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Science

New Great Ape Discovered? 337

Posted by michael
from the guy-in-a-monkey-suit dept.
DrLudicrous writes "CNN is running a story about sightings of an ape in central Africa that doesn't seem to fit the description of known apes. Pictures of the animal are rare, but it seems slightly taller than most gorillas, with a flatter face. One woman even reported seeing it walk upright on two legs. It has been hypothesized that the ape might be a new species, a subspecies, or perhaps a hybrid between two other species."
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New Great Ape Discovered?

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  • by Call Me Black Cloud (616282) on Sunday August 10, 2003 @08:01AM (#6658909)
    I wondered why CowboyNeal hasn't been showing up in the polls...he's been out camping!

    Let me say that I like CN and think he should be in all the polls. This post is intended to be good natured and not mean spririted.
    • CowboyNeal is the leader of the infamous group of guerilla gorillas also known as the Attack Monkeys, who have earned their ill reputation by generating the Slashdot front page.
  • by errl (43525) on Sunday August 10, 2003 @08:01AM (#6658910) Homepage
    From the article:

    """
    Williams and the trackers used some clever tricks to lure the mystery apes.
    Pictures of the 'mystery ape' are rare because the animals are skittish and aggressive. Here a researcher captured an image from afar of one of the animals with her offspring.

    "One of my trackers made the sound of a duiker, a small antelope, as if it were in pain," said Williams. Four or five of the mystery primates fell for the ruse and came running to kill it.
    """

    I'd classify that as a stupid trick. Come on, sounding like something the animals want to kill doesn't seem clever at all methinks :).
  • What is amazing is.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SystematicPsycho (456042) on Sunday August 10, 2003 @08:02AM (#6658912)
    If there was one, then there would of had to be thousands at the time the species was alive. It's amazing that only a piece of what could of been an entire species is ever found.
    --
    • by errl (43525)
      Not really, they state that it could be a hybrid of a gorilla and a chimp, if that is the case, the hybrid could have been quite newly "created".
      • by TomV (138637)
        although technically speaking, if they spotted a female with offspring and it IS a gorilla-chimp hybrid then neither gorillas, chimps, nor this creature would constitute separate species from eachother.

        TomV
        • Horses and donkeys are separate species but they can still produce offspring called mules [ruralheritage.com]. The test is whether they can produce fertile offspring. Mules are usually sterile due to different numbers of chromosomes between donkeys and horses that kill the reproductive cells in the hybrid.
          • by mishac (75996)
            Thats not a completely valid test...over the years they've found a few female mules capable of being impregnated by a horse or donkey. In addition, female big-cat hybrids, like "Ligers" and "Tigons" or "Jaguleps", etc, are often fertile, and can be impregnated to produce 3-species hybrids (Do a google search for "Lijagulep" or "Ti-liger"...to lazy to do it myself). So maybe the criteria should be that species are seperate if they can't produce fertile *MALE* offspring....
            • From my last visit to the museum combined with reading, I recall that "species" is one of those concepts that works well most of the time, but gets fuzzy at the boundaries. So at sometime T we have N species, at T +100,000 years we have N+1 species, (assuming no extinctions in the meantime for this example) but pinning down exactly when N became N+1 isn't easy, or even -meaningful-. I may be wrong, but I do have the wit to realise it's a touchy subject in science.
      • So gorillas and chimps would then be one and the same species?
    • There are tribes in the Amazon that have been undiscovered until very recently, and there are untold numbers of smaller species that are discovered regularly.

      The impressive thing here is that it's a large primate that acts rather unlike other primates. My call is either it's a hoax, or it's that missing link anthropologists have been searching for. If it's the latter, it's a huge discovery.

      • by leandrod (17766) <l&dutras,org> on Sunday August 10, 2003 @08:34AM (#6658995) Homepage Journal
        >
        or it's that missing link anthropologists have been searching for

        This would be more like evolutionary biologists than anthropologists; the later are concerned with man as man, not as an animal.

