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Cryptid

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In cryptozoology
Cryptozoology
Cryptozoology refers to the search for animals whose existence has not been proven...

 and sometimes in cryptobotany
Cryptobotany
Cryptobotany is the study of various exotic plants which are not believed to exist by the scientific community, but which exist in myth, literature or unsubstantiated reports....

, 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
Scientific consensus
Scientific consensus is the collective judgment, position, and opinion of the community of scientists in a particular field of study. Consensus implies general agreement, though not necessarily unanimity. Scientific consensus is not by itself a scientific argument, and it is not part of the...

 and often regarded as highly unlikely. Famous examples include the Yeti
Yeti
The Yeti or Abominable Snowman is an ape-like cryptid said to inhabit the Himalayan region of Nepal, and Tibet. The names Yeti and Meh-Teh are commonly used by the people indigenous to the region, and are part of their history and mythology...

 in the Himalayas and the Loch Ness Monster
Loch Ness Monster
The Loch Ness Monster is a cryptid that is reputed to inhabit Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. It is similar to other supposed lake monsters in Scotland and elsewhere, though its description varies from one account to the next....

 in Scotland.

Overview


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 tisues. 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 the coelacanth
Coelacanth
Coelacanths are members of an order of fish that includes the oldest living lineage of Sarcopterygii known to date....

, once believed to be extinct, and the okapi
Okapi
The okapi , Okapia johnstoni, is a giraffid artiodactyl mammal native to the Ituri Rainforest, located in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in Central Africa...

, at one time thought to be entirely fictitious.
Legendary creatures such as the unicorn
Unicorn
The unicorn is a legendary animal from European folklore that resembles a white horse with a large, pointed, spiraling horn projecting from its forehead, and sometimes a goat's beard...

 and the dragon
Dragon
A dragon is a legendary creature, typically with serpentine or reptilian traits, that feature in the myths of many cultures. There are two distinct cultural traditions of dragons: the European dragon, derived from European folk traditions and ultimately related to Greek and Middle Eastern...

 are sometimes described as cryptids, but many cryptozoologists avoid describing them as such. Yet an excellent case may be made that the dragon and griffin are real cryptids. Jeannine Davis-Kimball, Ph.D., writes in Warrior 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
Anecdotal evidence
The expression anecdotal evidence refers to evidence from anecdotes. Because of the small sample, there is a larger chance that it may be true but unreliable due to cherry-picked or otherwise unrepresentative of typical cases....

 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 hoax
Hoax
A hoax is a deliberately fabricated falsehood made to masquerade as truth. It is distinguishable from errors in observation or judgment, or rumors, urban legends, pseudosciences or April Fools' Day events that are passed along in good faith by believers or as jokes.-Definition:The British...

es (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.

Cryptids are the subject of television programs such as Monster Quest
Monster Quest
MonsterQuest is an American television series that originally aired from October 31, 2007 to March 24, 2010 on the History channel...

, Destination Truth
Destination Truth
Destination Truth is a weekly American paranormal reality television series that premiered on June 6, 2007 on Syfy. Produced by Mandt Bros. Productions and Ping Pong Productions, the program follows paranormal researcher Josh Gates around the world to investigate claims of the supernatural, mainly...

, The Secret Saturdays
The Secret Saturdays
The Secret Saturdays is an American animated television series created by Canadian cartoonist Jay Stephens for Cartoon Network. It debuted on October 3, 2008, in the United States...

, The X-Files
The X-Files
The X-Files is an American science fiction television series and a part of The X-Files franchise, created by screenwriter Chris Carter. The program originally aired from to . The show was a hit for the Fox network, and its characters and slogans became popular culture touchstones in the 1990s...

, Lost Tapes
Lost Tapes
Lost Tapes is an American horror/thriller docudrama television series that airs on Animal Planet. Produced by Go Go Luckey Entertainment, the program presents fictional found footage depicting traumatic encounters with cryptozoological creatures , including the Chupacabra and Bigfoot, and even...

, Roswell Conspiracies and Supernatural
Supernatural (TV series)
Supernatural is an American supernatural and horror television series created by Eric Kripke, which debuted on September 13, 2005 on The WB, and is now part of The CW's lineup. Starring Jared Padalecki as Sam Winchester and Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester, the series follows the brothers as they...

.

Eberhart's classification


George M. Eberhart of the American Library Association
American Library Association
The American Library Association is a non-profit organization based in the United States that promotes libraries and library education internationally. It is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with more than 62,000 members....

, who has written for the Journal of Scientific Exploration
Journal of Scientific Exploration
The Journal of Scientific Exploration is a quarterly scientific journal of fringe science published by the Society for Scientific Exploration that was established in 1987...

on the difficulties of cataloging media materials about fringe science
Fringe science
Fringe science is scientific inquiry in an established field of study that departs significantly from mainstream or orthodox theories, and is classified in the "fringes" of a credible mainstream academic discipline....

