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De Loys’ Ape and what to do with it

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Ameranthropoides imagined as a 'real' platyrrhine primate: image by C. M. Kosemen, from the 2013 book Cryptozoologicon Volume I (Conway et al. 2013).

Purely because the time feels about right, I thought I’d post an excerpt from the cryptozoology-themed book that John Conway, Memo Kosemen and myself published last year – Cryptozoologicon Volume I (Conway et al. 2013). The book is still available for purchase here; previously featured excerpts are linked to at the bottom of this article, and note that Volume II is due to appear imminently. Anyway, to business…

A South American ‘ape’

The familiar, cropped version of the De Loys' ape photo - the creature is sat on a crate, propped up with a stick. That giant organ between its legs is typical of the females of a certain group of South American primates. That's right, this is not a male, and that is not a penis.

Arguably one of the most fascinating episodes in cryptozoological history involves the alleged South American primate species Ameranthropoides loysi, proposed as a new species by anthropologist George Montandon in 1929. This large, allegedly new primate species is represented only by a single photograph, allegedly taken on the Colombian-Venezuelan border by Swiss geologist François De Loys in 1920. De Loys claimed that he and his party encountered two of these bipedal, erect-walking primates, shot one of them dead, and propped its body up on a wooden crate before taking the famous (and famously creepy) photograph so familiar from books on monsters and mysteries.

The creature was supposedly very large (De Loys said 1.5 m tall), tailless, and with a human-like tooth count. Combined with its erect form of habitual bipedality, it was – according to De Loys – wholly different from all known South American primates (or platyrrhines), and perhaps a convergently evolved South American ‘ape’. The story has been discussed several times in the cryptozoology literature, most usefully by Heuvelmans (1995), Shuker (1991, 2008) and Urbani & Viloria (2009).

The less frequently seen uncropped version of the photo. Note the plants on either side -- some authors with botanical expertise have claimed that these show how the photo couldn't have been taken where Montandon said it was.

A sceptical look at De Loys’ ‘ape’

Montandon’s naming of A. loysi and De Loys’ alleged discovery of it were both treated with immediate scepticism across Europe (Keith 1929). The fact that no part of the specimen had been retained was one problem. De Loys argued that the remains had either been lost due to accident, or became destroyed due to mistreatment (the skull, for example, supposedly corroded away after being used as a salt container).

Spider monkeys: bigger than you (might) think. This is a White-fronted spider monkey (Ateles belzebuth). Photo by Ewa, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

This all meant that none of the supposedly unique features of the animal could be checked or confirmed. The unusual tooth count could only be confirmed by a look at the skull (and this was lost), the lack of a tail couldn’t be checked because the animal had only been photographed from the front, and the alleged large size of the animal was difficult to be confident about because the photographs did not include a human for scale. All in all, highly suspicious (there have even been claims that the photograph could not have been taken where De Loys said it had, due to discrepancies with the flora). And another problem comes from the fact that the creature featured in that famous photograph is not exactly enigmatic or truly unidentifiable: it looks exactly like the creature many people said it 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 required the creation of a large, vaguely human-like South American primate because – as a supporter of the then seriously regarded ‘hologenesis’ hypothesis – he needed a primate that could serve as an 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 descended independently from different branches of the primate tree. Montandon seemingly needed an ancestor for ‘red’ people (native Americans), and Ameranthropoides was used as a ‘missing link’ in their evolution.

Part of the front cover of Urbani & Viloria (2009), one of several important investigations of the Ameranthropoides story that have appeared in recent years.

This outrageous suggestion went mostly ignored until the 1990s when Loren Coleman and Michel Raynal drew attention to the possibility that Ameranthropoides had been specially ‘invented’ to fit 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 ‘ethno-racial’ views (Coleman & Raynal 1996). Possible support for the idea that Ameranthropoides was an outright hoax comes from a letter penned in 1962 by Enrique Tejera, a friend of De Loys who, at one point, claimed to have seen a live Ameranthropoides. In the letter, Tejera denounced the hoax, saying 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 hold out hope that De Loys really did photograph something novel and special and they point to local legends of big, bipedal primates from northern South America, and to rumoured half-memories of additional photos of the 1920 carcass, as evidence that supports this view (Shuker 1991, 2008). We are confident, however, that De Loys’ famous photo shows a dead spider monkey sat on a crate, the only remarkable aspect of this story being the audacity of those who thought that they could use a dead monkey to cheat the scientific world.

A world where Ameranthropoides is real

Speculative life reconstruction of the extinct platyrrhine Protopithecus; image by Darren Naish (penned in 1998!).

Let’s now suppose for the purposes of this book that De Loys’ ape is a real animal. Ameranthropoides is presumably a close relative of Protopithecus, an especially large fossil platyrrhine known to have inhabited Brazil during Pleistocene times (Hartwig & Cartelle 1996). Good bipedal abilities are present in various platyrrhines and Ameranthropoides represents an extreme member of the group: the largest, most short-tailed (in fact, it is tailless) and most bipedal platyrrhine ever to have evolved. Given that the large-bodied platyrrhines known to have evolved elsewhere in the group (spider monkeys, woolly monkeys and muriquis) have long, prehensile tails, the complete absence of a tail in Ameranthropoides indicates a lengthy history of terrestrial evolution, but we are unsure as to whether the enhanced bipedal abilities of this species evolved in the trees before the animal came down to the ground, or whether its ancestors came to the ground and only then became proficient bipeds.

Back in 1998, I tried to see if soft tissue reconstructions of large extinct platyrrhines (like the Pleistocene-Holocene Caipora bambuiorum) would reveal an Ameranthropoides-like appearance when 'fleshed out'. The results: no, those big extinct platyrrhines aren't like Ameranthropoides at all. I think there's a good reason for this. Image by Darren Naish.

Platyrrhines include some of the most intelligent and adaptable of all primates. Capuchins exhibit remarkable adaptability when it comes to tool-use and problem-solving in the wild and might be similar in intelligence to chimpanzees. In view of this, the especially big Ameranthropoides is probably also especially intelligent, perhaps routinely using tools and seeming almost human-like when foraging, using weapons, and breaking into foodstuffs. We can only hope that future field observations of this rare and enigmatic giant platyrrhine will provide valuable insight into its behaviour and lifestyle.

For previous articles on the Cryptozoologicon Volume I and its contents, see…

Refs – -

Coleman, L. 1996. Debunking a racist hoax. Fortean Times 90, 42.

Coleman, L. & Raynal, M. 1996. De Loys’ photograph: a short tale of apes in green hell, spider monkeys, and Ameranthropoides loysi as tools of racism. The Anomalist 4 (Autumn), 84-93.

Conway, J., Kosemen, C. M. & Naish, D. 2013. Cryptozoologicon Volume I. Irregular Books.

Hartwig, W. C. & Cartelle, C. 1996. A complete skeleton of the giant South American primate Protopithecus. Nature 381, 307-311.

Heuvelmans, B. 1995. On the Track of Unknown Animals. Kegan Paul International, London.

Keith, A. 1929. The alleged discovery of an anthropoid ape in South America. Man 29, 135-136.

Shuker, K. P. N. 1991. Extraordinary Animals Worldwide. Robert Hale, London.

Shuker, K. P. N. 2008. Extraordinary Animals Revisited. CFZ Press, Woolsery.

Urbani, B.  & Viloria, A. L. 2009. Ameranthropoides loysi Montandon 1929: the History of a Primatological Fraud. Libros en Red, Buenos Aires.

Darren Naish About the Author: Darren Naish is a science writer, technical editor and palaeozoologist (affiliated with the University of Southampton, UK). He mostly works on Cretaceous dinosaurs and pterosaurs but has an avid interest in all things tetrapod. His publications can be downloaded at darrennaish.wordpress.com. He has been blogging at Tetrapod Zoology since 2006. Check out the Tet Zoo podcast at tetzoo.com! Follow on Twitter @TetZoo.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.



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  1. 1. Heteromeles 2:34 pm 07/17/2014

    All I’ve got to say is that Ameranthropoides needs a much bigger butt and shorter toes if it’s going to be a reasonable biped. That hallux is just all wrong, too.

    Now…let’s see what the spamalot filter does to this comment.

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  2. 2. Halbred 5:47 pm 07/17/2014

    Hologenesis sounds a bit like panbiogeography, but with more convergent evolution. Permian primates, methinks.

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  3. 3. Yodelling Cyclist 6:29 pm 07/17/2014

    When at TetzooCon one, I chatted to people about my scepticism wrt Orang Pendek, and I’ll repeat their retort here:

    “Well, more likely than Bigfoot”.

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  4. 4. Cameron McCormick 7:23 pm 07/17/2014

    There is a 3/4 view of a very “De Loys’ Ape”-like Spider Monkey here.

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  5. 5. Allen Hazen 9:37 pm 07/17/2014

    Tangential– is Heuvelman’s 1995 a straight reprint of the 1959 original (the first book I ever bought with money I had earned myself with a newspaper route!), or is it a revised or enlarged edition?

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  6. 6. andrewwright73 11:09 pm 07/17/2014

    My favorite book on the topic is called ‘The Monster of the Madidi: Searching for the Giant Ape of the Bolivian Jungle’ by Simon Chapman (2001). Excellent and sobering account of what it’s really like wandering around the borders of Peru/Bolivia/Brazil in search of giant monkeys. I’d never heard of the book before from the cryptozoo literature and just stumbled upon it in a Bangkok 2nd hand bookshop – well worth reading. From memory, Rob Dunn visits very similar territory in his 2010 book ‘Every Living Thing’ – another good read.

