Tales from the Cryptozoologicon: the Yeti
On the heels of our highly successful and highly regarded Everyday Yesterday: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals [BUY IT HERE], John Conway, CM “Memo” Kosemen and yours truly are preparing our second collaborative volume. It’s titled Cryptozoology (or maybe just Cryptozoology, I’m not sure we’ve decided yet) and – while the theme is obviously cryptozoological – it aims to go somewhere mystery animal books haven’t gone before. As anyone familiar with cryptozoology knows (and as anyone who listens to TetZoo podcasts has recently asserted), writing on the subject involves a (sometimes necessary, sometimes free, sometimes hilarious) amount of speculation.
People familiar with the works of John and Memo, as well as my writings, know our strengths in speculative zoology. In discussing mystery animals, we have of course both reviewed existing knowledge and offered our own interpretations of where the evidence leads (er, too often it leads nowhere…), but we we also have a lot of fun asking the most interesting questions: What if? In other words, what if these cryptids were real? What would they look like and what would be their evolutionary history? And to know exactly what we’ve come up with, you’ll of course have to see the book itself.
In the meantime, here is a teaser: the Yeti section of our book. Ironically, it’s actually one that doesn’t contain much new speculation (for the reasons discussed below). However, we hope you enjoy it and get an idea of where we are going with this project. I also want to add that – for now – I have not seen the published version of Daniel Loxton and Don Prothero Abominable sciences; once I do, it will surely be quoted in this section and probably in other parts of the book as well.
The Yeti is easily one of the most famous mysterious creatures. The Yeti of cryptozoological literature is not the shaggy furry white snow beast of Hollywood movies and popular artwork. Instead, it is a blackish, dark brown, or red-brown animal of the forests and slopes of the subtemperate and temperate Himalayan Mountains and Tibetan Plateau, mostly bipedal, and about 3 m in height ( although, to be fair, White Yetis have reportedly been reported in Tibet). Eyewitnesses and mythological accounts purporting to describe the Yeti come from countries such as Russia, China, Nepal, Tibet and India. In this vast area, a variety of different local names are considered by cryptozoologists to describe the same creature (Shackley 1983). However, there is much variation in the size, shape and behavior of the hairy ape-men described in this area by witnesses and known to tradition, so an interpretation favored by some cryptozoologists is that there are actually two types of yeti, Where that we actually see references to a huge distribution of unknown hominids ranging from shaggy orangutan-like species to surviving species Dryopithecus-like, Australopithecines, Neanderthals, members of homo erectus and others (Heuvelmans 1986, Coleman & Huyghe 1999).
This is the only logical interpretation if we choose to imagine all sightings and lore of “wild men” as encounters with real creatures.
If, however, these observations and traditions combine errors, hoaxes and wishful thinking with the seemingly universal human belief that there have always been wild creatures or spirits that are somehow intermediaries between people and the rest of the natural world, it is wiser to interpret all or most “mystery hominids” as some kind of socio-cultural phenomenon that has been mistakenly “debunked” by cryptozoologists. Given the continuing lack of valid evidence of any kind for Yetis and other mysterious hominids, the latter is our preferred option.
Zoologists, biologists, and other scientists interested in the concept of the Yeti as an actual animal have universally regarded it as a primate and as a great ape (i.e., as a member of the Hominidae, the group that includes great apes as well as humans). Its Asian distribution, the general idea that it is roughly similar in some aspect of appearance to orangutans, and the proposal that it might be related to (or some version of) the extinct Asian hominid Gigantopithecus all combined to create the more accurate idea that it is a pongine: that is, a member of the same group of great apes as orangutans, Gigantopithecus etc
While this sounds like a reasonable interpretation of the data, the fact is that – like so many detailed cryptozoological hypotheses – it relies on the integrity and reliability of the supporting anecdotal evidence. Accounts of mountain climbers and explorers glimpsing distant Yetis are fairly well known, as are instances of the same people finding large, superficially human footprints in the snow. To this day, however, reliable evidence that could support the Yeti’s existence remains unknown: there are no good photos or bits of film, the few photos of good footprints (notably Shipton’s photos of 1951) almost certainly represent clever hoaxes, and claim nests, hairs, bones, and bits of skin have all proven inconclusive or misidentified (e.g., Milinkovitch et al. 2004). Moreover, the “best” recorded eyewitness accounts (e.g. the detailed sighting of Slavomir Rawicz in 1942) are highly suspect and probably fabricated (“It is very unfortunate that all these details are in a book whose authenticity is, to say the least, doubtful”; Shackley 1983, p. 55).
