Cryptozoology literally means the study of hidden animals. Cryptozoologists study one of two fields. In one, they search for living specimens of animals which are believed to be extinct, like the coelacanth. They may also search for animals known only through myths and legends, like the mighty Sasquatch. There are many animals of cryptozoology – some of them just haven’t been proven yet.

Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans is often credited with inventing the term “cryptozoology”, though he himself credited an earlier Scottish explorer. In any case, Heuvelmans believed that the study of unknown creatures should be scientifically rigorous, using a multidisciplinary approach. For example, he believed that scientists should pay attention to myths and legends, as they often included a grain of truth.

Cryptozoology is an unusual field. While many cryptozoologists are respected scientists in their own fields, the study of cryptozoology remains unappreciated in the scientific community. Some biologists and zoologists even consider cryptozoology a pseudoscience.

Much of the criticism leveled at cryptozoology is aimed at the search for animals like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster. Skeptics argue that these large creatures could not survive in large enough numbers to breed and maintain their population. They also raise issues related to climate and food supply, noting how these change over time and how those changes affect other species.

Most scientists agree that we have not yet cataloged and described all the creatures of this world. Most of these unknown species are believed to be invertebrates, ants and beetles. However, cryptozoologists are not interested in interesting new bugs – they search for more elusive creatures. Recent discoveries in the ocean suggest that large deep-sea animals exist, albeit undetected by humans. Recent examples include the coelacanth (discovered in 1938, once thought to be extinct) and the mega-mouth shark (discovered in 1976).

Supporters of cryptozoology have seen many unknown animals dismissed as legend, only to have their existence proven at a later date. The mountain gorilla, platypus, giant squid, and Komodo dragon were once dismissed as mythical. Similarly, the zebra-like okapi and grizzly-polar bear hybrid were denied. Despite the vocal denials of scientists, these species stubbornly persist.

Preserved specimen of coelacanth, Latimeria chalumnae, in the Natural History Museum, Vienna, Austria (length: 170 cm – weight: 60 kg). This specimen was caught on 18 October 1974, next to Salimani/Selimani (Grande Comore, Comoros Islands)
Photo of megamouth shark, Megachasma pelagios. Courtesy Wikipedia.