        Anyway, tall order. It is not a specie that will fill the gap. There would need to be a big number of fossiles and (or) living species discovered to fill the multiple gaps in evolutionary evidence, and not only near man but all over the classification of animals and vegetables.

        • Fair enough.

          By "missing link", I guess I'm really referring to the gap between us and lesser primates, rather than the purely evolutionary chain. If it's living rather than fossilised then so much the better.

          It's always seemed odd to me that we are "up here" while apes and chimps are "down there" and other mammals kind of dribble down from that. Why nothing in-between? It would be cool if there was some other species that slightly filled that gap bewteen us and the animals.

          • by Black Parrot (19622) on Sunday August 10, 2003 @09:58AM (#6659253)


            > It's always seemed odd to me that we are "up here" while apes and chimps are "down there" and other mammals kind of dribble down from that. Why nothing in-between?

            Right now is sort of an anomaly in the family tree. For most of "human" history there were multiple species of "humans" living concurrently, and there were formerly many more species of ape alive at the same time too.

            Also, the lack of in-between-ness is exaggerated by the nonlinearity of what has been going on in our species. If you compare the material culture of modern humans to that of chimps it looks like an unbridgeable gulf, but if you instead compare our material culture of 1,000, 10,000, 100,000, and 1,000,000 years ago to the current material culture of chimps, the gap really closes up.

            It appears that a small difference in cognitive ability can make a huge difference when its results are allowed to accumulate over the millenia.

            > It would be cool if there was some other species that slightly filled that gap bewteen us and the animals.

            True, but arguably there already is. Take away the chimps and observe how wonderfully they fill the gap between ourselves and gorillas. Take away gorillas and observe how well they fill the gap between us+chimps and the other apes.

            Our corner of the family tree is an interestingly dense bush as it is, and would be even more interesting if not for the extinctions over the past few million years.

            Recommended readings:

            "The Culture of Chimpanzees" [cc.ca.us] (PDF) Overview of culture among chimpanzees.

            "Planet of the Apes" [sciam.com] (Just a tease; see the full article in your neighborhood library.) Breadth of the ape family tree in the Miocene.

            "Hominid Species" [talkorigins.org] What we currently know about our sub-branch of the family tree.

          • The fossil record attests to numerous species that were more humanlike than chimps but not direct ancestors of modern man. The genus of Australopithecines and the Neanderthal (sub)species of Homo, for example.
          • It would be cool if there was some other species that slightly filled that gap bewteen us and the animals.

            There were, but we killed them. Most recently the Neanderthals, which we (Homo Sapiens sapiens) wiped out in the last Ice Age (recent DNA studies ruled out the theory that we interbred).

          • >

            I'm really referring to the gap between us and lesser primates, rather than the purely evolutionary chain

            This is one issue, how many gaps there are. But remember to consider also the other issue: how wide the gaps are. Lots of gaps, not only between us and lesser primates but also among other primates and in several other points of the evolutionary 'family tree', are big enough that not only one or two fossiles or species are needed to fill up, but several.

            It's always temerary to hold this as de

      • by Black Parrot (19622) on Sunday August 10, 2003 @09:33AM (#6659168)


        > My call is either it's a hoax, or it's that missing link anthropologists have been searching for. If it's the latter, it's a huge discovery.

        No one is looking for any "missing link". The fossil record is full of "missing links", and the joke is that every time you find one you create two more, one to either side.


    • Apparently this story has been developing for a while. There's another article from April on the National Geographic site:

      http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/04/ 04 14_030314_strangeape.html

