Wednesday, October 06, 2004

LONG LOST COUSIN?

Giant ape may be new

An elusive giant ape has been spotted in remote forests in central Africa, sparking theories that it could be a new species of primate - a finding that would be the most astonishing wildlife discovery in decades, New Scientist says....

The creature's face is gorilla-like and has a sagittal crest - a long bony ridge - that is typical of gorillas.

But other aspects of the skull morphology are that of a chimpanzee, according to Colin Groves, an expert at the Australian National University in Canberra....

Shelly Williams, a US primatologist affiliated to the Jane Goodall Institute in Maryland, captured the apes on video in 2002 with the help of local people and was once briefly confronted by a group of four of them in dense forest.

This, along with other evidence, makes her think that there is a chance the animals could be a new species of great primate - in other words, an undiscovered genetic relative of humans.

Other possibilities are that it is a gorilla-chimp hybrid, or a new sub-species of chimp that would be 50 per cent bigger than its largest cousins....