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  7. 7. Cameron McCormick 1:53 pm 07/18/2014

    Allen — unfortunately, aside from a new preface, Heuvelmans (1995) “made it a point to give here the entire text of this last work in its original version, changing nothing of the opinions and suppositions set forth at the time, and certainly nothing of the facts themselves”.

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  8. 8. jgrosay 5:30 pm 07/18/2014

    Some in the ‘Cryptozoology’ teams claim an evidence of the Loys monkey photo being of a real sepcimen is the crate, an standard commercial, series made crate for a known product I don’t remember.

    Theories of different origins from people in different regions may have some true basis, I read, can’t retrieve the reference, that the DNA replicating machinery of contemporary Africans differs from that of Europeans, even when remains of Neanderthal genes are present in an amount around 2% in 76% of people living currently in Europe (it means no Neanderthal genes in 24% of those living in Europe today), the whole issue becomes more complex, darker is a good qualificative, when some, even when Neanderthal remains are found all over the Middle East, wrote that ‘Neanderthals are the offspring of Cain’, and others, no idea if connected to the ‘Cainites searchers’ said: ‘We will track all Neanderthals’ (in Geno2.0 project)
    In the early 70′s the discussion of theologicians was not about: ‘evolutionism-creationism’, but about ‘Unigenism-polygenism’, i.e., if it was just a couple, a true Adam and Eve, or several; from a genetic point of view, evidences may be considered, even when overwhelmingly in the side that an Adam and and Eve actually existed, not fuly negating polygenism, from the experience in animal cross-breedings, it can be postulated that from the many offspring resulting from crossings between different hominid species, only a few of it would be fertile, or some crossed offspring would be more fertile than others, this leading that in the end, only some X, Y Chromosomes and mitDNA was passed to our generations.

    I heard someone saying that women belong to a different species than man; considering that when referring to a place very far away, they used the expression: ‘In God’s home’ (Beth-El, a sun worship temple cited in the Bible, distant of Jerusalem the track a man can walk in a single journey), this pointing that some very ancient memories may have been passed to current people even as just a joke or idiom. Thanks. Salut +

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  9. 9. Yodelling Cyclist 5:37 pm 07/18/2014

    Ok, good.

    Bring back the Permian bears.

    Please.

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  10. 10. Yodelling Cyclist 5:39 pm 07/18/2014

    ….and the spam filter.

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  11. 11. Yodelling Cyclist 7:24 pm 07/18/2014

    Has the comment counter failed for everyone else?

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  12. 12. Heteromeles 9:44 pm 07/18/2014

    A good, up-to-date reference on the topic of whether humans have subspecies or biological races (spoiler: they don’t) is Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths About Human Nature by the physical anthropologist Agustin Fuentes (BigJungleRiver Link).

    The tl:dr explanation for the lack of races is comes down to the difference between within group variation and between group variation. In humans, the general pattern is that within-group variation is much larger than between group variation for a vast majority of traits that anyone has studied, from skin color to genetic diversity. The classic example is the difference between men and women. If you take the “average man” and the “average woman,” there are, in fact, differences in height, brain size, upper body strength, and so forth. That’s the between-group variation. However, if you look at the variation within all men and the variation within all women (the within-group variation), it’s enormous. There are women who have the physiques to be combat marines, and there are men who do not. There are women geniuses and male morons, and vice versa. In fact, the within sex variation is enormously greater than the relatively minor differences between the “average man” and the “average woman.” Within-group variation is larger than between-group variation.

    The same applies when researchers have looked at differences between putative races: the within-”race” variation is enormously larger than the differences between the average exponents of each group. If races had any biological reality, we’d expect to see the opposite pattern, with distinct differences between groups, and more homogeneity within each group. Researchers have looked for that pattern repeatedly, and not only did they fail to find it, they saw exactly the opposite.

    This isn’t to say that racISM isn’t a huge problem. It is. It even causes biological problems, through mechanisms of stress, poverty, and differential access to quality health care and education. Nonetheless, racism isn’t based on a biological reality of race. Where there are correlations between perceived race and health, the research strongly suggests that the causal arrow goes from racism towards biology, and not the other way around.

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  13. 13. naishd 6:27 am 07/19/2014

    I’m writing this comment as a response to a discussion thread that appeared on facebook. It’s not specifically relevant to any of the other comments in the discussion thread here on Tet Zoo.

    This text is an excerpt from a book – a book in which there were various limitations as goes word count. We did not indulge in an especially lengthy or thorough review or analysis of the Ameranthropoides story in view of this; in any case, the Ameranthropoides case has been thrashed to death in other sources, all of which should be checked by the interested reader (they’re cited in the text). In short, there is “no analysis” because the text is what’s known as a review (it states the story, and the argument, as told by previous researchers). This is a pretty standard tactic in literature.

