|Zak S's Kamadan could scare the pants off a loris.|
There are two problems with making inferences about the genes from animal behavior (some monkeys have distinct calls for all three predators) and present-day human behavior. Advocates of evolutionary psychology claim that their method is scientific; considering conditions in the ancestral environment of humanity, they deduce what behaviors were adaptive then, and then test the hypothesis that those behaviors have survived in the modern day. But ...
1. Which ancestral environment are we talking about? The bird-snake-cat theory traces us back to small tree-dwelling creatures. Others refer to our time on the ancestral savannah. There may have been an aquatic period in there.
2. There is always an escape clause if we don't find that a behavior has survived from those times: it must have disappeared because it was no longer adaptive. In actual fact, what happens is psychologists find a phenomenon that exists in modern humans, and then try to explain it in terms of what might have been adaptive in one of those environments, or a similar behavior in an animal species. With this kind of hindsight bias, there are all kind of ways to stumble across a phenomenon that has a closer, better explanation in terms of cultural adaptation.
So take the prevalence of mythological monsters, with their snake-bird-cat aspect. The more straightforward answer is that lions, tigers and ocelots roamed over most of the planet's surface two thousand years ago, and they were scary. Birds and snakes possess magic and strange means of movement, so they naturally tend to have cultic significance even if they're not imagined as huge, and there are enough crocodiles in our African past to explain dragons more prosaically. Why propose special genetic baggage held over from tree-shrews, when cultural concerns are more flexible, also adapt to survival concerns, and explain differences as well as similarities in the world's myths?
A better candidate for a genetic adaptation is the way a few very specific small animals attract phobias - irrational mixtures of fear and disgust that serve as a footnote to the generally useful rule, "if it's bigger than you, run away." The most common targets of animal phobias are snakes and spiders, a tendency that occurs universally, and has obvious survival value in avoiding poison bites.
The fear-disgust mix also translates to "weird" or "horrifying" and explains why snakes and spiders, rather than birds or cats, are the mainstays (together with dead things and tentacles) of the weird fantasy genre. While the griffon can get a makeover as the most noble beast, there's always going to be something sinister about the giant flying snake.