|G. blacki lower mandible cast|
Gigantopithecus blacki is an extinct species of prehistoric apes that existed from perhaps nine million years to as recently as one hundred thousand years ago, at the same period as Homo erectus would have been dispersed.
Gigantopithecus blacki was named in honour of the friend and colleague of von Koenigswald, Davidson Black, and is known only through fossil teeth and mandibles found in cave sites in South China and Vietnam. These are appreciably larger than those of living gorillas, but the exact size and structure of the rest of the body can only be estimated in the absence of additional findings. Dating methods have shown that G. blacki existed for at least a million years, going extinct about 100,000 years ago after having been contemporary with anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens) for tens of thousands of years, and co-existing with H. erectus, who preceded the appearance of H. sapiens. In 2014, for the first time, fossil teeth and mandible of G. blacki were found in Indonesia.
In the past, Gigantopithecus blacki was thought to be closely related to early hominins, particularly Australopithecus, on the basis of molar evidence; this is now regarded a result of convergent evolution. Gigantopithecus is now placed in the subfamily Ponginae along with the orangutan. G. blacki tooth enamel peptide sequences obtained from five proteins indicate a split date with orangutans of 10-12 million years ago, compared to a split time between Asian and African great apes of about 19 million years ago.
G. blacki's method of locomotion is uncertain, as no pelvic or leg bones have been found. The dominant view is that this species walked on hands and feet like modern gorillas and chimpanzees; however, a minority opinion favors bipedal locomotion. This was most notably championed by the late Grover Krantz, but this assumption is based only on the very few jawbone remains found, all of which are U-shaped and widen towards the rear. This allows room for the windpipe to be within the jaw, allowing the skull to sit squarely on a fully erect spine as in modern humans, rather than roughly in front of it, as in the other great apes.
The majority view is that the weight of such a large, heavy animal would put enormous stress on the creature's legs, ankles, and feet if it walked bipedally; while if it walked on all four limbs, like gorillas, its weight would be better distributed over each limb.
Based on the fossil evidence, adult male G. blacki are believed to have stood about 3 m (9.8 ft) tall and weighed as much as 540–600 kg (1,190–1,320 lb), making the species three to four times as heavy as modern gorillas and seven to eight times as heavy as the orangutan, its closest living relative. Large males may have had an armspan of over 3.6 m (11.8 ft). The species was highly sexually dimorphic, with adult females roughly half the weight of males. Because of wide interspecies differences in the relationship between tooth and body size, some argue that it is more likely that adult male G. blacki were much smaller, at roughly 1.8–2 m (5.9–6.6 ft) in height and 180–300 kg (400–660 lb) in weight.
In addition to bamboo, G. blacki consumed other vegetable foods, as suggested by the analysis of the phytoliths adhering to its teeth. An examination of the microscopic scratches and gritty plant remains embedded in Gigantopithecus teeth suggests that they fed on seeds and fruit, as well as bamboo.
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