    On to the second point, that “There is no comparison to the reports of other explorers, nor to Indian artwork”; I was very much aware of these allegedly relevant bits of data when writing the text (see the line “they point to local legends of big, bipedal primates from northern South America”: they are discussed in Karl Shuker’s writings on the case, cited above). However, if you really think that these deserve detailed consideration in a discussion of Ameranthropoides, my conclusion would be that you regard Ameranthropoides (as in, the De Loys photo) as genuine. As expressed in the text above, the combined evidence we have – (1) the link between De Loys and Montandon, (2) the significance of hologenesis to Montandon, (3) the morphological similarity of the animal in the De Loys photos to a spider monkey, and (4) Tejera’s admission that that’s exactly what the animal was – shows that the photo is a hoax and does not depict a new, hitherto undiscovered species of primate. Ergo, indigenous knowledge or “other explorers” tales are irrelevant to conclusions about the animal in the De Loys photo. In any case, the indigenous knowledge and explorer anecdotes concerned hardly present a good case of any sort. They merely refer to nondescript bipedal monkey- or ape-like creatures of the sort ubiquitous in human cultures. The cases that specifically refer to Ameranthropoides-like animals were later denounced as hoaxes.

    Finally, as regards a possible evolutionary backstory for Ameranthropoides, an idea explored in our book (viz, in the text excerpt provided above) is the creation of ‘what if?’ scenarios in which we tried to imagined the given mystery creature as a real animal. So, if Ameranthropoides – allegedly a giant, tailless platyrrhine – is real, what were its ancestors and how did they give rise to Ameranthropoides? Our proposal that the ancestors of Ameranthropoides became tailless due either to specialisation for terrestrial life or for a life that involves bipedal locomotion in an arboreal setting is not in the least bit Lamarckian and your criticism of it as such indicates a poor grasp of how natural selection might work. Our conjecture, quite obviously, is that taillessness might have evolved (in this hypothetical lineage) because it was adaptive: that is, because it provided as advantage as goes erect-bodied bipedality (there are several reasons why a long prehensile tail might be reduced in an increasingly terrestrial platyrrhine lineage: the fact that the organ would become increasingly redundant is one).

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  14. 14. BrianL 8:26 am 07/19/2014

    I can finally comment again! I’m guessing more people had this problem, given the low post count so far.

    According to Wikipedia, *Protopithecus* is the largest platyrrhine known, at an estimated weight of about 22 kgs. I was rather surprised by how little that is, compared to large catarrhines. What might be the reason that baboon-sized or ape-sized platyrrhines seem to be restricted to smaller sizes?

    While it is clearly true, I find it hard to believe that even an extreme racist like Montandon could honestly believe that Native Americans were descended from completely different stock than other humans.By the way, do we know if he claimed *Ameranthropoides*
    to be a true ape or a platyrrhine? De Loys claimed the latter, but truly suggesting that Native Americans were not just descended from a different species of primate but from a platyrrhine seems extremely unbelievable. Was that ever a serious hypothesis by any zoologist, paleontologist or anthropologist worth his salt?

    That being said, I remember reading that the Asian ape *Lufengpithecus* was an austropithecine-like, possibly bipedal species. However, information on this ape seems very scant online. Is there anyone here who knows something more about it and its alleged peculiarities?

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  15. 15. irenedelse 9:18 am 07/19/2014

    @jgrosay #8:

    “Some in the ‘Cryptozoology’ teams claim an evidence of the Loys monkey photo being of a real sepcimen is the crate, an standard commercial, series made crate for a known product I don’t remember.”

    Sure. It can easily be a hoaxed picture made by posing the dead monkey against a real crate of a real product. I don’t know how the crate could cryptozoologists prove anything… :-/

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  16. 16. irenedelse 9:19 am 07/19/2014

    Oh, joy, the spam filter is satiated at last ! No more eating up comments, Moloch!

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  17. 17. naishd 1:37 pm 07/19/2014

    Thanks for comments. As if things aren’t difficult enough (login and all that), the spam filter is still stopping comments from appearing – they go into a ‘pending’ file and stay there until I approve them. Or, that’s the case as far as I can tell. I’ve been talking to the SciAmBlogs people behind the scenes. I would expect this problem to kill commenting entirely across most of the network.

    Comments on hologenesis to come later.

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  18. 18. Yodelling Cyclist 2:11 pm 07/19/2014

    There’s a part of me that hopes Darren one day does a human evolution series on TZ, and part that doesn’t for fear of the comment thread.

    Alternatively, when Darren ultimately foresakes blogging, humanity might make a fitting finish.

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  19. 19. John Harshman 4:08 pm 07/19/2014

    Whoa. I just looked at the “Ratites II” thing (monster? abomination? “thread” doesn’t seem adequate). Do the longer threads attract the crazies, or do the threads that the crazies pick end up longer?

    Hey, anyone want to talk about ratites?

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  20. 20. Allen Hazen 8:50 pm 07/19/2014

    Irenedelse (#15)–
    The evidential value of the crate is supposed to be that, if you know the dimensions of the crate, you can estimate the size of the animal. Heuvelmans 1959/1995(*), while recognizing that the animal is similar to a spider monkey, gives an argument that it is too big to be one: one guess about the dimensions of the crate confirms De Loys’s claims that the animal had a standing height of 5ft 1 in (157cm); another guess about the crate led to an estimate 15 or so centimetres shorter.
    Pity there isn’t a recognizable logo painted on the crate!

