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King Kong, Gigantopithecus & the Missing Link

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Author Topic: King Kong, Gigantopithecus & the Missing Link  (Read 3117 times)
Stacy Dohm
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« on: February 11, 2007, 02:30:44 pm »



Gigantopithecus was the largest of the primates.

During the Pleistocene Era (1.8 million to 10,000 years ago) large mammals ruled the Earth. One of these mammals was the great ape Gigantopithecus.

Gigantopithecus is known to have lived in what is now China and Southeast Asia. (In fact he was discovered, by Professor Gustav von Koenigswald, when the professor bought a set of fossil teeth from a Chinese druggist selling what he claimed were "dragon's teeth" for medicinal purposes.)

Gigantopithecus was the largest primate that ever walked the Earth. He would have risen 9 to 10 feet high if he choose to stand up on only his hind legs, and probably weighed about 600 lbs (A few scientists suggest the largest of the males might have weighted almost 1,200 lbs.). In comparison, the largest gorilla stands only 6 feet tall and weighs about 300 to 400 lbs.

Both todays gorilla and Gigantopithecus probably used their arms and knuckles to move about in quadrupedal fashion. Though Gigantopithecus sounds like a terror he probably was a very gentle and retiring vegetarian, if we can use Mountain Gorilla behavior as a guide. Gorilla's, despite inaccurate stories about them, are fairly shy creatures that only put on aggressive displays of chestbeating and snarling when their territory is threatened.

Gigantopithecus actually arose before the start of the Pleistocene Era (perhaps 13 million years ago) and went extinct about halfway through (500,000 years ago) the ice age before the other giant mammals did. Exactly why he went extinct is unknown, but it probably was due to changes in the climate to which Gigantopithecus was not able to adapt.

Some suggest that Gigantopithecus is not extinct, but is hiding in remote areas of the Himalaya Mountains or the forests of North-West America. Could a Gigantopithecus, or his descendants, be the source of the Yeti or Bigfoot tales?

http://unmuseum.mus.pa.us/bigape.htm
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Stacy Dohm
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« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2007, 02:48:56 pm »

HOW GIGANTOPITHECUS WAS DISCOVERED

In 1935, German paleontologist Ralph von Koenigswald came across an unusually large molar while looking through fossil teeth in a Hong Kong pharmacy. He realized that the tooth belonged to a new primate species, which he named Gigantopithecus blacki. Over the next four years, Von Koenigswald searched many more pharmacies, finding just three more Giganto teeth. The pharmacists told him that the teeth had probably come from a region called Guangxi. Based on the dirt clinging to the teeth and the fact that their roots had apparently been gnawed away by porcupines, he inferred that they probably came from cave deposits. Since the Giganto teeth were mixed in with middle-Pleistocene elephant and panda fossils, von Koenigswald estimated their age at 125,000 to 700,000 years.


 
These days, scientists looking for Giganto dig in the caves and limestone towers of Southeast Asia.

Von Koenigswald's researches were interrupted when he was taken prisoner by the Japanese in World War II. His collection of Giganto teeth (at the time, the only existing evidence of the giant ape) were buried in a milk bottle in a friend's backyard for safekeeping until the war was over.


 Chinese apothecaries have been using powdered fossils in medicine for thousands of years. They buy the fossils (which they call dragon bones) from farmers who find them in caves. Many potential fossil sites in China have already been picked clean by peasants looking for dragon bones; this is one of the reasons UI researcher Russ Ciochon chose to look for Giganto remains in nearby Vietnam instead of China.



FOSSIL SITES



THE GIGANTO DIET

Early in his Gigantopithecus investigations, Ciochon noticed similarities between the giant ape and the bamboo-eating giant panda. Both animals have thick mandibles, pitted teeth, and unusually high occurences of tooth decay. Ciochon knew that large herbivores tend to favor one type of plant, so he hypothesized that Giganto fed mainly on the plentiful bamboo of Southeast Asia.

There seemed to be no way to investigate Giganto's diet directly until Anthropology graduate student Robert Thompson mentioned phytoliths to Ciochon. Phytoliths are microscopic bits of silica formed by certain plants between their cells. Different kinds of plants form different phytolith shapes. Thompson knew that scanning electron microscopes had been used to check stone tools for phytoliths, and he suggested applying the technique to fossil Giganto teeth.


 


 The SEM analysis revealed that some Giganto teeth do have phytoliths embedded in the enamel. Two types of phytoliths- needlelike grass phytoliths and hat-shaped fruit phytoliths- were found in the teeth. Several types of grass (including bamboo) have needlelike phytoliths, so the presence of these phytoliths is consistent with Ciochon's theory 
SEM of fruit phytolith



THEORIES ABOUT THE GIANT APE'S EXTINCTION

Gigantopithecus appeared in the fossil record about 6.3 million years ago and thrived in Southeast Asia for five and half million years. Early humans, Homo erectus, spread into Giganto's territory about 800,000 years ago. Within half a million years of the arrival of these early humans, Giganto had gone extinct. Several factors probably contributed to Giganto's extinction:Bamboo forests are subject to mysterious die-offs every twenty to sixty years. Competition with giant pandas and the arrival of humans, who may also have eaten bamboo and used it to make tools, may have made it very difficult for Giganto to survive the die-offs.


 

CONSTRUCTION OF THE GIGANTO MODEL

The Giganto recreation was designed by University of Iowa paleoanthropologist Russell Ciochon and primate reconstructor Bill Munns. It is based on fossil jawbones and teeth collected from China and Vietnam.

