In the 1940s, the Scottish-born zoologist Ivan T. Sanderson began using a word he coined, “cryptozoology,” to describe a new subdiscipline of zoology that studied hidden, as yet-to-be-discovered large animals. In the late 1950s, after a decade of correspondence with Sanderson, Belgian zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans began formalizing “cryptozoology.”
Today, Sanderson’s and Heuvelmans’ precise approaches to the passion and patience of the field has grown into a more scientifically-aware cryptozoology, resulting in 21st century establishment of Karl Skuker’s Cryptozoology Journal, the International Cryptozoology Society’s Journal, and the International Cryptozoology Museum. A history is being written about cryptozoology, as it grows older, year to year.
Additionally, the science of cryptozoology is evolving in the 21st century, to take into account new technologies that encompasses DNA studies.
The Year of 2017 happened to have been a time of many anniversaries, but the end result was that few of them were celebratory.
Artist Jim Tracy presents his acrylic painting of the Dover Demon to the International Cryptozoology Museum on April 22, 2017, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the sightings.
The finding of various new species continued unabated and some primate examples were the high points of the year.
(1) New Species, Colin Groves’ Death and the New Cryptozoology
Late in 2017, when Colin P. Groves died, we lost a towering figure in cryptozoology and a passionate champion of taxonomy, the science of defining species. Cryptozoology, of course, is concerned with discovering new species, and a large part of Groves’ life’s work redefined cryptozoology.
Professor Colin P. Groves once detailed how he envisioned his contributions.
There’s two ways of discovering new species. One is by slogging through the jungle in your pith helmet and binoculars, spotting an animal and saying ‘by Joe, I don’t recognise that!’
The other way is looking through museums, looking at specimens in drawers and finding species that have not been properly classified. Source.
In 2017, alone, Groves’ and his associates’ studies resulted in the discovery of several new primate species. Indeed, he was a co-author of four papers resulting in the four listed annoucements.
(a) Two New Tarsier Species
In 2017, investigators “discovered two new species of tarsiers—a type of tiny, giant-eyed primate—on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. As Bruno Vander Velde reported for Conservation International, these two species of “forest goblins” were named in honor of two conservation scientists, dubbed Tarsius spectrumgurskyae and Tarsius supriatnai. Though the two animals look superficially similar, genetic data and their calls identify them as separate species. Researchers described the species in the journal Primate Conservation.” Source.
(b) New Genus (Paragalago) for the Eastern Dwarf Galago
Luca Pozzi, an evolutionary primatologist and coauthor of a study published online on February 8, 2017, by the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, detailed a new genus for the eastern dwarf galagos (Primates: Galagidae). Galagos are also called popularly “African bushbabies.”
Pozzi’s colleague and coauthor of the current study, Judith Masters of the University of South Africa, led an effort to sift through hundreds of specimens at museums in the U.S. and Europe using these genetic clues as a guide. The team made a series of measurements, keeping an eye out for any physical differences to tip them off that some of the dwarf galagos belonged on a different twig on the tree of life.
Like forensic scientists, they identified subtle differences, such as the shape of the skull and the arrangement of teeth, that backed up what the molecular genetic data was telling them.
Further proof came from analysis of the sounds that galagos make to identify mates and alert each other of danger. These “buzzy alarms,” “mobbing yaps,” and “advertisement calls” tended to be similar among the species in the newly proposed genus and distinct from those in the original genus.
That data in hand, Masters, Pozzi, and their team argue in their paper that five species of dwarf galagos belong in a new genus, which they called Paragalago. The official process to create a new genus, and thus change the scientific names of these five galagos, requires a submission to the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, which is underway. But Pozzi said that primatologists will likely start using the new classification now that they’ve published their research. Source.
Map showing approximate geographic ranges of the two independent dwarf galago groups, Galagoides (red) and the eastern dwarf galagos (blue), now called Paragalago. Map courtesy of Masters et al. 2017
(c) New Species of gibbon, the Skywalker Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock tianxing sp. nov.)
