Gigantopithecus: Giant Ape That Co-Existed With Early Humans

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Giant ape co-existed alongside humans 100,000 years ago, researcher finds



A gigantic ape, measuring about 10 feet tall and weighing up to 1,200 pounds, co-existed alongside humans, a geochronologist at McMaster University has discovered.

A drawing of the gigantic ape that became extinct about 100,000 years ago.

Using a high-precision absolute-dating method (techniques involving electron spin resonance and uranium series), Jack Rink, associate professor of geography and earth sciences at McMaster, has determined that Gigantopithecus blackii, the largest primate that ever lived, roamed southeast Asia for nearly a million years before the species died out 100,000 years ago. This was known as the Pleistocene period, by which time humans had already existed for a million years.

"A missing piece of the puzzle has always focused on pin-pointing when Gigantopithecus existed," explains Rink. "This is a primate that co-existed with humans at a time when humans were undergoing a major evolutionary change. Guangxi province in southern China, where the Gigantopithecus fossils were found, is the same region where some believe the modern human race originated."

Research into Gigantopithecus blackii began in 1935, when the Dutch paleontologist G.H. von Koenigswald discovered a yellowish molar among the "dragon bones" for sale in a Hong Kong pharmacy. Traditional Chinese medicine maintains that dragon bones, basically fossil bones and teeth, possess curative powers when the fossils are ground into a fine powder, and ingested.

For nearly 80 years, Gigantopithecus blackii has intrigued scientists, who have pieced together a description using nothing more than a handful of teeth and a set of jawbones.

"The size of these specimens - the crown of the molar, for instance, measures about an inch across - helped us understand the extraordinary size of the primate," says Rink. Sample studies further revealed that Gigantopithecus was an herbivore, feasting mainly on bamboo. Some believe that the primate's voracious appetite for bamboo ultimately placed him at the losing end of the evolutionary scale against his more nimble human competition.

Rink's discovery coincides with an invitation to join the renowned New York-based Explorers Club. Established in 1904, the Club's seven founding members included two polar explorers, the curator of birds and mammals at The American Museum of Natural History, an archaeologist, a war correspondent and author, a professor of physics and an ethnologist. Sir Edmund Hillary is Club's honorary chairman. Membership includes an eclectic range of field scientists and explorers from more than 60 countries. Rink joins McMaster colleagues Hendrik Poinar (associate professor, Anthropology) and Ed Reinhardt (associate professor, Geography and Earth Science) who are also members.

Rink is currently in Thailand exploring an area where it is believed Gigantopithecus also roamed. Rink returns to campus on November 19.

Source: McMaster University (by Jane Christmas)


http://www.physorg.com/news7950.html
 

Mighty_Emperor

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#4
There have been Gigantopithecus teeth found at the same sites as hominid remains (in Vietnam) and I was under the impression (without checking) that we knew they dated down into the Last Interglacial. It is cool they have got a date on them and it might provoke new investigations - we really need to find more of them as they are largely known through the teeth and jaws that have been found.
 

GNC

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#5
Whatever happened to that giant chimp?
 

JimAmo

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Bill Oddie wasn't giant the last time i looked. I hear the giant chimp went into acting under the name Brian Blessed!
 
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#10
Missed this at the time - great picture of the life-size replica on the source page too!!

Giant Asian Ape and Humans Coexisted, Might Have Interacted

Ben Harder
for National Geographic News
December 8, 2005

Stalking through the forest, an early human hunter might have glimpsed an oversize ape through a thicket of bamboo.

We may never know the outcome of such a prehistoric encounter—or even if a meeting occurred. The mysterious ape, called Gigantopithecus blacki, has long since vanished from the Earth, and so has the early human species.

But researchers have determined that the giant ape—which might have been the closest thing to a real King Kong—did in fact live at the same time and in roughly the same place as early humans.

In China 300,000 years ago the two species might well have crossed paths, according to W. Jack Rink of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

Big Mystery

A German paleontologist discovered Gigantopithecus in 1935 when he picked up a strange, heavy tooth in a Chinese apothecary. It was labeled as a "dragon tooth."

Since then researchers have found additional remains of the ape, which they've used to make guesses about its size, diet, and when and how it lived. But experts are still left with many unanswered questions.

"We're sort of dealing with the mystery ape," said Rick Potts, a paleoanthropologist with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

"We know so little about Gigantopithecus, largely because its [remains consist of only] three mandibles [jaw bones] and hundreds of teeth," he said.

Gigantopithecus fossils that are 7 or 8 million years old have been found in modern-day India and Pakistan. Remains less than 2 million years old, meanwhile, have turned up in China and Southeast Asia.

Given the limited fossil record, scientists debate how the ape evolved, when it died out, and precisely how big it was.

"There's this mythology that arose, largely because of the name, that it's got to be huge," Potts said. "Some people say, Oh, geez, it must have stood seven feet [two meters] tall."

University of Iowa paleoanthropologist Russell L. Ciochon thinks it was even larger.

"We've estimated around nine feet [three meters] tall [when] standing on its hind legs," said the scientist, who calculated its likely dimensions from a jaw bone.

The beast weighed nearly half a ton (500 kilograms), making it more than twice the size of the largest modern ape, Ciochon estimates.

"Clearly it was dramatically bigger than a gorilla," he said. But, like a gorilla, it presumably walked on all fours.

Researchers have wondered whether Gigantopithecus shared a 10-million-year-old ancestor with Asia's only modern great ape, the orangutan.

The extinct giant ape's teeth share many structural traits with those of the purported ancestor, Sivapithecus, indicating that the two species are closely related.

But recent x-rays allowed Ciochon and his colleagues in Germany to peer inside the Gigantopithecus teeth. The scientists concluded that orangutans' teeth aren't similar to the other species, suggesting that the modern primates evolved from a different branch of the ape family, Ciochon says.

