Friday, March 15, 2013

Sasquatch Sketches and the Paranthropus Hypothesis

The Tennessee alleged Sasquatch sketch, based off of eyewitness reports
Although it's not definitive or conclusive evidence, it's always exciting when a full body sketch accompanies a new Sasquatch report. Two twelve year old hunters claimed to have seen a Sasquatch while walking down a logging road in Tennessee. The animal was allegedly seven to eight feet tall with blackish brown hair (the witnesses emphasized that it was hair and not fur), huge muscles, and broad shoulders. A BFRO investigator who spoke to the witnesses said that they were mature for their age and intelligent. The animal's right jaw was apparently dropped, which allowed the witnesses to view its teeth. Sybilla Irwin worked with the witnesses to produce the sketch which is above. I am glad that she did this, as it is rare that an artist will take the time to listen to the witnesses and produce a full body sketch. A close up of the sketched face shows a primate which has a relatively human looking and flat face, a pronounced supraorbital ridge (brow ridge), a broad nose, and non-projecting canines. Interestingly, this full body sketch may help in the question of what Sasquatch are, and the features seem to point to a robust early hominin known as Paranthropus.
Paranthropus reconstruction and skulls. All exhibit large brow ridges, prominent sagittal crests, and wide cheekbones.

Since the Tennessee full body sketch allowed us to have a view of the teeth of an alleged Sasquatch, I wondered if the sketch could hint at the animal's identity. Intriguingly, the Tennessee sketch is further similar to the Smeja sketch in the way that it also resembles a robust australopithecine. The evidence which has been documented points to Sasquatch being nonhuman apes, which generally have projecting canines. However, Paranthropus (which is considered an early hominin, but anthropologists do classify them as bipedal apes) were nonhuman apes which did not have this feature. As noted above, the teeth of the alleged Tennessee Sasquatch do not exhibit projection of canines which is seen in the known apes, but rather have a similarity to the heavy chewing teeth of Paranthropus (and also Gigantopithecus). The diagram below illustrates that Paranthropus and Gigantopithecus had non-projecting canines (which allowed them to chew coarse and tough foods) unlike most modern nonhuman apes. The simple feature of teeth in a detailed sketch which is allegedly of a Sasquatch can point to its identity, which we will now explore.
A close up of the sketched face