Ciochon and Munns used their knowledge of the skull proportions of great apes to estimate the size and shape of Giganto's head. The body is patterned after two other huge terrestrial primates, the gorilla and the extinct baboon Theropithecus oswaldi. The orangutan was not used because they are arboreal, and Giganto is too large to be arboreal; the other two are ground-dwelling and therefore have an entirely different set of skeletal proportions. The golden fur color is borrowed from Giganto's close Asian relative, the orangutan.



The ten-foot size estimate is based on approximate head-to-skeleton ratios in primates. In humans that ratio is approximately 1:7; in Lucy, an early human, it was 1:8. Ciochon and Munns tried 1:7 and thought the result looked too small. They settled on 1:6.5. Though shocked by resulting huge size, the researchers believe their estimate is conservative.

Relative arm and leg size is based on the ratio of forelimbs to hindlimbs, also known as the intermembral index. In humans the ratio is approximatelty 70%; in orangs 134%. Munns split the difference between the gorilla and Theropithecus, yielding 108%.
 


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

More about Giganto on Dr. Ciochon's web site, including a 1991 article from Natural History magazine.

http://www.uiowa.edu/~bioanth/giganto.html

 

 

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« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2007, 02:51:28 pm »

Gigantopithecus
Encyclopædia Britannica Article


genus of large fossil ape, of which two species are known: Gigantopithecus bilaspurensis, which lived 6 to 9 million years ago in India, and Gigantopithecus blacki, which lived in China until at least 1 million years ago. These apes are known from teeth, lower jaw bones, and possibly a piece of distal humerus. They were large in size, perhaps larger than gorillas. They lived…
http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?tocId=9036789

Gigantopithecus was a genus of ape that existed from 9 to 5 million years ago in China and India. Gigantopithecus is the largest ape that ever lived. It was likely near ten feet tall and weighed from 700 to 1200 lbs — 2 to 3 times larger than gorillas. Some cryptozoologists have claimed that a race of very errant gigantopithecines are the legendary creature Bigfoot. An anthropology book notes that Gigantopithecus was alive as recently as 200,000 years before present era

Geologic Epoch: Miocene
Diet: herbivore
Locomotion: quadrupedal

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gigantopithecus

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« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2007, 02:56:06 pm »

The Bigfoot-Giganto Theory

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Background




"Bigfoot research" is a term loosely used to describe any efforts to probe or explain the reports and physical evidence associated with bigfoots. Over the years several different theories have been offered. Some of the more common theories are: 1) fear manifestations, 2) misidentifications of bears, 3) paranormal / UFO-related, 4) the Collective-Memory hypothesis, 5) the Bigfoot-Giganto hypothesis.

Bigfoot advocates as well as informed skeptics generally do not believe a hoax is responsible for this phenomenon, primarily because the observations extend so far back in time.

The patterns among eyewitnesses are not demographic, they are geographic -- they are not reported by certain types of people, rather by people who venture into certain areas. This simple pattern suggests an external cause.

No matter what that cause is, it is important to understand, and not just because of the potential behind the most likely explanation.

Bigfoot researchers generally lean toward one explanation: The Bigfoot-Giganto Theory (hypothesis). The subject of Gigantopithecus has attracted an increasing amount of interest anthropologists and primatologitsts over the past few decades. The Bigfoot-Giganto hypothesis suggests that bigfoots are surving relatives of the genus Gigantopithecus. Gigantopithecus (the Latin word for "Giant Ape") was a giant cousin of the orangutan. It was presumed to be extinct.

Click on the figure to the upper right to see a chart showing the place of Gigantos in primate evolution.

Bigfoot-Giganto theorists deal with a few issues that affect the potential linkage of modern bigfoot reports to ancient Gigantos. Probably the most crucial question concerns whether Gigantos walked upright. There is more than one school of thought among anthrolopogists regarding this issue. Some physical anthropologists interpret the scant fossilized remains to indicate an upright walking ape, measuring an impressive nine feet tall, and weighing more than 1000 pounds -- the general description of bigfoot type creatures reported for centuries in North America and Asia. Even if Giganto posture is uncertain, no one can reasonably dispute the conclusion that Gigantos were the largest primates that ever walked the earth.

Bigfoot-Giganto theorists believe that Gigantos' large brain size (perhaps the largest in the terrestrial animal kingdom) and upright-walking posture facilitated their dispersion across Asia and North America. Thousands of years of adaptation to temperate and mountainous climates, it is believed, would have given these large upright walking apes the ability to tolerate cold temperatures, climb through deep snow, and cross high mountain ranges with relative ease.



 The figure to the left is a photo of a life-size Giganto reconstruction based on fossilized remains (click on the photo to see a larger version; the same reconstruction is pictured below with the sculptor showing its size relative to humans). The first photo is from the cover of a book about Gigantopithecus. The translation of the German title is "Why Did Giganto Have to Die?" (The original English version of the book is titled, "Other Origins".)

There is some physical evidence to indicate that Gigantos in Asia were hunted and eaten by Homo erectus (ancestors to humans that lived contemporaneously with Gigantos). The mainstream explanation for the apparent disappearance of Gigantos lays blame primarily on this predation by Homo erectus. Bigfoot-Giganto theorists do not accept the idea that a highly mobile genus like Gigantopithecus could have been completely wiped out by Homo erectus. Instead they look to consistencies in present day bigfoot reports and see the necessary behavioral adaptations which would have allowed the Giganto line to avoid extinction at the hands of man.

Bigfoots are typically sighted in or near remote wooded, mountainous, or swampy areas. They are rarely seen far from the cover of trees. If they encounter humans during daylight hours they tend to retreat and vanish into the forest. They seem to be most active when humans are least active -- late at night. Unlike mountain gorillas, bigfoots are never seen in large groups, and they don't stay in the same place for very long.

