Animals Keep Getting Found
In 1812 Baron Georges Cuvier, the revered French biologist considered the father of paleontology, declared the end of the age of zoological discovery. "There is," he said, "little hope of discovering new species" of large animals. From now on, he continued, naturalists ought to focus their attention on extinct fauna. As for fabled creatures such as Sea Serpents, which some of his colleagues held to merit further investigation, Cuvier had these words: "I hope nobody will ever seriously look for them in nature; one could as well search for the animals of Daniel or for the beast of the Apocalypse."
In 1819, a mere seven years later, the American tapir was found, only the first of thousands of "new" animals to be uncovered in the past two centuries. They include the giant squid (1870s), okapi (1901), the Komodo dragon (1912), the kouprey (1937), and the ultimate "living fossil," the coelacanth (1938). The largest land mammal to be documented since the kouprey is the extraordinary saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis), a new bovine species. Since the startling discovery in 1992 of a "lost world" of animals stretching sixty-five square miles near the Laotian border, Vietnam's Vu Quang Nature Reserve has produced evidence of two previously unknown bird species, at least one new fish, an unknown tortoise with a striking yellow shell, and two other mammals besides the Vu Quang ox.
The giant panda of Tibet was often cited during the 1950s and 1960s to demonstrate how a large animal could remain elusive and unknown in montane habitats not unlike some valleys of the Himalayas. Cryptozoologists note that it took sixty-seven years from the time of the giant panda's "discovery" until its live capture. Especially germane to the ongoing hunt for uncatalogued large primates. Though the lowland gorilla was officially recognized in 1840, the mountain gorilla eluded detection, considerable searching notwithstanding, until the twentieth century. Indeed, not until 1860 were the first native tales collected of a monster ape said to live on the misty heights of the Virunga volcanoes of East Africa. But to Western zoologists these were no more than unconfirmed anecdotes until October 1902, when Belgian army captain Oscar von Beringe and a companion killed two gorillas on the Virungas' Mount Sabinio, thereby removing the animals from the realm of mythology and into a secure place among the world's recognized fauna. New primates have continued to turn up at an astounding pace throughout the twentieth century. Besides the mountain gorilla, two other apes, the dwarf siamang and pygmy chimpanzee, close relatives of humans and the hominoids have been found.
As Cuvier's "rash dictum" (Heuvelmans's phrase) has been destroyed, the modern world of zoology, of which cryptozoology is a small subdiscipline, continues to be startled as "new" animals keep getting found. It is safe to say that in its essence, cryptozoology represents a throwback to the way original zoological study was conducted. In the beginning, as explorers trekked to new lands and listened to local informants, they were led to remarkable new species. These animals would then be killed or captured, shipped back to the zoological societies and parks of Europe, and formally classified. Today, with the addition of DNA testing and telebiological techniques, cryptozoology keeps alive the tradition of discovery and recognition of new species of animals.
Cryptid is a relatively new word used among professionals and lay-people to denote an animal of interest to cryptozoology. John E. Wall of Manitoba coined it in a letter published in the summer 1983 issue of the ISC Newsletter (vol. 2, no. 2, p. 10), published by the International Society of Cryptozoology. Recently "cryptid" was recognized by the lexicographers at Merriam-Webster as a word of legitimate coinage, though it has yet to appear in their dictionary.
Cryptids are either unknown species of animals or animals which, though thought to be extinct, may have survived into modern times and await rediscovery by scientists. "Cryptid" is derived from "crypt," from the Greek kryptos (hidden); "id," from the Latin ides, a patronymic suffix; and the Greek ides, which means "in sense." When the suffix id is used it typically applies to an implied lineage or similar usages, as in "perseid" (meteors appearing to originate from Perseus, typically around August 11).
Bernard Heuvelmans's definition of cryptozoology itself was exact: "The scientific study of hidden animals, i.e., of still unknown animal forms about which only testimonial and circumstantial evidence is available, or material evidence considered insufficient by some!"
