He was able to do this because he obtained the fossilized tooth of a giant ape as a healing dragon bone in a hidden pharmacy in Hong Kong. This was the first known discovery that A Gigantopithecus blackieThey can be linked, and since then nearly two thousand fossilized remains of teeth and four pieces of jaws have been found in caves in southern China.
If we accept that this was probably the largest ape that ever existed, it is useful to show its dimensions. It must have been about 3 meters long, and its weight was approximately twice the weight of a live gorilla, i.e. 2-300 kilograms. However, the biggest question in paleontology, i.e. paleontology, to this day is why and when they became extinct.
In a week nature But a study published in the magazine attempts to provide an answer about the period in which this animal lived, and what could lead to its extinction.
They were unable to adapt to changing circumstances
The study's authors believe that this species may have disappeared between 295,000 and 215,000 years ago, after the weather became more and more characterized by seasonal changes, which also changed the vegetation in which it had lived until then. In its heyday, Gigantopithecus was surrounded by rich, diverse and dense forests, about two million years ago. He mainly ate fruit in large quantities and drank a lot of water.
However, between 700,000 and 600,000 years ago, we see huge changes in their environment, as a result of which it became increasingly difficult for them to obtain fruit.
At this time, the huge animal was consuming less fiber food, feeding only on tree branches and bark that had fallen to the ground, at least that is what we saw from the changed structure of its teeth.
says one of the study's co-authors, Professor Keira Westaway To CNN. Interestingly, its relative, the orangutan, survived this period, perhaps because it was able to climb trees and reach higher fruits, unlike Gigantopithecus string.
Caves are the keys to the solution
The professor and his colleagues began studying caves in southern China, in the mountainous karst region of Guangxi Province, which could be home to giant apes. The Chinese-Australian research team examined 22 caves in the area bordering Vietnam. In half of them, remains associated with giant apes were found, and in the other half nothing of the kind was found.
Sediment samples taken from the caves were analyzed using a variety of modern methods, and with the help of this a timeline was developed, thanks to which the steps that led to the extinction of animal species can be traced. According to Westaway, hundreds more have been found in caves used two million years ago
However, 3-4 Gigantopithecus teeth were found only in “younger” caves, and this already occurred in the extinction period referred to previously.
They also analyzed pollen residues found in sediment samples, which revealed how changing environmental conditions fundamentally changed the diet of great apes. The professor added that it became clear that the monkeys could not adapt well to the changing conditions, and may have suffered from chronic stress, while the number of individuals decreased continuously.
Strange, inexplicable questions remained
Professor Westaway finds it surprising that although giant apes inhabited certain parts of Asia two million years ago, nothing but skulls have been found. One of the study's authors, Wang Wei, a professor at the Institute of Cultural Heritage at Sandong University in Qingdao, pointed out that these monkeys never lived in caves.
According to their hypothesis, the artifacts found in the caves, that is, the remains of dead animals, could have been brought there by rodents, often through cracks and crevices of the craggy karst mountains in the area.
Wang said the found tusks attest that the dead animal's carcass ended up in the sediments as a result of a rather complex and decomposing aging process. That is, just that The hardest parts of Gigantopithecus' body have remained in fossil form.
Since no parts have been found outside the skull, it is very difficult to determine the exact appearance of these animals. Interestingly, the percentage of his upper molars is 57 percent, while the percentage of his lower molars is 33 percent. Bigger than a gorilla. Accordingly, they estimated his body weight, which ranged from 200 to 300 kilograms. Because of its massive body, it is assumed that it lived mostly on land and walked on all four limbs. An analysis published in 2019 revealed that its closest relative was the Bornean orangutan.
We know that one of the ancestors of today's humans, Homo erectus, lived in the northern part of China and the southern part of Indonesia, at a time when giant apes were allowed to roam the southern China region. . Professor Wang pointed out, in the area where The remains of Gigantopithecus have been found, and archaeologists have excavated a large number of stone tools dating back about 800 thousand years.
A new field of science also helped
at recent days tudas.hu In order to more comprehensively analyze fossils and ancient materials, researchers are now focusing not only on DNA, but also on proteins, he wrote. This new specialty is A Ancient proteins. According to its representatives Proteins last much longer than DNA. Some proteins can remain analyzable for up to ten times under certain conditions.
Research on giant apes was also discussed. In 2019, experts in paleoproteomics from the University of Copenhagen successfully extracted proteins from Gigantopithecus, which existed for a long time and lived approximately 2 million to 350 thousand years ago. The group extracted the proteins from a 1.9 million-year-old molar found in a cave in the subtropical region of southern China. The most important result of the research was that it demonstrated the possibility of extracting protein groups up to two million years old from samples preserved in tropical conditions and not just frozen.
(Cover image: Friedman Schrenk holding the universal molar of Gigantopithecus blackie. Image: Wikipedia)