Fourth grade students are getting ready to begin their study of Cryptozoology. This is the study of unknown animals. It literally means, “the study of hidden animals.” When an animal is yet to be identified it is called a cryptid. Cryptozoology interacts with other sciences such as paleontology and archaeology. There are 3 categories of cryptids:
Yet to be discovered and classified– These are animals that, if found, would be entered as a new species into the existing zoological catalog of animals.
Thought to be extinct – There have been several instances where an animal that was thought to be no longer living is actually still living amongst us. In this case, an animal would be no longer categorized as extinct but as a living species.
Misidentifications – Many times, stories begin to surface about a particular creature but it then turns out to be an already classified animal – but perhaps it is a larger species, an albino, has extra or missing limbs, etc. Just like in humans, where a genetic deficiency can lead to physical deformities, the same can happen in the animal kingdom. It doesn't take long before an odd-looking animal becomes a sensationalized creature in a local community.
As long as these animals are unknown and remain unidentified, they are considered cryptids. However, once an animal is found and identified it is no longer a cryptid, as it is hidden no more.
Here is a little more information from a well-known cryptozoologist, Bernard Heuvelmans:
While some scientists consider cryptozoology a pseudoscience, others give it credence due to the finding of several real-life cryptids, such as the platypus and komodo dragon. Both of which were just local legends and myths until they were captured - and then ridicule turned into amazement! However, over the years, and to the begrudgement of cryptozoologists, cryptids often get lumped together with UFOs, aliens, ghosts and other paranormal phenomenon. Hollywood movies and documentaries have turned the search for cryptids (like Big Foot or the Loch Ness Monster) into pure monster hunts, rather than showing that cryptozoology is many times the prequel to the science of zoology.
Big Foot and Nessie may have brought the spotlight to cryptozoology, but 99% of cryptids are known only to the scientists and researchers who seek to find them and bring them into the zoological classification list. They may be a new species of rodent, a fish that was thought to be extinct, or a pack of wolves that has evaded capture for decades. Most cryptids don't have fangs or bat-like wings or human faces or pointy ears. Most cryptids look similar to existing species but they are genetically different, leading them to be classified as a new species or sub species of animals.
1988, Journal of the ISC
Due to the nature of this unit, I want to make sure you are aware of what we are learning about just in case you only hear about Big Foot and The Jersey Devil. I want you to know there is a lot more to it than that. At the end of this unit students will be completing a project. They should have enough time in class to complete it, but some may want to work on it at home as well. As usual, I will keep the website updated with what lessons we are working on each week and the expectations and directions for any assignments or projects that we are working on.
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