Meet Gigantopithecus

Gigantopithecus blacki was, as its name implies, a gigantic ape from the Pleistocene of China. Its remains consist only of teeth and jaws, but these are of a tremendous size, with the largest specimens nearly twice the dimensions of male gorilla teeth and jaws. A similar, slightly smaller jaw is known from the Miocene of northern India, and has been called Gigantopithecus bilaspurensis Simons:1970.

Here you see casts of some of the teeth of Gigantopithecus blacki. Assuming that Gigantopithecus had the same proportion of tooth size and body mass as living apes, these Chinese remains would suggest a body mass of over 400 kg for the largest individuals. But should we assume a model of body size like that of today’s large great apes, such as the orangutan and gorilla? Or should we assume a model in which Gigantopithecus had enlarged jaws and teeth relative to its mass, as is the case in the extinct robust australopithecines?

Examine the Gigantopithecus teeth in comparison to modern gorilla teeth and jaws, and the teeth and jaws of Australopithecus boisei and Australopithecus robustus. How do the femora of A. robustus compare to the gorilla femur? How do the molars of these species compare? Which do you think is the better model for Gigantopithecus, and what would you predict as the body mass of this extinct species?