The ellusiveness of these modern mystery animals may stem from their bad experiences with pre-humans in Asia.

The Hypothesis
Over the past 500,000 years hominids gradually emerged from the thickest forests and began to organize into more stationary settlements. Gigantos remained semi-nomadic in the thick forests. Small family groups of Gigantos were widely dispersed in these forests. This dispersal provided more reliable foraging. It also made quick, quiet evasion much easier.

Small Giganto families of 2-4 wandered nomadically through vast forests. The territories were usally remote, but sometimes bordered human settled areas. After thousands of generations they developed some amazing evasion/defense mechanisms and behaviors, including night vision abilities. They also developed powerful vocal abilities, which allowed them to locate and interact with others of their kind. They made powerfully loud screams and howls that could be heard for miles in the dead of night. Late hours allowed them to avoid various undesirables: human dangers, overheating, water loss, and the worst insects. The night time vocalizations, and occassional tracks, were usually the only things noted by humans in the area.




The most commonly heard argument against the Bigfoot-Giganto hypothesis is that "we should have found their bones in North America by now..." This argument is, in fact, weak when one considers that very few remains of Gigantos have ever been found in Asia, where they were much more abundant. Tens of thousands of years of Gigantos' accepted existence is Asia would have produced literally millions of Giganto skeletons, yet the volume of collected remains from Asia is so small that the entire collection could fit easily in one suitcase.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------



 One flavor of the Bigfoot-Giganto hypothesis suggests that bigfoots might not be direct descendants of the genus Gigantopithecus, but rather some other offshoot of the giant Asian "wood ape" line, perhaps a line for which we have zero fossils remains at the present time. The Giganto line is an important reference point for this alternate explanation for two reasons: 1) the Giganto line illustrates the potential for primates to grow to such 'gigantic' proportions (twice as large as the largest 'known' living primate), and 2) the fact that so few remains of Gigantos have been unearthed and identified makes it more conceivable that there could have been other lines of giant Asian wood apes for which we have no fossil remains at the present time.

People often assume that bones of a wild animal are present and available long after the animal's death. Many people assume that wild animal bones always become fossilized. The fact is bones become fossilized or otherwise preserved only in the rarest of circumstances. Without fossilization or preservation, bones of wild animals will, in time, become completely reabsorbed into the biomass. We would literally be climbing over piles of animal bones if they were not naturally recycled. An animal carcass in a dense forest will be reabsorbed relatively quickly through weathering, decay and scavenging by other animals and insects. The odds are very very poor that bones of a rare, elusive, forest dwelling species will be found in some recognizable form by a hiker cruising along a trail.

No research group has ever made an attempt to look for Giganto bones in North America, so no one should be surprised that Giganto remains have never been identified in North America. Ironically, the most vocal skeptics and scientists who rhetorically ask why no bones have been located and identified on this continent are the last people who would ever make an effort to look for them. Some Bigfoot-Giganto theorists speculate that fragmentary remains of Gigantos have been unearthed in North America in the past but were simply disregarded or misidentified.

The second most common argument against the Bigfoot-Giganto hypothesis asks " Why haven't hunters shot one in North America yet ? ..." The reasons are more obvious than most people might realize, and there's enough of them to make a separate article on that topic.

The third most common argument against the Bigfoot-Giganto hypothesis asks " Why aren't there more photos of these modern Gigantos ? ..." This question is also addressed in a separate article.

http://www.bfro.net/REF/THEORIES/MJM/whatrtha.asp
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« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2007, 03:01:10 pm »

The Ape That Was

Asian fossils reveal humanity's giant cousin


by Russell L. Ciochon

        For thousands of years, Chinese pharmacists have used fossils - which they call dragon teeth and dragon bones - as ingredients in potions intended to cure ailments ranging from backache to sexual impotence. The fossil-rich caves of southern China have been, and still are, sedulously mined by farmers, who sell these medicinal treasures to apothecaries in the cities. In just such a pharmacy, in Hong Kong in 1935, the German paleoanthropologist Ralph von Koenigswald came across a large fossil primate molar that did not belong to any known species. Over the next four years he searched further in Hong Kong and Guangzhou (Canton) and found three more of the oversize teeth, thereby establishing the existence of an extinct ape, the largest primate ever to roam the earth. He named the genus Gigantopithecus, meaning "gigantic ape," and the species blacki, in honor of his late friend and colleague Davidson Black.
        At the time of the discovery, during the 1930s, von Koenigswald was working primarily in Java, unearthing fossils of human ancestors and their relatives. China's unique fossil shops had already played a major role in tracking down Homo erectus, which lived in Asia between about one million and 300,000 years ago. Homo erectus remains were first unearthed in Java in the 1890s, but pursuit of the source of dragon bones subsequently led to a system of fossil-filled crevices and caverns near the town of Zhoukoudian (Choukoutien), thirty miles from Beijing. There, in 1929, a team of Chinese and Western scientists discovered the first of a series of Homo erectus skulls that became world famous as "Peking man."
        The original fossils of Peking man disappeared during the confusion of World War II - fortunately, after they were described and cast by anatomist Franz Weidenreich. The war also caught up with von Koenigswald, who was taken prisoner by the Japanese in Java. His precious collection of Gigantopithecus teeth - at that point, the only known specimens of the fossil ape - spent the war years in a milk bottle buried in a friend's backyard on the island.

