Cryptozoology

Cryptozoology

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Cryptozoology is the branch of biology that relates to the animal kingdom, including the structure, embryology, evolution, classification, habits, and distribution of all animals, both living and extinct...

; literally, "study of hidden animals") refers to the search for animal
Animal
Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and...

s whose existence has not been proven. This includes looking for living examples of animals that are considered extinct, such as dinosaurs; animals whose existence lacks physical evidence but which appear in myths, legends, or are reported, such as 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...

 and Chupacabra
Chupacabra
The chupacabras is a legendary cryptid rumored to inhabit parts of the Americas. It is associated more recently with sightings of an allegedly unknown animal in Puerto Rico , Mexico, and the United States, especially in the latter's Latin American communities...

; and wild animals dramatically outside their normal geographic ranges, such as phantom cat
Phantom cat
Phantom cats, also known as Alien Big Cats , are large felines, such as jaguars or cougars, which have been purported to appear in regions outside their indigenous range...

s or "ABCs" (an initialism commonly used by cryptozoologists that stands for Alien
Introduced species
An introduced species — or neozoon, alien, exotic, non-indigenous, or non-native species, or simply an introduction, is a species living outside its indigenous or native distributional range, and has arrived in an ecosystem or plant community by human activity, either deliberate or accidental...

 Big Cats).

The animals cryptozoologists study are often referred to as cryptid
Cryptid
In cryptozoology and sometimes in cryptobotany, a cryptid 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...

s
, a term coined by John Wall in 1983.

Cryptozoology is not a recognized branch of zoology
Zoology
Zoology |zoölogy]]), is the branch of biology that relates to the animal kingdom, including the structure, embryology, evolution, classification, habits, and distribution of all animals, both living and extinct...

 or a discipline of science. It is an example of pseudoscience
Pseudoscience
Pseudoscience is a claim, belief, or practice which is presented as scientific, but which does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status...

 because it relies heavily upon anecdotal evidence, stories and alleged sightings.

Overview



The coining of the word cryptozoology is often attributed to Belgian-French zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans
Bernard Heuvelmans
Bernard Heuvelmans was a Belgian-French scientist, explorer, researcher, and a writer probably best known as "the father of cryptozoology"...

, though Heuvelmans attributes coinage of the term to the late Scottish explorer and adventurer Ivan T. Sanderson
Ivan T. Sanderson
Ivan Terence Sanderson was a naturalist and writer born in Edinburgh, Scotland, who became a naturalized citizen of the United States. Sanderson is remembered for his nature writing and his interest in cryptozoology and paranormal subjects.-Biography:Born in Scotland, Sanderson traveled widely in...

. Heuvelmans' 1955 book On the Track of Unknown Animals
On the Track of Unknown Animals
On the Track of Unknown Animals is a cryptozoological book by Belgian-French author Bernard Heuvelmans that was first published in 1955 under the title Sur la Piste des Bêtes Ignorées. The English translation by Richard Garnett was published in 1958 with some updating by the author and with a...

traces the scholarly origins of the discipline to Anthonie Cornelis Oudemans and his 1892 study, The Great Sea Serpent. Heuvelmans argued that cryptozoology should be undertaken with scientific rigor, but with an open-minded, interdisciplinary approach. He also stressed that attention should be given to local, urban and folkloric
Folklore
Folklore consists of legends, music, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, fairy tales and customs that are the traditions of a culture, subculture, or group. It is also the set of practices through which those expressive genres are shared. The study of folklore is sometimes called...

 sources regarding such creatures, arguing that while often layered in unlikely and fantastic elements, folktales can have small grains of truth and important information regarding undiscovered organisms. Phantom cats (an example of living animals supposedly found outside of their normal range) are a common subject of cryptozoological interest, largely due to the relative likelihood of existence in comparison to fantastical cryptids lacking any evidence of existence, such as 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"...

.

