Monday, May 09, 2005

Animal of the Week May 09, 2005 -- The largest primate ever

Good Monday one and all,
Well, it seems like a while since I have done a terrestrial mammal, so, here's one. Unlike last week's animal which was recently rediscovered, this week's animal, Gigantopithecus blacki, is very much extinct. The origins of the genus Gigantopithecus are somewhat hazy, but they were likely distant cousins to orangutans and even more distant cousins to humans, chimps, and gorillas; this species was roaming around China and parts of southeast Asia 1.5 million to 500 000 years ago. What makes G blacki such a noteworthy species is that it was the largest known primate to have ever lived. Your modern day gorilla and extinct giant lemurs and baboons come nowhere close. Conservative estimates put G blacki at 8 ft tall and about 800 lbs, but some people reckon males might have reached 1200 lbs (about the size of a cow!). G blacki was identified from fossilised teeth sold in chinese apothecaries as "dragon bones", which palaeoanthropologist von Koeningswald realised must have belonged to a massive primate. Despite its size, evidence of silica granules in the teeth suggest that G blacki ate bamboo -- no one is quite sure why G blacki became extinct, but it is just possible that these are the only animals ever to have been outcompeted by giant pandas. Although there is no evidence of their existence beyond about 400 000 years ago, some people suggest that elusive extant G blacki are behind the stories of yetis and bigfoot.


Post a Comment

<< Home