Cryptozoology


Have we found all the large animals still living in the world? Probably not, since in the last decade some previously unknown species have surfaced in Southeast Asia, for example. This page is dedicated to such animals -- commonly called "cryptids" -- which might possibly exist in nature but whose existence has not yet been accepted by modern science.

If you are interested in animals which have never existed in nature (although they may, in part, have been based upon real animals) such as gryphons and mermaids, please see my legendary animals page.

Cryptozoological topics have generated a vast number of books, magazines, and articles. My page of books about cryptozoology lists some I've found interesting.

Encounters with hairy hominids or "wild men" like the Yeti, Sasquatch, and Nguoi Rung go back to antiquity and appear in legends throughout the world. One of the earliest literary compositions in the world, the Epic of Gilgamesh, contains a hairy wildman named Enkidu. North America's representative is usually called the Sasquatch, one of its Native American names, or Bigfoot.

The best-known photographic evidence is the famous Roger Patterson film of a purported Sasquatch, taken in 1967. (Stories that Patterson's film was a hoax continue to circulate.) One hypothesis is that some reports represent encounters with surviving representatives of supposedly extinct hominoid or hominid species. A popular choice for Bigfoot is Gigantopithecus blacki, a giant ape commonly assumed to have died out several hundred thousand years ago. Other suggested candidates include Homo neandertalensis (Neanderthal Man), Homo erectus, and Australopithecus (Paranthropus) robustus.

The history of the discovery of the mountain gorilla demonstrates that a large ape can elude detection for decades, and that native tales of such creatures can be based in fact. Likewise for the Giant Panda. It took sixty-seven years from the time the Giant Panda was "discovered" by Westerners until its live capture. During this period twelve well staffed and equipped professional expeditions failed to collect a single live specimen of this large bear. It took over twenty years to collect a living specimen of the Congo Peacock once it became known to Westerners from feathers and oral descriptions by natives of the Congo River basin.

Another persistent type of encounter is with lake monsters. The most famous serpentine lake monster is Nessie, supposed inhabitant of Loch Ness in Scotland. Closer to home is Ogopogo, a Nessie-like creature said to inhabit Lake Okanagan in Canada. Many such sightings may actually be due to standing wave phenomena such as soliton waves or little known weather phenomena such as "mini" waterspouts. The Bunyip of Australia may represent an oral tradition of sightings of an extinct giant marsupial, the Diprotodont.

Sightings of giant sturgeon in lakes with a connection to the sea may explain some lake monster sightings. The sturgeon's prehistoric appearance differs markedly from other fish. Rather than scales, the great Atlantic sturgeon Acipenser oxyrhynchus is covered with five rows of bony plates called scutes. The head tapers to a hard snout with four catfish-like sensory barbels near the mouth. Small sturgeon swim up the shallow rivers connecting lakes such as Lake Champlain in Vermont, USA to the sea. Once in the lake the sturgeon can grow to awesome size. The Atlantic sturgeon reaches lengths of five meters and weighs over four hundred kilograms. In 1951 an eye witness reported seeing a "monster" in Lake Champlain. She shot at it, believing she hit it with at least one bullet, and the creature disappeared. A few days later the corpse of a giant sturgeon bearing a bullet hole washed up on the shore of the lake. The largest reliably recorded sturgeon was a specimen of Acipenser huso caught in the Volga River in 1827. That sturgeon measured eight meters long and weighed 1,470 kg, surely a monster in anyone's book!

Many animals have gone extinct over the last few hundred years as a result of ecological disruption caused by humans migrating to new environments or direct attempts to exterminate "problem" species. An example is the Tasmanian Tiger or Thylacine (scientific name Thylacinus cynocephalus), also known as the marsupial wolf. This carnivorous marsupial was apparently hunted to extinction in the early part of the twentieth century. The last known living specimen, whose photo appears at the top of this page, died in captivity in 1936 in the Hobart Zoo in Australia. Persistent reports of sightings right down to the present offer hope that a few thylacines may still live in the wild. For example, a Park and Wildlife Officer reported observing a Thylacine in the Pyengana region of eastern Tasmania in January, 1995. A followup search failed to find any trace of this specimen.

Other animals generally considered extinct but which continue to be sighted occasionally include the dodo bird of Mauritius, the giant moa of New Zealand, and the giant shark Carcharocles megalodon.

Efforts are also underway to try to bring back some animals from extinction. A project to resurrect the Quagga, an extinct variety of zebra, has been somewhat successful. Recent successes with mammal cloning have fueled hopes that creatures like the mammoth or the thylacine could be brought back via cloning or hybridization procedures. For example, scientists at the Australian Museum in Sydney hope to clone a thylacine using DNA from a pup preserved in alcohol since 1866.

