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Cryptid No more

Post  Tzieth on Sat Feb 02, 2013 5:49 pm



The Cryptid Zoo: Pongo

According to African folklore, the pongo was a wild man of the jungles. Looking like a cross between a human and a monkey, he was a violent creature with magical powers. He relished the taste of human flesh, often raiding villages in order to carry away captives for purposes of cannibalism or rape.
Sometimes the pongo was a shapeshifter. Female pongos would turn into beautiful women to get close to male victims, then change back to their true forms when it was too late for the men to escape. Pongos and humans could mate and produce hybrid children who looked human, but who had violent, cannibalistic urges from their pongo side.

Pongo reports were understandably met with much skepticism in the scientific community. The pongo had so many supernatural characteristics and behaviors not typical of a biological animal that it just didn't seem like it would ever turn out to be real. These aspects of the pongo from folklore squarely place it within the "big hairy monster" or "hairy biped" category of anomalous cousins of Bigfoot.

The entire world was surprised when, in 1847, the pongo (now known as the gorilla) was officially declared to exist. Of course, it didn't have any of the weird characteristics assigned to it by folklore. The real gorilla is a vegetarian, not a predator. It doesn't capture humans, it doesn't eat humans, and it can't reproduce with humans. Its official discovery hasn't stopped the flow of legends that claim otherwise, but now science can clearly separate the gorilla of myth and the real animal. Still, the animal's outlandish mythical features were acknowledged in its very name: "gorilla" is derived from the Arabic word for "ghoul."

The story of the pongo's official discovery teaches us that any cryptid, however fantastic it seems, might be real. Supernatural or fantastical characteristics are no reason to disqualify a cryptid from further investigation. In fact, European folklore from little more than a hundred years ago assigns many supernatural abilities and odd behaviors to real animals such as wolves, eagles and mice. We now know that these superstitious ideas are false, even though the animals themselves are indisputably rea

"The Cryptid Zoo: Kraken

From ancient times, sailors have reported seeing a huge sea monster with many tentacles, called the kraken. Sailors knew about the octupus and squid, real ocean animals that had tentacles. However, the kraken was considered to be a different species because it was much, much bigger. Sometimes it was thought to be a giant octopus, sometimes it was thought to be a giant squid. Much of the time, it was simply a big sea monster called the kraken.

During the early part of the scientific era, the kraken was considered just as likely to exist as sea serpents. In other words, it was laughed at. Serious scientists steered clear of the kraken question, refusing to study it even when presented with beached kraken carcasses. Then there came a time when everything changed. Several kraken carcasses were beached within a short time of each other, and there was such an uproar that the reluctant scientists were forced to pay attention.

The kraken was declared a real species. It was named the giant squid. The giant squid remains one of the most elusive large animals in the world. For many years, scientists tried to observe the giant squid in its habitat, but failed. Many people claimed to have seen giant squids, but they were mostly fishermen and sailors, the same people who are not believed when they report sea serpents. Every live sighting was unconfirmed and in each case the witness was not a scientist. Scientists spent millions of dollars on expeditions, but could not obtain video footage of a live squid. Everything that was known about giant squids was based on dead bodies. All expeditions into deep water in search of the natural habitat of giant squids had proved fruitless. The giant squid still had much in common with mythical creatures and true cryptids, even though the scientific community no longer had any doubt that giant squids exist.

In September of 2004, that finally changed. Japanese scientists attracted a giant squid with a baited line, and automatic cameras took more than 500 photographs of the giant squid before it ripped itself free, leaving an 18-foot length of tentacle still attached to the bait.

There is still doubt about just how big giant squids get. Both eyewitness sightings and sucker scars on sperm whales seem to indicate that there are squids much bigger than any dead body we currently have. Most scientists refuse to believe that squids that huge could exist. Is there more than one species of giant squid out there, with one of them being really, really huge? Are the giant squids that have been netted near the surface or that have washed up on beaches the smaller ones?

Skepticism towards the idea of truly huge squids has weakened recently. Now, scientists think that the Antarctic species of squid called Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni actually grows much bigger than the giant squid. They don't have proof of this yet, as the only complete specimens of Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni have been juveniles, but the size of these babies suggests that really big adults are out there. In recognition of this, Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni has recently been given the common name of "colossal squid.
" "


The Cryptid Zoo: Coelacanth

The coelacanth is often called a living fossil fish. It was supposed to have become extinct 65 million years ago, but a specimen of what was apparently a coelacanth was picked up at a fish market near Cape Town, South Africa in 1938. After being identified as a coelacanth and stuffed as a taxidermic specimen to preserve it, doubts were expressed about whether it was genuine. Scientists brought out all the arguments that they typically use to explain away cryptids, including that it was a misidentified normal animal. In this case, it was accused of being a common grouper, even though the remains did not resemble that fish. A second coelacanth was not captured until 1952. Some years after that, catching coelacanths became more of a science and the capture of hundreds of coelacanths managed to demolish the remainder of the scoffers. Today, the coelacanth is fully accepted as a real animal, and we even have videos of live coelacanths swimming in their native habitats.
Known coelacanths are about 5 or 6 feet long when mature. Their heads look somewhat primitive, and they have six fins along the length of their bodies. One pair of fins projects from just under the gills, and the other fins are ranged along the body. Colors include blue with silver striping and brown with golden spots.

