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

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 © 


  1. Hello Austin!
    By now you should know that I had nothing to do with the wording of the statement by The Anomalist and I certainly did not mean for them to put things the way that they did. What I had done was to reprint one of the CFZ blogs in connection to the Rio Parana stingray capture and included your statement as on the original blog. You should know that I was misquted as well and the emphasis of my meaning shifted away from what I had intended to say.

    In no way did I intend to slight you or this splendid site of youurs and I posted a note mentioning the high esteem I hold you in recently.

    The connection I have to the Anomalist is that they kindly post my links for me. I do not write their copy for them.

    Please email me if you have any further concerns: if necessary I shall print a retraction on my blog for any misunderstandings arising from it.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  2. Now as to MY share of "setting the record straight":
    My first internet-published version of the theory was in fall of 2006. I had previously sent the document to CFZ head Jon Downes for publication in the CFZ yearbook, a publication I finally got in January 2010 as part of a much longer article. In this I not only indicated that my belief was that the Cuero was a freshwater stingray, but that it was probably identical to a freshwater stingray rumored to exist in the Rio Nego in Mysterious Beasts, George Eberhart, published in 2002. The yearbook citation is on page 90, and it was on the CFZ blog earlier in 2009, after being published three years earlier than that to several of the Cryptozoology message boards, and in manuscript form at the CFZ for a few years prior to that.

    Not that I am contending with you over that, that part is not my point. It is only FYI as to what I can produce as documentation on the matter.

    No, my beef was that I was saying IN PARTICULAR that the Cuero was not the same as the Patagonian Plesiosaur and never was. The attribution of the Cuero to the "Patagonian Plesiosaur" category was a mistake: it would be better stated that the Patagonian Plesiosaur stories began in older tales which called the creature CULEBRON instead. Somebody had gotten their Cryptids crossed up and it has been on the books that way ever since

    And for that misquoting by the Anomalist I am much put out, it was specifically NOT the point I had been making at the time. It was the exact OPPOSITE of the point I was trying to make.

    And it is not a matter of claiming ultimate first identification of the Cuero as a stingray that was the part I was concerned with: what I was really concerned with was making the differentiation between the two categories, of which you should certainly agree I was the originator.

    Incidentally I believe you made two comments on the original blog, both of which I quoted completely and without alteration in my reprint.

    As for when I first imagined the Cuero to be a stingray, I can remember that vividly: it was in the mid-1970s shortly after the 1969 printing of A Dictionary of Imaginary Beings (by Jorge Louis Borges) came out and described it as a flat creature covered with eyes: at that moment I intuited it must be a stingray marked with ocelli.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  3. Hi Austin. I see you are not posting my comments.
    The important thing in this case is that was misquoting me and hence YOU are misrepresenting what I said by quoting what THEY said.
    The important point on my blog (As in the original CFZ blog it quotes) is that the Cuero is NOT the same thing as the Patagonian Plesiosaur, there are two different Cryptids. The Patagonian Plesiosaur is derived from stories of the Culebron instead. And As I said before you will have to admit I was the first to come to that conclusion.
    And besides that matter I have also informed you that my first internet posting identifying the Cuero as a stingray was in October 2006,and it cited a 2002 published reference as well. I gave you an exact date and informed you it was posted in three places simultaneously. Now please let's not quibble over this. I dislike being misrepresented as much as you do.

    Now I think it would be in both of our best interests if you either removed or rewrote this page. Don't you agree? And I have already said I would gladly give you space to make a statement on my blog if that was what you wished. Surely you can see I am trying to be sporting about this little error that neither one of us is responsible for?

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  4. Dale,
    I am sorry for my late posting of your comments, I was away for the long weekend (in Argentina we had the Immaculate Conception on the 8th, plus a sandwich day -Friday so I took a break).
    I had no intention in causing such a commotion, I just wanted the Anomalist to get their facts straight. I have no doubts about your integrity so please rest assured that we can let the whole thing rest here.
    By the way I am "correcting" the post above to make this point clear.
    Thanks for writing and sorry for the confusion caused.

  5. Hello, Austin. Wanted to get in touch but your contact email is not working.
    My name is Terry Hooper, I am a naturalist and for 30 years was a UK police exotic wildlife consultant.
    I'd very much like to write to you re. South American hominids -you can see my profile and contact details at my blog:
    Hope to hear from you.


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