angostura, excluding its armadillo-like shell, had several human traits: it had the face of a man, it could vocalize and insult, furthermore, it could throw stones, something no glyptodon or any animal other than a human or a hominid could do. This was no glyptodon.
In addition, Moreno likens it to the Huitranalhue (see chapter V), which was a being described both as a man and as an animal. Mythical Carcancho also shares this dual human-animal nature. It is very probable that Elëngassën and several varieties of Carcancho were some sort of animal while Huitranalhue and the Segunda Angostura cave creature were some kind of wild man.

In today's post I will take some of the information given by Casamiquela in his book and focus on the "creature" behind the myth, the man-like creature (not the animal) and see if it sheds any light on a possible hominid origin for the myth.


Casamiquela, reports that his native Tehuelche informant, José Qulchamal, told him that the creature was also known as ósüne, meaning "the ugly one". Below is a transcription of Casamiquela's interview:

"He had a hide like a guanaco [guanaco = relative of the llama and vicuña] , stole children and was hunchbacked... He was not people, he may have looked like people, but he was not people... He, who robbed children, yes... He was a male ... /what was his shape? or, had he four or two paws?/ no, no, he did not have paws, he was the same as a person... a very unsociable person / why unsociable?/ Because he had lived in those cliffs over there ... he would throw stones at you... and I have heard that thing cry out. /So the Ajchüm would still be alive/ yes, still.... that man does not have clothes like we have, seems like he was, or carries leather, of guanaco hide /Ah, he has a thick hide?/ "A thick hide I do not know, but the same color as the guanaco. .. he took [the children] and of course, killed them..." [1]

Called Kollón by the Mapuche Carmen Nahueltripay, a mix of Tehuelche and Mapuche, she said that Kollón "was like people, very big... its face very long, it has hair, speaks like people but is not tame".[2]

Another native informant, Liboria Crespo said that "Kollón was the ancestor of the [Tehuelche] race" [2].

What is more, these creatures have lived until relatively recent time, another native, Margarita Manquilef, of Ramos Mexía, Río Negro Province, reported that "until recently there was an "kollón" couple living at Garacán lagoon, towards Somuncurá in the Tambelén, Tapiluque area of Río Negro. They could be seen on a mountain top, on the prairie, of stone, with a child on their shoulders. They lived in a cave. One died and its bones remained..."[2]

Mariano Huala, from Alto Río Senguerr, in Chubut province, said that "his body was the same as that of a Christian [i.e. a human being]. Only his skull and his face was different... bigger... he lived in the Andean Cordillera, in the highest places" [2]

What is it?

Let’s check its main features:
  • Man-like (“a person but not a person”)
  • A hunch-backed person
  • Lived in cliffs, in the highest mountains
  • Unsociable, stole children, mated (lived in pairs and carried child on shoulders)
  • Different face (longer) and skull
  • Hairy, wore a hide or its hair was like the fur of a guanaco (light brown, soft and fluffy).
  • Vocalized (nobody mentions “speaking”).
  • Threw stones
  • Ancestor of the Tehuelche people (a primitive human being?)

The interesting part is the stone axe. Which may be an Acheulean axe!

The axe

In a previous post I mention Felix Oute’s article which reported an Acheulean-style handaxe in Patagonia and hinted that it may be the work of pre-sapiens humans. In his book, Casamiquela mentions [3] a Tehuelche phrase regarding Gualicho: "tauk ka ülüngásüm a újüch". That is, the “Axe of the Gualicho”.

Casamiquela says that this "axe of the Kollón" is also known by its Mapuche name ("toki" = axe). He drops the thread there but mentions on pp. 24 that the creature “owns a certain stone “axe”, he makes no further refrence to stone axes beyond some remarks on the “engraved stones” (placas grabadas) on pp. 73, which are not axes but fragile pieces of slate, engraved with lines and drawings. Their real purpose is unknown.

So, it is quite likely that the Gualicho is a primitive human (either Neanderthal or even H. erectus, making stone tools and living in secluded areas.
What follows deals with the Mapuche stone axes, which in my opinion have nothing to do with the Gualicho myth and Casamiquela’s attempt to blend them is mistaken.

The Mapuche stone axe, Toki-Cura

The “toki” or “toqui” (both kinds of spelling are valid) is part of the Mapuche (the Chilean Mapuche) culture.

According to Diego de Rosales, who wrote one of the first History’s of Chile’s in the late 1600s, there was a Mapuche “official”known as the “General Toqui”, (who got his name from? Or gave it to? The “toqui” ceremonial axes. He wrote that:

General Toquis are justices and just like the Romans used to carry ahead of them some axes and staffs that they called faces et falaces, these [natives] carry as a symbol, some axes , not of iron but of flint, with a handle fixed to them, like the consular faces, symbols of their dignity” [7]

They were military authorities and used these axes in their councils with other General Toquis. The axes were ceremonial, made of black stone, sometimes meteorites were used for this purpose (having fallen from heaven they were supposedly divine and conferred power to its user). They have also been described as [6] “a polished sub-cylindric neolithic axe”.

1. By the way, [5] the Mapuche word toki, is taken as a possible link between the Polynesian cultures and the Mapuche, since the same word is used in Eastern Polynesian (Easter Island uses the word toki and the Hawaians ko’i pohaku) for “stone axe”. Coincidence or pre-Hispanic contacts?
2. The stone axe is also known as toquichen and Toqui curá (Curá is their word for “stone”) so it means “stone axe”.

There is also another name for the axe: Pillán Toqui, Pillán’s axe.

This last name is associated to their god Pillán, associated to volcanos and lightning / thunder, and is therefore very similar to the Roman god Jupiter and the Scandinavian Thor, both of which are linked to lightning.

Furthermore, the Mapuche axe is also known as “Lightining stone” and said to fall from the skies during storms (it also points at the “meteorite” stone used to make some of these axes). [6]

I am not implying that the Romans or Vikings transmitted their myths to the ancient Mapuches, I just want to point out how some beliefs appear in a recurrent manner over the years among different people.

Interestingly, an online source [8] says that “the lightning stones were NOT prehistoric axes but a product of nature. Lightning strikes and it penetrates the soil at high temperatures melting minerals on the way and dragging them to a considerable depth. These, when they cool down have the shape of an axe or a cone”. It mentions Darwin’s findings (read about it in his Beagle Voyage book) on a beach (in Uruguay) , of glass rods caused by lightning.


