King Kong must die. The giant ape King Kong is a tragically flawed character in all of the various King Kong book and movie treatments, and now anthropological research shows that the real prehistoric King Kong also had a tragic flaw that led to the extinction of the species a hundred millennia ago.
The new study, authored by Herve Bocherens, a paleontological researcher at Tübingen University in Germany, will be published in the forthcoming issue of the academic journal Quaternary International.
More on the prehistoric King Kong Gigantopithecus
Based on limited data, experts estimate that the primate species Gigantopithecus, which lived until around 100,000 years ago, weighed five times as much as an adult man and probably stood close to nine feet tall.
Gigantopithecus lived in the semi-tropical forests of southern China and Southeast Asia from a couple of million years ago to about 100,000 years ago,
Experts note that until recently, very little was known about this giant primate King Kong’s anatomy or behaviors. That is because the only known fossil records of Gigantopithecus are four partial lower jaws, and around thousand or so teeth, which began showing up in the 1930s in Hong Kong apothecaries as “dragon’s teeth.”
The closest modern cousin of Gigantopithecus is actually the orangutan, but it is not known if the prehistoric King Kong had similar golden-red hair or black hair like a modern gorilla.
Bocherens and his academic colleagues from across the globe undertook a study to examine the slight variations in carbon isotopes found in Gigantopitecus tooth enamel. The data showed that the prehistoric King Kongs lived only in the forest, were strict vegetarians and apparently were not too fond of bamboo.
The authors of the study say food preferences were not an issue for Gigantopithecus until the huge ice age that occurred during the Pleistocene Epoch, and lasted from around 2.6 million to 12,000 years ago.
Statements from lead researcher Herve Bocherens
Bocherens points out that the current limited fossil remains “are clearly insufficient to say if the animal was bipedal or quadrupedal, and what would be its body proportions,”
However, Bocherens explained, we can make a few assumptions on the basis of the “King Kong” teeth and jaw bones we have.
“Due to its size, Gigantopithecus presumably depended on a large amount of food,” he noted.
He continued to highlight that climate change leading to changes in the physical environment doomed Gigantopithecus: “…during the Pleistocene, more and more forested area turned into savannah landscapes, there was simply an insufficient food supply.”
Bocherens and colleagues also point out, however, that other apes and early humans in Africa with similar teeth and jaws to the giant Chinese apes managed to survive the climate transition by starting to eat the leaves, grass and roots that now grew where they lived.
The data from the new study suggest that Gigantopithecus was likely too heavy to climb trees or swing in their branches, and was simply not able to evolve fast enough to cope with the changing Pleistocene environment.
“Gigantopithecus probably did not have the same ecological flexibility and possibly lacked the physiological ability to resist stress and food shortage,” the researchers noted in the conclusion of their study.