Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The "Tuscan Swamp Ape"

No, it is not another Bigfoot, it is an ape that appears to have gone extinct toward the end of the Miocene, around 5.5 mya and went by the name of Oreopithecus (which Fred Smith used to call "the cookie monster"). According to the story in Life in Italy:

It had a small head and large eyes, and its teeth indicate it lived on a diet of berries, fruits and vegetables. Crucially, it also had hands capable of manipulation similar to that of a human being. According to Rook, it had more dexterity than any ape alive today and could handle objects with the same precision that was formerly thought to be the exclusive capability of homo sapiens and their direct ancestors. The Swamp Ape evolved in isolation from other animals on the tropical island, where it appeared to have had no natural predators. However, as sea levels fell with the Ice Age, a land bridge appeared, bringing with it dangerous new species, including large predators, which eventually wiped out the Swamp Ape.

Convergent evolution. I love it.

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