Cryptozoology is the study of animals that people think might exist, but for which it cannot be completely proved.

It also is the study of animals many scientists think are extinct, but which are still sometimes reported. Those who study or search for such animals are called cryptozoologists, while the unproven creatures are called by some as cryptids, a term first used by John Wall in 1983.

Cryptozoology is not a recognized branch of zoology or a discipline of science. It is an example of pseudoscience because it relies heavily upon anecdotal evidence, stories and alleged sightings…

The word cryptozoology, or “the study of hidden animals,” was first coined by French scientist Bernard Heuvelmans to describe investigations related to animals that have not been scientifically proven to exist, such as the abominable snowman and the Loch Ness monsters. Today, however, cryptozoology also includes the study of wellknown animals that appear in unexpected places. The most common out-of-place animals (which cryptozoologists whimsically refer to as OOPs) are large felines, such as panthers and lions, that are spotted in locales far from their known ranges. When cryptozoologists hear about a sighting of an unknown or out-of-place animal, they travel to the scene, interview witnesses, and look for evidence that the animal has been there. They also study historical material—including not only newspaper articles and similar writings but also myths, legends, and ancient artwork—to learn about past sightings of such animals. Cryptozoologists are often trained in archaeology, history, and mythology as well as in zoology and physical anthropology, and they must be familiar with advanced library and art research techniques. Skeptics often dismiss the work of cryptozoologists, suggesting that as scholars these individuals are wasting their time because there are no new species of large animals left to be found. Cryptozoologists counter with examples of recent discoveries of new species. For example, in 1976 a previously unknown shark, nicknamed the megamouth because of its huge mouth, was discovered in the waters off Hawaii, and several previously unknown primates were discovered in Africa during the twentieth century. Cryptozoologists note that the existence of some animals can take decades to prove. For instance, until the late nineteenth century scientists believed that a creature called the kraken, now known as the giant squid, lived only in Norwegian legend. In the 1870s, however, some of these creatures washed up on beaches in Newfoundland and Labrador, and scientists were forced to acknowledge that the kraken was real. Living examples of the creature, though, remained elusive for decades. Indeed, the first photographs of a living kraken in its natural habitat were not taken until September 2005. But despite such discoveries, cryptozoology is sometimes derided by scientists in other disciplines, who believe that cryptozoologists’ eagerness to discover new animal species often leads to careless research. Indeed, occasionally a reported sighting of a previously unknown species does turn out to be a hoax, and pranksters or people seeking notoriety sometimes fake photographs or footprints of mysterious creatures, such as the Loch Ness monsters and bigfoot. But cryptozoologists say that because hoaxes threaten their scientific credibility, they are particularly careful to watch for signs of fraud and will not endorse a sighting report as genuine until it has been thoroughly investigated.


The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning