Monday, December 4, 2006

The Yowie - Morphology

Hominoid": Group of primates that includes humans, their ancestors (thus all hominids), as well as the great apes (pongids).
Hominid: Group of primates to which humans and their ancestors (but not the great apes) belong.
The Yowie appears to be some kind of relict hominoid. There may be more than one kind. They may be descendents of Gigantopithecus blackii, a type of robust Australopithecine, or a mega-version of Homo erectus descended from Java Man. Rex Gilroy favours the Gigantopithecus and H. erectus ideas, while others feel it may even be a bipedal marsupial. Others feel that it is some kind of bush spirit from the dreamtime, or may be partially flesh and blood and partially paranormal.
We feel that the simplest explanation would be that it (or they) are either descendents of Gigantopithecus or some kind of hominid or both. We believe that the majority of "Yowie" sightings indicate a large bipedal pongid or hominoid. It is massive and covered in long hair. Characteristics and behaviour described by eyewitnesses appear to closely resemble that of the great apes.
Name: Yowie, Doolagarl, Junjadee, Australian Bush Ape
Proposed scientific name: Gigantopithecus australis, Australopithecus australis
Range: Northern Queensland south to the mountains of NSW and Victoria.
Habitat: Live in forests.
Status: Unknown. Potentially in danger of extinction because of encroachment on their habitat and low numbers.
Diet: Plants, berries, leaves, birds, small to medium sized mammals and marsupials.
Behaviour: Variable. Reports have been made describing their behaviour from friendly and curious to outright hostile. Behavioural similarities to gorillas can be noted. Reports have been made of yowies chestbeating, thumping sticks and rocks on the ground. Vocalisations have been reported from hoots and growls through to extremely powerful bellowing and screaming. A strange unintelligle chattering and gibberish has also been mentioned, that which initially sounds like a person talking but appears upon listening not be human language.
Nesting: Do not appear to make permanent shelter, nor for that matter any complex arrangements beyond criss-crossing stick arrangements. Many reports have been made of apparent short-term nesting sites, comprising flattened areas of long grass, hidden deep in swamps or nests in lantana. This kind of behaviour also mimics that of gorillas, that build a camp daily, comprising leaves and branches, and evidenced by large areas of flattened vegetation.
Skin: The yowie is described as having very dark skin on the face, the rest of the body usually covered in long hair.
Hair: The body hair is variable in colour, from black through dark brown to reddish brown. Length varies from very long (15cm) on the arms, to shorter all over (5cm?). The hair is sometimes not long enough on the body to obscure the genitalia.
If we assume (as do researchers at the BFRO of the USA), that the yowie is a member of the primate family tree, the we can surmise that the yowie has hair rather than fur. Why the yowie is hairy, in contrast to the indigenous inhabitants of Australia, is a matter for conjecture. A plausible explanation is that since these creatures do not make semi-permanent shelters, they are very prone to the elements and long hair protects them.
Head and Face: The head is described as having a low, sloping backward forehard, sometimes with a suggested saggital ridge/crest. The brow ridges are inevitably described as very conspicuous, giving rise to descriptions such as "it looked like a gorilla".
The head is inevitably described as "sunk into the shoulders" and of giving a stooped appearance. The short neck may be a variation on effective head positioning following the move from quadrupedalism to bipedalism. Grover Krantz describes the significance of this feature in his excellent book.
The head is often described as "out of proportion" and smaller than a human head. These two features suggest a relatively small brain. The head is sometimes described as "round".
The face is usually described as hair free.
When the eyes are visible, they are described as large, deep set and black or brown. There have been many reports of "large red, glowing eyes" being sighted at night. This feature may be eye-shine from the inside of the eye - possibly the tapetum. Some eyewitnesses have said they have seen red, glowing eyes, even when no direct light source was present. It is interesting to note that the very obvious eye-shine of some species of Australian flying foxes is not due to the tapetum. These flying foxes have an unusual array of sharp bumps on the inside back wall of the eye.
Considering that yowies appear to be mostly nocturnal, we could possibly expect a large proportion of rods to cones in the retina. This is however very very unusual in primates. Flying foxes have nearly 100% rods.
The nose and mouth are rarely well described. The teeth have been described as being large with prominent canines. Other reports tell of "normal" being human-like teeth.
Body: The shoulders of the yowie are described as massive and proportionally larger than those of humans.
The chest is also described as very large and the body is usually described as evidently muscular.
Female breasts are variously described as either small in presumably younger individuals and pendulous in other older individuals.
The arms are often described as "disproportionately long", in comparison to human arms. The arms are often reported to hang down beyond the knees.
Hands have not been well described by eyewitnesses.
The legs are usually described as massively thick and strong in appearance.IntelligenceThe yowie would appear to be a very intelligent and elusive primate. It appears to be extremely adept at avoiding detection, although when it wants to make contact with humans, can be quite forthcoming, and seems content moving about in semi-surburban areas. However, if it was a hominid, it would have limited capacity. It does not make fire, nor has it been seen using tools of any sort, except sticks and stones. It does not appear to make even semi-permanent shelter.
Primate Migration and the Wallace Line.
If the yowie is indeed a hominoid, the question is always raised as to how it got here from Asia (or if it evolved here?). There has been very little fossil or other evidence so far of primate migration into Australia and Papua New Guinea from the rest of South East Asia (where there is some evidence of prehistoric apes, and plenty of present day primates).
The Wallace Line, a line proposed by Wallace (a colleague of Charles Darwin and proponent of the theory of natural selection), crosses between Bali and Lombok, in present-day Indonesia. South / East of this line, none of the Asian primates appears to have travelled. The distance between the islands is not great, but a deep ocean trench exists and existed in this region, which prevented land migration eastward from Bali, even when sea levels were much lower in the Pleistocene. There are very significant differences between tha faunal types on either sides of the Wallace Line.
So how did such a primate as described by bush Australians cross this line? And WAS this line such a barrier as has been previously proposed? Recent work on primate migration during the Pleistocene suggests that the Wallace Line may not have represented such an impossible barrier to cross as has been previously thought. It was however limiting to primates, not so much because there was a deep ocean crosing required, but because as the lower sea levels related to drier periods in the region, the habitat of the primates was restricted to the highlands, and the coastal regions were more savannah like. For this reason, it is suggested that the small primates of the region did not even live near to the coast, so even the opportunity for accidental migration on fallen trees etc would have been small.
But perhaps a large very strong primate would not have had such problems crossing the sea.