Cryptozoology’s Subdivisions

Posted by: Loren Coleman on September 19th, 2007

Berlin Carried Away

Yep, that’s me. Getting carried away with my passion for all things cryptozoological. I noticed today on the web that one of those “ask” sites had this question: “What are the different fields in Cryptozoology?”
This was their “Best Answer – Chosen By Voters” – to wit – “Cryptozoology is a branch of zoology; I have never heard of it being divided into ‘fields.'”

Darn. Yikes, they picked the wrong answer by internet consensus? Okay, I couldn’t let that remain unanswered more completely, so here’s my Cryptomundo-refined answer to the question of cryptozoological subfields.


Cryptozoology, a sixty-year-old new subdiscipline of zoology, is divided into various subdivisions based on the type of cryptids (the unknown animals under pursuit) being studied. This division would follow closely that of the names of the cryptids. (“Cryptozoology” was coined by zoologist Ivan T. Sanderson in the early 1940s, and independently coined by zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans in the 1950s.)

Specifically, three of these cryptozoological subdivisions, for example, are:

1) Hominology – The study of hairy unknown hominoids refers to the research involving both cryptid hominids and cryptid pongids, known by names like Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti, Yowie, Almas, and many others. Russian researcher Dmitri Bayanov coined the word “hominology” around 1973 in letters circulated among colleagues and then published in a Russian paper.

2) Draconology – The study of Lake Monsters is often used today to include the research on Sea Serpents and marine cryptids, but by strict definition, it applies only to Lake Monsters. It was coined by historian and diver Jacques Boisvert, a Quebec cryptozoologist. He was studying the cryptid (locally called Memphré) in Lake Memphrémagog on the Quebec-Vermont border. Boisvert consulted a monk at the monastery of St Benoit-du-Lac, asking for a term for the specific study of lake monsters, and draconology was born. (Some fantasy readers are upset because the word can also be seen to mean, “the study of dragons.”)

3) Cryptocetology – The study of cryptid cetaceans especially involves the booming research on sightings of ziphiids (beaked whales). This word was coined by French cryptozoologist Michel Raynal. He created it from cetology (the science of cetaceans) which already exists, and via adding the prefix “crypto.”

Updated information from Raynal confirms that in his correspondance with Bernard Heuvelmans, Raynal also used:
cryptoprimatology (primates),
cryptornithology (birds), and
cryptentomology (insects).

Various other subdivisions of cryptozoology exist, mostly based on the parameters of a search defined by what the animal reference points are for the alleged cryptids, but some divisions have also developed, historically, along geographic lines. For instance, a regional cryptozoologist might be interested in doing research on all Amazonian cryptozoology only.

Loren Coleman

So, Cryptomundo readers, what are some of the other subdivisions of cryptozoology?

Thanks for the cartoon contribution to the blog by Charles Berlin, which I have posted again today on purpose, upon the occassion of his birthday.

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.

33 Responses to “Cryptozoology’s Subdivisions”

  1. DWA responds:

    Well, Loren, this alone is a small victory: “Cryptozoology is a branch of zoology.”

    I’d take that. The rest is pretty harmless. After all, how many can list more than a field or two within astronomy? Chemistry? etc.

    That said: I don’t think anyone could be on this site more than a day or so without seeing MANY different fields within cryptozoology.

  2. DWA responds:

    And this for Charles Berlin:

    The arms are too short; legs too long. I see human proportions there. The hands a bit too dainty (although it might not have helped Loren to point that out given his situation at the time). With that good a look at the second witness, a follow-up interview should have been conducted; he can be found. The animal’s eyes don’t generally show whites. Nose a bit too narrow and pointy. I’m thinking more hair on the face. Hair overall too short; chest too man-breasty; midtarsal break seems a bit off. Otherwise true to the eyewitness account.

    Happy birthday. 😀

  3. planettom responds:

    Though it probably falls under the umbrella of Ornithology, I wonder if there is a specific term for researching and investigating extinct (and possibly not extinct) birds. I can’t seem to find one. I can’t wait to see the other responses about other subdivisions.

  4. showme responds:

    I think cryptobiology could be an overall term for the study of unknown types of life and biological processes. This would encompass zoology, botany, fungi, microorganisms, and extraterrestrial organisms. Thus, cryptozoology could actually be a subdivision itself.

  5. Ceroill responds:

    I would suggest perhaps Cryptoaviology for the study of unknown flying creatures of various sorts.

  6. showme responds:

    cryptoentomology– the study of unknown insects,
    such as fortean reports of giant grasshoppers

  7. showme responds:

    There should be a term for animals that were once known to exist, became “extinct”, but are still occasionally sighted. It’s not really a subdivision, but more of a category. “rediscoveries.”

    Can’t think of a name for this, though… any help?

  8. Nachzehrer responds:

    Does Barbara Malloy still claim exclusive rights to the name “Memphre”?

  9. sschaper responds:

    Sedocryptozoology – armchair cryptozoology.