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« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2007, 03:02:49 pm »



Photographed at the American Museum in the 1940's, German paleoanthropologists Ralph von Koenigswald, left, and Franz Weidenreich, right, pose with the skulls of apes, Homo erectus, and modern humans. The first scientist to discover teeth of Gigantopithecus, von Koenigswald correctly observed that they belonged to an ape, while Weidenreich argued for their humanlike characteristics.
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« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2007, 03:06:32 pm »

Meanwhile, however, Weidenreich, who had retreated from Beijing to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, set about studying plaster casts of the four teeth. Because of the unusually large size of a few of the Homo erectus specimens from Java, Weidenreich came up with the notion that there had been a period of gigantism in human evolution, and that modern humans were the diminutive descendants of these giants. In Apes, Giants, and Man, published in 1946, he argued that the Gigantopithecus teeth were humanlike, and that von Koenigswald had been mistaken in considering the animal an ape rather than a member of the human family tree.
        During von Koenigswald's wartime internment, Weidenreich's views became widely accepted. To end the controversy that arose, more complete specimens of Gigantopithecus had to be found, a task only the Chinese could undertake, for the country was closed to Western scientists. In the 1950s, with the establishment in Beijing of what is now the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese paleontologists began to search for the source of the Gigantopithecus fossils. Two veterans of the Peking man expedition, Pei Wenzhong and Jia Lanpo, headed a team that visited the warehouses that supplied all the apothecary shops in China with dragon bones and dragon teeth. They found vast quantities of fossils in Nanning, the capital of Guangxi Province. From there, they divided into two teams: one, led by Pei, headed north; the other, led by Jia, went south.



At a Chinese pharmacy in Bangkok, the author (center) and archeologist John Olsen (right) search among the medicinal "dragon teeth" for interesting fossils.

 Jia's paleontological detective work took him to southernmost Guangxi, a karstic, or eroded limestone, region of great rock towers riddled with caves. In the town of Daxin, which the local people said was the source of all the fossils, they were directed to an old woman who had, in her house, a bamboo tray full of fossils. One of them was a Gigantopithecus tooth. She pointed out a very tall rock tower, described by Jia as "a hundred meters straight up - almost falling over, it was so steep." The mouth of a cave was clearly visible behind a screen of brush.

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« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2007, 03:08:02 pm »



A cave near the top of the rounded limestone tower at Liucheng, China has yielded three Gigantopithecus jawbones and nearly a thousand teeth.

Although it was four in the afternoon and raining hard when they arrived, Jia says, "We were young, and couldn't be restrained. We climbed straight up to that cave." That very day, Jia himself found a Gigantopithecus tooth embedded in a hard, reddish matrix, the first time that a paleontologist had discovered a fossil of Gigantopithecus in a geological context.
        Meanwhile, Pei was making a more momentous discovery to the north. Word had reached the scientists of a giant jawbone discovered by an old farmer in 1956 at a cave site called Liucheng. When Pei saw the fossil, he was able to identify it at once as the jawbone of Gigantopithecus, because it had all but three of its teeth still attached. On a second visit, in 1957, Pei's team discovered the first Gigantopithecus jawbone in place, in a very hard deposit resembling red clay. Another was excavated in 1958. One of the jawbones was extraordinarily large; presumably, it belonged to an adult male, while the other two were thought to be from an adult female and a juvenile.
        In addition to the jawbones, Pei's group discovered nearly a thousand Gigantopithecus teeth and numerous other mammalian specimens, including some unusual dwarf varieties. Among them was a short-muzzled panda half the size of the living giant panda. Chinese scientists have recently suggested that this dwarf species was a direct ancestor of the modern one.
        The next development came in 1965 with the discovery of twelve Gigantopithecus teeth at Wuming, a few hours' drive north of Nanning. These teeth were significantly larger than their counterparts from Liucheng, and the other animal fossils found with them suggested that the site was considerably younger (current estimates are that Liucheng is one million years old and that Wuming is between 300,000 and 400,000 years old). This suggested, first, that Gigantopithecus was around as a species for a considerable period, and second, that it may have become larger as the species evolved. This is a trend seen in other large mammals that evolved during the Pleistocene epoch, 1.8 million to 12,000 years ago.
        A striking confirmation of both points was the discovery three years later that a smaller, earlier form of the giant ape had once inhabited northern India. In 1968, a farmer came forward with three pieces of a jawbone he had found twenty-four years before, when he was a boy of twelve working in his father's field. The specimen was identified by primatologist Elwyn Simons as belonging to a distinct species, Gigantopithecus giganteus, about half the size of Gigantopithecus blacki. The new species was not only smaller but also more ancient, coming from sediments that have been dated (by paleomagnetic reversals) to about 6.3 million years ago.
        The discovery of the jaws resolved, at least for most scientists, any doubts that the creature was apelike and not, as Weidenreich had argued, humanlike. Based on the fossils, Gigantopithecus is now placed among the Asian apes, a descendant, along with the orangutan, of the earlier ape ancestor Sivapithecus, best known from an 8-million-year-old skull discovered in Pakistan. Its size and ape affiliation suggest Gigantopithecus was a ground-dwelling, fist-walking creature.
        While more teeth of the extinct ape have been found, no other bones have turned up. Based only on the jaws and teeth, however, an attempt can be made to reconstruct both the animal and its way of life. The jaws are deep (top to bottom) and very thick. The molars are low-crowned and flat, with very thick enamel caps suitable for heavy grinding. The premolars are broad and flat and resemble molars. The canine teeth are not sharp and pointed but shaped more like what one would expect premolars to look like, while the incisors are small, peglike, and closely packed. The canines and incisors together form a specialized cutting tool, most similar to what is found in some present-day tree sloths and in the extinct giant ground sloth. The features of the teeth, combined with the massive, robust jaws, lead to the inevitable conclusion that the animal was adapted to the consumption of tough, fibrous foods by cutting, crushing, and grinding them.
        As a rule, large herbivores subsist on diets of coarse leaves and grasses, which are low in nutritional value but typically available in very large quantities. (Large animals succeed with this regime partly because their metabolic requirements are relatively low, in terms of energy required per unit of body mass.) One suggestion is that Gigantopithecus, or at least the larger species in China, was adapted, like the giant panda, to a diet of bamboo, the giant grass abundant in the region. The jaws of Gigantopithecus and the giant panda, if set side by side with the jawbones of, say, the gorilla and the grizzly bear, appear thicker, deeper, and more massive. These differences reflect the specialized diet of the panda (and, by inference, of Gigantopithecus) compared with the much more general diet of the gorilla and grizzly.
        A further similarity between Gigantopithecus and the giant panda is a high incidence of tooth cavities. Wu Rukang, in an encyclopedic survey of the Gigantopithecus teeth in China, found cavities present in 11 percent of them - an unusually high rate for an ape, but more or less equivalent to the rate of dental cavities in the fossil remains of the giant panda. Another Chinese researcher, Zhang Yinyun, has reported a high incidence of hypoplasia - pitting in the tooth enamel that indicates periods of arrested development. These may be a result of disease or food shortage. While no certain conclusion may be drawn, we do know that bamboo is subject to periodic die-offs, which produce food shortages that threaten the survival of the giant panda.
        A more direct line of evidence that could be pursued regarding the diet of Gigantopithecus was pointed out to me by Bob Thompson, a graduate student in New World archeology, who attended one of my lectures about the extinct ape. He suggested we might look at the teeth for adhering phytoliths, microscopic pieces of silica found in many plants. The existence of phytoliths has been known since the early nineteenth century, and scientists had already successfully looked for them on stone tools, to which they apparently bond physically by the combined action of friction and moisture. But it was the first time, as far as I know, that anyone had suggested looking for them on fossil teeth.
        Four teeth were borrowed for study from the British Museum (Natural History) and the Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Frankfurt: an upper incisor, lower canine, lower premolar, and lower molar. After the teeth were cleaned to insure that what we found was definitely part of the fossils, they were examined under a scanning electron microscope at the University of Iowa by Smithsonian paleoecologist Dolores Piperno. At least thirty phytoliths were found on the teeth, most of them on the molar. We also detected tiny scratches apparently left by phytoliths, which are harder than tooth enamel. In one case, we found a phytolith sitting astride the end of the track it had plowed into the tooth - like a sled stopped in its path in the snow.
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« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2007, 03:09:19 pm »



