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Andrew J. Petto RSS Feed (Philadelphia, PA USA)

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Field Guide To Bigfoot, Yeti, & Other Mystery Primates Worldwide
Field Guide To Bigfoot, Yeti, & Other Mystery Primates Worldwide
by Loren Coleman
Edition: Paperback
25 used & new from $4.94

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Looking for Mr. Goodlink, August 6, 2000
This book looks like any other field guide you might pick up. It has drawings, maps, tracks, descriptions of the organisms, and the details of the most prominent sightings or evidence. Coleman and Huyghe spend a considerable amount of time explaining the evolutionary pathways that could have led to the radiation of these "mystery primates". They even construct a sort of taxonomy that revises the Hominidae into 9 tribes that each contain several genera - with the "mystery primates" among them and linked to specific ancestral lineages in the fossil record.
This is not an anti-evolutionary book, but the use of evolutionary theory and evolutionary ecology to support the book's thesis is decidedly non-mainstream. The most significant error is the authors' confusion of the "single species hypothesis" - the model that proposes that modern humans emerged from a single, geographically-localized pre-sapiens population - with the competitive exclusion principle - the concept that competition between species using the same resources in the same way in the same environment will result in either extinction or new adaptation among the competitors. Furthermore, modern paleoanthropologists generally do not regard any particular fossil specimen as the ancestor of any other particular specimen. However, Coleman and Huyghe seem quite comfortable making direct links between, for example, Paranthropus and "Neo-Giants", such as Sasquatch, or between Gigantopithecus and "True Giants", such as gilyuk, orang dalam, misabe, or chenoo.
On the other hand, this is not a scientific book. True to the long tradition of pseudoscientific "research", the authors seem to accept almost any claim as "evidence". They provide detailed descriptions and drawings of organisms whose characteristics are constructed from traces presumed to be tracks or footprints. Often the descriptions and classifications are based on "eyewitness" accounts. The authors' chief rationale for accepting this "evidence" at face value is summarized near the end of the book.
"Could there be other primates as yet undiscovered by science roaming the world's wilderness areas? Absolutely. Throughout the twentieth century new primates continues to turn up at an astounding pace. Everything from large monkeys to small prosimians are being discovered." (p 172)
Indeed. There is one important difference, however. These newly-discovered primate species were found only recently because scientists began looking for them only recently - in systematic and intense surveys meant to characterize the entire ecological community in which they lived. With the possible exception of the mountain gorilla, their discovery is not the vindication of indigenous accounts of strange, mysterious creatures roaming the wilderness. In contrast, systematic scientific surveys have failed to confirm the existence of any of these other "mystery primates."
Coleman and Huyghe do admit that the lack of concrete evidence is a serious problem for their conclusions, and they lament the fact that to "prove" that they are correct about these creatures, someone will undoubtedly have to produce a carcass - or at least, they say, quoting Anthropologist Grover Krantz, you will have to "cut off the biggest piece you can carry and then go for help to retrieve the remainder" (p 178). Of course, that would help to identify the taxonomic status of the organism. But if the experience of the infamous Japanese "plesiosaur" is any indication, any scientific study that refutes the claim of a "mystery primate" would be vigorously and persistently discounted.
The authors provide 8 pages of "case sources" - reports of "mystery primates" - and 8 pages of resources organized by region. There are also 8 pages of bibliographic references, many devoted to the discovery of "new" primate species. However, the only reports in peer-reviewed scientific literature on the so-called "mystery primates" in this field guide are those that find that there is no conclusive evidence for the existence of such organisms. The same is true for this book - it has no scientific value as a field guide.
On the other hand, anyone interested in folk zoology - especially anyone interested in how legends and animal lore intersect with modern scientific research - would find this to be an intriguing volume. At the very least, it is an extensive, if uncritical, catalog of all the variations on the "mystery primate" theme organized geographically and annotated extensively. My copy is on the shelf next to White's (1984) Book of Beasts, and Merian's (1998) 1300 Real and Fanciful Animals....
Adapted from a review in _Reports of the National Center for Science Education_ 2000 May/Jun; 20(3).

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