Nov 13, 2013 I Micah Hanks

Land of the Lost: Cryptozoology and the Discovery of New Species

The last several weeks have been exciting ones in the world of zoology. In Australia, a handful of new reptile and amphibian species were discovered in a secluded, stony area only miles away from one of Outback's largest cities. Arguably the most distinct of the three new species discovered was a little beast dubbed the leaf-tailed gecko, of which Patrick Couper, Curator of Reptiles and Frogs at the Queensland Museum, wrote was the “strangest new species to come across my desk in 26 years working as a professional herpetologist. I doubt that another new reptile of this size and distinctiveness will be found in a hurry, if ever again, in Australia."

Around the same time, a new species of hump-backed dolphin was also discovered, again living in coastal waters just off the shore of Australia; and within the last few days, news of the discovery of a new variety of scorpion, this time found in Turkey, has raised the number of known stinging insects in the region to five in total.

dolphin1382996351 570x286
Hump Back Dolphin

Often, those who continue the hunt for unknown animals--generally referred to as cryptozoologists in the modern era--will cite such instances as proof that there are indeed likely to be plenty of animals existing around various secluded parts of our planet which, though seemingly unlikely, may still exist, and elude capture. The crypto-clans are right, of course, as such stories included above do help us illustrate. But does this actually present a sound argument for the more interesting proposed "cryptid beasts" that related literature contains... namely those of the more monstrous variety?

One interesting thing to note about the discovery of new varieties of life on Earth is that, quite often, we need not look very far from populated areas in order to discover creatures which we had managed to elude us previously. Among recent additions are a new variety of hammerhead shark discovered right off the coast of South Carolina, as well as the new species of legless lizards discovered near LAX, as well as a newly discovered population of known lizards (green anoles, to be exact) in an unusual locality, uncovered at Hancock Park, near Los Angeles.

leglesslizard670 570x190
Bakersfield legless lizard

And yet, while these significant discoveries have occurred in our proverbial back yards, we should remember too that, in the more remote regions of the world, the promise for discovery is almost unyielding in its potency. In the last few years alone, more than 400 new species of both animals and plants are said to have been discovered in Amazon. With little doubt, other locales around the globe, such as the presently inaccessible depths of our deepest oceans may yield even more incredible--or startling--discoveries.

But one thing we do tend to see when we begin surveying the varieties of new life forms recently discovered is a propensity for smaller animals; there are plenty of lizards, fish, snakes, scorpions, and other small, reclusive animals, with fewer animals so large that they couldn't easily be missed. Exceptions might include the Australian hump backed dolphin and South Carolina Hammerhead, although each of these creatures was no doubt able to maintain its prolonged privacy thanks to the barrier between land and water... so does this mean that if larger "mystery beasts" were to exist, that sea monsters would be more likely candidates than land-dwelling beasts the likes of Bigfoot?

Obviously, there are a number of ways a creature on Earth, whether on land or within the oceans, might elude discovery and capture. With the oceans, what we do know is that the anonymity that deep waters have provided to creatures such as the two aforementioned new species could also have worked against early reporters of marine beasts in determining precisely what they were seeing; in essence, through distance, and deep water, there have obviously been resulting instances where the identification and study of marine animals has been complicated. Thus, certain shark and dolphin species have managed to blend in with their cousins until only recently, whereas in other cases, perhaps known animals were mistaken for creatures far more magnificent and beastly by virtue of a similar process of aqueous anonymity.

We obviously cannot rule out the possibility that there are larger mystery beasts that may exist around the globe, particularly those on par with the varieties written about and discussed by modern cryptozoologists. If anything, the oceans of our planet, thanks to the evolutionary benefits afforded by the extra-buoyancy of salt water, have become known habitats for the world's largest species, such as the blue whale. If a mystery beast of epic size were yet to elude us, logic would dictate that this would be the most likely locality for them.

