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Gigantopithecus: the ancient ape that could explain Bigfoot’s legendary existence

Por: María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards 1 de abril de 2022

The Gigantopithecus blacki, a prehistoric primate that lived millions of years ago, could be the missing link that explains the existence of Bigfoot (at least in our collective memory).

With over 10,000 alleged sightings in the past 50 years, Bigfoot or Sasquatch has become one of those legendary creatures that many still believe exists. The giant ape-like creature has been a mysterious presence in the collective imaginary of North America and the world since the 19th century, but even after all this time, no one has been able either to prove its existence or non-existence.

What is true is that the idea of a giant ape that lurks in the forests has been around since the dawn of humanity. Call it Bigfoot on the American continent or Yeti in Asia, the fear and fascination towards a majestic yet fearsome giant ape has been part of our imagination for millennia and there might be an explanation for that.

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The “Original” Bigfoot

Once upon a time, over one million years ago, gigantic apes prowled the Earth. It’s estimated that these creatures, known as Gigantopithecus blacki, stood over 10 feet tall and weighed around 1200 pounds! You might’ve seen a recreation of this majestic creature in Disney’s live-action of the Jungle Book. Well, this creature that used to live in South Asia could be the missing link that explains the existence of Bigfoot and other ape-like creatures that roam in our collective imagination.

The Gigantopithecus made its first appearance in the scientific world around 1935, when a German paleoanthropologist by the name of Ralph von Koenigswald, encountered an unusual big primate molar being sold at a random store in Hong Kong. Seeing the dental piece, he discovered it was real, but the large size of the molar wasn’t even near to any of the primates registered in history. Koenigswald wanted to find out everything about this massive creature and soon colleagues followed gathering an important collection of hundreds of Gigantopithecus teeth and jaws from Asian countries like China, Vietnam, and even India.

Throughout the decades, scientists have tried to find other types of fossils other than jaws and teeth, but the quest has been unattainable. Still, thanks to technology and comparison with other species of apes, scientists have been able to give this majestic creature a face and look placing the existence of the Gigantopithecus between the Sivapithecus, a prehistoric primate that also lived on the Asian continent 12 to 8 million years ago, and modern orangutans.

The many studies and research made on the Gigantopithecus’ teeth have revealed that this enormous creature was herbivorous. It fed mainly on fruits, seeds, grass, and bamboo and it would mostly live on the ground collecting food. However, despite its size which would give it an advantage over predators, this mostly pacific creature didn’t manage to survive and it’s estimated it went extinct about 300,000 years ago.

One of the theories that could explain its sudden extinction is the fact that the Tibetan plateau rose from 1.6 to 800,000 million years ago. This event caused a major alteration in the climate of the continent bringing long periods of coldness followed by dry periods that killed acres of forests, the Gigantopithecus’ environment. Other factors that might’ve weighed in its extinction are evolution and the survival of the fittest. It’s possible that other, more fitted primates ended up taking the Gigantopithecus’ sources of food pushing the species into oblivion. Last but not least, studies have revealed that the Gigantopithecus had a very slow process of development and maturity which could sign a low reproductive rate of the species.

Is the Gigantopithecus Bigfoot’s ancestor?

The fact that such a big primate creature existed has been taken by many believers as proof that Bigfoot, and its legendary relatives, are real arguing that the Gigantopithecus didn’t really go extinct but that very few specimens managed to survive by hiding and leading a solitary existence throughout hundreds of thousands of years. Adding to this approach is the theory that claims that the Gigantopithecus had an interesting group dynamic. Some believe that these creatures would bury their death explaining why it’s been so hard to find fossils other than teeth and jaws. Not having enough evidence has made believers think that this explains why there aren’t real Bigfoot remains either; thus, ‘proving’ they’re the same creature or at least relatives.

Now, a more probable explanation that links both creatures can be found in our collective imaginary. Though it’s possible that early human beings might’ve encountered at least the last Gigantopithecus, it’s not that probable regarding dates. What is more likely is that these first human beings found fossils and by deduction created in their imagination a colossal ape-like creature that, considering the similarities with our species, would be imagined walking and wandering the earth like us.

Trusting their survival instincts, early human beings might’ve shaped this creature with features similar to what they knew, thus creating a mythical and fearsome being that has managed to survive thousands and thousands of years in the shape of Bigfoots, Sasquatches, and Yetis.

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