A comparison between two skulls of durophagous apes (Gigantopithecus and Paranthropus) compared to the skull of a modern gorilla. Notice the projection of canines on the gorilla skull.
So what are the possibilities that the Wood Apes (a more formal term for Sasquatch) are a form of robust australopithecine, possibly descended from Paranthropus boisei? Paranthropus bosei was discovered in 1959 by Mary Leakey, at the Olduvai Gorge of Tanzania. These five foot tall early hominins (they were not on our evolutionary line, and are generally considered bipedal apes) had well developed chewing muscles, large jaws, quarter sized back teeth, and distinguished sagittal crests (formed by the skull's parietal bone). The theory that wood apes are a modern form of Paranthropus was first put forth by Gordon Strasenburgh in 1971. Gordon based his hypothesis mainly off of data from the famed Patterson-Gimlin Film such as the light foot pad color, pendulous breasts, and a flat face which are generally hominin features. Also, the Patterson Film animal was a female yet had a sagittal crest, which is a feature that appeared in both genders of Paranthropus (unlike most known apes which usually only exhibit sagittal crests in males). Analysis of the Patterson Film shows that the subject of the film has a head which is similar to that of apes which have adapted for chewing tough foods. The widened cheek bones, sagittal crest, heavy jaw, and lessened facial prognathism all point to a bipedal ape which has adapted to durophagy, and have striking similarities to Paranthropus features. When compared, the head of the female wood ape in the Patterson Film matches the skull anatomy of a Paranthropus. It is extremely unlikely that Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin would have been able to accurately predict these features of a hominin which wasn't discovered until years after the film was taken.
A comparison between a Paranthropus boisei skull and the face of the Patterson Film wood ape
Bill Munns, a well known and respected costume expert and designer, has done extensive work on the Patterson Film and feels that the details in the footage point to the subject being an authentic nonhuman primate rather than a man in a suit. Loren Coleman (in this great article: http://www.cryptozoonews.com/what-munns/) pointed out that Bill Munns has stated that “If we were to apply Occam's Razor to the question of Patty’s fossil heritage, the solution with the least complicated conditions would actually be Zinj (Zinjanthropus, also known as Paranthropus boisei).” Munns has studied the anatomy of Paranthropus boisei to produce models for museums, and has pointed out that this robust australopithecine would have simply needed to evolve slightly larger brow ridges and a taller height (as these hominins only grew up to five feet tall) to match Sasquatch reports and the Patterson Film Sasquatch.
Overlay by Bill Munns shows that a Paranthropus boisei skull is extremely similar to the head of the Patterson wood ape. Also notice that the wood ape's face is flat and it has a sloping forehead and sagittal crest.
Paranthropus had a slightly larger brain to body ratio than chimpanzees, so it likely would match the intelligence reported in wood apes (although other nonhuman apes are certainly intelligent). Also, the known tool use for Paranthropus are simple digging sticks, which means that it likely had the very minimum tool use which is reported for wood apes. One problem that I have discovered for the Paranthropus theory is that hand skeletons which have been attributed to these robust hominids have a more mobile thumb (and thus better for grasping tools) than what is shown in wood ape hand and knuckle prints. However, fossils of members of the genus Homo have been also found at the site, and the hand skeletons (along with the fire use and stone tools which have been found there) likely belong to them rather than to Paranthropus.
Wood ape hand and kuckle prints show a thumb which is less mobile than a human's and much more similar to a nonhuman ape's thumb. Could Paranthropus boisei have also had this thumb anatomy?
So could Paranthropus have survived to the modern day in North America, and thus explain wood ape sightings and the similarity with the eyewitness sketches above? One of the main problems with this hypothesis is that the known Paranthropus range is restricted to Africa. However, recent examination of the remains of Homo floresiensis has caused some scientists to speculate that these hominins may actually be australopithecines. The brain size, body proportions, and other features of the Flores hominins seem to lean towards this hypothesis. If a australopithecine in the form of the Flores hominins had a dispersal into Asia, it is arguable that Paranthropus could. What is even more intriguing is that some anthropologists hypothesize that the Southeast Asian mandibular remains which have been dubbed Meganthropus are of an Asian australopithecine. Size estimates for Meganthropus have put this hominin at around eight feet tall, and some anthropologists have linked this species to Paranthropus (Paranthropus robustus was once referred to as Meganthropus africanus). Eight foot robust australopithecines could easily be the fossil heritage for the wood apes, and they would simply have had to cross the Bering land bridge into America. Although most present scientists theorize that Meganthropus is actually a large form of Homo erectus (due to associated tools), the possibility that the hominins were robust australopithecines is an intriguing possibility. Even if Meganthropus were not a form of robust australopithecine, Paranthropus which were travelling into Asia could have evolved to a taller height (which was a common adaptation for mammals at that time).
A map diagram depicting the possibile dispersal of Paranthropus into North America. Please click to enlarge.
 Paranthropus is a very likely candidate for the fossil heritage of the wood apes. This early hominin had many features which are likely similar to those reported in the wood apes as it was bipedal, had midtarsal flexibility in its foot, had superficially human shaped feet, had a tool use which was very similar to modern nonhuman apes, likely had similar behaviors to modern nonhuman apes, had an intelligence which was slightly greater than modern nonhuman apes, had very similar cranial features to those reported in wood apes, and likely looked like a bipedal ape with some human-like features. In the future more evidence may come forward which points to Paranthropus as the fossil origins of the wood apes, and it is arguable that a good amount of evidence already supports this theory.

 Works Cited:

24 comments:

  1. Good God Jay... It's not possible that you're a teenager. Prodigy maybe, but it's good to see a teen spending time learning vs. out partying and causing trouble.

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  2. Another great article Jay! You are the future young man.

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  3. Once again, an excellent article. Thanks. Tim, U.K.