  • evolution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ugodown (665450) on Sunday August 10, 2003 @08:04AM (#6658914) Homepage
    The article didn't mention anything about how it might be considered a 'missing link'. It it is indeed its own species, this discovery will have significant anthropological rammifications. If it is just a hybrid, this discovery might not mean much.
    • Unless it's a hybrid of humans and chimps or something.
    • Until there is solid proof of anything then it may just be the equivalent of a big foot. I don't know how the skull fits into this though. I think the article falls short of explaining alot, like where in Africa these things are.
      --
  • Has the good the good Dr. Jane Goodall been doing down there with all her research? Do not let the insanity continue good Doctor, leave the apes alone!
  • by grug0 (696014) on Sunday August 10, 2003 @08:07AM (#6658927) Journal
    At least that's what the National Geographic [nationalgeographic.com] and the NPR [npr.org] articles conclude. It's easier to swallow than the idea of a chimp and a gorilla getting it on.
    • Some more (Score:3, Informative)

      by suteri (637146)

      This guy seems to be the main researcher with these apes. Check this article.

      http://karlammann.com/bondo.html [karlammann.com]
    • Personally, when the possibility of mixed species was suggested I could only think of one thing, human and chimp.
    • by rde (17364) on Sunday August 10, 2003 @08:43AM (#6659011)
      It's easier to swallow than the idea of a chimp and a gorilla getting it on.
      Especially when you consider that gorillas are so poorly endowed [penissizedebate.com] when compared to their chimp cousins. To paraphrase Samuel L. Jackson, that'd have to be one charming mother-fuckin' ape.

      For Darwin's sake, people. Evolution is a continuum; species don't magically transform from one to another. However long ago chimps and gorillas genetic company, it was a sufficiently short time ago (cosmically speaking) that there could well be variants around; especially when you consider how inaccessable areas like the Congo are for interlopers. They could cheerfully wander, undisturbed, for hundreds of millennia.

      One of the reasons that Creationists still hold such pernicious sway is that they can point at news reports (and even the odd paleontologist) who make sweeping statements that a few minutes' thought would tell you is silly. I can't say for certain that a chimp/gorilla hybrid is impossible, but it's certainly unlikely, especially given the alternatives.
    • My grasp of biology is piss poor - so can someone educate me a bit ( I know - I know - /. isnt the place!!!)

      Given that a big bastard great dane and a little mini poodle can 'get it on' whats to stop 'cross pollination' of the great apes? Donkeys and horses do it, why not chimps and gorrillas?

      • I'm with the parent poster on this. Mitochondrial DNA points to a chimp lineage. There's also a fairly clear photograph of a cadaver accompanying the Nat'l Geogrphic article, and it just looks like a giant chimp.

        Nesting is a common cultural attribute of both chimps and gorillas, and even though gorillas nest on the ground instead of in trees, I don't think it's much of an evolutionary jump for a giant chimp to decide it's too big to sleep in the trees also. And the fecal data indicates a diet more typical
  • Yeti at home (Score:4, Interesting)

    by emptybody (12341) on Sunday August 10, 2003 @08:14AM (#6658949) Homepage Journal
    Have they taken foot casts to see if maybe they translate to the yeti casts seen previously?

    maybe this is not so far fetched after all..
  • Ape Poo (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Davak (526912) on Sunday August 10, 2003 @08:16AM (#6658954) Homepage

    We compared fecal samples from this unknown animal to the DNA of captive gorillas, bonobos, and chimps," Louis said. "Our preliminary data shows that the mitochondrial DNA is chimp-like."

    But mitochondrial DNA is passed down only from the mother's side. So if this species or sub-species is a hybrid of a chimp mother and a gorilla father, current DNA would only identify information from the mother.

    First of all... yuck.

    If they can obtain enough cells from the poo to extract the mitochondrial DNA, why can't they PCR the rest of the DNA as well?

    It must be extremely difficult to find just the cells and resulting DNA from this new ape-like creature. Poo must contain a ton of cells from all the injested material. I just don't understand why it's easier to extract the DNA from the mitochondria? Seems if you have the mitochondria... then you have the cells which should contain ALL the nuclear material.

    Anyway... it's been a long time since my genetics/biochem courses.

    Davak
    • Re:Ape Poo (Score:4, Informative)

      by scrub76 (637816) on Sunday August 10, 2003 @08:45AM (#6659017) Homepage
      There are a few reasons why mitochondrial DNA is preferable to genomic DNA for this sort of speciation study:

      1) Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is easier to work with. While a cell will have two copies of genomic DNA (one each inherited from the mother and father), the same cell will have hundreds to thousands of copies of mtDNA. This makes it easier to extract PCR-amplifyable DNA from a small number of cells.