  10. Loren Coleman responds:

    Ms. Malloy certainly does still make such a claim, although most credible researchers have ignored her apparently unsupportable claims. Sadly, her major opponent in this silly name game battle, Jacques Boisvert, has died. She appears to be without a fight today. She even went so far as to copyright and trademark the name, despite the fact it was used for years in the public domain and by Boisvert extensively in his writings. She also has taken from Boisvert in other ways, and now calls herself “Vermont’s 1st lady Dracontologist” and her society the “International Dracontologist Society of Lake Memphremagog” which holds “copyrighted archives.”

  11. mystery_man responds:

    DWA- Well, many scientific fields can be broken down into a wide range of subdivisions. Of course there is a huge array of disciplines within biology and zoology, and even chemistry which you mentioned. I can name more than two. Just off the top of my head is organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, biochemistry, physical chemistry, and analytical chemistry. As I am not an astronomer, I’ll have to differ on that one. Sorry, I just couldn’t resist replying to you on this one. 🙂 Anyhow, I agree that even getting cryptozoology in general accepted widely as a branch of zoology is a plus. The types of subdivisions within and where a given cryptozoologist’s interests and studies will lead them within the field is fascinating to me, though.

  12. greatanarch responds:

    ‘Draconology’ would indeed mean the study of dragons. If you want a special name for the study of lake monsters, why not ‘dracolimnology’ (from Greek dracon=dragon & limnos=lake)?

  13. DWA responds:

    mystery_man: just to make sure I’m clear, I didn’t say that sciences don’t have many branches, just that most lay people couldn’t identifify more than one or two, and maybe not even those by their “trade names.”

    And yes, for the consensus answer to call crypto what it is – a branch of zoology – is in no way, to me, “wrong.” You can get worse consensus.

  14. jerrywayne responds:

    Cryptozoology should be a sub-branch of zoology.

    But, where does “Fortean cryptozoology” or “Fortean zoology” fit in? After all, the origins of the Fortean viewpoint are contra-conventional science. Does Fortean considerations do harm to cryptozoology as a proposed scientific discipline?

  15. Loren Coleman responds:

    As defined by Jon Downes and others, clearly “fortean zoology” falls far away from cryptozoology. Indeed, his “Centre for Fortean Zoology” says they examine “unusual and aberrant animal behavior, animal mutilations (on which subject they have worked closely with several British police forces), animal colour variants, teratology, animal folklore and such classic fortean staples as creature falls (fafrotskies), and vampire/werewolf reports.”

    But first and foremost, “fortean zoology” even defines cryptozoology much differently than I do and they include:

    1. Cryptids,

    2. Pseudo-cryptids, and

    3. Zooform phenomena.

    Bernard Heuvelmans, I know, would be turning over in his grave to hear that cryptozoology is being so broadly defined to include things that are “not animals at all, but entities or apparitions which adopt or seem to have (quasi)animal form.”

    I’m sorry, but I have to part ways with those ghost animals that have a friendly-sounding name (zooforms) being defined within cryptozoology.

  16. Rappy responds:

    I am personally all about cryptoherpetology (cryptid reptiles and amphibians, I guess technically somewhat linked to draconology), and…cryptofelidology? Not sure if that’s what you’d call it.

  17. hlw responds:

    There certainly needs to be a feline branch to cryptozoology. There seems to be as large a variance and range as hominids.

    There also needs to be a sub division of creatures that don’t quite fit elsewhere like the dover demon, giant salamanders, chupacabras, thylacines, etc., etc.

  18. sschaper responds:

    How about for just generic ethnoreported, uncatalogued animals that aren’t part of western mythology? Like that flying fox, or the SE Asian wild oxen? Cryptomammology? Or should we ditch the ‘crypto’ because of unfortunate (and unfair) associations?

  19. Loren Coleman responds:

    No reason to make this complex: the flying fox was ethnoknown and part of cryptozoology. It has been found and is now part of zoology. As a mammal, it is presently also part of mammalogy.

    “Crypto” means “hidden,” and can be added to the beginning of any group-of-animal-specific “logy” (study) to show that those cryptids are part of cryptozoology and that the subdivision under discussion is about hidden animals.

  20. mystery_man responds:

    Well, DWA, you’re right about that. Most people probably couldn’t name more than a few branches of those sciences. And I know that when I first became interested in this field as a child, before all of the conventions of science were known to me, all I knew was “cryptozoology” and this one big area of wondrous new animals and mysteries and that was all that mattered. No divisions or sub branches, just this wondrous study of unknown hidden animals. Subdivisions are interesting to me, but it is the field as a whole that sparked a curiosity in me at a young age and indeed led me to study science in the first place. Perhaps for the young future cryptozoologists out there, that’s what really counts.

