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King Kong, Gigantopithecus & the Missing Link

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Author Topic: King Kong, Gigantopithecus & the Missing Link  (Read 2515 times)
Kristin Moore
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Posts: 5125

« Reply #15 on: May 27, 2011, 02:58:16 am »

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.
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