    (*) Thanks, Cameron (#7), for the bibliographical bad news.

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  21. 21. Heteromeles 12:30 am 07/20/2014

    @19: I think we vermicultured* the ratites topic rather thoroughly, speaking simply for myself.

    The PBG special far from the longest thread I’ve been on, but it was in some ways the saddest. There’s a time to stand up and fight, and a time to run away and not leave a lasting record of one’s shortcomings for Google to index.

    *soil biologists consider earthworms to live inside an “external rumen,” digesting and redigesting each others’ excreta until it’s all soil. Some discussions are like that, no?

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  22. 22. irenedelse 3:42 am 07/20/2014

    @Allen Hazen #20:

    Thanks for the explanation. Good luck to them for identifying a specific product from that picture, though. ;-)

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  23. 23. John Harshman 9:28 am 07/20/2014

    I think we vermicultured* the ratites topic rather thoroughly, speaking simply for myself.

    Yes, but so little of it had anything to do with ratites.

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  24. 24. irenedelse 12:34 pm 07/20/2014

    Heteromeles, John Harshmann:

    “”I think we vermicultured* the ratites topic rather thoroughly, speaking simply for myself.”
    Yes, but so little of it had anything to do with ratites.”

    As long as we got compost out of it… ;-)

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  25. 25. Yodelling Cyclist 12:41 pm 07/20/2014

    We got Permian Bears.

    We win.

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  26. 26. Gigantala 4:56 pm 07/20/2014

    How shocking, that a racist was also an unprofessional hack who seriously thought that inventing an imaginary species and excusing his lack of physical evidence with “the specimen got destroyed” were valid courses of action.

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  27. 27. SeanMcCabe 9:18 pm 07/20/2014

    Well, if I understand properly the expedition went so terribly that preservation of a specimen seems comparatively low on the priority list. Still certainly a hoax, but still. Or was that made up as well?

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  28. 28. Christopher Taylor 2:51 am 07/21/2014

    Whoa. I just looked at the “Ratites II” thing (monster? abomination? “thread” doesn’t seem adequate).

    Is that thing still going? I must confess, I stopped looking some time ago. It’s like when you discover after the fact that some television program ran for fifteen years despite your assuming that everyone had stopped watching after Season 2.

    Is panbiogeography and ratites destined to be the Smallville of Tet Zoo?

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  29. 29. naishd 5:30 am 07/21/2014

    Belated response to BrianL (comment # 14): Montandon didn’t identify Ameranthropoides as a platyrrhine, and hence was not advocating descent of some people from platyrrhines. Rather, he was simply trying to get away with the idea that Ameranthropoides was an “anthropoid” (in this sense, meaning merely a human-like ape), the implication being that it was of the same evolutionary grade as orangutans, gorillas and chimps, all of which were regarded as somehow ancestral to different human groups within the hologenesis perspective.

    Lufengpithecus: I’m not sure I can recall seeing it ever described as australopithecine-like. It’s a pongine, apparently close to the Sivapithecus-Pongo clade. Not much has been written about its postcranial anatomy, but there are suggestions – based on phalangeal proportions and curvature – that it was suspensory, in which case it was (like gibbons) perhaps bipedal when on the ground.

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  30. 30. Heteromeles 11:40 am 07/21/2014

    @29 Christopher: Last time I looked, that thread was still stalled at 661 comments. As with Cthulhu, Dracula, and certain development projects in my area, I’m hoping that it stays dead for awhile.

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  31. 31. SJCrum 7:27 pm 07/21/2014

    By the way, the REAL SCIENCE is that the top picture is of a man inside a sewed together suit that was made by skinning three different apes.

    Undeniable proof that it is, is seen in the picture. It is a FACT that the arms at the sides are being held away from the body and dead body would be totally collapsed in the arms. By the way, the face was from a skinned dead-ape also. The POSED arms prove it. And, she is obviously as right as right can be. But, hey, evolving slop can be based on total drivel and endless crap.

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  32. 32. BrianL 4:10 am 07/22/2014

    @Darren:
    Thank you for that clarification. On one hand, I’m glad (for a minimalistic definition of that) neither Montandon or De Loys went as far as claiming Native Americans were descended from platyrrhines, but on the other hand it seems quite embarassing to want to pass off an ultimately identifiable platyrrhine as a hominoid.
    Also, in proposing different ‘races’ of human were descended from different species of ape, what massive and unlikely convergence were they proposing and how could they ever think that was a likely hypothesis? Did their racism blind them to parsimony or blind them to how alike all humans really are? Perhaps with a sense of directionality to evolution in the mix, so that white, imperialistic and racist humans were the inevitable outcome of all evolution with all other species aspiring to become just that? Clearly they must have considered *Homo sapiens* to be restricted to white humans and all other humans to belong to different species? Or were all humans mongrels in their view? At least, I doubt they considered all the ancestral apes to be part of *Homo sapiens* or they would have had to call De Loys Ape just that too.