[1] Rodolfo Casamiquela, (1988). En pos del Gualicho. Eudeba, Fondo Editorial Rionegrino. pp. 84
[2] Op. Cit. pp.12-14
[3] Op.Cit. pp. 13
[4] Whittall, Austin. In print. Patagonian monsters : a guide to its giants, dwarves, lake creatures and mythical beasts Buenos Aires : Zagier & Urruty Publicaciones, 2011.
[5] Adolphe Wurm, Peter Mühlhäusler, Darrell T. Tryon, (1996). Atlas of languages of intercultural communication in the Pacific, Asia and the Americas. Walter de Gruyter, pp 1334.
[6] Oscar Barreto. (1996). Fenomenología de la religiosidad mapuche Editorial Abya Yala. pp 16.
[7] De Rosales Diego, (1674) Historia General del Reyno de Chilepp. 178 (Ed. 1877 Valparaiso)
[8] Tradición Espiritual Aborigen, Introducción de F. Schuon al libro
"La Pipa Sagrada" de Hehaka Sapa

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2011 International Year of Forests
2011 International Year of Forests Copyright 2009-2011 by Austin Whittall © 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Lake Epuyen a Lake Creature sighting

A few days ago I came across a comment posted on a blog entry about Nahuelito. The person who wrote it, is named Rocío (evidently a woman), who interestingly was initially skeptical but, is now a "believer" in Lake creatures.

See for yourself (I am quoting her comment from the above mentioned blog):

"Rocio said:
March 7, 2011 at 2:56 pm
I was born in Bariloche and I have spent nearly all my life in this beautiful place and have been lucky enough to navigate the Nahuel Huapi quite often.
I have never seen anything resembling the Cuero or Nahuelito. Furthermore I believe that there is an explanation for everything. That we ignore it is another matter.
But, I want to tell you that last weekend (Saturday 05-March-11) I saw something super incredible at Lake Epuyen (Chubut). It was very calm, not even one single wave, a lovely day. My friend and I felt as if somebody dived into the water on the coast opposite to us, then we both looked and saw two long [animal] backs, which could be seen on the surface and then submerged, creating waves that reached us.
Looking for an explanation, I wondered if they were not two scuba divers, but I dismissed the idea due to the large size they had. Now I do believe that there may be an unknown animal living in the Lake District.

Lake Epuyen is quite close to the lake where the famous Plesiosaur was said to have been sighted and which led to an expedition to hunt it back in 1922.

I posted on the Plesiosaur and included a map of lake Epuyen.


So what did Rocío see? Huemul live on the northern part of the lake. There is a Provincial Natural Reserve just there, to protect them. Huemul (an endangered native Patagonian deer) like to swim in the lakes (more on Swimming Huemul. A calm day is the best one to notice waves and the lack of wind can carry sound better so a deer jumping into the lake would have been heard across the lake. Once in the water, the animal's backs would be seen.

I can't explain the "submerged" part of her comment. The animals dived under water! and did not surface again.

Maybe the creature is not a Huemul. Perhaps it is an otter? But Rocío said they were big. Otters (huillín) are not so big. Less than 3 feet long.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2011 International Year of Forests
2011 International Year of Forests Copyright 2009-2011 by Austin Whittall © 

My big "fish" at Millaqueo Bay

lake Nahuel Huapi, Millaqueo Bay
Western Nahuel Huapi, Millaqueo Bay from Mount Campanario . Copyright © 2011 by Austin Whittall

This morning I was looking at the photographs taken during our recent trip to Bariloche, when we went up the chairlift to the summit of Mount Campanario, a solitary cone shaped mountain that lies on the southern shore of Lake Nahuel Huapi which is 1,030 m (3,377 ft.) high.

From the mountain top (which has a nice cozy restaurant where you can enjoy a hot chocolate laced with cognac!), the view is impressive. To the East, the city of Bariloche, 20 km away and beyond it, the Patagonian steppe and the eastern tip of Lake Nahuel Huapi.

To the North, the lake itself, majestic, with the forest covered hills that enclose it. Snow on the mountain tops as it is mid Spring. Far to the North, the peaks of the Andes that mark the border between Argentina and Chile. To the West, more mountains and a view of the Tristeza and Blest Arms of the lake. And, Behind us, to the South, Lake Moreno and the tall mountains (López, Capilla, Goye, Catedral -with its ski resort), and to the South East, the Otto and Ventana Mountains.

The forest, the deep blue lakes, the snow and clouds. A great scenery!
Anyway, one of the photos that we took, showed Millaqueo Bay. Behind it is Mount Millaqueo (1,800 m - 5,900 ft.) on the left, and Mount Vinagre (1,870 m - 6,131 ft.) and Colorado (1,900 m - 6,229 ft.) (center and right).

A large stream flows into the Bay's northern shore, Millaqueo Creek, this part of the bay is relatively flat and has a nice sandy beach. Its western shore is steep and forested.

map Millaqueo Bay
Map of Millaqueo Bay. Based on Google EArth maps

The "big fish" incident

I was fishing here with my father in the early 1970s, I think it was 1975. We used to bring our boat all the way from Buenos Aires to fish for trout, trolling the lake if the weather allowed us to.

It was a 4.5 m (14.75 ft.) fiberglass speedboat equipped with a 90 HP Chrysler outboard motor. We used to troll for hours, leaving home early in the morning, at sunrise and getting back by midday.

On this particular day we decided to fish along the lake's western coast in the area by Millaqueo. We had equipped our lines (we used two canes, on on each side of the boat) with a flatfish lure. We added a small lead-sheet weight wrapped round the tip of the line to sink the lure even deeper (without the weight the lures sank to a depth of about 1 m - 3 ft., with the lures weighed down, they sank to about 3 m - 9 ft.).

With this method we had caught some big (5 kg - 11 lbs.) brown trout! Which we smoked and ate the following winter.

This morning, we began trolling at the mouth of the lake's Blest Arm, parallel to the coast, about 50 yards from it, going north. When we reached the mouth of Millaqueo Stream, I got a tug on my line. (the map shows our course, in red).

The usual sign of a bite was that the line began to run out from the spool. We had adjusted the fishing-reel's brake to allow the line to be drawn out if a fish took the lure. My Dad stopped the engine and I started to reel the line in. The brake was skidding even though the boat had stopped dead. This "fish" was pulling the line out faster than I could reel it in!

I tightened the brake a little (a delicate balance the tightness issue, I had lost some fish because the line cut due to an over-tight brake) to slow the "fish" down and kept on reeling in as fast as I could. But the line kept on running from the spool until it came to an end, tensed, became more and more taught, and cut!
We used a 0.4 mm mono-filament nylon line, which could withstand fish weighing up to 11 kg (24 lb.) so we were quite surprised at what had happened.