The January 10, 2017, article, “Description of a new species of Hoolock gibbon (Primates: Hylobatiade) based on integrative taxonomy,” in the American Journal of Primatology, shared breaking news of a new ape.
The paper’s authors describe a species of Hoolock gibbon (Primates: Hylobatidae) that is new to science from eastern Myanmar and southwestern China. The genus of hoolock gibbons comprises two previously described living species, the western (Hoolock hoolock) and eastern hoolock (H. leuconedys) gibbons, geographically isolated by the Chindwin River.
They assessed the morphological and genetic characteristics of wild animals and museum specimens, and conducted multi-disciplinary analyses using mitochondrial genomic sequences, external morphology, and craniodental characters to evaluate the taxonomic status of the hoolock population in China. The results suggest that hoolocks distributed to the east of the Irrawaddy-Nmai Hka Rivers, which were previously assigned to H. leuconedys, are morphologically and genetically distinct from those to the west of the river, and should be recognized as a new species, the Gaoligong hoolock gibbon or skywalker hoolock gibbon (H. tianxing sp. nov.). We consider that the new species should be categorized as Endangered under IUCN criteria. More info.
(d) New Species of Orangutan, the Tapanuli orangutan, (Pongo tapanuliensi)
Credit: Nater et al./Current Biology
Until now, scientists had long recognized six species of living great apes (not including humans): Sumatran orangutans, Bornean orangutans, eastern gorillas, western gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos. So, to describe a new great-ape species is rare, the researchers said. Fewer than 800 individuals of the newfound species, called Pongo tapanuliensis, survive in the Batang Toru forest.
“It isn’t an everyday event that we find a new species of great ape, so indeed the discovery is very exciting,” senior study author Michael Krutzen, a professor of evolutionary anthropology and genomics in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, said in a statement. Source.
(2) “Yetis Are Bears” Media Frenzy
In what has become a common practice, the media reframes a scientific paper’s findings into a simplistic rendering of a complex research project. In 2017, a study published in the journal Proceedings of Royal Society B proclaimed that “Yetis are just local bears, according to DNA tests on hair and teeth specimens that allegedly belonged to the legendary Abominable Snowmen.”
This new DNA study used nine alleged “Yeti” samples obtained from the Icon Films television documentary company. But a deeper look at the sampling methods brought into question the selection process.
Two of the samples (tooth and fur) from [Reinhold] Messner’s so-called Nazi “Yeti” (pictured) were understood to be implanted teeth (Canis) and non-primate fur (Ursidae), already by investigators. Two other samples were misidentified by [Bryan] Sykes as at first ancient polar bear, then hybrid brown-polar bear, and brown bear, nevertheless, were bear. Icon Films produced several films that funded Sykes to do DNA tests on dozens of samples, and via information from Sykes’ book and in Icon’s documentaries (also the “Bigfoot” one), bear results were detailed. Source.
Or as Dr. Jeff Meldrum stated when asked about this study: “Pluck some hairs from an obvious bear pelt and it should come as no surprise that the resulting DNA identification is bear!” Source.
In the end, the unfortunate outcome of this broader media story may be the general public thinking, for the immediate future, that “Yetis are just bears.”
(3) Record Number of Loch Ness Monsters Sighted
The BBC informed the world that “2017 has been a ‘record year’ for sightings of the Loch Ness Monster.” (Of course, that should be “Monsters,” but headline writers are no better than television anchor people who laugh when reporting cryptozoology stories.)
Noting that the official sightings logged in at eight, it was declared to be “a busy 2017, with more ‘official’ sightings than any other year this century.”
(4) 50th Anniversary of Mothman Events and the Chicago Mothman
In 1966, the sightings of a huge bird-like creature that would be named “Mothman” by a newspaper headline writer, consumed the news coming out of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. The Year 2017 was the 50th anniversary of the collapse of the Silver Bridge (on December 15, 1967) that links Point Pleasant to Ohio.
