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Extinct Giant Ape Depended Upon Forest Food

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Gigantopithecus Tooth FRANKFURT, GERMANY—Scientists from the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment in Tübingen, and the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt, analyzed stable carbon isotopes from the tooth enamel of the little-known giant ape Gigantopithecus. “Unfortunately, there are very few fossil finds of Gigantopithecus—only a few large teeth and bones from the lower mandible are known,” Hervé Bocherens of the University of Tubingen said in a press release. Those fossils are from China and Thailand, which had open savannas and wooden landscapes. The new study of carbon isotopes indicates that Gigantopithecus was a vegetarian that lived only in forests. “Relatives of the giant ape, such as the recent orangutan, have been able to survive despite their specialization on a certain habitat. However, orangutans have a slow metabolism and are able to survive on limited food. Due to its size, Gigantopithecus presumably depended on a large amount of food. When during the Pleistocene era more and more forested areas turned into savanna landscapes, there was simply an insufficient food supply for the giant ape,” Bocherens said. To read about another recent paleontological discovery, go to "Earliest Stone Tools." 

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