|MadSci Network: General Biology|
Dear Dan, Neat to have someone asking about the human animal for a change.If you leave out mythical or biblical references as being unscientific, your question revolves around the BigFoot/Yeti arguments. These unknown creatures are almost a myth themselves because they have the same aura that surrounds objects or ideas that people realy want to believe in. It's hard to deny them too, because we don't want to disappoint them particularly, or to be found out as not having our scientific minds open when something novel pops up. All that old science can offer is either Gigantapithecus, an asian genus that died out with 3 metre species http://www.wynja.com/arch/gigantopithecus.html related distantly to our present orangs, or some dug-up bits ( I apologise to the palaeontologists) from various continents which purport to be footprints, digits or other giant parts of an unknown organism. The danger for all fossils that are incomplete is that we make up far too much computerised bumph or colours or hair or whatever. We can never be content with what is there. Human nature is to scale it up until we touch the barrier beyond which any argument is unjustifiable. Finally, our own species. We seem to be growing larger in height, possibly following the Middle Ages, when starvation of the peasantry was frequent, or even the Irish potato famine of the 19th century(almost the 20th). It's likely that big humans like our present-day large sportsman inspired the Goliath and other stories. In early human society before the evolution of cities, food could have been plentiful and the genetic drive to evolve smaller or larger is in every species. The advantage of size could have been strength but humans have survived by teamwork, so perhaps the large guys had something suited to their environment if they ever grew very tall. So, to recap, there is no evidence whatsoever that very big humans have existed. There are probably people alive today (eg. 2.72 metres!) who are as big as humans have been. But different species have reached at least 3 metres, (although the hominid types have usually been small or even dwarf, compared to us). If you want big, you need to look at enormous mammals like whales or prehistoric elephants. If you want more on your Irish friend, I did find a scientific and very wide-ranging article for you, pointing out the vagaries of science. We do not always consider evidence with proper respect, especially if we are the Smithsonian Institute apparently - see http://ourworld. compuserve.com/homepages/DP5/ape2.htm>
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