A photomicrograph shows a silica fragment bonded to a tooth of the fossil ape. Its shape indicates that it came from grass, possibly bamboo. Color enhancing isolated the silicified mass of plant cells and, within it, the impression of a single cell.

More than half of the phytoliths we observed were long and needlelike and could be attributed to the vegetative part of grasses, possibly bamboo. The rest were conical or hat shaped, attributable to the fruits and seeds of dicotyledons. Piperno tentatively identified them as fruits from a tree of the family Moraceae, quite possibly durian or jackfruit, both of which are common throughout tropical Southeast Asia. This proved that Gigantopithecus had a varied diet, although we still suspect that bamboo was its staple food.
        What other conclusions can be drawn about the extinct ape? An outstanding characteristic of giant herbivores is their extreme slowness. They have no particular need of speed: their size and thick skins protect them from predators, and of course their feeding habits require no more of them than that they move from place to place as they systematically denude the landscape of vegetation. Furthermore, they are usually stuffed full of bulky food to digest, which tends to produce inertia. Gigantopithecus probably followed this pattern.
        Finally, the adult males of the giant ape were much larger than the females. Australian anatomist Charles Oxnard statistically analyzed 735 teeth of Gigantopithecus that were complete enough to be measured accurately. He found that they divided neatly into two size groups of equal number, which he interpreted to represent the males and females in the population. The contrast was greater than that seen in any living primate species, including the gorilla and the orangutan, two species in which the male is substantially bigger than the female. In Gigantopithecus, the difference in tooth size between the sexes may represent strong competition among males for mates - a clue to the species' social behavior.
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« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2007, 03:10:42 pm »



The largest of the jaws, along with some of the teeth, are compared at with modern human remains.

To gain a more complete image of what the giant ape looked like, we sought the help of Bill Munns, who creates highly realistic, life-size models of existing endangered primates - gorillas, orangutans, and the Chinese golden monkey - for zoos and educational institutions. Based on the jaws and teeth, and using the proportions of the skulls of existing great apes, we estimated that the average male Gigantopithecus had a skull that measured eighteen inches from the bottom of the jaw to the highest point of the sagittal crest (a male gorilla, for comparison, has a skull ten inches high).
        The next step was to project a hypothetical skeleton from the hypothetical skull. For this purpose Munns used as references two of the largest terrestrial primates known: one modern, the gorilla, and one from the fossil record, the extinct giant baboon Theropithecus oswaldi. In determining the size of Gigantopithecus, we felt it necessary to scale the body back a bit, so as not to be influenced too much by the giant ape's extraordinarily deep and thickened mandible. Nevertheless, given that the average male silverback gorilla is about six feet tall (standing erect) and weighs in at 400 pounds, Munns calculated that the average Gigantopithecus male was more than ten feet tall and weighed as much as 1,200 pounds - comparable to a large male polar bear.
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« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2007, 03:11:54 pm »



Bill Munns stands next to his model of a Gigantopithecus male, a quadrupedal, fist-walking creature that also could have stood erect, as bears do.
 