, classifies ten types of mystery animals under the cryptozoological umbrella:
  1. Distribution anomalies [known animals reported outside their normal range, e.g. the anomalous big cats
    British big cats
    British big cats, also referred to as ABCs , phantom cats and mystery cats, are Felidae which are not native to Britain which are reported to inhabit the British countryside. These sightings are often reported as "panthers", "pumas", or "black cats"...

     of the U.K.];
  2. Undescribed, unusual, or outsized variations of known species [e.g. the giant anaconda
    Giant anaconda
    Reports of giant anacondas date back as far as the discovery of South America when sightings of anacondas upwards of 50 meters began to circulate amongst colonists and the topic has been a subject of debate ever since among cryptozoologists and zoologists.Anacondas can grow to sizes of and...

    s reported from Amazonia or the spotted lions of East Africa];
  3. Survivals of recently extinct species [e.g. Ivory Billed Woodpecker presumed extinct ca. 1960, or the Steller's Sea Cow
    Steller's Sea Cow
    Steller's sea cow was a large herbivorous marine mammal. In historical times, it was the largest member of the order Sirenia, which includes its closest living relative, the dugong , and the manatees...

     presumed extinct ca. 1770, both of which are occasionally claimed to have survived to the present];
  4. Survivals of species known only from the fossil record into modern times [e.g. the mokele-mbembe
    Mokèlé-mbèmbé
    Mokèlé-mbèmbé, meaning "one who stops the flow of rivers" in the Lingala language, is the name given to a large water-dwelling cryptid found in legends and folklore of the Congo River basin. It is sometimes described as a living creature and sometimes as a spirit. It could be considered loosely...

     of central Africa, sometimes described as a living dinosaur];
  5. Lingerlings, or survivals of species known from the fossil record much later into historical times than currently thought [e.g. the woolly mammoth
    Woolly mammoth
    The woolly mammoth , also called the tundra mammoth, is a species of mammoth. This animal is known from bones and frozen carcasses from northern North America and northern Eurasia with the best preserved carcasses in Siberia...

    , presumed extinct ca. 12,000 BCE but occasionally purported surviving into later eras];
  6. Animals not known from the fossil record but related to known species [e.g. the Andean wolf
    Andean Wolf
    The Andean Wolf, or Hagenbeck's Wolf is an unsubstantited wolf-like canid, reportedly from the Andes.-Pelt:In 1927 Lorenz Hagenbeck bought one of three pelts from a dealer in Buenos Aires who claimed that they had come from a wild dog of the Andes. When Dr. Ingo Krumbiegel studied the skin in...

     or the striped manta-ray reported by William Beebe
    William Beebe
    William Beebe, born Charles William Beebe was an American naturalist, ornithologist, marine biologist, entomologist, explorer, and author...

     in the 1930s];
  7. Animals not known from the fossil record nor related to any known species [e.g. North America's Bigfoot
    Bigfoot
    Bigfoot, also known as sasquatch, is an ape-like cryptid that purportedly inhabits forests, mainly in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. Bigfoot is usually described as a large, hairy, bipedal humanoid...

     or most sea serpent
    Sea serpent
    A sea serpent or sea dragon is a type of sea monster either wholly or partly serpentine.Sightings of sea serpents have been reported for hundreds of years, and continue to be claimed today. Cryptozoologist Bruce Champagne identified more than 1,200 purported sea serpent sightings...

    s];
  8. Mythical animals with a zoological basis [e.g. the Griffin
    Griffin
    The griffin, griffon, or gryphon is a legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle...

    , partly inspired by dinosaur fossils of Central Asia];
  9. Seemingly paranormal or supernatural entities with some animal-like characteristics [e.g. Mothman
    Mothman
    Mothman is a legendary creature reportedly seen in the Point Pleasant area of West Virginia from 15 November 1966 to 15 December 1967. The first newspaper report was published in the Point Pleasant Register dated 16 November 1966, entitled "Couples See Man-Sized Bird...Creature...Something"...

    , Black Dogs
    Black dog (ghost)
    A black dog is the name given to a being found primarily in the folklores of the British Isles. The black dog is essentially a nocturnal apparition, often said to be associated with the Devil, and its appearance was regarded as a portent of death. It is generally supposed to be larger than a normal...

     or some fairies from folklore];
  10. Known hoaxes or probable misidentifications [e.g. the Jackalope
    Jackalope
    The jackalope is a mythical animal of North American folklore described as a jackrabbit with antelope horns or deer antlers and sometimes a pheasant's tail . The word "jackalope" is a portmanteau of "jackrabbit" and "antalope", an archaic spelling of "antelope". It is also known as Lepus...

    , an antlered rabbit created as a hoax or prank, but possibly inspired by rabbits infected with Shope papilloma virus
    Shope papilloma virus
    The cottontail rabbit papilloma virus , or Shope papilloma virus, is a type I virus under the Baltimore scheme, possessing a nonsegmented dsDNA genome. It infects rabbits, causing keratinous carcinomas, typically on or near the animal’s head...

    , which causes antler-like tumors].


Additionally, Eberhart argues for six exclusions from classification as a cryptid:
  1. Insignificance. "Cryptids must be big, weird, dangerous or significant to humans in some way."
  2. Lack of controversy. "Someone needs to observe a mystery animal and someone else needs to discredit the sighting. Cryptozoologists function as interventionists between witnesses and skeptical scientists."
  3. Erratics. "The out-of-place alligator […] that turns up in an odd spot, undoubtedly through human agency, is not a zoological mystery […] [I]f someone discovers a new species of alligator that lives only in sewers, that is a different matter."
  4. Bizarre humans [e.g. zombies]
  5. Angels or demons […] "the paranormal or supernatural is admitted only if it has an animal shape (a werewolf
    Werewolf
    A werewolf, also known as a lycanthrope , is a mythological or folkloric human with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf or an anthropomorphic wolf-like creature, either purposely or after being placed under a curse...

     sighting, which might involve a real dog or wolf, or a mystery canid)."
  6. Aliens "[unless such extraterrestrials] arrived a long time ago and thus classify as residents."

See also

  • Cryptobotany
    Cryptobotany
    Cryptobotany is the study of various exotic plants which are not believed to exist by the scientific community, but which exist in myth, literature or unsubstantiated reports....

  • Cryptozoology
    Cryptozoology
    Cryptozoology refers to the search for animals whose existence has not been proven...

  • List of cryptids
  • List of legendary creatures

Further reading