Gigantopithecus, the King Kong of Asia, went extinct for not eating its vegetables

A cautionary tale for picky eaters.

So, you’re a giant ape – the biggest ape to ever grace the planet – but does that mean you get to shun your vegetables? No way. At least not for Gigantopithecus, the “King Kong” of Asia who roamed southern China and mainland southeast Asia up to 100,000 years ago.

New research reveals that this granddaddy of apes, weighing in at five times more than an adult male and reaching an impressive nine feet in height, failed to survive when climate change switched the menu from forest fruit to savannah grass.

GigantopithecusFrank Vincentz/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0 By looking at variations in carbon isotopes found in tooth enamel of the few known fossil records, Herve Bocherens, from Tübingen University in Germany and an international team of scientists, found that the super apes didn’t stray far from the forest and were strict vegetarians with a taste for fruit. That this “primordial King Kong,” as The Guardian calls the species, was a finicky eater wasn’t a problem for most of its existence. But when that pesky Pleistocene epoch Ice Age came into play, all bets were off.

GigantopithecusWikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0“That’s when nature, evolution – and perhaps a refusal to try new foods – conspired to doom the giant ape,” Bocherens explained, as reported by Marlowe Hood for AFP.

“Due to its size, Gigantopithecus presumably depended on a large amount of food,” Bocherens said. “When during the Pleistocene, more and more forested area turned into savannah landscapes, there was simply an insufficient food supply.”

The study notes that other apes and early humans in Africa who had like-minded teeth were able to adapt by eating the leaves, grass and roots that took the place of their former meals. But not the big guys.

Gigantopithecus probably did not have the same ecological flexibility and possibly lacked the physiological ability to resist stress and food shortage,” notes the study.

Unless, of course, Gigantopithecus secretly did survive. In "Big Footprints: A Scientific Inquiry into the Reality of Sasquatch," Bigfoot hunter Grover Krantz, suggests that a few thousand Gigantopithecus cheated extinction by migrating from Asia over the Bering straits … thus, giving us Bigfoot. So maybe eating your greens isn’t so important afterall.

Tags: Animals | Asia


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