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Mystery men

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It's not every day that missing persons resurface with no idea what's happened to them, but it seems to happen often enough to at least be deemed noteworthy. Here are two of my favorite examples from recent history:

The missing canoeist
Englishman John Darwin was presumed lost at sea five years ago when his canoe washed up on a British beach. Extensive searches produced no leads, but his family, lacking a body, could never fully accept that he was dead. Then, last week, Darwin walked into a police station and told a desk clerk "I think I am a missing person." Darwin has no memory of anything that's happened over the past five years, but has no signs of illness or bodily injury -- he's simply a blank slate.

According to the BBC Health website, amnesia patients struggle to imagine new and future experiences as well as being unable to recall events from their past. Participants in a new study "were asked to imagine something new and not something they had experienced previously. Those with amnesia could not imagine plausible future events or general fictitious experiences. Researchers said the results showed those suffering from amnesia were 'forced to live in the present.'"

The piano man
piano man 2.jpgStranger still is the 2005 case of the so-called "piano man," who was found wandering aimlessly in a own on the English coast, no possessions save the suit -- soaking wet -- he wore on his back. Very agitated but unwilling (or unable) to speak, he was taken to a hospital where staff gave him a pencil and paper to help him communicate. He sketched a highly detailed and shaded picture of a piano, so they showed him to one in a common area, and he sat and proceeded to play classical pieces like a virtuosos for four hours straight.

The man's image and story were disseminated throughout Europe, and despite a massive outpouring of potential leads, the mystery was finally solved when the man suddenly began speaking, after four months of silence in the mental hospital. He revealed that he was a German musician and mental health worker who had recently lost his job (perhaps triggering a mental breakdown). Whether or not he was faking four months of amnesia, or was simply keeping quiet in some twisted attempt to create a stir, we may never know -- either way, that's extreme behavior!

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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images
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Animals
Fisherman Catches Rare Blue Lobster, Donates It to Science
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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

Live lobsters caught off the New England coast are typically brown, olive-green, or gray—which is why one New Hampshire fisherman was stunned when he snagged a blue one in mid-July.

As The Independent reports, Greg Ward, from Rye, New Hampshire, discovered the unusual lobster while examining his catch near the New Hampshire-Maine border. Ward initially thought the pale crustacean was an albino lobster, which some experts estimate to be a one-in-100-million discovery. However, a closer inspection revealed that the lobster's hard shell was blue and cream.

"This one was not all the way white and not all the way blue," Ward told The Portsmouth Herald. "I've never seen anything like it."

While not as rare as an albino lobster, blue lobsters are still a famously elusive catch: It's said that the odds of their occurrence are an estimated one in two million, although nobody knows the exact numbers.

Instead of eating the blue lobster, Ward decided to donate it to the Seacoast Science Center in Rye. There, it will be studied and displayed in a lobster tank with other unusually colored critters, including a second blue lobster, a bright orange lobster, and a calico-spotted lobster.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Courtesy Murdoch University
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Animals
Australian Scientists Discover First New Species of Sunfish in 125 Years
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Courtesy Murdoch University

Scientists have pinpointed a whole new species of the largest bony fish in the world, the massive sunfish, as we learned from Smithsonian magazine. It's the first new species of sunfish proposed in more than 125 years.

As the researchers report in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, the genetic differences between the newly named hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) and its other sunfish brethren was confirmed by data on 27 different samples of the species collected over the course of three years. Since sunfish are so massive—the biggest can weigh as much as 5000 pounds—they pose a challenge to preserve and store, even for museums with large research collections. Lead author Marianne Nyegaard of Murdoch University in Australia traveled thousands of miles to find and collected genetic data on sunfish stranded on beaches. At one point, she was asked if she would be bringing her own crane to collect one.

Nyegaard also went back through scientific literature dating back to the 1500s, sorting through descriptions of sea monsters and mermen to see if any of the documentation sounded like observations of the hoodwinker. "We retraced the steps of early naturalists and taxonomists to understand how such a large fish could have evaded discovery all this time," she said in a press statement. "Overall, we felt science had been repeatedly tricked by this cheeky species, which is why we named it the 'hoodwinker.'"

Japanese researchers first detected genetic differences between previously known sunfish and a new, unknown species 10 years ago, and this confirms the existence of a whole different type from species like the Mola mola or Mola ramsayi.

Mola tecta looks a little different from other sunfish, with a more slender body. As it grows, it doesn't develop the protruding snout or bumps that other sunfish exhibit. Similarly to the others, though, it can reach a length of 8 feet or more. 

Based on the stomach contents of some of the specimens studied, the hoodwinker likely feeds on salps, a jellyfish-like creature that it probably chomps on (yes, sunfish have teeth) during deep dives. The species has been found near New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and southern Chile.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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