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October 9, 2004 10:15 PM   Subscribe

Six foot tall ferocious lion killing species of ape discovered in jungles of the Congo. Or they could be giant chimpanzees. Or half-breeds. The discovery has baffled scientists.
posted by stbalbach (30 comments total)

 
AAAAUUUUGH!
posted by Evstar at 10:25 PM on October 9, 2004


Okay, I'm dubious about a) these "scientists" (note that no names were given, and b) the villagers' reports that the apes can kill lions.

First of all, people in the Democratic Republic of Congo have a lot of things on their minds right now, and thoughtful wildlife observation probably isn't in the top ten. Second of all, the way these things work is like that "telephone" game, so my guess is that the apes may well be bigger than the spp. known to us now, but that the lion-killing thing is just an exaggeration.

Third of all, I would remind everyone that mysterious enormous critters have been reported by villagers right here in the US, name of "Bigfoot". Just because villagers think there are enormous critters out there doesn't mean there necessarily are.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:29 PM on October 9, 2004


mysterious enormous critters have been reported by villagers right here in the US, name of "Bigfoot".

And they'll find his tracks any day now.
posted by homunculus at 10:37 PM on October 9, 2004


Were the six foot tall giant apes carrying head-banging stone paddles?
posted by b1tr0t at 10:37 PM on October 9, 2004


Hah b1tr0t, that was the first thing that sprung to mind.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:54 PM on October 9, 2004


Sidhedevil:

I've heard reports, from reputable sources, that apes like this probably lived, although none had been seen. They'd found large nests on the ground (Unlike chimps and gorilas).
posted by delmoi at 11:14 PM on October 9, 2004


That header coulda used a hyphen. "Lion-killing." Here I was picturing a 6 foot tall lion that was feeding on mystery apes.
posted by poseur at 11:15 PM on October 9, 2004


The first thing I thought of when I read this article was Orphan of Creation.
posted by ursus_comiter at 11:20 PM on October 9, 2004


I'm sure we've talked about this before - it ain't really news any more, any here. Here are some links.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:43 AM on October 10, 2004


The first thing I thought of when I read this article was Orphan of Creation.

The first thing I thought of when I read this article was that the Christian fundamentalists were right all along regarding the origins of AIDS.

People REALLY DID have sex with monkeys!!!.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:12 AM on October 10, 2004


Bunkum! These are just a group of long lost anthropologists who spent too much time in the field waiting for new funding.
posted by desert_roamer at 3:41 AM on October 10, 2004


"They could be hybrids, the product of gorillas mating with chimpanzees..." (from BBC story) - if this were true it would imply, unless the giant lion killing apes were all sterile, that chimps and gorillas were really the same species - is my reasoning incorrect here ?
posted by troutfishing at 4:37 AM on October 10, 2004


Horses and donkeys make mules. Not sure if they are diffrent species or not, I believe so. There's a lot of debate about homo sapiens and neanderthals -- I think cross species can breed, in cases. There was a case of a creature that seemed part human and part ape that was on the circus circuit here in the US, fascinating story but can't find it on Google (too many Tarzan hits).
posted by stbalbach at 5:13 AM on October 10, 2004


A bigger spp of primates than previously observed, with different social habits, you betcha.

Killing lions with their bare paws? I'll believe it when I read it in Nature.

The story linked in this FPP was a hideous example of how badly science is covered by even reputable news agencies (the links joe's spleen had were much better if for no other reason than that they included actual quotes from actual scientists!)
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:25 AM on October 10, 2004


Also, I blame this post for inspiring the dream I had last night in which I had a lengthy flirtation (which included a tennis game) with a noted primatologist who was himself a giant chimpanzee with the power of speech. Fortunately, I woke up before our attraction was consummated.

Damn you, MetaFilter!
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:40 AM on October 10, 2004


Most people have no concept of how big, strong and dangerous an adult chimpanzee can be. I expect the locals do, because they kill and eat them when they can.

Dicussed before or not, "news" or not, things like this jazz the hell out of me. I was a huge fan of "crypto-zoology" when I was a kid. My personal favorite is still the "South American Ape" story, supported by one very clear and striking photograph that appears to show a 4-5 foot tall chimp-like animal, somewhat resembling a Capuchin monkey, taken in the Amazon basin in the late 19th C. The hide and skull rotted in the heat, but the picture was taken against an ammuntion crate of standard size, so it was reasonably easy to estimate the size.

Killing lions with their bare paws?

I don't think anybody's implied that. Chimps kill leopards, and they do it at least partly with opportunistic clubs (e.g., broken branches).

What would surprise me would be that there were lions to kill. Lions are not really forest animals.

... same species ...

