Posted by: Loren Coleman on June 18th, 2007
Bill Munns stands next to his model of a Gigantopithecus.
Russell L. Ciochon, the anthropologist who is responsible for most of the contemporary writings on Gigantopithecus, which some think is the best candidate for Bigfoot/Sasquatch, or for others, the Yeti, has announced a remarkable fossil find today, June 18, 2007.
The skull of the ancestor of the giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, has been discovered. This ancestor species is the pygmy giant panda, Ailuropoda microta.
Funding for the project was made possible by the Chinese National Natural Science Foundation and the University of Iowa.
Russell L. Ciochon holds the jaw of a Gigantopithecus.
According to the Associated Press, the new Ciochon announcement mentions in part:
The first skull of the earliest known ancestor of the giant panda was been discovered in China, researchers report. Discovery of the skull, estimated to be at least 2 million years old, is reported by Russell L. Ciochon in [June 19, 2007] Tuesday’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Ciochon, an anthropologist at the University of Iowa, and a team of U.S. and Chinese researchers, made the find in a limestone cave in south China.
The animal, formally known as Ailuropoda microta, or “pygmy giant panda,” would have been about three feet long, compared to the modern giant panda, which averages in excess of five feet. Previously this animal had been known only by a few teeth and bones, but a skull had never been found. Judging by the wear patterns on its teeth it also lived on a diet of bamboo, the main food of the current giant panda, the researchers said. Other than size, the animal was anatomically similar to today’s giant panda. “Skull of Giant Panda’s Ancestor Found,” Associated Press, June 18, 2007.
My wish, of course, is that this new find foreshadows the fossil discovery for which many of us have been waiting – the post-cranial remains of Gigantopithecus, a species only known from teeth and mandibles.
Is Gigantopithecus a rock ape or a giant hominid? Does it have anything to do with Bigfoot, Yeti, Yowie, or any of the other unknown hairy hominids (as opposed to unknown pongids and unknown anthropoids)?
With the discovery of the skull of Ailuropoda microta, I feel a slight ray of hope in this regard.