My Favorite Cryptid Tom Mazanec A cryptid is an animal which is featured in folklore but is not accepted by Science. I have had a lifelong fascination with cryptids, and hope that one day I will live to see one discovered and classified. It is possible that such animals exist, especially in the oceans of the world (think of the coelacanth, for example, a large fish which became "extinct" with the dinosaurs...until one was caught in the 20th Century). But my favorite cryptid is not Nessie or Bigfoot. It is an alleged Alpine lizard which goes by a bewildering variety of names, the one most used outside of the Alps being "tatzelwurm". It is said to be poisonous (or even to breathe poison in the more extravagent descriptions) and at least one report, IIRC, held that its skin was tough enough to break a pocket knife. Neither characteristic would be unique in a lizard...gila monsters have very tough hides and are poisonous, so perhaps the tatzelwurm is a relative. It would be strange to have a relative living on the other side of the world, but red pandas are relatives of the raccoon and also live in the other hemisphere. And a tough hide might allow the tatzelwurm to retain the warmth of its body to a degree, which might help in the cool weather of the Alps, as well as being protection. It could also be an example of convergent evolution, or just "fluff". It is described as being like a stubby snake, usually with just forelimbs. This is not necessarily ridiculous...lizards have lost their limbs at least twice (snakes and glass snakes). And primitive snakes like the python retain vestigial hindlimbs to help the males in...ahem..."it". There are admittedly problems with this cryptid (as there are with all cryptids, almost by definition). The "evidence" consists of two photographs, one of a live specimen in the wild and one, quite recent, of a skeleton. Both are acknowleged even by cryptozoologists as probable hoaxes. And its habitat is a long settled and developed area, where unknown animals would have trouble remaining undiscovered. But two reasons make me favor this cryptid over its better known fellow cryptids: 1) SIZE The tatzelwurm is depicted as being only two to six feet long. This seems strange for a legendary animal. If you are going to lie, lie big. And even real animals tend to "get bigger" in the retelling (just ask any hunter or fisherman about the one that got away). You would think that some mythical creature would be more impressive than that. In fact, I even once read a book on cryptids which actually apologized for including such a "puny" monster! In addition, small size would help the tatzelwurm stay undiscovered. It would be more able to hide, and any carcass would be quickly consumed or decayed. It would also have an easier time maintaining a viable population in small and undeveloped areas, unlike bigger cryptids which would have problems obtaining sufficient food to survive in numbers great enough to prevent inbreeding over many generations. 2)NANES These include stollenworm, springwurm, daazelwurm, praatzelwurm and bergstutzen. It has even crossed over into French as "arassas". Again, this seems strange for a "fake" animal. If the animal were some kind of popular myth, like dragons, you would think that they would maintain their name across the whole language area, with perhaps slightly different names for other languages. Same if someone just made up a story and spread it around. But a bunch of local names sounds more like an immigrant population entered an area with a lot of somewhat localized "prime real estate" (like the Alpine valleys), encountered an animal it had never seen before, and each area coined its own name for it. If the skeptics are wrong and the tatzelwurm is an actual creature, it is obviously rare and probably getting rarer (it is interesting that the further back you research stories about dragons and other such monsters throughout Europe, the more they sound like tatzelwurms, so maybe there is just a remnant population of a once more widely distributed animal which dwindled as civilization grew). I would certainly hope that a specimen is captured before it becomes extinct, and thus truely nonexistant.