Cryptozoology- literally, the study of 'hidden animals'- gets a bad rap. If you say you're into cryptozoology (which I am), people tend to look at you cock-eyed. I think this is due to two problems. First, with all the crazy Loch Ness Monster and Sasquatch hunters out there, cryptozoologists tend to come off as a little bonkers. This is not to say that everyone who studies Nessie or Bigfoot are crazy. In fact, there are a lot of serious researchers out there doing yeoman's work into these phenomena. Loch Ness' Adrian Shine and the USA's Loren Coleman come readily to mind. Still, for every serious cryptozoologist there's a dozen liquored-up hillbillies with a truck or boat, claiming to have been kidnapped by sasquatch or to have hung out in Nessie's undersea lair for an afternoon. This type of thing tends to sap credibility. The second problem is that when scientists find a new species, it's never something cuddly or cute. Take the Coelacanth. Sure, it's an immensely important living fossil. But it looks like something the alien from Alien would keep for a pet. And today, we have fresh news of 'exciting' discoveries from an expedition to Indonesia: scientists have found a giant rat previously unknown to science.
Marvy. Finding a bigger, apparently unafraid of humans version of something roundly despised by people everywhere seems like a sure-fire way to torpedo your research grant. And it is pretty big. It weights in at 1.4 kilos, roughly 5 times the size of your average city rat. This of course raises serious questions for the extermination industry, which must now consider expanding their anti-rat strategies from 'traps and poison' to include 'shoulder-fired rocket launcher'.
So here's a little advice to burgeoning crytozoologists out there: find cuter animals. Like unicorns. Or that flying dog thing from The Neverending Story. The world will thank you for it.
Wonder what your cat has nightmares about? This. Photo Courtesy of The New Scientist.