the Gigantopithecus The giant orangutan that once lived in Asia, grew three meters tall, weighed 200-300 kilograms, and had huge molars, this ancient King Kong.
From the size of its teeth and jaw findings, anthropologists concluded that it was much taller and larger than African gorillas. During the Pleistocene Epoch, it lived for over a million years in the southern part of present-day China, but was then assimilated. Where does such a large animal go? It is very mysterious, being one of the few Asian great apes to become extinct within the last 2.6 million years, while others, including orangutans, have survived to this day.
Paleontologists first found traces of the giant ape in the mid-1930s in a Hong Kong pharmacy, where its giant molars were sold as “healing dragon teeth.” The animal was studied for a long time by the Canadian scientist Davidson Black as “Peking Man”, which is why it received the full taxonomic name of the animal. Giganthopithecus blackie.
Since then, about 2,000 teeth and some jaw bones have been found in the caves of southern China, but since the remains of other parts of the body (skull and legs) have not been found, it is difficult to reconstruct the skeleton of the animal, and one can only infer its size. And body proportions. According to hypotheses, it may have resembled a mix of today's orangutans and mountain gorillas – mountain gorillas are also very long, with the largest specimen reaching two meters by less than five centimetres. The teeth of the primitive ape were covered with a thick layer of enamel, which reveals a lot about its lifestyle, but not for example the size of its hands or feet.
Yingqi Zhang, a researcher at the Beijing Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, has been studying Gigantopithecus fossils for more than a decade and trying to figure out where, when and why this impressive fur disappeared. Now with colleagues The remains of 22 caves in southern China were analyzed (tooth marks, cave sediments), and it was found that giant apes lived on a special diet. To determine the age of the fossils and cave sediments, the researchers used six dating techniques and analyzed isotopes and pollen to reconstruct the environment in which the animal, its teeth and teeth, could have lived.Pongo weidenreichi, who lived at the same time, has been compared Chinese orangutan With its concepts.
The store is empty
The extinction of Gigantopithecus dates back to 215-300 thousand years ago, when serious environmental changes occurred. Analysis of pollen samples revealed that before its disappearance, its habitat was evergreen trees and closed-canopy forests, and its food consisted of fibrous plants, fruits and flowers. But about 600,000 years ago, the climate of the region began to change, the amount of rainfall may have decreased, the dense forests began to disappear and more open grassy areas appeared.
In the new, drier era, food and fruit were harder to find, and Gigantopithecus could not turn to shoots, nuts, insects and seeds – like ancient orangutans – and instead chewed twigs and bark, which were not very nutritious. The newly published report says his teeth showed signs of stress In the field of research.
Under the changed conditions, the ground-bound giant ape could not find itself and unfortunately wandered into smaller forest areas. On the other hand, the smaller and more mobile orangutan was able to travel greater distances through the canopy to search for food.
With the extinction of Gigantopithecus, it became clear that even the largest animals could not survive if their lifestyle became too narrow: if they could only live in a certain environment, even a small change could shake their existence, potentially leading to extinction. Today's orangutans may suffer the same fate, as tree-dwelling apes are seriously threatened by deforestation.