Sea serpents; tall, hairy creatures; unicorns; blood-sucking doglike animals -- they've all been in the news this year. They're either real, myth or simply new and previously unknown beasts that share the world with humans and come under the category of cryptozoology: the study of hidden or unknown animals.
Here's a look back at some of the more interesting cryptozoology stories that we covered in 2010.
Lake Monsters & Sea Serpents
|This 1934 photo of the Loch Ness Monster taken by Robert Kenneth Wilson was later exposed as a hoax. Despite that, over many decades, thousands of people have reported seeing a large, unknown animal in the 23-mile-long Scottish lake.|
A Tale of a Unicorn
Bigfoot: Missing Link or Dark Hair?
|This is a 1977 still photo made from a 16mm film made by Ivan Marx reportedly showing the legendary Bigfoot in the hills of Northern California.|
But one man this year claimed to have gotten so close to a Bigfoot that had wandered onto his North Carolina mountaintop property, he managed to poke the unwelcome visitor with a stick. But the real curious thing about the story was that the creature reportedly was covered in yellow hair.
Red Panda Fossils Found in Tennessee
That is, until fossil excavations determined that the cousin of the black-and-white panda once lived in the ancient forests of Tennessee. In fact, at the Gray Fossil Site, bones from a saber-toothed cat, camel, elephant and rhinoceros indicate these animals lived in the Volunteer State more than 4 million years ago.
Chupacabra: Year of the Goat Sucker
Saving the best for last, one little beastie that caught our attention several times in 2010 was the legendary chupacabra (Spanish for "goat sucker"). This hideous-looking four-legged animal has been blamed for the k*ll*ngs of livestock in Puerto Rico, Mexico and the United States.
One of the problems of identifying the chupacabras are the numerous conflicting descriptions of them, from being large, heavy animals, sometimes displaying a long row of spines on their backs, to smaller, canine-type creatures.
But this year, numerous reports in different states included photographs of strange-looking hairless beasts with shriveled skin. Through DNA testing and other analysis, researchers are mounting a case that many of the alleged chupacabra suspects may turn out to be coyotes that have been infected by tiny parasites, which can result in the animals' bizarre appearance. But does it explain all chupacabra incidents? That's unknown and it's what keeps the legend and mystery alive.