Aug 26, 2020 I Nick Redfern

Our Monsters: Really Just Animals That Have Survived Extinction

In the field of Cryptozoology, strange creatures are referred to as "cryptids." Sometimes, they're just called "monsters." What if, however, they are nothing more than animals that are assumed to have become extinct, but which are really still with us? Maybe it's not an outlandish scenario. Let's begin with those huge, hair-covered man-beasts: the Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas and the Bigfoot of the United States? One candidate for these creatures is Gigantopithecus. There is the following at the Smithsonian Magazine: "Western scientists first learned about extinct giant ape species Gigantopithecus blacki—the largest primate to ever exist—in 1935 when an anthropologist came across some of its massive molars in Chinese drug stores selling them as dragon teeth. Since then, researchers have identified thousands of teeth and a few partial jawbones from the creature. With these pieces in hand, they’ve tried to fit the Bigfoot-like ape into the primate family tree. Without any usable DNA, however, the task has been difficult." If at least some so-called cryptids turn out to be Gigantopithecus, then we can discard that word - "cryptid" - (and even "Bigfoot" too) and refer to them by their real title.

With that said, now let's take a look at the monsters of Loch Ness, Scotland. We are, of course, talking about the legendary Nessies. Yes, they are known as "monsters" (solely because it creates excitement), but maybe they're not. Possibly, we shouldn't be calling them cryptids either. Maybe we should call them plesiosaurs - which lived millions of years ago and that were marine reptiles. That's right: there's a controversial theory that the Nessies are surviving pockets of plesiosaurs. Certainly, not every Nessie hunter goes with the plesiosaur scenario, but some do. For some, the long neck, the reported flippers and the long tail are the collective clinchers. As with Bigfoot and Gigantopithecus, one day we might have to discard the term "Loch Ness Monster" and just refer to them as what they might really be: plesiosaurs.

Australia has its very own cryptids: they are huge lizards. Yep, they are referred to as "monsters." They, too, however, are likely nothing less than ancient creatures believed to have gone belly-up thousands of years ago. But, that against all the odds, are still with us. The creature was (still is?) known as Megalania. The Australian Museum states: "Megalania prisca, the largest terrestrial lizard known, was a giant goanna (monitor lizard). First described from the Darling Downs in Queensland by Sir Richard Owen in 1859, Megalania lived in a variety of eastern Australian Pleistocene habitats - open forests, woodlands and perhaps grasslands. Megalania would have been a formidable reptilian predator like its relative the Komodo Dragon of Indonesia, and may have eaten large mammals, snakes, other reptiles and birds...Megalania prisca was an enormous monitor lizard - up to 5 meters long - with an unusual crest on its snout..."

What about more modern-day things, such as - for example - the Dogman. For all intents and purposes, the Dogman is a werewolf without the ability to shapeshift. We're talking about an  upright wolf that has the ability to walk and run on its hind legs. It too is seen as a cryptid. Could there, however, be something that might explain the Dogman as an animal, rather than as a cryptid? Yes. It's time to take a look at the Thylacine. And what that might have been? Read on. As for the Australian Government, it notes: "Australia is home to some of the world's most unusual and mysterious wildlife. Our native animals, such as the platypus, the koala and the kangaroo, have been a source of wonder and surprise to people the world over. But perhaps our most mysterious animal is the thylacine, or Tasmanian Tiger. There are many reasons why people are fascinated by this animal. Perhaps it is its name and the romantic notion of Australia having its own 'tiger.' Perhaps it is its sad history since European settlement, or the fact that there are many people who claim they have seen a Tasmanian Tiger and believe it may not be extinct after all."

There's something very intriguing about the Thylacine, as the Australian government notes: "The thylacine was said to have an awkward way of moving, trotting stiffly and not moving particularly quickly. They walked on their toes like a dog but could also move in a more unusual way - a bipedal hop. The animal would stand upright with its front legs in the air, resting its hind legs on the ground and using its tail as a support, exactly the way a kangaroo does. Thylacines had been known to hop for short distances in this position." Now, I'm certainly not saying the Dogman and the Thylacine are one and the same. After all, the Dogman is predominantly seen in the United States, and the Thylacine lived in Australia and Tasmania. But, if there can be one animal that superficially looks dog-like and that can stand on its back legs, maybe there's a similar creature in the U.S. - hidden from us for millennia - that has led to the belief in an upright Dogman. What all of this tells us is that some of our "monsters" and our "cryptids" are probably nothing but ancient animals given new names.

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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