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Thread: New giant ape species discovered in Congo?

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    Post New giant ape species discovered in Congo?

    http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm...ines.worldnews

    American zoo testing DNA from mystery apes

    Scientists in the US hope DNA tests will reveal the origins of large, mysterious apes discovered in the heart of Africa.

    "It is a new, mystery ape and we are doing the DNA fingerprinting to find out more," said zoo director Dr Lee Simmons.

    The apes, which stand five to six feet tall and have feet nearly 14 inches long, were first documented by primatologist Shelly Williams of Atlanta in a forest in the northern Democratic Republic of Congo.

    They have bodies similar to those of gorillas, but generally the facial characteristics of a chimpanzee. Williams said the animals sleep on the ground at night like gorillas, but eat a fruit-rich diet like chimpanzees.

    "I can't speculate yet as to what they are. Their behaviour is so unusual. It is a puzzle. I feel like Dr Dolittle in the land of Oz," said Williams, who has captured some video of the animals but no photographs.

    Because of their size and elusiveness, the apes have no predators - not even poachers hunt them, Williams said. With no fear of lions, leopards or hyenas, the large animals hoot at the moon as it rises and sets, which is extremely unusual for apes, she said.

    "The people are very afraid of them. They call them the 'lion killers' because they are huge creatures," Williams said.

    "If this ends up being a new species of ape, that would be amazing. Even if it's a hybridisation, that would be fascinating," Louis said.

    © Associated Press


    Story filed: 10:31 Friday 15th August 2003

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    Lost apes Of the Congo

    Lost apes Of the Congo

    Stephan Faris



    Ron Pintier was flying light and low above the northern wilds of the Democratic Republic of Congo when he saw a dark shape racing between two patches of tropical forest. "It was huge," says Pontier, a missionary pilot. "It was black. The skin was kind of bouncing up and down on it." From its bulk and color, Pontier thought it was a buffalo until he circled down for another look. "I saw it again just before it went into the forest," he says. "It was an ape--and a big one." Not buffalo size, but big.

    What Pontier saw was a piece of a primatological puzzle, another splinter of anecdotal evidence for a mysterious ape with characteristics of gorillas and chimpanzees, an animal that has scientists in a furious debate over what it might be.

    Bili lies in Congo's far north, about 120 miles east of the Ebola River, where deep tropical forest breaks up into patches of savanna. Civil war and neglect have left the region nearly untouched by man. Overgrown dirt roads with bridges of rough-hewn logs string together thatched-roofed villages. Nearly all freight is carried in by bicycle. Locals hunt with homemade shotguns and crossbows seemingly modeled on 16th century Portuguese design. "This area is the last part of Africa where there are still wild animals," says Pontier, who grew up in the region. "It's not a game park. It's not a reserve. The animals are really wild."

    When Karl Ammann, a Swiss photographer crusading against the killing of wild animals for meat, first visited the region in 1996, he was looking for gorillas, hoping that the great apes still roamed its jungles. What he found surprised him. Locals had two names for the apes in their forests: the tree beaters, which stayed safe in the branches, and the lion killers, bigger, darker and so strong that they were unaffected by the poison arrows used by local hunters.

    Ammann discovered a strange skull with the dimensions of a chimpanzee's but with an odd, prominent crest like a gorilla's. Motion-detecting cameras in the forest caught what looked like immense chimpanzees, and a photograph purchased from poachers showed hunters posing with an animal estimated to be twice the size of an ordinary chimp. Ammann measured a fecal dropping three times as big as chimp dung and footprints as large as or larger than a gorilla's.

    Most intriguing were the gorilla-like ground nests found in the riverine swamps. Chimps normally make their nests in the high safety of trees. Why would they build their beds of branches and shoots on the ground? And why here, of all places? At night Cleve Hicks, 32, a Ph.D. student who observes the animals, regularly hears the laughs of hyenas and the guttural cries of leopards. Recently, his trackers filmed the footprints of a lion crossing a river. But the apes here--at least some of them--pulled together branches and shoots to make a bed on the ground. "We know [the apes] are a perfect target for leopards," says Hicks. "So how can they get away with that?"

    The first scientist to see the Bili apes was Shelly Williams, an independent primatologist who visited the region at Ammann's invitation in the summers of 2002 and 2003. She says she documented separate groups of East and West African chimpanzee subspecies and what she calls the "mystery ape." The larger animal had a much flatter face and straight-across brow like gorillas and turned gray early in life. Females lacked chimps' genital swelling. Two or three would nest on the ground, with others low in nearby branches. They made a distinct vocalization like a howl and were louder when the full moon rose and set. "The unique characteristics they exhibit just don't fit into the other groups of great apes," says Williams. The apes, she argues, could be a new species unknown to science, a new subspecies of chimpanzee or a hybrid of the gorilla and the chimp. "At the very least, we have a unique, isolated chimp culture that's unlike any that's been studied," she says.

