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APPENDIX B - "ON THE PORTION OF MAMMALIAN SKIN NAMED NEOMYLODON LISTAI"

Posted on September 14, 2009 at 7:10 PM




APPENDIX B
"ON THE PORTION OF MAMMALIAN SKIN
NAMED NEOMYLODON LISTAI
"




[Cryptozoologist's Note: The text of this report is presented here verbatim, without proofreading or other corrections. However, certain portions not pertaining to the discovery of the Mylodon remains have been omitted.]


I. Account of the Discovery. By Dr. Moreno.

In November 1897 I paid a visit to that part of the Patagonian territory which adjoins the Cordillera of the Andes, between the 51st and 52nd degrees of South latitude, where certain surveyors, under my direction, were carrying out the preliminary studies connected with the boundary-line between Chile and Argentina; and in the course of this expedition I reached Consuelo Cove, which lies in Last Hope Inlet. In that spot, hung up on a tree, I found a piece of a dried skin, which attracted my attention most strangely, as I could not determine to what class of Mammalia it could belong, more especially because of the resemblance of the small encrusted bones it contained to those of the Pampean Mylodon.

On inquiring whence it came, I was informed that it was only a fragment of a large piece of skin which had been discovered two years before, by some Argentine officers, in a cavern which existed in the neighboring heights. Immediately on receiving this news, I hastened to the spot, guided by a sailor who had been present when the original discovery had been made. As, at that moment, I had no means of making more than a few hurried excavations, which gave no further traces of the discovery, I left orders that the search should be continued after my departure; but this once more also failed to give any ultimate results. Nothing could be found but modern remains of small rodents, and these chiefly on or near the surface of the ground. From the most careful inquiries which I set on foot, it appeared that, when the first discovery was made, no bones were found, the skin being half buried in the dust which had accumulated from the gradual falling away of the roof of the cavern, composed of Tertiary Conglomerate. It was only in the broad entrance to the cavern that were found a few human bones, borne thence to the shore of the Cove and afterwards broken up.

As already stated, the skin here presented to you formed but a small part of a larger one. One small piece had been carried off by Dr. Otto Nordenskjöld, and others by officers of the Chilean Navy, who later on had visited the spot. The inhabitants of the locality looked upon it as an interesting curiosity, some of them believing that it was the hide of a cow encrusted with pebbles, and others asserting that it was the skin of a large Seal belonging to a hitherto unknown species.

In Consuelo Cove, I embarked on board a small Argentine transport, which had been placed at my disposal to carry out the study of the western coast as far as Port Montt, in lat. 42°. At this latter place I left the steamer, which then proceeded to make a series of surveys. These lasted until her return to La Plata, at the latter end of July 1898, when she brought back to me the fragment of skin in question.

My opinion is that this skin belongs to a genuine Pampean Mylodon, preserved under peculiar circumstances resembling those to which we owe the skin and feathers of the Moa. I have always maintained that the Pampean Edentates, now extinct, disappeared only in the epoch which is called the " historical epoch " of our America. In the province of Buenos Aires, buried chiefly in the humus, I have found remains of Panochthus, and others of the same Mylodon from the seashore, all of which present the same characteristic marks of preservation as the remains of human beings discovered in the same spot. In this identical layer of the seashore, close to the bones I have also found stones polished by the hand of man, and flints cut like those found in the Pampean formation. In 1884, in a cavern near to the Rio de los Patos, in the Cordillera, I discovered some paintings in red ochre, one of which, in my opinion, resembles the Glyptodon on account of the shape of the carapace.

Ancient chroniclers inform us that the indigenous inhabitants recorded the existence of a strange, ugly, huge hairy animal which had its abode in the Cordillera to the south of lat. 37°. The Tehuelches and the Gennakens have mentioned similar animals to me, of whose existence their ancestors had transmitted the remembrance; and in the neighborhood of the Rio Negro, the aged cacique Sinchel, in 1875, pointed out to me a cave, the supposed lair of one of these monsters, called "Ellengassen" ; but I must add that none of the many Indians with whom I have conversed in Patagonia have ever referred to the actual existence of animals to which we can attribute the skin in question, nor even of any which answer to the suppositions of Senor Ameghino according to Senor Lista. It is but rarely that a few Otters (Lutra) are found in the lakes and rivers of the Andes, as in the neighbourhood of Lake Argentino, in the " Sierra de las Viscachas," and in the regions which I believe Senor Lista visited, there are only a few scarce Chinchillas (Lagidium), which have a colouring more dark greyish than those found to the north, and are in every case separated from these by a large extent of country.