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  4. Great blog Jay, it's actually thought provoking.

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  5. Another good article Jay. I am glad you are following this path as it is one I can not sort out but am intrigued by non the less and the possibilities. My main interest is in the culture of the modern day Bigfoot and I hope when I retire in about 10 years to buy some property on the edge of a National forest and start a habituation project to study them. I am not so sure my wife will buy into this, but she probably will. Keep on digging, keep and open mind and realize as time goes on the path may possibly lead in a different direction or it could keep on confirming what you hypothesis now. Good luck to you my friend.

    Chuck

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  6. I just have to say... that you are so gonna kick ass at college because you already understanding citing and references. Trust me this will come in very handy!

    Great article!

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    1. Ahaha thanks, and I hope it does come in handy.

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  7. The Smeja bigfoot is what I see when I watch the freeman footage. If we had a close up of the face I think thats what it would look like

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    1. Intriguing thought. Why do you feel this way?

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  8. http://i1325.photobucket.com/albums/u635/1sasquatch1/skeleton_zpsbd62ff1e.jpg
    Nice work it reminds me of the old Jacobs creature photo and how it compared so well to an ape.

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    1. Unfortunately, it seems that the Jacobs creature was a bear afterall. http://doubtfulnews.com/2012/03/the-case-of-the-acrobatic-bear-or-juvenile-sasquatch/

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  9. Glad I found this site. You are one of the kids I talk to people about all the time as the ones who will bring this topic into the full light of science. Soldier on.

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    1. Thank you very much for your kind words!

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  10. A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. - Max Planck

    Believe that.

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  11. Jay, the encephalization quotient (EQ) for for later specimens of boisei actually overlapped those of Homo habilis. The Konso specimen of P. boisei, the geologically latest find I believe, and a female, had a brain mass of 590 g (habilis only averaged 619 g). The implication is that boisei was the most intelligent primate to have existed outside our own genus Homo.

    Collaterally I just stumbled on a paper I'd never run across before, on how rock throwing may have contributed to the evolution of the hominid brain: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0162309582900103

    Very glad to see you entertaining the notion of a robust australopithecine as the primary candidate, and making such a good case for it! Excellent article! Despite its popularity, Gigantopithecus has always been a problematic suggestion due to our complete lack of post-cranial remains; whether it was a biped, and it's true size, are only guesswork.

    Don't think I've seen this mentioned before, but it may be worth noting that boisei overlapped in both time and space the region of Africa from which H. erectus initially spread to Asia. Did Paranthropus travel with Homo? One possibility is that scavenging the camps of erectus would have lead boisei to follow their migration out of Africa. Another is that they preceded Homo, pushed out as they became marginalized by the expanding population of H. erectus.

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    1. Thank you very much Mr. Plambeck. That's a very compelling possibility which I wasn't aware of, so thank you!

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  12. Couldn't recall the name of it last time here, but it's called the Sahara Pump Theory. The Sahara grew wet and fertile several times during the Plio-Pleistocene, becoming a temporary magnet for wildlife in North Africa. These periods only lasted a few thousand years at a time, the monsoon patterns would revert to normal, the Sahara dry up again and the wildlife scatter, or rather migrate away. Those nearest the Levant were basically "pumped" out into Asia Minor, from which they could make a left into Europe or a right into Asia. For example at 2.6 MYA, following one of these dry-ups, African antelope fossils begin to appear in the foothills adjacent to the Himalayas. That's a little early for boisei to be caught up in that, but not by much. There were many of these subsequent pumped-out migrations though, and boisei's African fossil record shows the species extant for all of them. Erectus was clearly caught up in this. As part of the same fauna, there's no reason boisei should have been left out of these forced migrations, and that the Himalayas was a "landing point" for some of this prodigal African fauna might be very instructive in this case. I'd have a good look for Robustus fossils in the Siwaliks foothills of the Himalayas where those antelope turned up -- one might run across the proto-Yeti.

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    1. I've never heard of that, but it sounds like a very compelling prospect. As I said previously, thanks for bringing this to my attention.

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