The coelacanth is not just any living fossil fish. It is perhaps the most important variety of living fossil fish that could be discovered. It is a member of the lobe-finned fishes, one species of which first ventured onto land and evolved into ambhibians, later giving rise to reptiles, dinosaurs, mammals and every other type of land animal (with the exception of bugs and a few land-dwelling crustaceans). The coelacanth is the closest living relative among the fishes that you and me have. Studying it could prove very enlightening to those who want to learn more about evolution.

The story of the coelacanth is not finished. A second population of coelacanths (perhaps even a separate species) was discovered living near North Sulawesi, Indonesia in 1997. This time, these coelacanths were accepted as real by the scientific community about a year after the initial discovery took place. Before they were accepted, though, the prejudice that so often has tainted cryptozoology caused both the National Geographic Society and the Smithsonian Institution to insist on total secrecy before they would fund the search.

This acceptance of the Indonesian coelacanth came so fast because of the lessons that had been learned when the African coelacanth was discovered. In Africa, native folklore had described the coelacanth, known as the gombessa, but this folklore was ignored by most researchers. Once the folklore was taken seriously, it helped lead researchers to the elusive coelacanths.

The second time around, researchers had learned their lesson. This time, they asked the Indonesian natives for their folklore and were rewarded with stories of the rajalaut which led them to the fish fairly rapidly. Once again, folklore has proven its worth as a tool of cryptozoology, even though it also obscures the truth and relying on it in any way can draw large amounts of ridicule. Surprisingly, the Indonesian coelacanths lived near a coral reef that was a popular tourist destination, showing us that it is sometimes possible for cryptids to live right under our noses without us realizing it.

The African coelacanth and the Indonesian coelacanth might not be the only types of coelacanths in the world. Unconfirmed reports have come from many other places in the ocean, and even freshwater lakes. Seeing how elusive coelacanths are, these reports are plausible. The fossil history of coelacanths shows that they lived in both freshwater and saltwater habitats of many sorts at various times in their long history. Because of these reports, the coelacanth is still a cryptid. Some varieties have been proven real, while others may yet await discovery. Some cryptozoologists expect that before we are done, we might discover a dozen or more varieties of coelacanth around the world

The Cryptid Zoo: Pygmy Elephant

The pgymy elephant is just what it sounds like: a very small elephant. Known to natives of the Congo as the red elephant, adults stand no more than six and a half feet tall at the shoulder, and many are smaller. There have been adult males less than five feet high. Newborns are the size of dogs. They have a reddish skin that is hairier than normal elephants.
Since they have been held in captivity, there is no doubt that these animals exist. The only question is whether they qualify as a new species, a new subspecies, or only as mutants within a known species (the African Forest Elephant). Most zoologists argue for the latter, but cryptozoologists hold out for formal recognition as a new species or subspecies.

There are a number of pieces of evidence to uphold the idea of a new subspecies or species. In the few observations of these animals in the wild, they are seen in family groups of just pygmy elephants, not mixed with larger elephants like they should be if they were something like midgets are among humans. In addition, they seem to have adaptations to a more aquatic lifestyle and they are found in a unique habitat, dense swamps, that are shunned by other types of elephant. These characteristics, if they prove true in later studies, should allow pygmy elephants to qualify as a new subspecies at the very least. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be interest and funding for further studies.

In addition to the pgymy African elephant, there are also reports of pygmy Asian elephants from the dense jungles of India and from certain islands in or near Indonesia. These claims of other possible types of pygmy elephant have been even less investigated by mainstream scientists than the claims of African pygmy elephants.

The possibility of a new species of elephant is not as outlandish as it sounds at first. After many years of familiarity with the African elephant, scientists decided that the African Forest Elephant was not a subspecies, as had been supposed for years, but was a separate species, with nearly as wide a gap between it and other African elephants (the African Bush Elephant) as the gap between African elephants and Asian elephants.