The Pampean Edentata have in former days certainly existed as far south as the extreme limit of Patagonia. In 1874, in the bay of Santa Cruz, I met with the remains of a pelvis of one of these animals in Pleistocene deposits, and also remains of the mammals which are found in the same formation, such as the Macrauchenia and Auchenia. It would not be astonishing that the skin of one of these should have been preserved so long, because of the favourable conditions of the spot in which it was found.

The state of preservation of this piece of skin, at first sight, makes it difficult for one to believe it to be of great antiquity; but this is by no means an impossibility, if we consider the conditions of the cave in which it was found, the atmosphere of which is not so damp as one might at first imagine it to be, although it is situated in the woody regions near to the glaciers and lakes. It is well to mention that in 1877, under similar conditions, and in a much smaller cave, scarcely five metres from the waters of Lake Argentine, situated sixty miles more to the north, I discovered a mummified human body painted red, with the head still covered in part with its short hair wonderfully preserved, and wrapped up in a covering made of the skin of a Rhea, and holding in its arms a large feather of the Condor, also painted red; this was all covered up with a layer of grass and dust fallen from the roof of the cave. In another cave in the neighbourhood I discovered a large trunk of a tree, painted with figures in red, black, and yellow. The sides of the rock close to the entrance of the cave were covered with figures, some representing the human hand, others combinations of curved, straight, and circular lines, painted white, red, yellow, and green. Now, this mummy, which is preserved in the Museum of La Plata, does not belong to any of the actual tribes of Patagonia. Its skull resembles rather one of those more ancient races found in the cemeteries in the valley of the Rio Negro — a most interesting fact, since they belong to types which have completely disappeared from the Patagonian regions, and it is well known that the actual Tehuelches may be considered to have been the last indigenous races which reached the territory of Patagonia. Many a time the Tehuelches have spoken to me of these caves as abodes of the evil "spirits," and of the enigmatical painted figures they contained: some attributed the latter to these same "spirits," others to men of other races, of whom they have no recollection. In another cave, four hundred miles farther to the north, in 1880, I discovered other human bodies, more or less mummified and in good preservation, but of a different type, and beside them some painted poles which served to hold up their small tents, the use of which had already disappeared more than three centuries ago; together with the upper part of the skull of a child perfectly scooped out like a cup. And yet the historical Tehuelches, the same as all the indigenous races in the southern extremity of South America, hold their dead in great respect, and never use such drinking-vessels.

These proofs of the favourable conditions of the climate and of the lands near to the Cordillera, which are revealed to us by the preservation of objects undoubtedly dating from very remote epochs, strengthen my opinion that this skin of a huge mammal, which has long since disappeared, may well have been preserved till the present time.

I may add that a further careful search is now being made in the earth forming the floor of the cave, and I hope in due time to have the honour of communicating the results to this Society.

APPENDIX A 305

II. Description and Comparison of the Specimen.
By A. Smith Woodward.

(a) Description.

The problematical piece of skin discovered by Dr. Moreno measures approximately 0.48 m. in the direction of the main lie of the hair, while its maximum extent at right angles to this direction is about 0.55 m. The fragment, however, is very irregular in shape; and it has become much distorted in the process of drying, so that the anterior portion, which is directed upwards in the drawing, is bent outwards at a considerable angle to the main part of the specimen which will be claimed to represent the back. The skin, as observed in transverse section, presents a dried, felt-like aspect; but there is a frequent ruddiness, suggestive of blood-stains, while the margin exhibits distinct indications of freshly dried once-fluid matter, which Dr. Vaughan Harley has kindly examined and pronounced to be serum. Its outer face is completely covered with hair, except in the region marked C and above B, where this covering seems to have been comparatively fine and may have been accidentally removed. The inner face of the skin is only intact in a few places, the specimen having contracted and perhaps been somewhat abraded, so that a remarkable armour of small bony tubercles, irregularly arranged and of variable size, is exposed over the greater part of it. At one point there is an irregular rounded hole about 0.02 m. in diameter, which might possibly have been caused by a bullet or a dagger, but in any case was probably pierced when the skin was still fresh. Owing to its direction, this hole is partly obscured by the overhanging hair....