One intriguing question is what contact our remote ancestor, Homo erectus, may have had with the giant ape. That the two coexisted for some time in the same region is supported by direct evidence. In 1965, Vietnamese paleontologists discovered the remains of both creatures at Tham Khuyen, a cave site in Lang Son Province, near the Chinese border. Chinese excavators followed suit, excavating Gigantopithecus and Homo erectus side by side in Hubei Province in 1970 and more recently, in 1987, in Sichuan Province.
        Gigantopithecus was native to southern Asia, while Homo originated in Africa about 1.6 million years ago and migrated eastward, finally arriving in what is now Southeast Asia about one million years ago. The opportunity to explore this nexus attracted archeologist John Olsen and me to Vietnam. One reason we did not choose to go to China was that all the promising sites had been reserved by Chinese paleoanthropologists, and we doubted we would find a new site in a region that had been so thoroughly mined. In contrast, Vietnam had no history of exploiting fossil-rich caves for dragon bones. And so in January 1989 we found ourselves probing four caves at the base of a karst tower near the hamlet of Lang Trang, about 100 miles southwest of Hanoi, as part of a joint American-Vietnamese expedition.
        The caves had seemed promising in our preliminary survey the previous May, and as we began work, even local children brought us fossil mammal teeth (although we tried to discourage them), which they retrieved from an underground stream by squeezing through a crevice in the cave we called Lang Trang I. Meanwhile, we began cutting out blocks of breccia, the sediment typical of caves, which is gradually formed by material washed or otherwise transported into a cave and cemented with limestone dissolved from the cave walls and ceiling.
        The fourth day of our dig, Friday the thirteenth, turned out to be a lucky one: within the main deposit I found a lens-shaped vein of dark, sandy sediment that was unusually rich in fossils. The material had probably washed into the cave from the nearby Ma River, which in ancient times meandered right alongside the karst tower. Perhaps a violent monsoon had caused the river to overflow its banks and flood the cave. After the waters receded, the slow process of breccia formation began again, sealing the sandy lens within Lang Trang I.
        We immediately set to work cutting out hunks of the sandy deposit, revealing a small chamber that we surmised was the source of all the fossils the children had been bringing us. Our finds included barking deer, a musk deer the size of a big dog; sambar, a large deer with three-pointed antlers; wild boar; and giant panda. A huge, ridged molar, weighing several pounds and belonging to Stegodon, an extinct relative of the elephant, assured us that we were dealing with a Pleistocene site that might also contain Homo erectus and Gigantopithecus. One softball-sized sample of this deposit was later analyzed at the University of Iowa, revealing that it also contained some small teeth and fragmentary limb bones of a diverse microfauna, including rodents, reptiles, fishes, and riverine sponges. These fossil fragments were about the same size as the coarse sand particles they were mixed with.
        Then, on January 18, 1989, Nguyen Van Hao made a key discovery: in the floor of the fourth cave he found a premolar of Homo. Since it was an isolated tooth, we found it difficult - impossible, really - to identify the species. Since then, four additional teeth of Homo have been recovered from caves I, II, and IV. Subsequently, a boar tooth from cave I has been dated (by a method called electron-spin resonance) to about 480,000 years ago. Given this preliminary date, the specimens should be assigned to Homo erectus. The discovery helps fill the gap between Zhoukoudian, in northern China, and Java, more than 3.000 miles to the south.
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« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2007, 03:13:21 pm »



We now have a fairly complete picture of the Pleistocene environment of Lang Trang. The jungle vegetation would have been more lush, but not startlingly different. The fauna, however, would have been striking, with huge beasts of all kinds dominating the landscape. Carnivores such as the tiger and leopard were much more common then and competed for food with species, such as the Asiatic black bear, that have entirely disappeared from Vietnam. And they all competed with the wolf and the Asiatic wild dog in preying on the dozens of bovid and cervid species (cowlike and deerlike mammals). Also present were the rhinoceros and elephant (both now rare) and the stegodon, as well as the orangutan and tapir, both now extinct in Vietnam. The giant panda, also now vanished, chomped its way through the bamboo stands. Taken in this context, Gigantopithecus was no freakish monstrosity, but simply the primate example of a Pleistocene phenomenon.
        Primates make up 13 percent of the total fauna in our collection. At least five genera are accounted for: two types of macaque monkey, orangutan, langur monkey, gibbon and Homo. So far we have been disappointed only by the absence of Gigantopithecus.
        Sometime near the end of the middle Pleistocene, perhaps 200,000 years ago, Gigantopithecus became extinct. The animal had flourished for at least six million years, quite a respectable figure, but it went the way of a great many genera of every shape and size. At about the same time, the giant panda disappeared from much of its original territory, notably insular southeast Asia, until it now survives only in the cold upland regions of Sichuan Province. The best guess as to what caused the panda's extinction in Southeast Asia is human hunting: even now the animal is hunted for food and for pelts, despite the best efforts of the Chinese government to discourage the practice. Similarly, human hunting may have led to the demise of Gigantopithecus.
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« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2007, 03:15:46 pm »



Munching on bamboo, a giant panda survives on a diet that may resemble that of Gigantopithecus

Environmental change may also have been a contributing factor, just as the bamboo die-off in China in the 1970s nearly wiped out the remaining population of giant pandas, with fewer than a thousand estimated to have survived. Or by eating the tender bamboo shoots and exploiting the plant for other purposes, including toolmaking, humans may have outcompeted the giant ape for this critical resource. The competition from both humans and the giant panda may have been too much.
        Gigantopithecus is gone. Or is it? Following the publicity about our research in Vietnam, I have received several letters from veterans who say that they came face to face with huge, hairy apes in the Southeast Asian jungle when they were posted in Vietnam. And of all the theories advanced to provide a zoological identity for Bigfoot, the Abominable Snowman, and other elusive creatures, perhaps the most popular is that they are none other than Gigantopithecus, still alive in relict populations (relict populations of Neanderthal man run a close second). While these contemporary reports are probably false, we can contemplate the time when our remote ancestors did encounter the giant of all apes in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia.

http://www.uiowa.edu/~bioanth/site.jpg

Bamboo leaves frame the scientists excavating the cemented deposits in Lang Trang Cave IV.


http://www.uiowa.edu/~bioanth/giganto.html

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« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2007, 03:19:04 pm »

Do enormous prehistoric ape-men share the Earth with humanity today?


