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Fossil range: Pleistocene
Gigantopithecus blacki jaw
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Family: Hominidae
Subfamily: Ponginae
Genus: Gigantopithecus
von Koenigswald, 1935

Gigantopithecus blackiGigantopithecus bilaspurensisGigantopithecus giganteus

Gigantopithecus (from the Greek gigas - γίγας "giant", and pithecus - πίθηκος "ape") is an extinct genus of ape that existed from roughly one million years to as recently as three-hundred thousand years ago,[1] in what is now China, India, and Vietnam, placing Gigantopithecus in the same time frame and geographical location as several hominin species.[2] The fossil record suggests that the Gigantopithecus blacki species were the largest apes that ever lived, standing up to 3 metres (9.8 ft) and weighing up to 540 kilograms (1,200 lb).[1][3][4]

The genus has entered the popular culture lexicon as a result of cryptozoologic claims.


Fossil remains

The first Gigantopithecus remains described by an anthropologist were found in 1935 by Ralph von Koenigswald in an apothecary shop. Fossilized teeth and bones are often ground into powder and used in some branches of Traditional Chinese medicine.[5] Von Koenigswald named the theorized species Gigantopithecus.[6]

Since then relatively few fossils of Gigantopithecus have been recovered. Aside from the molars recovered in Chinese traditional medicine shops, Liucheng Cave in Liuzhou, China has produced numerous Gigantopithecus blacki teeth as well as several jawbones.[3] Other sites yielding significant finds were in Vietnam and India.[2][4] These finds suggest the range of Gigantopithecus was southeast Asia.

In 1955 forty-seven Gigantopithecus blacki teeth were found among a shipment of 'dragon bones' in China. Tracing these teeth to their source resulted in recovery of more teeth and a rather complete large mandible. By 1958, three mandibles and more than 1,300 teeth had been recovered. Gigantopithecus remains have come from sites in the Hubei Province, Guangxi Province and Sichuan Province--from warehouses for Chinese medicinal products as well as from cave deposits. Not all Chinese remains have been dated to the same time period, and the fossils in Hubei appear to be of a later date than elsewhere in China. The Hubei teeth are also larger.[7]

Characteristics of the genus

Gigantopithecus's method of locomotion is uncertain, as no pelvic or leg bones have been found. The dominant view is that it walked on all fours like modern gorillas and chimpanzees; however, a minority opinion favor bipedal locomotion, most notably championed by the late Grover Krantz, but it should be noted that 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 upon a fully-erect spine like modern humans, rather than roughly in front of it, like the other great apes.

Named species

There are presently three (extinct) named species of Gigantopithecus: Gigantopithecus blacki, Gigantopithecus bilaspurensis, and Gigantopithecus giganteus.

Gigantopithecus blacki

Gigantopithecus blacki (Greek and Latin for "Black's Giant Ape") is an extinct species of ape. The only known fossils of G. blacki are a few teeth and mandibles found in cave sites in Southeast Asia. As the name suggests, 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 about 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 before the appearance of H. sapiens.[8]


Based on the fossil evidence, it is believed that adult male Gigantopithecus blacki stood about 3 m (9.8 ft) tall and weighed as much as 540 kg (1,200 lb),[1][3][4] making the species two to three times heavier than modern gorillas and nearly five times heavier than the orangutan, its closest living relative. The species was highly sexually dimorphic, with adult females roughly half the weight of males.[4] Due to wide interspecies differences in the relationship between tooth and body size, some argue[citation needed] that it is more likely that Gigantopithecus was much smaller, at roughly 1.8 m (5.9 ft).[6]

The species lived in Asia and probably inhabited bamboo forests, since its fossils are often found alongside those of extinct ancestors of the panda. Most evidence points to Gigantopithecus being a plant-eater.

Its appearance is not known, because of the fragmentary nature of its fossil remains. It is possible that it resembled modern gorillas, because of its supposedly similar lifestyle. Some scientists, however, think that it probably looked more like its closest modern relative, the orangutan. Being so large, it is possible that Gigantopithecus had few or no enemies when fully grown; however, younger, weak or injured individuals may have been vulnerable to tiger, python, crocodile, Dinofelis, hyena, bear, and Homo erectus attacks.


In the past, it had been thought that G. blacki was an ancestor of humans, on the basis of molar evidence; this is now regarded a result of convergent evolution. G. blacki is now placed in the subfamily Ponginae along with the orangutan.

Gigantopithecus bilaspurensis

Gigantopithecus bilaspurensis is a very large fossil ape identified from a few jaw bones and teeth from India. G. bilaspurensis lived about 6 to 9 million years ago in the Miocene. It is related to Gigantopithecus blacki.

Gigantopithecus giganteus

Gigantopithecus giganteus is a large extinct species of ape that lived in what is now India. This animal is known only from teeth and jawbones.[9] Based on the slim fossil finds, it was a large, ground-dwelling herbivore that ate primarily bamboo and foliage. It was approximately half the size of its Chinese relative, Gigantopithecus blacki.

Also a recent fossil was found (2000) with another fossil of a different species inside of it (the specimen has yet to be identified) which poses that they might have been carnivores.