We had fished in the Patagonian lakes for many years, caught dozens of trout of all kinds and sizes (many were returned unharmed to the water). But not once did we lose a fish because it took the whole line and then cut it! We had big reels with over 150 m (491 ft.) of nylon line in them.

What bit my lure and drew all the line is a mystery. It must have been a very big fish. Which, by the way did not jump out of the water, not even once. Rainbow trout, once they bit the lure, jumped out of the water. But this trout stayed submerged.

We often wondered what "fish" it could have been. I don't know. It was not an underwater snag as the lake is deep there, and a rock or tree would not have taken the line from my reel.

Who knows! I only hope that it wasn't a Patagonian otter (huillín), though we never saw one of them in the lake.

2011 and the "big fish"

The reason I wrote about the big fish 36 years later, is because, if you take a good look at the photo above, in the central part of the image, close to the northwestern shore, by the mouth of Millaqueo Stream, you will see an odd thing on the lake's surface. Below is the zoomed image:

ripple on lake
Detail showing "circular ripple" at Millaqueo Bay. Copyright © Austin Whittall 2011

The lake is perfectly calm except for this circular shaped ripple, which is quite big considering how far away it is from my observation point!.

Perhaps the "big fish" is still alive and kicking!

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2011 International Year of Forests
2011 International Year of Forests Copyright 2009-2011 by Austin Whittall © 

Sarmiento de Gamboa's UFO in Patagonia (1580)

Spanish explorer Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa recorded a strange incident during his voyage of exploration to the Strait of Magellan, it happened on the evening of Sunday, February 7, 1580.

(Sarmiento de Gamboa founded two ill fated colonies on the Strait of Magellan whose inhabitants starved to death, one became known as Port Famine. Only one settler survived to be rescued and taken to Lima).

He recorded the event in his journal and the original text is shown in the following image

UFO Sarmiento de Gamboa text
Sarmiento de Gamboa's Journal. From [1]

Below is my translation of the original Spanish text. My comments are in brackets “[ ]”:

"Tonight during the evening on the South East side, quarter towards the South [South south east] we saw a round thing, red as fire, like an oval shaped shield, rise; it climbed through the sky, perhaps on the wind. Above a tall mountain it extended [in time or in shape?] , and being as a tall spear upon the mountain, it became like a half moon, tinted between red and white. Its shapes were like these [2] [see fig. 4, in the plates]

The figure drawn in his journal is shown below:

UFO image by Sarmiento de Gamboa
The image of the UFO seen by Sarmiento de Gamboa. From [1]

What could it have been?

What was this U.F.O.? (not in the sense of an alien spacecraft, but as a natural phenomenon). A comet or an eclipse.

Well, there actually was a total moon eclipse with the full moon of Jan 31, 1580, at 21:36 U.T., which would be around 17:36 or 5:36 PM in the area close to Tierra del Fuego (Gamboa was close to the Strait's western mouth) and actually it was visible in that area (see map below).[1]

NASA info on 31 Jan 1582 lunar eclipse
The Lunar Eclipse of Jan. 31, 1580. By NASA. From [2]

Yes, I know, the dates are wrong, the eclipse happened on January 31st while Sarmiento wrote about something that happened on February 7th!

At first I thought that as Sarmiento’s diary was kept following the dates used back then, in 1579, which corresponded to the Julian calendar introduced by Julius Caesar, the eclipse could account for his sighting.

As you all know, the Julian calendar was out of phase with the real motion of the Earth by about 11 minutes every year. So when Easter began falling behind the “real” astronomical date, Pope Gregory XIII modified the calendar in 1582 to compensate for these 11 minutes per year difference. The Council of Nicea in 325 AD had done a minor adjustment, but by these 11 minutes a day added up to about 10 days in 1582. So in October 1582, the calendar was adjusted and October 15th followed October 4th. Many people wondered what happened to those 10 stolen from their lives!

But this cannot explain the eclipse. Because: 1) Julian Calendar is used to reflect astronomical events prior to 1582 and the NASA website [2] says the eclipse happened on January 31st.

¿Could Sarmiento have mistaken the dates?

By the way, the images seem to show a moon changing shape due to the Earth’s shadow flitting across it. The reddish color is also typical of lunar eclipses.
But we have one week difference!

The answer to my question is NO, he did not mistake the dates, in fact he saw and recorded the lunar eclipse in his journal:

"This Sunday there was a lunar eclipse; and though Sarmiento observed it and it was a clear night, and the Moon appeared in the East while the Sun set, and when it rose, it appeared round and totally un-eclipsed, but its redness and darkness that came over the sky as it showed itself above the Eastern horizon...." [1] pp. 184

So we can forget about the eclipse! I could not find any comets during that period either.

Perhaps some distant volcano’s eruption reflecting on a cloud blown by Patagonia’s wind?

A mystery, but I don’t think it can be due to an extraterrestrial alien craft.

Then again, the image in Sarmiento de Gamboa's journal looks like the Moon during Last Quarter, and, on February 8th that was precisely the Moon's phase. Could a volcanic eruption have caused the Moon to appear red? This is quite a common phenomenon, "blood red" Moon due to volcanic ash in the air (I have seen it due to Puyehue Volcano's recent eruption).


[1] Sarmiento de Gamboa, P., (1768). Viaje al Estrecho de Magallanes por el Capitán Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa en los años de 1579 y 1580… Madrid: Imprenta Real de la Gazeta. Pp 205 and plates.
[2] NASA. Phases of the Moon: 1501 to 1600

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2011 International Year of Forests
2011 International Year of Forests Copyright 2009-2011 by Austin Whittall © 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Dr. Wolff and the "tertiary skull"

The prestigious journal Nature published [1] an interesting comment in the 1920s, which I quote in full below. It deals with a skull of alleged tertiary age which turned out to be a lusus naturae, a freak of nature, a stone shaped like a skull:

"In our issue of March 10, 1923, p. 336, we referred to a number of telegrams which had appeared in the daily Press reporting the discovery of a so-called fossilised human skull of Tertiary age in Patagonia.
At the time, we urged the need of caution in accepting such reports. Dr. Imbelloni has contributed to the Revista de la Universidad de Buenos Aires, t. li., under the title "Nota sobre los supuestos descubrimientos del Doctor J. G. Wolff en Patagonia" what may be regarded as teh final chaper in the history of hte alleged discovery. His object is to place the facts on record and at the same time to clear Argentine men of science of any suspicion of having lent support to the view that the find was genuine and of a high antiquity.
Dr. Imbelloni's account, which is written with an acid humor, makes it clear that the report was received from the first with scepticism. As soon as Dr. Eric Boman and others had an opportunity of cross-examining Dr. Wolff, they arrived at the opinion that the specimen was not a skull at all. It was not, however, available for examination. When it reached Buenos Aiers in May, it was immediately examined by a commission consisting of Dr. Boman, Dr. S. R. Dabbene, Dr. R. Lehmann-Nitsche, Prof. F. F. Outes, Dr. V. Vidakovitch, and the author, and it was at once pronounced to be a block of sandstone
". [1]