If something along the lines of Gigantopithecus has survived however, it's had half a million years to evolve to its present niche. So it would not exactly be the same species for which we have found a handful of fossils so far.

It would be a mutated Gigantopithecus.

To explore what such a mutant ape-man might be like, let us consider its likely past challenges and other relevant matters.

We might use ourselves (a fellow primate) as a form of benchmark in some ways. For instance, how much behavioral change can occur in a primate species with modern human intellectual capacities in 500,000 years?

Well, in our own species, over the last 500,000 years we managed to go from a naked cave dwelling simple Stone Age tool maker/user (of rock chips) who could use fire but not ignite fires from scratch, and perhaps possessed a language of a few dozen words, to today's well dressed internet user, auto and computer builder, and common jet air traveler, who typically possesses a vocabulary of hundreds or thousands of words.

So given suitable capacities to begin with, lots of behavioral change can occur over 500,000 years.

But Gigantopithecus' ultimate fate also depends heavily on what talents and potential it possessed 500,000 years ago.

So let us make some assumptions about Gigantopithecus' starting point, in order to better speculate on where it might be today, in terms of intelligence and capabilities.

500,000 years ago Gigantopithecus was an enormous, super-strong ape-man, perhaps mostly vegetarian and non-aggressive (unless attacked or cornered).

But the climate was changing, or regional food sources were becoming scarce, or local competition for preferred food sources was intensifying between Gigantopithecus and giant pandas (bears). And suddenly Homo erectus (an ancestor of humanity) begins showing up in considerable numbers too, as yet another competitor for the same resources (bamboo and bamboo sprouts).

Homo erectus is at least a bit smarter than Gigantopithecus, and likely outnumbers him by a wide margin. Homo erectus hunts in packs, like wolves, pursuing, killing, and eating individual Gigantopithecus (or family groups), similar to how Polynesian settlers will do the gentle giant Moa of New Zealand millennia later.


-- Illustrated Transcript of The Future Eaters, Illustrated transcript of episode 2, Nomads of the Wind, Presented and Narrated by Dr Tim Flannery, Author of the Future Eaters, Australian Broadcasting Corporation. email: science@your.abc.net.au, http://www2.abc.net.au/, found on or about 9-12-99

Gigantopithecus clans are few and far between due to the required foraging ranges for each group. So there's not much chance of offering substantial organized resistance to the Homo erectus hunting packs. The huge size and fearsome appearance of Gigantopithecus, combined with their usually non-aggressive ways, makes them the perfect victim for generating bragging rights for male Homo erectus among the women and children of their tribes. The rarity and shyness of Gigantopithecus means women and children might never encounter one themselves, and so all they know is what the men tell them of the giants. A Gigantopithecus kill also brings in a considerable amount of meat, making the killers seem like powerful hunters and providers for the tribe. So hunting and killing Gigantopithecus might be a win-win situation for male Homo erectus at this time.

Unfortunately Gigantopithecus are somewhat rare and hard to find even in Homo erectus' time-- so the competition to find and kill one can be fierce.

Those Gigantopithecus clans which manage to evade and flee the packs survive-- those who don't, die. Thus, a propensity to retreat from the packs (and the skill to evade the hunters when they get too close) becomes embedded in the Gigantopithecus bloodline pretty quickly.

Something else gets added to the genetic line as well; an increased ability to adapt to changing circumstances in general. The hunting Homo erectus packs aren't the only threat to Gigantopithecus. The climate itself has already been changing for some time now, forcing changes in many habits. Now, as refugees from the hunting packs, the Gigantopithecus clans must also cope with increasingly different and often harsher foraging grounds and terrain. This change may be aided by the fact that the clans had throughout their history been forced to at least migrate on occasion due to depleted foraging areas. So the nomadic life they take on now may be more of an expansion or extension in age old habits, rather than a completely abrupt change.

The clans learn the hard way to use the night to their advantage, along with concealment during the day. If not already so, they now become nocturnal, as that's when the hunter packs are least active. Those clans who don't go nocturnal die out or are killed.

Hungry and cunning Homo erectus hunting packs were likely formidable foes. So those Gigantopithecus which survived such trials likely developed very sharp senses of smell, sight, and hearing, as well as some additional intelligence specialized towards eluding and possibly misleading their pursuers.

Gigantopithecus would have been encouraged by events to move into areas less hospitable to Homo erectus and its lineage. Places like rugged high mountains, dense forests and jungles, intractable swamps, etc.-- the very places most purported witness claims of later millennia will report them. Unfortunately, other large beasts (many of them predators) were also being forced into these same areas by the expanding human population. So Gigantopithecus had to find ways to cope with these new predators and competition too, even as it struggled to survive in lands foreign to its predecessors.

