Top 100 Cryptic Mammals

Posted by: Loren Coleman on January 17th, 2007

Slender Loris

When this baby Sri Lankan slender loris is all grown up, it won’t be more than 5 inches long. But it’ll have huge night vision eyes.

The Zoological Society of London has created an amazing list of the world’s top 100 rarest and thus most endangered mammalian species.

"We are focusing on EDGE species — that means they are Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered," announced the Zoological Society of London ‘s Jonathan Baillie. "These are one-of-a-kind species. If they are lost there is nothing similar to them left on the planet. It would be a bit like the art world losing the Mona Lisa — they are simply irreplaceable."

Visit their website and their zoo for more detailed information, more photographs, to learn what mammals can be seen live, and to join the conservation effort to save these species. Needless to say, many of these mammals have already joined the ranks of being cryptic.

Sumatran rabbit

Several of these animals are former cryptids. For example, the Sumatran rabbit (pictured above and #10 below) I discussed as an "animal of recent cryptozoological discovery" in Fortean Times 128.

Here are the ZSL’s 100 mammals in trouble. The ZSL is to be congratulated for assembling such a comprehensive zoological listing:

100 Species

Yangtze River dolphin

1. Yangtze River dolphin (Lipotes vexillifer)
Long considered the world’s rarest and most threatened cetacean, this species may already be extinct.

Yangtze River dolphin

2. Long-beaked echidna (Zaglossus bruijni)
One of the most primitive mammals on the planet, this species lays eggs like a reptile.

Long-beaked echidna

3. Riverine rabbit (Bunolagus monticularis)
This ancient rabbit is one of South Africa’s rarest and most endangered mammal species.

Riverine rabbit

4. Cuban solenodon (Solenodon cubanus)
This primitive insectivore was believed to be extinct until its rediscovery in 2003.

Cuban solenodon

5. Hispaniolan solenodon (Solenodon paradoxus)
This ancient insectivore has modified incisors which enable it to inject venom into its prey like a snake.

Hispaniolan solenodon

6. Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis)
This two-horned rhino is the smallest and most endangered of the five living rhinoceros species.

Sumatran rhinoceros

7. Black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)
This two-horned African rhinoceros has suffered more persecution than any other species of rhino.

Black rhinoceros

8. Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus)
Fewer than 1,000 of these two-humped camels survive today in one of the most hostile regions on earth.

Bactrian camel

9. Northern hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus krefftii)
This heavily-built marsupial is the largest known herbivorous burrowing mammal.

Northern hairy-nosed wombat

10. Sumatran rabbit (Nesolagus netscheri)
This shy nocturnal mammal is so rare and cryptic that local people do not even have a name for it.

Sumatran rabbit

11. Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus)
With fewer than 60 individuals remaining, this is the rarest of all the living rhinoceros species.

12. Asian elephant (Elephas maximus)
Asia’s largest mammal, this ‘keystone’ species plays a vital role in maintaining its forest ecosystem.

13. African wild ass (Equus asinus)
Domestic donkeys are now found all over the world, yet only a few hundred of their wild ancestors survive.

14. Onager (Equus onager)
The onager is the swiftest of all the equids. It has been recorded running at speeds of up to 70 km/h.

15. Vietnam leaf-nosed bat (Paracoelops megalotis)
This large-eared bat is known from only a single specimen. It may already be extinct.

16. Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis)
The highly distinctive aye-aye is one of the most bizarre looking animals on the planet.

17. Japanese dormouse (Glirulus japonicus)
With a thick, bushy tail and a dark stripe on its back, this dormouse resembles a miniature chipmunk.

18. Giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)
The charismatic giant panda is the world’s best known flagship species for conservation.

19. Red panda (Ailurus fulgens)
The scientific name of this rare and beautiful species literally means ‘fire-coloured cat’.

20. Wroughton’s free-tailed bat (Otomops wroughtoni)
The tail projects far beyond the free edge of the tail membrane, hence the common name “free-tailed bat”.

21. Pygmy hippopotamus (Hexaprotodon liberiensis)
This species secretes oils known as "blood-sweat" which keep its skin waterproof.

Pygmy Hippopotamus

22. Slender loris (Loris tardigradus)
The tears of the slender loris are used in traditional medicine.

Slender Loris

23. Golden bamboo lemur (Hapalemur aureus)

Every day this lemur consumes the equivalent of 12 times the lethal dose of cyanide for most mammals!

24. Greater bamboo lemur (Hapalemur simus)
The largest of the bamboo lemurs, this species can be identified by its distinctive white ear tufts.

25. Seychelles sheath-tailed bat (Coleura seychellensis)
Fewer than one hundred of these bats are thought to survive today.