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  33. 33. Lars Dietz 8:06 am 07/22/2014

    BrianL: Most of these people probably believed in orthogenesis, so they would have found no problem with the idea of massive convergent evolution towards a “higher stage”. Of course they also thought that human “races” were more different than they actually were. The most influential palaeanthropologist who supported this idea was probably Hermann Klaatsch, who believed that the human-ape ancestor was more human-like than apes, and some lineages progressed towards humans and others degenerated into apes. Unsurprisingly, different polygenists couldn’t agree which apes were related to which humans. Here is a paper by Richard Delisle on the history of polygenism, with illustrations of some polygenist phylogenies. Not included is the craziest version I’ve seen, that of Maurus Horst, who traced back his three main human races back through apes, monkeys, lemurs etc. all the way to different squamates!
    I think the idea of a polyphyletic origin of humans is called polygenism, not hologenism. Hologenism, which was originally founded by Daniele Rosa and applied to humans by Montandon, claimed that the ancestor (in this case, “apemen”) evolved along the same lines everywhere in its distribution range by orthogenesis, with occasional splits (caused by intrinsic factors, not the environment) into progressive and retarded lineages. You may guess for yourself which races Montandon considered to be most progressive. He assumed that “apemen” were globally distributed and evolved into humans everywhere in the world.

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  34. 34. Heteromeles 10:21 am 07/22/2014

    Brian’s right. You’ve got to remember that 1929, when Montandon was operating, was well before the modern synthesis, let alone cladistics. It wasn’t that far after the Piltdown man hoax was perpetuated in 1912, either, and almost 25 years before said Piltdown hoax was definitively declared a fake. It was a very different world back then. Even though this seems grossly implausible to us now, they weren’t operating in anything that looked like our world.

    What may be more interesting here is not just the “see it because I believe it” element to the whole story, from De Loys creating the fake and Montandon naming it, to how some cryptozoologists continue to dredge it back up, retconning it into some new semi-plausible story, just because it would be so cool if it existed, and calling it a fake just makes the world a drabber place.

    This last part is something we all have to watch out for in our own beliefs. Yes yes, as scientists we don’t have any belief system, just the facts. Right. We can be conned too, most especially by discoveries that appear to fill in the blanks and confirm things we previously only suspected. We have to watch out for those, even though I suspect we seldom do.

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  35. 35. SeanMcCabe 12:26 pm 07/22/2014

    “Not included is the craziest version I’ve seen, that of Maurus Horst, who traced back his three main human races back through apes, monkeys, lemurs etc. all the way to different squamates!”

    Wait, what?

    Link to this
  36. 36. SJCrum 6:32 pm 07/22/2014

    [NOTE FROM DARREN: I've been holding back comments from 'SJCrum', but this one is too good not to share. My apologies if anyone considers it racist...]

    By the way also, a truly dead ape would be impossible to pose as shown, and because with a stick under the chin, and a TOTALLY LIMP ape, the appearance would factually be the chin being straight up and the entire body weight causing the body to fall so much downward that it would look like a draped pile of rags falling downward from the top of that pointed stick. there is NO WAY in the world that the chin would appear practically resting on the stick.

    Also, rigor mortis occurs in just ten minutes and that so-called ape is not only fully erect, but they managed to get it sitting perfectly of a crate, with the legs bent and it somehow having, perfect as well, posture.

    More than that even is that the mid-body is totally human shape and not the standard ape shape at all.

    By the way, on another subject, the South American natives were people who were living on the continental land mass when it was still “stuck” to the west side of Africa. Those people then rode on the land mass as the enormous heat from the star collision caused that land to be pulled away from Africa. The people then escaped quickly to the colder temperatures of the southern tip of south America, and then to the Antarctic to totally escape from the enormous, and killing, heat. At the end of that event, they had only a reddening color to their skin because of only a serious sunburn that occurred before. These survivors then populated the area again.

    By the way, the Indians in North America did the same to survive and then also return.

    So, that is the real science involved with the origins of the South American natives.

    Link to this
  37. 37. Christopher Taylor 8:56 pm 07/22/2014

    Mein Gott, now we’ve got Velikovskyism to contend with as well. Just keep your eyes averted, people, and maybe it’ll go away.

    Link to this
  38. 38. Jerzy v. 3.0. 6:39 am 07/23/2014

    @Heteromeles
    “just because it would be so cool if it existed, and calling it a fake just makes the world a drabber place.”

    Yes, you got it. Human imagination needs something to thrive on.

    Dragons and magic spells keep existing today in the book genre of modern fantasy.