Sometimes a supposedly extinct animal turns out to be still alive. The coelacanth provides a famous example. In 1938 a coelacanth was caught by fishermen on the vessel Nerine trawling off the mouth of the Chalumna River in South Africa. The fish measured about 1.5 m (5 feet) in length and weighed 57 kg (126 lbs). Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, a curator at the East London Museum, could not identify the fish. She sent a sketch to J. L. B. Smith at Rhodes University in South Africa who identified the fish as a coelacanth. Prior to this discovery, scientists had believed the coelacanth died out around 80 million years ago. The next coelacanth was not caught until 1952. Since then at least two hundred Coelacanths have been caught in and around the Comoro Islands. In 1998 a new population was discovered off North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Survivors from prehistoric times like the coelacanth are sometimes called "living fossils."

In the early 1970s Ralph M. Wetzel and co-workers from the University of Connecticut discovered living specimens of the Chacoan Peccary, which he named Catagonus wagneri. Peccaries are close relatives of pigs and boars. Prior to Wetzel's find this type of peccary was known only from fossils and had been thought to have died out ten thousand years ago. Wetzel found the living specimens in Patagonia after hearing native stories. The natives called it the tagua. The Chacoan Peccary is the largest of the three known living species of peccary. There are significant differences in the chromosome numbers of the Chacoan peccary and the other two species, indicating they are not closely related. Very little is yet known of the Chacoan peccary's life cycle. It is considered to be an endangered species.

Another recent example from the Canary Islands concerns the lizard Gallotia gomerana. In June 1999 Spanish scientists reported finding six living specimens (two males, three females, and one juvenile) of this lizard on La Gomera, one of the Canary Islands. Gallotia gomerana had previously been considered extinct for nearly five hundred years. This lizard measures about half a meter in length, a respectable size for a lizard.

The 1997 discovery of a large tree rat in the Vilcabamba mountains of Peru provides another recent example of the survival of a presumably extinct animal. Its discoverer, Louise Emmons of the Smithsonian Institution, named the animal Cuscomys ashaninka after the city of Cusco near where the animal was discovered and the indigenous Ashaninka people. The Cuscomys closely resembles the so-called Inca Tomb Rat that the Inca kept as pets. The Inca tomb rats are considered extinct, but since Cuscomys is still alive, it is possible that the Inca tomb rat still survives as well.

The Chinese crested tern, considered extinct since 1937, was found to be still surviving in the summer of 2000. Six pair of terns were spotted rearing chicks on a tiny islet off the coast of Taiwan.

The Central Rock Rat of Australia, considered extinct for forty years, was found to be still surviving in 1996, and more populations surfaced in West MacDonnell National Park in January, 2001.

The sites below include some which offer a scientific outlook on cryptozoology, some which tend to the mystical, some which are better understood as part of the UFO phenomenon (e.g., Mothman), and some which are probably just a joke. The latter includes sites about the Ozark Howler, the name of whose principal investigator -- Itzakh Joach ("It's a joke") -- reveals the probable spurious nature of this creature and its reports. In fact, it now seems quite certain that the Ozark Howler is entirely a deliberate hoax.

Cryptozoological subjects have often been depicted on postage stamps around the world. My pages about Cryptozoology and Philately present some of these stamps. Each of my stamp pages provides more information about each cryptid.

There are many online message boards which discuss cryptozoological topics. I moderate the CryptoSearch message board on www.yahoogroups.com. There are several other Yahoo! Groups message boards dedicated to cryptozoological topics as well.


Bears


Bigfoot (Sasquatch), Yeti, and other unknown apes and hominids

See my pages on Bigfoot Stamps and Yeti Stamps for more information about these creatures.


Birds and Flying Reptiles


Carcharocles megalodon

See my page on Megalodon stamps for more information about this presumably extinct giant shark.


Cats


Chupacabra


Coelacanth

See my coelcanth stamps page for more information about this "living fossil."


Elephants


General


Giant Snakes and Reptiles

See my Komodo Dragon stamps page for more information about giant lizards.


Giant Squid and Octopodes

See my Kraken stamps page for more information about giant cephalopods.


Jersey Devil


Kangaroos

Kangaroos are native to Australias and of course are real living animals. However, there are a surprising number of reports of "out of place" kangaroos in Europe, the United States, and elsewhere. While many can be explained as escaped pets, some of these "kangaroos" exhibit behavior more like the chupacabra than a normal kangaroo.


Loch Ness Monster and other lake monsters

See my pages on Loch Ness Monster stamps, Ogopogo stamps, and Bunyip stamp for more information about these famous lake monsters.


Mapinguari and Giant Ground Sloths

See my page on Mapinguari and giant ground sloth stamps for more information.


Mothman


Rods


Sea Serpents and other Sea Monsters

See my page on Sea Serpent stamps for more information about these creatures.


Tasmanian Tiger and other marsupial cryptids

See my page on Thylacine stamps for more information about this intriguing marsupial carnivore.




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Last modified by pib on October 15, 2013.