26. Anderson’s mouse opossum (Marmosa andersoni)
This small mouse-like marsupial is thought to be extremely rare. It is known from only two localities.

27. Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus)
Revered by the ancient Greeks, this shy seal is today one of the world’s most threatened marine mammals.

28. Mountain pygmy possum (Burramys parvus)
The largest of Australia’s five pygmy possums, this tiny animal can live for an incredible twelve years.

29. Golden-crowned sifaka (Propithecus tattersalli)
Considered to be one of the rarest of Madagascar’s lemurs. No part of its range is protected.

30. Northern marsupial mole (Notoryctes caurinus)
This marsupial mole is more closely related to the kangaroo than it is to true moles.

31. Southern marsupial mole (Notoryctes typhlops)
Marsupial moles ‘swim’ through the sands of the deserts in which they live.

32. Puerto Rican hutia (Isolobodon portoricensis)
Christopher Columbus and his crew are believed to have feasted upon this possibly extinct rodent.

33. Bulmer’s fruit bat (Aproteles bulmerae)
Having been almost hunted to extinction twice, this species is one of the most endangered bats in the world.

34. Baird’s tapir (Tapirus bairdii)
This long-nosed primitive mammal resembles the ancestors of rhinos and horses.

35. Gracile mouse opossum (Gracilinanus aceramarcae)
Little is known about this rare and cryptic species – only six specimens have ever been collected.

36. Indri (Indri indri)
The Malagasy people consider the indri to resemble their sacred ancestors.

37. Hirola (Damaliscus hunteri)
The graceful hirola is Africa’s most threatened antelope.


38. Greater big-footed mouse (Macrotarsomys ingens)
A medium-sized mouse with large ears, long hind feet and an extremely long tail.

39. New-Guinea big-eared bat (Pharotis imogene)
There have been no confirmed reports of this species since 1890.

40. Persian mole (Talpa streeti)
Known from only one individual, found in an area of intensive environmental disruption and military activity.

41. Volcano rabbit (Romerolagus diazi)
This small rabbit is believed to be the most primitive of all living rabbits or hares.

42. Monito del monte (Dromiciops gliroides)
The monito del monte or "mountain monkey" is regarded by scientists as a living fossil.

43. Fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox)
Madagascar’s largest carnivore, the fossa superficially resembles a small, low-slung puma.

44. Amami rabbit (Pentalagus furnessi)
This ancient species is regarded as a ‘living fossil’. and has been declared a Japanese National Monument.

45. Hainan gymnure (Hylomys hainanensis)
This species is related to hedgehogs, although it lacks spines and looks very different.

46. Golden-rumped elephant shrew (Rhynchocyon chrysopygus)
Recent studies indicate that elephant-shrews are in fact distantly related to elephants.

47. Dinagat moonrat (Podogymnura aureospinula)
The Dinagat moonrat has stiff bristly or spiny fur on its back, making it look like its relative the hedgehog.

48. Mindanao gymnure (Podogymnura truei)
This species of moonrat is a close cousin of the hedgehog.

49. Bumblebee bat (Craseonycteris thonglongyai)
The smallest mammal in the world, this bat is roughly the same size as a large bumblebee.

50. Hairy-eared dwarf lemur (Allocebus trichotis)
This cryptic species is one of the smallest of the living primates.

51. Muennink’s spiny rat (Tokudaia muenninki)
Named after the grooved spines that cover most of its body.

52. Small-toothed mole (Euroscaptor parvidens)
This mole spends much of its time eating earthworms stored in its underground "pantry".

53. Dugong (Dugong dugon)
Dugongs are sometimes referred to as “sea cows” because they feed almost exclusively on sea grass.

54. Leadbeater’s possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri)
This Australian marsupial has been adopted as one of the faunal emblems of the state of Victoria.

55. Nimba otter-shrew (Micropotamogale lamottei)
This semi-aquatic shrew looks like an otter and has a long slender tail.

56. New Zealand lesser short-tailed bat (Mystacina tuberculata)
The world’s most terrestrial bat, this species fills the niche of mice or shrews in other parts of the world.

57. Short-tailed chinchilla (Chinchilla brevicaudata)
The Chinchilla was named after the South American Chinca Indians by the Spaniards in the 1500s.

58. Malayan water shrew (Chimarrogale hantu)
A relatively large shrew, which is well adapted to its semi-aquatic lifestyle.

59. Sumatran water shrew (Chimarrogale sumatrana)
This poorly known water shrew is known only from a single specimen.

60. Desert dormouse (Selevinia betpakdalaensis)
This dormouse has the unusual habit of shedding the upper layers of its skin when it moults.