This Dr. Wolff (others write it Wolfe) and the skull were mentioned by Riggs during his 1923 paleontological expedition to Patagonia. Riggs he had the misfortune of meeting Wolff and believing him: [2]

...a certain J. G. Wolfe introduced himself and offered his services to the expedition. Wolfe claimed to have been a museum curator in Rio Gallegos and to have held a commission in the Argentine army. But what aroused Riggs' interest, more than his credentials, was Wolfe's description of a "Tertiary human skull [...] They set out for El Paso de Santa Cruz, [currently this place is the town of Luis Piedrabuena, close to the mouth of the Santa Cruz River] the settlement where the skull had apparently been found. The proprietor of a local hostelry recalled that the skull had first attracted notice about 1916 and had been discovered in a roadbed near town. The first person to suspect that it might be of scientific value was said to have been an English nurse, a Mrs. Vendrino, who had worked in the area for some years. She obtained custody of the skull and it was in her possession when Wolfe had examined it earlier.
In El Paso de Santa Cruz, Riggs— who was becoming increasingly suspicious of the alleged skull— was told that Mrs. Vendrino had recently "gone mad" and had been taken to Buenos Aires for treatment. She had taken her treasured, 22-pound skull along as a trophy. Eventually, Riggs was able to track down the "skull," and his suspicions were confirmed: it was just a very curious stone, with a remarkable humanoid shape.
" [2]

Riggs later described Wolff or Wolfe as follows:

"He betrays no evidence of scientific training, [and]
is particularly lacking in ability to recognize and interpret natural objects and to derive data from them. His method ... has been to get theories from reading and then to cast about for some object to fit into the theory. ... Dr. Wolfe
has impressed us as an enthusiast with a wanderlust and no purpose beyond gratifying it. He studied law ... but found that profession too tame and colorless to suit his fancy. He ... apparently wrote extravagant stories in order to sell them. He is already, so he says, under fire of criticism of a leading scientist in Buenos Aires.
" [2]

Bear this in mind, because Wolff also discovered an ancient city in the heart of Patagonia, but I will deal with that in another post.

Unfortunately I have not been able to read Imbelloni's paper on the sandstone skull or seen any photographs of it. Why would everybody think that it was a fossil skull? was it disregarded because of Wolff's extravagant nature? or because prejudice veiled the reason of the scientists that inspected the "skull".


[1] Nature 113. 58-60 (12 Jan. 1924) News. Current Topics and Events.
[2] Larry G. Marshal, 1978. Adventures in Patagonia. Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin. March 1978 Vol 49 No. 3. pp 4+

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2011 International Year of Forests
2011 International Year of Forests Copyright 2009-2011 by Austin Whittall © 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Yeti nests


View Larger Map
Map showing Kemerovo. Altai is between it and Urumqi.

Recently, I have been following some articles online regarding the Siberian Yeti. I am skeptical about this particular Yeti, but I want to share it with my readers.

Siberia is quite far from Patagonia yet both places share some common features which may link any hominids in one place with those in the other:

  • Empty spaces - not crowded with human beings
  • A relatively unpolluted and natural environment
  • A similar environment: mountains, forests, lakes and steppes
  • Myths regarding ape-men
  • Similar people (Central Siberia is the alleged home of the native American people) - perhaps similar myths?

As Siberia is the home of Denisovans and Neanderthals also lived in Western-Central Asia, it is the likely source of American hominid cryptids.

Well, an online article published in the Daily Mail's November 15, 2011 edition, mentions "Yeti 'nests'".

The intertwined saplings shown in the photographs seem to be flimsy evidence and the footprint in the ice may be "man made". Personally I tend to believe that the authorities at Kemerovo Region are fishing for tourists interested in sighting the Yeti and promoting their region as a Yeti haven. (see my Oct. 2010 post about Cryptids and Tourism which mentions Russian Yetis.

On the other hand, as you can see in the map above or int the map of Kemerovo published in the article, that it is very close to Altai (where Russia, Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan meet), home of Denisovans.

They have also found some tufts of hair. Lets wait for the DNA tests to reveal who they belong to.

Well, that is all for now!

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2011 International Year of Forests
2011 International Year of Forests Copyright 2009-2011 by Austin Whittall © 

2012 International Year of Sustainable Energy for All

Sustainable Energy For All 2012 logo

Forget the horrid Maya Apocalypse omens, 2012 is not going to be a bad year (if the global economy stays on track!), actually, next year is the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All (official Sustainable Energy For All website).

A great cause, sustainable energy, let's wake up now, while there is still time to revert Climate Change and reduce Greenhouse Gases. Otherwise start buying your tickets now to see Patagonia's Continental Ice Sheets and glaciers before they melt (until the next Ice Age). Let's preserve Nahuelito's ecosystem!

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2011 International Year of Forests
2011 International Year of Forests Copyright 2009-2011 by Austin Whittall © 

Neanderthal Tools in Patagonia

Acheulean Patagonian tools
Acheulean Tools in Patagonia. From [1] Outes

In the early 1900s, Patagonia was still an unknown place, which held (it still does, one century later!) many unsolved mysteries. Furthermore, conflicting theories about the origin of human beings were confronted and one of their battle grounds was Patagonia.

Florentino Ameghino and Francisco Moreno, though implacable enemies, defended an American origin of mankind. Papers written at that time in Argentina, supported this idea.

It is refreshing to find one that dares to voice an opposing point of view, one written by Felix Outes.[1] (who published it in Ameghino's Museum's magazine), in which he analyses Patagonia's "stone age"

No ancient dolichocephalics!

He believed that the people of Patagonia were not autocthonous, yet he cautiously added:

I believe that in those territories there has been a substratum, which has certainly been well defined, of a paleolithic type, whose osteological [bones] remains are still unknown to us, but whose primitive industry I will describe [later]” [1].

So it seems that he thought that Patagonia held, concealed in its vast empty spaces, the remains of ancient humans who were the authors of the Acheulean tools he found there. By the way, one of these stone tools is shown above, and was found in Santa Cruz province, at San Julián, and is 155 mm high, 102 mm wide and 31 mm thick (6.1 x 4.0 x 1.22 in.).

