An introduction to cryptozoology:

Crypto means hidden. For instance, a cryptodome is a hidden hill or mound, this sometimes occurs inside a volcano and is indicative of a vast magma build up. In another example, we all know the frustration of a cryptic crossword. The answers are often literally hidden within the clues (I can't do them!). Ciphers or codes all come under the designation of cryptograms, or cryptographs, and the science of writing ciphers is termed cryptography. A bit closer to our interest is cryptozoic; this pertains to animals which live in dark or hidden places.

Now you have the general idea it's easy to see that the science of cryptozoology covers the investigation of animals who remain hidden or unknown. These beasts are called cryptids. 

Animals such as the okapi, the Komodo dragon, the tuatara, the megamouth (the world's third largest shark), and the coelacanth (a fish considered to have been extinct for over 60 million years), have all been discovered, or rediscovered, thanks in part to the work of the cryptozoologist and associated researchers. Studies also usually include such weird and wonderful creatures as the Loch Ness monster, thunderbirds, Yeti, and Bigfoot.

The megalodon:

By researching the unbelievable, cryptozoology comes in for a great deal of criticism. The megalodon shark (Carcharodon megalodon) existed about 15 million years ago and is a good example. A close relative of the white shark, but much larger at 15 metres (50 feet), it is thought to have feasted on large fish and whales. Paleontologists believe it died out around 1.5 million years ago. Many cryptozoologists disagree and think it still lives somewhere in the depths of the sea. Their claims are said to be based purely on conjecture and scant solid evidence. It is probably impossible to answer the debate definitively since there are still many areas of the oceans we have not, and cannot, yet examine. Even in supposedly 'well-explored' sea areas there may be live creatures which remain undiscovered. This is due to the fact that the watery environment is very difficult to explore. Relatively-speaking, the sea floor has been less explored by mankind than the moon has.

However, that is the very inexact science which is cryptozoology. Due to a lack of solid evidence experts in this area must frequently base their research on little information, and it is only through determination and persistence that tangible results eventually come to light.

Plesiosaur puzzles:

This story illustrates the little evidence which may be available to cryptozoologists and researchers in their efforts to provide answers to puzzling questions:

Dateline: April 25th, 1977.

Location: Off the coast of New Zealand, about 300 miles east of Christchurch.

The Japanese trawler Zuiyo-maru, from the Taiyo Fishery Company Ltd., was fishing for mackerel when a large decomposing carcass was snagged at a depth of about 300 metres and then brought up in the nets. It was hoisted above the deck and the crew differed in their opinions of what the beast was. Some considered it was a rotting whale, while others suggested it may be a giant sea turtle which was missing the shell. But among the 17 crew members which sighted the carcass no one was absolutely positive of the creature's identity.

It was agreed among the crew that the carcass should be photographed, then dumped, as it's presence on board ship would cause the catch to spoil and the stench was quite overpowering. During hoisting back towards the water it slipped onto the deck where Michihiko Yano (a graduate of Yamaguchi Oceanological high school), took the opportunity to measure the animal which had an overall length of about 10 metres. He also took some horny fibre samples from an anterior fin and a few more photographs. Some months later the crewman was to complete this information by providing sketches of the creature. These final items conflicted with his other information, so were of less use in identification than might be expected.

The ship returned to land two months later and once the photographs were developed it was increasingly suggested the carcass may be that of a long extinct plesiosaur, a type of small-headed, long necked marine reptile. If this was so, the find would confirm these dinosaurs of the sea are not, as thought, lost to the world. It would also add strength to the continuing claims of Loch Ness monster sightings.  

Monster fever gripped Japan. Stamps were issued in honour of the find. An entire advertising campaign was produced on sea monsters by the company that had made the camera used to photograph the find. Toy manufacturers put wind-up toys of the plesiosaur into production. Dozens of fishing vessels from Japan, Russia, and Korea headed towards New Zealand in hopes of once again finding the decaying carcass. Press reports appeared worldwide, including in the United States of America. A number of creationists claimed that the finding supported their young earth claims.

It started to become a case not of identifying what the creature was, but of proving what it wasn't!

Researchers and experts quietly studied the evidence.....

    • Initial chromatography tests showed a profile of amino acids closely resembling a control sample from a blue shark.
    • Fin rays were observed, which are possessed by most fish, including sharks. The bony phalanges which served as flipper supports on the plesiosaur were not seen on the carcass.
    • One of the photos showed an apparent dorsal fin. Again, these are present in most fish, including sharks; they are not known to have occurred in plesiosaurs.
    • The ribs were measured at 40 cm (about 16 inches) long, which is far too short for plesiosaurs or other marine vertebrates except sharks.
    • If the carcass were a plesiosaur, the body would be unlikely to present in the posture shown since the breast bone would be large and flat.
    • In plesiosaurs, bones of all limbs were situated at the lower portion of the body. This means that, at the level of decay on this specimen, they would already have detached.
    • A plesiosaur would probably have retained its upper jaws and teeth, but no teeth were reported in the specimen found. On the other hand, basking sharks quite easily loose both jaws. Even with the jaws in place, these sharks have very small teeth which would be easily overlooked.
    • The carcass length was reported as 10 metres (33 feet). Basking sharks commonly grow to 30 feet with specimens over 40 feet being reported. The carcass size was in line with that of a small plesiosaur, but the body proportions were wrong.
    • Japanese shark-fin processors, who are familiar with shark carcasses, identified the animal in the photographs as a shark.
    • In September 1977, a positively identified basking shark carcass was stranded at Nemuro, Hokkaido. It demonstrated a strong resemblance to the Zuiyo-maru carcass found five months earlier.

    In the end it was determined that the fishy find was nothing more than a large shark, probably a basking shark. These tend to decay in a manner that makes them resemble a plesiosaur.

    Well-known cryptozoologists:

    One of the best-known cryptozoologists is Dr Karl P.N. Shuker. The best-known cryptozoological artist is undoubtedly William M. Rebsamen whose works have repeatedly appeared in books by Dr. Shuker. This site is honoured to have been granted permission to display Bill's fantastic art and you will see a number of them under the articles listed below.

    Many mystery big cats have been investigated by cryptozoologists and this site covers some of these:

    marozi (hybrids section)
     black tiger (colourations)
    maltese or blue tiger (colourations)
     red and brown tigers (colourations)

    William M. Rebsamen's works can be found under the first three of these.

    Back to:

    Tiger Territory

Photography With Thanks To Michihiko Yano (Crew Member Aboard The Trawler Zuiyo-maru).
 © All Rights Reserved. Displayed here for educational, non-profit purposes.