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Cryptozoology refers to the search for and study of creatures whose existence has not been validated or accepted by scientific consensus. Cryptozoologists refer to the animals they study as cryptids. This includes living examples of creatures that are otherwise considered extinct, such as non-avian dinosaurs; animals whose existence lacks physical evidence but which appear in folklore, such as Bigfoot and chupacabras;[1] and wild animals dramatically outside their normal geographic ranges, such as phantom cats. A similar field, cryptobotany, deals with plants whose existence is likewise unsubstantiated.

Cryptozoology is not a recognized branch of zoology nor a discipline of science.[1] It is regarded as pseudoscience because it tends to rely heavily upon anecdotal evidence, stories, and alleged sightings.[2][3][4] Cryptozoology's pseudoscientific approach to folklore is contrastive from folkloristics, the academic study of folklore.[5][6]


Heuvelmans On the Track of Unknown Animals (1955) traces the scholarly origins of the discipline to Anthonie Cornelis Oudemans and his 1892 study, The Great Sea Serpent.[7] 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 sources regarding such creatures, arguing that while often layered in unlikely and fantastic elements, folktales can have grains of truth and important information regarding undiscovered organisms. Phantom cats (an example of living animals supposedly found outside their normal ranges) are a common subject of cryptozoological interest,[8] largely due to the relative likelihood of existence in comparison to more fantastical cryptids lacking nearly any conclusive evidence of existence, such as Mothman.[9][10]

Another notable book on the subject is Willy Ley's Exotic Zoology (1959). Ley, best known for his writings on rocketry and related topics, was also trained in paleontology, and wrote a number of books about animals. Ley's collection Exotic Zoology is of some interest to cryptozoology, as he discusses the Yeti and sea serpents, as well as relict dinosaurs. The book entertains the possibility that some legendary creatures (like the sirrush, the unicorn, or the cyclops) 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, who has published 12 books and countless articles on numerous cryptozoological subjects since the mid-1980s. Loren Coleman, a modern popularizer of cryptozoology, has chronicled the history and personalities of cryptozoology in his books.[11]


Main article: List of cryptids
An okapi at Walt Disney's Animal Kingdom, symbol of the defunct International Society of Cryptozoology

Many species appear in cryptozoological literature, including mythical and folkloric animals, such as Bigfoot and lake monsters (including the Loch Ness Monster), which have appeared commonly as cultural references, and within TV, movies, and other media. A few extant species such as the okapi, Komodo dragon,[12][13] and mountain gorilla[14] are also commonly used by cryptozoologists as examples of animals they say were previously thought to be cryptids, but are now known to exist.[15] The Hoan Kiem turtle is an example of an animal that has been physically confirmed to exist, but whose specific taxonomy is debated.[16][17]

The 2003 discovery of the fossil remains of Homo floresiensis was cited by paleontologist Henry Gee, editor of the journal Nature, as possible evidence that humanoid cryptids like the Orang Pendek and yeti were "founded on grains of truth." "Cryptozoology," Gee said, "the study of such fabulous creatures, can come in from the cold."[18] While cryptozoologists are often unable to properly follow the scientific method due to the nature of their work, the vast majority still reject supernatural explanations for cryptid sightings, preferring to keep explanations as plausible as possible without ruling out the cryptid's existence.[citation needed]

Reception and criticism[edit]

Cryptozoology has been criticised because of its reliance on anecdotal information[19] and because some cryptozoologists do not follow the scientific method,[20][21] devoting a substantial portion of their efforts to investigations of animals that most scientists believe are unlikely to have existed.[22]

In a 2011 forward for The American Biology Teacher, then National Association of Biology Teachers president Dan Ward uses cryptozoology as an example of "technological pseudoscience" that may confuse students about the scientific method. Ward says that "Cryptozoology … is not valid science or even science at all. It is monster hunting."[23] Historian of science Brian Regal includes an entry for cryptozoology in his Pseudoscience: A Critical Encyclopedia (2009). Regal says that "as an intellectual endeavor, cryptozoology has been studied as much as cryptozoologists have sought hidden animals".[24]

In a 1992 issue of Folklore, folklorist Véronique Campion-Vincent says:

Unexplained appearances of mystery animals are reported all over the world today. Beliefs in the existence of fabulous and supernatural animals are ubiquitous and timeless. In the continents discovered by Europe indigenous beliefs and tales have strongly influenced the perceptions of the conquered confronted by a new natural environment. In parallel with the growing importance of the scientific approach, these traditional mythical tales have been endowed with sometimes highly artificial precision and have given birth to contemporary legends solidly entrenched in their territories. The belief self-perpetuates today through multiple observations enhanced by the media and encouraged (largely with the aim of gain for touristic promotion) by the local population, often genuinely convinced of the reality of this profitable phenomenon."[25]

Campion-Vincent says that "four currents can be distinguished in the study of mysterious animal appearances": "Forteans" ("compiler[s] of anomalies" such as via publications like the Fortean Times), "occultists" (which she describes as related to "Forteans"), "folklorists", and "cryptozoologists". Regarding cryptozoologists, Campion-Vincent says that "this movement seems to deserve the appellation of parascience, like parapsychology: the same corpus is reviewed; many scientists participate, but for those who have an official status of university professor or researcher, the participation is a private hobby".[25]

In her Encyclopedia of American Folklore, academic Linda Watts says that "folklore concerning unreal animals or beings, sometimes called monsters, is a popular field of inquiry" and describes cryptozoology as an example of "American narrative traditions" that "feature many monsters".[26]

