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Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

DALE DRINNON: Looking at the Mapinguari

Dale started at IUPUI hoping for a degree in Biology before changing to Anthropology and as a result, has a very diverse background in Geology, Zoology, Paleontology, Anatomy, Archaeology, Psychology, Sociology, Literature, Latin, Popular Culture, Film criticism, Mythology and Folklore, and various individual human cultures especially mentioning those of the Pacific and the Americas. He has a working knowledge of every human fossil find up until his graduation and every important Cryptozoological sighting up to that point. He has been an amateur along on archaeological excavations in Indiana as well as doing some local tracking of Bigfoot there. Now he is on the CFZ bloggo....

My personal contributions to the matter stem from a 1971 letter sent to SAGA magazine after a cover story on the discovery of tracks attributed to the orang dalam. The letter described a creature seen in parts of Brazil and called Capelobo [= Pelobo], basically a version of the Mapinguari and describing it as looking like an upright tailless howler monkey the size of a man (height of a short man, but weighing about 250 pounds). I immediately recognised this as a version of the Mapinguari or Pe-de-Garrafa as described in Bernard Heuvelmans's book On the Track of Unknown Animals. Heuvelmans mentions that it is said to leave a track like the bottom of a bottle and later on mentions this is something like the shape of an orangutan's track [this begins from the oldest editions of the book, from 1955]

The same description is mentioned as the characteristic description of the mono rei or king monkey in the 2001 book The Monster of the Madidi by Simon Chapman. From this it seems the mono rei and the mono grande (big monkey) are two distinctly different things. That would seem to correspond to the reported footprints since the mono grande's 'Hand-like' tracks do not agree with the 'Bottle foot.' Something like the 'Bottle foot' tracks were also reported from Honduras and British Honduras at least as far back as the 1930s, and Eberhart mentions this.

There has been much discussion of the theory that the Mapinguari represents a surviving ground sloth in more recent years. The giant ground sloth does seem to correspond to a cryptid reported in those same areas, but the key difference is that the Mapinguari types are described as being tailless monkeys or apes, often walking upright. The part about them being tailless probably invalidates the suspected ground sloth candidacy. On the other hand, the clawed yehos or yahos ('Devils') of the West Indies could possibly be smallish surviving ground sloths, about chimp-sized.

Going back to the theory that the Mapinguaris are usually arboreal apes that leave ring-shaped (orangutan-like) footprints on the ground, it is noteworthy to look at some traditional depictions of them as posted on the internet (the photos come from internet sources and no attempt to defraud the owners is intended. The reproduction of the photos as educational materials is protected under international copyright law).

It seems that the Mapinguari is regularly depicted as a cyclops and furthermore that the head is barely distinct from the body. Furthermore, the mouth is large and fanged but does not seem to bear any direct placement on the head. It arises from below the level of the shoulders. Some acounts also say that the mouth is protruberant, like the nose end of a horse's snout and shows round nostrils pointing forwards. This does not say that the face is horse-like, the mouth part is described as being distinct from the indistinct head. Furthermore, the entire body is covered with a long and coarse coat of hair. The hair is usually reddish but may be darker.

Looking at an orangutan's head it is possible to see how some of these descriptions might come about. First of all the head of an orangutan is rather bizzare and in some cases barely presents any aspect that would normally register as a face. The mouth area is distinct from the rest of the face and a beard sometimes accentuates the distinction. The eyes are set very close together and the eyelids can be lighter than the rest of the face. In several higher primates this is a warning sign; the mouth is opened and the eyelids dropped as a threat. Looking at the close-set eyes with pale lids and the darker strip between them, it is possible to see how that might look like a single eye from a distance. And the stances and limb proportions are shown as being pretty much like an orangutan as well.

I also include Ivan Sanderson's reproduction of the orangutan foot extended and the track, and the adjoining footprint by contrast would be more like the 'Hand-like' track of the mono grande (as opposed to the mono rei).

So this brings us to the map that explains the hypothesis. Most apes do not have much of an identifiable fossil ancestry. Orangutans are an exception, 'pongo' (orangutan) fossils are well known from mainland Asia, especially in China. But this brings up another problem. The fossils clearly belong to larger ground-living apes and modern orangutans of the proper genus pongo have a large number of very specific and very peculiar adaptations to life in the trees. They cannot be the same. Therefore I had proposed the name 'protopongo' for the fossil ground-living ancestors to the modern tree-living pongo. There follows the suggestion (including by Heuvelmans) that the classical abominable snowman or yeti represents a survival of these fossil apes, and a further suggestion implied by Coleman and others that the apes crossed the Behring land bridge and remnants had been reported in modern times (the name 'Hesperopithecus' [?] is on the map because there remains the possibility that some alleged dental fossils and alleged associated 'cultural' bone-cracking remains unaccounted for by the decision that all of the later fossils ascribed to this genus were pig's teeth).

