Is Bigfoot real? What genus and species is the Loch Ness monster? What are the origins of the Yetti? All of these questions fall under the purview of cryptozoology. Literally translated from its Greek root, it means the study of hidden animals. The definition has been expanded to encompass a host of mythological animals including monsters spotted only in sci-fi novels or comic books.

In their new book Abominable Science!: Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids, authors Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero break down the fact and fiction surrounding a fringe area of inquiry.

Both researchers approach the book from a skeptic’s point of view but they’re not quick to dismiss claims that these creatures could exist. Both have been hooked on the topic since childhood and as Prothero writes, “Scientists are not inherently negative sourpusses who want to rain on everyone else’s parade.” Though the book sometimes gets bogged down in details, the authors retain a childlike enthusiasm toward the topic. Here are the origin stories for three of the legendary beasts in the book:

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