Over the last ten years some have suggested that the science of cryptozoology should be expanded to include many animals as "cryptids," specifically including the study of out-of-place animals, feral animals, and even animal ghosts and apparitions. In Cryptozoology, Heuvelmans rejects such notions with typical thoroughness, and not a little wry humor: Admittedly, a definition need not conform necessarily to the exact etymology of a word. But it is always preferable when it really does so, which I carefully endeavored to achieve when I coined the term "cryptozoology." All the same being a very tolerant person, even in the strict realm of science, I have never prevented anybody from creating new disciplines of zoology quite distinct from cryptozoology. How could I, in any case?
Unfortunately, many of the creatures of most interest to cryptozoologists do not, in themselves, fall under the blanket heading of cryptozoology. Thus many who are interested in such phenomena as the so-called Beast of Bodmin Moor (not an unknown species, but a known species in an alien environment) and the Devonshire/Cornwall "devil dogs" (not "animals" or even "animate" in the accepted sense of the word, and thus only of marginal interest to scientific cryptozoologists) think of these creatures as cryptids.
More broadly, then, we do not know whether a cryptid is an unknown species of animal, or a supposedly extinct animal, or a misidentification, or anything more than myth until evidence is gathered and accepted one way or another. Until that proof is found, the supposed animal carries the label "cryptid," regardless of the potential outcome and regardless of various debates concerning its true identity. When it is precisely identified, it is no longer a cryptid, because it is no longer hidden.
While Heuvelmans created cryptozoology as a goal-oriented discipline (endeavoring to prove the existence of hidden animals), the fact that some of these cryptids will turn out not to be new species does not invalidate the process by which that conclusion is reached and does not retroactively discard their prior status as cryptids. For example, the large unknown "monster" in a local lake is a cryptid until it is caught and shown to be a known species such as an alligator. It is no longer hidden and no longer carries the label "cryptid," but that does not mean it never was a cryptid. It is often impossible to tell which category an unknown animal actually inhabits until you catch it. Until then, it is a cryptid.
Hominology is an important subcategory of cryptozoology that deserves a moment of explanation. Russian researcher Dmitri Bayanov coined the word "hominology" around 1973, to denote those investigations that study humanity's as yet undiscovered near-relatives, including Almas, Yeti, Bigfoot/Sasquatch, and other unknown hominoids. He further defined hominology as a "branch of primatology, called upon to bridge the gap between zoology and anthropology" in a 1973 letter to the London primatologist John Napier. His English paper on the subject was a major breakthrough contribution after decades of unpublicized Russian research and expeditions. The paper, "A Hominologist View from Moscow, USSR," appeared in Northwest Anthropological Research Notes (Moscow, Idaho), vol. 11, no. 1, 1977.
In 1958, the Soviet Academy of Sciences created the Snowman Commission, and later a Relict Hominoid Research Seminar was begun at the Darwin Museum in Moscow. One of the Soviet Union's first hominologists was Boris Porshnev, a contemporary of Odette Tchernine and Ivan T. Sanderson, who also studied unknown hominoids. Porshnev wrote the difficult-to-obtain late 1950s scientific monograph The Present State of the Question of Relict Hominoids. The U.S.S.R. allowed only 180 copies to be printed. While some hints of Porshnev's new studies were becoming known in the West by 1960, his work was largely unknown and unavailable to the scientific community in Russia.
The collapse of the Soviet state has changed much, and hominologists have been able to circulate their work freely. For example, Bayanov has recently published two works on hominology: In the Footsteps of the Russian Snowman (1996) and America's Bigfoot: Fact, Not Fiction-U.S. Evidence Verified in Russia (1997). During a 1997 international hominology conference held in Moscow, attended by North American Sasquatch research notables John Green and Grover Krantz, Bayanov called for the establishment of a Porshnev World Institute of Hominology to study the creatures' role in the evolutionary process.
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