      2) There is more variation (on a per nucleotide basis) in mtDNA than in genomic DNA, making it easier to resolve small differences between species (and possibly enabling differentiation between a new species and a hybrid).

      3) I think that mtDNA is inherited only from the mother, which means that there is no recombination between paternal and maternal DNA. This makes it easier to construct a genetic history of a sample (there is less 'noise' in the data).

    • Um, mDNA is only some 16kbp long and is in ring-form. My guess it is much more stable than the DNA and therefor much easier to discriminate from all the linear DNA-fragments you have around, most of which are probably not ape-DNA.

      The problem is not the amount of DNA you have (as you said, there is very likey an abundant amount of it in there), but finding the pieces you are interested in.

      Just my fairly uneducated guess.
    • by El (94934)
      Add to this "chimps have been known to eat other chimps" and you have to ask, did the DNA come from the animal in question, or from it's dinner?
  • Hopefully this will help the scientists who are crossbreeding intelligent apes in order to try and create another advanced species and uderstand how humans have evolved. Although they've increased the average ape intelligence by nearly 40% and even bread some individuals who are able to play simple games such as snap, they are unable to develop more advanced behavious such as speach and the concept of friendship.

    .
    It might raise some interesting questions about the morality of creating these creatures if
    • This can lead to only one thing...a race of super apes to enslave humanity. And I for one welcome our new ape overlords!
    • This guy is a troll

      Got any evidence to back up your claim?

      I've never heard of any such studies, and a few quick google searches turn nothing up. Furthermore, a lot of the points mentioned sound very suspicious.

      They've improved intelligence by nearly 40%? Measured how? We can't even come uip with a good system for measuring human intelligence, yet you expect me to believe they can assign a precise numerical figure to how much smarter these supposed apes are?

      they are unable to develop more advanced be

  • by 1s44c (552956) on Sunday August 10, 2003 @08:23AM (#6658970)

    ...SCO have claimed the ape as their property and have started legal action against National Geographic for breaking the terms of their licence.
    • No, no, you almost had it right. The ape is really Darl McBride on prowl for new potenetial licensees. And yes, National Geographic is definitely infringing for taking pictures of Darl's poo.
  • Hot news (Score:5, Funny)

    by simgod (563459) on Sunday August 10, 2003 @08:34AM (#6658994)
    George Bush has been switched with an ape by a mistake during his recent trip to Africa explained the State Department today. They have all been wondering for some time why the president shaves every six hours.
    The "real president" was discovered by a CIA expedition which was able to locate the president by using an ultra-sensiteve sound recorder to match the sounds in the jungle with his distinctive sounds "terrorist, daddy, oil"
  • Not impressed (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dnoyeb (547705)
    Don't show me some new ape, then claim you had trouble with your camera. Those pictures are horrible. What are those from a satellite???

    Sorry, I am just not buying it. This is 2004 and that lame ass picture that I can't tell WTH its showing is your best?

    go away.
    • Um, yeah, hey. Ah, This is 2003, in fact pretty much the middle of 2003, not anywhere near the end like november or december when most people start categorizing it with the next year.
  • Shucks, more of these monkeys means more American jobs lost to outsourcing [newtechusa.com]. Heck, even Indian coders can barely compete with this new programming paradigm (I looked up the dictionary before posting).
  • This reminds me of the Bigfoot hoax here in Canada. The guy who started it all, finally on his Deathbed told everyone [channel3000.com] how he started it. When will people realize, that a bunch of blurry pictures don't constitute proof. I'll wait for DNA tests on a live creature.
  • by gacp (601462) on Sunday August 10, 2003 @09:34AM (#6659174)
    Hey! A giant ape. And in the same region. Crichton based ``Congo'' on the kakundakari, supposedly a giant ape of the Congo that people claim to have been seing for ages. Before you say no, remember that science had `proved' that gorillas did not exist, and denied the reality of the giant panda for ca. 60 years. Maybe there is something to this kakundakari. Who knows?