Acheulean tools are a very primitive variety of stone instruments which were the work of our more distant relatives, Neanderthals, Homo erectus, H. ergaster, etc. They were later replaced by more advanced lithic industries. Though, archaic modern humans did use later, more advanced kinds of Acheulean tools.

The interesting thing, from my point of view is that the Patagonian Acheulean tools do point at some “archaic” humans or Neanderthals in the region.

Outes then goes on to state that (Moreno’s) dolichocephalic people and the modern natives with brachicephalic skulls, were contemporary, the former never entered the heart of Patagonia beyond 41° S, and stopped on the shores of the Negro River, while the latter reached the Strait of Magellan and Tierra del Fuego.

He also says that “I believe that it is a mistake to consider as exaggeratedly ancient those dolichocephalic skulls that have been found until now. The long skulled peoples, I have reasons to believe this, still existed in large numbers at the historical time of the Spanish Conquest, not only on the Negro River, but also in the south of the province of Buenos Aires, and even in Entre Ríos province...

And once again stated that the “Quaternary Patagonian man has not yet been discovered (rebuffing Moreno's "ancient" Patagons with dolichocephalic crania). 106 years later they still haven't been found (or, I would say, they haven't even been "looked for" by Argentina's poorly funded scientists).

Outes closed his article concluding that the “Patagonian Paleolithic industry compared to the European, has a great similarity in shapes, etc., with the one that defines the Acheulean period according to Mr. Mortillet’s classification and corresponds to the Chelleo-Mousterian transition period ...”

He then added that this lithic technology is found in Patagonia in “undoubtedly more modern geologic formations than those in which their European counterparts are found” believing that this is due to the backwardness of the human groups that inhabited the southern tip of America.

A Typical mindset of those bigoted -not to say racist- days (classing people as primitive or advanced).

An intriguing thought... Could the relatively modern sites with Acheulean tools be due to a contemporary survival of ancient human groups in Patagonia? That is, they did not reflect "primitive" modern humans but Neanderthals with their traditional Acheulean technology?


[1] Oütes, Félix F., (1905). La edad de la piedra en Patagonia. Estudio de arqueología comparada. Anales del Museo Nacional de Buenos Aires. Serie III. Tomo V. Buenos Aires, A. Alsina Impr. Aug. 10, 1905. Pp. 203.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2011 International Year of Forests
2011 International Year of Forests Copyright 2009-2011 by Austin Whittall © 

Moreno and the American Neanderthaloids

In 1880, Argentine scientist and explorer Francisco Pascasio Moreno disclosed in a series of conferences [3] he gave in Europe, his discovery of two new skulls, one was quite recent but the other was very peculiar and belonged to:

"a race represented by a neanderthaloid type, similar to the Botocudos [...] with a very pronounced flattening of the skull [3]

These Botocudos (from the Portuguese word Botoque - plug, due to the wooden disks they place in their ear lobes and lips), were deemed at that time to be primitive, and they also had dolichocephalic skulls (also a supposedly "ancient" feature).

Moreno's skull had been found close to the Negro River, in Northern Patagonia, at a depth of four meters [13 ft.] in association with the remains of large extinct mammals. After Moreno's lecture at the Société d'Anthropologie, Topinard, who had attended the session, openly suggested that "...that skull was the South American equivalent of the Neanderthal".[1]

An American origin for Neanderthals?

Paul Topinard (1830-1911), Broca's chief disciple, pointed out that ths skulls of both Neanderthals and primitive Paleo-Indians were dolichocephalic, with receeding foreheads and prominent brow ridges. Broca and Topinard supported the notion that the dolichocephalic skulls were ancient while brachicephalic skulls were a trait common to "modern" humans. Moreno's findings tended to support this idea.

Topinard suggested that "It makes us ask wether Neanderthal is not accidental in Europe during the Quaternary Period, and his real homeland is Southern South America" [2] Therefore upholding an American origin for Neanderthals. I believe that he was the first to suggest this idea.

He also believed that the Tehuelche were the remnants of this autocthonous human group, originated in America. German doctor, Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902), had the same ideas, however Italo-Argentine scientist Florentino Ameghino (1854-1911) believed that Moreno's skulls belonged to an extinct dolichocephalic group of humans, unrelated to modern Tehuelche natives which had been displaced and replaced by brachicephalic modern men.

The similarities between Moreno's skull and the remains found in Brazil, at Lagoa Santa, Brazil, by Lund between 1835 and 1844 led some scientists in the 1880s to believe that these belonged to a native American race, and an "OOA" (Out Of America) theory for the peopling of the world, very emphatically supported by Ameghino, but (even until today) opposed by the North American school led by Czech scientist Ales Hrdlicka (1869-1943) who attacked anyone who dared to suggest an autocthonous origin of humans.


[1] Leonardo Salgado, Pedro Navarro and Pablo Azar. Antiguos Craneos humanos de Patagonia: Observaciones sobre el significado evolutivo del "indice cefálico" en la literatura científica Argentina (1870-1915). ILUIL, vol 27, 2004 - 769-790.
[2] July, 1 1880, Session. Bulletin de la Société d’Anthropologie, Paris, pp. 490.
[3] Moreno, Francisco, (1880). Sur deux crânes préhistoriques rapportés du Rio Negro Bulletin de la Société d’Anthropologie, Paris, June 15, 1880, p.p 490-497.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2011 International Year of Forests
2011 International Year of Forests Copyright 2009-2011 by Austin Whittall © 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Culebrón in Neuquén, Lake Polcahue

During our recent four day vacation in San Carlos de Bariloche, we stopped by our favorite bookstore to take a peek at what was for sale (they sell second hand books as well as new ones, and they have a wide range of books on my beloved topic: Patagonia).

I managed to buy three jewels. Two old ones:
  • Gregorio Alvarez's El Tronco de Oro, Ediciones Corregidor, 1994.
  • Rodolfo Casamiquela's En pos del Gualicho, Fondo Editorial Rionegrino - EUDEBA, 1988.
And a new one on Rio Negro province's place names: R. Casamiquela (1998), Estudios de la Toponimia Indígena de la Provincia de Río Negro. Ed. del Autor.

The first two are especially interesting since they mention some cryptids. The second one focuses on the Ellengassen monster, also known as Gualicho.

But today I will mention something I found in Alvarez´s book, the Culebrón a snake-like aquatic creature.