    Perhaps there should be more entertaining fiction about the world where there really are cool giant animals in Himalayas, Congo and deep oceans, intelligent aliens are really almost discovered, and any child with enough love for book and persistence can single-handedly construct a time machine or flying exoskeleton? Stories which prompt their readers to get more interested in marvels of science and technology?

    Link to this
  39. 39. John Scanlon FCD 7:59 am 07/23/2014

    “too good not to share” – not so sure about that, Darren. It’s just silly; trying too hard, and now you’ve gone and rewarded it just for effort. :)

    “You’ve got to remember that 1929, when Montandon was operating, was well before the modern synthesis, let alone cladistics.” – but consider a work like Camp’s (1923) Classification of the Lizards, which was methodologically more sound than any of its successors until 1988. What I think happened is a major deterioration in evolutionary thinking in the course of the 1920′s, such that by the end of the decade everyone was just gibbering and drooling. This trend is also embodied by Nopcsa Ferenc, who also in 1923 published good work using (at least implicitly) the principle of synapomorphy (Pachyophis und Eidolosaurus), then got weirder right up to 1928 (but no further). I blame physiology, it’s a bad influence.

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  40. 40. Lars Dietz 9:22 am 07/23/2014

    Interestingly, because of its emphasis on dichotomous splits, hologenesis has sometimes be called a precursor to cladistics (and to panbiogeography, due to its rejection of the “center of origin” concept). Some hologenists published classifications of certain taxa that can be said to use cladistic principles. So the hologenists (maybe not Montandon) were closer to today’s standards than most other people at the time. However, it was generally ignored outside of Italy, I don’t know of any non-Italian hologenist except for Montandon. Here is a paper that summarizes the ideas of the hologenists. It doesn’t mention Montandon, though.

    Link to this
  41. 41. Heteromeles 10:30 am 07/23/2014

    @39: I don’t have the time to do the review, but I seem to remember that there was a whole attack on Darwinian evolution in the first part of the 20th Century, and what we now call the Modern Synthesis, between 1936 and 1947, put an end to the craziness. I’m not sure it was about physiology, though. IIRC, one big problem was Darwin’s “blended inheritance” was inconsistent with Mendelian genetics, and once population genetics came around, there was a pronounced tendency to pitch Darwin and go for something newer and shinier (if ultimately false).

    The modern synthesis was, in part, showing that genetics and gradual evolution via natural selection could work together. It also worked to reconcile microevolution via natural selection and the macroevolution seen in the fossil record, and showed that they involved the same mechanisms.

    I’d also point out that this was the period when the great overseas colonial empires were starting to pop rivets at the seams. One difference between empires and nation-states is that nation-states try for to have a “homogenous” group of people (the nation) in a defined territory (the state), while empires rule different people in different ways to keep the whole composite working (see Burbank and Cooper’s Empires In World History). If an empire is a fruit cake, a nation-state is a puree. From the 1920s and on, both nation-states and empires were under assault from competing ideologies, notably communism and anarchism. I suspect that one reason there was so much craziness about human rights and status in the period was that the far left was saying that all humans are equal, while institutions like the British, German, and French empires depended more on them being unequal. It would have been very handy for those trying to sustain empires to have a scientific basis for the the claim of inequality, that humans are innately unequal due to the way they evolved, or due to “good” genes and “bad” genes (see the eugenics movement).

    I’m not espousing any of this crap. We all know who WWII played out, and racism, discrimination, and bigotry are still alive despite all efforts. However, I think it’s worth pointing out that the politics of difference are pretty essential in empires, and it’s naive in the extreme to think this doesn’t cause imperial scientists to go looking for such differences, nor (on occasion) to manufacture the differences and find corroborative evidence to support a bias that’s paying them handsomely in money and status.

    Link to this
  42. 42. DavidMarjanovic 1:53 pm 07/25/2014

    That’s right, this is not a male, and that is not a penis.

    So it’s a clitoris, then? Is “a certain group of South American primates” secretly composed of climbing spotted hyenas?

    I read, can’t retrieve the reference, that the DNA replicating machinery of contemporary Africans differs from that of Europeans

    Then find the reference, or it didn’t happen. The replication machinery is quite conservative, you know; there’s strong stabilizing selection on it.

    when some, even when Neanderthal remains are found all over the Middle East, wrote that ‘Neanderthals are the offspring of Cain’

    I know. They’re stupid.

    from a genetic point of view, evidences [sic!] may be considered, even when overwhelmingly in the side that an Adam and and Eve actually existed

    You’ve probably misunderstood “Mitochondrial Eve” and “Y-chromosomal Adam”. The human population was never down to just two people; if it had ever been, we’d be much more similar to each other genetically than we already are.

    I heard someone saying that women belong to a different species than man;

    That’s a silly metaphor.

    considering that when referring to a place very far away, they used the expression: ‘In God’s home’

    Who is “they”, and what does that have to do with anything being the same species?

