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A 2013 book by the Speculative Biology Dream Team of Tetrapod Zoology's Darren Naish, John Conway and C.M. Koseman, hot on the heels of their game-changing paleontology book All Yesterdays, The Cryptozoologicon takes their earlier work's premise of challenging the public's preconceptions of various enigmatic creatures that have captured the imaginations of generations of people with new speculative visions crafted with a strong grounding in biology, and turns it from extinct dinosaurs to the weird and wonderful world of cryptids: those elusive mystery animals, the Bigfoots, Nessies and many others unknown to modern science, sought after by a handful of intrepid seekers.

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Each chapter of the book is divided into four sections: Firstly, some historical background on the supposed sightings of the cryptid in question. Secondly, what the cryptid is thought to be by the true believers. Thirdly, what people who know what they're talking about think it actually is. And finally, the part we all came to see: what the creature might be like if it actually existed. Explications of its behavior, biology, and how it may have come to be through a long process of evolution.

Naish and his collaborators make no secret of the fact they don't take most of the cryptozoological lore very seriously, but it is still a fascinating subject and a fun opportunity for some evolutionary biology thought experiments that range from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Volume 1 of a planned series is now available in both E-book and dead tree formats, with more volumes planned for the future, though Volume 2 is in Development Hell.

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The mysterious and elusive tropes featured in this book include:

  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: Fookin' prawns the size of whales, mun! While living in the water would allow it to dodge the Square-Cube Law, the book is oddly silent about how an arthropod's notoriously inefficient breathing system would cope with the increase in size (despite mentioning this very problem earlier in the chapter).
  • Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti: Both Bigfoot and Yeti get their own segments, as do a few other mystery primates. Interestingly, one creature that isn't a primate in the original legends (at least... not entirely) also gets re-imagined as one.
  • Chupacabra: Depicted as a carnivorous opossum that hops like a kangaroo.
  • Composite Character: The book makes a case that most cryptids are to a certain degree. One of the major criticisms of cryptozoology is that investigators often take numerous different (and often contradictory) eyewitness accounts, local legends and other anecdotes and try to combine them into a definitive conception of a single creature, often picking and choosing what they think makes the most sense.
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  • Demythification: Despite basically being the premise of the book, it also contains an odd inversion. Related to the above, Naish argues that many cryptids shouldn't be seen as real animals like many cryptozoologists expect them to be, but rather part of the mythology of various cultures. Perhaps Bigfoot isn't a primate, but a Jungian archetype representing the gulf between man and nature? Kelpies aren't carnivorous horses, they're ways for parents to impress the danger of deep waters and strange animals on their children. Still, it's fun to imagine what they'd be like if they were real.
  • Green Aesop: A slightly tongue in cheek one, where the speculative sections often mention that maybe the reason nobody can find these animals is because people keep driving them to extinction.
  • Hellish Horse: The Kelpie (more a mythical beast than a cryptid, but why split hairs?) makes an appearance. Averted here as it's not actually a horse, it just looks like one from a distance.
  • Hive Queen: The Megarods produce countless tiny "worker" Rods, whose only job is to feed them. They accomplish this by absorbing nutrients through their skin, in the form of various useful chemical particles and microorganism floating in the air, then being re-absorbed by their mother.
  • Lemony Narrator: The speculative sections can get like this. The various headers as well, most notably: "Are Kelpies real? No, stupid!"
  • Living Gas Bag: The aforementioned Megarods are gigantic, zeppelin-like arthropod relatives that live their entire lives in the clouds.
  • Maniac Monkeys: The Goatman of Maryland is recast as a man-sized, possibly carnivorous monkey that has evolved goat-like, digitigrade legs for sprinting.
  • Mythology Gag: One suspects they only included the Californian Giant Salamanders (a very obscure cryptid that is almost certainly just an escaped/feral imported Asian Giant Salamander) so they could make another reference to the infamous "Homo diluvii" testis.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Goatman is neither a goat, nor a man, he's a very big monkey. The Real Life Basilosaurus, a fossil initially believed to be a sea snake which later turned out to be an early species of whale, also gets a mention.
  • Our Monsters Are Weird: Sea platypuses. Man-eating amphibious ungulates. Prawns as big as sperm whales. Invisible living zeppelins that use their disposable young as mobile mouths. Giant vampire possums. Aquatic sabertooth cats. "Real" cryptozoologists are positively sedate compared to Naish and co.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Again we say it: Giant. Vampire. Possums.
  • Playing Possum: The Zuiyo Maru creature, widely believed to be the rotting carcass of a basking shark mistaken for a plesiosaur, is somewhat cheekily re-imagined as a plesiosaur that pretends to be the rotting carcass of a basking shark so that it can eat any scavengers that come its way.
  • Pokémon Speak: Some of the cryptids, such as the Buru and Ahool, are said to be named for the sound they make.
  • Prehistoric Monster: Mostly defied. Naish is not a fan of the ever-present trope of various sea monsters being plesiosaurs that somehow survived the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event, because unlike most people he knows enough about paleontology and evolutionary biology to know how implausible it is. The speculative Zuiyo Maru creature does appear to be some kind of sea reptile, but that's mostly for the sake of the joke.
    • It's also a bit of Fridge Brilliance, as preying exclusively on scavengers would have allowed the creatures to indirectly take advantage of the worldwide carrion economy created by the K-Pg event, thus giving a justification of how they managed to outlast other plesiosaur lineages.
  • Sand Worm: Sadly averted. The South American cryptid known as the Minhocao, while usually depicted as one, is instead speculated to be a really, really big snake, and is thus unlikely to produce spice.
  • Science Marches On: Discussed. Another big criticism of the "living dinosaur" paradigm is that the various stories about such creatures usually describe outdated, movie-inspired images of prehistoric animals rather than anything like what modern scientists have been able to reconstruct about what they really looked like. Cryptozoologists in general have an odd tendency to cling to discredited theories long after they've been proven false, notably Bernard Heuvelmans' assertions that the armor-plated Con Rit was a prehistoric whale, working off an outdated reconstruction of one that had already been debunked for decades. invoked
  • Speculative Biology: Tries to re-interpret cryptids as plausible animals.
  • Stock Ness Monster: Nessie itself is conspicuously absent from volume 1, though many other sea monsters are covered. A surprising number turn out to be mammals.
  • Take That!: Since the speculative sections are written from the POV of stereotypical cryptozoologists, the authors don't pass up the chance to satirize some common attitudes in that community.
  • They Called Me Mad!: The speculative sections are often written in this tone in an effort to stay true to the style of the "genuine" cryptozoological literature.
  • Turtle Power: A supposed "living dinosaur" is "revealed" to be a member of the tortoise family that has convergently evolved into a kind of reptilian giraffe.
  • Values Dissonance: The rather terrifying De Loys' Ape is believed to have been the product of a now-discredited racial theory about Native Americans. The fact that one of the people responsible for the hoax later became a Nazi collaborator lends some pretty decent weight to this theory. invoked
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