Explainer: Do mythical creatures like Bigfoot ever turn out to be real?





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Published on Jun 1, 2012

Scientists at Oxford and Switzerland's Lausanne Museum of Zoology plan to use DNA evidence to determine once and for all whether Bigfoot is real. When's the last time a mythical creature was proven real?

Nine years ago. Hunters in Tanzania had spoken for years of a monkey they called the kipunji before biologists found the 3-foot-tall arboreal primate.

The kipunji is the most recent so-called cryptid to turn up in the wild.
Often creatures exist in lore as cryptids for years before a real life version is discovered. In the 19th century, men sent to the island penal colony of Komodo complained of a man-eating land crocodile. But the first scientific reports of the Komodo dragon didn't come until 1912.

It's also not always clear the stories and the real animals are the same. Sailor lore is full of tentacled sea giants like the Kraken. The ancient Greek naturalist Pliny the Elder wrote of an enormous squid with arms "knotted like clubs." These references predate the first credible discovery of a giant squid carcass in Iceland in 1639 and the widespread acceptance of its existence in the 19th century. The same thing? We may never know.

It would be pretty surprising if a large humanoid like Bigfoot dodged detection in North America. But believers can take some encouragement: the world's most famous former cryptid is a nonhuman primate. An English sailor held captive in West Africa around 1600 claimed to have seen a monster that looked like a giant man, but without the same level of cognition. He was probably describing the gorilla, although the animal would remain a myth to Western scientists until the mid 19th century. So while you shouldn't believe in all the creatures from bedtime stories, a few may still be out there... tromping through the woods.


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