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Johannes de León
Wednesday, October 6th, 2004, 08:55 PM
An elusive giant ape has been spotted in remote forests in central Africa, sparking theories that it could be a new species of primate, a finding that would be the most astonishing wildlife discovery in decades, New Scientist says. In a report published in the coming issue, the weekly says the mysterious creatures have been seen in forests around the towns of Bondo and Bili, in the far north of the Democratic Republic of Congo.


From the rare eyewitness sightings, bone discoveries and a video recording, the animals have large, black faces, are up to two meters tall (6.5 feet) and weigh between 85 and 102 kilos (187 and 224 pounds).

That would put them in the size category of gorillas, but the region lies 500 kilometers (300 miles) from the edges of the known habitats of the western and eastern species of gorilla.

The creature's face is gorilla-like and has a sagittal crest — a long bony ridge — that is typical of gorillas.

But other aspects of the skull morphology are that of a chimpanzee, according to Colin Groves, an expert at the Australian National University in Canberra.

As for behavior, the apes make nests on the ground like gorillas, whereas chimpanzees prefer to make their homes in the trees. But, unlike gorillas, which hate water and prefer to build a new nest every night, these primates make their beds in swampy ground and reuse them night after night.

Feces recovered from the nest sites indicated an animal with a diet rich in fruit, which is typical of chimps.

Shelly Williams, a U.S. primatologist affiliated with the Jane Goodall Institute in Maryland, captured the apes on video in 2002 with the help of local people and was once briefly confronted by a group of four of them in dense forest.

This, along with other evidence, makes her think that there is a chance the animals could be a new species of great primate — in other words, an undiscovered genetic relative of humans.

Other possibilities are that it is gorilla-chimp hybrid, or a new sub-species of chimp that would be 50 percent bigger than its largest cousins.

Anecdotal evidence about the unusual apes dates back to photos taken by European hunters in 1898, when the region was the Belgian Congo.

The trail was then picked up in 1996 by Karl Ammann, a Kenyan-based Swiss photographer, who was intrigued by local tales that the forests were inhabited by large ferocious apes that could kill lions.

Unlike gorillas, which invariably charge when they see a threat, these apes turn around and silently slip away into the forest when encountered, Ammann said.

The discovery of these apes "reveals just how much we still have to learn about our closest living relatives," New Scientist notes, expressing concern that animals could be "poached out of existence" unless conservation measures are urgently taken to protect them.


[Source (http://dsc.discovery.com/news/afp/20041004/giantape.html)]

Stríbog
Wednesday, October 6th, 2004, 09:42 PM
Rumors of these apes have existed for decades. Observers have described them as "gorilla-chimpanzee crosses." I would be very curious to see where they fell in the higher primate family genetically.

Dr. Solar Wolff
Thursday, October 7th, 2004, 04:30 AM
Feces were collected over a year ago and DNA testing was supposed to be going on. This could be the most exciting news in Anthro./Primate Studies in a long time.

morfrain_encilgar
Wednesday, December 1st, 2004, 09:28 PM
Feces were collected over a year ago and DNA testing was supposed to be going on. This could be the most exciting news in Anthro./Primate Studies in a long time.

This report has confused the subjects of ground-nesting chimpanzees and a lrage mystery ape, which was described as Gorilla gorilla uellensis in 1937. Karl Ammann returned from the region with a skull of a chimpanzee that had sagittal keeling like a male Gorilla skull does, but belonged to a chimpanzee.

There are big chimpanzees there, though theyre probably of a known subspecies, because related populations can differ in size. The large size mignt be because of the predators that are present in the mixed savannah and forest habitat there, because larger primates are less subject to attack by large land carnivores. The big ones are called "lion-chasers" because they attack and persue lions. It mignt be because of this increased weight that they nest on the ground instead of in the trees.

Wether theres a population of gorillas or another large ape there is still a mystery, but it mignt be unlikely because the male chimps there are so large.