The dermal ossicles are very irregular in arrangement, but are to be observed in every part of the specimen, even in the comparatively thin region near the supposed ear. They form everywhere a very compact armour, and some of them are quite closely pressed together; rarely, indeed, there is a shallow groove crossing a specimen, possibly indicating two components which were originally separate....










(b) Comparisons and General Conclusions

The skin now described differs from that of all known terrestrial Mammalia, except certain Edentata, in the presence of a bony dermal armour. There can therefore be little doubt that the specimen has been rightly referred to a member of this typically South American order. Even among the Edentates, however, the fragment now under consideration is unique in one respect; for all the ossicles are buried deeply in the lower half of the thickened dermis and the hairs are implanted in every part of its upper half, whereas all the forms of bony armour hitherto described in this order reach the outer surface of the dermis and are merely invested with horny epidermis. This is the case, as is well known, in the common existing Armadillos, in which the hair is only implanted in the dermis between the separate parts of the armour. Even in the unique and remarkable skin of an Armadillo from Northern Brazil, described by Milne-Edwards under the name of Scleropleura bruneti, the bony plates and tubercles are still covered only by epidermis, although most of them are reduced to small nodules and might well have sunk more deeply into the abnormally hairy skin. There is also reason to believe that in the gigantic extinct Armadillos of the family Glyptodontidae the same arrangement of dermal structures prevailed; for one specimen of Panochthus tuberculatus obtained by Dr. Moreno for the La Plata Museum actually shows the dried horny epidermis in direct contact with the underlying bone, and seems to prove that the numerous perforations in the Glyptodont dermal armour were not for the implantation of hairs (as once supposed), but for the passage of blood-vessels to the base of the epidermal layer. Similarly, among the extinct Ground-Sloths of the family Mylodontidae dermal ossicles have been found with the remains of Coelodon and various forms (perhaps different subgenera) of Mylodon but the only examples of this armour yet definitely described exhibit a conspicuously sculptured outer flattened face, and it thus seems clear that Burmeister was correct in describing them as originally reaching the upper surface of the dermis and only covered externally by a thickened epidermis. It is, however, to be noted that Burmeister himself actually observed armour of this kind covering only the lumbar region of the trunk. He believed that the other parts of the animal were similarly armoured, because he had found "the same ossicles" on the digits of the manus, where they were "generally smaller and more spherical"; but he unfortunately omits to make any explicit statement as to the presence or absence of the characteristic external ornamentation on the latter.

The omission just mentioned is especially unfortunate, because on careful comparison it is evident that the irregular disposition of the small ossicles in the piece of skin now under consideration is most closely paralleled in the dermal armour of the extinct Mylodon, as already observed by Drs. Moreno and Ameghino. There is obviously no approach in this specimen to the definite and symmetrical arrangement of the armour such as is exhibited both by the existing Armadillos and the extinct Glyptodonts. There are, then, two possibilities. Either the dermal armour oi Mylodon varied in different parts of the body, being sculptured and covered only by epidermis in the lumbar region, while less developed, not sculptured but completely buried in the dermis in the comparatively flexible neck and shoulder region — in whicli case Dr. Moreno may be correct in referring the problematical specimen to Mylodon; or the dermal ossicles of this extinct genus may have been uniform throughout, only differing in size and sparseness or compactness — in which case Dr. Ameghino is justified in proposing to recognise a distinct genus, Neomylodon.

To decide between these two possibilities, it is necessary to wait for additional information concerning the anterior dorsal armour of Mylodon....The histological structure of the ossicles in the skin now under consideration thus resembles that of the sculptured tubercles of Mylodon in all essential features, but differs in two noteworthy respects....There is thus enough discrepancy to justify the suspicion that the new and the old specimens do not belong to the same animal. In fact, so far as the differentiation of the dermal bone is concerned, the so-called Neomylodon is precisely intermediate between Mylodon and the existing Armadillo (Dasypus); sections of the scutes of the latter animal, both in the Royal College of Surgeons and in the British Museum, showing that in this genus nearly the whole of the osseous tissue is arranged in Haversian systems, although abundant interlacing connectivetissue fibres are still entangled in it, at least near the border.

