Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Article on orang-pendek as new species

Adam Davies has published an article making the case for the orang-pendek of Sumatra and neighboring regions as a new species of primate. It's well-written and compelling, though he stops short of offering a scientific binomial (explaining that, if he did so, too much discussion would be on the name vs. the evidence.) So the species has not been formally described. The footprint, eyewitness, and hair evidence is good, though the hair is confusing: the DNA says "human" but the structure says "orang-utan." Davies and the scientist who examined the hair insist there is no evidence of contamination.
(While the following case does not involve a primate, there is a precedent for the hair of one mammalian species looking like it belongs to another. For some reason, the occasional mutant known as the king cheetah has hair structured like that of a leopard instead of normal cheetah hair.)
COMMENT: I think this is one of the cases where cryptozoologists are right and a "cryptid" wil turn out to be an important new species. Well-known tiger conservationist Debbie Martyr has seen the animal, and no less an authority than Dr. John MacKinnon of the WWF saw bipedal primate tracks he could not identify.
But we're not there yet on scientific recognition, and the impact of this article will be limited because most anthropologists and primatologists are going to automatically dismiss an article that appears in a magazine with articles of mediums and homeopathy. EdgeScience, published by the Society for Scientific Exploration, is a notch above most "paranormal" magazines in the credibility department, but the orang-pendek needs to be treated in a mainstream science magazine to have the impact Davies wants - protection of the species and its habitat.

No comments: