Cryptids That Turned Out to Be Real

Posted on 07/06/2010
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Cryptids are animals that many claim exist but are often thought of by science to be subjects of tall tales or local legends, but some of these legends have turned out to have a truth to them. For example, the giant panda was thought to be just a part of Chinese folklore until the western world received actual specimens in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The panda is not the only example, though. The mountain gorilla was also originally scoffed at by science. In fact, many discoveries have proven that in the inexact, so called pseudo-science of cryptozoology, that sometimes cryptozoologists can be right.

The Devil Bird


In the island country of Sir Lanka in Southeast Asia a strange bird with devil horns and the shriek of a human has been a part of local legends for generations. The bird, called Ulama by the locals and Devil Bird by visiting westerners, is rarely seen but is often heard in the form of a shrill shriek that resembles that of a human woman’s scream. The screams are believed by locals to be an omen of death and many folklorists have connected this legend with the well-known Irish legends of the Banshee.

Then, in 2001, a rare owl that was not known to be indigenous to the area was discovered to inhabit the vast forests of Sir Lanka. This owl has patches of feathers above its eyes that rise off the head like horns and it emits a screeching sound that is similar to that of a human. It matched the description of the Ulama perfectly.

The African Unicorn


Many western explorers came back home from the African Congo with tales that they had heard from local tribes about a rain forest horse that was a mix between a giraffe and a zebra. Most dismissed these stories as the tall-tales of explorers looking for glory until the 20th century when western scientists finally recognized this animal’s existence. The strange thing about this animal, though, is that there was evidence for its existence all around us that we simply ignored.

The animal was depicted in the art of the Egyptians and explorers even brought back strange zebra like pelts, but all of these were disregarded as hoaxes or legends. It was regarded as such a ridiculous myth that westerners coined the term “African Unicorn” to describe this animal.

Today the animal goes by the name okapi and is a popular mainstay at many zoos in North America and Europe. The animal is considered to be a living fossil, or it is an animal that has survived many extinction events and has remained relatively unchanged throughout the geological periods. In other words, the okapi were running around with saber tooth tigers and have lasted unchanged to today, so I suppose it may be understandable why science doubted its existence.

The Duck-mole


When someone first described to you the platypus you likely laughed and immediately questioned whether or not such a ridiculous creature could exist. Now imagine you are an explorer, just back from Australia trying to describe a new species you discovered that swims like an amphibian, has hair like a mammal, is poisonous like a reptile, and has a beak and lays eggs like a bird. Odds are you will be laughed at and your discovery would be considered a hoax and that is pretty much what happened in real life when explorers tried to tell biologists what they seen in Australia. Even when explorers brought back a stuffed Platypus, some were still insistent that this animal did not exist. It is an animal that just seems to make no sense at all.

In reality the existence of the platypus makes perfect evolutionary sense. While it is technically not a missing link since it is on its own evolutionary branch, it still gives us an idea on how the segway from reptile to mammal occurred, much as frogs give us an idea on how aquatic life evolved into terrestrial life. The platypus has a combination of mammal and reptile genes and has the physical characteristics of both. It is also not the only one of its kind. Called monotremes, these types of mammal-reptile hybrids used to be in abundance, now only the platypus and the echidna remain.

After nearly a century of debate the platypus was officially recognized by science in the 1800s.

Grizzly–polar bear hybrid


Thought by science to be impossible, grizzly-polar bear hybrids are now known to be something that can occur in the wild. While science has never denied that it was genetically possible for one to breed a grizzly bear and a polar bear they did doubt its occurrence in a natural environment and rightfully so. While grizzlies and polar bears do often inhabit the same territory they often avoid each other. They also have completely different mating habits. Polar bears are aquatic animals that prefer to mate on ice patches around water. The grizzly bear is not particularly known for its swimming skills.

Then in 2006 Jim Martell, a wealthy man with nothing better do with his money, paid $25,000 so he could go legally kill a polar bear. He ventured to the Northwest Territory of Canada and succeeded in his venture. He then went to report his kill as was the law, and officials took an interest in the bear he had killed. While the bear had some traits in common with a polar bear it also appeared to have the traits of a grizzly bear. If the animal was a grizzly Martell could be jailed for his kill. DNA tests conducted on the animal showed that it wasn’t a grizzly or a polar bear but a hybrid. A similar situation in Canada occurred in 2010 when an Inuit hunter killed another grizzly-polar bear hybrid.

What is important to note is that this is two grizzly-polar bear hybrids found in the course of few years. Grizzly-polar bear hybrids in the wild were once unheard of. Is this evidence that grizzly bears and polar bears are mating more often? It can definitely be interpreted that way. It is also important to remember that hybridism is one of the ways natural selection eventually creates new species. Could grizzly-polar bear hybrids eventually become a separate species from their parental counterparts? Only time will tell.

The Kraken


For centuries tales of a giant squid-like creatures attacking ships were written off as the tall-tales of sailors. Large specimens of squid-like creatures had been obtained in the 1800s but this was not conclusive enough to completely confirm the actually existence of a massive squid. Then, in the 21st century, live specimens were caught and photographed proving the existence of these creatures that were once regulated to myths and legends.

Giant squids and colossal squids can both grow to be 46 feet in length and both are known to science through concrete physical evidence. These gigantic squid live in the deep ocean but have been sighted near the surface on some occasions. Science once thought these creatures were the fabrications of sailors now they are considered scientific fact.

While these examples do highlight wins for the cryptozoological community, the field is still rarely taken seriously. It makes sense though, as the main purpose of science is to prove itself wrong, so we cannot really blame the scientific community for denying something exists until they see concrete evidence. It is interesting, though, that from the 19th century to now nearly 30 new megafauna (creatures weighing more than 100 lbs.) have been discovered. It is also interesting that a recent exploration of the Borneo rain forest uncovered 123 new species. There is not a lack of new animals to be discovered, so who knows what else is out there.

Author: Jonathan Kaulay Copyrighted ©