- Dec 22, 2014
- Wessex and Mercia
When a word is used to mean a very broad spread of fundamentally different things, it no longer has a definition.
In the normal course of events, outside of a legal, technical or academic context, definitions develop or evolve, and important distinctions are lost (e.g. anticipate now used to mean expect.) I think "cryptid" has degraded to the stage of being almost a useless word if it is not given some additional context.
Without further qualification, cryptid now means little more than "any creature that some people claim to believe may exist, but which is not recognised by science."
In broad terms, I would say there are two fundamental categories of cryptid.
1) Creatures we know once existed, but are/were thought to be extinct.
This would include the coelacanth, thylacine, dodo, pterosaurs, plesiosaurs etc.
Although the term cryptid hadn't been invented back in the 1930s when a living coelacanth turned up, I believe it met the criteria to be regarded as such. Its status has obviously now changed to that of a "Lazarus Taxon". Fingers crossed that the same may happen with the thylacine (but I'm not holding my breath for a living pterosaur).
2) Creatures with no supporting hard evidence for their existence, such as dragons, yetis/Bigfoot, chupacabras, werewolves, Mothman, Mongolian death worm etc.
Whilst I would love to be proved wrong, I believe the odds of any of these mythical creatures being proven to be real flesh and blood are as close to zero as makes no difference.
What also muddies the waters a bit are attempts through selective breeding and/or genetic manipulation to recreate extinct species. The Aurochs has already been pretty well resurrected and there is a fair chance that something closely resembling the mammoth may reappear within a few years. I wouldn't count these as cryptids though.