Barking up the wrong ape

John Grehan jgrehan at SCIENCEBUFF.ORG
Tue Feb 1 16:18:55 CST 2005

For those interested to take a good look at the question of human
origins and the orangutan rather than just take the word of others, I
can send a pdf (not great quality unfortunately, but readable) of the
following article:


Schwartz, J.H. 2004. Barking up the wrong ape - australopiths and the
quest for chimpanzee characters in hominid fossils. Collegium
Antropologicum 28 Suppl 2: 87-101.



This article illustrates the incongruity of australopiths having
orangutan, rather than chimpanzee, feature. The abstract is as follows: 


"With the shift during the 1980's from a human-great ape ultimately to
an orangutan-(gorilla(human-chimp)) theory of relatedness, the search
for chimpanzee-like features in early hominids intensified.
Reconstructions of early hominids became caricatures of chimpanzees, not
only in soft tissue features (e.g. the nasal region), but in supposed
bony structure (e.g. an interiorly and especially superiorly protruding
supraorbital torus with a distinct posttoral sulcus behind). In spite of
rampant "Panophilia" actual morphologies of the majority of early
hominid specimens are those cited as uniting an orangutan clade. Those
specimens that are "chimpanzee-like" are probably not cladistically



The article shows the poor level of comparability of characters supposed
to show hominid-chimpanzee relationships. For example, Schwartz refers
to Begun's linking of Rudabanyan Dryopithecus (RUD 44) and chimpanzees
with Australopithecus through the presence of a wide glabellar region
and 'incipient' supraorbital torus that anticipated a supposedly
bar-like torus of Australopithecus that was supposedly similar to the
bar-like supra-orbital torus of African apes.


Schwartz points out that a truly bar like supraorbital torus is
restricted to some monkeys. He notes that while the glabellar region of
African apes, RUD 44, and australopiths is somewhat broad, it is also
broad in human, gibbons, colobines, many platyrrhines and various
non-orangutan related hominoids. Schwartz points out that the broad
glabeller region, rather than being a derived feature as presented by
Begun, seems to be primitive for apes or even primates as a whole. 


Schwartz also points out that the presence of an African ape and
especially chimpanzee-like torus is a misconception despite its
widespread prevalence in reconstructions. In reality, no australopith
cranium shows any supraorbital development of note in either an anterior
or superior dimension.


Anyone interested in understanding the hominid fossil record should read
this paper.


Cheers, John Grehan


Dr. John R. Grehan

Director of Science and Collections

Buffalo Museum of Science1020 Humboldt Parkway

Buffalo, NY 14211-1193

email: jgrehan at

Phone: (716) 896-5200 ext 372



Ghost moth research

Human evolution and the great apes



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