And so there remains the possibility as indicated on the chart that the South American forms described as Mapinguari are parallel-evolved arboreal apes descended from the same generalised ground-living ancestors. At the time in question there was very much demonstrable faunal exchange between East Asia, North America and then South America in turn. And in order to indicate the possibility that the South American apes are separate parallel-evolved arboreal forms out of the same ground-living ancestors, I have given them the tenative name 'parapongo' ('Like an orangutan'). I do not insist that this name necessarily become official if this is proven to be the case; what I am doing is simply showing how these forms must be related to while also being distinct from one another. The actual honour of naming the creatures should go to their official discoverers, whomever they turn out to be.

And of course any professional anthropologists or primatologists can feel free to say that the whole idea is daft up until such a time that actually happens.

In part this material was submitted to the SITU for publication in 1990-91, together with several other articles of a similar nature. Unfortunately, the journal PURSUIT folded shortly after that point.

7 comments:

shiva said...

Very interesting theory. The resemblance of that orangutan photo to the Mapinguari depictions is certainly compelling - in particular, it really is easy to "see" the half-closed eyes as a single, large, almost cartoonish eye.

However, IIRC it's only older male orangutans that have such an extremely odd-looking facial appearance (in particular those huge, wide cheek flanges which help to make the head look indistinct in shape from the body). Younger and female orangutans have a much more easily discernible "normal" ape/monkey face, so if there were a population of orangutan-like apes, then there would be reports of both the freaky one-eyed "Mapinguari"-type and more "conventional" cryptid apes from the same areas (whereas, as i understand it, the Mapinguari is seen as quite distinct from the more ordinary "big monkey" cryptids, and found in different habitat).

I'm also not sure about orang-like apes having got to South America via the Bering land bridge and North America - would the land bridges both across the Bering Strait and between North and South America have existed at the same time, or at convenient times for such apes to have got from one rainforest region to the other? They would have had to range through a vast variety of different climates and habitats, and i'm not sure why they would have (nonhuman apes seeming to lack the peculiarly human desire to explore and/or "conquer" new habitats and unknown regions). Also, if "Parapongo" evolved or re-evolved forest-living adaptations convergently, it would have changed very substantially from orangutan ancestors. Would it have retained the peculiar facial features of the mature male "true Pongo"?

I'd be more inclined to investigate the possibility that orangutans could have been brought to South America much more recently by transpacific Chinese or SE Asian travellers, as there is evidence from distribution of cultivated plants that such contact and trade occurred well before the "Age of Exploration". (The transport by modern, but pre-colonial-era, humans of either orangutans or a Homo erectus/Homo floresiensis type hominid from SE Asia to Australia is also a possible explanation for the Yowie.)

anna lee said...

This is really good stuff! But now why oh why doesnt some one find something!

Mind you I am respectively hoping for a lot from you with your credentials!

I did respond to your posting about neandertal man here (x2) hoping for enlightenment as I am sceptical about some aspects of the official views and wondered if you could help?

Dale Drinnon said...

I DO Hope somehow you shall find out that I answered your comments on the blog. I only just happened to come back to this blog to get another copy.

First, please allow me to explain that Jon Downes posts my stuff on his blog. I have no control of the comments and in fact ordinarily I never evenSEE any comments unless I make a special effort to look back again.

Now as a matter of fact my theory WAS that it is the big males that are being seen and identified as Mapinguaris: and at the same time you are incorrect that "Bigmonkey" females and children are not reported in the same areas. They frequently ARE but frequently given different names. And the descriptions of creatures in the "Mapinguari" category are not unified, they are highly diverse-some Mapinguari reports are ALREADY "Bigmonkey" reports. I indicated that on the blog already when I mentioned the Capelobo being described as looking like a large tailless howler monkey, the exact same description given for the Mono rey in Monster of the Madidi.
Now as a matter of fact your arguments about the landbridges not being open to traffic by ancient apes, that is a false argument. The landbridges were certainly there and certainly open when fossil apes were present. There are ecological reasons why there SHOULD have been a Sivapithecine-type ape present in North America during the Pliocene or late Miocene when other elements of the exact same biome were present in Eastern Asia at the same time, including such apes.
And you did not understand my outline of the theory: I was saying that orangutans and 'Parapongo' were evolving in parallel, not that the recent specializations of Pongo were ancestral conditions reacquired by 'Parapongo'-quite the reverse, The ancestral condition was something more like a chimpanzee and had none of the special features of the orangutan. It is simply that the New World apes would have developed similar adaptations to a similar environment. And I was not saying that Mapinguaris had the SAME facial pads as orangutans, only something else rather similar independantly evolved. I do not think that what is being described in South America is exactly the same as the Indonesian orangutans and I do not think that introducing Indonesian orangutans would result in exactly the same sort of reports.