    That last, least dramatic theory is the one preferred by most scientists who have visited the region, including Harvard ape expert Richard Wrangham, who thinks the ground nests are built by chimps looking to escape dampness during the day. When Hicks and Ammann describe the animal they are studying, they use "mystery ape" only with irony. Ammann is worried that Williams' sensational pronouncements have brought ridicule to his project. "If there's scientific data, that's one thing," he says. "But basing all of this on anecdotal stuff ..." Recently, he was emailed pictures of a chimp with a pug-dog's head and a seal sprouting a gorilla's face. "Clearly, someone thinks we're a joke," he says. An analysis of hairs found in the ground nests identified their mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) as East African chimpanzee. Williams counters that finding with three arguments: the DNA could have been contaminated, the use of human genetic markers might mask hidden differences, and mtDNA would not show variation in the paternal line. "Until we know the father's lineage, we can't say if it's a new species or not," Williams insists. No longer welcome in Ammann's camp, she says she will return to the area in March to set up her own project.

    "I think people are going to be disappointed with the yeti in the forest," warns Hicks, who says the apes he has seen are clearly chimps, although some are strangely oversize. "The evidence doesn't point to [a new species]. I think what needs to be focused on is the cultural differences." In addition to building ground nests, the apes fish for ants with tools that are several times longer than those used by known chimp populations. For now, Hicks is concentrating on habituating the animals, getting them accustomed to the noisy, nosy presence of researchers. The science--and the videotapes--will come later.

    "Genetically, they're not even a subspecies," says Hicks. "But behaviorally, we may be seeing the beginning of a departure from chimpanzee norms. We could actually be catching evolution in the act. That is, if they're allowed to survive."

    That's an open question. The forests here have been hit hard by commercial poaching. Kalashnikov-wielding hunters stage raids from the Central African Republic and central Congo. Pontier, the missionary pilot, used to see herds of a hundred elephants when he first flew over the region in 1983. Now three together is a rare sighting. And with the big animals nearly gone, Ammann, who has set up a conservation project in the area, says the poachers are turning to hogs, antelopes, monkeys and chimpanzees. "The pressure on smaller game is increasing now that the elephants are gone," he says. If there's one thing all the scientists can agree on, it's that if this part of Congo goes the way of other African wild lands, the great apes could soon disappear. All that will be left of the Bili ape is the mystery.

    (Originally posted by Atlanto-Med/Morfrain_Encilgar on Skadi)

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    The following piece is part my own thoughts wandering off into some shady areas to understand the transition from pre-culture to culture in hominids and part excerpts from various on/offline sources; it need some re-editing and more cohesion, the flaw of rendering a compilation from a forum discussion on Skadi Forum (http://forums.skadi.net/showthread.php?t=29892) is evident and a bit distractive, the gaps between the paragraphs are annoying, but hopefully the gist of these musings comes through intelligible...



    "Genetically, they're not even a subspecies",
    which makes it a hell more intriguing that possibly a genetically unmodified ape is specializing itself to more complex behaviour and shows himself as a more skilfull tactician in creative altering of an environmental setting than mere the dull, natural course of natural beings to adapt or perish.
    It's an act of the will to strife higher up.
    Instinct might be replaced by something vaguely reminding of our human intuition, from which reason might be deduced as being present in some incipient form.

    I mentioned pre-cultual behaviour of macaques in this thread:
    http://forums.skadi.net/showthread.php?t=27547

    From a cultural perspective reviewed, these apes might be in the field of toolworking on the verge of entering a hominid phase.

    L.G. Freeman computed that the variety of information delivered by written English equals 47bits of data.
    The Oldowai Gorge residues of stone implements result in a mere 2bits of data, while as a rule stone artefacts don't exceed the 7-8bits.

    One day these chimps might boost themselves up to an intelligence not far behind of the Oldowai populations...


    "I think people are going to be disappointed with the yeti in the forest," warns Hicks, who says the apes he has seen are clearly chimps, although some are strangely oversize. "The evidence doesn't point to [a new species]. I think what needs to be focused on is the cultural differences." In addition to building ground nests, the apes fish for ants with tools that are several times longer than those used by known chimp populations. For now, Hicks is concentrating on habituating the animals, getting them accustomed to the noisy, nosy presence of researchers. The science--and the videotapes--will come later.
    Austropithecines are not more skilled in too-making than chimps, it boils all down to "precision grip", an anatomical advantage.The vindicated idea was that social value-added systems which can be distilled from *domestical* and labour faculties may not too hastily be correlated with progressive and more utilitarian bodily characteristics and that genes don't have the last word in the examination of what's constitutes a stagnated, primitive and a superior, progressive life form.in how far does bodily morphology and its adaptive advantage secure the road to bigger, complex sociability, intelligence and transcendence?