On page 247 Alvarez wrote:

At lake Polcahue there is a culebón whose body must be about one meter [3.3 ft.] thick. It appeared after a herd that had rushed to the frozen lake to drink, sank in it. This lake is located close to China Muerta, in a place known as Pulmary. The locals say that Mr. César Fosbery saw it. [1]

Mr. C. Fosbery was a local pioneer (1898-1976)[2]. The name of the lake has two possible meanings:

Polcahue: Deformation of pulcu, a native alcoholic beverage and hue = place. So, it means "Place where there is pulcu". Alternatively, it may derive from "Polca = slippery. Hence: "Slippery place".[3]

You can see the lake at this link leading to Google maps or, at another scale below:

View Larger Map

The lake drains towards the east through the Arroyo China Muerta (China Muerta Creek) by the way this name (China Muerta) means "Dead" [Muerta] and "Native woman" [China]. Yes, China means Chinese in Spanish, but in the local Pampean and Patagonian dialect it means a native American woman (due to the oriental appearance of the American indians).

This stream drains into the Aluminé River, which flows from Lake Aluminé (to the north of Polcahue). Aluminé River flows throguh the Collón Curá River into the Limay River, and then into the Negro River and into the Atlantic Ocean.

Close by (south) is Lake Quillén with its Cuero lake creature.

Important. The bookstore is: La Barca Libros Usados, on Mitre street, 534. San Carlos de Bariloche.

[1] Gregorio Alvarez's El Tronco de Oro, Ediciones Corregidor, 1994.
[2] Fosbery Cesar Family tree.
[3] Juan Perón Toponimia Patagónica de Etimología Araucana, pp. 42.
Yes, the (in)famous former President 1946-1951(and then dictator 1951-1955, exile 1955-1972 and again President 1973-1974) of Argentina, whose wife was Eva Perón, (better known as Evita of musical fame). He left us his last wife as Vice President, who upon his death in office on 01.Jul.1974, swore in as President. Her job qualifications were poor (former cabaret dancer) so she lost the grip on things, and one tragedy followed another until on 24.March.1976 the military took over and ran the country until 1983. In the meantime they did horrendous things (disappearing people, torturing women, giving away the babies of people held in custody. Genocides and murderers). So yes, I do blame Perón for his ill choice of his running mate! He could have chosen someone with experience, but no, he left us his cabaret dancer wife "Isabelita" (yes, she even had a "nom de guerre") María Estela Martínez de Perón.
Enough history for today. It makes you wonder who are the real Monsters.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2011 International Year of Forests
2011 International Year of Forests Copyright 2009-2011 by Austin Whittall © 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My photos of "Nahuelito"

In a recent post I wrote that during my trip to Bariloche I had taken some photographs of a strange thing in Lake Nahuel Huapi.

The sequence is shown below, the first photo shows the view, looking North,from the summit of Cerro (Mount) Campanario, a solitary mountain 1.050 m high (3,442 ft.), which gives a great 360° view of the Lake and its southeastern coast. It is located 17 km (10.6 mi.) from Bariloche and 3 km (2 mi) from my family's cabin. We took a walk on Oct. 8, and rode up the mountain on a chairlift. The day was lovely, slightly cloudy, not windy and sunny. The lake was calm and the view great.

We looked at the lake and the scenery and took some pictures. Then I saw what I thought was a boat on the lake, close to Huemul Peninsula, between it and Victoria Island. It stood out as a dark dot on the calm lake which moved slowly, too slowly for a boat. I took several photographs (numbered 1 to 4). Now, looking at them, they seem to show a rippled lake surface which reflects the mountains in the back, hence the dark reflection on the lake surface. It was not a boat, it was the reflected forest.

However, photo 5 shows something else (clearly seen in photo 5 and its zoom):

It is a minute dot, a triangular shaped dark object towards the right of the central part of the photo. It is seen in photo 6 and then it is gone, it does not appear in the remaining photos.

Options: Possible explanations and my estimated probability.

1. Another reflection of the mountains... 95%
2. Some sort of wave... 5%
3. Nahuelito surfacing... 0%

Sorry, but I am a skeptic, even if I see it myself. Perhaps, if I had taken my binoculars I could have seen it better and been able to give a better explanation.

nahuelito sequence

The detailed photos are these:
Photo 1: General view of the area, the remaining photos concentrate on the region within the red circle.

nahuelito sequence
Photo 2:
nahuelito sequence
Photo 3:
nahuelito sequence
Photo 4:
nahuelito sequence

Photo5: "Nahuelito" is the tiny dot, a small dark "wedge" on the central right part of the image.
nahuelito sequence
Zoom on Photo 5:
nahuelito sequence
Photo 6:
nahuelito sequence
Photo 7:
nahuelito sequence
Photo 8:
nahuelito sequence

If you want a copy of any of these photos, I can send you the originals.
The original high definition photo 5 is below:
nahuelito sequence

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2011 International Year of Forests
2011 International Year of Forests Copyright 2009-2011 by Austin Whittall © 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

100,000 hits! and Nahuelito

Well, today is quite a day!, I have just checked the counter at the foot of the page and noticed that we have had more than one hundred thousand hits!

Thank you all for visiting this blog and reading what I have written. I am flattered and honored.

Volcano and ashes
By the way, I was in Bariloche (Lake Nahuel Huapi) with my wife and son, we went there for a few days as it was a long weekend here in Argentina (Columbus Day moved back to Monday 10th).

It was interesting because a volcano close to Bariloche has been erupting for several months now (our flight took us 3/4 of the way to Bariloche and we had to take a bus to cover the remaining 450 km) it is Puyehue Volcano, in Chile. My family's cabin, in the forest, was sprinkled with a talc-like ash and the whole garden and the area where the excess volcanic ash slid off the roof was covered with (I call it sand) volcanic ash. Between 5 and 10 cm (2 to 4 in.) covered the garden, pathways, roads. On Sunday the volcanic plume blew southeast and blanketed Bariloche. Amazing.

Nahuelito or a mirage?

By the way, I will post some pictures and an interesting set I took from the top of Cerro Campanario (a mountain whose Spanish name means belfry and which stands up, alone, above the lake close to our cabin) in it you can see a strange dark shape in the lake which vanished after a few minutes... Nahuelito? I don't think so, but it is a clear example of the strange things that can be seen (though, I had never seen something like that in the 40 years that I have spent gazing at Nahuel Huapi).

A preview:

nahuel huapi lake creature

detail of Nahuelito

The first image, above, shows a view looking north, across the narrow part of the lake, the circle is enlarged in the bottom image. It shows a dark shape floating in the lake, it later disappeared.

