Friday, July 13, 2012
Sasquatch: Ape vs. Human?
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by David Batdorf, a Sasquatch enthusiast that is interested in taking an anthropological, bird's-eye-view of the phenomenon and an advocate for species protection. Basically, he's a Bigfoot nerd.
For years, there have been arguments between "Footers", as to the origin of Sasquatch. Is it man, ape or possibly some other beast? My hypothesis is: none of the above.
This is why:
The generic, historical description of Sasquatch is (in short); a gigantic, hairy, manlike-beast with long arms, broad shoulders and a bipedal gate. This is neither consistent with modern humans nor modern nonhuman-apes. This is why, I believe, we must examine available data and look to the fossil record to find the answer.
Some of the best evidence for the existence of Sasquatch, comes in the way of footprints and footprint casts. There IS a general consensus in the Bigfoot Community that there are a few characteristics that make a track more compelling than others. As suggested by Dr. Jeff Meldrum, we seem to look for consistency of a non-divergent, five-toed foot; a broad heel; an apparently flexible or hinged foot (evidence of a mid-tarsal break or pressure ridges); and hopefully, displayed animation of the afore mentioned.
For the sake of clarification, here are the beings that display these traits:
All primates have five digits on their hands and feet, so this does not help to solve our argument. It does narrow things down, slightly.
The great ape species like Chimpanzee, Bonobo, Gorilla, Orangutan all have a broad heel, in proportion to their foot size, when compared to modern humans. However, they also have "thumb-like", divergent toes. This poses a serious problem for the nonhuman-ape theories, because the only species to have this bipedal adaptation come, exclusively, from our own line of human progenitors.
Modern humans lack an apparent mid-tarsal break, as our big-toe mechanism has become rigid to aid in balance and propulsion. However, if we look back upon our lineage, we can see undeniable instances of a flexible foot through inspection of fossil bones and trackways, such as the Leatoli Trackway, dating back to 3.6 million years ago.
In my mind, the non-divergent toes put Sasquatch squarely into the line of human progenitors. Also, an observed mid-tarsal break is shown to NOT be exclusive to nonhuman-apes, as the modern Homo trait is the exception to their Class.
One point that is often forgotten is that the key to bipedalism is not held in the feet, as one might imagine, but within an ape's hips. The elongated hips of nonhuman-apes make it nearly impossible to sustain upright walking, even over short distances. Within the Chimps, Bonobos and Gorillas, it is the Bonobo who has the best luck at bipedal walking and the Gorilla, who has the most difficulty. This is largely due to the vertical length of their hips, rather than their body size. In the image below, it is the Orangutan (second from the right) that has the widest, most human-like hips, that would aid in bipedalism. However, these fist-walkers are rarely seen walking upright, in the wild.
Due to the fact that the sighting reports show almost unanimously that Sasquatch are a bipedal creature, their evolutionary roots would likely begin after our exclusive adaptations for locomotion. Sasquatch has consistently been described to have human traits that are not present within the rest of the animal kingdom, so I feel that I must assume that it is more closely related to US than to other known or current nonhuman-apes.
That is not to say that Sasquatch is of the Homo (human) Genus or a Homo sapiens subspecies, but that we share a more recent common ancestor with this massive biped than with our smaller, knuckle-walking cousins, the Chimpanzee.
The "ape" argument, I believe, truly stems from the fact that many people think that to refer to Sasquatch "human" is to call Sasquatch a "person" or "modern human" (Homo sapiens sapiens)... or even introduce them into the Homo Genus. We can call them apes with certainty, however, relation to the Gorilla, etc... is far-fetched. I do not believe that there is currently enough data to support placing Sasquatch into ANY classification, however, the taxon would likely relate to our own ancestors that paved the way to bipedalism... the Australopithecine. That is conceivably somewhere within the known "human" ancestry, however, not Genus Homo... and thus, the "human" concept resurfaces.
If the Australopithecus Genus is the ancestral link to Homo, it is likely that a single (of their many known and unknown) species gave birth to our more recent ancestral line and our contemporary Genus, Homo. Did other lines occur from other Australopithecine species? Some believe that the Paranthropus Genus (or Robust Australopithecine) was borne of a different species of Australopithecus than that of ourselves. Paranthropus followed a much different evolutionary path, side-by-side with Homo, only to become extinct millions of years later. It was once believed that Paranthropus boisei gave rise to the Gigantopithicus Genus, in Asia... but that theory died, long ago.
...to be continued.
Posted by Shawn at 7/13/2012 12:00:00 AM