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Gorilla Walks Like A Gorilla, Even On Two Feet

Last week, another video went viral. Actually, there were probably several newly viral videos last week, but I only watched the one with the title slightly more interesting than, “ZOMG, MOST EPIC WINFAIL EVAR!!” By now, millions of humans have seen Ambam, the gorilla who ‘walks like a man.’

Except that he doesn’t walk like a man! The world is full of bipeds, and there are plenty of animals that take advantage of more than one form of locomotion. Birds are the easy example because they all walk on two legs (heh, ‘like a man’), and most also fly and/or swim. Frilled lizards walk and climb on four legs, sprint on two, and swim, for goodness sake! For that matter, some snakes can slither, swim, climb, and glide, and they don’t even have legs or wings to work with. Don’t get me started on octopuses. When Ambam walks bipedally, he still walks like a gorilla, just on two feet.

Sure, he does it better and more often than most gorillas. Certainly, gorillas are close enough relatives of humans that witnessing Ambam’s swagger is exciting to us in ways that seeing pigeons strut never will be. The viral video of Ambam ambulating is definitely cool. But what it doesn’t show us is a gorilla doing anything like a man. Even if living around humans has reinforced the behavior in him and his relatives, it’s still gorilla behavior. Similarly, humans may originally have taught dolphins to tailwalk, but when they do it on their own in captivity or in the wild, it’s dolphin behavior.

This may seem like a silly thing to get bothered about, but consider the fallout from all this malarkey. People are already invoking The Planet of the Apes, the ‘missing link,’ and bigfoot, and it hasn’t been a week. Slightly more serious bloggers still have their biology basics terribly wrong – gorillas are not, will not, cannot evolve into humans. Evar. Yet science fiction publishers and producers are probably going to be flooded with dreadful stories about anthropomorphic gorillas for months. If they’re given enough of that dreck, some of it is bound to get published or made into TV movies.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good anthropomorphism. But in sci-fi, gorillas are as overdone and usually as poorly done as werewolves. My hope at this point is that authors determined to immortalize Ambam will do the world a favor and get their facts right:

He’s a gorilla. He looks, thinks and acts like a gorilla. And dammit, he walks like a gorilla, even on two feet.