If the characteristic dermal armature does not suffice for the definite expression of an opinion as to the precise affinities of the specimen, a still less satisfactory result can be expected from a comparison of the hair. For, in the first place, no hair has hitherto been discovered in association with the skeleton of any extinct Ground-Sloth; while, secondly, the hairy covering of a mammal is perhaps that part of its organisation most readily adapted to the immediate circumstances of its life. So far as their endoskeleton is concerned, the extinct Mylodonts and their allies are precisely intermediate between the existing Sloths and Anteaters; they combine "the head and dentition of the former with the structure of the vertebral column, limbs, and tail of the latter." It might therefore be supposed that the hair of this extinct group would exhibit some of the peculiarities of that in one or other of its nearest surviving relatives. The epidermal covering of the piece of skin now described, however, entirely lacks the under-fur which is so thick in the Sloths; while the structure of each individual hair, with its smooth cuticle and lack of a medulla, is strikingly different from that observed both in the Sloths and Anteaters, and identical with that of the hair in the surviving Armadillos....All these animals now live in the tropics, either in forests or swamps, whereas the Patagonian animal must have existed under circumstances much like those under which the Armadillos still survive. Hence the characters of the hair of the so-called Neomylodon may be of no great importance in determining the affinities of the animal, but may represent a special adaptation to its immediate environment.

Finally, there is the question of the antiquity of the problematical skin. On two occasions I have examined the mummified remains of the extinct Mammoth and Rhinoceros from Siberia in the Imperial Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburg; I have also carefully studied the remains of the neck and legs of the Moa from a cavern in New Zealand, now in the British Museum. Compared with these shrivelled and dried specimens, the piece of skin from Patagonia has a remarkably fresh and modern aspect, and I should unhesitatingly express the opinion that it belonged to an animal killed shortly before Dr. Moreno recognised its interest, had he not been able to give so circumstantial an account of its discovery and strengthened his point of view by recording the occurrence of a human mummy of an extinct race in another cavern in the same district. The presence of an abundant covering of dried serum on one cut border of the skin is alone suggestive of grave doubts as to the antiquity of the specimen; but Dr. Vaughan Harley tells me that similar dried serum has been observed several times among the remains of the Egyptian mummies, and there seems thus to be no limit to the length of time for which it can be preserved, provided it is removed from all contact with moisture. I may add that I have searched in vain in the writings of Ramon Lista (so far as they are represented in the Library of the Royal Geographical Society) for some reference to the statement which the late traveller made verbally to Dr. Ameghino; and as the piece of skin now described certainly represents an animal almost gigantic in size compared with the Old-World Pangolin, I fear it cannot be claimed to belong to Lista's problematical quadruped, whatever that may prove to be.

The final result of these brief considerations is therefore rather disappointing. There are difficulties in either of the two possible hypotheses. We have a piece of skin quite large enough to have belonged to the extinct Mylodon; but unfortunately it cannot be directly compared with the dermal armour of that genus, because it seems to belong to the neck region, while the only dermal tubercles of a Mylodont hitherto definitely made known are referable to the lumbar region. If it does belong to Mylodon, as Dr. Moreno maintains, it imijlies either that this genus survived in Patagonia to a comparatively recent date, or that the circumstances of preservation were unique in the cavern where the specimen was discovered. On the other hand, if it belongs to a distinct and existing genus, as Dr. Ameghino maintains — and as most of the characters of the specimen itself would at first sight suggest — it is indeed strange that so large and remarkable a quadruped should have hitherto escaped detection in a country which has been so frequently visited by scientific explorers.

At the reading of this paper, Prof. Ray Lankester remarked that he should regard the characters of the hair as specially important, and would not be surprised if the problematical piece of skin proved to belong to an unknown type of Armadillo. This possibility had occurred to me, but I had hesitated to mention it on account of the considerable discrepancy observable between the arrangement of the bony armour in Neomylodon and that in the known Glyptodonts and the unique Brazilian Armadillo {Scleropleura), which happen to exhibit an incompletely developed (incipient or vestigial) shield. In each of the latter cases, the armour is not subdivided into a compact mass of irregular ossicles, but consists of well-separated elements which could only become continuous by the addition of a considerable extent of bone round their margins, or by the special development of smaller intervening ossicles.

