Two major cryptozoological encyclopedias have been published in the last few years. It might be thought that between them they have exhausted the field. However, I believe that there are still a handful of fascinating cryptids that failed to make the cut.
The Magnetic Mole
This animal seems to have developed the magnetic sense, used by some birds for navigation on long cross-country flights, to an extent found in no other creature. Fossil remains show the brain cavity to have contained a number of tiny nodules of haematite, an iron oxide with magnetic properties also found in the brains of pigeons and responsible for their orientational skills. The mole apparently used its magnetic sense to solve the problem of navigation underground in total darkness.
The mole, which flourished in several places in Europe including the British Isles, was believed to have become extinct in the Pleistocene after an abrupt reversal of the Earth’s magnetic field confused its orientation and caused it to tunnel ever deeper in the confident belief that it was returning to its burrow. Recently however there have been a number of extraordinary reports of this animal appearing, often in a highly exhausted state, in Australia and New Zealand…
This agreeable cryptid, the only one associated with Italy, was distinguished by an unusually narrow choice of habitat, only roosting within those Tuscan and Umbrian churches decorated with excellent frescoes and with a good restaurant within a few hundred yards. It flourished from the Romanesque to the Renaissance periods but was believed to have become extinct during the Baroque. Several years ago however it was tentatively identified with a small bat in the corner of a picture painted by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones during his tour of Italy in the mid-nineteenth century. Though it is impossible to identify the precise location at which Burne-Jones worked, and though this identification remains the only evidence for its continued existence, its sympathetic choice of habitat make it a favourite subject for the less intrepid cryptozoological explorer.
The Antikythira Elephant (Elephas volans)
The hypothesis that a large species can become substantially reduced in size after being isolated on islands is dramatically illustrated by the extinct Sicilian elephant, which grew to only three feet high. Even more striking confirmation came from the discovery on the tiny Greek island of Antikythira, only a mile or so long, of the fossil remains of an elephant much smaller still. The Antikythira elephant was only a few inches high, with a long slender trunk and very large ears. Recent aerodynamic calculations leave no doubt that the combination of large ears and low body size allowed this elephant to fly, and the long trunk suggests that it lived much as moths or humming-birds do, hovering in front of flowers to drink the nectar.
Like other elephant species of the Mediterranean area, it was believed to have become extinct some time during the last few thousand years and thus be of no interest to cryptozoology.
Recently however a small number of tourists have begun coming to Antikythira , and there have been reports of creatures ‘like grey humming birds with four feet’ feeding amongst the flowers: one woman even found a ‘tiny elephant’ perched on the edge of her glass drinking her gin and tonic through its trunk.