How cryptozoology could actually do some good

I have posted a few times about “cryptids” and mentioned that the study of cryptids is called “cryptozoology”.  This has been very much a fringe science ever since its inception in the 1940s.  The disparagement has resulted from an over-reliance on anecdotal evidence and what some would call an “overabundance of credulity”.  What I am going to discuss here is not so much pure cryptozoology as the concepts that underpin it.
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In search of the Chupacabra

In the third of an expanding series on “cryptids” (those animals which are thought by some to exist but have never been conclusively documented), I thought I would cover the third best-known cryptid: the chupacabra.  Literally, chupacabra means “goat sucker” in Spanish and it was first reported in Puerto Rico in 1995.  This makes it one of the most recent cryptids to have been reported.  Confined almost entirely to Latin America, there have been a large number of sightings since 1995.  The original sighting, in the Puerto Rican town of Canóvanas, reported a small creature with reptilian skin, large eyes and rainbow spines down its back.  However, sightings since have varied in their descriptions and more recent sightings have described dog-like animals with no fur and exuding a foul smell.  Other similar sightings have the creature as large as a bear (these are from Russia and the Phillipines).  The other noted feature of these sightings is the finding of dead animals, drained of their blood (hence the name “goat sucker”).
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In search of Nessy

Views of the Loch Ness Monster

I discussed the application of “climate space envelope models” (also known as “species distribution models” or “ecological niche models”) to Sasquatch in an earlier post.  While I was writing that post I was racking my brain trying to remember a scientific paper on the Loch Ness Monster…  I distinctly remembered hearing about it in an undergraduate course but didn’t have any record of it in my notes.  The good news is I found the paper!  In fact, I found several!

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In search of Sasquatch

I have been involved in “climate space modelling” for a few years now.  This is an approach that uses observations of a given species to determine the range of environmental variables under which it will occur.  Once you know what the limits of its tolerance are, you can predict where the species will occur.  For example, let’s say that a damselfly (of course I’m using a hypothetical damselfly) can live at temperature of between 10 and 20 degrees and precipitation has to be between 200mm and 500mm per year.  Warmer, wetter, cooler or drier than that and it can’t survive.  We can use these limits to predict (i) where the species currently exists but has not been recorded, and (ii) where the species might exist in the future as the climate changes.

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