Evidence of a separate species, Gigantopithecus giganteus, has been found in northern India and China. In the Guangxi region of China, teeth of this species were discovered in limestone formations in Daxin and Wuming, north of Nanning. Despite the name, it is believed that giganteus was approximately half the size of blacki.[3][4]


The jaws of Gigantopithecus are deep and very thick. The molars are low crowned and flat and exhibit heavy enamel suitable for tough grinding. The premolars are broad and flat and configured similarly to the molars. The canine teeth are neither pointed nor sharp, while the incisors are small, peglike and closely aligned. The features of teeth and jaws suggested that the animal was adapted to chewing tough, fibrous food by cutting, crushing and grinding it. Gigantopithecus teeth also have a large number of cavities, similar to those found in giant pandas, whose diet, which includes a large amount of bamboo, may be similar to that of Gigantopithecus.[10]

In addition to bamboo, Gigantopithecus consumed other vegetable foods, a fact proven 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 ingested seeds and fruit as well as bamboo.[11]


Although it is not known why Gigantopithecus died out, researchers believe that climate change and resource competition with better adapted species were the main culprits.

In cryptozoology

There is evidence that Gigantopithecus co-existed with early Homo sapiens but the cryptozoological theories that gigantopithecines survived to this day as creatures such as Sasquatch or Yeti are generally rejected as pseudoscientific.[12][13][14]


See also


Citations and footnotes

  1. ^ a b c Christmas, Jane (2005-11-07). "Giant Ape lived alongside humans". McMaster University. Retrieved 2007-12-06. 
  2. ^ a b Ciochon, R.; et al. (1996). "Dated Co-Occurrence of Homo erectus and Gigantopithecus from Tham Khuyen Cave, Vietnam" (PDF). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 93 (7): 3016–3020. doi:10.1073/pnas.93.7.3016. PMID 8610161. Retrieved 2007-12-06. 
  3. ^ a b c d Ciochon], Russell L. "The Ape that Was - Asian fossils reveal humanity's giant cousin". University of Iowa. Retrieved 2007-12-06. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Pettifor, Eric (2000) [1995]. "From the Teeth of the Dragon: Gigantopithecus Blacki". Selected Readings in Physical Anthropology. Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company. pp. 143–149. ISBN 0787271551. Retrieved 2008-01-30. 
  5. ^ "How Gigantopithecus was discovered". The University of Iowa Museum of Natural History. Retrieved 2007-12-06. 
  6. ^ a b Relethford, J. (2003). The Human Species: An Introduction to Biological Anthropology. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0767430227. 
  7. ^ Poirier, Frank E. and Jeffrey K. McKee. Understanding Human Evolution. Fourth Edition. p. 118. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 1999.
  8. ^ Dated co-occurrence of Homo erectus and Gigantopithecus from Tham Khuyen Cave, Vietnam Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA Vol. 93, pp. 3016–3020, April 1996.
  9. ^ (as Gigantapithecus)
  10. ^ COICHON, R. 1991. The ape that was. Natural History November: 54-62.
  11. ^ Poirier, Frank E. and Jeffrey K. McKee. Understanding Human Evolution. Fourth Edition. p. 119. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 1999.
  12. ^ Carey, Bjorn (7 November 2007). "Gigantic Apes Coexisted with Early Humans, Study Finds". LiveScience. Retrieved 2007-12-06. 
  13. ^ "The Bigfoot-Giganto Theory". Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization. Retrieved 2007-12-06. 
  14. ^ Carroll, RT (2009-02-23). "Bigfoot [a.k.a. Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas, Mapinguari (the Amazon), Sasquatch, Yowie (Australia) and Yeti (Asia)"]. Retrieved 2009-04-30. 

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




giganto- +‎ pithecus

Proper noun


  1. An extinct genus of ape that existed from roughly one million years to as recently as three-hundred thousand years ago, in what is now China, India, and Vietnam.

See also


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies



Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Classis: Mammalia
Subclassis: Theria
Infraclassis: Placentalia
Ordo: Primates
Subordo: Haplorrhini
Infraordo: Simiiformes
Parvordo: Catarrhini
Superfamilia: Hominoidea
Familia: Hominidae
Subfamilia: Ponginae
Genus: †Gigantopithecus
Species: † G. bilaspurensis - † G. blacki - † G. giganteus


Gigantopithecus  Koenigswald, 1935

Vernacular names

日本語: ギガントピテクス
Українська: Гігантопітек

Simple English

Fossil range: Pleistocene
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Family: Hominidae
Subfamily: Ponginae
Genus: Gigantopithecus
von Koenigswald, 1935

Gigantopithecus blacki
Gigantopithecus bilaspurensisGigantopithecus giganteus

Gigantopithecus was the largest primate that during from the Pleistocene Era (1.8 million to 10,000 years ago) large mammals ruled the Earth. Gigantopithecus is known to have lived in what is now China and Southeast Asia. He would have risen 9 to 10 feet high if he choose to stand up on only his hind legs, and probably weighed about 600 lbs. In comparison, the largest gorilla stands only 6 feet tall and weighs about 300 to 400 lbs.

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