[Since the paper was read, I have had the privilege of studying Dr. Einar Lonnberg's valuable description of the pieces of the problematical skin mentioned by Dr. Moreno as having been taken to Upsala by Dr. Otto Nordenskjöld.* It appears that with the skin was found the epidermal sheath of a large unknown claw, which may have belonged to the same animal. This specimen proves to be different from that of any existing Sloth, anteater, or Armadillo, and is considered by Dr. Lönnberg to belong probably to the hind foot of a Mylodont, which did not walk on the exterior, lateral surfaces of the toes to the same extent as Mylodon. In a section of the skin provisionally ascribed to the leg, he observes that the small ossicles are very irregular, and shows two instances in which two are placed one above the other. In microscopical sections of the ossicles, however, he does not find the distinct Haversian systems of bone so conspicuous in my slides; and hence he fails to remark the differences between the structure of the armour in Neomylodon and Mylodon, which seem to me to be particularly noteworthy. His so-called "pigment cellules" in Mylodon are the dendritic infiltrations of oxide of manganese and stains of oxide of iron, to which I have made special reference. His observations as to the absence of a medulla in the hair confirm my own; but I have not seen any evidence of the suspected loss or disintegration of the hair-cuticle. Finally, Dr. Lönnberg has boiled a piece of the skin, thereby extracting glue, "which proves that the collagen and gelatinous substances are perfectly preserved." The latter observation confirms the evidence of the serum recorded above, and indicates that if the specimen is "of any considerable age, it must have been very well protected against moisture and bacteria." — A. S. W.]

APPENDIX A 315

III. Description of Additional Discoveries.
By A. Smith Woodward*

Last February, when presenting to the Zoological Society an account of the skin of a Ground-Sloth discovered in a cavern in Southern Patagonia, Dr. Moreno mentioned that further excavations were being made in the hope of finding other remains of the same animal. The task referred to was undertaken by Dr. Rudolph Hauthal. geologist of the La Plata Museum, who met with complete success. He not only found another piece of skin, but also various broken bones of more than one individual of a large species of Ground-Sloth in a remarkably fresh state of preservation. ^Moreover, he discovered teeth of an extinct horse and portions of limb-bones of a large feline carnivore, in association with these remains; he likewise met with traces of fire, which clearly occurred in the same deposits as the so-called Neomylodon. All these remains were found beneath the dry earth on the floor of an enormous chamber which seemed to have been artificially enclosed by rude walls. In one spot they were scattered through a thick deposit of excrement of some gigantic herbivore, evidently the Ground-Sloth itself; in another spot they were associated with an extensive accumulation of cut hay. Dr. Hauthal and his colleagues, indeed, concluded that the cavern was an old corral in whiich the Ground-Sloths had been kept and fed by man.

As the result of these explorations. Dr. Moreno has now the gratification of exhibiting to the Society complete proof that the piece of skin described on the former occasion belongs to a genuine Pampean Ground Sloth, not Mylodon itself, but a very closely related genus Gryptotherium, of which skulls are already known from Pampean deposits in the Province of Buenos Aires. The collection which we now have the privilege of examining distinctly supports his contention that the large quadruped in question belongs to an extinct fauna, though contemporary with man.

The discovery is thus unique in the history of palaeontology, on account of the remarkably fresh state of preservation of all the remains. Some of the new specimens exhibit no indication whatever of having been buried. Many of the bones retain their original whitish colour, apparently without any loss of gelatine; while both these and other bones, which have evidently been entombed in brownish dust, bear numerous remnants not only of the dried periosteum, but also of shrivelled muscles, ligaments, and cartilages. Very few of the bones are fossilised, in the ordinary sense of the term.

An admirable brief description of this collection has already been published by Dr. Roth, who was the first to recognise the generic identity of Neomylodon with Gryptotherium. Some of the specimens, however, are worthy of a more detailed examination; and Dr. Moreno has kindly entrusted them to me for study in connection with the collections in the British Museum and the Royal College of Surgeons. The following notes, supplementing Dr. Roth's original memoir, are the result of this further investigation.

I. Remains of Gryptotherium listai.

Number of Individuals.

Among the fragmentary bones of the Ground-Sloth, it is easy to recognise evidence of three individuals, which do not differ much in size. There are three distinct examples of the occiput and fragments of the dentigerous portion of three mandibles. It is also noteworthy that the three malar bones preserved are all different in shape, while three corresponding fragments of the acromial process of the scapula differ in size. One portion of maxilla seems to represent a fourth individual, being probably too small for either of the skulls to which the occiputs belong. Finally, as Dr. Roth has pointed out, one shaft of a humerus, which appears to be the bone of an adult, belongs to a much smaller animal than is indicated by any other specimen in the collection.

