Eclipsazoology - the study of extinct animals
Cryptozoology has been defined as the "study of hidden animals" and consists of two fields:
- The search for living examples of animals taxonomically identified through fossil records, but which are believed to be extinct.
- The search for animals that fall outside of taxonomic records due to a lack of emperical evidence, but for which anecdotal evidence exists in the form of myths, legends, or undocumented sightings.
I paraphrase these fields as:
- The search for extinct animals
- The search for unknown animals
Animals of interest to the field are termed "cryptids" ("cryptid" singular) and researchers within the field are termed "cryptozoologists".
Both fields are described as being searches for examples of animals. The "study" component of the term "cryptozoology" is typically reduced to the study of evidence for the existence of these animals.
In this article I propose that the first field of cryptozoology described above be incorporated into a new, separate discipline termed "eclipsazoology", which is the study of extinct animals.
Animals of interest to eclipsazoology are termed "eclipsids" ("eclipsid" singular) and researchers within the discipline are termed "eclipsazoologists".
The nature of cryptozoology
Loren Coleman has produced an excellent summary of the etymology of the terms cryptozoology and cryptid. According to Coleman, Bernard Heuvelmans was not the first to use the term "cryptozoology" but he "created cryptozoology as a goal oriented discipline (endeavouring to prove the existence of hidden animals)."
However, Heuvelmans' definition of "hidden animals" (being "still unknown animal forms about which only testimonial and circumstantial evidence is available, or material evidence considered insufficient by some") explicitly excludes "many of the creatures of most interest to cryptozoologists", as described by Coleman.
Coleman posits that "More broadly ... we do not know whether a cryptid is an unknown species of animal, or a supposedly extinct animal, or a misidentification, or anything more than myth until evidence is gathered and accepted one way or another. Until that proof is found, the supposed animal carries the label "cryptid," regardless of the potential outcome and regardless of various debates concerning its true identity. When it is precisely identified, it is no longer a cryptid, because it is no longer hidden."
Coleman continues "the fact that some ... cryptids will turn out not to be new species does not invalidate the process by which that conclusion is reached and does not retroactively discard their prior status as cryptids. For example, the large unknown "monster" in a local lake is a cryptid until it is caught and shown to be a known species such as an alligator. It is no longer hidden and no longer carries the label "cryptid," but that doesn't mean it never was a cryptid."
Eclipsazoology: The study of extinct animals
The division between those animals that are "taxanomically identified" but "believed extinct" and those that "fall outside of taxanomic records" is a natural one.
Returning to Heuvelmans' definition of cryptozoology and following Coleman's logic, known species which are believed extinct are not cryptids; they are not hidden and they are not unknown.
Further, the study of extinct animals is more all-encompassing than simply searching for living examples of the species.
Thirdly, the search for living examples of extinct species is by nature of a different quality to the search for unknown species. Researchers of extinct species seeking to locate living examples may draw on a wide range of verified data relating to the species' ecology, behavioural psychology, former distribution and habitat, population dynamics, genetics, etc.
For these reasons, the study of extinct animals should be considered a separate discipline to cryptozoology. Further, the search for extinct animals may be considered a distinct field within eclipsazoology which both draws on and contributes to other zoological disciplines related to the species.
Cryptozoology: The study of hidden animals
Separating the study of extinct animals into a new discipline leaves us with cryptozoology being "the study of hidden animals", consisting of "the search for animals that fall outside of taxonomic records due to a lack of emperical evidence, but for which anecdotal evidence exists in the form of myths, legends, or undocumented sightings."
Relationship between cryptozoology and eclipsazoology
Evidence for a living example of a known species at a time when that species was presumed extinct will still be of interest to cryptozoologists. In particular, if the evidence is "testimonial", "circumstantial", or "material [but] considered insufficient by some" to positively establish the identity of the species in question, then that evidence depicts a cryptid precisely because the animal in question is "unknown".
Further, as Coleman argues, if subsequently the animal is positively identified as a known species (extinct or not) then it ceases to be a cryptid. If the species was in fact presumed extinct, then the evidence becomes of interest to eclipsazoologists. Finally, if the veracity of the existence of the species as depicted by the evidence is established, then a case for proof of the species' existence can be made and the evidence becomes of interest to zoologists of other disciplines also.
The term "eclipsazoology" derives from three Greek parts and has the same root as the English word "eclipse" meaning "to leave" (leipein) "out" (ek).
- ekleipsas = extinct
- zoon = animal
- logos = study of
The terms "eclipsid" and "eclipsazoologist" follow the corresponding forms of "cryptid" and "cryptozoologist".
Scope limitations of this article
It is beyond the scope of this propositional article to discuss the nature of eclipsazoology beyond the context of cryptozoology and its place alongside other zoological disciplines.
1. Coleman, L. 29/8/2007, "Cryptozoology, Cryptid and Hominology" at Cryptomundo, http://www.cryptomundo.com/cryptozoo-news/cryptozooterms/, accessed 6/12/2008
2. Simpson, George G. (1984-03-30) "Mammals and Cryptozoology", Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, p1, V128#1 as cited in Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptozoology#cite_note-simpson1-0, accessed 6/12/2008
This article was first published at www.wherelightmeetsdark.com on 6 Dec 2008. It was migrated to www.wherelightmeetsdark.com.au on 7 Aug 2017.