Then again, we also have the myths and legends surrounding creatures like the mokele m'bembe, a presumed long-necked saurian beast said to inhabit Lake Tele in the Congo. More famously, we have the stories of creatures like Bigfoot, said to be stomping around the more remote portions of the Pacific Northwest, and possibly other parts of the world. What do our discoveries of new animal species lend to the potential, so far as the existence of larger crypto-beasts like these?

mokele mbembe attack by benwootten d5wuvcb 570x380
Mokele-Mbembe Attack - Art by BenWootten at DeviantArt.

From a conservative zoological standpoint, again it would seem less likely that large mystery beasts could remain hidden in a setting that is both land-based, rather than obscured by ocean depths, but also in far closer proximity to human civilization. Additionally, whereas the habitat and available food sources in an ocean might be conducive to a creature of larger stature actually thriving, the rugged portions of the Northwest, it has been argued, might instead prove far to formidable for a creature of Bigfoot's size and appetite; how or why an animal of this size and disposition would have evolved in such a climate, and no less continued to thrive, despite the food intake that would be required for him would be nearly as mysterious as the existence of the beast itself.

Then again, there are a number of very credible cases where the observation of creatures that fit the Sasquatch description have occurred; anyone who really takes time to examine the literature in this regard would have to entertain the idea, and at times quite seriously, that such a creature indeed might exist. And therefore, if the things actually do exist, would our dismissal of their indigenous abilities to thrive be tantamount to "Ancient Alien Theorists" detracting from the ingenuity of ancient humans who did such things as building the pyramids? In other words, does our tendency to disbelieve the potential marvels of nature really only highlight our own disregard for the ingenuity actually at work? Time and time again, people who simply couldn't accept that ancient man possessed unique enough abilities to perform monumental achievements such as the construction of pyramids and other ancient sites have looked to the stars for answers instead, supposing that aliens came to Earth and, with their advanced technologies, created mud pies of stone and stand as the lasting testament to their abilities to go planet skipping through space and time. When proposed in these terms, it seems far less likely that we would even know about it if aliens had ever visited Earth.

But in keeping with the same line of thought for a moment longer, wouldn't it be interesting if, one day, we made the same observations about people who doubted the potential ability of a large creature like a Sasquatch to thrive in a remote environment in the modern Americas? Who knows... there may even be ideologues out there one day who will look back on the Sasquatch doubters, and note that they were despicably racist for supposing that such creatures--which might conceivably end up actually being more closely related to ancient humans--were inefficient at supporting themselves in the wild (hey, we certainly don't see that kind of thing going on today now, do we?) ;)

eca2181b80fe20bd74c89549a9065d7d d3a2uy4 570x660
Sasquatch by Daz18 at DeviantArt

We need not draw our conclusions about the existence of mystery at present (and I, for one, shall not), in order to justify the notion that modern cryptozoologists can learn quite a bit from the study of newly discovered animal species, and the processes that led to such discoveries. While many will cite the revelation of new animal species as an argument that itself actually supports cyrptid studies, there are also the extreme differences one must take into consideration between supposed cryptids, versus the actual species that turn up during legitimate scientific discoveries... physical size being only one of a myriad worthy of consideration. Still, we also can't rule out that there may in fact be "monsters" out there; but as more and more of the unseen animal kingdom continues to unfold around us, perhaps our best education will be to determine how can we better equip ourselves with knowledge that will be useful in determining where and how best to look, versus the implementation of mere wishful thinking and folkloric ideals, based on our hope for the existence of things that are presently still deemed impossible.

Micah Hanks

Micah Hanks is a writer, podcaster, and researcher whose interests cover a variety of subjects. His areas of focus include history, science, philosophy, current events, cultural studies, technology, unexplained phenomena, and ways the future of humankind may be influenced by science and innovation in the coming decades. In addition to writing, Micah hosts the Middle Theory and Gralien Report podcasts.

Join MU Plus+ and get exclusive shows and extensions & much more! Subscribe Today!