Cryptozoology

Cryptozoology
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Cryptozoology (from Greek: κρυπτός, kryptós, "hidden"; ζῷον, zôon, "animal"; and λόγος, logos, "knowledge" or "study" – c.f. zoology) - Literally: "The study of Hidden Animals" - is the study of, and search for, animals which fall outside of contemporary zoological catalogs. It consists of two primary fields of research:

The search for living examples of animals taxonomically identified through fossil records, but which are believed to be extinct,
The search for animals that fall outside of taxonomic records due to a lack of empirical evidence, but for which anecdotal evidence exists in the form of myths, legends, or undocumented sightings.
Those involved in cryptozoological study are known as cryptozoologists; the animals that they study are often referred to as "cryptids", a term coined by John Wall in 1983.Cryptozoology has seen very little attention from the mainstream scientific community, and is often classified as pseudoscience because of erratic application of the scientific method.

Overview

Invention of the term "Cryptozoology" is often attributed to noted zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans. But in his book, In the Wake of Sea Serpents, Heuvelmans attributes coinage of the term to the late Scottish explorer and adventurer Ivan T. Sanderson. Heuvelmans' 1955 book, On the Track of Unknown Animals, traces the scholarly origins of the discipline to Anthonid 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 sources regarding such creatures. While often layered in unlikely and fantastic elements, folktales can have small grains of truth and important information regarding these organisms. Loren Coleman, a modern popularizer of Cryptozoology, has chronicled the history and personalities of cryptozoology in his books.

Another notable book on the subject is Willy Ley's Exotic Zoology (1959). Ley was best known for his writings on rocketry and related topics, but he was trained in paleontology, and did write 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's first section ("Myth?") entertains the possibility that some legendary creatures (like the sirrush, the unicorn or the cyclops) might be based on actual animals (or misinterpretation of animals and/or their remains). Perhaps the most rigorously scientific analyses of cryptids can be found in the works of British zoologist and cryptozoologist Dr Karl Shuker, who has published 12 books and countless articles on numerous cryptozoological subjects since the mid-1980s.

Mainstream science and Cryptozoology

Discoveries of previously unknown animals are often subject to great attention. As historian Mike Dash notes, few scientists doubt there are thousands of unknown animals, particularly invertebrates, awaiting discovery. However, most cryptozoologists are 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.

The majority of mainstream criticism of Cryptozoology is directed towards the search for megafauna cryptids such as Bigfoot, the Yeren, and the Loch Ness Monster which appear often in popular culture, but for which there is little or no zoological evidence. Scientists argue that many of the mega-fauna cryptids being sought are unlikely to exist undetected in numbers great enough 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.

As such, cryptozoology has never been fully embraced by the scientific community. Cryptozoology is often considered a pseudoscience by mainstream zoologists and biologists. Noted objections to cryptozoology include unreliable eyewitness accounts, lack of scientific and physical evidence, and over-reliance on confirmation rather than refutation.[citation needed]

Cryptozoologists argue that much of the planet remains unexplored, especially deep oceans, and cryptozoological claims about oceanic species may be given more credence. By plotting the discovery rate of new species, Paxton estimated that as many as 47 large oceanic species remain undiscovered. The discoveries of the Coelacanth and the megamouth shark are both examples of how deep-sea animals can remain undetected for years.

Supporters

Cryptozoology supporters have noted that in the early days of western exploration of the world, many native tales of unknown animals initially dismissed as superstition by western scientists, were later proven to have a basis in biological fact, and that many unfamiliar animals, when initially reported, were considered hoaxes, delusions or misidentifications: the platypus, giant squid, okapi, mountain gorilla, grizzly-polar bear hybrid and Komodo dragon are but a few creatures whose existence was denied by reputable scientists, who often refused to consider the evidence seriously.

Supporters often argue that cryptozoological evidence is evaluated not on its merits or failings, but rather based on ad hominem opinions of researchers, or on prevailing paradigms or world views. For example, scientists like Grover Krantz and Jeff Meldrum have cited what they perceive to be ample physical evidence in support of the existence of Bigfoot. Yet despite the fact that Krantz and Meldrum are recognized experts in their fields, their arguments regarding Bigfoot have largely been dismissed by other scientists. Another supposedly well-attested cryptid that was largely ignored by scientists was the so-called Minnesota Iceman of the 1960s, purportedly an unidentified hominid corpse inspected by two recognized experts, Sanderson and Huevelmans, who offered detailed descriptions and photos of the creature; despite their efforts and evangelizing the case, very few scientists expressed an interest. Skeptics of cryptozoology counter that their skepticism regarding the subject prevents an unwarranted flood of misidentified animal sightings attributed to cryptids.

Evidence of cryptids

As in other fields, cryptozoologists are often responsible for disproving their own objects of study. For example, some cryptozoologists have collected evidence that disputes the validity of some facets of the Bigfoot/Sasquatch phenomenon.

There are several animals cited as examples for continuing cryptozoological efforts:

The coelacanth, a "living fossil" which represents an order of fish believed to have been extinct for 65 million years, was identified from a specimen found in a fishing net in 1938 off the coast of South Africa. According to Dash, the Coelacanth is a good case for paying close attention to natives' knowledge of animals: though the fish's survival was a complete surprise to outsiders, it was so well known to locals that natives commonly used the fish's rough scales as a sort of sandpaper.
The 1976 discovery of the previously unknown megamouth shark off Oahu, Hawaii, has been cited by cryptozoologists to support the existence of other purported marine cryptids. Zoologist Ben S. Roesch agrees the discovery of megamouth proves "the oceans have a lot of secrets left to reveal," but simultaneously cautions against applying the "megamouth analogy" too broadly to hypothetical creatures, as the megamouth avoided discovery due to specific behavioral adaptations that would not fit most other cryptids.
The 2003 discovery of the fossil remains of the "Hobbit"-like Homo floresiensis, thought to be a descendant of, later Homo erectus, was cited by paleontologist Henry Gee of the journal Nature, as possible evidence that humanoid crypids like the orang pendek and Yeti were "founded on grains of truth." Additionally, Gee declared, "cryptozoology, the study of such fabulous creatures, can come in from the cold."

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