When someone uses the word "cryptid" to describe a creature, your first reaction is probably, "Well, that's fake." While it's not the most helpful or interesting attitude, it's usually pretty accurate.
However, just because something is mysterious and mythical doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. Just look at these 10 former cryptids that totally turned out to be real.
1. The Water Owl
Back in the good old days of sea voyaging, there was an urban legend about a terrifying "water owl" that lived in the seas of northern Europe. The creature -- known as the "Ziphius" -- was said to have the body of a fish and the head of an owl. These days, the legend of the water owl is thought to have been inspired by Cuvier’s beaked whale (pictured above), which is found in the frigid waters off the coast of Scotland. Personally, I like the name "water owl" much more.
2. The Bondegezou
In Indonesia, the bondegezou was once a legendary, ancestral spirit of the native Moni people. However, in the 1980s, Australian researchers breathed some truth into the legend. After a scientist was sent a photo of the supposed spirit, he quickly determined that it was a species of tree kangaroo. Despite their confirmed existence, these creatures are very rare. In fact, there are no bondegezous in captivity.
3. The Devil Bird
Now that's a name I can get behind. Sadly, it's not nearly as scary as its name implies. For hundreds of years, the devil bird was a part of Sri Lankan mythology. Its screams in the night heralded the arrival of death. While the screams were certainly real, no one knew where they were coming from until 2001. That year, researchers were able to identify the culprit of the mysterious screams as a new species of spotted owl. So much for being a creepy omen.
4. The Okapi
Before the dawn of modern science, the elusive okapi had been referred to as the African unicorn by frightened European conquerers. It was said to be some sort of cross between a zebra, donkey, and giraffe. It took until 1901 for a live okapi to be captured by British colonists in Uganda. What they found is that the okapi really is a relative of the giraffe.
5. Mountain Gorilla
When Europeans first arrived in Africa, rumors of so-called "ape men" began to circulate. Until 1902, these forest monsters were believed to attack and kill colonists at random in their sleep. That year, however, a German colonizer shot one of these man apes and brought it back to Europe with him. This was the scientific community's first introduction to mountain gorillas.
6. The Komodo Dragon
Around the turn of the century, science had pretty much determined that giant lizards were a thing of the past. That belief, however, was called into question after European fishermen in Indonesia returned home with tales of giant pre-historic lizards that were still roaming the Earth. In 1926, an expedition confirmed the existence of these giant beasts, and thus the Komodo dragon entered the scientific world.
7. Giant Sea Serpent
Tales of sea serpents date back almost as far back as humanity itself. Frequent sightings over the years made sea serpents seem like the most promising of cryptids. However, recent research has called many of those stories into question. The current widely held belief is that these serpents were actually just giant oarfish that were mistaken for mythical creatures. Oarfish typically dwell in the deepest, darkest parts of the ocean, so that theory actually makes a lot of sense.
I know, right? It seems weird to think of such a normal creature as once being considered mythical or mysterious. But when Europeans first arrived in Australia, that's exactly what they thought of the kangaroo. They described them as having heads like deer, but they stood upright and hopped like frogs. That's a pretty good description, actually. The rumors of these mysterious beasts persisted until one was killed and its body was brought back to Europe for further study.
9. The Platypus
Be honest. If someone told you about an egg-laying mammal with a duck's bill and webbed feet, you'd probably think they were crazy, right? That's exactly the reaction everyone had when explorers began telling stories about these critters in the 1700s. The British scientific community even went so far as to call the platypus a hoax. Today, the platypus is one of only a handful of egg-laying mammals. Oh, and it's poisonous.
10. Giant Squid
Along with tales of sea serpents, early sailors often told stories of giant squid and other underwater monsters. Until very recently, these stories were considered myths. However, recent evidence has actually proven that the giant squid does exist. While very little is known about giant squid, they're still terrifying creatures that could definitely destroy wooden ships.
(via List Verse)
I think my favorite one on this list has to be the giant squid. Those things are awesome. They're also probably quite delicious...just saying.