Gigantopithecus' primate intelligence advantage over the big cats, bears, crocodiles/alligators and other large animals helped much. Its large size and strength also were beneficial in direct conflicts with same. Wolf packs however would seem to have been a particularly thorny problem for Gigantopithecus-- especially in the harsher winters, when such packs may have become emboldened by hunger. Gigantopithecus' apparent tendency or necessity to travel as solitary individuals (according to most modern witness claims) would also beckon such packs, as canine pack instincts see solitude as a vulnerability. And since Gigantopithecus (by many accounts of modern 'Big Foot' encounters) suffers a uniquely strong odor, it would not be difficult for wolves or dogs to track them.

Gigantopithecus would not only have to be smart, but strong and fast too to successfully cope with the pack danger over millennia. And it seems to be all these things. Living at high altitudes will offer protection from the roving wolf packs of lower elevations. The presence of sheer cliffs nearby and the capacity to rapidly scale them also provides escape routes. Great running speed and long distance endurance (both of which Gigantopithecus may possess) could also help.

(There exist some reports of humans eating Big Foot kills in relatively modern times-- or trying to do so anyway, but put off by an exceedingly foul taste. One neat evolutionary trick for Gigantopithecus over the millennia might be the development of bad taste in its meat, to help discourage predation by both humans and other animals. This could help a lot in dealing with wolf packs too, except in the very harshest of winters. Over many generations sufficiently bad taste and odor, combined with enough bloody losses in contests with the man-apes, might even have caused wolf packs to avoid the giants completely unless they were starving.)

It may be that Gigantopithecus would have to regularly hunt down and kill at least a few wolves in the vicinity periodically to help maintain a healthy fear of its kind in the local population, thereby blunting the threat of the packs overall. Or perhaps during especially bad winters Gigantopithecus would either avoid traveling or try to do so in groups to minimize the danger.

Could Gigantopithecus possibly store food for the winter (or other contingencies) in a hideaway somewhere? It seems very likely, since much less intelligent animals (such as squirrels) do so.

Combined with Gigantopithecus' nomadic nature, this implies that any particular Gigantopithecus clan would possess at least several 'nests' or dens or caches, situated over a wide area, which they might move between in a seasonal fashion, or perhaps once every several years. Such dens would almost certainly involve caves or other natural shelters, since it appears unlikely that Gigantopithecus is capable of constructing much in the way of artificial homes. At most Gigantopithecus may be capable of burrowing into deep snow to create a shelter, or perhaps pile brush against a naturally existing rock overhang to close it in. Abandoned human housings would likely be avoided due to the risk of returning humans, and also because of their cramped size, where Gigantopithecus is concerned. Gigantopithecus' apparent lack of fire-starting skills would seem to make it prefer only the shallowest or widest mouthed of caves, for vision reasons if nothing else. But having evolved into a nocturnal animal over the millennia, Gigantopithecus may be able to delve deeper into tunnels than we might expect. And some witness claims include hints that, unlike most other animals, Gigantopithecus does not overtly fear fire, but at times may even welcome its warmth, when found. This observation would seem to make modern Gigantopithecus somewhat similar to humans of 500,000 years ago-- as the humans could exploit fire for heat and light where it was available-- they just couldn't make it.

If we can assume most of the encounter claim reports with possible Gigantopithecus mutants over past millennia and centuries are reasonable accurate, then we might also place Gigantopithecus into its appropriate category of equivalence with humanity's own ancestors, in terms of intelligence and general capacities.

Gigantopithecus seems to have went its own way on the evolutionary tree around 13 million years ago (during a mini-extinction event on Earth).


http://www.jmooneyham.com/bgft.html
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« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2007, 03:22:10 pm »

King Kong FAQ
From the King Kong Homepage
First Published July 18,1996
Updated March 1, 1999
Written by Boyd Campbell


Copyright 1999 All Rights Reserved
Images Copyright 1999 Turner Home Entertainment
E-mail: campbab@netdoor.com


Was there ever an animal like King Kong?
In 1933, when Cooper and O'Brien released King Kong no one knew very much about the gorillas of Africa. Few specimens survived outside their African habitat and stories about them were often prone to exaggeration, both in terms of their size and their desire for human females.

Having been to Africa himself, Cooper knew that the stories of giant gorillas were exaggerations, but he found the idea of giant gorillas who captured women fascinating and began to have an idea for a movie around it. He was also inspired by the story of W. Douglas Burden who in 1926 traveled to the remote island of Komodo and discovered there a giant breed of lizard now known as the komodo dragon and managed to bring two of the monsters back to New York alive.

Burden's "dragons" inspired Cooper to imagine a story where explorers went to a remote island like Komodo in a similar part of the world and discover not giant lizards but giant gorillas and bring one back to New York alive.

Unlike the komodo dragons no one had yet discovered a breed of gigantic gorillas living in some hidden part of the world. The largest African gorillas are six feet tall and weigh about four hundred pounds. Hardly King Kong material. But in 1935, just two years after the film was released, G.H.R. Von Koenigswald discovered some fossil teeth in a Hong Kong apothecary shop that could very well have belonged to a relative of King Kong. Later, scientists discovered more teeth as well as mandible fossils and they named the creature Gigantopithecus blacki.



 Gigantopithecus blacki lived in south east Asia during the Pleistocene era, going extinct by the end of the era. Reconstructing the creature from its jawbone, scientists believe Gigantopithecus was a primate, similar to a gorilla but in the neighborhood of ten feet tall and could weigh upwards of a thousand pounds. That's much closer to King Kong's size. Whether Gigantopithecus lived behind a wall and had a taste for blondes and an aversion to airplanes and flashbulbs remains unknown.

http://www.aboyd.com/kong/kongfaqa14.html
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