  • ...we need to ask the question has Bush been to Africa recently? ;-)

    -psy
  • Compare this to the search for "bigfoot".

    Here we have skulls, pictures, etc of this elusive animal. All shortly (relatively) after the start of the search.

    It's interesting to see real scientists at work here,rather than the less than skeptical cryptologist who have nothing more than some faked/mis-identified footprints and a couple eyewitness reports. Even though they have been searching for what, 50 years?

    Be interesting how many documentaries on this new species get put on the Discovery Channel. Sadly
    • If it was anyone other than ape researchers, they would have been laughed at. Given the fact that they have access to real apes, I don't think their evidence is any more solid than the various bigfoot/yeti/etc. sightings around the world. Eg. instead of a guy in an ape suit, you take a picture of a gorilla from a weird angle; same with the skulls, dung, etc.

      On the other hand, if they do find something real, it will be used to support the claims of crackpot bigfoot-hunters everywhere. If they could miss an
  • While you all joke about how it's CowboyNeal, SCO, or RMS, I seem to be the only one to know its true identity. It's clearly Bigfoot.
  • by xigxag (167441) on Sunday August 10, 2003 @09:46AM (#6659206)
    I was a bit curious as to the reason why there seems to be no speculation about this "giant ape" being a chimpanzee/human hybrid. Of course, humans have a different number of chromosomes than the other great apes, but that in itself doesn't seem to be an absolute bar to cross-breeding. The answer seems to be in this article [prometheussociety.org], where it basically says that human DNA has a number of chromosomal "inversions" with respect to chimpanzee DNA, and those inversions would lead to cross-breeding sterility.
  • by heironymouscoward (683461) <heironymouscoward.yahoo@com> on Sunday August 10, 2003 @09:50AM (#6659223) Journal
    I presume the term "new species" means one that homo sapiens sapiens has not yet discovered and put on the menu. Theorising this to be a "hybrid" is simply fantastic speculation: Occam's razor suggests that it's a relative of the species already known, and given the description of the flat face, it would be a large chimpanzee.
    If this is not a hoax, it will probably be found that local people know of the species and consider them to be "men of the forest" or whatever. Second prediction: the unfortunate animals will rapidly end up on the "bushmeat" menu of those freaks who enjoy eating the flesh of near-human species such as gorillas and chimpanzees. Third prediction: the study of the giant chimp (if that it is) will be limited to skulls, thighbones, and the occasional skin, with the wild population extinct and maybe one or two sad individuals "liberated" and stuck in zoo prisons.
    Central Africa has two species of gorilla and three subspecies of chimpanzee, and large chimpanzee individuals are not unknown. So it's most likely this is another chimpanzee subspecies that has adopted gorilla habits (such as sleeping on the ground) simply because it's too large to nest in trees.
    We should be treating these near-human cousin species with respect, but it seems that chimpanzees and gorillas are of most interest to humans because they are edible.
  • This was all covered in an excellent treatise [amazon.com] that was released in the '70's itself. I understand it has something to do with an ancient extinct civilisation which carefully mated gorillas who later evolved their own language.

    Haven't seen it, but I heard that there was also a documentary made on the subject.

  • or perhaps a hybrid between two other species

    If one of those species happens to be homo sapien and the other species happens to not be, I think that will be the grossest transpiration in the research of evolution that will ever take place.

    I mean DAMN! That would be so not cool on so many levels!

