There were Neanderthal man, Cro-Magnon man, and Java man. They lived thousands of years ago and, among them, in lots of places. Now there is a new species of homo erectus: ''Zoo man.'' He lives today, in the city zoo of Barcelona, Spain.
Zoo man, actually a Spanish actor, is spending three days and two nights in a cage, ostensibly to show zoo visitors how ''urban man'' lives in his native environment.
He's acting out the jobs of blue-collar workers and executives - and being fed by his keeper (not bananas, we presume).
It's a logical extension, we suppose, of the scrutiny of human beings that's been going on for decades.
Sociologists ponder them; marketing officials analyze them. Educators, teachers, even athletic coaches assess them.
In a sense, it all rather serves urban man right, after decades of his staring at lesser animals behind zoo barriers.
Despite Barcelona's cages, we suspect urban man will remain as elusive to human categorizing as ever. The capacity for looking out and looking in on himself, in good humor, is one of the species' higher forms of adaptability.
Now, how about bringing the irony full circle, and parading the zoo animals past Zoo man's cage to stare?