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Palaeontology

Real-life 10ft prehistoric 'King Kong' disappeared 215,000 years ago

By T.K. Randall
January 11, 2024 · Comment icon 10 comments
An AI-generated image of gigantopithecus.
Giant apes were once very much the real deal. Image Credit: Bing AI / Dall-E 3
Known as Gigantopithecus blacki, this enormous primate was the largest of its kind ever to walk the Earth.
King Kong might be relegated to the silver screen, but there is no denying the existence of its real-life prehistoric counterpart - a 10ft behemoth known as Gigantopithecus blacki.

For millions of years, this enormous ape roamed what is today modern-day China, but then something happened around 600,000 years ago that eventually caused it to go extinct.

What's interesting is that we actually know very little about Gigantopithecus save for what can be ascertained from a few fossilized teeth and jawbone fragments.

We don't even know what it looked like and no complete skeleton has ever been found.

Determining exactly what wiped the species out, therefore, has long proven a challenge.

Now in a renewed effort to solve this mystery, scientists including Associate Professor Kira Westaway of Macquarie University ventured to China's Guangxi Province to explore 22 separate caves from which they collected samples of pollen, fossils and sediment.
By analyzing these samples, they were able to build up a picture of the region's environmental history.

It turns out that around 2.3 million years ago, the region was covered in dense forests that would have been the perfect habitat for Gigantopithecus.

Around 600,000 years ago, however, things began to change.

"The more seasonal climate created dry periods when fruits were difficult to find," Westaway told IFL Science. "G. blacki relied on a less nutritious fall back food such as bark and twigs whereas [orangutans were] more flexible in [their] fall back food, eating shoots, leaves, flowers, nuts, seeds, and even insects and small mammals."

Unable to adapt or roam very far due to its immense size, Gigantopithecus gradually dwindled in number while orangutans adapted to take advantage of these new opportunities.

Sadly, by around 215,000 years ago, these prehistoric giants had disappeared entirely.



Source: IFL Science | Comments (10)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Abramelin 2 months ago
Amazing what they can conclude from a mere lower jaw and a couple of molars...
Comment icon #2 Posted by L.A.T.1961 2 months ago
So bigfoot lived in China ? 
Comment icon #3 Posted by Piney 2 months ago
The Phys Org article stated it was a distant human ancestor. It wasn't. It's a species of Orang and a distant human relative, 
Comment icon #4 Posted by Carnoferox 2 months ago
There are four mandibles and thousands of teeth known from Gigantopithecus, which come from many localities in Southeast Asia spanning around 2 million years. That is actually a lot of data points from which conclusions can be drawn.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Carnoferox 2 months ago
That article's author must have been reading too much of Grover Krantz's work. 
Comment icon #6 Posted by Piney 2 months ago
? Grover....I love how "cryptozoologists" don't have a clue about evolutionary biology. Which my sister jammed in every hole during my Bigfoot hunting years. 
Comment icon #7 Posted by Occupational Hubris 2 months ago
It is actually amazing. You can infer tons from just a tooth. In fact, in my primate evolution class days, we'd be shown a tooth and based on the type of molar pattern, we'd need to infer diet, habitat, social structure, etc. 
Comment icon #8 Posted by Hammerclaw 2 months ago
Considering its closest relative has been determined to be orangutan, the skeletal morphology has been extrapolated from that of the jaw and teeth. Like the orangutan, it thought to have been a knuckle-walker, not bipedal.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Myles 2 months ago
"Real-life 10ft prehistoric 'King Kong'" Odd to say that.  King Kong was anywhere from 30 feet tall to 300 feet tall.  
Comment icon #10 Posted by C L Palmer 1 month ago
There is a whole lot of inference going on in this article and video. Then again, that's part of the nature of the field. Still, calling a 10 ft. Gigantopithecus a "real-life King Kong" is like calling a monitor lizard a real-life Godzilla. 


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