  • Oliver (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mrbuttle (587604) on Sunday August 10, 2003 @10:07AM (#6659285)
    Perhaps an example of one living in captivity for the last 40 years is Oliver ( see here [n2.net] or here [texnews.com]. From the first link:

    Oliver surfaced in the early 1970s, when he was acquired as a baby by trainers Frank and Janet Burger whose dog, chimp, pony and pig acts were once regularly featured on the Ed Sullivan Show, at Radio City Music Hall, and once even by dancer Gene Kelly. "He came in from Africa with three other chimps that one of Frank's brothers had sent over from the Congo. But this one we could never use. He was odd and the other chimps would have nothing to do with him,'' recalled Janet Burger, 69. But if Oliver was strange in appearance, and was shunned by other chimps, his intelligence and personality were also quite different from the other apes in the Burgers' entourage. "You could send him on chores. He would take the wheelbarrow and empty the hay and straw from the stalls. And when it was time to feed the dogs, he would get the pans, and mix the dog food for me. I'd get it ready and he'd mix it,'' she said. As he grew older, Oliver also acquired habits normally enjoyed only by humans, including a cup of coffee and a nightcap. "This guy, Oliver, he enjoyed sitting down at night and having a drink, and watching television. He'd mix his own. He'd pour a shot of whiskey and put some Seven-Up in there, stir it and drink it,'' she recalled.

    • I was just about to bring this up.

      He was dubbed as a so-called 'Humanzee", and I have to confess, when I saw a special on him on the Discovery Channel, it kinda freaked me out.

      The article doesn't mention any link between the two, but it would be interesting to see Oliver's skull when he finally keels over.
    • Re:Oliver (Score:4, Interesting)

      by 0111 1110 (518466) on Sunday August 10, 2003 @10:53AM (#6659450)
      Wow, that is an interesting link. This is all kind of cool and creepy. I'm surprised no one has yet mentioned De Loys Ape [n2.net]. A creepy and genuinely old photo, first published in a newspaper in the late 1920s I think.

  • Big, rare, non gorrilla in africa? Looks like Burroughs was right after all...

    (10 points if you get the reference)
  • Mediumfoot (Score:3, Funny)

    by gelfling (6534) on Sunday August 10, 2003 @10:28AM (#6659361) Homepage Journal
    Clearly it's the mythical Mediumfoot known to tramp around the forests of Africa
  • That's just RMS on his tour of Africa, pushing the tao of GNU to opressed apes everywhere, forced to use a Windows powered black obelisk instead of the GNU/Linux GNU/Obelisk.
  • Is this the same 'great' ape who's trying to extort linux users?
  • I've often wondered why people seem to think that since we've come into being, everything else should remain the same. Global warming? Hmmm, let's look at earth history and see that ice ages and global warmings happen with or without us. Changes in some animals? Hmmm, let's look at the paleontological record and see that species come and go and change - with or without us. Air pollution? Hmmm, Mt. St. Helen put more garbage in the air than the entire history of mankind. The earth doesn't care, people
  • Hybrid? (Score:3, Funny)

    by sin(theta) (609000) on Sunday August 10, 2003 @11:10AM (#6659506) Homepage
    Alright, who's been having sex with gorillas?
  • by m4g02 (541882)
    The picture in the article sucks, you can find one that looks much better in National Geographic website [nationalgeographic.com].
  • Tarzan was a good man and a great ape.

  • by joebeone (620917)
    are they sure they know where Gene Simmons is? There's a few other upright-walking apes that I would want to locate before claiming that we see a new species!
  • From the article

    A new Great Ape has been discovered sitting behind a desk at 1600 Pensylvania Ave. Scientists are stil trying to determine if it has intellegence
  • by Tony Hoyle (11698) <tmh@nodomain.org> on Sunday August 10, 2003 @04:36PM (#6661005) Homepage
    It has been hypothesized that the ape might be a new species, a subspecies, or perhaps a hybrid between two other species.

    About the only thing left out of that list is 'existing species'... if you add that then you can just rewrite:

    It has been hypothesized that the ape might be an ape :)
  • Homer! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Drakker (89038) on Sunday August 10, 2003 @05:29PM (#6661259) Homepage Journal
    First thing that got into my head was Homer running covered with mud. Homer Simpsons is the great Ape!

    It was in one of the first episodes, everyone must have seen it at least once. ;)

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