Bigfoot is characterized as a large, bipedal creature covered in hair with long arms, toned muscles, and an appearance representing a combination of man and ape. The question of how such a species could exist alongside ours without having been discovered by our scientific community is baffling to many; individuals tend to boast that if this creature ever did exist, it must be extinct by now, otherwise we would have discovered it. However, we are not lending this creature’s intelligence, and possible origins enough credit. Today we take a walk back through time; we will dissect the evolution of apes and man to discover clues about how a man-like species might survive as long as us, without directly competing and remaining elusive. How did it get here, and how intelligent could it be? We will piece together the characteristics of Ardipithecus, Paranthropus, and Australopithecus to determine which branch of bipedal man and ape-like creatures Bigfoot may have descended from. Ardipithecus was the very first ape species to walk bipedally. They are the closest link we have to primates. This species was rather small and primitive, so Bigfoot stemming off of this branch is unlikely.
The next two groups of evolved human-like species were Australopithecus and Paranthropus. These groups both walked upright but differed in some characteristics. For example, Paranthropus aethiopicus had large megadont teeth and a very strong jaw. Perhaps the most important feature to note on this species was a developed sagittal crest (slightly pointed head at the top of the skull) which allowed for huge chewing muscles. Since the muscles that connected toward the back of the crest were so strong, these creatures were able to chew very well with their front teeth. Unfortunately, very few remains of this species have been found. Just like other creatures from the Paranthropus genus, Paranthropus boisei had adaptations for strong chewing. A prominent sagittal crest on the midline of the top of the skull connected large chewing muscles from the top and side of the braincase to the lower jaw. This anatomy moved the species’ jaw up and down very mechanically. This creature had huge cheek teeth four-times the size of a modern human’s and the thickest dental enamel of any known early human. Because of their sagittal crest and larger cranial capacity, this species had a fast-growing brain. Remember, food equals intelligence in the equation of evolution.
The Australopithecine group was known for land and tree-dwelling, with adaptations for both walking and climbing. These creatures had traits of both humans and apes. For example, Australopithecus anamensis has a shin bone showing a human-like placement of the ankle joint, which points to frequent bipedalism. However, their long arms and strong wrist bones indicate their climbing abilities which likely lasted close to 1 million years. These multi-functional limbs supporting walking and climbing were also found in Australopithecus africanus, whose round cranium housed a large brain, and Australopithecus afarensis, whose children matured quickly after birth. Australopithecus afarensis is one of the longest-lived and best-known early human species, surviving for more than 900,000 years (four times as long as our own species has been around.) Perhaps their land and tree adaptations allowed them to excel and sustain as a species for so long. After Australopithecus and alongside the Paranthropus group came Homo.
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Archeological research shows that Homo erectus, our early ancestor, actually constructed stone tools. Because of their ability to hunt, they were now consuming high-energy meat. This energy would be enough to power and grow the brain, increasing intelligence, which would eventually lead to an increase in population. The early Homo-Sapien resembled something of a modern man from Africa, with a round braincase and a flat face. Similar to Homo erectus, Homo-Sapien used stone tools to gather high energy food. Because of their newly created weapons, humans began to hunt. However, they would soon run into some major dilemmas while catching prey: becoming prey themselves. Humans had to be extremely organized while hunting in order to avoid large cats and other predators. This need for organization eventually evolved the intelligence of the Homo-Sapien brain. This type of social culture would evolve us into what we are today. Aside from hunting, the human brain development took place when migration kicked in. When land became bone dry, humans were forced to regroup and migrate. Evidence discovered of a 100,000 year old artifact suggests that the primitive Sans people stored water in empty Ostrich eggs while traveling, and during migration they hunted and cooked over fire. Experts believe Homo-Sapiens may have used similar methods. Their brains were growing, and they were evolving. During this time, a form of verbal language was also present. Could Bigfoot be a Homo species? Perhaps we can assume that the only way its species may be around today is by an intelligent brain and social culture evolved from language and tool-making. However, Bigfoot’s description seems to line up more with the Paranthropus species, a robust group of creatures adapted to chew difficult substances, and house a growing brain. What we must take into account is that Paranthropus did, in fact, use tools made of bones to dig into termite mounds. Additionally, many scientists believe language was not restricted to just our homo species. If we take a look at the evolutionary map, we see that we have only identified 3 species of Paranthropus, 4 species of Australopithecus, and 7 species of Homo. Scientists suggest that there are more species of human-like creatures not yet discovered. Perhaps Bigfoot is a descendant of a missing species on our chart. It wouldn’t be so far off for a Paranthropus descendant to have survived up until today. In fact, Homo Erectus, our early ancestor existed at the very same time as Paranthropus boisei and Paranthropus Robustus. Could a fourth species of Paranthropus have evolved from these two earlier species? If this is the case, then that mystery species would have existed at the same time as early Homo sapiens.