    NOTE FROM DARREN: I’ve been holding back comments from ‘SJCrum’, but this one is too good not to share. My apologies if anyone considers it racist…

    Of course it’s racist, massively so. It just manages to be funny. There’s so much wrong in so few words!

    “You’ve got to remember that 1929, when Montandon was operating, was well before the modern synthesis, let alone cladistics.” – but consider a work like Camp’s (1923) Classification of the Lizards, which was methodologically more sound than any of its successors until 1988. What I think happened is a major deterioration in evolutionary thinking in the course of the 1920′s, such that by the end of the decade everyone was just gibbering and drooling.

    I agree. See also: Goodrich (1916) giving Sauropsida and the newly coined name Theropsida outright branch-based phylogenetic definitions. The paper is fascinating to read! And then phylopessimism hit, and all was over.

    Edwin S. Goodrich (1916): On the classification of the Reptilia. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 89:261–276.

    Link to this
  43. 43. naishd 9:43 pm 08/23/2014

    With (belated) reference to comment # 33, hologenism is indeed the correct term here: as explained by Urbani & Viloria (2009), it’s the form of polygenism in which an internal, orthogenetic ‘drive’ led unrelated lineages to produce what became the same species. “In hologenesis, species do not necessarily originate in a single geographic place … rather, they could emerge simultaneously in extensive and even discontinuous area … Montandon quickly assimilated this hologenesis paradigm into a principle that could be used to address issues of human evolution. He used it to support the notion that “human races” could have appeared simultaneously in different regions of the world without having a common ancestor; thus, the hologenism” (Urbani & Viloria 2009, p. 27).

    The key difference between hologenism and polygenism seems to be that the former does not require the ancestral lineages to be at all closely related and is contingent on orthogenesis, whereas the latter typically requires the ancestors of the given ‘descendant species’ to come from ancestors that are themselves part of the same stock or species, and requires convergence, not (necessarily) orthogenesis.

    Link to this
  44. 44. Lars Dietz 9:45 am 08/24/2014

    Darren: That’s not how I understood it. See the paper I linked to in comment 40 on the ideas behind hologenism. As far as I understood it, Rosa believed that, say, birds indeed had a common ancestor, but that ancestor was not a bird yet, as the “bird characters” would have been acquired independently by orthogenesis in its descendants. Thus humans would be monophyletic with respect to other taxa such as modern apes, but the common ancestor of humans may have been what we would call an ape, or even more primitive. So in this respect it may be called a form of polygenism. It seems to have followed from some “laws of evolution” that were assumed a priori, without actual good evidence that they worked. But I admit I don’t really understand why Montandon would have thought De Loys’ Ape supported those ideas.

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  45. 45. naishd 11:57 am 08/24/2014

    Thanks, Lars. The definition and explanation of hologenism given in Luzzatto et al. (2000) is not really consistent with the way the concept is described in the anthropology literature; virtually everything I’ve ever read as goes what hologenism is/was meant to be comes from the anthropology literature. It does seem, so far as I can tell, that anthropologists did indeed have an ‘orthogenetic polygenism’ in mind when discussing hologenism. In fact, it’s sometimes spelt ‘ologenism’ – is it really the same thing? I just checked Bowler (1986), who states [after a discussion of Guiseppe Sergi's ideas of radical polgenism]…

    “Sergi’s theory implied that the races had evolved independently on every continent. His work was enthusiastically cited as late as 1929 by the French anthropologist George Montandon in support of the theory of ologenism. This theory started from the assumption that life originally appeared over the whole surface of the globe, all future development being somehow latent within the first forms. Evolution consisted of the periodic splitting of each line into advanced and retrogressive forms, with the event taking place simulataneously over the whole of the earth’s surface. Montandon applied his idea to mankind by supposing that Pithecanthropus had a global distribution, and had undergone repeated diversifications to produce the various extinct and living races. Since this theory entirely eliminated the geographical element in speciation, it was not exactly a form of polygenism, Montandon claimed that his position was opposed equally to monogenism and polygenism” (p. 141).

    Ref – -

    Bowler, P. J. 1987. Theories of Human Evolution: A Century of Debate 1844-1944. Basil Blackwell, Oxford.

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  46. 46. Lars Dietz 12:47 pm 08/30/2014

    Sorry for taking so long to reply. I think it’s the same thing with and without the h (remember that the h is not pronounced in French and Italian). I’ve also read Bowler’s book, and it agrees in general with the other sources I’ve seen. Note that this refers to a common origin of living humans from “Pithecanthropus”, not to convergent evolution from unrelated species. But I haven’t been able to find Montandon’s book itself, and most of the other original sources are in Italian, which I don’t speak. So what I’ve read mostly comes from the secondary literature as well.

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  47. 47. naishd 1:11 pm 09/16/2014

    Thanks for the further thoughts. I’m more confused than I was earlier, since I can’t help but think that whatever evolutionary model Montandon had in mind, it was indeed a version of polygenism. Maybe the application of the term hologenism to his idea was incorrect.

    Link to this

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