Remains of three individuals are thus recognizable with certainty; two others can probably be distinguished; while some of the fragments may evenbelong to a sixth specimen. It must also be noted that other portions of jaws are said to have been discovered by E. Nordenskjöld.

APPENDIX A 317

Skull and Mandible.

The largest portion of cranium is not stained in any way, and does not retain a trace of the material in which it was buried in any hollow or crevice. It does not appear to have been damaged during excavation, but exhibits fractures which were almost certainly made when the animal was freshly killed. The cranial roof near the occipital region is battered in four places, though the injuries do not affect the braincase itself; while the right occipital condyle is partly removed by a sharp, clean cut. There can, indeed, be no doubt that the animal was killed and cut to pieces by man....This skull is evidently that of an adult animal....

Hair.

The new piece of skin, which is stated by Hauthal to have been found in the deposit of excrement, is not quite so well preserved as the original piece. It is much folded in an irregular manner; and the hair, which is yellower than in the previous specimen, is preserved only in patches on the outer face. It must have been stripped from the body of the animal by man; but the only distinct marks of tools, which were evidently made when the skin was fresh, are a few indents and small pits on the outer face. The indents must have been made by oblique thrusts of a stick, or a small, blunt, chisel-shaped instrument. The small pittings are nearer the middle of the specimen and less conspicuous. A vacuity in the skin seems to be due to accidental tearing or to a thrust after it was dry: it may even have been caused by the fallen blocks of stone found lying upon it.

The specimen, as preserved, measures about a metre across in one direction by 93 centimetres in another direction. As already observed by Roth, its irregular folding makes the determination of its position on the trunk very difficult; but I am convinced that its state of preservation is not sufficiently good to justify an attempt to unfold the skin by the ordinary method of steaming. Taking all facts into consideration. Roth seems to be correct in ascribing it to the right flank and the posterosuperior part of one of the limbs. It most probably belongs to the fore limb, as Roth supposes; but there is no clear proof that it is not referable to the hind-quarters....

Generic and Specific Determination.

The fortunate discovery of all parts of the skull and dentition renders the generic determination of this Ground-Sloth now quite certain. The teeth show that it belongs to the family Mylodontidae....I am therefore of opinion that Grypotherium is the correct generic name for the Ground-Sloth from the Patagonian cavern, while Glossotherium must be relegated to the synonymy of Mylodon....

3. Relative Age of the Remains.

As the result of Dr. Roth's researches, supplemented by the additional observations now recorded, it is evident that the majority of the mammalian remains from the cavern near Last Hope Inlet belong to the extinct fauna which occurs in the Pampean formation of more northern regions....

APPENDIX A 329

Although Dr. Hauthal's explorations were rather hurried and Dr. Nordenskjöld's results have only been published hitherto in abstract, their account of the deposits on the floor of the cavern seem to confirm the suspicion that the remains of these two faunas were introduced at two successive periods. According to Hauthal, the remains of the Guanaco were found along with fragmentary (animal) bones, shells...branches of trees, and dried leaves, in the superficial dust of the cavern near the outer wall. The skin of Grypotherium and all the other remains of this and the associated Pampean genera were discovered in the deeper layer of excrement and cut hay between the mound and the inner wall of the cavern. According to Nordenskjöld, three distinct strata can be recojinised on the floor of the cavern as follows:

A. A thin surface layer, containing ashes, shells, and bones of recent animals broken by man.

B. A middle layer, containing numerous branches of trees and dried leaves, with remains of Lama and the extinct horse, Onohippidium. Said to be probably the stratum in which the original piece of skin was found.

C. A bottom layer, usually about a metre in thickness, without any traces of branches or leaves, but only dried herbs. Remains of Grypotherium numerous and confined to this stratum, associated with its excrement and hair....