More photos and details in my next post.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2011 International Year of Forests
2011 International Year of Forests Copyright 2009-2011 by Austin Whittall © 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Pleistocene Coalition

The Pleistocene Coalition is a very interesting site and resource for those who are looking for another point of view regarding Prehistoric issues.

They are not afraid to challenge the orthodox status quo which tends to disregard anything that does not fit in with the neat model that "orthodox" scientists have built over the last century.

Check out their website and browse their "Pleistocene Coalition News" newsletter. It is very interesting:

In my next posts I will continue with the Neanderthals in America subject.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2011 International Year of Forests
2011 International Year of Forests Copyright 2009-2011 by Austin Whittall © 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Neanderthal - Human admixture

In America there are (according to the orthodox point of view) no Neanderthals, and there have never been any either. Neanderthals are Eurasian creatures. Yet, Amerindians have very high frequencies of haplogroups that are allegedly Neanderthal; some are even higher than many Old World groups. Some examples: the X chromosome’s B006, HLA-A*02 and HLA-C*07:02 among others. How can this be?

Furthermore, modern humans, Homo sapiens (HS) and Neanderthals (NH) do not share any mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) , we do not have any (NH) Y chromosomes in our genome but we do carry other kinds of (NH) DNA.

Today's post will begin to explain these odd situations, but first lets brush up on our genetic knowledge:

DNA, mtDNA, X, Y, genes, haplogroups, SNPs and chromosomes

Nuclear DNA. Is the chemical structure that encodes the information needed to build a living creature. It is made up of a double helix of Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) linked by four bases or nucleotides: adenine (abbreviated A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T). It is “nuclear” because it is found inside the nucleus of each cell in your body. It is inherited from both parents. These nucleotides (“DNA letters”) are arranged in “sequences”

Gene. It is a working subunit of DNA. Chunks of DNA (and RNA) that code a certain protein. There is a certain amount of reshuffling of genes in chromosomes.

Chromosome. The DNA molecules are packed, wound up, into minute structures known as chromosomes. Every cell in your body has two sets of chromosomes. You inherit one set from your mother and one set from your father. Each set has 23 chromosomes (total is 46). Of these, 22 are known as autosomes and 1 is a sex chromosome. Women have two X sex chromosomes, (XX) and men have an X and a Y sex chromosome (XY). The Y is transmitted from fathers to sons, who get their X sex chromosome from their moms. Girls get an X from each parent.

mtDNA, or Mitochondrial DNA is the specific DNA that small organelles called mitochondrion. These apparently were, eons ago, aerobic bacteria that established a symbiotic relationship with an anaerobic cell, taking up “food” inside the cell and providing it with energy. It lost its independent life, but retained its own DNA, which is not a double helix, but a circular shaped molecule. Although all cells in our bodies have mtDNA, you inherit yours from your mother, because it is her ovum or egg cell’s mitochondrion that passes on to you. Your dad’s sperm cells mitochondria remain outside the ovum, inside the flagellum (tail), and is discarded.

SNP , (pronounced “snip”), is a genetic variation in the DNA sequence in which one single nucleotide (i.e. A, T, C, or G) is modified and, kept through heredity. Let’s give an example: as you can see in the following three DNA sequences, there are variations in the second, fifth and ninth nucleotide. Each of these variations is a SNP, hence we name them SNP1, SNP2 and SNP3.

ACTTTGCTC    Haplotype 1 C  T  C
ACTTAGCTT    Haplotype 2 C  A  T
AATTTGCTC    Haplotype 3 A  T  C


Haplotype, is a set of linked SNPs on the same chromosome

Haplogroup : A group which contains all the direct descendants of a single person (man or woman) who had, and passed-on a specific genetic marker (i.e. SNP) or mutation.

Getting the Neanderthal genes into modern humans
How did we, modern humans get the Neanderthal genes into our chromosomes in the first place? Yes, I do believe that there was sex involved, but whom with whom? And what was the outcome?

We can imagine groups of HS and NH living in overlapping territories and coming together occasionally perhaps for trade or to exchange articles. We can also envisage violent encounters with males killing males and raping the females. A more “romantic” setting would have a “one-night-stand” tryst during a get together around a camp site bonfire. The fact is that modern human beings and Neanderthals mated and had viable offspring (that carried the genes of NH parents in their bodies and managed to pass them on to their descendants so that it is still there, within our genes).

Lack of NH mtDNA. Mitochondrial DNA is passed on from mother to child. So if there were any Neanderthal mtDNA in humans, it could only have come from an ancestral Neanderthal woman. To survive until our days, since mtDNA is only transmitted by females, a continuous line of mother-daughters (who’s original “mom” was a Neanderthal woman), would have to span the 30,000 years that separate the last living Neanderthals from us.

However no Neanderthal mtDNA is found in humans, a paper [3] states that:

they estimate the maximum amount of admixture possible to observe no surviving Neanderthal mtDNA to be less than 0.1%, with no more than 120 admixture events during 12,000 years of overlap.[3]

In other words, one sexual encounter between a modern human man and a Neanderthal woman every century. Not very high frequency is it?

Anyway, since nowadays there is no Neanderthal mtDNA in HS, we can conclude that mating between HS men and NH women (was as limited as indicated by [3] : once every hundred years) or, if more frequent, it did not lead to a continuous lineage of hybrid N/HS women.

Possible explanations: (besides the “once a century” mating ratio), perhaps these trysts between HS and NH were few and far apart, and their outcome could have been sterile or they died without issue, in any case, they did not manage to survive long enough to pass on their genes to the next generations. Or if they did, these “generations” died out along the way, and the NH mtDNA died with them.
Or, since babies are brought up by their mothers (picture it: a HS male rapes or seduces a NH female and goes his way, with his HS clan. She gets pregnant and father is gone. So she brings up her HS/N hybrid son or daughter within her Neanderthal tribe or culture. The hybrid lives and has children and grandchildren, but the NH mtDNA, will stay within the Neanderthal tribe and will eventually die out with all the other Neanderthals, when these became extinct.
A male HS and a female NH breeding would therefore produce an admixture:

  • HS/N Hybrid boys: HS Y sex chromosome and NH X chromosome. NH mtDNA. Half of the autosomal DNA would be human, and the other half N.
  • HS/N Hybrid girls: HS X sec chromosome from father. NH mtDNA from mother, half the autosomal DNA from each parent, and NH X chromosome from mother.

DNA, the nuclear stuff
On the other hand, if Neanderthal men got human women pregnant, they would not pass on any NH mtDNA (the children would have their human mom’s mtDNA). But, the Neander-Dad would pass on his nuclear DNA . So, Man (N) and Woman (HS) would be a viable route to get Neanderthal DNA into our Homo sapiens cells.
This explains why we have Neander DNA (autosome chromosomes).