In short, we see the Yeti as an amalgamation of fleeting glimpses of known animals (including bears, takin, and serows) with both the universal wild-man archetype and local Asian traditions about human mountain demons (Himalayan depictions of the Yeti do not). all make it look like a primate. Some show tailed, bipedal creatures with carnivorous-like faces and protruding fangs (Davidson 1988).
The fun part: what if is the Yeti real?
Most of the speculation we could make about the Yeti (if we assume it is a real animal) has already been made in the vast cryptozoological literature on this subject. Heuvelmans (1958) gave the Yeti the suggested scientific name Dinanthropoides nivalis and proposed that giant size evolved within a line of arboreal Asian apes, that members of this line descended to the ground, and that specialization for life in mountainous, snowy places encouraged them to become bipedal. He implied a close connection between the yeti and Gigantopithecus but did not think these monkeys were close to orangutans. This scenario would require that Yeti bipedalism evolved independently of that seen in humans and other hominids, and it is contradicted by evidence indicating that hominid bipedalism first evolved in an arboreal setting and then was enhanced by the bloodlines which increased earthly life (see the Orang -pendek section, p. 13-15).
While some authors have implied or argued that Yeti and Sasquatch are members of the human lineage, we prefer the idea that they are bipedal pongines, convergently similar to hominins in some respects, but different regarding details of anatomy, gait and demeanor. Indeed, Yeti sightings create the impression of a hominid not so different from the paranthropines, the hardiest of the extinct African australopithecines. Dinanthropoids walks bipedally with slightly bent knees, its body leaning more forward than in our species, and its long arms descending to the knees. Its resting poses are more reminiscent of those of orangutans and gorillas than of humans, and it can even move like a quadruped when climbing hillsides and among large rocks. Its feet are only superficially human, the enlarged, semi-diverging hallux and broad heel representing a strong terrestrial specialization in a primate that began its terrestrial career with a typical hominid foot like that of orangutans.
Yetis are not reported as using tools; however, this may be due to a lack of detailed observation. We now know that orangutans, gorillas, and chimpanzees all use tools in the wild: these behaviors have gone unheard of for decades and (in most populations) occur only rarely. A strong jaw and massive, strong teeth make Dinanthropoids expert in fruit and nut cracking (Tchernine 1974). As a hominid adapted to temperate, often cool, habitats, Dinanthropoids is able to cope with hot summer conditions as well as much cooler winter conditions due to seasonal changes in the length and thickness of its skin, although these changes do not occur in all populations of Yeti . Our Himalayan Yetis are in their thinner, reddish summer coats (the scene depicts a time decades in the past when the Himalayas were more extensively covered in snow and ice than they are today).
If only more people were willing to accept the reality of the Yeti, Sasquatch, and Orang-pendek, they would realize that the supposed differences between humans and other great apes simply reflect the fact that “intermediate” taxa are extinct or scientifically unrecognized. Again Scientists at the blind and hidden Ivory Tower Establishment, more interested in sitting behind their computers than searching the world for real animals, are stunting scientific progress!!!!!!! THEY WILL BE SHOWN BAD AT THE END!!!
the Cryptozoology – by John Conway, CM Kosemen and Darren Naish – is due out later in 2013 and will be published by Irregular Books. Follow @IrregularBooks on Twitter.
Refs – –
Coleman, L. & Huyghe, P. 1999. The Field Guide to Bigfoot, Yeti, and Other Mysterious Primates Around the World. Avon Books, New York.
Davidson, J.-P. 1988. A portrait of the yeti as an ancient ape. BBC Wildlife 6 (10), 540-543.
Heuvelmans, B. 1958. On the trail of unknown animals. Hart Davis, London.
– . 1986. Annotated checklist of apparently unknown animals of interest in cryptozoology. Cryptozoology 5, 1-26.
Milinkovitch, MC, Caccone, A. & Amato, G. 2004. Molecular phylogenetic analyzes indicate an important morphological convergence between the “yéti” and the primates. Molecular phylogenetics and evolution 31, 1-3.
Shackley, M. 1983. Wildmen: Yeti, Sasquatch and the Neanderthal Riddle. Thames and Hudson, London.
Tchernine, O. 1974. The Yeti – some evidence. Oryx 12(5), 553-555.