After the publication of my first novel, Leviathan, readers kept asking me whether something like the book’s titular creature could actually exist today, living somewhere in the ocean. Anything’s possible, I suppose. While cryptozoology, the study of hidden animals, isn’t an accepted branch of science — one can’t major in it at university, for example — “monsters” undeniably lived in the past. Dinosaurs ruled the planet over sixty-five million years ago, and throwbacks of that age are still with us, from lizards and turtles to crocodiles and sharks.
The most famous cryptids are probably the Loch Ness Monster and bigfoot. I live in Florida, where there are tales of sasquatch figures called skunk apes. Named after the heinous smell they supposedly exude, the beasts are rumored to live in the state’s interior, around Lake Okeechobee and the nearby Seminole reservations.
There are other obscure animals of lore, including the chupacabra (southwestern goat-sucker), the kraken (giant squid) and Mokèlé-mbèmbé (African sauropod). At least one of these has been scientifically confirmed, colossal squid almost fifty feet long that dwell deep under the sea.
History is filled with accounts of explorers and adventurers coming in contact with new animal species. Centuries ago sailors believed they could spy mermaids on their transatlantic voyages. These “mere-people” are now recognized as manatees. Having spent time up close with manatees, I have to assume only a sex-starved sailor could confuse the two. Imagine how vexing it must have been when man first encountered elephants, tapirs and giraffes (or “cameleopards” as they were first known).
Up to seventy-five species go extinct every day, with modern zoology accounting for roughly one-fourth of the estimated species on the planet. An untold number surely die off before scientists even have the opportunity to discover them, a loss for all of humanity.
So are cryptids real? I would say yes, absolutely. Most are probably insects and invertebrates though. In terms of anything as rare and exotic as flying mothmen or bigfoots (bigfeet?), I’d say it’s possible yet improbable. Our world is very large, and there are many places left uninhabited by mankind. As the human population booms and we search for more space, it’s feasible we’ll intrude in areas where all manner of new species will be found.