As for Anna Lee, I AM sorry but I have no idea what you mean re:Neanderthalers. And unfortunately I also do not know how to reach you other than sending this reply to this blog in hopes you are subscribed to it.

I also never get any email notices when I am subscribed to these blogs myself, unfortunately.

Dale Drinnon said...

I DO Hope somehow you shall find out that I answered your comments on the blog. I only just happened to come back to this blog to get another copy.

First, please allow me to explain that Jon Downes posts my stuff on his blog. I have no control of the comments and in fact ordinarily I never evenSEE any comments unless I make a special effort to look back again.

Now as a matter of fact my theory WAS that it is the big males that are being seen and identified as Mapinguaris: and at the same time you are incorrect that "Bigmonkey" females and children are not reported in the same areas. They frequently ARE but frequently given different names. And the descriptions of creatures in the "Mapinguari" category are not unified, they are highly diverse-some Mapinguari reports are ALREADY "Bigmonkey" reports. I indicated that on the blog already when I mentioned the Capelobo being described as looking like a large tailless howler monkey, the exact same description given for the Mono rey in Monster of the Madidi.
Now as a matter of fact your arguments about the landbridges not being open to traffic by ancient apes, that is a false argument. The landbridges were certainly there and certainly open when fossil apes were present. There are ecological reasons why there SHOULD have been a Sivapithecine-type ape present in North America during the Pliocene or late Miocene when other elements of the exact same biome were present in Eastern Asia at the same time, including such apes.
And you did not understand my outline of the theory: I was saying that orangutans and 'Parapongo' were evolving in parallel, not that the recent specializations of Pongo were ancestral conditions reacquired by 'Parapongo'-quite the reverse, The ancestral condition was something more like a chimpanzee and had none of the special features of the orangutan. It is simply that the New World apes would have developed similar adaptations to a similar environment. And I was not saying that Mapinguaris had the SAME facial pads as orangutans, only something else rather similar independantly evolved. I do not think that what is being described in South America is exactly the same as the Indonesian orangutans and I do not think that introducing Indonesian orangutans would result in exactly the same sort of reports.

As for Anna Lee, I AM sorry but I have no idea what you mean re:Neanderthalers. And unfortunately I also do not know how to reach you other than sending this reply to this blog in hopes you are subscribed to it.

I also never get any email notices when I am subscribed to these blogs myself, unfortunately.

Dale Drinnon said...

I DO Hope somehow you shall find out that I answered your comments on the blog. I only just happened to come back to this blog to get another copy.

First, please allow me to explain that Jon Downes posts my stuff on his blog. I have no control of the comments and in fact ordinarily I never evenSEE any comments unless I make a special effort to look back again.

Now as a matter of fact my theory WAS that it is the big males that are being seen and identified as Mapinguaris: and at the same time you are incorrect that "Bigmonkey" females and children are not reported in the same areas. They frequently ARE but frequently given different names. And the descriptions of creatures in the "Mapinguari" category are not unified, they are highly diverse-some Mapinguari reports are ALREADY "Bigmonkey" reports. I indicated that on the blog already when I mentioned the Capelobo being described as looking like a large tailless howler monkey, the exact same description given for the Mono rey in Monster of the Madidi.
Now as a matter of fact your arguments about the landbridges not being open to traffic by ancient apes, that is a false argument. The landbridges were certainly there and certainly open when fossil apes were present. There are ecological reasons why there SHOULD have been a Sivapithecine-type ape present in North America during the Pliocene or late Miocene when other elements of the exact same biome were present in Eastern Asia at the same time, including such apes.
And you did not understand my outline of the theory: I was saying that orangutans and 'Parapongo' were evolving in parallel, not that the recent specializations of Pongo were ancestral conditions reacquired by 'Parapongo'-quite the reverse, The ancestral condition was something more like a chimpanzee and had none of the special features of the orangutan. It is simply that the New World apes would have developed similar adaptations to a similar environment. And I was not saying that Mapinguaris had the SAME facial pads as orangutans, only something else rather similar independantly evolved. I do not think that what is being described in South America is exactly the same as the Indonesian orangutans and I do not think that introducing Indonesian orangutans would result in exactly the same sort of reports.

