Saturday 25 July 2009

Cryptozoological finds

Cryptozoology can be a lonely hobby. Cryptozoologists are often the butt of significant ridicule from both inside and outside the scientific community.While not every cryptozoologist thinks critically or is scrupulous about methodology, most are quite serious about what they are doing. The periodic reappearance of species formerly thought to be extinct is the kind of event that keeps cryptozoologists going. The truth is, whatever might be said about cryptozoologists and their quirks, ancient animals and plants really do vanish and the reappear with surprising frequency. Such animals and plants are discovered so often, in fact, that paleontologists have a term for them: They are called 'Lazarus taxa' (after the man raised from the dead in the Gospel of John), meaning they were thought to be extinct for some extended period, then suddenly reappeared, alive and well. Many people believe that cryptids may actually be extinct species that have found a way to survive. Lake Monsters are especially likely to be attributed to an actual reappearing species, most often, specifically, the Plesiosaur, an aquatic dinosaur with a long neck and fins that lived during the Cretaceous period and disappeared from the fossil record about 65 million years ago. Could a 65 million year old dinosaur have survived undetected in landlocked glacial lakes? The Plesiosaur was a carnivore and a large one, so it does seem to be fairly unlikely. Such lakes usually do not have enough fish to support a huge predator. (Lake Okanagan, the home of the 'Ogo Pogo' lake monster is one notable exception). Still, weirder things have happened. Here are ten of them:

The Coleacanth. This large prehistoric fish was thought to have gone extinct 80 million years ago until a live specimen was found in 1938.

Monoplacophora Mollusks. These innocuous shellfish from the prehistoric Devonian period (circa 380 million years ago) were found happily alive (well, however happy a mollusk can get) in deep waters off Costa Rica in 1952.

The Pygmy Tarsier. This odd, gremlin-like animal was thought to have gone extinct 80 years ago until a Texas A & M researcher found three of them alive and well in Indonesia.

The Laotian Rock Rat. Thought to be extinct for 11 million years, this early mammal was discovered in 1996.

The Lazarussuchus. This very small crocodile was common the late Triassic period and was assumed to have gone extinct about 170 million years ago. So far two living varieties have been discovered, the first in 1982.

Gracilidris. This species of 20 million year old ants, thought to be extinct, was discovered by a team of scientists in Brazil in 2006.

The Dawn Redwood. A small cluster of this extinct prehistoric redwood tree was discovered in 1944 in China by Zhan Wang.

The Wollemi Pine. This tree was only know from fossils between 2 and 90 million years old until it was discovered alive in 1994.

The Chacoan Peccary. This small piglike animal was only known from the fossil record until scientists discovered living specimens in 1975.

The Mountain Pygmy Possum. Australia's only hibernating marsupial, this little animal was only known from fossils until its discovery in 1966. It is currently facing extinction once again due to global climate change.

Are all cryptids examples of reappearing animals? It is completely possible that no cryptids are examples of reappearing animals.It's just as possible, however, that at least some of them might well be living examples of animals thought to be long gone from planet Earth, animals that may well one day turn up as live specimens.
In the meantime, just knowing that such animals are regularly found is enough to keep cryptozoologists actively looking for more of them.

Cryptozoology and reappearing species: Ten formerly 'extinct' animals

July 23, 7:58 AM Author: Pamela Grundy

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