Thursday, 17 November 2005

Gigantopithecus blackii: King Kong's cultural heritage

In the Times on the 15th of October 2005, Sam Lister reported that "the largest ape to walk the Earth", Gigantopithecus blackii, "may have lived alongside early humans" in where is now China, because its fossils have been dated to 100,000 years ago, when humans also lived there.

Like Homo floriensis, the "hobbit-like human ancestor" that lived in where is now Indonesia until 18,000 or 13,000 years ago - or according to some villagers, under 200 years ago - and that was labelled by some, "the most extreme human ever discovered", Gigantopithecus blackii, which the Times dubbed "King Kong", coexisted with our ancestor, Homo erectus.

Unlike Homo floriensis, Gigantopithecus blackii was not related to Homo erectus. Whatever else Gigantopithecus blackii has contributed to our human heritage, it has not contributed to our genetic heritage, whereas Homo floriensis may have contributed to our genetic heritage as well as to our cultural heritage.

According to the Times, "scientists have been debating the demise of Gigantopithecus, nicknamed Giganto, since 1935"; though it is unknown why the ape became extinct, some scientists have proposed that it was Beauty that killed the Beast.

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