But there is more to it, we have not detected any Neanderthal Y (sex chromosome) in modern humans. A Man (N) would have passed his Y (N) chromosome to his sons, and they to theirs, forming a continuous lineage linking modern humans with NH Y chromosomes with their ancient NH relative 30 kya. So, why don’t we detect Y (N) in our modern humanDNA?

A 2006 paper found that the Neanderthal Y chromosome was “substantially more different from human and chimp Y chromosomes than are other chromosomes. This suggests that little interbreeding occurred, at least among the more recent Neanderthal species”[1].

But, even if there was little interbreeding, their “Y” chromosome should be present in modern humans together with their autosome chromosomes (snippets of which are part of our genes).

Why are there no NH Y chromosomes in the human genome?
One option is that all the male descendants of the original Neanderthal fathers died out (and their hallmark Y chromosomes with them).

Another option is given by Haldane’s law [2] which states that:

When in the offspring of two different animal species one sex is absent, rare or sterile, that sex is the heterozygous sex

Heterozygous sex meaning the offspring with two different sex chromosomes: XY, that is, the male. In plain english Haldane is saying that a male (N) and a female (HS) would have had more daughters than sons (boys would be rare). These few, if any (absent) boys would be carrying their Neanderthal father’s Y (N) chromosome and, they would be very probably sterile and therefore did not have children and could not pass on their Y chromosome to their sons.

The hybrid daughters on the other hand would be healthy girls (being homozygous, and having the same kind of sex chromosomes: XX). They would also have received half of their autosomal DNA and the NH X sex chromosome from their Neanderthal father and half of their autosomal DNA and their other X sex chromosome from their human mother, and, not being sterile, they would have passed them both on to their offspring . This is how we got the (N) autosomal DNA and the NH X sex chromosome into our genes.

Furthermore, the human mother would bring up her hybrid child within her HS group, which survived (well, most of them did) until today.


The only viable way of getting NH X sex chromosomes and their DNA sequences into our genes is if a HS woman and a NH man mated and had children. They would all have their mothers mtDNA and a 50/50 mix of NH and HS autosome chromosomes, their mom’s HS X chromosome and dad’s NH X chromosome.

The image below shows the possible outcome of a male NH and a female HS:
We represent the sex chromosomes XX for the women and XY for the men.
Regarding the original couple, in red are both NH chromosomes, a Xn that he will pass on to his daughters, and a Yn that will be inherited by his sons (who due to Haldane’s Rule will be few, absent or sterile), who won’t pass it on. The HS mom is shown as X1 X2. All descendants from this admixture will have the HS mom’s mtDNA (represented by a pale blue square placed under her). The NH mtDNA (pink square under dad) is lost and not passed on.
Neanderthal Human linage
All possible offspring of a Neanderthal - Homo Sapiens mating.
Copyright © 2011 by Austin Whittall

The two possible combinations of X chromosomes (NH and HS) are women. And both of these daughters carry mom’s mtDNA. They will marry HS spouses and pass on their mtDNA to all their children. As you can see, the females of the line (mother – daughter) will all carry the mtDNA of the first woman to mate with a Neanderthal. The boys on the other hand will have children but their mtDNA will be the one of their mothers (i.e. the orange square). Nevertheless, the Xn has an equal probability of getting transmitted along to the next generations.
As this happened when Humans and Neanderthal met, the window of occurrence is the time both NH and HS overlapped in the same habitat, it is the most likely way for Neanderthal males to come upon modern human women. But Where?

Was it in the original Neanderthal territory in Europe? In the Middle East? In Southwestern Asia? In Altai? Or (assuming that Neanderthals migrated into America), in America?

In my post Neanderthals in America some genetic proof I mentioned the B006 allele and O blood groups as a possible sign of Neanderthal presence in America. Are there other alleles belonging to Neanderthals and found in modern humans ( a sure sign of admixture)? Can we trace their source?

More markers of admixture, HLAs

A paper by Peter Parham [4] reports that a variety of Human leukoctyte antigens (HLAs) which help our immune system, such as the HLA-C*0702, quite common among Europeans and Asians but not found in Africa was also found in Neanderthal. The HLA-A*11 is shared by modern humans in Asia and... Denisovans, but it is nonexistent in Africa.

Parham suggests that HLA-C*0702 got into HS outside of Africa (hence its absence in Africa) by admixture with NH. And the same happened with HLA-A*11 (Denisovans bred with HS). As we were newcomers, these HLAs boosted our immune system to fight off illness (Denisovans and NH had evolved them over hundreds of thousands of years). Parham estimates that:

While only 6 per cent of the non-African modern human genome comes from other hominins, the share of HLAs acquired during interbreeding is much higher. Half of European HLA-A alleles come from other hominins, says Parham, and that figure rises to 72 per cent for people in China, and over 90 per cent for those in Papua New Guinea.[4]

The difference may be due to the hotter climate of the south having more diseases than the colder northern regions (i.e. Europe).

Where are these alleles found today: The maps below From [5] and [6] give a clear idea:

HLA in humans

HLA in Humans
Some HLAs purportedly Neanderthal, found in modern humans: current distribution.
Maps From [5] and [6]

The post is getting long, but as you can see, the A*11 is very high in Papua New Guinea, China, South East Asia, and Southern Asia. C*07:02 is high in the same regions plus Scandinavia and Very high in America.

Another paper by Abi-Rached [6], which we will delve in deeper in another post, comments about Neanderthal admixture as follows:

Thus, Neandertal admixture contributed B*07, B*51, C*07:02, and C*16:02-bearing haplotypes to modern humans, and was likely the sole source of these allele groups[6]

More in my next post...


[1] Rex Dalton, (2006). Neanderthal DNA yields to genome foray. News. Nature 441, 260-261 (18 May 2006) | doi:10.1038/441260b.
[2] Haldane, J. B. S., (1922). Sex-ratio and unisexual sterility in hybrid animals. J. Genet. 12:101-109
[3] Jason A Hodgson and Todd R Disotell, (2008) No evidence of a Neanderthal contribution to modern human diversity, Genome Biology 2008, 9:206 doi:10.1186/gb-2008-9-2-206
[4] Peter Parham, (2011) Primate-specific evolution of NK cell receptor recognition of MHC class I June 2011.
[5] Map source:
[6] Abi-Rached, et al. (2011). The Shaping of Modern Human Immune Systems by Multiregional Admixture with Archaic Humans Science 25 August 2011: 1209202DOI:10.1126/science.1209202

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
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