Research suggests that Paranthropus’ cranial space allowed for a steady brain size increase. In addition to a growing brain over time, this species had extremely powerful jaws and strong teeth, adapted to chew harder substances. Because of their vast diet, they may have been expert hunter-gatherers, consuming protein from fruits, termites, and meat. This means that a mystery descendant of this species would have been adapted to eating meat well before early Homo sapiens began to. With an already-increasing brain size from a larger cranial cavity, and protein source from meat, this species may have evolved much quicker than our own. Eventually, this increase in intelligence would lead to a form of language and social culture much like our own. Paranthropus were about 4ft in height, and 120lbs. Over time, the mystery descendants of Paranthropus may have grown in size to adapt to different climates and environments. They would have migrated to the U.S. and Canada via land bridge with the Native Americans. Perhaps with their growing brain and size, they were able to compete with Native Americans for food and land. We are naive to think that this species may not be as intelligent as our own. While many Europeans were evolving, Native Americans and the mystery species were thriving, adapting, and growing. When early European settlers discovered the Americas, they spoke of strange creatures with an identical description to Bigfoot, which we can now say looks much like an evolved Paranthropus descendant. These creatures had time to evolve, away from technologically advanced humans. They were not exposed to ships, modern weapons, and disease. Instead, they advanced in a different type of technology; they learned to live off of the land and create a shelter so advanced, we have yet to find any solid evidence of one. In the right environment, why couldn’t this species survive for 900,000 years like Australopithecus? They would have lived off of the land and shared a mutual respect with the Natives, as per many stories of the creature by various tribes. Some tribes feared this species as a higher being, other tribes viewed it as an ancestor. Either way, it was respected and left alone. For such a mutual agreement to happen between species, the mystery species was likely powerful and intelligent enough to intimidate the Native Americans.
In fact, not only did Native Americans respect the creature but adopted it into their social culture. The Columbia River in Oregon has offered artifacts that have baffled scientists. Native American carvings were uncovered near the river’s edge, representing an ape-like face. These Oregon Natives had to have understood the way an ape-like face appears, which remains a mystery in modern science. Dr. Roderick Sprague reflects on the artifacts: “Why would people be interested in making a carving of something they’ve never seen?” He continues to explain that many beliefs and artwork from natives is inspired by things they actually saw. How is it that this creature shares the same half-ape, half-man characteristics throughout every tribe, without having any known apes discovered in these regions? The answer lies in our evolutionary history. The Paranthropus species was ape and man-like, and had primitive features mixed with advanced adaptations. This species existed alongside our ancestor and exhibited behavior similar to Homo species. Their physical description is best identified by their prominent sagittal crest, a feature reported time and time again in Bigfoot eye-witness reports and documented in the famous Patterson-Gimlin film. Our ancestry tree is bare and uneven. There are species missing from our evolutionary knowledge and we struggle to find answers as to what ancestor we share with apes. Why is science afraid to find the answer to our most-asked question: Who is the mystery species roaming the forests of the United States?
“Human Family Tree.” The Smithsonian Institution's Human Origins Program, 15 Jan. 2019, humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/human-family-tree.
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