Another notable book on the subject is Willy Ley
Willy Ley
Willy Ley was a German-American science writer and space advocate who helped popularize rocketry and spaceflight in both Germany and the United States. The crater Ley on the far side of the Moon is named in his honor.-Life:...

's Exotic Zoology
Exotic Zoology (book)
Exotic Zoology is a cryptozoological book by Willy Ley, a science writer and space advocate.-Content:Ley had written a number of books containing scientific oddities; Exotic Zoology collects the cryptozoological matter from those books...

(1959). Ley was best known for his writings on rocket
Rocket
A rocket is a missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle which obtains thrust from a rocket engine. In all rockets, the exhaust is formed entirely from propellants carried within the rocket before use. Rocket engines work by action and reaction...

ry and related topics, but he was trained in paleontology
Paleontology
Paleontology "old, ancient", ὄν, ὀντ- "being, creature", and λόγος "speech, thought") is the study of prehistoric life. It includes the study of fossils to determine organisms' evolution and interactions with each other and their environments...

, and wrote a number of books about animals. Ley's collection Exotic Zoology is of some interest to cryptozoology, as he discusses 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...

 and 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, as well as relict
Relict
A relict is a surviving remnant of a natural phenomenon.* In biology a relict is an organism that at an earlier time was abundant in a large area but now occurs at only one or a few small areas....

 dinosaurs. The book entertains the possibility that some legendary creature
Legendary creature
A legendary creature is a mythological or folkloric creature.-Origin:Some mythical creatures have their origin in traditional mythology and have been believed to be real creatures, for example the dragon, the unicorn, and griffin...

s (like the sirrush
Sirrush
The mušḫuššu is a creature depicted on the reconstructed Ishtar Gate of the city of Babylon, originally dating to the 6th century B.C. It is a mythological hybrid, a scaly dragon with hind legs like an eagle's talons and feline forelegs...

, 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...

 or the cyclops
Cyclops
A cyclops , in Greek mythology and later Roman mythology, was a member of a primordial race of giants, each with a single eye in the middle of his forehead...

) might be based on actual animals, through misinterpretation of the animals and/or their remains. Also notable is the work of British zoologist and cryptozoologist Karl Shuker
Karl Shuker
Karl P. N. Shuker is a British zoologist, cryptozoologist, and author living in the West Midlands, England. He works as a full-time freelance zoological consultant, media consultant, and noted author specializing in cryptozoology.- Career :...

, who has published 12 books and countless articles on numerous cryptozoological subjects since the mid-1980s. Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is an author of books on a number of topics, including cryptozoology, who was born in 1947 in Norfolk, Virginia and grew up in Decatur, Illinois.-Education:...

, a modern popularizer of cryptozoology, has chronicled the history and personalities of cryptozoology in his books.

Discoveries



Cryptozoologists claim there have been cases where species now accepted by the scientific community were initially considered superstition
Superstition
Superstition is a belief in supernatural causality: that one event leads to the cause of another without any process in the physical world linking the two events....

, 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, delusions or misidentifications. The popularly reported European discovery of 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...

 in 1901, earlier hinted at but unseen by Henry Morton Stanley
Henry Morton Stanley
Sir Henry Morton Stanley, GCB, born John Rowlands , was a Welsh journalist and explorer famous for his exploration of Africa and his search for David Livingstone. Upon finding Livingstone, Stanley allegedly uttered the now-famous greeting, "Dr...

 in his travelogue of exploring the Congo, later became the emblem for the now defunct International Society of Cryptozoology. The mountain gorilla
Mountain Gorilla
The Mountain Gorilla is one of the two subspecies of the Eastern Gorilla. There are two populations. One is found in the Virunga volcanic mountains of Central Africa, within three National Parks: Mgahinga, in south-west Uganda; Volcanoes, in north-west Rwanda; and Virunga in the eastern Democratic...

, giant squid
Giant squid
The giant squid is a deep-ocean dwelling squid in the family Architeuthidae, represented by as many as eight species...

 and Hoan Kiem Turtle
Hoan Kiem Turtle
The Hoan Kiem turtle is a species of turtle from Southeast Asia. Its status as a distinct species is questionable, with the most recent review strongly suggesting Rafetus leloii is a synonym of Rafetus swinhoei.-Mythology:...

 are other examples of extant species that were brought to the attention of modern science but formerly thought to be cryptids.

The 2003 discovery of the fossil
Fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

 remains of Homo floresiensis
Homo floresiensis
Homo floresiensis is a possible species, now extinct, in the genus Homo. The remains were discovered in 2003 on the island of Flores in Indonesia. Partial skeletons of nine individuals have been recovered, including one complete cranium...

was cited by paleontologist Henry Gee
Henry Gee
Dr Henry Gee is a British paleontologist, and evolutionary biologist. He is a senior editor of Nature, the scientific journal....

, editor of the journal Nature
Nature (journal)
Nature, first published on 4 November 1869, is ranked the world's most cited interdisciplinary scientific journal by the Science Edition of the 2010 Journal Citation Reports...

as possible evidence that humanoid cryptids like the Orang Pendek
Orang Pendek
Orang Pendek is the most common name given to a cryptid, or cryptozoological animal, that reportedly inhabits remote, mountainous forests on the island of Sumatra....

 and 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...

 were "founded on grains of truth". "Cryptozoology", Gee said, "the study of such fabulous creatures, can come in from the cold."

Criticism


Cryptozoology has been criticised because of its reliance on anecdotal information and because some cryptozoologists do not follow the scientific method
Scientific method
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of...

 and devote a substantial portion of their efforts to investigations of animals that most scientists believe are unlikely to have existed.

According to Mike Dash
Mike Dash
Mike Dash is a Welsh writer, historian and researcher. He is best known for his books and articles looking at unusual historical events, anomalous phenomena, and strange beliefs.-Biography:...

, a Welsh historian, few scientists doubt there are thousands of unknown animals, particularly invertebrates, awaiting discovery; however, cryptozoologists are largely uninterested in researching and cataloging newly-discovered species of ant
Ant
Ants are social insects of the family Formicidae and, along with the related wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera. Ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors in the mid-Cretaceous period between 110 and 130 million years ago and diversified after the rise of flowering plants. More than...

s or beetle
Beetle
Coleoptera is an order of insects commonly called beetles. The word "coleoptera" is from the Greek , koleos, "sheath"; and , pteron, "wing", thus "sheathed wing". Coleoptera contains more species than any other order, constituting almost 25% of all known life-forms...

s, instead focusing their efforts towards "more elusive" creatures that have often defied decades of work aimed at confirming their existence. The majority of mainstream criticism of cryptozoology is thus directed towards the search for megafauna
Megafauna
In terrestrial zoology, megafauna are "giant", "very large" or "large" animals. The most common thresholds used are or...

 cryptids such as 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...

, 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...

, 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....

, which appear often in popular culture, but for which there is little or no scientific support. Some scientists argue that megafauna cryptids are unlikely to exist undetected in great enough numbers to maintain a breeding population, and are unlikely to be able to survive in their reported habitats due to issues of climate and food supply.

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....

  • List of cryptids
  • List of figures in cryptozoology
  • Lazarus taxon
    Lazarus taxon
    In paleontology, a Lazarus taxon is a taxon that disappears from one or more periods of the fossil record, only to appear again later. The term refers to the account in the Gospel of John, in which Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead...

  • Fortean Times Magazine
    Fortean Times
    Fortean Times is a British monthly magazine devoted to the anomalous phenomena popularised by Charles Fort. Previously published by John Brown Publishing and then I Feel Good Publishing , it is now published by Dennis Publishing Ltd. As of December 2010, its circulation was approximately 18,000...

  • Paranormal Magazine
    Paranormal magazine
    Paranormal Magazine is a glossy monthly magazine devoted to the subject of supernatural phenomena. It is published by in the UK and is sold throughout the English-speaking world...


Further reading


External links