Gigantopithecus blacki: This is how the gigantopithecus, the biggest ape that has walked the Earth, disappeared | Science | EUROtoday

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

In 1935, the German anthropologist Ralph von Koenigswald present in a Hong Kong pharmacy what was offered as a dragon’s tooth, heterogeneous tooth and bones that have been crushed to arrange conventional cures. The scientist, who was searching for the cradle of humanity on the island of Java and Southeast Asia, related these molars with a huge primate that he named Gigantopithecus blacki. Since then, searches have continued for stays of this three-meter-tall, 300-kilogram ape that for greater than one million and a half years walked the karst plains of what’s now the Guanxi area, in southern China. . After greater than 85 years of looking, no cranium has been discovered, one thing that has left its place within the tree of evolution unknown. Only 4 jaws and about 2,000 tooth have been discovered, gathered in websites, usually dispersed, in all probability by porcupines that gnawed on their bones to acquire vitamins to feed their quills. After showing two million years in the past, its hint was misplaced about 300,000 years in the past. Today, a global group of scientists publishes within the journal Nature his reconstruction of the top of the best ape that ever walked the Earth.

One of the important thing points of the research has been the courting, which was carried out with six totally different strategies and exactly demonstrated that the large primate disappeared between 295,000 and 215,000 years in the past. Kira Westaway, a geochronology specialist at Macquarie University in Sydney (Australia) and co-author of the research, explains that this courting is without doubt one of the major challenges in making an attempt to outline the reason for the extinction of a species. “Once you have this information, it is possible to reconstruct what was happening in the environment at that time to try to find causes for the disappearance of G. blacki”he indicates. In a story that has been repeated over and over again in the history of the world, those magnificent animals that had survived countless generations succumbed, when circumstances changed, condemned by the same traits that made them successful.

Reconstruction of the face of 'Gigantopithecus blacki'
Reconstruction of the face of ‘Gigantopithecus blacki’Garcia/Joannes-Boyau (Southern Cross University)

“The history of G. blacki is an enigma in paleontology: how could such a powerful creature become extinct at a time when other primates were adapting and surviving? The unresolved cause of its disappearance has become the Holy Grail of this discipline,” says Yingqi Zhang, from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in a statement.

About 700,000 years ago, the stable environment in which it had emerged G. blacki, began to change. The differences between seasons increased, with more extremes of humidity and drought, and the habitat was disrupted by the climate. The analysis of pollen remains and the reconstructions of the fauna with which these apes shared their lives show the transformations that forced them to abandon their customs. Unlike its other relatives, the gigantopithecus was a specialist herbivore, enjoying abundant food in the tropical forest. “These relatively small environmental changes took a long time to affect G. blacki that struggled to adapt while its population decreased,” says Westaway. “It was a gradual path to extinction, not an abrupt event,” she summarizes.

Analysis of the teeth, which over the centuries became larger and capable of processing even fibrous and fibrous foods, show that the ape was adapting in response to ecological change. But it was not enough. The authors compared their diet to that of the Chinese orangutan (Pongo willow richi). This species is also extinct today, but, in the years of decline of the G. blacki, was able to adapt its size and diet to more variable conditions in which, sometimes, it was necessary to travel a certain distance to obtain food or find water that thousands of years before was abundant everywhere. The giant ape was not as mobile and had to settle, according to tooth analysis, with lower quality food when its favorite morsels were missing. Furthermore, its large size makes it likely that it was less prolific, something that undermined the sustainability of the species.

“It was the ultimate specialist, compared to more agile adaptive species like orangutans, and this ultimately led to its demise,” Zhang summarizes. About 300,000 years ago, the remains of G. blacki They become increasingly rare and the marks on the teeth reflect that the survivors suffered from chronic stress. At that same time and in those same forests, a distant relative of those animals, the Standing man, successfully adapted to the changing and diverse conditions of Southeast Asia. Although the arrival of the A wise man has been linked to the extinction of large animal species, including Neanderthals, it appears that these archaic members of our lineage are not related to the annihilation of the greatest apes in history.

“With the threat of a sixth mass extinction event looming over us, there is an urgent need to understand why species become extinct. Exploring the reasons for past unresolved extinctions gives us a good starting point for understanding the resilience of primates and the fate of other large animals, in the past and in the future,” says Westaway.

You can follow MATERIA in Facebook, X e Instagramclick here to receive our weekly newsletter.