What is Cryptozoology?
The word cryptozoology comes from two words:
- The Greek word kryptos meaning ‘hidden’,
- Zoology meaning the study of animals.
Literally, then cryptozoology refers to the study of hidden animals. Cryptozoologists study animals whose existence is not yet proven. It is not a recognized branch of zoology and by many it is regarded as a pseudoscience because it relies primarily on anecdotal evidence, stories and alleged sightings.
Ancient Tales of Cryptids
The field of cryptozoology has been inspired by many ancient tales of monsters and sea serpents.
A sea serpent, 45 feet long and 15 inches in diameter, was reported off the coast of Maine by Captain George Little in 1780:
“I was lying in Round Pond, in Broad Bay, in a public armed ship. At sunrise, I discovered a large serpent, or sea monster, coming down the bay. It was on the surface of the water. The cutter was manned and armed. I went myself in the boat. We proceeded after the serpent. When within a hundred feet, the mariners were ordered to fire on him. Before they could make ready, the serpent dove.”
“A U.S. Navy nuclear submarine left its home port to start its patrol. Mysteriously the boat’s delicate sonar mechanism failed without warning only a few days into the voyage. The sonar was so critical to the sub’s operations that the boat was forced to return to port for repairs.
Examination of the sonar revealed that the rubber-like outer cover of the device had been torn off. Embedded in the tattered remains were enormous hooks. Scientists determined that these hooks, several times larger than had ever been seen before, were from a giant squid that had apparently attacked the sub, thinking it was a whale.”
Creatures Cryptobiologists Search For
Cryptozoologists often justify their field as legitimate by referring to cases of animals whose existence was initially considered a hoax, superstition or misinterpretation and that are now accepted by the scientific community:
- Okapi (confirmed in 1901)
- Mountain Gorilla (confirmed in 1902)
- Giant Squid (confirmed in the 1870’s)
- Hoan Kiem Turtle (confirmed in March 24, 1998)
Cryptozoologists primarily focus their efforts on proving the existence of the following types of unknown creatures:
- Living fossils or prehistoric survivors of the past.
- The Tasmanian tiger and woolly mammoth did at one time exist.
- The Loch ness Monster and Giant Vampire Bats may very well exist having escaped the radar of conventional scientists.
2. Legendary creatures and oddities (fringe creatures):
- The Jersey devil and Mothman are fringe creatures spoken about as urban legends and found in local folklore but their existence is highly questionable.
How Cryptobiologists Justify their field as a Scientific Pursuit
Seventy species of primate have been discovered in the last 20 years including a Vietnamese gibbon, and a big, sub-species of chimp in the Congo known as the Bili Ape. Mainstream scientists are finding new and very often odd creatures often during deep ocean exploration. “Clearly nature is far from being fully understood by science, and yet some sceptics persist in contemptuously sneering at almost everything outside of their immediate knowledge. With their high-systemised inability to tolerate newness, they stymie open scientific debate, bully original thinkers and drive away those with fascinating new data on unknown species.”Because some larger species are still being found, it lends credence to the cryptozoologist philosophy that some other more mysterious creatures like Nessie and the Bigfoot may still be found.
In December of 2010, an amateur video, shot in Tasmania showed blurry footage of a long-tailed mammal trotting across a meadow. The film-maker, Murray McAllister, was convinced the animal was a Tasmanian Tiger (thylacine). This wolf-sized marsupial has been classified as extinct since 1936; yet, hundreds of sightings, many from credible observers continue to be recorded. McAllister’s thylacine was later confirmed to be a red fox through DNA analysis of a fecal sample. He has been searching for the thylacine since 1998. Although he may not consider himself a cryptozoologist, he does fit the profile. These hunters of unconfirmed creatures are a diverse group. Their lot includes conventional scientists and the unusual eccentric. They all, however, share the dream of finding that illusive creature and gaining instant fame.
Cryptids that Turned out to be Real
- Kangaroo: Early Australian explorers described bizarre creatures with deer-like heads that hopped like frogs and stood upright like man. Sometimes they were seen to have two heads, one of which sprouted from their stomach. In the 1770’s, a dead specimen of this creature was displayed in England and later became known as the kangaroo!
- Sea Serpent: This elusive creature has been the subject of eyewitness accounts and sea-faring legend for centuries. It is speculated that many misidentified creatures many be responsible for these legends but one rarely sighted creature is a likely source of many serpent sightings. The oarfish (ribbonfish) is a huge creature found world-wide. It is the longest recorded bony fish, the largest recorded being 56 feet long. Normally a deep-sea fish, the oarfish sometimes washes ashore, occasionally lingering near death.
- Mountain Gorilla: Tales of large ape-men have captivated explorers for centuries. Tribal legends abound of strong, hairy men that capture and consume humans. Finally, in 1902, a German officer shot one of these ‘ape-men’ which was classified as a new species of ape, the Mountain Gorilla.
- Okapi: A bizarre creature was described by ancient Egyptians as a cross between a zebra, donkey and giraffe. It was rejected by Western science despite numerous descriptions and skins provided by explorers. Finally, in 1901, with the capture of a live specimen, the okapi was recognized by scientists as Okapia johnstoni, the only living relative of the giraffe.
- The Kraken: There are numerous tales of giant squid devouring ships whole in sea-faring legend. The legend of Lusca in the Caribbean, Scylla of Ancient Greece and the sea monk of medieval Europe describe dangerous, oceanic creatures. The most famous legendary squid is the Norse Kraken , a monstrous squid, described to be as large as an island and capable of devouring ships whole. The existence of a giant squid, probably the source of these legends, was confirmed in the 1870’s when several carcasses were washed ashore in Labrador and Newfoundland. In 2004, footage of a live specimen of the deep sea giant squid was captured by Japanese scientists.
Cryptids Actively being Pursued
- Ahool: Giant bats reported in a region of western Java.
- Bergman’s Bear: A species of giant bear reported to still roam Eastern Asia.
- Chupacabras: Bizarre Caribbean and South American cryptids. They are reported to be about five foot tall bipeds that drain the blood of livestock through throat punctures.
- Ebu Gogo: On the island of Flores, Indonesia, three foot tall, hairy people with long arms have been sighted. It is said that the females have long, swinging breasts.
- Jersey Devil: Creatures that have been haunting the New Jersey Pineland forest have been described as flying bipeds with hooves.
- Mongolian Death Worm: Natives of the Gobi Desert of Mongolia report giant snakes or worms as killing livestock and people with their toxic breath.
- Mothman: These giant owl-like creatures have been sighted for over 100 years mainly in the West Virginia-Ohio area.
- Skunk Ape: These chimpanzee-like primates have been sighted in central and south Florida.
- Yeren: Reddish, semi-bipedal wildmen reported by Chinese locals often along rural roads.
- Yowie: Tall hairy hominoids sighted in several remote areas of Australia.