Cryptozoologists contend that because species once considered superstition, hoaxes, delusions, or misidentifications were later accepted as legitimate by the scientific community, descriptions and reports of folkloric creatures should be taken seriously.[27]

According to Mike Dash, 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 ants or beetles, instead focusing their efforts towards "more elusive" creatures that have often defied decades of work aimed at confirming their existence.[22] The majority of mainstream criticism of cryptozoology is thus directed towards the search for megafaunal cryptids such as Bigfoot, the Yeti, and the Loch Ness Monster, which appear often in popular culture, but for which there is little or no scientific support. Some scientists argue that megafaunal cryptids are unlikely to exist undetected in great enough numbers to maintain a breeding population[28] and are unlikely to be able to survive in their reported habitats owing to issues of climate and food supply.[29]

Another criticism is that actual discoveries of new species have rarely, if ever, been predicted by cryptozoologists. Critics note that while other researchers have stumbled upon real animals, cryptozoologists have focused on finding legendary creatures with no success.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Simpson, George G. (1984). "Mammals and Cryptozoology". Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society (American Philosophical Society.) 128 (1): 1–19. JSTOR 986487. 
  2. ^ Carroll, Robert T. (1994–2009). "The Skeptic's Dictionary". Retrieved 26 August 2010. 
  3. ^ Shermer, Michael; Linse, Pat (2002). The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1-57607-653-9. 
  4. ^ H. James Birx (6 January 2009). Encyclopedia of time: science, philosophy, theology, & culture. SAGE. pp. 251–. ISBN 978-1-4129-4164-8. Retrieved 2 September 2011. 
  5. ^ "International Folkloristics". Retrieved 7 May 2016. 
  6. ^ "Computational Folkloristics". Retrieved 7 May 2016. 
  7. ^ Bernard Heuvelmans (1965). On The Track Of Unknown Animals. New York: Hill and Wang. ISBN 0-7103-0498-6. 
  8. ^ Cryptozoology/Big Cats at DMOZ
  9. ^ "Big Cat evidence gets stronger, as society calls for government study". British Big Cats Society. Retrieved 2010-02-09. 
  10. ^ Brad Fear (2008). A Macabre Myth of a Moth-Man. ISBN 1-4389-0264-6. 
  11. ^ Loren Coleman (2002). Tom Slick: True Life Encounters in Cryptozoology. Fresno, California: Craven Street Books/Linden Press. ISBN 0-941936-74-0. 
  12. ^ Channel, Eden (October 2, 2012). "Komodo Dragons | Reptiles | Animals | Nature | Eden Channel". Retrieved April 11, 2013. 
  13. ^ Ciofi, Claudio. "The Komodo Dragon". Scientific American. Retrieved April 11, 2013. 
  14. ^ Krystek, Lee. "A Gallery of Cryptozoological Alumni". The Museum of UnNatural Mystery. The UnMuseum. Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  15. ^ Margaret Mittelbach; Michael Crewdson (2 April 2009). Carnivorous Nights: On the Trail of the Tasmanian Tiger. Random House Digital, Inc. pp. 10–. ISBN 978-0-307-51683-1. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  16. ^ Coleman, Loren; Patrick Huyghe (2003). The Field Guide to Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents, and other mystery denizens of the deep. Penguin Books. ISBN 1-58542-252-5. 
  17. ^ News Service, Vietnam (May 28, 2006). "The legend of the Hoan Kiem Turtle". Asian Turtle Conservation Network. Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  18. ^ Henry Gee (2004). "Flores, God and Cryptozoology: The discovery poses thorny questions about the uniqueness of Homo sapiens". Nature News. doi:10.1038/news041025-2. 
  19. ^ Shermer, Michael (2003). "Show Me the Body". Scientific American (288(5)): 27. 
  20. ^ Coleman, Loren; Huyghe, Patrick (April 1999). "Afterword". The Field Guide to Bigfoot, Yeti, and Other Mystery Primates Worldwide. Trumbore, Harry. New York, New York: Avon Books. p. 207. ISBN 0-380-80263-5. 
  21. ^ Coleman, Loren; Huyghe, Patrick; Trumbore, Harry; Rollins, Mark Lee (2003). The Field Guide to Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents, and Other Mystery Denizens of the Deep. New York, New York: Penguin Group. p. 358. ISBN 1-58542-252-5. 
  22. ^ a b Dash, Mike (2000). Borderlands: The Ultimate Exploration of the Unknown. Overlook Press. ISBN 0-440-23656-8. 
  23. ^ Ward, Daniel. 2011. “From the President”. The American Biology Teacher 73.8 (2011): 440–440.
  24. ^ Nagel, Brian. 2009. Pseudoscience: A Critical Encyclopedia, p. 50. ABC-CLIO.
  25. ^ a b Campion-Vincent, Véronique. 1992. “Appearances of Beasts and Mystery-cats in France”. Folklore 103.2 (1992): 160–183.
  26. ^ Watts, Linda S. 2007. Encyclopedia of American Folklore, p. 271. Facts on File.
  27. ^ Loren Coleman; Jerome Clark (5 August 1999). Cryptozoology A To Z: The Encyclopedia Of Loch Monsters Sasquatch Chupacabras And Other Authentic M. Simon & Schuster. pp. 186–. ISBN 978-0-684-85602-5. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  28. ^ "Bigfoot hunting". Archived from the original on February 10, 2008. Retrieved December 2010. 
  29. ^ Sjögren, Bengt (1980). Berömda vidunder (in Swedish). Settern. ISBN 91-7586-023-6. 
  30. ^ Bailey, Dave (August 8, 2007). "Cryptozoology: Science or pseudoscience?". Association for Science and Reason. Retrieved November 14, 2012. 

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