    A precision grip is but one of the hit-or-mis outlets in evolution, not really a gamble either that leads to more resilient elasticity in coping with the pressures and hazards imposed by life itself, besides a wolf has a more precise measured control of his jaws in a bite or grip than a dog, but it's a sheepdog who herds, so that some concordance with other aspects -part somatic, part pre-cultural -must be brought into the picture.

    I agree however that a mental shift can experience a hindrance to further development if a more suitable somatic change is lacking.
    How much chance is there to reckon that this chimpansee is crossing the threshold from a simple ape to some new anthropoid with maybe more than a passing resemblance to australopithecus ramidus? (http://www.geocities.com/palaeoanthr.../Aramidus.html)


    It would be interesting to investigate if these big chimps show dentally this alteration to assume "evolution at work" directing or approaching a hominid state.
    Ramidus is considered a sister taxon of the australopothicines, still hominid by all means but not longer a likely candidate as a direct ancestors of our kind.

    It's undetermined if Ramidus was capable of tool working. Absence of material still leaves much to doubt. It was probably of perishable quality, randomly scattered over the terrain, bruised and neglected and of low-key usage.

    Otherwise, the primitive hominids would even in their pre-cultural phase fall behind our big chimps, unless the sling-shot progression of apes brings them down in an evolutionary/biological and socio-cultural cul-de-sac where they're left stranded, while the cultural event in hominids is a slow-paced learning process that takes its time, less impulsive and narrow in scope as in apes.
    On a philosophical note, where does our phobia originate for conscious, ritualistic animals, foremost higher primates, who show the ability to respond flexible and imbued by craftiness to the limitations and dangers of their direct surroundings laid upon them, the faculty to control own destiny and so to change given settings to achieve a better optimum, and what's more,accumulated throughout the years, traditions and experiences are passed down from mother to child, one generation after the other; deceitful value-added systems that perturbs humans, because it interferes badly in our notions what sets mankind apart of animals' kingdom and Nature in general:
    Culture.
    Man is imbedded in a world of allegories and metaphores as he's regarded as the pre-eminently animal symbolicum.

    This means he relates to his fellow men, the world and life itself in a his freedom to name-calling, in using words and adhering to concepts, notions and ideas- cognitive instruments- makes up a description of the world, but it's much more than the simple utilitarian outcome of trial and tribulations.
    His appeal to lucidity reaching out to the depths of things and tasting the essence, afterwards rocketing high up to the realms of Ideals and Values means recreating our existence.
    A validation and a purge also of the given and in its initial reception of blurred vision of what this world might be, indicates the will to understand and control/modify ourselves and the entourage that has forced us to abide to dull instinctive and somewhat binary way of regulating our lives.

    Is this promethean revolt unique to hominides or scattered around in animals' kingdom, but diluted and probably strongest among the higher primates?
    What might have given this mental shift a go in our ancestry millions of years ago and when precisely did it occur in our evolutionary time scale?

    Whether australopithecines were able to develop language finds Ralph Holloway in Evolution of the Human Brain liable to doubt, but meanwhile and unlike their like-sized "ecological apes" regions of the brain pertaining to visuo-temporal association and communication were on a sidetrack to humanity. Perhaps this involved greater social behaviour and re-organisation of affinal kin relationships and intensified enculturation(= process whereby cultural assets are coveyed and repeated from one generation to the other) thanks to newly aquired symbolic abilities.

    Increase of brain size affected the posterior and anterior portions of the occipital cortex:
    the integration of the visuo-temporal relationships, Wernicke's area(language, communication) and the inferior temporal cortex(perception, memory and validation of objects) seems to have been responsible for greater intelligence and bringing our social interaction a notch higher in refinement and more intricately layered.

