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Media Article # 453
Article prepared and posted by Matthew Moneymaker
Wednesday, November 9, 2005
Giant [ape] was once a human neighbor
King Kong, you have some competition.
A 10-foot-tall, 1,200-pound gorilla dwelled among early humans, says a new report by a Canadian researcher.
Jack Rink of Canada's McMaster University concludes that the largest primate that ever lived, Gigantopithecus blackii, lived in Asia for nearly 1 million years before dying out about 100,000 years ago.
Dating of fossil teeth and jawbones, the only remnants of the creature, reveals the ape's age.
The gorilla had molars that measured 1 inch across, which was useful in its vegetarian diet.
The gorilla may have died out because of competition with early humans.
But some researchers have suggested it lived even more recently and contributed to legends such as Bigfoot.
The finding has been submitted to a research journal for publication.
Gigantos were not "giant gorillas". They were more closely related to orangutans and gibbons -- Asian apes.
This mistake of terminology was probably not the fault of Jack Rink. Rink probably described gigantos as "giant apes". People (including journalists) often think "ape" and "gorilla" are synonyms.
A gorilla is one type of ape. Humans, chimpanzees and orangutans are also "apes".
A similar conclusion about Gigantos' co-existence with humans was reached years earlier by Dr. Russel Ciochon of the University of Iowa. Ciochon was not relying on chemical dating. His conclusions were based on archeological evidence.
Giganto teeth and skeletal fragments were found among other animal bones in garbage piles left by human ancestors. They have been found in more than one cave in Asia (China and Northern Vietnam). See the book "Other Origins" by Ciochon.
The assumption that gigantos became extinct around 100,000 years ago is based on the dating of the most recent remains.
There are but a few handfuls of giganto remains. Those remains clearly establish the historical existence of gigantos. They do not clearly establish when (or if) gigantos became extinct.
Several things could account for giganto bones not appearing in human garbage piles more recently than 100,000 years ago.
1) Gigantos became more nocturnal.
2) Gigantos became more rare.
3) Gigantos developed defense mechanisms and evasion tactics that made them more difficult to hunt, or less desireable to pursue.
4) Surviving gigantos pushed back into more remote, rugged mountainous terrain.
5) Early humans became more spiritual/superstitious.
Superstition might affect the willingness of early humans to hunt them.
Superstitions about giant ape figures (sasquatches) are still found today among many North American indian tribes.
Today in southeast Asia, local people in the same regions where giganto remains were found, claim they still see giant apes in the mountains occassionally.
Western scientists don't give much credence to the sightings in Asia, because gigantos are assumed to be extinct.
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