Jilara (jilara) wrote,

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Of Apes and Men

Interesting program on the telly last night. About a "chimp" named Oliver, whom 1970's rumor held was a man-chimp hybrid. Apparently, this chimp had been captured in Africa and brought to America. But there was something not chimplike about him. Walked upright like a man, not like a chimp, and had a lot of other odd features. I looked at the footage of this animal and had the eerie feeling that I was looking at something like Zinjanthopus. I could see why the rumors abounded. Especially since he was attracted to *humans* as potential mates, not chimps.

Well, amazingly enough, Oliver was located in a primate experiment lab, back in the '90's, 20 years after vanishing from the public eye. They strung you along as to what the genetic testing turned up. They said that, with 48 chromosomes, Oliver definitely was not a human-chimp hybrid. But then they saved the best for the last. His mitochondrial DNA was NOT chimp DNA. The sequencing was different, and they showed how it differed. So he's not quite a chimp, after all. But then there is the question---what IS Oliver? They don't know. He seems to be from a lineage in the Congo that is very rare. And the Congo has always had odd rumors of extinct critters, a haven for cryptozoology theory.

I find this astoundingly exciting, because it shows there are still things we don't know about, lurking out there. Maybe Oliver is the African answer to a Sasquatch, an unknown lineage of ape. Perhaps that mitochondrial DNA traces right back into some evolutionary dead-end that went extinct millenia ago. And that is exhilerating beyond belief, to me. I'm as happy as if they had turned up giant ground sloths or child-sized bats in the interior of Borneo (both rumored, but never found). The Ape Who Walks Like a Man---how cool is that? ;-)

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