  21. mystery_man responds:

    DWA- Oh another thing, even though I was once sort of a scofftic in my later years, the idea of cryptozoology still inspired me as a kid. And I eventually came around out of my dismissive skeptical phase. 🙂 One thing I also wanted to mention is that even hard core skeptics still have an interest in the field to be willing to engage on the topic and so it is amazing to me the wide range of personalities that come together on the topic. So for me cryptozoology as a whole is first and foremost in my mind before any subdivisions. This is a great topic of discussion.

  22. dogu4 responds:

    “Fortean zoology”…cryptophenomenology.

  23. DWA responds:

    Whether all of his thinking is legitimately zoological or not, let’s not be too dismissive of Mr. Fort.

    As I put it on another forum (using a Wikipedia article on Fort):

    “Indeed, Fort was ‘[e]ssentially a satirist hugely skeptical of human beings’ — especially scientists’ — claims to ultimate knowledge’.

    “But particularly: [running through Fort’s work is] ‘the feeling that no matter how honest scientists think they are, they are still influenced by various unconscious assumptions that prevent them from attaining true objectivity. Expressed in a sentence, Fort’s principle goes something like this: People with a psychological need to believe in marvels are no more prejudiced and gullible than people with a psychological need not to believe in marvels.’ ….

    That is thinking that needs to be constantly present to challenge the pat assumptions and stale, stodgy models to which science is too often prone. Cryptozoology is one of the few bastions of that sort of clearheadedness in zoology.

    Fort would be appalled at the lack of progress over the past century in substantiating and debunking cryptozoological claims. I’m almost glad he isn’t around to see that, 40 years after Roger Patterson shot his movie, we’re no closer to knowing, and may in fact, in spite of all the evidence, be farther away.

  24. LAShiel responds:

    I hate to burst your collective bubble, but cryptozoology is not a branch of zoology. Just because the users of a discussion board think it is does not make it so.

    Look at these sites for a list of the real subdivisions of zoology:

    International Society of Zoological Sciences

    Course offerings in zoology at Michigan State University

    I could list more, but these prove the point pretty well. We may all wish cryptozoology would become a branch of science, but it just ain’t so…yet.

    Lisa A. Shiel
    Bigfoot Quest blog

  25. mystery_man responds:

    DWA- I certainly agree that there can be some frustrating close mindedness within the scientific community. However, I think we should not be too hasty to brush off all of mainstream scientists as having a need not to believe. I think that there are scientists out there who have no problem believing in marvels, the thing is that they do not have the luxury of coming forward and presenting such ideas to their peers without concrete proof. Some cryptozoological claims do not sit well with what is known about the natural world and no matter how much a scientist might think these things are possible, to claim these things requires they have to show why a theory holds water. They are required to provide physical evidence that is irrefutable and can stand up to critical scrutiny, and unfortunately there is a lack of such evidence a lot of the time in this field.

    So I do think there are a lot of scientists that are willing to believe. It’s just that they work in an area that places a high premium on tangible, reproducible results. A person who wants to believe can speculate all they want with fellow cryptozoologists and have few repercussions. A mainstream scientist, if they want funding and to be taken seriously, must present some extraordinary things to show why something is not the way our current scientific knowledge tells us it is. If this happens, I think you’ll find scientists very willing to study these things. Who WOULDN’T want to be in on such epic finds? So while some in a scientific field may seem to be dismissive, I have a slightly different perspective on why that might be.

    This is not a defense of some of the inflexible dogma that can pop up, just an appeal that not all scientists are neccesarily naysayers.

  26. DWA responds:

    M_m: points taken.

    And remember; I never said “always.” Just “too much to suit me.”


  27. DWA responds:

    Lisa Shiel:

    Cryptozoology is a branch of zoology.

    And just because a bunch of astronomers took a vote using some goofy definitions doesn’t mean Pluto isn’t a planet.

    If you get my general drift. 😉

  28. Terry W. Colvin responds:

    Defining and naming subdivisions of cryptozoology reflects on the personality, interests, and education of the individual making same. This is essentially lumpers or splitters territory, or if you prefer, generalists and specialists. Bottom line: diversity of opinions adds much to the fray.

  29. DinomanPhil responds:

    Hello Loren!

    Another branch of cryptozoology is the study of dinosaurian cryptids. I guess some people would call it draconology though.

  30. dogu4 responds:

    Well said, Terry W. Colvin. My sentiments exactly. Diversity is what it’s all about.

  31. cryptozoologyshop responds:

    I personally study what I call ‘cryptomythology’ or sometimes ‘zoomythology’. The study of mythology as it relates to animals cryptozoological, zoological, and mythological.

  32. mystery_man responds:

    cryptozoologyshop- That’s a good one. I myself am interested in folklore and mythology in relation to real creatures both known and unknown. Fascinating stuff to me.

  33. TheLibrarian responds:

    May I humbly suggest that your definition be submitted to Wikipedia? Really, improving available resources on the internet begins with concerned experts. While someone googling would hopefully find your site, many go straight to Wiki for information more and more.

Sorry. Comments have been closed.

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