Long in the Tooth

Through past studies of Gigantopithecus teeth, Ciochon has determined that the ape subsisted on bamboo and fruits encased in tough coatings.

The Smithsonian's Potts argues that a diet of tough, fibrous vegetation might account for the creature's massive jaws and teeth—whether the rest of the animal's body was unusually large has yet to be determined.

"All we know is that they had really whopping jaws and teeth," he said. "There are no limb bones or other bones of the body."

But teeth give Rink, the McMaster University researcher, plenty to work with.

Rink specializes in dating mineral deposits, and he recently focused on Gigantopithecus teeth from a cave in China's Guangxi region. Those mineral nuggets may represent the most recent evidence of the ape.

Using a technique that calculates a fossil's age based on the electron spin, or magnetism, in minerals, Rink recently put an age of about 300,000 years on some of the remains.

While modern people weren't on the scene at that time, early humans called Homo erectus were living in the region.

"[Early] humans were living down in the river valleys," Rink said. "Gigantopithecus was living in the tropical forest at higher elevations. It's likely that Gigantopithecus and humans saw each other in the landscape."

Other experts are more cautious about that conclusion.

"They weren't living side by side," the University of Iowa's Ciochon noted. Tropical forest "is not the primary habitat for humans."

Potts of the Smithsonian said, "Whether they actually frequently saw each other is still unclear."

Nevertheless, Ciochon says, Rink's new results reflect the youngest date yet assigned to Gigantopithecus and may be from close to the time when the species died out.

Even if encounters between species did occur, it was probably environmental change—not hungry humans—that wiped out the giant apes, Ciochon says.

"I think they were pretty much immune to predators," he said, "because they were just too big."
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news ... t_ape.html
 
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#11
For decades, scientists have recognized the upright posture exhibited by chimpanzees, gorillas, and humans as a key feature separating the "great apes" from other primates, but a host of questions about the evolution of that posture—particularly how and when it emerged—have long gone unanswered.

For more than a century, the belief was that the posture, known as the orthograde body plan, evolved only once, as part of a suite of features, including broad torsos and mobile forelimbs, in an early ancestor of modern apes.

But a fossilized hipbone of an ape called Sivapithecus is challenging that belief.

The bone, about 6 inches long, is described in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) co-authored by Michèle Morgan, museum curator of osteology and paleoanthropology at Harvard's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, and colleagues including Kristi Lewton, Erik Otárola-Castillo, John Barry, Jay Kelley, Lawrence Flynn, and David Pilbeam. The finding has raised a host of new questions about whether that upright body plan may have evolved multiple times.

"We always thought if we found this body part, that it would show some of the features we find in the living great apes," Morgan said. "To find something like this was surprising."

Where modern apes have large, broad chests, Sivapithecus is believed to have had a relatively narrow, monkey-like torso, but facial features that closely resemble modern orangutans. That mixture, showing some ape- and monkey-like features, has left researchers scratching their heads about the arrangement of the primate tree, and raises questions about how the stereotypically ape-like body plan evolved. ...

http://phys.org/news/2015-02-fossil-puzzling-upright-body-great.html
 

EnolaGaia

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#12
Recent genomic testing indicates Gigantopithecus was a close relative of the modern orangutan rather than modern humans.
Closest Relative of Extinct 'Bigfoot' Found

for millions of years, the original Bigfoot — a shaggy, bipedal ape twice the size of an adult human — roamed the forests of Southeast Asia, before going extinct hundreds of thousands of years ago.

Scientists are now developing a clearer picture of the giant animal's place on the primate family tree, after conducting groundbreaking analysis of proteins in tooth enamel dating to nearly 2 million years ago.

Gigantopithecus blacki dwarfed the great apes that live today; it stood around 10 feet (3 meters) tall and weighed up to 595 lbs. (270 kilograms). But as massive as Gigantopithecus was in life, fossils of the hefty primate have been few and hard to find — thousands of teeth and four partial jaws — leaving many questions about the extinct ape's evolutionary lineage and appearance. ...

... (I)n subtropical Asia where Gigantopithecus lived, the only viable DNA previously obtained came from other animals' fossils that were no more than 10,000 years years old, according to a new study, published online today (Nov. 13) in the journal Nature.

However, the study authors had recently devised a new method for recovering and reconstructing protein sequences from dental enamel, and they tested this technique on a Gigantopithecus molar dating to 1.9 million years ago. They then compared what they found to a database of protein sequences from great apes alive today. ...

They found that the extinct "Bigfoot" isn't a close human relative, like chimpanzees and bonobos. Rather, the sequences that most resembled Gigantopithecus proteins belonged to modern orangutans, and the giant ape's lineage is thought to have split from its cousin's around 12 million to 10 million years ago ...

In reconstructions, Gigantopithecus often resembles an oversize orangutan; in the past, these artistic representations have been based on limited information from the fossils and from what was known about the primate's range and ancient habitat ... But even though the new evidence confirms a close evolutionary relationship between Gigantopithecus and orangutans, the data can't tell scientists what the extinct ape may have looked like ...
FULL STORY: https://www.livescience.com/gigantopithecus-bigfoot-orangutan-cousin.html
 

Jim

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#14
Enola not to defer from post #12, but I believe Gigantopithecus grow to sizes much larger, that of ~ 6 adult sized men. Gigantopithecus grew up to ~ 10' tall and 1.100 pounds. These were truly one gigantic animal and may have existed along side early man for a bit. BTW it lived in tropical climates making it a unlikely candidate for an American Bigfoot, where the majority of alleged sightings occur in cooler temperate or northern forested area's regions.
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2016/01/160106-science-evolution-apes-giant/#close
 
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