Cryptozoology: Could Nessy really exist?

An artist’s reconstruction of the kipunji (Lophocebus kipunji), drawn from a research video shot in the Ndundulu Forest in southern Tanzania and officially described in 2003. Image from NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION An artist’s reconstruction of the kipunji (Lophocebus kipunji), drawn from a research video shot in the Ndundulu Forest in southern Tanzania and officially described in 2003. Image from

I just read an interesting article published in The Scientist today about cryptozoology, a field of research specializing in the study of animals about which only anecdotal or partial evidence exists. In other words, no actual specimens have been studied...think Big Foot or the Loch Ness Monster. There is now a new peer-reviewed scientific journal, The Journal of Cryptozoology, specializing in the topic that is edited by Karl Shuker, a zoologist and comparative physiologist at The University of Birmingham (UK). 

Shuker is hoping that by having a stringent peer-reviewed process, the articles published in this journal may be taken seriously by the scientific community as opposed to just publishing unsubstantiated fantastical stories about legendary creatures. As quoted in The Scientist, Shuker states "If cryptozoology is approached in a rigorously scientific, objective manner, it is no more a pseudoscience than is any other branch of zoology.”

Darren Naish, a paleozoologist from the U.K.’s National Oceanography Centre (University of Southampton) also dabbles in cryptozoology as he uses the field of vertebrate paleontology to examine odd carcasses or to determine the possibility of whether supposedly extinct creatures could still be roaming the Earth (i.e. a plesiosaur posing as Nessy, or the like). Another example from The Scientist is Jeff Meldrum (Idaho State University), a specialist in primate functional foot morphology, who actually examines potential sasquatch footprints to assess the possibility that they are the real deal.

Here is a fun video of America's version of the Loch Ness Monster in Lake Champlain:

Could plesiosaurs still exist?? Stay tuned to the field of cryptozoology to find out!


The Scientist

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Yes, this is how these types of subject matter should be handled. Treat them as legitimate puzzles waiting to be solved, apply appropriate methodologies, and solve them or at least learn something along the way. Same case for UFOs. These things shouldn't be "taboo" to the rational outlook (in any case, taboos are irrational). Over time we can change the popular attitude from one that's susceptible to sensationalism, to one that combines healthy curiosity with healthy skepticism.

So why no journal of cryptobotany? Is it that botanists are so much more successful at actually finding botanical living "fossils"? But if we had such a journal, we'd call it "Glossopteris".

By The Phytophactor (not verified) on 02 Feb 2013 #permalink

There are probably a lot more undiscovered plant species than undiscovered or allegedly-extinct vertebrates and large mollusks (which is basically what cryptozoology is about), but if someone in the field can see a plant, he can collect it; it doesn't turn around and sprint away at top speed.

I grew up on a small ranch in Texas. I was all over the place with my 22 while growing up. A friend killed a large male javelina in our pasture. Neither I nor any of my family had ever seen any sign of javelina on the place. Some years later a friend told us he has seen a momma mountain lion and two kittens on the place. Again, no sign of them. It is certainly possible for a large animal to exist in an area and no one knows about it.

jane's point is well taken. I think plants are much better known than mobile animals. There are a pretty good number of small freshwater tropical fishes which are as yet undescribed. I can't help but think that money spent futilely looking for bigfoot would have been better spent helping me collect and describe small tropical fishes. i realize not everyone would think so :-)

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 03 Feb 2013 #permalink

Jim, that doesn't count for much, unless you also have a chupacabra.


I don't have the reference at hand, but there have been maybe two dozen new large animal species described in the last quarter century. Most , as I recall, have been found in parts of Southeast Asia not previously studied.

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 06 Feb 2013 #permalink

Not enough in Loch Ness to sustain creature of Nessie's supposed size. Somewhat like how you see small goldfish in small bowls, and larger ones in huge aquariums. Get a new hobby :).

I've been to a protected area in Southeast Asia where they knew they (had) had at least one tiger in the vicinity by the sighting of pawprints. Nobody had actually seen a tiger. And this is a colorful animal that weighs several hundred pounds. I can easily believe that there are still surviving primates rare and elusive enough to remain unknown at least to degreed Westerners. Probably not Gigantopithecus/Bigfoot, alas, though it would be really cool.