As for Anna Lee, I AM sorry but I have no idea what you mean re:Neanderthalers. And unfortunately I also do not know how to reach you other than sending this reply to this blog in hopes you are subscribed to it.

I also never get any email notices when I am subscribed to these blogs myself, unfortunately.

Dale Drinnon said...

I DO Hope somehow you shall find out that I answered your comments on the blog. I only just happened to come back to this blog to get another copy.

First, please allow me to explain that Jon Downes posts my stuff on his blog. I have no control of the comments and in fact ordinarily I never evenSEE any comments unless I make a special effort to look back again.

Now as a matter of fact my theory WAS that it is the big males that are being seen and identified as Mapinguaris: and at the same time you are incorrect that "Bigmonkey" females and children are not reported in the same areas. They frequently ARE but frequently given different names. And the descriptions of creatures in the "Mapinguari" category are not unified, they are highly diverse-some Mapinguari reports are ALREADY "Bigmonkey" reports. I indicated that on the blog already when I mentioned the Capelobo being described as looking like a large tailless howler monkey, the exact same description given for the Mono rey in Monster of the Madidi.
Now as a matter of fact your arguments about the landbridges not being open to traffic by ancient apes, that is a false argument. The landbridges were certainly there and certainly open when fossil apes were present. There are ecological reasons why there SHOULD have been a Sivapithecine-type ape present in North America during the Pliocene or late Miocene when other elements of the exact same biome were present in Eastern Asia at the same time, including such apes.
And you did not understand my outline of the theory: I was saying that orangutans and 'Parapongo' were evolving in parallel, not that the recent specializations of Pongo were ancestral conditions reacquired by 'Parapongo'-quite the reverse, The ancestral condition was something more like a chimpanzee and had none of the special features of the orangutan. It is simply that the New World apes would have developed similar adaptations to a similar environment. And I was not saying that Mapinguaris had the SAME facial pads as orangutans, only something else rather similar independantly evolved. I do not think that what is being described in South America is exactly the same as the Indonesian orangutans and I do not think that introducing Indonesian orangutans would result in exactly the same sort of reports.

As for Anna Lee, I AM sorry but I have no idea what you mean re:Neanderthalers. And unfortunately I also do not know how to reach you other than sending this reply to this blog in hopes you are subscribed to it.

I also never get any email notices when I am subscribed to these blogs myself, unfortunately.

Dale Drinnon said...

I DO Hope somehow you shall find out that I answered your comments on the blog. I only just happened to come back to this blog to get another copy.

First, please allow me to explain that Jon Downes posts my stuff on his blog. I have no control of the comments and in fact ordinarily I never evenSEE any comments unless I make a special effort to look back again.

Now as a matter of fact my theory WAS that it is the big males that are being seen and identified as Mapinguaris: and at the same time you are incorrect that "Bigmonkey" females and children are not reported in the same areas. They frequently ARE but frequently given different names. And the descriptions of creatures in the "Mapinguari" category are not unified, they are highly diverse-some Mapinguari reports are ALREADY "Bigmonkey" reports. I indicated that on the blog already when I mentioned the Capelobo being described as looking like a large tailless howler monkey, the exact same description given for the Mono rey in Monster of the Madidi.
Now as a matter of fact your arguments about the landbridges not being open to traffic by ancient apes, that is a false argument. The landbridges were certainly there and certainly open when fossil apes were present. There are ecological reasons why there SHOULD have been a Sivapithecine-type ape present in North America during the Pliocene or late Miocene when other elements of the exact same biome were present in Eastern Asia at the same time, including such apes.
And you did not understand my outline of the theory: I was saying that orangutans and 'Parapongo' were evolving in parallel, not that the recent specializations of Pongo were ancestral conditions reacquired by 'Parapongo'-quite the reverse, The ancestral condition was something more like a chimpanzee and had none of the special features of the orangutan. It is simply that the New World apes would have developed similar adaptations to a similar environment. And I was not saying that Mapinguaris had the SAME facial pads as orangutans, only something else rather similar independantly evolved. I do not think that what is being described in South America is exactly the same as the Indonesian orangutans and I do not think that introducing Indonesian orangutans would result in exactly the same sort of reports.

As for Anna Lee, I AM sorry but I have no idea what you mean re:Neanderthalers. And unfortunately I also do not know how to reach you other than sending this reply to this blog in hopes you are subscribed to it.

I also never get any email notices when I am subscribed to these blogs myself, unfortunately.