Animals Discovered since 1900

Many new animal species have been officially described since the turn of the twentieth century. Some are big and unusual, while others are small and unremarkable. A few were known previously only from the fossil record. When the coelacanth was discovered in 1938, it was recognized as a member of a group that had been thought extinct for at least 65 million years. However, the Comoro Islanders knew it well as the gombessa—a fish with soft, oily flesh, an insipid taste, and a laxative effect.

Other animals were well known to indigenous peoples before their discovery by Western science. In the 1850s, the Mbuti Pygmies of the Congo first told U.S. explorer Henry Stanley about a striped animal they called an okapi, which sounded to Europeans like it might be some type of "forest zebra" until a skull was obtained and it turned out to be the only living relative of the giraffe. The International Society of Cryptozoology adopted the okapi as its official emblem in 1982.

The biggest cryptozoological discovery of the nineteenth century was the Giant squid (Archi-teuthis), known to eighteenth-century Norwegians as the Kraken. This gigantic cephalopod has eight arms growing out of its head and two much longer tentacles with which it grabs its prey. It has the largest eyes of any living animal, reaching up to 15 inches in diameter. It travels through the water at high speed using a natural form of jet propulsion, and it is strong enough to put up a struggle with the sperm whales that feed on it. Few, if any, people have seen this 55-foot creature alive; as a deep-sea animal, it comes to the surface only when it is dead or dying.

To be fair, only a few new discoveries are made because of cryptozoological investigations into animals that are rumored to exist. Most come about through routine specimen collection or purely by accident. The list given here, consisting of 431 an imal species or other groups, is by no means complete. Rather, it is a very selective compilation, incorporating either animal discoveries that have been mentioned in cryptozoological literature or those that are of unusual interest. A few rediscoveries are also included.

There are somewhere between 10 and 111 million distinct organisms on earth, although only about 1.8 million have been named. On average, about 3 new species of birds and 200 new fishes are found each year. An estimated 40 percent of freshwater fishes in South America remain unde-scribed. A vast number of unknown insects, invertebrates, and microbes await discovery. In 1980, the U.S. entomologist Terry Erwin collected 1,200 beetle species on nineteen trees in Panama and found that 80 percent of them were previously unknown to science. The deep-sea floor alone may contain as many as a million unknown species, many of them surrounding the hydrothermal vents that were discovered only in 1977.

Many sources were used in compiling this list, among them John A. Burton and Bruce Pearson's The Collins Guide to the Rare Mammals of the World (1978), Karl Shuker's The Lost Ark (1993), and Mark Carwardine's Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises (1995). Scientific and popular names were verified in Don E. Wilson and F. Russell Cole's Common Names of Mammals of the World (2000); Paul Massicot, Animal Info, http://www.; BIOSIS Index to Organism Names, htm; FishBase, cfm; Sibley and Monroe's Bird Families of the World, html; Recently Described Bird Species, http://; Nouveautés taxonomiques ornithologiques, nouveautes.htm; the University of Michigan Ani mal Diversity Web, http://animaldiversity.ummz.; and the EMBL Reptile Database, LivingReptiles.html. For more information on current taxonomic efforts, visit the All-Species Foundation site at

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