Species is nowadays regarded as a more fluid concept than it used to be. You can find enormous variation in morphology and behavior within a population that's capable of interbreeding to produce fertile offspring. Consider the canids, for example. Canis domesticus is really defined by that characteristic. But it goes farther than that; probably hardly anybody seriously considers the idea of regarding wolves and coyotes as the same species, and yet it's known that they can interbreed; the "Texas Red Wolf" is now believed by many to be derived from a cross of coyotes and wolves, based on genetic studies done in the 90s, though that analysis hasn't caught on for various reasons.

Point being, chimps and gorillas could very well be genetically close enough to cross. We wouldn't know without trying, and we might not know even then -- there have been many reports of fertile "mules" over the years. Assuming that they were, that still leaves a behavioral barrier. Chimps and gorillas have markedly different behaviors; how likely is it that they would band together and breed?

Still, interesting idea.
posted by lodurr at 6:40 AM on October 10, 2004


Followup: At least one major player in the Neanderthal-Cro Magnon debates has argued that the existence of separate true-breeding populations is not an argument for or against speciation, because Neanderthals and Cro Magnons could well have had behaviors incompatable with interbreeding.
posted by lodurr at 6:44 AM on October 10, 2004


Also, I blame this post for inspiring the dream I had last night in which I had a lengthy flirtation (which included a tennis game) with a noted primatologist who was himself a giant chimpanzee with the power of speech. Fortunately, I woke up before our attraction was consummated.

Their is a similar book ...except the neanderthal was a physicist.
posted by srboisvert at 7:37 AM on October 10, 2004


Another piece of non-evidence: the bit about its (fruit) diet resembling that of chimpanzees. Gorilla diet varies with locale and availability: "The diets of the eastern and western gorilla populations differ considerably. Eastern animals are predominantly folivorous, but those in the west eat great quantities of fruit".
posted by raygirvan at 9:55 AM on October 10, 2004




"So, that's a real monkey."

"NO, COSGROVE! THAT'S A GUY IN A SUIT!"
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:19 AM on October 10, 2004


if this were true it would imply, unless the giant lion killing apes were all sterile, that chimps and gorillas were really the same species - is my reasoning incorrect here

Yep, you're incorrect, as lodurr said. Being of different species isn't necessarily an issue in fertility of offspring, and even having parents with disparate numbers of chromosomes does not always mean you have infertile offspring (even mules are occasionally fertile).
posted by biscotti at 10:59 AM on October 10, 2004


um. These things are big. They kill big predators. They live in the Congo. No one noticed them before now‽
posted by Grod at 11:33 AM on October 10, 2004


Grod: Probably people did notice them before now. The area where they live is really densely forested, and the peoples who live there have been sort of divorced from the land for a while, in large part. "Sophisticated" moderns might discount (or just not hear) the accounts given by more traditional village-dwellers, and "bush meat" hunters basically just kill anything that moves -- they often don't even know the names of animals they kill and eat. My brother once found a pangolin wandering around in the bush near his lab in Liberia; nobody even knew what it was, but they sure knew they wanted to kill and eat it. (This was before the civil war, and these guys were relatively well-paid, so it wasn't a matter of being hungry.)

So it could be a simple case of lost knowledge: People used to know all about them, but now they don't.

Another possibility: If it's a group of exceptionally large chimpanzees -- not out of the question, since there's mention of a documented case of a 270 pound chimp in captivity -- then they could have more or less not existed as a distinctive group before maybe 20 or 40 years ago. Chimp culture is pretty varied -- they're highly adaptive buggers, much more so than gorillas.
posted by lodurr at 11:50 AM on October 10, 2004


I'm totally gonna hump a chimp.
posted by Samsonov14 at 11:55 AM on October 10, 2004


Trainer: "When we captured Gerald he was of course wild."
Gorilla: "Wild? I was absolutely livid!"

New Scientist is not noted for running stories that aren't properly researched and authenticated.
posted by Hogshead at 12:14 PM on October 10, 2004


I wasn't trying to suggest that there was anything wrong with the more thoughtful coverage (as exemplified in the links joe's spleen posted), but rather in the credulous 1930s-Sunday-supplement tone of the BBC story in the original FPP.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:12 PM on October 10, 2004


um. These things are big. They kill big predators. They live in the Congo. No one noticed them before now?

Just over ten years ago, "Western scientists" discovered a species of antelope in Vietnam. Admittedly not quite as big as these apes – but still big.

And upon Googling, I stumble across the fact that a new species of rabbit has been discovered in the same area. This same article also talks of a Vietnamese rhinoceros that I’ve never heard of before.

Truly amazing!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:05 PM on October 10, 2004



Bugger I always do that. I was quoting Grod in the first sentence and I forgot to italicise.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:06 PM on October 10, 2004


Their is a similar book

Where is the edit comment button?
posted by srboisvert at 9:24 PM on October 10, 2004


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