It is unfortunate that the question of the contemporaneity of the various bones cannot be tested by the ingenious method of chemical analysis which has been applied with success to similar problems by M. Adolphe Carnot in France. The French chemist has shown that when bones are buried in ordinary sediments they undergo changes which gradually cause the percentage of contained fluorine to increase. According to him, the longer a bone has been buried, the greater is the percentage of fluorine found in it on analysis. In one case he examined the scapula of a deer and a human tibia, discovered together in fluviatile sand near Billancourt (Seine); he found that the former had seven or eight times its usual percentage of fluorine, while the human bone did not differ in any respect from the normal in this constituent. He therefore concluded that the latter bone was not of the same age as the former, but had been introduced comparatively recently by burial. In this and the other recorded cases, however, it is to be observed that the sediment was of a uniform character and admitted of free percolation of water. In the Patagonian cavern, on the contrary, the bones occur partly in dust, partly in dried herbage, partly in dried excrement, and partly in the burnt residue of the same. Moreover, they must always have been subjected to intense dryness, and the usual process of chemical alteration cannot have taken place.

Considering all circumstances, I think that, even without chemical evidence, zoologists and geologists cannot fail now to agree with Dr. Moreno and his colleagues of the La Plata Museum, that the remarkably preserved Grypotherium from the Patagonian cavern belongs to the extinct Pampean fauna of South America, and need not be searched for in the unexplored wilds of that continent. If we accept the confirmatory evidence afforded by Mr. Spencer Moore, we can also hardly refuse to believe that this great Ground-Sloth was actually kept and fed by an early race of man.

IV. Note concerning Tehuelche Legends.
By Hesketh Prichard.

I now proceed to give the testimony of Dr. F. Ameghino, whose brother Carlos was well acquainted with the country and who early gave it as his opinion that the animal, which is named the Neomylodon listai, was still living in Patagonia. In support of his opinion he adduced tales which Carlos Ameghino had gathered from the Indians, who roam the pampas, of a vast mysterious beast said by them to haunt the distant lagoons and forests of the unexplored regions near the Andes. These stories had, moreover, been confirmed in Dr. Ameghino's opinion by the experience of the late well-known geographer and traveller, Senior Ramon Lista, who verbally told both Dr. Ameghino and his brother that he had seen and fired at a mysterious creature, which, however, disappeared in the brushwood and could not afterwards be traced. He described it as being covered with reddish-grey hair, and he believed it to be a pangolin or scaly-anteater. Taking all things into consideration. Dr. Ameghino announced his conviction that the mysterious animal referred to was the last representative of a group, long believed extinct, related to the Mylodon.

According to Dr. Ameghino the Indians had bestowed upon the mysterious animal the name of lemisch. Nothing would induce them to penetrate into the supposed haunts of this monster. It was described as amphibious, equally at home on land or in the water; in remote mountain recesses it lurked in caves, or had its lairs by the shores of lonely lagoons and rivers, or at times lay in wait among the lower passes of the Cordillera. In habits it was nocturnal, and its strength so great that it could seize a horse in its claws, and hold itself down to the bottoms of the lakes. The head was supposed to be short and without external ears, but showing enormous dog-teeth: the feet short and bear-like, armed with formidable claws united by a swimming membrane; the long tail, tapering and prehensile, the hair hard and of a uniform yellowishbrown. In size it far exceeded any creature they knew of, its legs, though short, being almost as great in girth as its body. It followed, naturally that narratives of personal experiences and encounters with this terrific animal were varied.

These data, it must be confessed, were bewildering. In fact, as described by the Indians the lemisch was scientifically absurd; but the Indian is like a child in many ways and would naturally endow a creature he feared with extraordinary attributes.

I will quote here an extract from Winwood Reade's "Savage Africa," one of the finest books of travel ever written.

"It must be laid down as a general principle that man can originate nothing; that lies are always truths embellished, distorted, or turned inside out. There are other facts beside those which lie on the surface, and it is the duty of the traveller and the historian to sift and wash the gold-grains of truth from the dirt of fable. ... It is true that some of the ancient myths have been sobered down to natural beings. The men with dogs' heads of whom Herodotus speaks are the barking baboons which I saw in Senegal: the men with their head under their shoulders, their eyes in their breast, are the ill-formed negroes, whose shoulders are shrugged up, and whose heads drop on their breasts: the mermaids of the Arab tales are the sea-cows of the African rivers, which ha..e feminine dugs and a face almost human in expression: the huge serpent which opposed the army of Regulus is now well known as the python: the burning mountains which Hanno saw, and the sounds of the lutes which were believed to proceed from the strife of the elements, are only caused by the poor negroes burning the grass of their hill-tops: the music being that of their flutes, as I have heard it often in those long and silent African nights far away."