61. Salenski’s shrew (Soriculus salenskii)
This small shrew is known only from a single specimen.

< p>62. Saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica)
One of the world’s fastest animals, the distinctive saiga can reach speeds of up to 80 km/h.

63. Maned three-toed sloth (Bradypus torquatus)
The green algae that live in the fur of sloths provide them with excellent camouflage.

64. Iranian jerboa (Allactaga firouzi)
The mouse-like jerboa has very long hind legs. It can leap up to three metres in a single bound.

65. Ganges River dolphin (Platanista gangetica)
This river dolphin can detect light, but its eyes lack lenses, leaving it unable to resolve images.

66. Indus River dolphin (Platanista minor)
The local name ‘susu’ is said to refer to the noise this dolphin makes when it breathes.

67. Chacoan peccary (Catagonus wagneri)
A pig-like mammal known only from fossils until discovered alive in the 1970s.

68. Senkaku mole (Nesoscaptor uchidai)
Only one Senkaku mole has ever been captured, and very little is therefore known about the species.

69. Handley’s slender mouse opossum (Marmosops handleyi)
The mouse like marsupial is threatened by habitat loss, and is only known from a single locality.

70. Long-footed potoroo (Potorous longipes)
Potoroos are small rabbit-sized kangaroos, often called ‘rat kangaroos’.

71. Philippine flying lemur (Cynocephalus volans)
Neither a true flier nor a lemur, this distinctive mammal is part of an ancient lineage of gliding mammals.

72. Inquisitive shrew-mole (Uropsilus investigator)
This primitive mole more closely resembles a shrew.

73. Chinese shrew-mole (Uropsilus soricipes)
This primitive mole’s unspecialised limbs suggest that it probably does not burrow through the soil.

74. Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis)
The largest of the Asian rhinos, the Indian rhinoceros can be easily identified by its armour-like skin.

75. Armenian birch mouse (Sicista armenica)
Like its relatives the jumping mice and jerboas, this little mammal travels on the ground by leaping.

76. Chapa pygmy dormouse (Typhlomys chapensis)
This species is not a true dormouse.

77. African elephant (Loxodonta africana)
The largest living terrestrial mammal.

78. Vaquita (Phocoena sinus)
The vaquita is the world’s smallest and most endangered marine cetacean.

79. Yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Lagothrix flavicauda)
This distinct species of woolly monkey was thought to be extinct until its rediscovery in 1974.

80. Mountain tapir (Tapirus pinchaque)
The mountain tapir is the smallest and most endangered of the four species of tapir.

81. Long-eared jerboa (Euchoreutes naso)
This small jumping rodent can be distinguished from other jerboas by its enormous ears.

82. Grevy’s zebra (Equus grevyi)
The largest member of the zebra family.

83. Mountain zebra (Equus zebra)
The only zebra species to possess a dewlap, or skin fold on its throat.

84. Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inunguis)
The smallest member of the manatee family.

85. Peter’s tube-nosed bat (Murina grisea)
This species is known from only a single specimen, and has not been reported for more than a century.

86. Chinese dormouse (Dryomys sichuanensis)
This dormouse is active at night. It sleeps during the day in a nest hidden in a small tree.

87. Blunt-eared bat (Tomopeas ravus)
This primitive mammal is the sole representative of a subfamily of bats.

88. Blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus)
The blue whale is the largest mammal ever known to have existed.

89. Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus)
Fin whales are the second largest mammals on earth. They are named after their large, curved dorsal fins.

90. Falanouc (Eupleres goudotii)
The falanouc can store fat in the base of its tail during the cold dry months when food is in short supply.

91. Mount Kahuzi climbing mouse (Dendromus kahuziensis)
This climbing mouse posesses a remarkably long, semi-prehensile (grasping) tail.

92. Bushy-tailed opossum (Glironia venusta)
The scientific name of this medium-sized opossum roughly translates as "charming dormouse-like animal".

93. Gallagher’s free-tailed bat (Chaerephon gallagheri)
This bat has a length of “free” tail which extends beyond the membrane attached between the hind legs.

94. Old World sucker-footed bat (Myzopoda aurita)
Special suction pads on its wrists and ankles allow this bat to cling to smooth leaf surfaces while roosting.

95. Malagasy giant jumping rat (Hypogeomys antimena)
Madagascar’s largest rodent can jump to a metre into the air when faced with danger.

96. Imaizumi’s horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus imaizumii)
Horseshoe bats are named after their complex horseshoe-shaped "nose-leafs".

97. Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus)
"Orangutan" is a Malay word meaning "person of the forest".