Also, this has happened before in zoology. Bonobos (pygmy chimps) used to be considered as just a subspecies of chimps, but now they are considered a unique species of their own. These lessons teach us that a new species can be declared many years after mainstream science has accepted that the animals in question truly exist, if what was considered to be just one species is found to be two or mor

The Cryptid Zoo: Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

The ivory-billed woodpecker is a large member of the woodpecker family with a striking and beautiful head. It was often called the "Lord God bird" because of the exclamations people would make when they first saw it. It was native to the southeastern portion of North America, and was quite widespread when the South was full of virgin forests.
Unfortunately, its head was thought to have mystical qualities and, as soon as Europeans took control of the trade in this bird, it was soon hunted to extinction, complicated by clear-cutting logging operations on a scale unseen in America today. Except, the ivory-billed woodpecker wasn't really extinct, because it came back... but then it seemed to go extinct again, and ever since then, this cycle has repeated. Scientists keep declaring it is extinct, but it keeps seeming to come back.
This cryptid is of especial interest right now, because recent video evidence has convinced many scientists that a male ivory-billed woodpecker inhabited the Big Woods region of eastern Arkansas in 2004. All of the sightings happened within a two-mile radius, but ivory-billed woodpeckers are known to have a low population density. This suggests that all of these sightings are likely to be of the same bird.

It looks like the ivory-billed woodpecker has returned from extinction again. Is there a breeding population in Arkansas, or is there only the one bird? Hopefully, there are enough birds left to keep ivory-billed woodpeckers around for a long time.

There is also a possible, unconfirmed, population of ivory-billed woodpeckers living in Cuba. These would almost certainly be a different subspecies than the mainland birds. The Cuban ivory-billed woodpecker is still a cryptid in every sense of the wor

" Note: This guy was still unproven at the time this was written, but he is confirmed now and listed as an endangered species

The Cryptid Zoo: Okapi

The okapi is an animal that looks like a cross between a giraffe and a zebra. It was reported from Africa by native folklore, but even the export of okapi skins did not persuade the doubters. People thought that the okapi just sounded too much like an animal that had been made up. It was obviously a mythical mixture of a zebra and a giraffe, a kin to the griffin, centaur, and other legendary creatures made by pasting together the parts of various real animals. The odd skins, with striping on the legs and solid blocks of brown or white elsewhere, were probably faked in some way.
The okapi may have remained an animal that was known to outsiders only through folklore, except for the efforts of Sir Harry Johnston. He believed native informants and sent skins and skulls to scientists until he was able to weaken skepticism and gain research money for the cause. Capture of live animals finally destroyed the last of the skepticism and the okapi was declared a real animal. When cryptozoology emerged as a science, the okapi was often held up as a symbol of cryptozoology, especially as used in the logo of the International Society of Cryptozoology. Until the discovery of the Vu Quang Ox, the okapi was the last significant new large mammal to be accepted by science.

Despite its discovery, we know little about okapis today, except what we have learned from the few animals kept in zoos. The animal is rare and nearly impossible to observe in the wild. The Uganda okapis are now thought to be extinct. The last remaining okapis live in the Congo, restricted to a narrow band of dense rainforest cloaking mountains above 1500 feet, but below 3000 fee

The Cryptid Zoo: Bondegezou (or "Man of the Forests")

The Moni tribe of Irian Jaya, in Indonesian New Guinea, have stories about a being they call the bondegezou, which roughly translates as "man of the forests." A little under three feet tall, this creature looks like a little man covered in bold patches of black and white fur. It can climb, but it is often seen on the ground, where it stands on its hind legs in a bipedal stance.

Even though the folklore has existed since time immemorial, and a clear photograph of a bondegezou even managed to find its way to an Australian scientist in the 1980s, the bondegezou wasn't the subject of any serious scientific inquiry until 1994, when a scientist managed to obtain skins and bones and it was declared a real, new species of mammal. The bondegezou wasn't a creature like Bigfoot. It wasn't even a primate. Instead, it was the oddest-looking species of tree kangaroo anyone had ever seen. It spent more time on the ground than in the trees, had a very short tail, and some oddly human mannerisms. It was often standing on its hind legs when sighted by humans, because this was its alarm posture.

The story of the bondegezou is a good example of how a perfectly real animal can remain hidden from science, especially if it lives in a remote area and is obscured by folklore. Even a clear photograph in the hands of a scientist is no guarantee that there will be a scientific inquiry anytime soon. It also shows that you need to be open-minded about cryptids. They might turn out to exist, but at the same time they might be a species you never imagined. Few people think that Bigfoot-type cryptids could be anything other than primates or primitive varieties of humans, but it is always possible that some could turn out to be something entirely differen
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Re: Cryptid No more

Post  Green911 on Sat Feb 02, 2013 11:07 pm

Thanks for that tzieth, great articles. elephant

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