Sunday, August 4, 2013

Scientific American's Tetrapod Hosts Speculate on the Yeti

Himalayan Yeti in summer pelt, surrounded by flowering rhododendron.
Image by John Conway, from the forthcoming Cryptozoologicon.
All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals was a successful book written created by palaeozoologist Darren Naish, and palaeontological artists John
Conway and C.M. Kosemen. Mr. Naish and Mr. Conway host Scientific American's Tetrapod Zoology Podcast.

They will soon release a book in the same flavor as All Yesterdays, but with a cryptozoological theme titled Cryptozoologicon. Earlier today (08.04.2013), Scientific American's Tetrapod Zoology Blog posted presented a preview of Yeti section of Cryptozoologican.

It starts out great distinguishing that the white-furred-blue-skin yeti is more of a Hollywood conception:

The Yeti is easily one of the most famous of mystery creatures. The Yeti of the cryptozoological literature is not the shaggy-furred, white snowbeast of Hollywood movies and popular artwork. Instead, it’s a blackish, dark brown, or red-brown animal of the sub-temperate and temperate forests and mountainsides of the Himalayan Mountains and Tibetan Plateau, predominantly bipedal and 3 m or so in height (though, to be fair, white Yetis have supposedly been reported from Tibet). Eyewitness and mythological accounts believed to describe the Yeti come from such countries as Russia, China, Nepal, Tibet and India. Across this large area, a variety of different local names are believed by cryptozoologists to describe the same creature (Shackley 1983). However, there is much variation in the size, form and behaviour of the hairy ape-men described across this area by witnesses and known from lore, so one interpretation favoured by some cryptozoologists is that there are actually two kinds of yeti, or that we’re actually seeing references to a huge cast of unknown hominids that range from shaggy, orangutan-like species to surviving Dryopithecus-like species, australopithecines, Neanderthals, members of Homo erectus and others (Heuvelmans 1986, Coleman & Huyghe 1999).
Although they ultimately conclude the Yeti as, "an amalgamation of fleeting glimpses of known animals (including bears, takin and serows) with both the universal wildman archetype and with local Asian lore about humanesque, mountain-dwelling demons.." This does not stop the palaeo-power team to serious speculate on (from their perspective), "What if the Yeti were real?"

Most of the speculations we might make about the Yeti (if we assume it to be a real animal) have already been made in the extensive cryptozoological literature on it. Heuvelmans (1958) gave the Yeti the suggested scientific name Dinanthropoides nivalis and proposed that giant size evolved within a lineage of arboreal Asian apes, that the members of this lineage came down to the ground, and that specialisation for life in mountainous, snowy places encouraged them to become bipedal. He implied a close link between the Yeti and Gigantopithecus but did not think that these apes were close to orangutans. This scenario would require that Yeti bipedalism evolved independently from that seen in humans and other hominids, and it’s contradicted by evidence indicating that hominid bipedalism first evolved in an arboreal setting, later being improved by those lineages that took to increased terrestrial life (see the Orang-pendek section, pp. 13-15).

While some authors have implied or argued that the Yeti and Sasquatch are members of the human lineage, we prefer the view that these are bipedal pongines, convergently similar to hominins in some ways but different with respect to the details of anatomy, gait and behaviour. Indeed, Yeti sightings create the impression of a hominid not all that different from the paranthropines, the more robust of the extinct, African australopithecines. Dinanthropoides walks bipedally with slightly bent knees, its body leaning more forwards than is the case in our species, and its long arms reaching down to its knees. Its resting poses more recall those of orangutans and gorillas than humans, and it can even move quadrupedally when scrambling up hillside and among large rocks. Its feet are only superficially human-like, the enlarged, only semi-divergent hallux and broad heel representing strong terrestrial specialisation in a primate that started its terrestrial career with a typical hominid foot like that of orangutans.

Yetis are not reported to use tools; however, this may be due to a lack of detailed observation. We know today that orangutans, gorillas and chimps all use tools in the wild: these behaviours went unknown for decades and (in most populations) only occur rarely. A strong jaw and massive, strong teeth make Dinanthropoides an expert at breaking fruits and nuts (Tchernine 1974). As a hominid adapted for temperate, often cool, habitats, Dinanthropoides is able to deal with warm summer conditions as well as far cooler, winter ones thanks to seasonal changes in the length and thickness of its pelt, though these changes don’t happen across all Yeti populations. Our Himalayan Yetis are in their thinner, reddish summer coats (the scene depicts a time several decades in the past, when the Himalayas were more extensively covered by snow and ice than they are today).

If only more people were prepared to accept the reality of the Yeti, Sasquatch and Orang-pendek, they would realise that the supposed differences between humans and other great apes merely reflect the fact that the ‘intermediate’ taxa are extinct or scientifically unrecognised. Yet again blinkered, hidebound establishment Ivory Tower scientists, more interested in sitting behind their computers than searching the world for real animals, are holding back scientific progress!!!!!!! THEY WILL BE SHOWN WRONG IN THE END!!!

The Cryptozoologicon – by John Conway, C. M. Kosemen and Darren Naish – is due out later in 2013 and will be published by Irregular Books. Follow @IrregularBooks on twitter.

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