Science has revealed another gem that changes the way we think about a species of animals. It got me thinking. Could it be applied to the way we think about cryptids? Could these strange and mysterious monsters of the cryptozoology world be variations on a theme, like sthenurines were on the kangaroo family tree?
A professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Brown University, Christine Janis, is pretty sure that giant kangaroos, who lived 100,000 years ago, walked instead of hopped. She was joined in her research by Karalyn Kuchenbecker (former undergraduate at Brown University) and Borja Figuerido from the University of Malaga, Spain. They posted their research results in the journal PLOS ONE, which was later reported by Science Daily. (Artwork above right by Brian Regal of Sthenurus stirlingi.)
Native to the Pleistocene era, giant kangaroos, or sthenurines, weighed upwards of 550 pounds, and could reach two meters (6.5 feet) in height. Their faces resembled a rabbit’s, and they seem to have had “sticky up” ears too, though not as big as a rabbit’s in proportion to the face. Their arms were short and definitely made for foraging. In contrast, modern kangaroos, the reds and the grays, use their front arms for walking when on all fours.
Janis and her team concluded an exhaustive, detailed look at bones from these now extinct sthenurines and compared them to skeletons of modern kangaroos. They found significant differences.
- Sthenurine teeth were made for browsing, as opposed to the teeth of modern kangaroos that are clearly made for grazing.
- Hopping requires a flexible backbone, sturdy tail, and hands that can support the body weight. Sthenurines had none of these traits.
- Sthenurines could support their body weight on just one foot; a requirement for walking. Modern kangaroos cannot.
- Sthenurines had bigger hip and knee joints which is required in walking animals. Also the pelvis is different than that of modern kangaroos. Larger bones allow larger, stronger muscles to attach to them. Critical when one is walking.
Janis said, “If it is not possible in terms of biomechanics to hop at very slow speeds, particularly if you are a big animal, and you cannot easily do pentapedal locomotion [which includes using a long tail] then what do you have left? You’ve got to move somehow.” (Artwork left by Nobu Tamura.)
Evidence is good that these animals, these relatives of modern day kangaroos, walked instead of hopped.
So why am I telling you this on a cryptozoology website?
Cryptids: Just Variations?
So this got me thinking. Never mind that this member of the kangaroo family most likely walked instead of hopped – what about the rabbit-like face? I find that even more weird than the fact it most likely walked instead of hopped.
Let’s look at bipedal creatures we hear about often enough. Bigfoot, Sasquatch, the Yeti, Mande Barung, Orang Pendek. From all I’ve read about them it seems to me more than likely they are just variations on a theme in the evolutionary tree. I believe, of all the cryptids we talk about, these are the ones that have the greatest chance of being real and one day provable.
What about things like Saber Wolves, Siberian Tigers migrated to Alaska, giant bears, the Tasmanian tiger? Well all of these creatures are based on animals that we are very familiar with today. It seems less of a stretch of the imagination to think these have a good chance of being real.
There are other creatures that will probably not be found to be evolutionary variations, in my opinion. These would include the Mothman, Jersey Devil, Deer Man, Wolf man, Lizard man, and things like that.
For the creatures that may one day prove to be real, we’re going to need evidence. That would involve a carcass, unfortunately. Science needs to be able to test and measure something in order to evaluate it properly. Notice with the sthenurines, they had at least a hundred skeletal samples to examine. In the cryptid world, we’ll be lucky if we can get them just one!
Still, my hope is one day more of these creatures of cryptozoology will be added to the roster of known animals around the world. As always, science is going to point the way.
What do you think?