Researchers now believe that Gigantopithecus, the largest ape to ever live, may have become extinct because of failure to adapt during climate change. When forests started turning into grasslands, for some reason the apes didn't seem capable of adapting to those changes like everyone else. OR maybe they evolved into modern day bigfoot.
Examining slight variations in carbon isotopes found in tooth enamel, Bocherens and an international team of scientists showed that the primordial King Kong lived only in the forest, was a strict vegetarian, and probably wasn't crazy about bamboo.
These narrow preferences did not pose a problem for Gigantopithecus until Earth was struck by a massive ice age during the Pleistocene Epoch, which stretched from about 2.6 million to 12,000 years ago.
That's when Nature, evolution -- and perhaps a refusal to try new foods -- conspired to doom the giant ape, Bocherens explained.
"Due to its size, Gigantopithecus presumably depended on a large amount of food," he said.
"When during the Pleistocene, more and more forested area turned into savannah landscapes, there was simply an insufficient food supply."
And yet, according to the study, other apes and early humans in Africa that had comparable dental gear were able to survive similar transitions by eating the leaves, grass and roots offered by their new environments.
But for some reason, Asia's giant ape -- which was probably too heavy to climb trees, or swing in their branches -- did not make the switch.
"Gigantopithecus probably did not have the same ecological flexibility and possibly lacked the physiological ability to resist stress and food shortage," notes the study, which is to be published in a specialist journal, Quaternary International.
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