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    Lost apes of the Congo? Why, I know where they are! *points towards the nearest ghetto*
    http://tinypic.com/fuud54.jpg
    For the first time in my life a feeling of overpowering stinging melancholy seized me. Before, I had never experienced aught but a not unpleasing sadness. The bond of a common humanity now drew me irresistibly to gloom. A fraternal melancholy! For both I and Bartleby were sons of Adam. I remembered the bright silks and sparkling faces I had seen that day, in gala trim, swanlike sailing down the Mississippi of Broadway; and I contrasted them with the pallid copyist, and thought to myself, Ah, happiness courts the light, so we deem the world is gay; but misery hides aloof, so we deem that misery there is none. - Herman Melville, Bartleby the Scrivener

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    Good post goswinus. It reminded me that I'd read something about it a while ago - here it is:

    'New' giant ape found in DR Congo
    Scientists believe they have discovered a new group of giant apes in the jungles of central Africa.
    The animals, with characteristics of both gorillas and chimpanzees, have been sighted in the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    According to local villagers, the apes are ferocious, and even capable of killing lions.

    A report about the mysterious creatures is published in this week's edition of the UK magazine New Scientist.

    If they are a new species of primate, it could be one of the most important wildlife discoveries in decades.

    The discovery of these apes "reveals just how much we still have to learn about our closest living relatives," New Scientist says.


    'NEW' GIANT APE
    Large, black faces (like gorillas)
    Up to two metres tall (6.5ft)
    Weigh 85kg-102kg (187lb-224lb)
    Males make nests on the ground (like gorillas)
    Diet rich in fruit (like chimps)
    They stand up to two metres tall, the size of gorillas, and like gorillas, they nest on the ground, not in trees.
    But they live hundreds of km away from any other known gorilla populations, and their diet is closer to that of chimpanzees.

    Primatologist Shelly Williams is thought to be the only scientist to have seen the apes.

    During her visit to DR Congo two years ago, she says she captured them on video and located their nests.

    She describes her encounter with them: "Four suddenly came rushing out of the bush towards me," she told New Scientist.

    "If this had been a bluff charge, they would have been screaming to intimidate us. These guys were quiet. And they were huge. They were coming in for the kill. I was directly in front of them, and as soon as they saw my face, they stopped and disappeared."

    Mystery


    The discovery has baffled scientists. There are three controversial possibilities to explain the origin of the mystery apes:

    They are a new species of ape
    They are giant chimpanzees, much larger than any so far recorded, but behave like gorillas
    They could be hybrids, the product of gorillas mating with chimpanzees.
    So far, researchers have little to go on, but they now plan to return to northern DR Congo to study the apes further.
    In the meantime, there are fears that unless measures are taken to protect them, poaching could threaten this new group of primates before the mystery of their identity is resolved.

    "This is a lawless area," says Kenyan-based Swiss photographer Karl Ammann, who tipped Ms Williams off about the apes.

    "The government has practically no control over hunting. If we found something interesting it would attract more investment. People would be more interested in conserving it."

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3730574.stm
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blondie
    Lost apes of the Congo? Why, I know where they are! *points towards the nearest ghetto*
    They're not lost. The Congo has at least 65 million of them.
    "Nietzsche is dead"
    -God

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sigel
    'New' giant ape found in DR Congo

    'NEW' GIANT APE
    Large, black faces (like gorillas)
    Up to two metres tall (6.5ft)
    Weigh 85kg-102kg (187lb-224lb)
    Males make nests on the ground (like gorillas)
    Diet rich in fruit (like chimps)
    They stand up to two metres tall, the size of gorillas, and like gorillas, they nest on the ground, not in trees.
    But they live hundreds of km away from any other known gorilla populations, and their diet is closer to that of chimpanzees.
    That sounds so familiar..... I'll be darned if I haven't come across 1 or 2 before on my local highstreet. :

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    Quote Originally Posted by RoyBatty
    That sounds so familiar..... I'll be darned if I haven't come across 1 or 2 before on my local highstreet. :
    Hahaha, every single member has the exact same thought when he reads this article. Great minds do think alike.
    "Nietzsche is dead"
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    "But once you are done complaining, whining and griping about our flag, our pledge, our national motto, or our way of life, I highly encourage you to take advantage of our one other Great Canadian Freedom ... the right to leave."
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    Quote Originally Posted by CONSTANTINUS
    They're not lost. The Congo has at least 65 million of them.
    Sure they're lost, if they're not in Europe yet that only means they must have lost their way... Don't worry, it won't be long before they all head up North... :speechles

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    Quote Originally Posted by Arcturus
    Sure they're lost, if they're not in Europe yet that only means they must have lost their way... Don't worry, it won't be long before they all head up North... :speechles
    Ah thank you for reassuring me, I was already worried they'd never make it here.
    "Nietzsche is dead"
    -God

    "But once you are done complaining, whining and griping about our flag, our pledge, our national motto, or our way of life, I highly encourage you to take advantage of our one other Great Canadian Freedom ... the right to leave."
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