Gigantopithecus Blacki

Gigantopithecus blacki, named after Davidson Black, is known only from four lower jaws with about a thousand teeth. Judging from their enormous size, Gigantopithecus was the largest primate that ever lived, with males standing at 10 feet tall, and weighing up to 1200 lbs.

Gigantopithecus blacki could be found on the continent of Asia, specifically in the countries of China and Vietnam. Gigantopithecus Blacki occured during the Pleistocene epoch.

The diet of Gigantopithecus blacki appeared to be that of hard fibrous material, based on the jaw and teeth morphology this species had.

The estimated body mass of Gigantopithecus blacki suggests that this species was a terrestrial quadruped, like the extant species, Gorilla gorilla.

Well over 2 million years ago, a giant ape was said to roam the forests of China and south east Asia. This ape was Gigantopithecus Blacki. The species which was thought to have been extinct for more then 500,000 years. Gigantopithecus was the largest known primate to ever walk the earth.

G.H.R von Koenigswald, a dutch paleoanthropologist, discovered the first fossil tooth of Gigantopithecus blacki in 1935 in an apothecary shop in Hong Kong. For centuries the Chinese have sold ‘dragons’ teeth and bones to be ground up as a medicinal. These ‘dragon’ bones are actually anctient fossils. After the first discovery of the “Giganto” tooth he searched many more pharmacies over the next four years only toefind three more “Giganto” teeth. The pharmasists told him the teeth probably came from the region of Guangxi. Based on the dirt clinging teeth, and the fact that their roots had been apparently gnawed away by porcupines. The teeth were found mixed in with middle-Pleistocene elephant and panda fossils, von Koenigswald estimated their age at around 125,000 to 700,000 years old.

von Koenigswald’s researches were interrupted when he was taken prisoner by the Japanese in World War II. His collection of “Giganto” teeth (the only existing evidence the ape existed) were buried in a milk bottle in a friend’s backyard until the war was over.

Most of the potential fossil sites in China have been picked clean, which brings us to UI researcher Russ Ciochon who choose to look in Vietnam for any remains of “Giganto”.

Ciochon noticed similarities between the giant ape and the giant panda, both animals have thick mandibles, pitted teeth and unusually high occurences of tooth decay. He knew large herbivores favored only one type of plant. He hypothosized that “Giganto” fed on the plentiful bamboo of Southeast Asia.

There appeared to be no way to investigate Giganto’s diet directly until Anthropology graduate student Robert Thompson mentioned phytoliths. Phytoliths are microscopic bits of silica formed by certain plants between their cells. Each plant creates it’s on Phytolith shapes, thus making it possible to check the fossil teeth of Giganto.

It appears that Gigantopithecus appeared in the fossil record about 6.3million years ago, thriving in Southeast Asia. Early huminoids (Homo Erectus), spread into Gigantopithecus’ territory around 800,000 years ago. It’s estimated within half a million years of the arrival of Homo Erectus, Giganto had become extinct. Several factors come into play with the extinction: Bamboo forests are subject to sudden and mysterious die-offs, and the arrival of Homo Erectus, who may have also eaten Bamboo, or used it to make tools. Which likely made it hard for Giantopithecus to survive the die-offs.

The analysis revealed some of the Giganto teeth did have phytoliths embedded into the enamel, two types of phytoliths were discovered – needlelike grass phytoliths and hat-shaped fruit phytoliths were found on the teeth. Many types of grass (including Bamboo) have needlelike phytoliths. The presence of said phytoliths is consistent with Ciochon’s theory.

Since the discovery by von Koenigswald, three jaw bones, and about a thousand teeth have been recovered. The teeth and bones found are all the evidence there is to prove Gigantopithecus Blacki ever existed.

Currently Scientists looking for “Giganto” fossils dig in the caves and limestone towers of Southeast Asia.

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