In cryptozoology and sometimes in cryptobotany, both pseudoscience, a cryptid (from the Greek κρύπτω, krypto, meaning "hide") is an animal or plant whose existence has been suggested but has not been discovered or documented by the scientific community or by direct evidence. The terminology has also entered modern lexicon outside of the pseudosciences. Cryptids often appear in folklore and mythology, leading to stories and unfounded belief about their existence. Well-known examples include the Yeti in the Himalayas, the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland, Sasquatch in North America, the Jersey Devil in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, and the Chupacabra in Latin America.
The term cryptid was coined by John E. Wall in a 1983 letter to the International Society of Cryptozoology newsletter. The prefix "crypt-" is Greek and means "hidden" or "secret".
George M. Eberhart of the American Library Association, who has written for the Journal of Scientific Exploration on the difficulties of cataloging media materials about fringe science, classifies ten types of mystery animals under the cryptozoological umbrella:
- Distribution anomalies [known animals reported outside their normal range, e.g. the anomalous big cats of the U.K.];
- Undescribed, unusual, or outsized variations of known species [e.g. the giant anacondas reported from Amazonia or the spotted lions of East Africa];
- Survivals of recently extinct species [e.g. ivory-billed woodpecker presumed extinct c. 1960, the Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine), declared extinct in 1936, or the Steller's sea cow presumed extinct c. 1770, both of which are occasionally claimed to have survived to the present];
- Survivals of species known only from the fossil record into modern times [e.g. the mokele-mbembe of central Africa, sometimes described as a living dinosaur];
- Lingerlings, or survivals of species known from the fossil record much later into historical times than currently thought [e.g. the woolly mammoth, presumed extinct c. 12,000 BCE but occasionally purported surviving into later eras];
- Animals not known from the fossil record but related to known species [e.g. the Andean wolf or the striped manta-ray reported by William Beebe in the 1930s];
- Animals not known from the fossil record nor related to any known species [e.g. North America's Bigfoot or most sea serpents];
- Mythical animals with a zoological basis [e.g. the griffin, partly inspired by dinosaur fossils of Central Asia];
- Seemingly paranormal or supernatural entities with some animal-like characteristics [e.g. Mothman, black dogs or some fairies from folklore];
- Known hoaxes or probable misidentifications (e.g. the jackalope, an antlered rabbit, a popular hoax in taxidermy).
Additionally, Eberhart argues for six exclusions from classification as a cryptid:
- Insignificance. "Cryptids must be big, weird, dangerous or significant to humans in some way."
- 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."
- 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."
- Bizarre humans [e.g. zombies]
- Angels or demons […] "the paranormal or supernatural is admitted only if it has an animal shape (a werewolf sighting, which might involve a real dog or wolf, or a mystery canid)."
- Aliens "[unless such extraterrestrials] arrived a long time ago and thus classify as residents."
- Carroll, Robert T. (23 February 2009). "Cryptozoology". The Skeptic's Dictionary. Retrieved 2009-04-12.
- Naish, D. "Monster hunting? Well, no. No.". Tetrapod Zoology.
- Daniel Loxton, Donald R. Prothero (2013). Abominable Science: Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and other Famous Cryptids. Columbia University Press. p. 17.
- "The Oxford Dictionary". Retrieved 17 June 2016.
- "UK Telegraph". Retrieved 17 June 2016.
- "Canadian Encyclopedia". Retrieved 17 June 2016.
- "John E. Wall of Manitoba coined it [the word "cryptid"] in a letter published in the summer 1983 issue of the ISC Newsletter (vol. 2, no. 2, p. 10), published by the International Society of Cryptozoology." Coleman, L.
- Cryptozoology A to Z: The Encyclopedia of Loch Monsters, Sasquatch, Chupacabras, and Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature by Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1999, ISBN 0-684-85602-6).
- Eberhart, George M. "Mysterious Creatures: Creating A Cryptozoological Encyclopedia." 2005. Journal of Scientific Exploration. Vol. 19, No. 1, pp. 103–113.
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- Mackal, Roy P. (1980). Searching For Hidden Animals: An Inquiry into Zoological Mysteries. USA: Self published. ISBN 0-385-14897-6.
- Eberhart, George M. (2002). Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology. Volume 2. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1-57607-283-5.
- North American BioFortean Review, Index to issues.