"Incredulity has now become so vulgar a folly, that one is almost tempted, out of simple hatred for a fashion, to run into the opposite extreme. However, I shall content myself with citing evidence respecting certain unknown, fabulous and monstrous animals of Africa, without committing myself to an opinion one way or the other; preserving only my conviction that there is always a basis of truth to the most fantastic fables, and that, by rejecting without inijuiry that which appears incredible, one throws away ore in which others might have found a jewel. A traveller should believe nothing, for he will find himself so often deceived: and he should disbelieve nothing, for he will see so many wonderful things; he should doubt, he should investigate, and then, perhaps, he may discover."

It was in this spirit that I set out for the interior of Patagonia. Although the legends of the Indians were manifestly to a large extent the result of imaginative exaggeration, yet I hoped to find a substratum of fact below these fancies. After thorough examination, however, I am obliged to say that I found none. The Indians not only never enter the Cordillera but avoid the very neighbourhood of the mountains. The rumours of the lemisch and the stories concerning it, which, in print, had assumed a fairly definite form, I found nebulous in the extreme when investigated on the spot.

Finally, after much investigation I came to the conclusion that the Indian legends in all probability refer to some large species of otter. Musters, in his book "At Home witli the Patagonians," makes mention of an animal much feared by the tribe with whom he travelled, which they called " water-tiger," and which they said lived in a rapid and deep river near to Nahuel-huapi, a lake the name of which lends colour to the tale, for it means Tigers' Island. Musters says he himself saw two ostriches,, that, being considered in too poor a condition to be worth taking to camp for food, were left on the bank of the river referred to, torn and partly devoured when on the following day he and his party revisited the spot. Tracks of an animal were also plainly visible leading down into the water.

Compare this with a story told me by Mr. Von Plaaten Hallermund. He described the case of a mule which had fallen over a precipice in the vicinity of the River Deseado. When on the following day the (porters) climbed down to save its cargo, they found the animal on the edge of the water half eaten, and in its neighbourhood were tracks strange to them. " Like those of a puma, yet not those of a puma," as they said.

The manager of Messrs. Braun and Blanchard's store at Santa Cruz gave me a description of a skin brought in by Indians which, though not a puma-skin, was quite as large as the skin of the common silver-grey puma generally is. I myself saw a very large otter in the River Senguerr, but unluckily had not my rifle with me, and although I returned as quickly with it as I could, all trace of the otter had vanished.

Taking into consideration the amphibious nature attributed by the Indians to the lemisch, there seems to be little reason to doubt that the real animal underlying the rumours of a mysterious monster is a subspecies of the large Brazilian otter (Lutra brasiliensis).

To return to the possible survival of the Mylodon, as far as our travels led us both north and south on the eastern side of the Cordillera, we could discover no trace whatever either by hearsay or from the evidence of our own experience to warrant the supposition that it continues to exist to the present day. But there are hundreds of square miles of dense forest still unexplored along the whole length of the Patagonian Andes, and I do not undertake to declare positively that no such animal exists in some unknown and hidden spot among their recesses. Roughly speaking, there are many thousand square miles of snowy summits, ravines, high plateaus and valleys in this region. The task of finding a final answer to the Mylodon problem on the drag-net principle of passing to and fro throughout the whole district would be so gigantic and prolonged where the natural difficulties are great, as to be practically impossible. Such an answer must be left to time and the slow process of things. In the meanwhile I can merely state my own conviction that the odds are very heavily against the chances of such a survival. The probable habitat of the Mylodon would naturally be the forests. I penetrated these in more than one direction, and one of the most striking characteristics of the forests was the absence of animal life, evidence of which grew less and less the farther we forced our way into their depths. It is a matter of common knowledge that, where the larger forms of life are to be found, there also a liberal catalogue of lesser creatures co-exist. The conditions which favour the life of the greater favour also the existence of the less. This is presumptive evidence only, and though it has certainly influenced my own conclusions, I do not wish to force it upon others. I have stated the case as fairly as I can, and I leave my readers to form their own opinions.

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2 Comments

Reply Diana
8:43 PM on March 12, 2011 
Thanks again Randy. Well worth reading my friend.
Reply The Cryptozoologist
7:52 PM on June 10, 2012 
You're very welcome, my friend!