98. Chiapan climbing-rat (Tylomys bullaris)
Although it superficially resembles the black rat, these two species are in fact very distantly related.

99. Tumbala climbing-rat (Tylomys tumbalensis)
This hind feet of this poorly known species are modified for climbing.

100. Setzer’s mouse-tailed dormouse (Myomimus setzeri)
This unusual dormouse has a mouse-like tail and lives on or under the ground.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

15 Responses to “Top 100 Cryptic Mammals”

  1. kittenz responds:

    It’s sad that there are so many mammals on the list. What is even more sad is that this list is the tip of the iceberg.

    There are many other mammal species that are critically endangered, which have fewer surviving individuals than some of the animals on the list. Some that immediately come to mind are the Red Wolf, Ethiopian wolf, Iberian lynx, and Black-footed ferret.

  2. MBFH responds:

    My sentiments exactly Kittenz. Add to that the ones that haven’t yet been discovered (or proved in the case of cryptids) that may be on the brink of extinction and it’s a real shame. I suppose we can only hope that there are refuges for some of these species that humans haven’t yet found and interfered with.

  3. YourPTR! responds:

    Animals that haven’t had a confirmed sighting as far as back as 1890 wouldn’t they be classified as extinct now? I thought the cut off limit was 50 years. The thylacine hasn’t had a confirmed sighting since 1936 and that’s definitely officially considered to be extinct.

  4. youcantryreachingme responds:

    Good comment YourPTR. I’ll write to them about that and see why the thylacine was not on the list, despite the recent credible evidence.

    Yes, this a very sad list. But it is good that the zoo has made it and is endeavoring to preserve them!

  5. Loren Coleman responds:

    For those that don’t understand PTR’s comment, please see #85 above, the Peter’s tube-nosed bat (Murina grisea), for example.

  6. PhotoExpert responds:

    Wow! Really, thank you for sharing that with us. I was aware of some of the animals and unaware of others on the list. Thanks for the education. This is what I love most about this site. It is interesting, educational and humerous at times. And although it is only posted occasionally, I think I speak for all when I say, we appreciate the time, dedication, and effort of the bloggers here at Crytomundo! The consistency and quality of posts here is what separates Crytomundo from other sites. Thank you!

    The list was very informative. And although sad, there is always hope. Sometimes nature finds a way to adapt and survive in spite of obstacles created by man and nature. One can only hope!

  7. wenonahplace responds:

    Nice, I look forward to seeing some really mythical cryptids on that list.

  8. mystery_man responds:

    This is an absolutely fascinating list. It’s sad because as Kittenz said, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Also, the list of extinct species is unfortunately growing longer everyday. I am amazed at how many animals are only known from a single specimen.

  9. busterggi responds:


    And even more depressing is that

    1) it could be extended to 300 with little effort and

    2) it doesn’t address birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish or invertebrates.

  10. Bug_MO responds:

    Was the Gorilla or the Chimpanzee on the list? I thought that there is only around 500 Mountain Gorillas left in the wild. Wouldn’t they be on the list? And were there any North American mammals on the list?

  11. Tengu responds:

    Come on, where is the Pigmy Hog, the rarest (and cutest) member of the pig family?

    A timid tuskless wild boar the size of a hare, they apparently do well in captivity, why don’t we all have a pet one?

    But I am pleased with Number 78, the Vaquita, since I always wanted to know what the smallest whale was.

    (Talking on the cetacean, why no mention of the entire family of Ziphidae, many of which are only known from single stranded examples?)

  12. sschaper responds:

    Hogs, no matter how small, would not add ambiance to your domicile.

    Ever drive past a hog confinement setup?

  13. vet72 responds:

    Photos and zoological parks may be the only places left to see these wonderful creatures. Even with the best of wildlife and habitat conservation efforts in the most affected areas of the world may not be enough to save many of the animals listed. I’m doing what I can along with many others which I’m sure includes fellow C-mundoers here to contribute in any way possible to help in wildlife conservation efforts.

    The poignancy of Jonathan Baillie’s statement ” These-are-one-of-a-kind species. If they are lost there is nothing similar to them on the planet. They are simply irreplaceable.” A point made most abundantly clear.

    Loren, thanks for posting this list of these very special animals. All species of wildlife, great and small are much too important to lose. I can’t imagine walking in the woods and not hearing the song birds, the cry from a soaring hawk, seeing a young fawn or hearing croaking frogs on a warm Spring day. The day that happens, well…

  14. kittenz responds:

    Every species is a one-of-a-kind species! Even those that have close relatives among other species are unique in their own way and all are worthy of preservation.

  15. Mnynames responds:

    I agree, Kittenz, but consider this triage…

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