Posted by: Loren Coleman on November 10th, 2011
Fig.1: The mandibles of Gigantopithecus blacki from Juyuandong Cave of Liucheng, Guangxi Province, China.
The extinct giant ape, Gigantopithecus blacki, is a species of large hominoids that dominated the Pleistocene of South China. Its massive mandible, large postcanine teeth and extremely thick enamel always spark people’s curiosity about what a diet for this giant ape was. The precise diet and habitat of Gigantopithecus remains unknown so far. Whether Gigantopithecus survives today, as Yeti, Sasquatch, or other forms of unknown hairy hominoids is the source of much debate in cryptozoology, anthropology, and zoology.
News on Gigantopithecus is infrequent, so we are happy to see on November 10, 2011, some news of research being conducted on this species.
Drs. Zhao LingXia, Zhang LiZhao and Wu XinZhi, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Zhang FuSong from Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, analyze enamel stable carbon isotope values of G. blacki and the associated mammalian megafauna from two sites in South China, and find that this giant ape and other large mammals solely fed on C3 biomass, and lived in forest habitats, as reported in the journal of Chinese Science Bulletin, 2011(56), No.33:3590-3595.
Zhao and her collaborators prepared and analyzed a total of 32 tooth samples for their study. Four teeth of G. blacki and 24 teeth of associated large mammals were from Longgudong Cave, Jianshi, Hubei Province, and the other 4 teeth of G. blacki were taken from Juyuandong Cave of Liucheng, Guangxi Province. They discovered that Gigantopithecus and the affiliated megafauna, such as browsers (Cervus sp. and Tapirus sinensis), grazers (Equus sp. and Leptobos sp.) and carnivores (Pachycrocuta licenti and Ursus sp.), all derived their carbon from solely C3 biomass sources. Zhao and her collaborators suggested that Gigantopithecus lived in closed forest habitat and not an open habitat, which is consistent with the associated faunal and floral analyses.
For more detailed analysis, see here.
It is noteworthy that Dr. ZHAO LingXia, the lead author and research designer, said: “The diet and habitat of Gigantopithecus blacki was significantly different from that of early hominins in Africa, such as Australopithecus and Paranthropus, which could consume both C3 and C4resources and live in open habitats, although they all somehow showsimilar powerful mastication morphology . Dependence on forest habitat might be an important factor that made Gigantopithecus extinct when the climate and environment changed dramatically during the Pleistocene.”
Provided by Institute of Vertebrae Paleontology and Paleoanthropology