Re: Exaptation and cookie

Thomas Clarke (
16 Oct 1995 16:50:18 GMT

In article <> writes:

> Neither have I heard back from you about my questions to you based
> on your reply to the post of yours you mention. Among those
> questions was:

> JM> If, as it seems from your post, you know nothing about "swamp monkeys"
> JM> except the name, what do you base your thinking they are "almost a
> JM> perfect model" on?

What luck! William Calvin is a real Web addict and the whole text
of his book "The River That Flows Uphill: A Journey from the Big Bang
to the Big Brain" is on the web. I excerpt the following from the
chapter/section "Day 9/Mile 136"

Many hominid-like anatomical changes are seen in one primate which did
go aquatic, the swamp ape (some would say swamp monkey) Oreopithecus,
whose bones were preserved in large numbers because they sank into
the mud; one Italian coal seam yielded a virtually complete Oreopithecus
skeleton. It has the short broad pelvis like the upright walker, the
hominoid elbow modifications, the flattened face, the short canine
teeth, the curved finger bones typical of Lucy and the other early
hominids (physical anthropologists love nothing better than to talk
about whether bones are straight or curved as a clue to function)
-- all the things needed to make Oreopithecus a potential hominid
ancestor, were it not for its northerly location and disputed membership
in the ape club. But it shows what life in the swamp can do to a primate
as the sea rises and the islands become smaller and smaller. It also
shows the likely fate of such experiments: Oreopithecus went extinct.
One wonders how many other times this process has begun, only for the
physical conditions to eventually change faster than the biological capacity
to adapt.

His reference is:
Eric Delson, "Oreopithecus is a cercopithecoid after all."
American Journal of Physical Anthropology 50(3):431-432 (1979).

He goes on:

The objections to the aquatic hypothesis have varied. True, primates
typically have a fear of falling into the water -- but various
water-loving primates have evolved nonetheless. Besides the extinct
Oreopithecus, there are such present-day examples as the talapoin in
the rivers of Gabon, the proboscis monkey of the mangrove swamps of
Borneo, which sometimes swims well out to sea for unknown reasons, and
the crab-eating macaque of the Philippines. Gorillas in zoos are reported
to love swimming, especially the breast stroke. An ethologist studying
wild chimps at several different African sites now reports that they have
no fear of water. Wild pygmy chimps have been seen wading in streams
and snatching at fish. So much for that objection.

His reference for the chimps in water is
Paul Raeburn, "An uncommon chimp," SCIENCE 83 4(5):40-48 (June 1983).

I've read somewhere else about the proboscis monkeys, but I can't
put my finger on it. Something about the natives saying that the
"monkeys are going for a walk" when they are seen moving bipedaly
on land.

I checked Diamond's the 3rd Chimpanzee and he is not my source,

Calvin's book is at
I could also post somemore excerpts without doing too much
violence to the copyright, I would think.

Tom Clarke