Photo courtesy of Elmer Boster
The Mothman Festival occurred in September 2017, but apparently did not have as many people in attendance, as in 2016 when the actual 50th anniversary of the first sightings took place. A sober memorial accompanied the remembrances of the Silver Bridge’s deaths in Point Pleasant, on December 15, 2017, when all 46 victims’ names were read aloud at the collapse site.
Meanwhile in Chicago, all year, starting publicly on April 7, 2017, Pennsylvania researcher Lon Strickler, Milwaukee investigators Allison Jornlin and Kimberly Poeppey, and members of Strickler’s Chicago Phantom Task Force have interviewed “Chicago Mothman” eyewitnesses and photographed each witness site. Lon Strickler’s book, Mothman Dynasty, and my book, Mothman: Evil Incarnate, both appeared in December 2017. Strickler’s entire book details the Chicago encounters, while mine gives a seven-page summary of the events in the broader context of the entire Mothman melodrama.
It was a Mothman year.
(5) 200th Anniversary of Gloucester Sea Serpent
From the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Engraved inscription in lower margin: “A Correct View of the Town and outer Harbor of Gloucester and the appearance of the Sea Serpent / as was Seen on the 14th of August 1817 — from the Original Sketch of Capt John Beach Jr.”
Off the coast of New England, the most famous example of a Sea Serpent was the Great Gloucester Sea Serpent of 1817, sighted from the shore of Cape Ann, Massachusetts, and seen multiple times since then. The Year 2017 was the 200th anniversary of the massive encounters that occurred from the northern beaches and rocky coast of Massachusetts. Small remembrances were held in local historical societies north of Boston. In Maine, there was local media acknowledgement of the importance of the Sea Serpent reports.
The Cape Ann Museum, Maritime Gloucester and schooner Ardelle jointly presented the “Sea Serpent Sighting 200th Anniversary Cruise” on August 10, 2017.
Katharine Bavoso, WCSH reporter, detailed the Casco Bay Sea Serpent sightings on October 26, 2017, as well as doing an earlier report on the 200th year anniversary.
(6) Wessie Tops 2017 List
The Lewiston (Maine) Sun-Journal newspaper ran an end-of-year list of top weird stories, and news of the giant mystery snake Wessie headed the list. Reporter Kathryn Skelton wrote:
After a harrowing few months last year spent wondering if there was actually an anaconda with a head the size of a soccer ball slinking around Riverside Park in Westbrook, [Maine,] the snake dubbed “Wessie” lives on. In a ssssssense.
Westbrook police donated a 12-foot snakeskin to the International Cryptozoology Museum, which formally installed a Wessie exhibit in a 14-foot case in August.
DNA testing by a University of Texas herpetologist determined it was an authentic anaconda skin from a female snake with Peruvian ancestors, according to museum Director Loren Coleman.
The skin was “found around a tree as a snake would shed it,” he said.
He believes the 2016 sightings were credible, and, with none reported this year, that the snake probably died last winter.
The artifact joins other Maine cryptid evidence at the museum, such as the preserved foot of the Turner Beast. Intrigued? The museum is open six days a week, or check it out during the third annual International Cryptozoology Conference planned for Labor Day weekend 2018 in Portland.
This year’s conference featured guests such as Joseph Zarzynski, who started his research career looking for lake monster Champ in Lake Champlain.
(7) Tasmanian Thylacine Sightings
On the island of Tasmania, a Langwarrin South man spotted what he thinks was a Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) in October 2017.
A Tasmanian tiger on display at the Australian Museum in Sydney. Picture: Torsten Blackwood
Also, the Hobart Mercury newspaper reported in September 2017 that a team of Thylacine trackers released footage of what they believe is proof Tasmanian tigers continue to live in the island state.
Other sightings were reported during the year, as for example in March 2017, in Queensland, Australia.
(8) Fake Cryptozoology Sites Are Real
While most people understand that YouTube videos have turned out to be hoaxes, the increasing volume of postings of strange animals has lead to some speculation that among all the noise something might be worthwhile. For instance, called a “Chupacabra,” a small creature from an alleged February 2017 trail cam’s 30-second clip from a forest near Sydney, Australia, caused some interest. See here. Only problem was that this and several other “Chupacabras” videos posted on disclose.tv were all fakes in the midst of fake news.
Cryptozoologists have had to sharpen their skills of critical thinking by consulting Wikipedia’s “List of Fake News Websites.”
(9) Documentaries Dominate
With the fading nature of mainstream and cable television, digital and DVD documentaries in cryptozoology are filling a new void. Perhaps the primary example of this trend is the great success of Small Town Monsters (STM), a tiny Ohio production company founded by Seth Breedlove.
After a successful 2016 with the producing of Boggy Creek Monster and Beast of Whitehall, STM followed up in 2017 with The Mothman of Point Pleasant and Invasion on Chestnut Ridge. See more here.
(10) 50th Anniversary Celebrations of the Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot Footage
On October 20, 1967, Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin took a few feet of movie footage at Bluff Creek, California. They captured a female Bigfoot allegedly walking down a creek bed away from them. It has become internationally famous as the “Patterson-Gimlin Film.”
The 50th year since the filming was supposed to be a year of celebrations. In April, 2017, the Town of Willow Creek had an outdoor Bigfoot festival, but traffic getting there was slowed by landslides on the roads coming from the East and the West. The Animal Planet’s crew for the successful television series Finding Bigfoot was in Willow Creek shooting festival footage for the last episode. But the fact circulated that the series was going to be cancelled at next season’s finale. There was a sense of sadness that hung over the festival.
Then in October 2017, during the weekend of the 50th anniversary of the footage, a different kind of gathering occurred. A mainstream media retelling of the events gave no hint of what really happened during that weekend.
Here is the schedule and program of the “celebration,” as they were to occur.
Things did not go as planned. Bob Gimlin did not speak at the end of the events, and many people had different versions of what happened.
The melodrama was called “Gimlingate” by some:
“What happened to Bigfoot icon Bob Gimlin at the 50th Anniversary of the PG film?” asked The CryptoBlast.
Tom Yamarone was criticized for starting the “Free Bob” chant at the dinner that was suppose to honor Bob Gimlin.
Yarmarone used to be the manager of Gimlin, and reportedly earned money for himself from the arrangement. Russ Acord is now Bob’s manager, and says he allegedly earns nothing.
The “Free Bob” chant was “a reference to free Bob from Russell Acord,” said one attendee at the dinner. Yarmarone allegedly also posted this chant on his Facebook page for a time.
Marc DeWerth posted this:
No joint statement was ever released.
“Money and jealousy tarnished the 50th Anniversary of the Patterson Gimlin film. Ohio Bigfoot Conference promoter Marc DeWerth and one time Bigfooter, Tom Yamarone (two men who have made money and made a name for themselves off of Bob Gimlin’s Bigfoot legendary status) wrapped up the conference with disrespect and dishonor toward Bob Gimlin – claiming they ran out of time, yet that didn’t stop Mark from doing an auction, did it?” ~ said Rictor Riolo, one of the most outspoken critics of what occurred.
Others added their POVs:
“Bob Gimlin Speaks Out” by Sasquatch Chronicles.
“Bob Gimlin Wants to End Bigfoot Drama” by The CryptoBlast
“What happened at the 50th Anniversary for the Patterson Gimlin film?” by Rictor Riolo.
Steven Streufert, owner of Bigfoot Books in Willow Creek, and the moderator of Coalition for Critical Thinking in Bigfoot Research, had this to say:
Steven Streufert had more to say, to register his point-of-view, and here it is. As you can see, this has become a major melodrama in the Bigfoot field in 2017.
Most agree, it was not the way anyone wanted to remember the 50th anniversary of the Patterson-Gimlin Film.
Other 2017 Lists