Last week, I really wanted to discuss some marine arthropod cryptids (animals whose existence is suggested, but unconfirmed by science) for the Ocean of Pseudoscience Week. However, considering their diversity and ecological dominance of the planet, arthropods are conspicuously absent in the cryptid world. It seems most ‘serious’ cryptozoologists have a massive chordate megafauna fetish. Even other invertebrate groups have some highly notable cryptids: The mollusks have the kraken, and annelids have giant, lightning-crapping Mongolian death-worms (possibly the most awesomely-ridiculous cryptid ever)… but where are the arthropods?
Here are the sparse few examples of marine arthropod cryptids I could come up with:Con Rít (Giant sea centipede): This obscure cryptid is the best example I found, and seems to be an amalgam of every sea serpent ever reported to have a thin, segmented body. Some eye witnesses place it at over 150 feet in length, possessing many armored segments, each with lateral projecting plates. Con Rit has allegedly been sited in many tropical waters throughout to Atlantic, Mediterranean, Indonesia, and South East Asia. Explanations of this creature’s nature range from misidentified oarfish (likely), to giant surviving Eurypterid sea scorpions (slim), or whale-like Basilosaurids with armor plating (ridiculous). Even cryptozoologists admit that the rarity of good sightings and any hard evidence makes Con Rit one of the most unlikely sea serpents to exist. You can read more about this criptid here.
Modern trilobites: Cryptozoology and creationism are often tightly intermarried. Creationists have a strange and misinformed notion that if they can discover living animals from groups that scientists consider to be extinct, they will somehow prove that the earth is only 6000 years old and that animals don’t evolve. These creationists are especially interested in dinosaur-like cryptids including plesiosaurs (Nessie, ect.) and sauropods (Mokele-mbembe). Some of these creationist-types also insist that a variety of misidentified arthropods are, in fact, living trilobites. According to these goofballs; isopods, water penny beetle larvae, and tadpole shrimp are all trilobites, therefore: Jesus! – or something.
Trilobites apparently went extinct 250 million years ago, disappearing from the fossil record during the Permian mass extinction. It is unlikely (unfortunately) that they persist today in small, remote populations – as is the case with the coelacanth. Even if living trilobites are discovered, it would not disprove evolution; the new discovery would only mean that archeologists missed something, and trilobites would be seamlessly integrated into current evolutionary theory – as the modern coelacanths were.
Unusually large variant of arthropod X: Giagantified versions of well known animals are a common theme in the cryptozoological world. It seems that in super-sized America, something is a lot more interesting if it is bigger and more extreme(!). This trend even includes a few arthropod cryptids; giant spiders, giant bees, and giant crustaceans (possibly the vocalists behind the bloop). However, there are serious problems with gigantism in arthropods. Their respiratory and circulatory physiology can be incredibly limiting to attaining large sizes. Therefore, as noticed previously by Entophile, one reason that there are so few arthropod cryptids may be because they do not reach large enough proportions to interest the general public.
That brings us back to the question: Why do cryptozoologists hate arthropods? Despite the fact that arthropods represent nearly 80 percent of know animal life, and the constant discovery of previously-undescribed arthropods by biologists (real scientists discover new animals all the time); it was not easy to come up with the few examples of crunchy cryptids that I mentioned above. I think that the answer to my question lies within the integral nature of cryptooolzgy. I feel that cryptooolzgy is largely a form of zoology deficient in scholarship, logic, and rigor; and the people that accept the mantle of ‘cryptozoologist’ are not professional researchers, but rather enthusiasts participating in a popular cultural movement.
Arthropods do not usually register highly in the zeitgeist of the masses. Most people, and therefore cryptozoologists, prefer their cryptids mysterious and yet easily tangible. If I were to go traipsing around in the woods, attempting to take blurry photographs of the elusive arboreal giant copepod, most people wouldn’t be able to relate in the slightest to my quarry. However, If I am hunting Big Foot, people can easily conjure up the notion of a creature almost identical to a human, only increased in size and follicle density. Or, if I am soliciting funds to travel to the Congo to hunt Mokele-mbembe in the name of Jesus, people can easily identify this creature as a dinosaur, akin to the sauropod form that they are bombarded with as children. Furthermore, this concept also applies to cryptid sightings, as the human brain uses concepts that are familiar in order to comprehend things that are not. Your brain turns floating logs and schools of otters into plesiosaurs, and dark blurs in the woods into Big Foot.
Sadly, for the majority of people, the brain leaves arthropods out.
P.S. If you know of, or come across any additional arthropod cryptids please leave a comment!