In cryptozoology and sometimes in cryptobotany, a cryptid (from the Greek “κρύπτω” (krypto) meaning “hide”) is a creature or plant whose existence has been suggested but is unrecognized by scientific consensus and often regarded as highly unlikely. Famous examples include the Yeti in the Himalayas and the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland.
The term was coined by John E. Wall in a 1983 letter to the International Society of Cryptozoology newsletter. However, ‘cryptid’ originally was used to describe a member of the zoological subfamily Cryptinae of the ichneumon wasp family. Almost all Cryptinae have been described as idiobiont ectoparasitoids, meaning parasites that prevent further development of the host after parasitization and developing outside the host’s body, frequently attached to or imbedded in the host’s tissues. The prefix “crypt-” is from Greek and means hidden or secret.
‘Cryptid’ has also been applied by cryptozoologists to animals whose existence is accepted by the scientific community, but which are considered of interest to cryptozoology, such as thecoelacanth, once believed to be extinct, and the okapi, at one time thought to be entirely fictitious. Legendary creatures such as the unicorn and the dragon are sometimes described as cryptids, but many cryptozoologists avoid describing them as such. Yet a case may be made that the dragon and griffin are real cryptids. Jeannine Davis-Kimball, Ph.D., writes inWarrior Women (2002) that what appear to be fanciful concoctions rest on a logical foundation: folklorist Adrienne Mayor traces the historical development of the legends of the two creatures, and concludes that both originated in ancient discoveries of hundreds of real Protoceratops and Psittacosaurus fossils in the Flaming Hills of Turkestan and the Tien Shan foothills.
Skeptics contend that evidence for the existence of cryptids is typically limited to anecdotal evidence or other forms of evidence insufficient to withstand normal scientific scrutiny by the general zoological community. Proponents agree that much cryptozoological evidence is weak. Scientists who are skeptical of cryptids in general agree that some specific cases might represent animals unrecognized by science.
Some evidence cited in support of cryptids has been exposed as deliberate hoaxes (e.g., The Surgeon’s Photograph of the Loch Ness Monster). Other indirect evidence of cryptids has persuaded notable scientists who were previously skeptical of the reality of cryptids.