De Loys’ monkey and what to do with it
Just because the time has come, I thought about publishing an excerpt from the book on the topic of cryptozoology which John conway, Memo Kosemen and myself published last year – Cryptozoologicon Volume I (Conway et al. 2013). The book is still available for purchase here; the previously presented excerpts are linked at the bottom of this article, and note that volume II is due to appear imminently. Anyway, business …
A “monkey” from South America
Arguably one of the most fascinating episodes in cryptozoological history involves the so-called South American primate species. Ameranthropoides loysi, proposed as a new species by the anthropologist George Montandon in 1929. This large species of allegedly new primate is represented by only one photograph, which would have been taken at the Colombo-Venezuelan border by the Swiss geologist FranÃ§ois De Loys in 1920 De Loys claimed that he and his group encountered two of these bipedal, walking primates, shot one of them down and propped his body up on a wooden crate before taking the famous (and infamously scary) ) photograph so familiar from books on monsters and mysteries.
The creature was said to be very large (De Loys said 1.5m tall), without a tail, and with a number of teeth similar to that of a human. Combined with his usual upright bipedal form, he was – according to De Loys – totally different from all known South American primates (or Platyrhines), and possibly a convergently evolved South American “ape”. The story has been discussed repeatedly in the cryptozoology literature, most helpfully by Heuvelmans (1995), Shuker (1991, 2008) and Urbani & Viloria (2009).
A skeptical look at De Loys’ “monkey”
The appointment by Montandon of A. loysi and De Loys’ alleged discovery were both treated with immediate skepticism across Europe (Keith 1929). The fact that no part of the specimen was preserved was a problem. De Loys argued that the remains were either lost due to an accident or destroyed due to ill-treatment (the skull, for example, was said to have been corroded after being used as a salt container).
All of this meant that none of the animal’s supposedly unique characteristics could be verified or confirmed. The unusual number of teeth could only be confirmed by a look at the skull (and this was lost), the absence of a tail could not be verified as the animal was only photographed from the front , and the alleged large size of the animal was difficult to trust because the photographs did not include a human scale. Overall very suspicious (there were even claims that the photograph could not have been taken where De Loys said it was, due to discrepancies with the flora). And another problem is that the creature featured in this famous photograph isn’t exactly enigmatic or truly unidentifiable: it looks exactly like the creature many people have said is … a white-fronted spider monkey. Ateles belzebuth [adjacent photo by Ewa/Ewcik65].
More insidiously, it has been argued in recent years that Montandon endorsed and demanded the creation of a large, vaguely human South American primate, because – as a proponent of the “hologenesis” hypothesis then seriously considered – he needed a primate that could serve as the ancestor of South American humans. Hologenesis – widely regarded as racist today – was the school of thought proposing that the different racial groups of Homo sapiens did not share a single ancestry but independently descended from different branches of the primate tree. Montandon apparently needed an ancestor for the “reds” (the Amerindians), and Ameranthropoids has been used as a âmissing linkâ in their evolution.
This outrageous suggestion was largely ignored until the 1990s, when Loren Coleman and Michel Raynal drew attention to the possibility that Ameranthropoids had been specially “invented” to adapt to this erroneous model of evolution (Coleman 1996, Coleman & Raynal 1996). Montandon was killed by the French Resistance in 1944, well known as an outspoken racist with strong âethno-racialâ views (Coleman & Raynal 1996). Possible support for the idea that Ameranthropoids was an outright hoax that comes from a letter written in 1962 by Enrique Tejera, a friend of De Loys who at one point claimed to have seen a live Ameranthropoids. In the letter, Tejera denounced the hoax, claiming that the animal photographed by De Loys was a deceased pet spider monkey that had been adopted in the jungle (Shuker 2008, Urbani & Viloria 2009).
Today, several cryptozoologists are hoping that De Loys has truly photographed something new and special and they refer to local legends of large bipedal primates of northern South America, and rumors of additional photo half-memories. of the carcass of 1920, as evidence that supports this point of view (Shuker 1991, 2008). We are convinced, however, that De Loys’ famous photo shows a dead spider monkey sitting on a crate, the only remarkable aspect of this story being the audacity of those who thought they could use a dead monkey to deceive the scientific world.
A world where Ameranthropoids is right
Now assume for the purposes of this book that De Loys’ monkey is a real animal. Ameranthropoids is likely a close relative of Protopithecus, a particularly large fossil platyrrhine known to have inhabited Brazil during the Pleistocene (Hartwig & Cartelle 1996). Good bipedal abilities are present in various Platyrhines and Ameranthropoids represents an extreme member of the group: the largest, shortest-tailed (in fact, tailless), and most bipedal platyrrhine to ever evolve. Since the large-bodied platyrhines known to have evolved elsewhere in the group (spider monkeys, woolly monkeys, and muriquis) have long prehensile tails, the complete lack of a tail in Ameranthropoids indicates a long history of terrestrial evolution, but we do not know if the enhanced bipedal abilities of this species evolved in trees before the animal descended to the ground, or if its ancestors came to the ground and became competent bipeds.
Platyrrhines are among the most intelligent and adaptable primates. Capuchins show remarkable adaptability when it comes to using tools and solving problems in nature, and may have a similar intelligence to chimpanzees. In view of this, the particularly large Ameranthropoids is also probably particularly intelligent, perhaps using tools regularly and appearing almost human when foraging for food, using weapons and entering food. We can only hope that future field observations of this rare and enigmatic giant platyrrhine will provide valuable insight into its behavior and lifestyle.
For previous articles on the Cryptozoologicon Volume I and its content, see …
Refs – –
Coleman, L. 1996. Debunking a Racist Hoax. The highlights 90, 42.
Coleman, L. & Raynal, M. 1996. Photograph by De Loys: a short story of monkeys in the green hell, spider monkeys and Ameranthropoides loysi as tools of racism. The anomalist 4 (Fall), 84-93.
Hartwig, WC & Cartelle, C. 1996. A complete skeleton of the giant South American primate Protopithecus. Nature 381, 307-311.
Keith, A. 1929. The alleged discovery of an anthropoid ape in South America. Man 29, 135-136.